Day 3: Cape May

We made it to Cape May. We dealt with the engine problem by just not using it (until the Cape May canal, of course, when it failed once…it was quick to restart).

I once heard it said that the Delaware Bay is not cruised, but endured. Truth. The sailing was spirited. The Mal de mer unwelcome. The weather forecast was East winds 5 to 10 knots. My anemometer is not working; but the good folks at Utsch’s Marina (our home for tonight) told us that the wind was around 30 knots and everyone was getting beat up. I suppose we feel better knowing that we weren’t alone.

Still, we sailed fast. We remained safe. And we are going to sleep real well tonight.

Tomorrow I’m going to try and get a diesel mechanic to help me locate the problem with the engine. Air is getting in somewhere. I’m sure, given time, I could find the culprit. But it is time to stop mucking with the beast and for us to get on with the trip. So far it’s been too much worry and work. Hopefully, sometime tomorrow we will depart for Martha’s Vineyard. It’s time to start enjoying the cruise.

2014 Cruise, Day 2: Through the C&D

I’m tired. I’ll write this quickly while everything is fresh in my head; but coherence may suffer tonight…

For those boaters with reliable engines, I have three words for you…

I. Hate. You.


No, not really. I am however a little envious.

Today we made it through the C&D canal. The engine only failed twice, or maybe three times, going through the canal. At one point we were about to go under a bridge, which was a little dicey. But I am getting really good at bleeding the engine and can usually get it running within a couple of minutes.

On the way into the canal we were beset by forty or more high performance boats zipping out on a poker run, with spotter helicopters chasing from probably thirty feet off the deck. Woke us up for certain.

We did get waked pretty bad by an inconsiderate family in an overpowered cruising boat. We probably rolled thirty degrees port to thirty degrees starboard a dozen times. Anything not strapped down (and a lot wasn’t…we were in the canal, not open water after all) was thrown across the cabin. A bottle of blueberry juice was amongst the litter. The juice sprayed across the entire cabin, including the ceiling. We were annoyed.

Happily, the rest of the canal was a pleasant experience. Unhappily, it is really hard to talk about things that are boringly pleasant. Clearly, bad news is more interesting.

Our intent today was to stop behind Reedy Island (on the Delaware River) for the night. We got there so early, though, that stopping just seemed silly, so we decided to keep on going to shorten what would otherwise be a very long leg to Cape May.

I’ve been spoiled sailing the Chesapeake. I forgot about currents. The Delaware River was at times running north of two knots against us. It didn’t turn to our favor until late in the day. This made progress slow. With light winds, and a fluky engine, progress was really really slow. By 18:00, the wind had filled in a bit, and the tide had turned so when the engine next failed we just decided to leave it off and deal with it in the morning. Around 20:30 we made it to our home for the night, the rather exposed, but adequate Cohansey Cove. We anchored (under sail) on the eastern side to protect ourselves from the expected NE winds. So far it seems fine. I let out lots of scope on the anchor, just in case.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to make another attempt at figuring out what is going on with the engine, and then we are off to Cape May.

Spot Connect

I have a SPOT Connect device:

It’s a clever little variant of the SPOT Tracker device that allows not only tracking, and sending check-in/I’m Ok and Help messages, but very short text messages (43 characters, as I recall) as well when linked to an android or iPhone. I bought it a couple of years ago when I was first planning on sailing to Martha’s Vineyard in my little Seafarer 24. Finally, hopefully, in a few days I’ll be able to put it to its’ intended purpose as Lauren and I are planning on departing Thursday for a month-long cruise to southern New England waters. My SPOT tracking page is here. I’ll also have it updating Twitter (@b29seeker), which I may add to the sidebar here.

SPOT is pretty cool. But I also find it horribly frustrating. A public SPOT forum doesn’t appear to exist where the developers pay attention to users, so I thought I’d throw my list of gripes here.

  • The shared page will only hold a maximum of SEVEN days worth of check-ins. Seven days? I can’t contemplate a real reason for this very, very short limitation. Presumably, a great many SPOT users are using it for more than just an afternoon or a weekend at a time. I’d like to see them hold the data for at least a month, better a year, and best forever (or until I delete it). Each check-in is very small. Online storage is cheap. I can think of no practical advantage to such a short retention time, and lots of reasons for much longer retention times.
  • The web page is kludgy. It is hard to navigate. It is SLOW. Logged in IDs time out far too fast. Often times clicking on a link just never connects and it becomes necessary to try several times (often getting logged out in the process). This isn’t 1995. Upgrade your servers!
  • Tracking is frustrating. First, when you set tracking it only runs for 24 hours before it must be reset. Second, I believe if you have tracking set it will automatically send a signal every 10 minutes. This is way too often for a sailboat. For hikers it is way, way too often. It just clogs up the tracking page, and burns batteries. Happily, this has been apparently corrected in the Gen3 Spot where it is now selectable at 2 1/2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes. I would like to see a completely customizable setup; but this is much better than it was. Apparently it also only sends a tracking signal when it detects movement and it no longer has the 24 hour restriction. Much better. I don’t see a gen3 Connect with this feature, yet, though. I keep hoping a software update will come along and fix it. If not, this change in feature alone might be enough to get me to change to a regular gen3 SPOT at some point.
  • Sending messages could be improved a bit. The communicator seems to work fine for sending messages when linked to a bluetooth enabled phone. However, what happens if the phone goes swimming, or otherwise dies? There is an SOS button on the Communicator. In the next version I would also like to see a check/in button, and maybe even the custom message and tracking buttons that exist on the regular SPOT. The cell phone is fine and dandy; but now there are two points of failure. Not good. I’d hate for people at home to panic unnecessarily just because my phone died and I couldn’t send I’m Ok messages or restart the tracker after 24 hours.
  • And speaking of bluetooth…My laptop has bluetooth. Why isn’t there software so that I can control the Spot Connect from my laptop? Seems obvious.
  • For reasons I can’t figure out, even though I’ve configured it over and over, my updates just aren’t ending up on Facebook. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was a Facebook issue, and they are just blocking the messages as unimportant or something. Pisses me off, though, as I’ve spent too much time trying to get it to work.
  • An API would be nice so that it could be nicely integrated with WordPress and other software. Just a small request. It would be nice to be able to display the tracking map right here in this post.
  • It would also be nice to be able to track someone using an Android/iPhone app, instead of having to go to the shared web page.
  • I hesitate to add this since it isn’t SPOT’s fault; but if anyone is reading this list and contemplating getting one of these devices they should be aware that there are some dead spots in the world. It is a limitation of the satellite network that they use. Most of the world is covered, though. If you are planning a sail to the South Pacific or something, though, you might have a problem. Their current coverage map is here. There are some alternatives that use the world-wide Iridium satellite network; but I believe they are more expensive. Use what works best for you.

Otherwise, it is a neat device. I’m looking forward to using it for real on my upcoming trip.


Essay on bright work

One of the complaints I’ve heard of regarding the Bayfield 29 is that there is too much bright work to take care of. I don’t know that it is too bad. Bow sprit platform, rub rails, hand rails, eye brows, companionway trim, cap rails, and taffrail. Sounds like a lot; but most of the pieces are easy to deal with.

Still, the complaint rages on. I’ve been slowly moving around taking care of the previous owners neglect, and just completed the first coat on my cockpit wood (rough shape, hasn’t been touched since I bought the boat). I think I have the solution to dealing with the bright-work with a minimum of pain.

First, if you don’t already own your boat, buy one where the trim wood is in rough shape. Not fall of the boat rough, but former finishes are flaking off rough, or at least where the bright-work is not actually all that bright. This is helpful in that it works to set up realistic standards. Buy a yacht with gleaming varnish and you will feel honor bound to maintain it. THAT is a pain, and takes away too may good sailing days, and I’m certain what the above complainers are talking about. Skip that altogether.

Second, when you scrape off the old junk (the first time will be a bit unpleasant; but get into a rhythm and hopefully you can get it done it a day or two) don’t worry so much about bringing it down to bare teak. If you want a perfect job, perfect prep is important. Lower your standards to “good enough” and the stress is significantly reduced. If the old varnish doesn’t want to come off the wood, why fight it? Get a good scuff on it and move on.

Third, skip the traditional varnish altogether, which seems like way too much work. I’ve been using Cetol. The original, orangish version. The darker tint I suspect helps with UV protection. But even if it doesn’t, it seems to work toward evening out mismatched wood. It’s also easy to apply and long-lasting. I’ve heard complaints that it isn’t as pretty as regular varnish. Well, boo hoo. I’d rather be sailing than messing with it constantly.

Fourth, don’t worry too much about the instructions on the can. Oh, sure, if you want to do the best job possible I would follow the instructions to a T. But my standards have already been lowered. Besides, it’s not easy finding a day with no rain, proper humidity and temperature, but just cloudy enough to keep the boat out of direct sunlight (or at least early in on a morning without dew). You want the best job, I think you need to apply inside a shed. Forget best, and go with good enough.

Fifth, keep up on it. This is not a big deal as Cetol seems to last pretty well. Once a year scuff it up with a Scotchbrite pad, dust it off, and reapply. The whole boat can probably be done in a single day.

Sixth, go sailing and don’t worry about it again until next season.

Lower your standards. If it looks halfway decent from a boat length away, I’d say you are doing pretty good.

A little progress

Spending quality time on the boat working on a bunch of little projects…

Finally vented the Natures Head composting toilet outside into the deck anchor locker. I was temporarily just having it vent into the below decks chain locker, which was mostly OK; but once in awhile (after particularly heavy use) I’d get a whiff of something I generally prefer not to think about. I think finally finishing this project will take care of this occasional issue.

I removed the door to the head and replaced it with a curtain. Oh, sure, the door gave a more finished appearance and contributed to the illusion of privacy; but when open it intruded into the cabin way too much, and since it needs to remain open to get the benefit of ventilation through the fore-hatch, the curtain becomes more than a bit more practical. Besides, the door knob broke on the door. And it usually didn’t shut right anyway.

I installed a new 110VAC electrical outlet on the front of the starboard bunk. Since I prefer to keep all AC power cords safely tucked inside conduit, this was more work than I anticipated. The new outlet will allow running the miniature oil filled radiator style portable heater I purchased without having to plug it into an extension cord. It also is in a convenient place for plugging in an electric blanket, if I go that route.

Regarding the heater, I stayed on the boat last night and the temps dropped to the low 30s. While the heater managed to keep the boat in the mid sixties during the evening, as it got later the inside temperature dropped into the mid-fifties. Not really horrible; but cooler than I’d like. I think for real winter temperatures the boat just won’t qualify as the comfy warm cocoon that I desire. At least not with this little 700 watt heater. UNLESS, perhaps, I slide up the dividers between the galley/nav station and the main cabin area (they are really cool…I should take photos), and perhaps add a dividing curtain there as well. Then, with a smaller area to heat, I think the little heater might be able to keep up. If it doesn’t work I can always buy a bigger portable heater (or install a built in heater), or better yet, just stay in the nicely heated girlfriend’s house, with the very snugly and nicely heated girlfriend.

Oxford, MD

I’ve been bad about blogging. Forgot I had the darn thing, really. Let’s try again. At the moment I’m in the middle of a short ten day cruise on the Chesapeake with my gal Lauren. We continue…

We spent the weather perfect day in the very lovely town of Oxford, MD yesterday, and are getting ready to head to Cambridge as soon as I finish writing. Sadly, we couldn’t get any of the famous home made ice cream (closed now on Tuesdays and Wednesdays along with Schooners). Happily, we met some neat people in some neat boats.

Gordon and Susan on home-built C&C designed 35 foot WHIM of Arne. Apparently Gordon borrowed the mold shortly before it was scheduled for destruction and built himself a new hull. Pretty cool. They are looking for a place to keep the boat for the winter before heading back south jumping on Susan’s Syrena.

Mary T also lives here in the Town Creek for the night. Didn’t get a chance to talk to them much; but they seem like friendly folks. Both Whim and Mary T are heading to Cambridge as well, so maybe we’ll see them there.

One of the cool things about small towns is when it turned out that we couldn’t grab a bite at the close place, help arrived.  An old gent named Eddie Frederick saw us looking dejected in front of the closed ice-cream window, took pity, and took us for a drive around town, showing us the different sights and all the different restaurants. He dropped us off at the Masthead restaurant on the other side of town. We had a decent meal there, and very decent (too many, and too expensive) drinks. Afterwards, out server/bartender/bus-gal Meredith actually took us to the little town market (we needed a few supplies) a short walk from the public dinghy dock.

Lauren and I ended the night laying on the foredeck admiring all the stars. We don’t often get to see near so many in Baltimore due to all the light pollution.

A perfect day.