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.

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