Thursday, January 18, 2018

Southbound Fall 2017

The crew of JUMBLE made its final departure from Greenport on Oct 6th, after hurricane Maria passed. Conditions were still disturbed offshore, so we chose to head up Long Island Sound towards NYC. The forecast called for South F5 winds. After rounding Orient Point just after sunset, we found SW winds instead and tacked down the North Fork, hugging the shore to avoid the worst of the chop. We anchored a couple of nights in Mattituck Inlet waiting out the remnants of Hurricane Nate.

Departing Stirling Harbor

Winds were light and variable and temperatures warm through the rest of the LI Sound and East River. Our alternator chews through belts even faster with the new, larger, battery bank. Another item added to the worry list.

Under the Whitestone Bridge

East River, Carl Schurz Park on Right

Anchorage South of Liberty Park

JUMBLE stayed in Jersey City for about a week, mostly in the anchorage south of Liberty Park. We waited out a few days of rain, stocked up on provisions (Ranch 99!) and visited with family. When we finally left, it was on the tail end of a cold front that brought favorable NNW winds, but we missed most of it and only managed to sail wing and wing off northern New Jersey for several hours, before firing up the motor for the night watches and dropping the hook at sunrise in Cape May. Delaware Bay brought us favorable westerlies, from astern to ahead, and we managed to mostly sail up the bay, hugging the shallows to stay out of the worst of the current. Tucked behind Reedy Island, we waited for a favorable current and sped through the C&D canal at night, before anchoring in the very shoal Bohemian River in the early morning hours.

Lovely Sail on Delaware Bay

Two Species of Snowbirds

Tug on the C&D Canal

The final hop to Annapolis was another light wind affair with mixed motorsailing. My cheesy teak donut-clamp for the electric autopilot failed for the first time, but was easy enough to fix underway. Annapolis proved to be a great sailor's town and we spent our first week visiting consignment stores and finishing small projects. We bought a used, heavily-built 105% jib and finally found a mizzen staysail that fit JUMBLE. The mizzen staysail is much easier to handle than our asymmetrical spinnaker, although we tried carrying it in 20+ knots downwind and it got a little wild. A local sailor recommended Wye Island on the Eastern Shore. We anchored there (in Dividing Creek) for a few days and walked most of the island before returning to Annapolis to meet with visiting family.

Weems Creek in Annapolis

Mizzen Staysail...

It's set free on a rope luff

Lots of Old Growth on Wye Island

Osage Orange. Anna Calls it "BrainFruit"

We left Annapolis on Nov 6th, just before a cold front. We enjoyed some mild afternoon sailing before the wind dropped out towards evening. A few hours after dark, we got slammed by some heavy rain. I was soaked before I could get below. JUMBLE had been puttering along under autopilot with the mainsail at full hoist and just flopping around. In the couple of minutes it took for me to get suited and booted below, the wind clocked into the low 20 knot range and a full main was too much for our wimpy autopilot to handle. The "off-course" alarm whined, some thunder boomed, and I added a few choice words of my own to the general ambiance.

So the front had hit us, more or less on time. It brought favorable (behind us), albeit strong (20-30 knot) winds.

Once we got everything under control (main down, working jib up) and put our trusty Swedish wind-vane in charge, JUMBLE blasted down the Chesapeake at 6 knots all through the night and we made Norfolk the following morning.

Feeling that Old Man Winter was catching up to us, we opted to continue down the Elizabeth River and on to the Great Dismal Swamp, rather than rest at Norfolk. We made it almost to the second set of locks, well after dark, and anchored in the canal. JUMBLE caught the first lock opening on the south end the next morning.

Anna on Dismal Swamp Canal

Fresh breezes and chilly temperatures persisted, but we were in protected waters and the wind was a favorable northerly, so we were able to continue on daysailing through North Carolina.

Trawlers at Oriental

We stopped in Oriental, NC. This had been one of our favorite stops in 2015. Despite is small population (less than 1000), Oriental boasts a solid variety of marine stores, including West Marine and consignment stores, and has a new Piggly Wiggly (supermarket). We ran into the same guy I had ordered an autopilot belt from at the local brewery (also new since 2015) and had a night out on the town. Great place.

Wild Horses in Beaufort

We stayed a couple nights in Beaufort, NC, waiting for things to warm up a bit, then headed south offshore towards Charleston with NNW winds F5. The sea state got lousy after rounding Cape Fear and, by the following morning, the wind was forward of the beam. Intolerable! A large pod of dolphins followed us for a few hours, which made things pretty fun, but no one was looking forward to a long night plowing into 4-6' seas towards Charleston. Instead, we tucked into Winyah Bay and made it a little ways up the ICW before dropping the hook for a very restful evening. The stretch of ICW from Winyah to Charleston was scenic, although steaming along canals gets old after awhile.

Dolphins off the Carolinas

More of them

Anna Goofing near Yawkey Island Reserve

Plenty of Eagles There
Marion Square in Charleston

The rest of the trip is barely worth mentioning, but I'll share for anyone interested. A fairly uneventful offshore passage from Charleston to Jacksonville ended with another downpour as we entered the channel. We puttered to St Augustine for Thanksgiving supplies.

At St Augustine, the current and municipal mooring ball conspired to ruin JUMBLE's paint job. Every 6 hours (on the tide) I went on deck to check that our jury-rig was keeping the barnacle-encrusted ball off our hull. On one such check, in the wee hours, I got roped into helping a guy who had jumped into the water off the seawall. His friends on shore and the police were pretty upset and started shouting at me. I'm not sure he really needed help, but I was in our dinghy, so I set off and found him hanging on the swim ladder of another moored sailboat. It was a younger, drunk guy in street clothes; not belligerent, but not compliant. He threatened to jump into the channel again if I took him back to his friends (and the cops), so we took a ride and I dropped him off at a private dock a mile or so into safer water.

On my return to JUMBLE, the cops intercepted me on their rescue boat and I led them back to the guy. As soon as they turned their attention on him, I hightailed it out of there. I didn't have any papers, life-jackets or whatever else they might have checked for. It's still a mystery to me, what this guy was up to.

A couple days later, I came down with that nasty flu that's on the news now. For a week I was taking more than my share of Tylenol trying to keep my temperature functional. Anna got the same thing several days later and we limped down the Florida ICW, sweating it out. By Fort Pierce our sheets had turned yellow. Grinding out miles under power on the ICW is pretty lousy on a sailboat (you can make much better mileage sailing offshore), but we were both sick enough that we wanted to stay in range of medical help.

The final hundred miles or so offshore from Fort Pierce to Lauderdale was pleasant, warm, trade-winds kind of sailing. It was a reminder of what we had taken for granted back in 2015. We put JUMBLE into Lauderdale Marine Center on Dec 6th, to renew some of the varnish, rebuild the steering and heat exchanger, and otherwise prepare for further cruising.

More to come.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Location Updates

We are updating our "Where is JUMBLE?" Google Map. For 2017, we're using yellow to distinguish from our 2014-15 voyage (in red).

JUMBLE is now equipped with an AIS (Automatic Identification System) so we can also be tracked via that. I usually use Marine Traffic. We are MMSI (Marine Mobile Service Identity) 367764210. You can also just look us up as "JUMBLE". Be aware that sites like Marine Traffic rely on nearby stations in their network to pick up our VHF signal (range 5-25 miles), so their positions are not always up-to date.

I'm honestly still figuring all this techno-magic out, but it's a great help in keeping watch. Here's a sample of our navigation screen, sitting at anchor in a thunderstorm with crappy visibility:

JUMBLE is Red, Triangles are AIS Targets (Other Boats)

Jumble on the Move

JUMBLE is sailing again, although not yet very far. This post is coming to you from exotic Block Island, RI. Our plan is a shakedown cruise around New England before heading south to Florida sometime in October.

For the last two years we've been working, saving and giving JUMBLE a major overhaul in and around Greenport, NY. I'll spare you the boring details, but here's a quick list of the major items:

  1. Removed Bottom Paint, Gelcoat Blistering, Faired and Barrier Coated Hull
  2. Replaced Forward Cabin Roof and Beams, Added Mast Compression Beam, Removed Post
  3. Painted Topsides, Deck, Cabin
  4. Stripped and Varnished Toerail
  5. Stripped and Varnished Masts, Re-bedded Hardware and Added Dutchmen where Needed
  6. Laminated New Booms
  7. Patched and Glassed too Many Areas to Mention, Ruthlessly Eliminated Leaks/Rot
  8. Replaced All Deadlights and Portlights
  9. New Anchor Windlass, New Self-Tailing Sheet Winches
  10. Added 22 gal Water tank on Port
  11. Added Class B AIS and Navigation Computer, Rebuilt Nav Station
  12. Replaced Wiring, Changed House Bank to 4 Trojan 105s 
  13. Built Hard Companionway Dodger/Seahood
  14. Running Backstays for Mizzen and Lots of New Rigging
  15. Replaced Motor Mounts and Shaft Seal
  16. Refinished Interior Paint/Varnish (Not enough time for all of it)
  17. Built Compression/Lift-Up Hatches for Stern Deck
  18. Removed And Glassed over Thru-Hulls for Speed, Depth and an Unused Sink Drain
  19. Installed in-Hull Depth Sounder
  20. Rebuilt Salon with Double Bunk Starboard and Removable Hanging Table
I probably forgot some projects, but let's leave it at 20 items. Pictures tell the story better.

Winter 2015-16 in Greenport

Boats Stored for Winter

JUMBLE with Hoop-Style Shrink Wrap

Winter 2016 - Removing and Replacing Forward Cabin Top

Spring 2016 - Working on the Bottom

Summer 2016, Painting Hull and then Toerail Varnish

Working in Hoop Tent

Anna Helping with the Keel

Fall 2016, Heading Indoors for Winter 2016-17

Our Home from July 2016 to May 2017

View from Our Place

Large Dutchman on Mizzen

Glassing and Re-Joining Aft of House and Companionway

Large Cabin Top Patch 

House Coming Together
Masts Hanging for Varnish
Enclosed Area Behind Anna (The only area we could heat above 60°)

Gluing Booms from 2x4 Stock in Enclosure

Spring 2017: JUMBLE's Finally Tastes Saltwater

Scuttle (Companionway Dodger) Under Construction. Plywood Sides, Nida-Core Top

Removable Hanging Table

Enclosure for Navigation Computer, DC-DC Regulator, AIS and Autopilot

New Navigation Setup

New Beam for Mainmast. Nothing Fancy, Just a Blob of Wood
Anna's Happy to be Back on the Water
JUMBLE back in Three Mile Harbor, Two Years Later

Saturday, August 15, 2015


First Half of May

Our Guanaja chapter felt like more of an adventure than any other part of the trip. We scooted out of an anchorage in the face of bad weather and instead of slogging against it, we took a favorable tack and sailed to a place we hadn't planned to visit and knew next to nothing about. That same weather brought cool temperatures and allowed us to really enjoy the serendipitous paradise we'd stumbled into. Most importantly, we met a number of friendly sailors and locals who were both generous and great company. If we'd clung to our plans and fought through the weather, we'd have completely missed out on Guanaja and the whole reason we were sailing in the first place.

A cold front came down from the States and knocked JUMBLE's crew from our Vivorillo idyl. We'd been watching the weatherfax and were waiting for northerly winds to pass before attempting passage to Isla Mujeres. The Gulf Stream runs swiftly North in the Yucatan Channel at speeds of 2-4 knots. Whenever wind blows against current, waves are steepened and, especially in strong winds, conditions can get nasty. Even without the current, northerly winds wouldn't help our NNE course.

To put to sea in a tired old boat on a meager budget requires one to be an optimist. I was sure we could ride out the cold front in an open anchorage if we tucked JUMBLE close to the reef and set a stern anchor to keep things comfortable. These preparations were made in the afternoon. My plan might have worked with a N wind, but I honestly doubt it. When the wind finally came it was WNW. Some small swell came in from the W about an hour before the wind, so we had some clue that the situation would deteriorate. We were anchored in 15' of water off a lee shore and things would get worse.

At 2100, we hastily put to sea, wrenching the outboard off the dinghy in the chop. We always deflate and stow our dinghy before offshore passages, but there wasn't any time. 2 footers were breaking on Boga Key as we pulled away into deeper water. We were aware of the isolated, uncharted coral around us, but there wasn't much we could do in the moonlight. This was one of the few times when we were glad for JUMBLE's shallow draft and long keel. The first evening was mild, winds in the 10-15 knot range and waves becoming more north at 3-4' as we left the shelter of the cays. We tried to motor our course towards Isla Mujeres, hoping that the winds would shift back to the east, but they held NW or N through the night with little rain.

Hey There Buddy!

At daybreak, Anna jumped into the dingy to bail it out, then we hoisted it aboard with the main halyard and mizzen staysail halyard. The waves were a little larger and still north, with clouds on the horizon. We felt a lot more comfortable once the dinghy was deflated and wrestled into its locker. We gave up on Mujeres and turned W towards the island of Guanaja, around 120 miles away and the closest reliable harbor.

Fun in the Rain

Happy Anna

Along the way we had several rain squalls and steady winds from 15-20 knots with +/-10 knots in the squalls. The Sailomat was happy to steer and we stayed dry inside. There was no visible traffic. It blew harder the second night, but more steady. JUMBLE would let us know when it was time to reef. She'd slew around and yaw more then usual when overpowered; roll and wallow when underpowered. We ran the 85% jib, double reefed main and mizzen, dropping the main in the squalls. Things cooled down, even with the cabin closed up. The waves probably maxed at 6' and it was a comfortable ride.

Third Coffee

The next morning, approaching Guanaja, heavy rain limited visibility to a few hundred feet. Guanaja itself is steep, but it is surrounded by low reefs and cays, protecting nearly the entire island. The eastern entrance channel is a few hundred yards wide and it shoals rapidly on the reef, so your depth sounder won't save you if you stray too close. There are no buoys or horns. We trusted our charts, but weren't about to enter blindly by GPS. I circled around in heavy rain for about two hours. There were a few false starts, where I could see a few cays and the heights of the island, then the rain would beat down again. Morale was high, but it got frustrating. When the clouds finally parted, it was a heavenly scene. The air was fresh and cool and clouds rolled down the verdant hills of the island. I put the throttle down and JUMBLE raced through the channel as fishermen paddled out their cayucas with plastic snow shovels.

Finally Clearing

Bonnaca Town

Soggy Sailor

Across from Bonnaca

More Bonnaca

Heading towards El Bight

Satellite Image Showing Reefs

JUMBLE stayed in El Bight anchorage in Guanaja for almost two weeks. Eventually, we forced ourselves to leave in strong NE trades (and slightly hungover) because we were afraid we'd stay too long and have to ride out hurricane season in the Rio Dulce. With our dinghy, we were able to access the entire island from the water, which is what the locals do. There are few vehicles or roads. The barrier reef keeps the shoreline protected, making landing easy and grocery trips comfortable. There's a little tourist development, but of the adventurous type. The diving is superb and there are several nice hotel/dive boat places; however, access is by small boat or flying into the tiny airport via La Ceiba. Services are basic, but the islanders are friendly and there is a community of eccentric expatriates from the US and Europe.

Dinghies at Manati

The Hangout

We spent most evenings at the Manati: an open, tropical kind of place run by a German couple. Officially it was a restaurant & bar, but it was a bit more than that. More like an inn without lodging, although the proprietors' son runs a small hotel nearby. Long nights of conversations over food and booze were the norm and we had a great time. During the day, we hung out on JUMBLE and read or dinghied around for some hiking or diving. I was still recovering from the sand fly plague and there were plenty of them in Guanaja, along with the usual mosquitos. Some of the expatriates liked to joke about malaria, yellow fever or other tropical depredations. One of the downsides of living in a tropical paradise is catching one of these bugs at least once. The good news? "It's not that bad!" Food for thought. Perhaps because of the bugs on the main island, most of the locals live on crowded Bonnaca Cay, the "Venice of the Caribbean".

Streets of Bonnaca Cay
There's a lot I could say about this place, but this post has gone on long enough, so I'll let a few more pictures do the talking.

Jurassic Park-Esque Villa on West Side

Green Flash Bar on West Side

Failed Hotel Development

Into the Jungle

First Stage of Waterfall

Bathing Beauty

Good Water Pressure for a Shower

Nice Cove North of Anchorage

Around Michael's Rock, Good Visibility

I Messed with Contrast, More Colorful in Person

Mix of Pines in Drier Areas, Jungle Elsewhere

Canal Thru Island

We really liked this place and were tempted to stay and really get into the area. Maybe in another life with more money saved and a larger, more comfortable boat. If we return to the Caribbean, we'll be coming back to Guanaja.