23 October 2017

Preventing and Eliminating Rust

To paraphrase the famous sailor, Eric Hiscock: "The price of the strength of a steel boat is eternal vigilance against rust."

As part of Petronella's restoration, we are re-bedding much of her deck hardware. The first project was P's main sheet winches, under which rust was beginning to appear. Howdy and his crew removed the winches from their steel pads, and added disks of Starboard, which is a wood-like marine-quality material that doesn't rot. I think it must be some sort of plastic or fiberglass. Anyway, they bedded that down well to the steel, and mounted the winch on top. That will prevent rust from developing under the winch in the future, or for at least a long time.

Winch re-bedded on Starboard pad
Unfortunately, no bedding lasts forever -- something that many boat owners don't seem to realize. Eventually, everything needs to be re-bedded if you don't want water intrusion. That includes fiberglass boats, in particular. Steel boats rust very slowly, but a leak in a fiberglass deck can quickly cause serious and expensive problems. A word to the wise!

The boys decided that P's granny bars needed to be-bedded, as some slight rust-stains were beginning to appear around one of the legs. Since the safety bars were through-bolted to the deck, that meant taking down the ceiling under the deck. They decided to give me that job (to keep me out of the way, I think!)

Petronella's ceiling unscrews quite easily, though it's a bit of jigsaw puzzle to put back up again. I soon had the required panels down, and that's when I spotted some rust developing around the vent hole of one of the Dorade vents.

Granny bars removed.
Dorade vent, above deck
Around vent hole, under deck

Under the vent, some water or moisture gathered around the vent hole, and made some rust. Now, this is slow progress... this spot has probably been rusting for many, many years. There was plenty of steel left, so no need for surgery, but as long as the ceiling was down, it was a good opportunity to stop the rust in it's tracks.

The first step was to remove as much of the surface rust as possible. I did this with a scraper, followed up by a cup brush mounted in my portable drill. That got 95% of the rust off. (A drop cloth plus dust mast and eye protection protected both the boat and me from most of the debris.)

The second step was to hit the rust with one of the many 'rust converters' on the market. These products chemically convert the iron oxide into a material that purportedly acts as a primer. You do not remove the converted rust. You just leave it on and prime over it. Howdy likes a product called Corroseal.

Rust converter
This is what you should see when the rust converter has done its thing -- a black coating, where there used to be rust.

Rust after conversion
Once the rust converter has done it's thing, you can prime right over it. In this case, with four coats of Bar-Rust 235 2-part epoxy primer.

After first coat of Bar-Rust
That's all there is too it. No voodoo or magic potions needed. When we re-bed the granny bars again in 10 years, we'll check to see how it looks.

Next Up:

20 October 2017

Back to Red

Lots of news to catch up with. Having done my own painting for... well, forever... I'm amazed at how fast a full crew of professionals can move. We've had a few down days for weather, but for all that, the progress is nothing less than breathtaking.

I will try to take you through the process. Last time I reported that Howdy and the boys had finished soda-blasting the bottom down to bare steel, and finished priming. They primed the hull with four coats of black Bar-Rust 235. "A high performance, multi-purpose, surface tolerant, two-component chemically-cured epoxy semi-gloss coating."

Then came a grey 'tie coat', also Bar-Rust, but a different color as a signal.

Applying Bar-Rust tie-coat, in preparation for anti-fouling
Once the hull was effectively barrier coated, it was time to apply anti-fouling -- five coats of ABC-3 bottom paint, an ablative paint much used on steel commercial boats, and the Navy. According to Howdy, and the data sheet, this paint is "Capable of 60-month performance". That's five years, folks. Of course, you need lots of material, which is why we went with five coats, at two gallons per coat.

Gulp. But if I don't need to paint the bottom for five years, I will be more than satisfied.

What is a 'tie coat'? Don't feel bad, I didn't know either. In this case, the tie coat was a coat of light grey Bar-Rust which was left to dry until just tacky. The first coat of ABC-3 was then immediately applied. Since the tie coat was not completely dry, the two paints mingled chemically, 'tying' the two paints together with both physical and chemical bonds. Pretty clever, right?

Prepping topsides
Here we see the bottom with several coats of anti-fouling paint already on, and with work begun on prepping the topsides. After testing the old green topside paint for compatibility with the new epoxy red paint, Howdy discovered that the two paints were NOT compatible, so off came the old green paint. In the photo above, the topsides have been primed with more Bar-Rust. With a bit more work, the topsides were fully primed, and the bottom paint completed.

Topsides fully primed

Sharp-eyed readers will have spotted an odd shape on the bottom, in the second photo, above. After blasting off all the bottom paint, Howdy spotted some pitting in the hull which had been hidden by 40 years of bottom paint.

Pitted section of steel
This corrosion came from the inside, of course. Petronella had a water pump that John, the previous owner, kept alive for many years by periodically re-building it. However, it leaked enough so that salt water collected against the hull in this specific spot, and gradually corroded it. A reminder, if one was needed, to cure internal leaks fast. I've got that one written on the back of my hand now. Thinking of getting it tattooed.

Anyway, Howdy cut out the rusted piece, and welded in a new piece. The photo above shows the patch playing catch-up with the painting cycle.

Though I would have been happy to pick up a paint brush, Howdy didn't seem to want a complete novice on his team (frowny face), so I had to find my own projects. One of them was a sadly neglected tiller.

Sad, sad tiller
I mean, the tiller only steers the whole boat, right? I think it deserved a bit of TLC.  Howdy looked doubtfully at this poor piece of wood, but I thought there might be something worth saving under all that peeling varnish.

After removing the old varnish with a heat gun, and a bit of sandpaper love, a nice teak tiller re-appeared. It's a miracle! Here it is after drinking in the first coat of varnish. Not a very good picture, sorry. I will supply a better one when it's done.

Restored tiller
I'm also building a new boat hook from an ash pole and a bronze hook, to replace the one that was stolen right off the boat. I started varnishing the pole alongside the tiller.

The tiller has some sort of fiberglass 'side cheeks'. Not sure what to call them, because I'm not sure what they are for. They are unpainted, but unprotected fiberglass will eventually breakdown under the hot tropical sun, so I'm going to paint these odd side cheeks white after I'm done varnishing.

Finally, today was the day I'd been waiting for -- the day for the first coat of red paint! It was a clear, dry, painting day. Perfect for restoring Petronella to her original color. Here are the boys rolling and tipping the first coat on.

The big day!
This bright color is, as mentioned before, a color called Rochelle Red. A color I like to believe was named after the original Joshua (now in the Maritime Museum in La Rochelle, France) which was the same bright red.

In prepping the boomkin, Howdy's team removed some rope work which revealed a patch of red paint.

Petronella's original color (on boomkin)
Author Les Weatheritt, Petronella's second owner, told me that he painted Petronella green because he got tired of the original red fading on him. If we assume the paint on the boomkin was faded when the roping was put on, then the colors look like a pretty good match.

While the first coat was drying, Larry -- who has worked with Howdy for 20 years -- started on the black trim paint. There will be a lot more of it before he's done, but it's a start.

Starting on the black trim paint
The more I think of it, the smarter I think the original Joshua color scheme. The red will make Petronella very visible at sea. She's already pretty visible in the boat yard! And the black will hide the worst of the rust stains, which tend to occur where the shrouds and stays attach to the boat.

So that catches us up with most of what is going on. There are several side projects that I am working on, but they will have to wait for another post.

The vigorous life!

Next Up: Preventing and Eliminating Rust

01 October 2017

The Restoration Begins

I haven't had much time for blogging lately, but that's not because we've been sitting around the yacht club bar. I'm happy to say that Petronella's 'restoration' has begun!

I put 'restoration' in quotes, because in the wooden boat world, a restoration would mean rebuilding. Petronella is in good physical shape, so there won't be much rebuilding; however, we are restoring her paint system in two significant ways.

First, P's bottom paint was in pretty poor shape. Before we left Florida, we had a diver clean it, and he reported layers of paint peeling off in certain places. That got our attention, and got us thinking about doing work on P sooner, rather than later.

Second, as discussed in a previous blog post, we wish to restore Petronella's original, historical 'look'. 

This is the kind of job Helena and I would have done on our own in the past. In fact, we did do it on our own with the Blue Moon. However, we quickly decided that this time the job was too big for us. 

Several reasons for this: P is much bigger than the BM, and it would take significantly longer. Frankly, we'd rather be cruising in the Bahamas, than scraping and painting all winter. Call that lazy if you want to!

But mainly because, to do it right, the job requires special tools and techniques. Since the last bottom job lasted 40 years, we figured it would be 2056 before we needed those tools and skills again. 

So we hired Howdy Bailey to do it, and even Howdy considers soda-blasting to be a special skill. He brought in a specialist to do the work. 

First, they wrapped the bottom to contain the dust. Here you see the blasting in action. The plastic billows out from the air being pumped into the enclosure. 

Bottom wrapped for soda blasting
And below is the result. The bottom paint is gone, including about 3 inches of the original boot-stripe. The waterline needed to be raised to eliminate the constant scum line on the boot stripe. An improvement that I will really appreciate.

Stripped bottom
Another view of the bottom. Special attention was given to the bow thruster, to ensure it was not damaged during the soda blasting.

Prepping for primer
The goal was to retain the original coal tar layer on the bottom, but this turned out to be impossible. Howdy had already discovered that water had gotten under the tar in certain places, which was causing it to delaminate. In the end, the tar was too far gone to keep, so we are back to bare steel again.

What a keel!
Bare steel can't stay bare very long, or it will begin to rust, so a primer coat was put on immediately. 

First coat of primer on.
I don't know about you, but I think she looks great. Before stripping, P's bottom had that cratered look many old boats have. Now, her bottom is as smooth as the day she left the Meta factory in France, 40 years ago.

So, excellent progress from Howdy and his crew. We are very excited about it. I will keep you informed as the work progresses!

Next Up: Back to Red

24 September 2017

Four Weeks, Four Storms

Well, here we are, still in Norfolk, having watched four major storms go by in the last four weeks: the tropical storm that drove us inland of Cape Hatteras in the first place, then Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and  now Maria, in their weekly procession.

The Chesapeake a dream cruising destination? Maybe, but not this year. The locals say it’s the worst hurricane season they can remember for a long time. Thankfully, none have actually struck this part of the US coast, that pokes so provocatively out towards the east, but each has threatened to do so, and then turned away to the east or west at the last minute.

(Maria is still threatening Cape Hatteras, as I write these words, but it looks like she will veer east in time to miss Norfolk. Finger’s crossed!)

However, we have run out of time for now. We want to have Petronella professionally painted before we head south again for the Bahamas. So, we have hauled her out again, and handed her over to Howdy Bailey -- one of the most respected steel boat builders in the mid-Atlantic region.

We are having her bottom soda-blasted down to the original coal tar layer, and then repainted with many coats of an ablative paint that should get us through two or three years at least.

And we are restoring her to the original Joshua colors -- Rochelle Red with black trim.

We discovered the name of the original red color by consulting with the Musee Maritime La Rochelle -- the museum in France that owns Bernard Moitessier’s Joshua.

(Is the ‘Rochelle Red’ color named after Joshua? It is Joshua’s color. And Joshua is located at the museum in La Rochelle... Coincidence?)

Here are some photos of the original Joshua, which will show what we are after. Unusual, oui?

The original Joshua's colors

The original Joshua on the water... love that mizzen staysail!

We are feeling a bit lost without our Petronella, but its impossible to stay on the boat while it’s being sandblasted and painted. More on our plans as soon as we make them!

Next Up: The Restoration Begins

28 August 2017

Still in Norfolk

We'd hoped to sneak out of Norfolk in time to beat the tropical storm moving up the coast, but between the weather and the two other pumps (foot pump for water in the galley, and hand pump to drain galley sink) that needed spare parts and fixing, we decided to wait until after the storm to head north.

Then we decided there was more for the grandkids to do here during their Labor Day weekend visit (Virginia Beach, big Navy ships to look at, Maybe Colonial Williamsburg....)

And finally, Helena decided she needed to visit her parents in Brazil for a week. So it looks like we will be here for awhile.

Sure glad we are tucked in a safe harbor, letting the storm blow by. With a gale blowing on the Atlantic, we are living inside a symphony of clanging, tapping, billowing boatyard noises...

Potential Tropical Cyclone Ten
Catchy name, eh?

Next Up: Four Weeks, Four Storms

25 August 2017

Real Boat Owners

Today Helena and I became a certified Real Boat Owners. How did this happen, you ask? Did we cross an ocean? Take a three-star sextant sight? Survive a gale at sea?

No, no, and no. 

What made us Real Boat Owners was much more difficult than that — a challenge dreaded and avoided by those who haven't yet made the grade, as if it were the plague. 

I must admit that I had avoided this test of courage myself for more years than I wish to admit. But sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, so today we grit our teeth, girded our loins, held our noses, and rebuilt Petronella's marine toilet.

And actually, it wasn't as bad as I expected!

The pump had been leaking a bit around the piston rod since the Caribbean, but coming up from Beaufort we'd been getting some back flow from the holding tank (see, this is difficult even to READ! Imagine doing it!), so I knew we had to fix something, pronto.

I did some reading on the Internet, ordered a couple of service kits and had them delivered to the marina we were headed for, and commenced dreading the job. 

Once we arrived in Norfolk, and were able to use the marina facilities, Helena, had the foresight to start flushing clean water, soap, and bleach through the system several times a day. So by the time we disassembled the pump, etc., this morning, the system was as clean inside as a whistle, except for the scale (mineral deposits) that had built up on the various parts. 

Anyway, with the right parts, instructions, and Helena's advance work, the job was easy as any other plumbing job (that is, not easy, but not gross, either.)

So if you have been avoiding becoming a certified Real Boat Owner, I'm here to tell you, it's not so bad.

We are still in Norfolk, catching up on repairs, hauling the boat out so Howdy could poke at the bottom, and otherwise keeping busy. We will be heading north as soon as we can — possibly tomorrow morning. Hoping for fair winds, or at least light winds. We have the mouth of the Chesapeake to cross next and want to pick a good weather window.

Fair winds! 

Petronella in the slings 

Next Up: Still In Norfolk

22 August 2017

Little Creek VA

Helena and I are now in Little Creek, Virginia, just outside of Norfolk. Before heading north into the Chesapeake, we have stopped to meet with Howdy Bailey, an experienced steel boat builder. Our goal with Joshua is to not only maintain her current excellent condition, but to improve her over time. The first project we want to tackle is a big one: peeling some of the many, many layers of bottom paint off, before painting the bottom again.

I'm pretty sure no one has ever REMOVED any of Petronella's bottom paint. Layers have only been added. After 40 years, that's a lot of paint. Naturally, over time some of the layers have lost their adhesion and have fallen off on their own, leaving a rather uneven surface. The previous owners did they best they could feathering the various patches, but the time has come to remove the unstable layers and get down to a smooth, stable surface. 

We don't want to go back to bare metal, because the bottom layers are coal tar — a very effective barrier coat, and one that would be hard to replace today. So the plan is to take off many, but not all the layers. This requires professionals with the equipment and know-how to do it properly, thus our meeting with Howdy.

We're having the boat short-hauled today so Howdy can see the bottom and give us an estimate. Pictures tomorrow!

But it's not just the bottom. We want him to give the same sort of treatment to the topsides. Take off unstable layers, and get down to a smooth, stable surface so that we can repaint Petronella in the original red Joshua color scheme. With all due respect to whoever painted P green, I can't wait to get her back to the 'right' color! 

I've seen some of Howdy's work, and the results are just spectacular. If he can make P look half as good as some of his other work, I will be very pleased.

Speaking of Joshua, McIntyre Adventure is building a new Joshua one-design class for the 2022 Golden Globe Race. So if you are interested in a new Joshua, they are taking orders! 

The new Joshua

Next Up: Real Boat Owners

20 August 2017

Norfolk, VA

We spent Friday night on the free dock just before Great Bridge Lock, then got an early start yesterday for Norfolk. The lock was Helena's first, and my first with Petronella, so I was happy that it was such an easy one. Seemed like there was only an inch or two difference in water level. I wonder what would happen if they just left the lock open?

Anyway, we arrive in Norfolk in the early afternoon, meaning to take a slip in the Waterside marina, which is right in the heart of the revitalized waterfront district. I almost lost my nerve when I saw how small the marina was -- we might be able to get in, but how would we ever be able to turn around and get out, I wondered.

After talking it over with the marina chappie on the radio, we decided to just stick our nose in and tie up alongside the wharf. Phew. We got a little more practice in boat handling, and are gradually getting more comfortable getting Petronella in and out of tight places.

Today we are moving 20 mile north to the marina we are looking at to get some work done over the winter. Looks like an easy run on a hot but settled day.

Waterside Marina
Three masted schooner

Next Up: Little Creek, VA

16 August 2017

Coinjock, NC

The last time I crossed Albemarle Sound, I got beat up by the daily round of afternoon thunderstorms, so wanted to get a nice early start. So it was still dark this morning when I crawled out of the aft cabin and started the coffee.

The smell of brewing Starbucks drew Helena out of bed too, and we were soon underway.

We passed through Helena's first swing bridge, which reminded me how excited (ok, scared) I was the first time I had to deal with a bridge opening, and then we maneuvered through the shoals that led out onto the broad Albemarle.

There was a bit of a chop with ten knot winds from the north, but much easier than I had it on the Blue Moon. We crossed without incident, and then made the long trip up the North River up to the North Carolina Cut, and the Coinjock Marina.

Looking forward to a shower, fresh laundry, and one of the marina restaurant's signature prime rib dinners.

Life is good...

Coinjock Marina

Our Location (blue dot)

Next Up: Norfolk, VA

15 August 2017

Crossing Pamlico Sound

Yesterday we put in a ten hour day to cross Pamlico Sound and to keep moving north.

This is a beautiful part of the ICW, but the rare blue sky made it hot, hot, hot.

Meanwhile, Gert has become a hurricane, confirming our decision to move in land. No sign of Gert here!

Send us a breeze, Gert!

Hot weather on the ICW

Next Up: Coinjock, NC

13 August 2017

Go Away, Gert

This morning we made the final decision to skip the offshore passage from Beaufort to the Chesapeake because the weather 'disturbance' we'd been monitoring in the Caribbean suddenly got a name: Tropical Storm Girt. 

While Girt isn't expected to hit the US, it is clearly going to stir things up out on the Atlantic in a few days. While we *might* be able to out run it up the coast, racing tropical storms isn't really our thing! 

So we are taking the inside route to Norfolk and the Chesapeake beyond. The ICW path will give us an extra buffer of land between us and whatever weather the storm brings with it. It will probably be a big non-event, but why take risks?

We cruised up Adams Creek this morning and are anchored tonight right near the Neuse River. We won't be stopping at Oriental this time. Instead, we will push on up the ICW another 25 miles or so tomorrow. Hope to be in the Chesapeake this time next week.

Go away, Girt!

Meanwhile, here is a taste of the ICW...

Next Up: Crossing Pamlico Sound

11 August 2017

Beaufort, NC

So! After a mainly-offshore voyage of 600 miles, done in 4 long legs - West Palm Beach FL to Cumberland Island GA to Charleston SC to Southport NC to Beaufort NC - we are poised to take the 'shortcut' to Norfolk VA and the Chesapeake beyond.

Because we are so late in the season, we probably won't try to go further than the Chesapeake this year. We would love to have a bit of time to explore and enjoy that great sailing ground, rather than continuing to hurry north, only to have to turn around and hurry south in October.

So, the hard part is done -- at least in theory -- and we should have two and a half months of easy sailing ahead of us. I'm really looking forward to exploring the Chesapeake, in the Autumn, in depth.

If you have any must-see ports to recommend, please let us know!

Meanwhile, we are anchored just inside the Beaufort inlet, right next to the Coast Guard station. I've stopped here before, in the Blue Moon. A nice, easy in/easy out anchorage, well protected fro the southwest winds expected tonight.

Ah, the vigorous life!

Next Up: Go Away, Girt

10 August 2017

Cutting Corners

When Helena and I started north from West Palm Beach a few weeks ago, we had dreams of reaching Maine quickly, by sailing four or five-day legs that would cover 4-500 miles at a stretch.

Well... best laid plans. We did these kind of legs coming up from Martinique, but 1) there were four of us in the crew, and 2) even with four they were tiring. With just the two of us, and one of us being a fairly inexperienced sailor, such long legs are all the more difficult, particularly for me because I end up getting very little sleep.

So we have sort of settled into doing one or two-day legs of 1-200 miles each. This is still much faster than traveling the ICW, but isn't so tiring. It's all about striking a balance we are comfortable with.

Coincidentally, we are in a part of the US coast that consists of a series of capes a couple hundred miles apart. Cape Romain, near Charleston; Cape Fear, near Southport; Cape Lookout, near Beaufort; and the granddaddy of them all, Cape Hatteras, near nothing, probably because it was too dangerous a place for ships in colonial times.

So we have been sailing cape to cape, ducking in to the nearest inlet just south of each cape, resting a bit, and then carrying on.

I was talking to Steve Wallace of Zimmerman Marine in Southport the other day, and he suggested 'cutting the corner' off of Cape Fear, by taking the shortcut inside on the ICW, rather than going over 20 nm in the wrong direction to get around Cape Fear off shore. I thought this a pretty clever idea, so that's what we've done today. You can see our route today on the chart below, which took us about 5 hours to cover. We are now comfortably anchored off Wrightsville Beach for the night, and will have a relatively easy run offshore tomorrow to the next cape -- Cape Lookout.

Cutting the corner at Cape Fear
This has me thinking about the next cape, Cape Hatteras, which anyone would love to cut. The only problem is that there isn't convenient inlet just north of Cape Hatteras. In fact, there is nary a navigable inlet between Cape Hatteras and Cape Henry, at the mouth of the Chesapeake.

Cape Fear, Cape Lookout, Cape Hatteras, Cape Henry

Seriously thinking of cutting the Cape Hatteras corner completely by taking the ICW through the Neuse River (think, Oriental), Palmilco and Albemarle Sounds, right up to Norfolk and the Chesapeake. This would allow us to do some good 'inside' sailing in the beautiful NC sounds, while avoiding a couple of storms that are currently threatening this part of the coast.

We shall see. Tomorrow, we head toward Beaufort with fair winds forecast.

Next Up: Cutting Corners

On To Beaufort, NC

Docked in Southport Marina

After a three night stay in beautiful Southport, NC, we are headed today up to Beaufort, where we hope to meet up with kids and grandkids. It will be a blast to have them sleep on board with us. The weather looks favorable, so hoping it works out.

Southport, we will be back!

07 August 2017

Southport, NC

We sailed into Southport, North Carolina this morning, after an easy sail from Charleston, South Carolina. Southport is a quaint little seaport town with a harbor right in the center of town. I anchored there in the Blue Moon, about 10 years ago, and was looking forward to repeating the visit, but when we motored into the harbor, we discovered that the harbor had shrunk! Not really, but Petronella was far too big for the little harbor, so we turned around and went to the marina just a few minutes down the IntraCoastal Waterway. Oh well!

We enjoyed a shower at the marina, and lunch in town, and a well deserved nap afterwards. This evening, we are thinking about making some popcorn and watching a movie on the marina wifi. 

Ah! The vigorous life!

Driftwood-strewn beach on Jekyll Island.

Sunset at sea last night… Every one is different!

03 August 2017

Playing with Porta Bote

Thursday, August 3, 2017 -- Jekyll Island, GA

Well, it took longer than we thought to make the relatively short sail from south Cumberland Island, up the ICW to the next island up the coast, Jekyll Island.

What we didn't factor in was tropical storm Emily popping up off the west coast of Florida. The storm hardly touched the protected ICW, but the same couldn't be said for the inlet we had to cross. The pilots all warned against attempting a crossing except in unsettled weather, but we stuck our nose out anyway, just to see what it looked like. A 50-foot ketch was about a mile ahead of us, and watching her nearly pitch her masts out was enough for me. We beat a hasty retreat to the Brickhill River and spent two nights in a beautiful and peaceful anchorage, watching Emily's lightning show from a safe distance.

Sunset over the Brickhill River, North Cumberland Island, GA
That gave me some time to edit a short video we had made while bringing our ten-foot Porta Bote back aboard Petronella for the first time. I had been a little nervous about this maneuver, since the boat seemed much larger than the inflatable that had come with Petronella.

This ancient eight-foot inflatable had given up the ghost as soon as we had landed on American soil, and we'd bought the Porta Bote as a replacement, for a number of reasons.

First, I didn't like the enormous amount of deck space the inflatable took up. John and Gill had partially deflated it when sailing, but I didn't like that because the drooping tubes obstructed the jack lines and made it more difficult to move forward with a clipped-on harness. Sailing with the inflatable still inflated was a bit better, but it still took up a lot of space, and obstructed the view forward.

Second, I don't like having a dingy that can't be rowed easily. They are inherently less safe, IMHO; but they are also inconvenient: sometimes it's just easier to row than go through the rigamarole of dealing with an outboard. 

Third, inflatables are fragile, short-lived creatures. John and Gill managed to nurse theirs along for many years, but most people seem to just replace them every few years. 

Anyway, we went with the Porta Bote, and launched it for the first time on Cumberland Island. It was easy to put together on deck, and to launch (just tip it over the side), but recovery seemed a bit more difficult. A couple of guys could have man-handled it up and over the guard rails, but I didn't want to put Helena through that, so looked for a no-muss, no-fuss single-handed method. 

And came up with one! Check out the video below for details.

Porta Botes... highly recommended!

Next Up: Cutting Corners

30 July 2017

Cumberland Island

Sunday, 30 July 2017 -- On Cumberland Island, GA

I'd stopped at Cumberland Island during my last trip up the coast, but this time I had my best friend with me, and that made all the difference.

Native Americans lived on the island for roughly 4000 years before Europeans arrived. When the French tried to plant a settlement in the area in the 1560s, the island was occupied by the Timucua group, which dominated all of northern Florida and southern Georgia.

I happen to be interested in these facts, because I'm working on a novel that takes place in that particular setting. I'd hoped to get a feeling for what the island might have looked like, so long ago. And though the original live oak forest that used to cover the island is long gone -- harvested by none other than Revolutionary War hero, Nathaniel Green -- large second-growth live oaks have again established themselves on the island, and thanks to the island being protected as a National Seashore, it is about as wild and rugged a place as you can expect on the east coast of the USA.

At any rate, it is a truly beautiful island and we've enjoyed our three day stay here.

Helena took tons of pictures, so I've assembled some of them into a short slideshow that will give you a taste of the Island.


Click to view full-size

Today is a rainy, cool Sunday, so we are on the boat, tidying up and getting ready to head north tomorrow. The weather is supposed to be pretty nasty offshore, so we are going to take the ICW up to Jeckell Island, which is supposed to be a fun place.

Next Up: Playing with Porta Bote

29 July 2017

Welcoming Party

Wednesday, 26 JUL 2017 -- Anchored off Cumberland Island, GA

After two days and two nights of sailing north, we were just 20 miles from our first landfall -- Cumberland Island, where we hoped to enjoy the National Seashore for a few days. But as we closed in on the St. Mary's Inlet, we noticed a welcoming party was waiting for us. A welcoming party in the form of a huge thunderstorm.

Welcoming party over Cumberland Island.
We were located at the blue cursor.

If you are familiar with reading radar images, you will see that this one was a doozy. At the time, we were 5 or 6 miles offshore, heading north. We turn around and ran another couple miles out to sea, just to get some more sea room, and then waited to see what would happen. From the radar, I thought the storm would continue to move to the northeast, but Mother Nature continues to surprise...

After the storm passed, we continued to the anchorage off Cumberland Island, finally arriving at 11 pm. An excellent reason to aim for all-weather inlets that can be entered day or night.

Next Up: Cumberland Island

28 July 2017

Taken For A Ride

Tuesday, 25 JUL 2017 - Off Cape Canaveral FL

It wasn't all lessons-learned today. A whole fleet of dolphins surrounded the boat this afternoon, and then accompanied us for a few minutes before speeding off to do whatever dolphins do. They do always seem to be doing something and going somewhere, don't they? Wonderful when they stop long enough to say hello.

Oh, the seduction of making 7 easy knots. North! Towards deliciously cooler weather. For free! Who could resist?

Not me, but as I should know by now, there’s a price to pay for everything.

As we raced north last night, tracking our course-made-good on my iPad, I realized that while we were headed practically due north, the coast of Florida was slanting off to the north west. Gradually, ever so slowly, we were getting further and further from the coast.

By the time we passed Stuart, I lost my cell phone signal. 12 miles out. Not so bad. I would have preferred to stay within cell phone coverage distance, but as we were sailing dead down wind  (again) on the starboard tack, we would have to gybe to head more west. It is not so easy to gybe with a wind vane steering the boat, so I put it off and put it off, hoping the wind would shift to the south east. It never did, so well after dark, I finally stirred myself and gybed over to the port tack.

This allowed me to steer more to the west, and I figured we would gradually close with the coast. But I didn't count on the strength of the mighty Gulf Stream. This pushed us north faster than we were moving west, and the coast also slanted away, so by the time we were passing Cape Canaveral at dawn this morning, we were 46 miles off shore.

Clearly it was time to get more serious about this going-west thing, but the wind - all 6 knots of it, had turned to the northwest, limiting our options. Reluctantly, I set a course to the southwest, hoping to cancel out the effect of the Gulf Stream. It did, but our speed over ground dropped down to 3 knots as we bucked the mighty current. At that rate, it would take all day to reach the coast. Here was the bill for our easy progress north.

Helena took over the watch and I went below for a couple hours sleep, still hoping for that wind shift.

By lunchtime, the wind away faded altogether, just to put a fine point on the lesson.

Ah, the vigorous life!
We are now motoring over a calm sea, towards the northwest. At 5 knots, it will take 8 hours to close with the coast. I'm still hoping for that wind shift, but the lesson has been learned. There’s no such thing as a free ride on the Gulf Stream.

At least not today.

Next Up: Welcoming Party

27 July 2017

Shoving Off

Monday -- 24 JUL 2017 -- Off the coast of Florida

More alert readers might notice that there is a huge gap in my blog -- the events between leaving Georgetown in the Bahamas, and leaving West Palm Beach FL for points north.

First, a brief synopsis: After Petronella's previous owners, John and Gill, left us in Georgetown, Helena and I were joined by our son Nick. The three of us had a fabulous cruise through the Exhumas, crossing the bank to Nassau, across deep water to Great Harbour Cay, and then west across the bank again to the edge of the Gulf Stream. We had a fairly easy crossing, nipping into Lake Worth Inlet just ahead of a big storm. 

Since then, we have been wildly busy, selling my mom's house, settling our affairs, and -- mostly -- refitting Petronella for the next leg of her journey. We emptied out every single one of her many, many lockers, cleaned her from stem to stern, replaced her house battery bank, sorted out all her spares and equipment, refreshed the varnish in the main salon, replaced all the salon and v-berth cushions... the work went on and on, and the point is that I had no time or energy left for blogging. I considered trying to catch up, but realized that would leave me so far behind that the blog would never reach real-time again. 

I have loads of pictures and memories of that trip, but it will have to wait for a day when I have lots more spare time. Meanwhile, we pick up our story which is currently in progress....

* * *

After a 6 week refit of Petronella in West Palm Beach FL, Helena and I finally shoved off and headed north towards (hopefully!) cooler weather.

Lockers stuffed with provisions

Petronella (and Helena) read for sea, after refit in West Palm Beach, FL
First impressions: sailing offshore is soooo much easier and more pleasant than grinding out the miles in the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway.)

Main reasons: speed, no steering, and shade.

Let's consider speed first. When motoring up the ICW on the Blue Moon, we generally did about 5 knots. Even with very little wind (currently 5 knots apparent, from the starboard quarter,) we are making about 7 knots over the ground. How is that possible? We are traveling on the back of a great river: the Gulf Stream. As a result, we have covered about 35 n.m. — as the crow flies — in the last 4.5 hours.

That's amazing! It took a Herculean effort to cover 35 miles on the ICW in a day. Oh, and we are not done for the day, even though the sun is heading west. We can keep going all night. No one travels the ICW at night. I don't know how far we will get by morning, but it will be several times what we could have done in the big ditch.

Hercules took today off, but one of his former jobs was hand-steering all day, otherwise known as the worst job ever.

Me. Not steering.
Wanda, our Aries wind vane, did all the steering today. Thank the stars.

All I had to do was look around once in awhile to scan the horizon for ships and/or maniac power boaters. Haven't seen either for the last few hours. No weekend warriors, no kayakers paddling obliviously, no first time jet-skiers stalling out right in front of us.


And finally, shade. Because we have been on a steady course north all afternoon, Helena has been able to keep the cockpit nicely shaded. When you are following the twisty ICW, this is not so easy to do. For a connoisseur of shade, like myself, this is of critical importance.

Looking forward to a quiet night of steady progress. Will we get it? Only one way to find out…

Next Up: Taken for a ride