Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Unintended Gifts to Neptune

Everybody drops things. And unless it happens to be something fragile, liquid, or could stain the floor, it's not really a big deal. Unless, of course, you drop it near water. Deep water. And it's heavy.

I have been so careful since moving on board. My phone goes in my pocket. My gate pass and boat key are on a lanyard that I put around my neck. I take that extra second to make sure whatever I'm holding is stable before stepping on or off the boat.

The one exception has been my car keys. I've owned a purple carabiner for 20 years. I don't climb. It's just something I've used to carry my keys since college. My husband recently suggested that I get a new carabiner but I wanted this one. This special vestige of my youth. I clip the carabiner to my purse or put it inside a bag before stepping off the boat.

Except last Thursday night. The first really cold night of the season.

I was leaving to meet friends for a run. I was bundled up with thick gloves on. As I unzipped the isinglass it flew open in the wind. I immediately stuck my hand out to grab it because it's older and can crack in the cold temperatures.

I never even heard the splash.

This is my "door step":
I was hopeful that I simply couldn't see the keys in the dark. Maybe they had flown onto the dock and not into the water. But in the light of day I had to admit that they were gone. My set of two car keys (one for each of our cars) was a new gift to the sea gods. Luckily, my husband had his set so we can still use both cars.

That night my friends and I sat around creating solutions to the problem:
  • Use a small floating key ring -- This may or may not have helped that evening because it was so dark and the water was moving quickly in the wind. It's highly possible that I would not have been able to see them or catch them before they drifted off into the Inner Harbor.
  • Create a small Hovding (really cool inflatable bicycle helmet) for keys -- Again, it probably would have floated away before I could get to it.
  • Create a small Hovding with a tiny anchor that would keep the device in one place.
Of course, I have now done what I probably should have done all along. My car key is on a lanyard. A lanyard that will go around my neck before I step off the boat.
Over the years I have heard of all sorts of unintended "gifts" including a crock pot, a full bottle of rum, and a wedding ring. What have you lost overboard?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

AC Trouble

The air conditioning in my stateroom isn't working... again!

What?!?! You ask. How are you surviving in 93 degree heat with 49% humidity and very few windows that open?

Easy. I say. I have three other air conditioners.

Boats like mine are the best for having multi-zone HVAC systems. The units are spread throughout the boat: one in the main stateroom, one in the guest stateroom, and two on opposite ends of the salon. It's great. We can have a nice cool stateroom for sleeping without wasting energy cooling the rest of our home. The AC in the forward (guest) stateroom is rarely turned on because the room is closed off from the cats, the blinds are drawn, and we spend little time in there. In fact, I just checked, the forward stateroom is currently 83 degrees without AC at 3pm on a hot Baltimore day.

When I go to bed tonight, my stateroom won't be as cool as I want it to be, but it will be comfortable.
See that red circle, those two windows lead into the head attached to my stateroom. The stateroom spans the entire stern of the boat. So, while I don't have working AC, I do have things in my favor:
  1. My stateroom is down a couple steps from the salon and we all know heat rises.
  2. I have a fan running on the far side of the stateroom circulating air and helping that hot air find its way out of the room.
  3. Part of the stateroom is below the waterline which helps keep it cool (think about your basement in the summer).
  4. One of the units that cools the salon has a small vent in the master head.
I should be okay for one more night until we get a chance to solve the issue. We may have growth in our AC water strainer. That's been happening a lot this year and it restricts the amount of water going through the system. With all the debris in the water from the recent storms, we may have sucked up a plastic bag (as we've done before) that is also restricting water flow. My hope for now is that the other units continue working until tomorrow.

Living on a boat still beats living on land in my mind.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Baycation Part 3

We left Herrington Harbour South early Thursday morning. The slips in Ego Alley in Annapolis are first come-first served so you want to time your arrival carefully. There are 20 slips plus the bulkhead available. Of those 20 slips, our boat can fit in only 4 because of her length. We can also fit along the bulkhead if that is open. Check-out is 11am and we planned to arrive between 10:30 and 11 to snag any slips that were opening up.

When we arrived, 3 of the 4 potential slips large enough for us were open. We snagged one and waited on the other 3 boats in our party to arrive. The dockhands were very busy over the next hour as slips filled quickly. Two of the boats in our party arrived within 30 minutes of us and got a slip without issue. The fourth boat was coming from another location and got a late start. By the time they arrived around 1pm, all of the slips available for their size boat were filled. They were lucky, however, because a spot along the bulkhead had opened up.

We found space for all four boats in Ego Alley for the night! Now remember, this is a Thursday that I'm talking about. Not a weekend, when boat traffic is at a premium. This was a weekday when many people have to work. So definitely keep that in mind if you want this view from the bow of your boat:
The great thing about being in Ego Alley is you can walk to all of downtown Annapolis. Shops. Restaurants. Ice cream. There are marinas nearby where you can make a reservation for a slip but there is just something about the "Alley" and the boat and people watching that goes along with it. Plus you can check on your boat while eating lunch at Pussers.
On Friday morning it was time to leave for the last stop on our Baycation -- Dobbins Island in the Magothy River. We had not visited Dobbins Island since Bumper Bash many years ago. It was great to visit when there were only a handful of boats anchored in the area.

We dropped anchor and jumped right in the water. Everyone loved the spot because it's a pretty area and the water is clearer than it is further north in the Bay.

There appears to be a theme to my posts recently: Storms! And our little raft-up of four boats got stuck in one while anchored in the Magothy. The area around Dobbins Island is rather silty. We had two bow anchors out but they broke loose as the winds picked up. I promise you that we do know how to anchor properly. We've had much more luck than not with our anchors holding as they should. The past few weeks have been more trying than most.

We reset anchor before the worst of the storm hit. You know you're in quite a rain storm when the radar looks like this:
Like most storms, after the rain and wind, we had a nice quiet evening and left for home in the morning.

Saturday to Saturday: 1 Baycation, 4 locations, 2 anchorages, 2 marinas, 4 restaurants, 7 boats, and countless Chesapeake Bay memories.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Storms and Contacting the Coast Guard

The Upper Chesapeake Bay was hit by a powerful storm this past weekend and we were rafted up with two other boats during the worst of it. We were anchored in Bodkin Creek in about 8 feet of water. We had two bow anchors (from the two biggest boats) and one stern anchor (from our boat in the middle) set. In normal conditions, this would have been overkill. During this particular storm, it was not enough.

Today, I heard that the Weather Station was reporting that boats should seek safe harbor immediately. With three anchors down and an hour or more ride home, we were in the best possible situation considering our options.
It was a beautiful, HOT but still beautiful, clear day without storms in the forecast. But then the skies went ominous.
We started hearing reports of hail and strong winds in Middle River. Knowing that we had friends anchored there, we quickly contacted them to check on their status. They had two boats rafted together in Sue Creek and had to split apart because of the storm. I also received a text from them stating "Life vests are required for this storm, Julie."

We got life jackets ready and waited to see if the storm would come our way. And it did. Full force.

We were stuck in the middle of a storm similar to the derecho that hit us in Sue Creek a few years back. Only this time we had other boats attached to us.  Thanks to amazing teamwork, we survived unscathed. Other boats weren't so lucky - I'll get to that in a bit.

The bow anchors started to drag and it wasn't long before our stern anchor line was out of position. In the attempt to rectify the situation, we had to let the anchor and line loose into the water. Knowing that our bow anchors were also no longer effective, we started up engines and very carefully managed to get both bow anchors up. I say carefully because we had to be aware of which boat was in gear at all times. We couldn't have multiple boats putting strain on the lines keeping us together and causing a bigger issue. We also didn't want to cut any boats loose until anchors were up to prevent boats swinging into each other.

Once all anchors were up, we undid lines from Wet Wille and they pulled up the creek away from us. The Black Pearl stayed with us while we rode out the storm for an hour or so while keeping a sharp eye on shore and potential other boats in the basin.

All the while, we were listening to Channel 16 and the frantic calls of other boats seeking assistance from the Coast Guard. This storm really took everyone by surprise. A boat ran aground at Hart Miller Island and many boats could not get to safe harbor. One in particular was desperate for help. You could hear the panic in the person's voice and, unfortunately, they weren't completely sure where they were and could not give coordinates to the Coast Guard. "We're sitting ducks. Please help." I commend the Coast Guard for their patience and calm as they tried to help this boat. They explained where on a GPS unit to look for coordinates yet the boat could not find this information. When nothing seemed to work, the Coast Guard recommended that the boat use a cell phone to call 911. They said that 911 dispatch could use the phone signal to get coordinates and that they should ask 911 to then call the Coast Guard with the information. I don't know the end of this boat's story but I was happy to hear the smart problem solving skills of the Coast Guard.

We later heard that people (on land) an hour west hadn't even seen rain. Like I said, this storm caught everyone off guard.

Once the storm passed we were able to reset anchor and enjoy the rest of the evening - including a double full rainbow.

The next morning, Doug and Matt went out in search of the lost stern anchor with a fishing pole. The anchor line was mostly rope so all they needed to do was snag a small part of it. With a little luck, and a general knowledge of where it would be, there were successful within 30 minutes.

For those of you following the Baycation posts, they will resume shortly.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Baycation Part 2

This whole Baycation idea started when we realized that there were some pretty cool places that some of our boating friends had not yet visited. They are places that are a little further away so we like to plan a longer stay to make the trip worthwhile. So, three boats left Swan Creek early Tuesday morning to head to Herrington Harbour South (HHS) for two nights. Looking back through the blog I realized that Doug and I have not visited HHS since 2010 so we were definitely looking forward to the trip. We docked our first boat there for a couple years so we knew everyone was in for a treat.

HHS is a well protected marina as you can tell from the entryway.

We lucked out with 3 back-to-back spots along B pier. We couldn't have been any closer to the pool and Mango's on the Bay.
View from our boat to the pool. The umbrellas that you see are in the pool area.
The marina features a large pool, a private beach area, a restaurant and bar, and an eco-friendly atmosphere. It was hot, hot, hot while we were there. We spent a lot of time at the pool. The pool was busy even midweek because locals purchase memberships. However, there was adult swim time every hour for those that want a little quiet pool time.

Swim lessons are available at the pool. Our friends took advantage of the opportunity to get a single lesson for their four-year-old. He's great in the water but it was fun to watch him gain a few new skills.

Outside area of Mango's. It is attached to the pool.
We visited Mango's for dinner the first night. Quick tip: Bottles of wine are half-price on Tuesday nights. It's on the pricey side but the meals were fantastic. And when you have six adults and one child, you can order three different desserts and everyone can share and be happy.

The second night we grilled out. You aren't allowed to grill on the docks, but there are numerous charcoal grills and picnic tables available. The convenience/wine store across the street has charcoal. Plus, you can't beat a kitchen with this view.
That's our little propane grill beside the charcoal grill. We all wanted to cook something different.
We remember when the store across the street was a tiny deli. I didn't get a chance to check it out but Doug said it has really grown. They serve hot and cold food and have a large beer, wine, and spirits selection.

While HHS has a lot to offer, there isn't a town to visit while you are there. I did go for a run Wednesday morning to North Beach. It is two miles away along a road with little to no shoulder for pedestrians. But if you're willing to be careful it is a cute town with a short boardwalk.

This looks like to perfect place to watch a sunrise.
Cute name but also a little scary.
Lastly, being that HHS is an eco-friendly marina, there is always lots of wildlife.

I didn't catch any photos of the numerous orioles I spotted. And Doug saw a pod of 30 dolphins when he went out fishing early one morning.

Our next stop, Annapolis, will be posted soon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Baycation Part 1

How often do you get to travel and take your home with you? Just think -- you get to sleep in your own bed the whole time, you don't have to pack because you already have everything you need, and you get to explore. Full time cruisers can do this whenever they want. Those of us with full time jobs that require us to go to an office get to do it in short spurts. This year, we left our home dock on Saturday, July 2 and returned eight days later.

The Chesapeake Bay is perfect for this type of trip because there are many destinations relatively close together. This was our trip:
  • Saturday - Tuesday: Anchor in Swan Creek behind Rock Hall
  • Tuesday - Thursday: Get a slip at Herrington Harbour South Marina (in between Deale and North Beach on the map)
  • Thursday - Friday: Luck out with a slip in Ego Alley in Annapolis
  • Friday - Saturday: Anchor behind Dobbins Island in the Magothy River (just north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on the west side of the Bay)
The other great thing about the Bay is that lots of boating friends can come and go from the trip as it fits their schedule. It's like having house guests that bring their own house (and bed and sheets and towels and food). We had a core group of four boats in Swan Creek with another three that visited for part of the time.
The raft up taken from the bow of Wet Wille.
After watching fireworks in Baltimore and Middle River for the past few years, we wanted to try something different. We chose Swan Creek because we like the anchorage area and Rock Hall had fireworks scheduled for Sunday, July 3. We then chose to stay in Swan Creek for an extra couple days so we wouldn't have to deal with a Bay busy with boat traffic and price hikes at marinas for the holiday. We also got to enjoy a relatively empty anchorage basin for a couple of days.

Rock Hall put on an impressive fireworks show but the funniest statement about the display came from the 4-year-old in the group: "Mommy, why aren't the fireworks up in the sky?" This lucky little guy has always seen fireworks up close and personal, as in, lay down on the bow of your boat and watch them explode above you close and personal. We were close to the front of the Creek but still at the point where the fireworks were on the horizon and not directly above us.

The four ladies took the dinghy into town on Monday via the dinghy dock at Haven Harbor Marina. Town is about a half-mile away along a well-traveled road but the shoulder is sufficient for walking single or double-file. We did a little shopping but I have unfortunately seen a steady decline in the number of open businesses in Rock Hall. I wish there was more to do in town but we were really there for a relaxing raft up.

We did visit Waterman's Crab House for lunch. You simply must go to Waterman's if you visit Rock Hall. Just in case you need proof, they do serve more than just crabs:
The blackened tuna was cooked perfectly!
After four quiet days it was time for a trip down the bay to Herrington Harbour South. Watch for that post in a couple days.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Real Heat for Winter

Back in the fall, we had a Webasto diesel heater installed onboard. Now that winter is officially over, I can say that it was one of the best decisions we have ever made. This little unit turned our boat into a cozy home:

Ruler added to show size.
  • We were able to keep the boat at a cozy 65 degrees. We could have gone warmer if we wanted.
  • The warm air is blown throughout the boat so everywhere is warm. No more morning waking up to a 15 degree temperature difference between the foot and head of the bed. In the past, we used electric radiators. They do the trick, but heat only radiates so far. See my post from the 2013/2014 winter.
  • Our electric bills dropped. And by dropped, I mean plummeted. Those electric radiators use a lot of juice.
  • It's easy to use and the four new vents blend in nicely.
    Venting and control unit in the salon.
  • The unit is fed directly from our diesel tanks and uses a maximum of one gallon a day.
  • No smell. This was a concern of mine since I tend to be sensitive to fuel smells, but there was no need to worry.
  • We no longer need an engine room heater. There isn't a vent in the engine room but the unit itself kept the space well above freezing all winter.
  • The cats love it. Especially Latte. We had to buy another cat bed because she really wanted to sleep near the vent.
    The black circle in the background is the vent in our stateroom.
  • The initial install is costly. However, with the savings in electric bills, it will pay for itself within a couple years.
  • Install can take some time. It took two professionals from Eastern Marine Systems two full days to complete the install. We had the option of self-install but I'm really glad we had them do it. We do recommend Eastern Marine Systems if you are considering a diesel heater on your boat. They were professional and easy to work with. They even came back a couple weeks later to make sure everything was still up to par. So, this is listed on cons but it's not an actual negative.
  • The bow stateroom was not as warm as the rest of the boat. This is due to the fact that it is furthest from the unit. It may also be partially our fault because we keep the door to that stateroom closed to keep the cats out. I'm sure it would be warmer if air could circulate better. A small ceramic heater did the trick when we had guests.
  • It looks like a giant black octopus died in our engine room. The unit requires all new vents and the tubing has to go somewhere. I put this under cons but the venting doesn't get in our way.

By the way, we promised each other that we would stay on board at least three years. We just passed that mark this week and we are still thrilled with our decision.