Summer 1999 Email
I've been out cruising a few weeks now. I spent the first two weeks cruising up Chesapeake Bay, visiting the Magothy River (Western Shore, just above above the Bay Bridge), Worton Creek (upper Eastern Shore), Bohemia River (also upper Eastern Shore). My original plans were to go through the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal into Delaware Bay to visit Cape May, NJ and Cape Henlopen, Del. However, I was worried about hurricane Dennis, which spent a lot of time churning around in the Atlantic on its way here. Delaware Bay has very few places to ride out a storm at anchor, so I decided not to go to Delaware Bay. Instead I cruised back down the bay, visiting the Sassafras River (upper Eastern Shore), Little Round Bay on the Severn River (above Annapolis), and Back Creek (Annapolis, near the marina).
Another reason I didn't go to Delaware Bay is that I have had a bunch of problems with the boat that need attention. My depth sounder was working very poorly, some days working on and off for a few hours, some days not working at all. Plus it never worked at all in shallow water. I played around with it and the wiring but couldn't fix it. So I need to replace it, it's just too dicey navigating shallow areas without a working depth sounder. Unfortunately, it has the type of transducer that is like a through-hull that you have to remove from outside (and below) the boat, so I have to get hauled out to replace the transducer (I also replaced the display unit in the cockpit).
Then I had a problem with the engine leaking lots of oil. There's about 2 cups of very black oil in the engine bilge. I see a few potential seeps on the engine, but I need to attend to this since you don't want to find out that your engine quit because all the oil leaked out.
Then I broke the alternator while doing some wiring (stripped the screw that holds the big output wire), so I couldn't charge the batteries with the engine, which is a pain since I've been doing a lot of motoring.
I also had problems with the anchor rodes, which I replace/reconfigured when I was refitting the boat. The new rodes are very nice (main rode 150' 3/8 chain + 150' 5/8 nylon, second rode 100' 3/8 chain + 200' 5/8 nylon), but unfortunately, there isn't enough space in the chain locker for all of it to feed nicely into the chain locker when raising the anchor. The chain builds up into "chain castles" (piles of chain) that reach the top of the locker, then the windlass jams because it can't feed any more chain into the chain locker. This caused great problems once when I was weighing anchor in a crowded anchorage when it was windy. The anchor doesn't come all the way up, but it comes up enough not to hold the boat well. Then I had to run below and all the way forward to manually knock down the chain castle in the chain locker, then reset the windlass circuit breaker (which trips if you don't notice that the chain is jammed), then run topsides and forward to finish retrieving the anchor, then run below to reset the breaker again when a temporary jam occurred. This is not much fun, and I really need to fix this so things work properly.
I have also had problems with the house bank batteries. I knew they were pretty well used up, but I was hoping to use them as-is until later in the year. Unfortunately, this isn't practical. I would be extremely frugal with cabin lights (which are already high-efficiency fluorescents), turning them on and off so only one was on at a time, and at low intensity. But I needed to keep the anchor light on all night, and the batteries would be drained by morning. It's pretty pitiful if your battery bank can't even power the anchor light and one low-intensity cabin light.
So far, the sailing part has been OK. I spent most of the time motoring due to lack of wind or just making a short hop. But there are some rigging changes I need to make, too, to handle the spinnaker pole better. I was sailing wing-and-wing with the jib poled out and it was quite fun, but the spinnaker pole is really dangerous since there are no cleats for the control line that raises the pole (or for the spinnaker halliard for that matter). As I was setting it up, I had visions of the heavy pole dropping on my head - it would at least knock me out if not worse.
In any event, I encountered enough problems that I am taking a short break at the marina again to fix things. I am currently hauled out in the boatyard, since I need to work on the depth sounder transducer, and it's also much cheaper than docking ($7/day vs. $45/day).
I'm not sure what I will do next. I have come to the conclusion that to go down the Intracoastal Waterway to Florida (which was my original winter plan), I will need an additional person as crew. At present, the things I have the most trouble with handling solo are docking/undocking (especially when it's crowded and/or windy) and raising the anchor (mostly due to the anchor rode / chain locker problems). I'm sure things would work so much better with two people that I am reluctant to proceed down the ICW unless I have crew (in retrospect, this seems like a no-brainer). I haven't yet found anybody (although I'm not looking very hard right now), and I'm not sure if I'll get anybody at this time. Also I'm not sure how long it will take me to finish the latest round of boat repairs. As usual, things take a lot longer than expected, so the repairs may take until later in the fall. I'm not sure how late I can still leave for Florida. So there's a possibility that I may spend the winter in a marina in Chesapeake Bay. If this comes to pass, I am going to check out the Solomons, MD area since I would like a change of scenery from Annapolis.
I weathered Dennis while at anchor in Back Creek near the marina. Since Dennis turned out to be much milder than forecast, I didn't have any problems. Actually, the strong north/northeast winds before Dennis were worse. However, you don't know in advance that things are going to be easy, so there is a considerable period of uncertainty and worry as the storm approaches. This tends to preoccupy my attention and make me anxious, so I don't sleep well and don't get much done during the day (other than listen to the weather radio). By the time Hurricane Floyd arrived, I had already been hauled out to do my repairs. It was very windy with lots of rain, and to tell the truth, I was glad I wasn't at anchor. Anchoring is "free", but there are times when I would gladly pay money to either get a slip or even get hauled out. In fact, the marina was very busy the day before the storm hauling out boats and blocking them up in the yard. I saw one boat that rode out the storm at anchor, and I'm sure they didn't get any sleep and had a pretty worrisome time.
Oh well, it's still an adventure, even if it's not going exactly as I planned. And I'd still rather be doing this than sitting in an office in front of a computer (at least until I run out of cruising funds). Stay tuned for more updates.
on board Sunspot, Annapolis MD
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