Friday, November 29, 2013

Charleston - Beautiful

When we first started planning out trip to the States we bought a travel guide for the East coast and Charleston was one place that really jumped out as somewhere we would like to visit.  As time went on and we met people who had visited the area Charleston was always high on the list of recommendations.  When we were heading north back in May we were unable to stop as we were under time pressure to get north and now suddenly we are under pressure to move south but Charleston was still top of the list for places we would like to stop and we weren't to be disappointed.

Charleston has lots of history and was a major settlement in the 1800s with lots of trade including cotton and rice plantations which we based along the Ashley and the Copper rivers.  There was significant trade across the Atlantic reaching Charleston and from the Caribbean.  So there were rich and affluent people living in the area which lead to some beautiful town houses and due to a preservation order lots of these remain which are what make the city so lovely.

As the river runs quite swiftly and there was a howling northerly we planned to go into a marina for our stay which was even more needed after getting bit of a beating on the journey.  The marina was across the river from the main town but there was a free trolley bus from the hotel next to the marina, fantastic it was free and ran every hour.  After arriving mid morning both completely shattered we do what we normally do and rush around, we cleaned Magnum top to bottom, removed as much of the salt from the decks as possible and even had time to get a few loads of washing on before we headed off to the supermarket.  No idea where we suddenly find the energy from!

Yorktown naval ship our neighbour in Charleston
The northerly did come in that night and we had good shelter and sleep well, but in the morning it was freezing! It was funny going into town in our ski jackets, hat and gloves but what this also meant was it was very quiet and we had the place to ourselves. We had a great walk around just really admiring the surroundings and occasionally stopping for a hot drink and a warm up.  One place which was really nice was the Dock Street Theatre which is supposed to be the oldest theatre in the US.

Dock Street Theatre

Dockside Theatre - can you spot Amanda

Mark propping up the bar in the theatre
We explored by foot but a big tourist attraction is the horse and carriage rides, there were very very few on the cold day.

Many of the streets are cobbled, often with stone from England  (the trade ships carried the stone as ballast going east to west and then dumped it on the quayside when full of cargo going west to east) and and they are frequently lined with palm trees which probably don't seem odd on a sunny day but it was like a winters day in England!  Being a southern state before emancipation there were a large slave trade in Charleston, we did take time to pass the by the old slave market.

The old slave market

The street that looks out over the harbour has some beautiful properties of which most of them are still residential homes but they are huge. Many have a similar design with big verandas surrounding the house and court yard gardens, to produce as much shade as possible in the summer.

Shoreside property

Spot Mark

Lovely little garden in huge house
The ordinary residential streets are still really beautiful, you imagine it being a lovely place to live apart from all the tourists wandering around looking into your garden!

We spent the day just generally being nosey!

Amanda wrapped up warm on the seafront

Mark outside the  prison

Loving the US Fire Engine
The next day we headed into the town later in the day and were surprised how busy it was with the sun shining.  We spent the day looking around a few shops and there is an old market in the centre.  We then headed off to a slinky bar for happy hour, we don’t often find the energy to go out for the evening but it is nice, so Amanda had a few glasses of bubbly and Mark some local beer before heading off to Theatre 99, a comedy club which unfortunately was not very funny but was still enjoyable.

Amanda can't take a straight photo!

Amanda enjoying her night out
Next day was set aside for jobs on the boat, making a few phone calls whilst we had the internet and topping up the groceries, so we did get one final trip into the town but really only to day goodbye.  It was a lovely place, with nice people which we would visit again.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Norfolk to Charleston - Wet, windy and warships

We said our goodbyes to Gary and Greta and set out from a sunny Norfolk with a force 4 breeze, we raised the mainsail but knew that we would be motor sailing for the next couple of hours.  As we made our way up the Elizabeth River there was a reasonable about of boat traffic, at one point we had four tugs looming behind us.

One of the many tugs along Elizabeth River
We then had 2 cargo ships heading directly at us crossing the channel and heading into the docks.  The Naval base was also busy and we had our first radio call from a Naval boat, as Warship 57 radioed and advised us to hold course as we passed port to port, with the rail full of soldiers who looked like they were looking forward to arriving home.

Our first chat with the US Navy

As we continued into the Chesapeake making progress to the Atlantic the wind built to 28 knots as we bumped along the shallow chop.  This was not forecast but we were still looking forward to getting out to sea.  As we approached Virginia Beach we could see an Aircraft Carrier speeding out of the Bay, there were 2 helicopters hovering close, a large ship coastguard ship leading the way and following at the rear plus 2 smaller boats on each side.  Before we knew it one of the smaller boats with a machine gun on the front had appeared about 15 foot off our Port side, Mark switched on the VHF as we thought they were going to radio us but they just made eye contact through their open door and maintained their position next to us until the Aircraft carrier had made it’s way past us, not sure what sort of threat we posed especially as we battled upwind trying to eat lunch from a saucepan! Once it had passed the intimidation didn’t stop as the huge coastguard boat moved out of the channel and directly behind us, we gave them a friendly wave.

Not sure why they through we may have been a threat, look at the size of it!

Glad when it has finally passed us

We were finally able to turn south and run parallel along the Virginia Beach shore which made the wind at a better angle and it had dropped off slightly to 15-20 knots, we could start to relax a little. As the night fell we prepared for the night by getting the cosy bunk ready with 2 sleeping bags as it was cold and preparing a hot dinner.  The night continued without too much excitement, we both managed to get some sleep and managed our watches with the wind behind and not too much rolling, there seemed to be a constant stream of tugs and barges, we thought it was a little surprising for so many barges to be out at sea but there may have been more that usual as the Intracoastal had a broken lock which may have forced traffic around the outside.

Tug and barge in distance as the sunrise

Glad to see it getting light on a very long night
By 9.30am the wind had dropped off and the engine went on, we were still in relatively shallow water paralleling the coast.  There were a few other boats around and a bigger boat called French Kiss seemed to divert so they could motor past and give us a wave – well Amanda a wave as Mark was asleep.

As the sun set on a second night at just after 5pm, Amanda slept and we motored sailed with light winds.  Early that evening we were treated to a visit from some dolphins, bottled nosed we think as they are quite large, a pod of around 15-20 dolphins racing around the boat, what a lovely time we were having.

Things started to deteriorate for us later that night, around 9.30pm the wind quickly increased and we had around 20 knots of the nose but along with this a very confused sea.  We were unable to tack inshore at this point as there was shoaling and we were unable to head out to sea without the risk of getting in the Gulf Stream pushing us north. So we persevered, we were getting chucked all over the place as Magnum slammed into the short steep seas with water piling over the decks.  This continued throughout the night with neither of us being able to rest until we were clear of Cape Lookout, at which point it was deep enough for us to head inshore and start sailing. We were still hard on the wind, around 20 knots, and we were also moving in the wrong direction but the motion eased and we could sail.  As we headed in shore and the sun was up there we lots of little fishing boats buzzing around plus more Warships.  Our second contact with a Warship, as they radioed and request we diverted to their stern as they were completing small boat manoeuvres.  We headed inshore until it started to shallow and then started our tack back out to sea, still hard on the wind and still very tiring and difficult to move around the boat, thankfully we both had our seasick patches so were not feeling too awful.

Whilst bashing back out to sea we were joined by a lovely little bird, he hopped around the cockpit trying to get some shelter from the wind, every time Mark went near him, to adjust our course, he would fly off but he was struggling with the wind and was desperate to get back on board.  At one point we were both downstairs and he sat in the companion way looking longingly at the warm and cosy cabin but he was too scared to venture to close, we were pleased to help him along his way but he soon flew off.

Our little birdy friend
As the day went on the wind continued from the South East and we continued to tack, not wanting to head to far out to sea as with this we started to enter the Gulf Stream and the sea became more and more disturbed.  There was some rest during the day and we were cheered up by the visiting dolphins but we were in for another tiring night.

Dolphins surfing the waves

As it approached midnight the wind finally started to veer but as it did it started to build and was quickly well into the 20’s and we had 3 reefs in the mainsail to try to slow us over the increasingly bumpy sea, we were now experiencing a wind over tide motion with the north west wind against the gulf stream.  The wind continued to build as we continued to adjust the high wind alarm, 35 knots was regularly appearing on the windometer.  Amanda wedged herself in the bunk and Mark harnessed on in the cockpit.

The gulf stream was forecast to be at least 10nm offshore at this point and we should have been well inshore of it, but we had at least 1/1.5 knts of current against us. With a following gale and shallow water, 10/20 meters, the sea state was atrocious; we were in for a long scary night!
In these situations, we just have to keep the boat safe, trust that she will look after us and remind ourselves that all bad weather changes eventually.

Finally as the sun came up the winds started to moderate, as we passed Cape Fear and Mark was finally able to think about getting some rest. Again the dolphins popped along to cheer us up and we were making direct progress to Charleston but had added miles to our journey with all the previous days upwind work, meaning another night at sea.

Thankfully the wind had dropped off to 15-20 knots from the North East so it was a relatively comfortable sail and by the early hours of the morning we were motoring sailing both desperate to get into Charleston.  There is a long channel to get into Charleston and even once reaching the outer sea walls we had hours of sailing before reaching the very welcoming marina.

Charleston harbour 

Norfolk - Out and About

We arrived in Norfolk as we were able to use a berth that we had access to through being a member of the Ocean Cruising Club.  Gary and Greta live in a lovely Condo (or apartment as we would say in the UK) on the edge of the historic Freemason district of Norfolk and right on the Elizabeth River. The docks for the Condos are not all in use and Gary/Greta have agreed with the tenants that OCC members can be used although we did not meet Becky who own the dock we were to stay on.  So Greta and Gary were there to take our lines along with Ian and Fiona from Ruffian, funny that Ian and Fiona in Ruffian are from the South coast in the UK and have been following the same route as us for the last 12 months but our paths have not crossed until today.  It was nice that we had everyone to commiserate with us and it was even nicer to be invited onto Ruffian that evening for drinks which is lead to us making Ian and Fiona dinner and having a few drinks whilst sharing cruising stories, shame that they were moving on the next day.

The very lovely Gary and Greta

 Gary and Greta’s dock is so perfect for access to Norfolk and we enjoyed the chance to get off the boat.  The Freemason area of Norfolk is very pretty with it’s old cobble streets, we found out from Gary that the cobble originate from Britain!

Beautiful house in Freemason area of Norfolk

Another pretty house

and another
It Halloween by this time and whilst walking around Norfolk we noticed that Woman in Black was playing at the local Wells Theatre, so we decided even though we could hardly stay awake it would be a nice thing to do on Halloween, so we booked tickets.  What a great evening out, the play was really good, spooky and a bit scary just what we needed to keep us awake.

The great Woman in Black stage - the last chest was also used to represent a house and cart

We were still experiencing the odd weather which seems to occur in this area at this time of year, one day lovely and sunny, they next day the northerly wind will blow and it will be freezing! We were glad to have the electric on the dock so we could use our little heater.

As we were awaiting various packages to arrive – filters, impellers, Semco and Amanda was keen to visit the outlet shopping centre we decided to hire a car for a few days. We spent an entire day stocking up at the supermarket, we cannot believe how many times we have visited Walmart!!  We also crossed the river and visited Hampton Roads and also Fort Munroe before heading to the retail village in Williamsburg.

Lighthouse and Fort Monroe

Pretty church in Hampton Roads

Amanda wrapped up for winter in Hampton Roads
Who would have thought we would have been buying winter clothes but as he temperature had been down to around 5 degrees it didn’t seem to strange to buy a winter coat.  The winter coat had a good outing the next day as we visited the Outer Banks and False Cape for a blustery walk along the beach, it was jut what we both needed to take our mid of the boat problems – the day had started with a call to enquire when our new batteries would arrive, were due that day and were told to call back in the afternoon, typically when we called back in the afternoon they were now expected on Wednesday!

Amanda loving her new winter coat on the cold beach

Mark wrapped up on the deserted beach

The little birdies avoiding the waves

Stunning beach
Finally Wednesday arrived and we waited for a call to confirm that batteries had arrived, we were also still waiting for a parcel, due on Monday, now Wednesday! Finally late afternoon Mark called to asked about batteries and they were in, thanks to Gary for running Mark around to get these!

All ready to leave on Thursday only to find out that the Great Bridge Lock which we needed to use on the Intracoastal Waterway was broken! And could take a week to fix!  We even had a farewell drink with Gary and Greta but again we were stuck and now waiting for weather to allow us to sail outside rather than use the Intracoastal.  Thankfully by Thursday the weather looked favourable for Friday.

We are extremely grateful that during this and time we were able to have a safe berth, that this was not costing us anything and that Gary and Greta were so kind and helpful.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cobbs Boat Yard - Busy, busy, busy

With many jobs to do on Magnum there was a desperate need to get her lifted and into the boat yard. So in one hand we were in really keen but on the other not so keen as we knew this would lead to great expense, hard work and days of inconvenience.

The first step was for her mast to be lifted, we had not had the mast out since buying Magnum in 2006. The mast is a keel step mast which basically means it goes through the deck into the cabin and bolts into the base of the boat, so there are numerous fittings inside the boat. Then in the deck all of the rigging it attached to the deck, so all of this must be released. This is in addition to the fact that Mark had already removed the sails and the boom and disconnected all of the instrument wires that run down the boom. It was quite daunting watching the mast being removed and swinging around in the crane.

The crane getting ready to lift

The mast is out and being held by the crane and guided by the busy workers
Next step was for Magnum to be lifted and whilst still in her very large swing for a powerful jet wash removing all the growth which had accumulated in the last year since she was last out if the water.

Magnum  looking very odd without her mast

In need of a spray off

The growth was actually less than we had thought but this was probably because Mark had been in scrubbing on a few occasions in the last couple of months – not very pleasant getting in the water around New Jersey and New York even in a wetsuit.

From the sling Magnum was propped up and this would be her home until the jobs were done.

Mark taking a look at the prop
Once this was done we could start on the other jobs, just some idea of what these are:

Antifouling - 3 coats of paint all over the hull/bottom of the boat, after spending over a day  preparing it! Back breaking work.

Polishing the topside - wax on, wax off along both sides of the boat, on a ladder by hand.

Polishing all fibreglass and stainless steel - your don't realise how much there is until you start but if you look at the photo you can see some of this.

Cleaning fenders - scrubbing and polishing over 10 fenders.

Bleaching lockers/bilges - removing any sign of mould, sounds simple but often they are covered by a sofa and used for storage!

Another major job was coating all of the teak in a product to help protect it from the weather and more wear and tear.  The teak needed cleaning, sanding and in lots of places bungs that cover screws removed and replaced plus replacing the caulking (which is like a sealant) between the strips of teak, this took days of really hard work by both if us but where it is complete we are really happy with the results.

Making a start

Most of the middle has been sanded, still lots to go!

Starting to apply coating to cockpit

Looking good with 2 coats, only 2 more to go!

Central panel has had 2 coats, only the side decks to go!
 It was like having a full time job, working by 8.30 and finishing by 6pm, filthy dirty, worn out and really glad to make use if a hot shower!  It us never easy on the hard, you have to limit water usage as it drains below the boat, you have to go up and down steps to leave the boat (even to go to the loo) and everything in the boat gets covered in dust.

Busy boatyard can be seen from the cockpit

But as we were there for over a week which is a long time to stay in one place we did meet some nice people and it always helps to be able to commiserate with others who are encountering unexpected costs! Mark, Kathy and Timmy are also heading south and came out the water on the same day and went back in the water on the same day, it was great to get to know them and by the end of the 12 days Timmy the dog had started to get used to us rather than barking frantically every time we approached the boat, shame to say goodbye to the nice people you meet but hopefully we will catch up in the Bahamas.

Mark, Kathy and Timmy
We also met a great young couple, Emma and Gavin who were delivering a beautiful Catamaran from Annapolis to Fort Lauderdale, so there stop was brief but it was the first British people we have seen in months so it was really nice to have a chat. 

We also managed to catch up with some of the lovely people that we had met in Portsmouth in the summer, they all drove over on a Sunday to meet us for breakfast, it was really lovely to see them again and made us a little homesick and John and Sue had recently returned from their 6 weeks trip to the UK where they spent some time of the south coast and even visiting Portsmouth.

Mark along with John, Sue, Tom, LT and Patty
After 12 days in the yard we were finally back in the water.