Slick and I have made it all the way to the Norfolk area of Virginia. We are swallowing up the east coast much faster than when we came down it. Although, not quite as fast as I would have liked thanks to some fronts and the occasional tropical storm. This blog post will be long but should get the blog up to date and I will also review two more relevant books at the end.

I ended up staying in Bimini for a little over a full week, which is a full week longer than I meant. In the end it turned out to be OK though. I made some new friends. I met one person that was pretty interesting who is a part time circus performer, I keep meeting those actually. I also got to know the sailing yacht Jancris quite well. Oh, and I met some friendly but hungry bull sharks. They feed them off the dock of the bar I would visit for happy hour. The anchorage eventually filled up to as the weather seemed to get worse everyday. We waited forever but it got interesting watching the sea planes try to maneuver about the many anchored boats.

I finally managed to leave on a small southerly on an 8 PM high tide. It was a good thing I waited for the high tide as it is a really shallow entrance. Anyway, everything was going good until the weather changed at about 2 am and a northerly picked up. To be fair it was only about 15 knots out of the north but with the Gulf Stream running north at 2.5 knots it built some huge waves fast that were beating us up. So Slick and I were not able to make it to Ft. Pierce but headed for Palm Beach instead. We arrived about 6 am through the cut and anchored in Lake Worth.

It was actually Riviera Beach, Palm Beach’s seedy, stabby neighbor. There were only two murders while I was there which I think was a record low for one week. Anyway, I had to wait out weather again before I headed north. This time it was a preseason tropical storm, Ana. I knew it was going to be a long trip to Charleston and saw the storm coming and just had to wait. It wasn’t all bad though, I got to see my grandad a few times. Peanut island is a nice place to go for an early morning, pre-heat run, I got some work done on future projects and even did some maintenance on Slick. It’s pretty clear though that the cruising community is not really welcome there. They charge you $10-15 to dock your dinghy and the local boats sort of look at you with smite.

Ana was lingering around the Carolinas but I decided to go under the idea that she would be gone when I got there, and she was. The passage was a triple overnighter. It would have been faster if I could have used more of the Gulf Stream but it was full of thunderstorms while I was there. Many came off the land too but we managed to avoid them, sometimes narrowly.

The passage was just a long motor as the tropical storm had all but destroyed all other sources of wind. I did have a yellow footed booby land on the solar panels though off Jacksonville. The bird stayed for two days and finally flew off when we could see Charleston. It was certainly a stowaway which was fine except it shat all over the place. I saw some whales too but I am not sure what type and of course some huge dolphins came to play a few times. My sleep schedule on the trip is normally to sleep for 15 minutes at a time if there is traffic or 30 minutes if I am far enough off shore and if there is nothing around and I am way out then I will take 45 minute naps. This seemed to work well for the three night trip except when I got close to Charleston if I fell asleep and didn’t wake up I would end up on the beach, that would count as failing I think.

I pulled into Charleston very early in the morning. The approaching channel runs several miles out to sea but even Slick is able to cut in at the last minute, which we did. A few other boats followed us too. On the way though a large freighter entered the channel inbound. That was OK as I think everyone noticed. A tug though was on his way out, not to meet the freighter or for any other reason other than transiting as near as I could tell. I made room for him but he turned and bared down on me. I adjusted course again and he did too. He was moving ten knots and throwing a wake at least 8 feet. He yelled at me over his megaphone for being in the channel, which we had to be or go aground, and then rolled us and the other two boats too. The freighter came through ten minutes later giving everyone five honks just for fun. I found none of this to be particularly southerly behavior.

When I pulled into Charleston Maritime the dock hands remembered us and are even blog readers (thanks guys). They wanted to ask about the trip and I wanted to tell them but I was so tired I think I might have fallen asleep while trying to pay my bill. That evening Sandy and Joe, navy nuke friends from MIT who are stationed down here, came over and we had a few beers and dinner. It was quite good to see them. The next night Joe came down and we had a few beers on the pier. While in Charleston I got a lot of work done on Slick but then backing up I accidentally hit the dock when the wind picked up and the mud I was plowing on the bottom ended. Slick turned fast in the wind and current and smash, I bashed up the new ladder. Its a good thing it was a wooden dock or there might have been some real damage.

I really love Charleston, it is certainly a world class city. The thing about it is that it’s not huge like New York or Boston, but it still has all the class and history. The food culture there is great too so I had to get a fill of Southern BBQ and some other things. I certainly enjoyed running along the water and the old battery and visiting the old places I used to frequent when I was stationed there. For some reason though, that I still can’t quite explain, I still could not live there.

So I left for Beaufort, NC. This was a boring motor, but that was fine. The most exciting thing was finding a missing cotter pin in my forestay. Good thing it was a motor I guess. I wonder how long that has been missing. Anyway, I saw little traffic and no dolphins. The entrance into Beaufort was pretty rough too. Lots of sport fishers swamping the little boats. When I managed to get in near town there was a pretty good current running and so I needed to maneuver correctly or get in trouble. I lined up to get things set and was obviously docking when a speed boat with some probably-drunk millennials decided to get in my way. The dock master yelled at him and they told him to shove it. Unbelievable.

Anyway, when I finally got landed, there was Norm and Elizabeth from Averisera waiting for me on the pier. They had come down to meet me and do the Ditch. They were a welcome site since I haven’t had any guests since Alex left in the Bahamas. We had a nice easy dinner and a few drinks and left early the next morning to make the 6 AM drawbridge opening.

The passage through the Ditch is, of course, all motoring. Its mostly narrow canals or the occasional open but shallow sounds. I wouldn’t dare let Slick out of the channel but they are experienced boaters so I didn’t need to watch them closely. The first day though, my head plumbing clogged from too much calcification, so Norm and I spent nearly the whole day working on it to have a functioning toilet. I seemed to have just enough spares to fix it and not a single bit more so we managed and everything is fine now. As soon as it was fixed I drove and at some point passed a boat that seemed to be going out of the channel. They yelled at me for cutting them off, and they did it on channel 16! Anyway, I had at least two boat lengths from them so I am not sure why they were so nervous, obviously they never raced their boat, but they were really upset. They continued out of the channel and went somewhere. The lady asked if I knew I cut them off and I just replied “Yeah, I did.” They would never make it elsewhere in the world I think. Shortly after we came to the mouth of the Alligator-Pongo Canal. I wanted to try to do the ditch in two days only but some massive thunderstorms moved in and so we decided to anchor early for the night.

The second day was pretty much the same and we had almost made it to Coinjock when a huge cell decided to move. So we spent the last two hours motoring through massive lighting storms. We got sort of lucky though as the storm split right as we came into proximity and gave us a fairly easy, but wet, pass. So we made it to Coinjock and stopped for the night. We stayed at the Midway Marina and the owner was quite a nice guy. His own restaurant was closed so he lent us his car for the evening so we could go to another one. Some place that is famous for making prime rib, and it’s very good.

The next morning we left quite early for Portsmouth. The day was a bit uneventful in the beginning. We missed one bridge opening and then one of the other bridges wouldn’t open as I guess there were problems with the train bridge next to it. They yelled at us when I finally asked them for an opening as they said they had been trying to hail us, but not on channel 16, which is where I would expect to be hailed. Anyway, in the end we managed to get through after circling for nearly an hour. We finally arrived in Tidewater Yacht Marina and Norm and Elizabeth departed. They were very good guests. And they made the Ditch a very enjoyable trip.

So the next hop will be from here to probably Newport, Rhode Island. Then from there it is only a short passage back to Boston. I think I will leave Saturday morning as for the next two days a series of fronts are passing. Oh, and its freaking cold up here. Real cold, and I guess it isn’t even that cold. Who could enjoy boating up here in all this cold water? Well, I guess I used to and probably will again.

As for my impressions of America upon returning I am a bit surprised and embarrassed by the boating community I have seen so far. It seems to be very acceptable to be quite rude to everyone, they yell at each other and the dock masters and throw huge wakes when it really isn’t required. Yes, in other countries they go by you on step at max speed, but this only throws a tiny wake. Other than around the water though, I have really not been able to formulate much of an opinion about America, since I still haven’t stopped moving. Maybe the next post, which maybe will be from Boston!

Here are two more books I recommend. I put them here this time as it seems I have spent most of my time waiting or dodging weather on my passages up the East Coast. The first Book, Adlard Coles’ Heavy Weather Sailing, Sixth Edition, provides a detailed account of tactics for handling storms if you happen to get stuck in one. The book is so horrifying to read that Nathan was not able to finish. The book is split into two parts, one theory and the other practical stories. The stories are the scary part, but they do a great job of illustrating how bad it can get and how to handle it in several different boat types – monohulls, cats, power boats and even RIBs. This is a definite must read for anyone going offshore as you never know when you will get stuck in some nastyness.

The next book provides an introduction to oceanography of the average non-academic sailor. The book, Oceanography and Seamanship does a very good job of explaining how the wind and currents form, and covers a lot of other subjects that are really good to know for the blue-water sailor. I would like to see the book updated a bit though, since it is from the 70’s or so. This does provide a humor point in some cases for the modern cruiser as occasionally Van Dorn dedicates entire chapters to how he would do it, obviously on a wooden boat. So there are a few things he thinks we should have and don’t, like 15 gallons of roofing tar, cement or 1000 feet of large hemp rope. In any case I think most cruisers are not really familiar with the science of the seas and Van Dorn provides a great introduction to the environment that every blue water skipper should understand.