Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Justitia Omnibus

When last I posted here, I said I would post again when I had some idea of Louise's return date. That was over two weeks ago, and, at this writing, she still has no return ticket nor a clear notion of when that might be. Two weeks is a long time between blog posts, and some folks have inquired as to our well-being, so I thought I should post an update.

The Capitol at night. I snapped this mid-Mall, about abreast of Air and Space.

Before I get into the more mundane, let me just say that yes, we are both well, as is Angel the cat, and the boat is also fine, if a bit more encrusted with marine growth. I am anchored in the Washington Channel (map), where we dropped the hook on our arrival. I now have two neighbors, a pair of sailboats a bit to my south.

Washington monument at dusk, as seen from the National Mall. Smithsonian Castle is on the left.

We arrived in the channel around 4pm, and cleared in with the harbor patrol as required. We were surprised to learn that the anchorage is now restricted to an area designated by four new yellow buoys just south of the police dock. We knew from reading cruising notes that anchoring north of that dock is no longer allowed, but these buoys are newer than even the most recent comments.

Fortunately the anchorage was completely empty when we arrived. The buoys delineate an area perhaps just under 200' wide by maybe 800' or so long. 200' is basically the diameter of our swing circle in this 15-20' depth area, so the anchorage now has room for three or at most four cruising boats. We chose a spot at the northernmost end, to minimize the wakes and our dinghy ride. That puts us immediately adjacent to the Titanic Memorial.

Vector next to the Titanic Memorial. Smokestack is on Fort McNair.

We splashed the tender right away and headed ashore. Capital Yacht Club dockmaster Kelvin met us on the dinghy dock with a pair of card keys and a folder of information. We would have immediately headed upstairs to the club bar for a beer, except it was closed for a private event that evening, so instead we crossed the street to Kirwan's pub, part of the enormous new District Wharf complex.

This dining, retail, entertainment, office, and residential mixed-use development has been open just a year. When last we were here it was basically a big hole in the ground, with workmen setting foundations while pumps extracted water from the whole shebang. The yacht club was working out of temporary quarters in an abandoned hotel, which will be removed shortly as part of phase two of the project.

Vector as seen from the Titanic Memorial. Wharf complex is at right, Washington Monument in background, and one of the ever-present construction cranes that dot the city.

After our beers we strolled around the complex for a while taking it all in. It was incredibly busy on a very pleasant weekend evening. Apparently the whole concept has been a resounding success; the place has remained busy and vibrant the whole two weeks I've been here. On the weekend there were musicians performing at various spots throughout the complex.

In short order we found there to be a CVS pharmacy, handy for milk and other last-minute items, a full-service hardware store, District Hardware, which quirkily sports a cafe and a bicycle sales and repair business within, a huge and popular music venue called Anthem, three upscale hotels, and perhaps a dozen bars and restaurants. I later learned there is also a marine supply store, Anchor, which also sells craft beers and nautical fashions.

The Washington Monument across the Tidal Basin, as seen from the Jefferson Memorial.

There are also quite a few public spaces, including the "recreation pier" where paddlecraft can be rented and which sports a gas-fired fire pit at the end as well as swings all along the pier, a more traditional wood fire pit shoreside, a number of outdoor stage areas, plenty of seating, and bicycle racks. There are transient docks for hourly visitors at $30 for three hours. and even overnight docks.

We ended up at the upscale pizza place, Lupo Marino, for a casual final dinner together. It was ok but we won't be going back. Lots of better choices right here at the wharf, and certainly less expensive options further afield. We made it home before the channel closure for the fireworks, which we could just see above the tour boats docked upriver of us.

Fireworks from The Wharf, their smoke veiling the Washington Monument.

In the morning we called a Lyft to get over to Reagan National Airport, which is close enough to the anchorage that we can read the tire expiration dates on arriving aircraft. We had hoped to catch breakfast together but there we no real good options ahead of security, so Louise continued on toward her gate, and I strolled through the historic older art-deco sections of the terminal before getting on the Metro to head home.

Only later did I learn that one of the services offered by The Wharf is a free shuttle bus to the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station, which would have made getting to the airport on the Metro a slam-dunk. I spent a little time wandering around L'Enfant plaza as well; I stayed in the hotel here as a youth and I was hoping it had been re-opened, but is has not. It has been closed since before our last visit three years ago.

After getting billing squared away with the club office, picking up a couple of packages including our accumulated mail (which had already made a round-trip to Port Washington, NY), and learning about the free shuttle, I returned to Vector to settle in to bachelorhood. At least until returning ashore at cocktail hour for my first of many beers at the club bar.

Gangplank marina, tour boat piers, and the Wasginton Channel as seen from the roof of the Hilton Canopy hotel at The Wharf. Vector is barely visible center frame past the tour boats.

My first couple of days I did some walking around the district and took in a couple of museums, notably the National Museum of African American History, which was not yet open on our last visit. I found it very moving, though not as much so as the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

The Washington Monument and surroundings as seen from inside the National Museum of African American History.

A side note here may be in order. Long-time readers may know that Louise, with few exceptions (such as the aforementioned Civil Rights Museum), does not do museums. That's because it is very, very hard on her chronic plantar fasciitis, a lifelong condition. Sometimes we'll breeze through a museum together quickly -- we had to miss Martin Luther King's room in Memphis, for example. Sometimes we'll rent or borrow a wheelchair. Mostly, if there is a museum I want to see, I do it alone.

The atrium of the National Museum of the American Indian. Prisms in a sunny window cast the rainbows.

And so it is that, with Louise away, I set a fairly ambitious (or so I thought) schedule of museum visits. I wanted to see the African American one, with an eye to whether or not we should come back together. Another newer museum that we missed last time is the National Museum of the American Indian, one we thought might be redundant for the numerous native American cultural sites we've visited in person. And it's been a very, very long time since I was in the National Galleries.

The rotunda of the National Gallery of Art (west building). An eighteenth century copy of a sixteenth century bronze, Giovanni Bologna's Flying Mercury, graces the fountain. I grew up with this statue; a nineteenth century copy is prominent in the lobby of The New York Athletic Club, where I studied fencing, among other sports, for years.

While the weather had been absolutely perfect and the museums were calling me loudly, an issue aboard Vector that had been growing ever more pressing in the last couple of weeks reached a nadir that diverted my attention for two full days. To wit, I had to replace the flooring in the saloon.

There is a very long story here which I will try to distill down to just a couple of paragraphs, that starts with a cat with but one kidney. Readers who have been following along will know that Angel has bee in and out of vets with this issue, culminating in a very expensive emergency visit in New York wherein we were nearly certain we would have to put her down. Hydration, in the form of subcutaneous fluids, has always been the key to her recovery: for her entire life, she has not been drinking enough water. Her drinking behavior has also been bizarre, with a compulsive need to slap the water with her paw before drinking.

The only DaVinci in the Americas, Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci, in the National Gallery.

In a last-ditch effort to stave off further kidney damage and a certain demise, we bought her a fountain. Instead of a water bowl, she now drinks from this fountain, which not only provides audible and visual stimulation, also brings the water closer to her head. It has made a huge difference, and her water intake has gone up several fold. The difference in her health has been nothing short of miraculous.

What goes in, though, must come out, and in addition to dramatically increasing her intake, it has also dramatically increased her output, and therein lies a problem. In spite of having added some time ago a second litter box in the saloon, she has been occasionally going on the floor in a handful of spots. And once a cat has marked a spot, there is almost nothing one can do to keep them from going there again.

Washington is allowing a limited number of dockless electric rental scooters during a trial program. This one, from Lime, was abandoned broken in half. Users seem to leave them in the worst places, I knocked one over just walking on a sidewalk. No, I did not pick it up.

Way back when we ripped all the carpet out of the boat in anticipation of cat accidents, I installed woven vinyl flooring in the saloon. It looked great, it felt great, the cats could not really damage it, and it was fairly easy to clean up small accidents of various bodily fluids. But the texture meant it had nooks and crannies, and fluids can and did make their way between the tiles and into the plywood subflooring. The problem reached a tipping point as we were leaving NJ, and we've tried everything we could think of to mitigate it.

Louise actually stopped sitting in the saloon weeks before she left. I'm less sensitive, but it became intolerable for me, too, in spite of myriad applications of enzymes. And I knew if I did nothing to put a stop to it, we'd never get it out of the subfloor, a very expensive proposition. As we were headed into the Potomac, we resolved to get to the store and buy a single piece of impervious sheet vinyl flooring to deal with the problem.

I had to close off the saloon with plastic sheeting during the project, to keep the cat out and the dust in.

With Louise gone, that plan was not going to work. Instead, I ended up buying two smaller pieces, which I bridged with clear shipping tape to form an uninterrupted waterproof barrier. These cut rolls are essentially factory remnants, and I had to settle for  whatever they had; fortunately I found two pieces of the same pattern, which, while a bit dark, is not out of place in the saloon. It took me most of an afternoon to go out to Home Depot on the Metro and schlep the two six-foot-long rolls back home on my shoulders, along with a backpack full of caulk, sandpaper, and other necessities.

Subfloor exposed. The adhesive tape left these wet-looking marks.

Pulling up the old floor along with some of the double-sided tape that held it in place, cleaning the subfloor, sanding down the plywood in the worst spots, and deep treating it with enzymes took a full day. The next day, after the enzymes had done their magic, I cut, positioned, installed, and seamed the vinyl, sealing the edges with a thick bead of silicone caulk. It looks acceptable, and at some point we will replace it with something more appropriate in a single uninterrupted piece. The two cut remnants cost me just $50 total, so I won't mind throwing it away when we get something nicer.

Finished flooring installed. The seam is almost unnoticeable.

I'm not the flexible and energetic young man I once was, and this kind of project now takes a lot out of me. I ended up spending most of the next day recuperating in my easy chair. And so it is that the saloon floor took a full three and a half days out of my otherwise leisurely schedule. I am happy to report that it's working as intended; the cat did spend a full day poking around and wondering what happened.

Somewhere during the great flooring project I was aroused by some commotion outside, which turned out to be the much-hyped arrival of "the Vikings" in the Washington Channel on their way to The Wharf. The arrived under power but stopped south of me to hoist the sail, to very little effect and they took it right back down before even arriving at the dock. But they passed me with the sail up and I snapped a few photos for the blog. Later I was given a much better photo taken from the sixth floor of the apartment complex behind me, with both the Viking ship and Vector in the frame.

Vector and Viking ship Draken Harald HÃ¥rfagre. Photo: Pamela Dahill

The ~35 member crew of the Draken Harald HÃ¥rfagre have been using the showers and other facilities at the Yacht Club. Conditions on the ship are rustic (we're Vikings, darn it), lacking showers and with only enough berths for the crew to hot-bunk under way. They've been selling tours at $16 a pop to hundreds of tourists, and the stage pier has been full of booths selling tickets and souvenirs and showing construction videos. I know the young multi-national crew have signed on to something allegedly more noble, but it's hard not to view it as little more than a floating cheesy tourist attraction. They left last night after a full ten days in port.

A Swift Boat on display at the Washington Navy Yard. To the right is a pedestrian drawbridge that carries the Anacostia River Trail over the Yards small channel.

I did ultimately resume museum-hopping, along with walking along some of the more picturesque parts of the district. I even offloaded my bicycle, riding it past Fort McNair and up along the Anacostia River past the Washington Navy Yard, staying as much as possible to the fairly new (and thus incomplete) Anacostia River Trail. That part of the district is undergoing considerable urban renewal.

This nice wading fountain is in Yards Park on the Capitol Riverfront near the Navy Yard.

In my travels I did make it to the American Indian museum as well as the National Gallery of Art. In both cases I found the museum architecture at least as interesting as the contents. I also made a brief stop at my old friend the National Air and Space Museum just to see what was new and different. And I spent an afternoon at the Museum of American History, which always has something new and where I am always moved by some of the permanent exhibits like the Star Spangled Banner.

Fellow Stevens alum Sandy Calder is well-represented throughout the city, and a gallery is dedicated to him in the east building of the National Gallery of Art, where hangs this mobile, his last and largest commission.

Late evening walks are also not usually on our agenda as a couple, and so I spent a few of the warmer evenings just strolling the capital at night and enjoying the monuments and buildings that are all carefully lit for dramatic effect. At one point in the evening as I was strolling the Mall, I was passed by no fewer than four groups of young runners in thundering herds, running at matched pace. I would guess some of the local college groups.

Architect I.M. Pei was insistent that this sharp corner on the East Building be built as drawn, and not chamfered as engineers and builders wanted to build it. He took great delight in being vindicated later; the corner is still sharp, and the dark area on the edge from the touch of many hands attests to its popular appeal.

As part of The Wharf project a small dock has been added across the channel at East Potomac Park, more or less right by where we anchored on our last visit. Only non-motorized craft may dock there, but The Wharf runs what they call a "jitney" using a Duffy electric boat during daylight hours. I took the jitney across and strolled the park, discovering that the pro shop cafe at the golf course has the cheapest draft beer on the waterfront. I returned across the channel on foot, continuing on to Penn Quarter for dinner.

A subterranean tunnel connects the east and west buildings of the National Gallery. This outdoor fountain appears to almost come into the tunnel, cascading just inches from the window. Pyramidal skylights above bring light to the underground cafe.

With only a couple of exceptions I have been eating dinner ashore each evening; some days it's the only time I get off the boat. I've been keeping to our tradition of lunch aboard, which for almost two full weeks meant working my way through the salad fixings that we had brought aboard for the two of us for a more leisurely cruise up the Potomac. Nothing spoiled but I will have to throw away the cherry tomatoes Louise bought for herself, which I don't eat.

That same fountain and skylights, as seen from the east building looking at the historic west building.

Our anchor is well-set, and other than a police or fireboat screaming past from the station en route to a call, there's not enough wake or wave action in here to disturb my sleep. But I've been awakened twice in the middle of the night. The first time was a veritable sea of wood debris knocking against the hull, brought in on the tide, and seemingly including every log we dodged on the way up.  If the cat had gotten out she could have walked to shore on an uninterrupted blanket of wood extending all the way to the bulkhead.

Wood from ship to shore, literally.

The other time was when I woke to a considerable amount of rocking and came upstairs to find the winds had increased to 30 knots steady and gusting higher. I stowed a couple of things and put the safety line on the tender and went back to bed. When I woke in the morning the small sailboat behind me had dragged perhaps 500' down the anchorage, fortunately missing the other anchored boat and also stopping short of hitting the bulkhead. Had the wind been blowing the other way I would have had to spend the night watching him.

I took another photo in the morning, but by then half of it had drifted away.

As Louise's stay in California has drawn out, I've lately ventured a bit further afield. A couple of days ago I rode the Metro down to Alexandria, taking the free trolley bus down to the waterfront and then strolling the historic district. I dined at Gadsby's Tavern, where George Washington, among other prominent early Americans, once ate, before getting back on the trolley and heading home.

Gadsby's Tavern. Unassuming and easy to miss from the outside.

Yesterday I had something of a boatman's holiday, dropping ten bucks on a Water Taxi ride up to Georgetown. I wanted to do that stretch of the Potomac, and Vector can't normally make it under the series of bridges en route. I was the only passenger on the 80 person ferry, and I ended up chatting with the skipper, also Sean, the whole trip. I spent the afternoon in Georgetown, where the historic C&O Canal is currently devoid of water while it undergoes restoration. I have a nice dinner at casual Italian bistro Flavio before coming back on the Circulator bus, a much more reasonable $1 per ride.

Looking downstream on the empty C&O. Narrow section is a lock.

When I am not gallivanting around DC, of course, I am working on the boat. In addition to the floor project, I also ended up climbing the mast to work on the satellite dish, which quit working right after Annapolis. I took it apart all the way to the board level, where I found two fuses and hoped to find one blown. They were both intact, though, and I put it all back together in defeat, resolving to get some help. When I turned the breaker back on it fired right up, so I can only conclude either the fuse/holders or the power connector were suffering poor contact due to corrosion.

Conning tower of USS Balao at the Washington Navy Yard. Balao was perhaps most famous for starring in Operation Petticoat as the pink submarine.

At one point my shower seemed a bit tepid and I found a melted wire in the power connection to the water heater, which blew the fuse. The generator quit one day and I had to replace an impeller. And my laptop keyboard dropped a couple of characters so I had to order a replacement and install it with a hot-melt glue gun that I bought at the aforementioned full-service hardware store. I also spent the better part of a day repairing and reprogramming a damaged Android phone.

Now Watergate does not bother me...

While the weather here was absolutely gorgeous for over a week, dry and sunny with temperatures around 80, the cold front that has gripped much of the east has made its way here. Today barely made it into the mid-50s, perfect to stay in and blog, and tomorrow will be a last hurrah in the mid-60s before daytime temps drop into the low 50s with low 40s overnight. I was running air conditioning with the generator two weeks ago and now it's the heaters.

Nothing in the long-term forecast looks to be changing that trend, and so when Louise returns we will take a couple of days for her to recuperate and decompress, perhaps have a nice dinner at the City Club in a belated celebration of her birthday, and then weigh anchor for points south. Between now and then I will get the boat squared away for travel and then tick off whatever else I can on my sights-to-see list. It's possible or maybe even likely that my next post here will be while under way in the Potomac.

Google Street View guy gotta eat. Food trucks are ubiquitous here. That's the Wharf shuttle on the left.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Capital Approach

We are on the home stretch, the last ten miles of river before DC. After making the turn at Fort Washington Park, it's more or less a straight shot, and you can look ten miles upriver and see the Washington Monument, and peering under the arches of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge you can make out some of the monuments, right where we'll be anchored.

We have about two knots of current against us, normally a circumstance that would have us anchored until a more suitable time. But we have to keep to schedule; at our current speed of just four knots we'll be in DC just before 5pm. Most likely it will take me until close to then to finish this post.

Vector at anchor, from Gilligan's.

Last night we dropped the hook off Gilligan's Pier restaurant, in Newburg, Maryland (map). This place is a zoo in the summer, but on a late-season Saturday night the live band wrapped up at six, just as we arrived, and we had a pretty quiet dinner after tendering to their dock. Their launch does not run this late in the season. It's the kind of joint that cries out for al fresco dining, but ashtrays everywhere and lots of smokers drove us indoors.

Today's cruise has been calm and mostly pleasant, and the outside temperature right now is perfect. That said, we've plowed through debris all day; recent flooding upriver has carried a forest worth of lumber downriver, and we've also passed a half dozen barrels, more beverage bottles than I can count, and no fewer than five tires, wheels attached (unmounted tires don't float). Also, a regulation basketball in new condition, and one of those plastic mailboxes where they deliver the morning paper.

Whole tree.

Vector hardly notices the smaller logs, bouncing off the hull with a gong-like sound. But I've had to grab the wheel and steer around quite a bit of larger stuff. Surprisingly, the pleasant weekend has quite a few boaters out here barreling through this on full plane; we wonder how much bent running gear results.

Louise spent a good part of the day wrapping up in the quilt room and getting it in a position to use as crew quarters should the need arise. She's on a one-way ticket to California, and we can't rule out me having to get the boat moving south before she returns, however unlikely that is.

Wheel. Or as we like to say, "tar."

On my part, I spent some of the day following up on the anchorage changes in the Washington Channel. We have to anchor a half mile south of where we were last time, adding that distance to our dinghy ride. On top of that, the channel north of us will be closed tonight from 8:30-10:00 for a fireworks display; I joked that I arranged it for Louise as a send-off. But it will mean we need to have our dinghy back at Vector before they close the security zone.

I also spent a half hour or so on the boat deck putting the registration numbers on the new tender, now that we have them from the state of Florida. The registration sticker, along with the title and registration, is still stuck in our mail, which you may recall is on its way back to Florida from Port Washington, NY. But we were able to get the numbers, which should keep the local constabulary happy.

We'll go ashore for dinner tonight, in part to get our dinghy access squared away and a practice run for the morning. We'll be back aboard for the fireworks (I have no idea of the actual occasion), and in the morning we'll leave to get Louise to the airport. I'll post here again when I have some idea of Louise's return date.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Dangerous cargo

We are upbound on the Potomac River, abreast of Piney Point. The river is nearly glass calm, a perfect day for travel, and the Chesapeake itself was also flat, as was the Patuxent.

We had a very nice evening of cocktails and dinner aboard Loligo last night with Louise's cousins Donna and Tom. They were gracious hosts, and we enjoyed finally seeing their sailboat after hearing about it for so many years. They anchored quite a ways up Mill Creek and we had about a fifteen minute tender ride in each direction in the speed-restricted creek.

Family medical issues have had Louise contemplating a visit to California for the past couple of days. During the course of our visit last night some phone calls were made, and after we arrived back home, Louise had more or less decided she needed to go, sooner rather than later. We spent a bit of time looking at the logistics of getting her on a plane from Solomons, where we were well-anchored with access to services.

We could quite easily have rented a car there and I could have dropped her off, about a three-hour round trip. I myself would have remained in Solomons only one more night, and then moved the boat solo up the Potomac to DC: if I'm going to spend a few days stag, I'd rather be in Washington, where there is a surfeit of things to do.

Sunset over Mill Creek, as seen from Loligo.

After a bit more thought and discussion, cooler heads prevailed and she decided that flying today would be premature. We decided instead to make best possible speed to Washington together, where she could fly out easily if needed. Best speed meant weighing anchor fairly early this morning.

After making the turn into the Potomac she got the word that her help would be appreciated, and we spent the next hour or so making flight arrangements. And so it is that we now have on board Vector the most dangerous thing to have aboard a vessel: a schedule. Louise flies out of Reagan National on Monday morning.

The trip up the Potomac to DC for us is three comfortable and leisurely days. That allows for timing the tide to avoid fighting the ebb, and making a few comfortable stops on the way. Long-time readers may remember our last trip here, where we made stops at Quantico, Mount Vernon, and National Harbor as well as some quirky riverfront joints.

On this trip, however, we're pressing on regardless of tide direction and making it in just two long days of some 60 nautical miles each. Tonight we'll be anchored somewhere in the river, possibly near another quirky riverfront joint, and tomorrow we should have the hook down in the DC Channel by dinner time.

I canceled my Red Cross deployment availability until later in the month, and once I settle in I'll get a couple of boat projects knocked out in and among traipsing around the Mall and checking out some more of the museums.

At least now I have a working battery bank and should be reasonably comfortable at anchor. The last couple of weeks the batteries have barely lasted overnight, with us running the generator at 1am and again at 7am. Last night we dropped anchor at 4:30pm and we were able to brew a pot of coffee this morning without having to start it at all.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Charged with Battery

We are underway southbound in Chesapeake Bay, bound for Solomons, Maryland. Unexpectedly, we are traveling in the company of Louise's cousins Tom and Donna on their sailboat, about a half hour behind us. We hope we can connect this evening for dinner.

Shortly after my last post we steamed into Annapolis, turned down Spa Creek, and tied up in an enormous slip meant for much larger boats at the Annapolis Yacht Basin (map). The boat show opens here next week, and the north half of the marina is given over to the show, which is why we think they spotted us here instead of a smaller slip.

Vector docked in an enormous slip at Annapolis Yacht Basin.

The first thing I had to do after getting secured alongside was march down to the dockmaster's office and complain that the Ocean Alexander hundred-footer in the next slip was taking up the whole width of the finger pier with their Tide-Rider stairs, which would make our battery delivery nearly impossible. The marina came out and moved the stairs, but I had to slide the mat of real sod, also blocking access, out of the way later. I assume this is an under-way doggy potty; yuck.

We tied up shortly after noon, but it was nearly 3pm before the temperature in the engine room was tolerable for working. Still, I had the battery bank bypassed and the batteries disconnected and out of the racks by cocktail hour. We had a brief break for a beer before hoisting four of the six out of the ER and onto the aft deck. I had to keep the best two behind and jury-rig them into a 24-volt supply to run the heads, which can't run on the bypass.

"Ego Alley" has come right into the parking lot. Warning sign is for the boat show, which needs the lot.

That made for a long day and we got a late start to dinner. Between that and the fact that it was raining, we opted for one of the closest joints, the Iron Rooster right in town. Getting there proved a bit of a challenge; the rain on top of astronomically high tides had one of the streets en route flooded. We also noted the bulkhead where we normally tied up our dinghy was well underwater, with much of the adjacent park awash.

We were up early yesterday morning, and I called the battery dealer to move the delivery up to 8:30 from the originally scheduled 11. We hoisted the final two batteries on deck, then swung the crane around and hoisted all six from the deck to the dock. Pasco Battery arrived right on schedule, and we had all six batteries back aboard and down in the engine room by 10 or so.

The dock where we normally tie up our dinghy.

Meanwhile our friend John stopped by to say hello, just in time to miss the battery-loading extravaganza. John was in town for the survey and sea trials of a boat he is looking at purchasing, a lovely Selene 57. John is the person from whom we bought Vector a little over five years ago, and we have been good friends ever since; we're hoping maybe we can cruise with them a little bit if they close the deal on this boat.

We only had perhaps a half hour to chat before John had to return to his tasks and I had to descend back into the ER to get the batteries racked and connected. That, naturally, is when the inevitable trouble began, and I was soon very glad we had the batteries delivered much earlier in the day.

Getting the batteries back into the racks using a 7:1 block & tackle was a cinch, completing what I thought would be the hardest part of the job (off- and on-loading the 175-lb beasts). I merrily clamped the military-type adapters onto the posts of the first battery, and soon discovered that the lugs of my battery cables could not bolt to the adapters on the new batteries.

The old batteries, made by Deka, had posts that were stood off the batteries by perhaps 1/8" or so, coming out of plastic bosses on the case tops that stood proud of the case top by that amount. The lugs easily fit the adapters, which were well-secured all the way onto the posts. The new batteries, Lifeline brand, have posts that rise directly from the otherwise flat case tops. The adapters, when properly secured, sit right against the case tops, leaving not enough room to get the lugs onto the bolts.

Properly fitted adapter, flush with the post top. Cable fits, vertically.

I fought with the adapters, lugs, and bolts for over two hours. Ultimately I was able to get many of the shorter cables on by turning the lugs 90° -- the hole in each lug is closer to the end of the lug than to the sides. That would not work for the longer cables that bridged across the ER or the ones that connected the bank to the loads. I ended up having to overtighten the adapters, deforming them to fit onto the narrower part of the tapered posts.

This is not viable long-term. Those connections are higher-resistance than they should be, and in addition to robbing the whole system of efficiency, they will heat up, and the lead of the posts themselves can melt and deform, possibly ruining an entire battery. I spent a couple of hours researching solutions, and it looks like my first attempt will be to add some "battery post shims" to the posts that need them.

Jury-rigged adapter. Note it is proud of the post top, and there is no gap left at the clamp.

Just after I was done fighting with the adapters, Donna and Tom  drove up from the Rhode River in a borrowed car to visit with us, before we all realized we would end up in Solomons together. They spent an hour or so with us, which was a nice diversion for me after such a difficult afternoon.

I did have the whole thing installed, reconnected, buttoned up, and cleaned up before cocktail hour. We were hoping to connect with friends and long-time readers Paul and April, docked at the same marina in their lovely Nordhavn 55, for either cocktails or dinner, but our schedules just did not click and we'll have to catch them elsewhere down the road.

We walked next door to Pussers for our evening beer, having finally run out of our on-board supply Wednesday evening. After that we ended up walking again a short distance to town and dining at another of our old stand-bys, the Dock Street Bar and Grill, again in the rain.

Our finger pier. I had to move the sod; you can see the steps at the far end.

This morning we dropped $25 on Lyft to make a provisioning run to the Safeway. With all the rain and too much on my plate, we did not manage to get the scooters on the ground. Sadly, beer is not sold in grocery stores here in MD, so after returning to the boat I hoofed it into town to the package store to get at least a few days' supply.

We dropped lines before the checkout time of 11 for the run to Solomons. When last I posted here we had contemplated running up to Baltimore to catch the tail end of TrawlerFest, but we reached out to some friends already there who basically said not to bother. We'll connect with the friends we might have seen there in Florida instead.

In a short while we will have the hook down in Solomons. We'll drop the tender and be ready to head over when Tom and Donna arrive perhaps a half hour later; we're having something of a pot luck on their boat for dinner. In the morning we will continue south to the Potomac.

Update: We are anchored in a familiar spot in Solomons, Maryland (map). The tender is in the water and we just saw Donna and Tom cruise through the inlet. We're off to dinner.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Back in the Chesapeake

We are underway in the Chesapeake Bay, bound for Annapolis. We are glad to be in the relatively protected waters of the bay, and the cruising is easy here, with numerous easy anchorages.

We left Fortescue Monday morning and rode the flood all the way up to the C&D Canal, a familiar transit for us. A PDQ power cat that had anchored overnight in the Maurice overtook us on the way, and we chatted briefly. And as we passed the mouth of the Cohansey, three sailboats and a Bayliner joined us, all with the same goal: arrive at the canal entrance just as the westbound ebb started.

Sunset over the Chesapeake, as seen from our anchorage in Warton Creek.

As the slowest of the lot, we brought up the rear, a bit worried we might arrive in Chesapeake city to a completely full anchorage. The basin has been dredged to 11' since our last visit, and we could even tie up now at the free docks, but we knew there was virtually no chance there would be a spot when we arrived.

The anchorage basin has room for perhaps five cruising boats, and four were already established when we arrived. We were just able to squeeze in between the Chesapeake Inn docks and the Corps of Engineers dock across the basin, west of all the other boats (map). To my surprise another 45'-ish sailboat came in after us, threaded through the anchorage and dropped the hook in the middle of the other four boats. In dead calm we all did fine on a short scope.

Shortly after we anchored the USACoE's brand new 63' survey cat came in and tied up.

We had the hook down by 1pm and could easily have finished the entire canal and anchored in the Chesapeake Monday, except for the fact that we needed to stop for fuel. Our fuel fill is on the starboard side, so we opted to wait for flood tide in the morning to make tying up starboard-side-to easier. Besides, we like the stop in Chesapeake City, having once spent three nights anchored here.

We splashed the tender and lowered a bicycle so I could run to the post office with a couple of packages and pick up a few items at the Dollar General, the closest thing to a grocery store here, a mile and a half away. We returned ashore in the evening for a nice dinner at the Chesapeake Inn. In the morning I picked up a couple of breakfast sandwiches at Cafe Bohemia after offloading our recycling.

Chesapeake City.

We decked the tender and waited until just before the end of the flood to cross the canal to Schaefer's Canal House for fuel. Even close to slack it was a challenge getting to the dock in the strong eddy adjacent to the bridge abutment. Long-time readers may remember we spent a few days here sheltering from a tropical storm. We took on 500 gallons, just enough to get the additional $0.10 per gallon discount, bringing our cost to $2.89 per gallon.

Thus freshly fueled and with the tide now ebbing to the west, we cruised about four hours to another familiar stop, Worton Creek, where we anchored in the lee of the south south shore of the cove (map). We saw several familiar boats from the previous day. It was a calm and pleasant anchorage, if a bit buggy, with a spectacular sunset and even a nice rainbow when we arrived. What we had not remembered is that there is virtually no cell coverage there on any carrier, and we basically had no Internet for the entire stop.

Rainbow over our neighbor at Warton Creek.

I had hoped to get a blog post out yesterday under way, but I ended up spending almost the entire time on the phone and the 'net lining up batteries and a place to deliver and install them. The local distributor in Annapolis had a good price on Lifelines, and I ordered six of them at $615 apiece, with exchange, delivered to the dock. I also booked two nights at the Annapolis Yacht Basin so I could do the swap.

And so it is that we will be docking this afternoon in Annapolis, a place where heretofore we have only ever anchored. I'll spend most of the afternoon getting the old batteries out so they can be exchanged, and sometime tomorrow our new batteries will be delivered, giving me tomorrow afternoon and Friday morning to get them in and connected. We will be very glad when we no longer have to run the generator nearly five hours a day, almost triple our usual amount.

This weekend the TrawlerFest show is running in Baltimore, which means several of our friends are in town. Normally when this close we would have stopped, taking in the Thursday and Friday cocktail parties and spending a few hours looking at booths and boats. But we really did not want to put the batteries off all the way to next week. If all goes well we might catch some of our friends on the final day.

Once we're done in Annapolis and optionally Baltimore, we will continue south to the Potomac and turn right for the three-day cruise up to DC, where we'd like to spend a couple of weeks. Our insurance favors us being north of the VA/NC line until after November 1.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Beating the clock

We are underway northbound in Delaware Bay. We've made it out of the Atlantic in the nick of time; as I type we are in very choppy two-footers on the bay with 15 knots of wind on the starboard beam. We ran out of Internet coverage just as I started to type, so I'm typing to a text file to upload later.

We dropped the hook in our usual spot in Atlantic City, New Jersey (map) right at 6 pm last night, all alone. We immediately splashed the tender and headed over to Gardiner's Marina, where we walked to the Back Bay Ale House for dinner. We wanted a casual place with draft beer, and this was a closer and easier option than heading all the way to the casino. The marina allows four hours free to eat or shop; you get the weekly gate code from the restaurant.

We ate on the porch at Back Bay. When we were in Key West we were told the "Mile 0" sign is stolen regularly from US-1. Looks like we found one.

We returned shortly after dark and immediately decked the tender. While we were away, a sailboat had come in and anchored a short distance from us; we are not the only ones migrating south in this window. An hour later another sailboat arrived and dropped their hook between us and the other sailboat. For whatever reason it did not catch and in short order they were nearly on top of us.

We went out on deck with fenders in hand, and they explained they were having windlass problems. We watched for another twenty minutes as they struggled to haul in their primary anchor and chain by hand, motored away, and set a backup anchor for the night. They left this morning before us, and we saw them heading for a marina to tie up as we passed through Cape May.

We weighed anchor at 8 am in order to be in the Cape May inlet before things got bad outside. That was just a bit early; we ended up with current against us on our way out Absecon and again on our way in to Cape May. The ride wasn't too bad, and we came in the inlet with four footers on the starboard beam.

The timing put us in the shallow part of the canal right at low tide, but the least depth we saw was eight feet. It was close enough to slack that we did not fight too much current, either. We were through the canal a little after 2 pm, which left plenty of time to make it upriver a ways. Several other boats we saw southing today stopped in Cape May, and they'll have a rough ride tomorrow if they continue. Our goal was to get off the worst part of the bay this afternoon.

To that end we have our sights set on a small neck of NJ lowlands some 25 miles upriver, near the tiny fishing community of Fortescue. The strip of beach there ought to give us some protection from these easterlies that are stirring up the bay.

That's also far enough upriver that we can make it all the way to Chesapeake City tomorrow, with a favorable tide the entire trip if we leave by 7:30. We'll spend tomorrow night in the small bay south of the Canal, and in the morning head across the canal to Schaefer's Canal House to take on fuel. We'll arrive in Chesapeake City with all tanks empty save for the 200 gallons we keep in the starboard wing tank for trim.

Update: We are anchored in Delaware Bay, just off the town of Fortescue, New Jersey (map). As we had hoped, conditions are much calmer here than when we were further out in the bay and closer to the mouth. Dinner has been cooking for the last couple of hours and we had the hook down just in time for cocktail hour.

As a side note: I also uploaded a couple of photos to yesterday's post. They had not yet transferred from my phone when I posted.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The difference a day makes

We are under way off the coast of New Jersey, en route to Atlantic City. Even though it is still more than 25 miles away, I can already see the taller hotels, including the prominent ex-Revel, and the Golden Nugget where we will land.

Notwithstanding my prognostication here yesterday that we'd be pinned down at Sandy Hook for at least another day, the forecast had changed by bed time, and the wind shifted overnight to a more favorable direction. The only way to know is to try, and we set an alarm for 5:45am to get moving at first light; Atlantic City is at least a 12-hour run.

Sunrise over the Atlantic off the coast of Sandy Hook.

As we rounded the Hook we found much more benign conditions than those that sent us running for cover yesterday afternoon. Seas are still three to four, on about a nine second period, but they are rolling swells rather than the steep chop we had yesterday. This is the problem with offshore forecasts in general; the wave height and period says little about the wind-driven chop that may accompany it.

Gently rolling over the wave tops is very different from the slamming we had on our way out of New York Harbor, and we decided to make a run for it. The plotter says we should be dropping the hook at 6 pm, and we'll splash the tender and head to the casino for well-earned beers and some dinner.

We rounded the hook just a couple hundred feet offshore, in 50' of water; these fishermen standing on the beach are really, really close.

With any luck we will still have one good day left, tomorrow, in which to finish our ocean transit of the NJ coast and make it into the relative safety of Delaware Bay. From there it is a two day cruise to the C&D Canal and our next stop, Chesapeake City, Maryland.

This being the weekend, we've had to thread our way through a passel of fishing charters off every inlet. Off the Shark River, one skipper cut right in front of us (we were on his starboard, the stand-on vessel) and then stopped dead -- I guess the fish were best right in that spot. That earned him five blasts on our horn; he responded with epithets on the VHF in a thick NJ accent and told us to go around. I can't say we will miss NJ once it is in our wake.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Written in the sand

We are anchored off Fort Hancock, NJ, in the protection of Sandy Hook (map). It's an unplanned stop after an eventful couple of days, and, honestly, I was expecting instead to be posting this update from an airplane this morning on my way to North Carolina.

Shortly after my last post we arrived in the harbor at Port Jefferson, just behind one of the endless ferries from Connecticut. We found a spot just north of the mooring field (map) and dropped the hook. We splashed the tender to head ashore for a look around and some dinner.

Port Jeff turns out to be a cruiser-unfriendly place. We heard stories of the sheriff chasing off boats anchored too close to the moorings (we had no trouble), and it was difficult to get ashore. The town has a pier with a float that looks like it should be for dinghies, but the pier itself (not the float) has numerous "no mooring" signs, and the whole pier is locked at sundown, making a dinner stop at this time of the year impossible.

This pair of mute swans came over to the boat several times looking for handouts in Port Jeff.

We called the municipal marina to ask about a dinghy tie up, and they emphatically told us they had none. The boat ramp is part of the marina so that was out, too. Ultimately we ended up paying $10 to tie up the dink at the private marina next door, Danford's. The $10 would cover us for 24 hours, even though we only needed perhaps two.

We did enjoy our stroll around town, which is very waterfront-touristy in a way designed mostly for landlubbers. It's also very tony and very expensive. We ended up eating at an Italian joint, Ruvo, a few blocks inland which had a good happy hour and a nice Monday night special. It would be nice to spend another couple of nights here, but not at $10 a day to land.

Tuesday we weighed anchor and steamed the 35 miles to Manhasset Bay and Port Washington, a familiar stop for us. It was an easy cruise in open water, and in hindsight I probably should have posted an update here under way, but instead I caught up on email and did some more route planning. I also phoned the Port Washington harbormaster and asked for a recommendation for a diver, as I struck out trying to find one on the 'net, and confirmed that they still allowed two free nights on their transient mooring balls (they do).

Sunset over Manhasset Bay. Vector is to the left.

We arrived in Port Washington to find all the transient balls taken. Weather in the sound was pretty choppy, so lots of folks took shelter. We dropped the anchor alongside the mooring field and tendered ashore to one of three free dinghy docks to pick up some groceries and grab dinner. We ate at the pizza joint next door to the grocery, which we were happy to find matched our memory that it was good and inexpensive.

What a contrast from Port Jeff. This harbor is very cruiser-friendly and welcoming. It's also convenient to services, with a major grocery store, an Ace Hardware, a West Marine, a gas station, and a dozen restaurants all within dinghy/walking distance. There is also a pumpout boat in the harbor, which is what prompted our very first stay here. As I wrote in that post, this bay was the setting for The Great Gatsby, and there is no more a shortage of wealth here than in Port Jeff, but the attitude is night and day.

Wednesday was a gorgeous day and most of the free moorings cleared out by mid-day. Before we had a chance to move (just to be a tad closer to the town landings), the divers showed up to give us a quote. Things were worse than we thought, and divers are very expensive in Long Island Sound, but they were ready to start right away so we bit the bullet and had it done. Unfortunately it seems most of the bottom paint we just had applied in February came off with the growth, and we will need a haulout and painting soon. As soon as the divers left, we weighed anchor and moved to a free mooring closer to town (map).

The divers had originally figured to quote on Wednesday and then come back Thursday to clean. Since they did it all in one shot, we looked at the weather and decided we'd leave first thing in the morning, catching a favorable tide through New York City and out to the Shark River in NJ. Then we'd head to Atlantic City today for a two-night stay, catching the best and last of the offshore conditions Sunday to get around into Delaware Bay. I emailed my folks to suggest we could drive up from Atlantic City for a visit on Saturday, and I was all set to book a car.

This pair of new condo buildings on the east side of Manhattan look like they're mating.

Not a half hour after I sent the email, and while I was online looking at car rentals, Red Cross HQ called to ask if I could take an assignment to North Carolina for the Florence response. I could not answer right away because we needed to figure out where, if anyplace, we could leave the boat while I was away. I told them I'd call back in an hour.

Marinas in this part of the country are ridiculously expensive. Dockage with power for Vector starts around $175 per night and goes up from there. I love the Red Cross and I really want to help, but $2,800+ out of our pockets for a two-week deployment is really out of the question, especially since we can't even take a deduction for it. I did leave a couple of messages for marinas in the event one would like to make a donation of a slip for the two weeks; I'm pretty sure I could get the local in-kind donations person to write them a receipt and letter.

At some point it occurred to us that we were already in the perfect spot. Mooring balls here are just $25 per night, and that includes launch service from 8am to 10pm. Louise would have to run the generator as needed, which right now is a lot, since the batteries are shot and overdue for replacement. Even at four hours per day, that's still just another $8 or so per day. And, as I just noted, there are plenty of groceries and other services here to get her through a couple of weeks. I called HQ back and accepted the assignment.

Within a couple of hours my paperwork came through, and by the end of the evening I had flight reservations out of LaGuardia for Raleigh this morning. I called the Water Taxi company, who runs the paid mooring balls, explained the situation, and he assigned us an available ball where we could move Thursday (the free balls, one of which we were now on, are in a separate area). We also got an address from them where we could have our mail sent and Louise could get a couple of packages while she was stag for the duration.

The USCG cutter Penobscot Bay was anchored in the East River just south of Roosevelt Island. She had her blue lights flashing and 50-caliber machine guns mounted and ready. For what?

Before we realized we'd have one more night together, we went for a nice "final" dinner at Ristorante Toscanini in town. Yesterday we moved, for the second time in as many days, from the free ball to the paid one (map). Then we went to the bank, the gas station to get her spare fuel for the tender, and Target to pick up some last-minute items I'd need on deployment, like bug spray. Louise drove the new tender for the first time, getting some practice in for my absence.

While we were in Target, an email arrived changing my assignment. I won't bore you with the minutiae that are probably only interesting to other Red Crossers, but suffice it to say they wanted me to accept a role that is outside my normal skill sets. The deployment database is not supposed to even allow that (my primary skills are on record), but apparently because I am high enough up the chain that can be overridden -- and it was, without asking me.

It costs a lot of donor money to transport, house, feed, and care for a volunteer in a disaster area, and it costs us personally a lot of money for me to go on deployment, not to mention all the other disruption. And that all makes sense and is worthwhile if I am the right person for the job. But after the assignment change that was no longer the case, and I felt compelled to decline the new assignment, for the good of all concerned.

I spent the rest of the day and evening in a rather dejected mood. Mixed with annoyance; someone (actually, probably more than one someone) dropped the ball big-time in not having assignments sorted out ahead of time. It cost the operation precious time waiting for a properly skilled volunteer, who now still needed to be recruited, and it cost us in lost time, missed windows, and actual cash to scramble for deployment only to wave off a day later.

An iconic view. Lady Liberty is visible under the Brooklyn Bridge (behind the Manhattan Bridge); One World Trade Center is at far right.

Over a casual dinner in the bar at local fixture Louie's, we hashed out what to do from here. Louise had already requested our mail be sent, and it had left Green Cove Springs before we could stop it (she was, however, able to stop an eBay order from shipping). We had given up our second free mooring night in favor of a paid ball. And we were too late to depart for NJ and still have time in Atlantic City for a visit.

As nice as Port Washington is as a cruising stop, we really did not want to miss the rest of this weather window just to wait until Monday for our mail, nor did we want to rack up a hundred bucks in unnecessary mooring fees. So we decided to just ask the mooring guys to refuse our package, which will send it back to our mail service, and paid them for the single night on the ball. At least we used the launch service to go to dinner and back.

This morning we dropped lines early and whizzed through New York at an average of nearly nine knots, with the swift hydraulic current of the East River behind us. We were doing 11 through Hell Gate. We were on schedule for an arrival in the Shark River before 5pm, and looking forward to maybe landing the tender at the new dock we spotted on our last visit and going ashore for dinner.

All was well and good until we left New York Harbor via the Ambrose Channel. By the time we reached Romer Shoal we were bashing into steep, short-period five footers on the nose, heaving every item in every locker up and down with each pitch. So much for a forecast of three to four on nine seconds.

Tonight's view. Sandy Hook Light, the oldest working lighthouse in the US, behind "officer's row" of old Fort Hancock.

Reluctantly we turned west after clearing the shoal, making our way to the Raritan Channel. I had to drop speed down to just four knots to keep the pitching reasonable until we were in the lee of the northern shore of the Hook. We curled around the corner to the Coast Guard station and dropped the hook here, just abreast of Sandy Hook Light.

Tomorrow's forecast is worse than today's, so it looks like we will be pinned down here until Sunday, when, if the forecast holds, we get a one-day break and can make a run for it as far as Atlantic City. We'll know more in the morning. If it looks like our window has slammed shut entirely, we might make our way back to Manhattan via the Arthur Kill, just as a more attractive place to wait it out.

If it will only be two nights, we'll probably wait it out right here. This is a closer launching point for the run to Atlantic City, and we have plenty of provisions. As it stands now, it's a one-day window, which means we might be there a few days until the next one opens. At least we can get in that family visit, and there are plenty of services an easy ride from the anchorage there.