Return to Realty (the Sloop)

As many of you may remember, two years ago I took a sailing trip from New York to Florida aboard the sloop Reality, and recounted my adventures here. Well, I’m going on another sailing trip and I thought I’d again share it with you all.

This time the trip is only to Charleston, so I’ll probably be done with the trip before I get to post another installment, but I’ll be writing them as I go and posting them as I get them typed up. We leave tomorrow, so I’ll post my first entry in a moment.

It has been two years since I sailed the sloop Reality from Port Washington, New York to Marco Island, Florida over a month and a half and recorded my travels in a journal. A few weeks ago I spoke to Peggy, who was sailing Reality, her 47-foot Catalina sloop south again for the winter and needed crew. This time though she was only sailing as far as Charelston, a trip of about a week. I cleared my schedule and told her I’d be glad to come along.

My mood in starting out this trip is very different. Last trip was a giant leap into the unknown for the entire crew, who had never taken a trip of that magnitude. The September 11 terrorist attacks had just occurred, leaving the world an uncertain place, and three of the four crew members were facing major questions about where they were going in their own lives.

Today my life and career are more stable, the world – though troubled – is not reeling from an unthinkable horror, and the trip we’re facing is shorter and something we’ve done before.

Three of the prior crew will be along this trip, Captain Peggy, Joe and me. Gene has started an education masters program with plans to become an elementary school teacher, and wasn’t able to miss school. Instead we’ll have a crew member I’ve never met, someone who worked on the yacht club docks and launches this summer.

Earlier tonight I went with my father down to the yacht club where the boat was tied up. It was an unseasonably cold night, with temperatures in the forties, and the wind was blowing like stink, 20-25 knots. The boat was rocking and rolling against doubled up dock lines. Fortunately the wind is supposed to settle down a bit overnight.

Peggy was there stowing the last of the gear and provisions, and Gene was there keeping her company. My dad and I came aboard and we all chatted for a while as I put my clothes and gear into lockers. Once everything was put away, we talked for a bit more and then headed off for our last night ashore.

We’re looking forward to a reasonably good forecast, with 10-15 knot winds starting from the north and then shifting to the south, with moderate seas. Unless the wind decides to come directly off our nose, we should do pretty well. On the earlier trip we went directly from New York harbor, around Capes Hatteras and Fear, and to Charleston in a single leg that took just 4 1/2 days, with north winds that allowed us to sail on a broad reach for virtually the entire time. We’re hoping to again make Charleston without stopping, though we don’t expect to make the more than 700 mile trip so quickly. We’ve allowed ourselves a week, subject to change, as always, due to wind and weather.

I’m staying at my parents’ house tonight, about to go to bed so that I can get up for an 0800 meeting at the dock. We’re planning an 0900 departure to catch the 1100 slack water at Hell Gate.

Wow! I’m very envious. That sounds like a dream trip. I’m going to check out the journal of your other trip! Have a fantastic time, Billdo!

Sorry our paths won’t cross on this journey! Hope you have a comfortable, uneventful passage. Don’t forget to keep the water out of the people tank! :smiley:

Have a great trip, Bill! Too bad you’re not coming this far south…

I envy you this trip, and can’t wait to hear more about it!

Wishing you fair winds and lots of fun. I know the cuisine and company will be excellent. However, I am glad to be here on terra firma.

Once again, I’m envious!

Bon voyage!

you are one lucky duck!

watch out for kate, she has been rather ziggy zaggy lately.

say hi to the subs in charleston.

Well, we’re off. I showed up at the dock just past 0800 to see Peggy and Gene walking just ahead of me toward Reality. Joe showed up a few minutes later. It turns out our fourth would-be crew member couldn’t get time off work, so we’d be running with a small but workable crew of three.

As we were stowing the last of our gear and gear and getting ready to head off, Peggy wondered aloud whether we should have two or three hour watches with our short rotation. Joe suggested three hour shifts during the day and two hour shifts at night, and idea Peggy adopted. She designated Joe as the first watch from our departure until noon, she took the second from noon until 1500, and put me on for the three hours after that. From the end of my watch at 1800, we’d rotate in two hour watches, until 0600, when the three hour shifts would start running through the next 1800.

Our departure was delayed just a bit as we waited for a spare bilge pump to arrive. Peggy wanted to have the spare aboard under the theory that if you have an extra, the original won’t break. It arrived by 0915, by which time Gene had said goodbye to head to work.

We cast off at 0920, heading out of Manhasset Bay and west down Long Island Sound. The weather was chilly but sunny, with a nice breeze. The Sound was flat as we powered along and munched on bagels.

Marine VHF radio channel 16 is the international distress and hailing frequency, and that’s what we monitor on our main radio. When I’m transiting a busy harbor I like to have another radio on deck set to channel 13, the “bridge-to-bridge” frequency, the channel that large vessels use to communicate between their navigation bridges to discuss how they will maneuver in each other’s vicinity. I pulled the hand-held VHF on deck and set it on channel 13, where I soon heard a slightly different type of bridge to bridge communication.

As we were between the Throggs Neck and Whitestone bridges, I heard a call “Whitestone Bridge work crew, this is Great Gull.” When the bridge crew responded, Great Gull explained that she was a tanker approaching westbound and requested that the crew stop work as she passed below. It looked like we would pass under the bridge at about the same time as the approaching Great Gull so we moved well to port to give her room.

When we got closer, we saw that there were workers replacing the steel bracing on the bridge. As we watched, the bridge crew got on the radio and told Great Gull that all burning had stopped and that she was cleared to pass under.

West of the Whitestone is LaGuardia Airport. Today they were landing planes to the southwest, and we passed under several swiftly descending airliners. They were taking off to the northwest, so we passed under their ascending cousins a bit later.

Just past Riker’s Island heading westbound, the Sound jogs a bit to port. As we were approaching this turn, we saw a low gray ship with a large “DEP” logo on the bow. This was one of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s “honey boats,” which carry the outflow from the City’s sewage system away for disposal. A few moments later we realized that we were downwind of the honey boat and its cargo.

We were in the right side of the channel, prepared to pass her as is typical, port-side to port-side. However, the honey boat suddenly made a sharp turn to port – heading directly across the channel – and blew her horn twice, the signal to pass to starboard. I immediately grabbed the hand-held and hailed “DEP ship north of Rikers Island, this is the sloop Reality.” When she answered, her captain explained that she was docking at a bulkhead near some tanks on the north side of the channel, and I thanked him and said we’d pass astern of him.

When we got to Hell Gate, the water was fairly slack, and we passed through without incident. We had a peaceful run down the East River, powering for a stretch alongside a World Yachts dinner boat on a luncheon cruise.

The harbor was busy as usual, with quite a few fast catamaran ferries zipping hither and yon, and a constant stream of helicopters taking off and landing at the East River heliport. As we passed under the Williamsburgh and Manhattan bridges, subways rolled overhead, so in our short journey through the harbor we’ve been overflown by fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, automobiles and trains.

When his watch was over, Joe went below and came up with a triangular drug company pen to replace the one that ran out at the end of my journal from our prior journey. I was touched by this gesture and I’m glad to be using it as I write this account.

The run through the Buttermilk Channel behind Governors Island and through Upper New York Bay was uneventful. We’re now approaching the Romer Shoal light in Lower New York Bay just north of Sandy Hook where we plan to put up the sails and begin the offshore portion of our journey.

Well, the trip hasn’t been going exactly as we had hoped. Nothing serious, but the weather has been uncooperative.

At Sandy Hook we were planning to start sailing, but there was only a very slight wind and it was square on the nose. At 1500, I took the helm for my watch. Our plan was to work our way around the gentle curve of the New Jersey coast until Barnegat, at which point we could pick up our SSW heading for the 300 mile run to Cape Hatteras

My watch proceeded quietly with my main task being to gently nudge the autopilot a degree or two westward to keep us in 30 or so feet of water off the Jersey shore. Through my watch, however, the wind kept picking up, unfortunately from directly off our nose.

With the increased wind came increased waves, and because we were inshore they were very close-set and choppy. By the time the wind hit 25 knots, the boat began to pound fairly frequently coming off the larger waves. Peggy suggested that we turn a few degrees off the wind to ease the ride. Shifting the autopilot a few degrees to the east helped, but did not eliminate the pounding entirely.

As we powered down the coast, Peggy made dinner, breaded chicken cutlets and angel hair pasta prima vera. It was done at 1745, just before the end of my watch. Peggy took over for the last few minutes of my watch and the first few of Joe’s so we could eat.

After dinner, I went below to my bunk to try to catch some sleep before I was on again at 2200. I tossed and turned for quite a while and actually dozed for a bit, I think. Before I knew it, it 2145.

I got up, stuck my head through the companionway and said hi to Peggy. She said that conditions were about the same. I got dressed in warm clothing and full foul weather gear and went on deck for my watch.

At the beginning of my watch, I saw we were about even with Barnegat and well offshore, so I switched the waypoint on the GPS to Diamond Shoal Light Tower, the light off Cape Hatteras. I adjusted the autopilot to the new course, and then shifted a few degrees port and starboard so I could get the smoothest ride possible. As we were offshore the waves were longer, though bigger, and the ride wasn’t too bad except for the occasional heavy pound off a particularly sharpsided wave.

Once those chores were done, I had an entirely boring watch. There were no targets or activity to be seen anywhere around me, either by eye or by radar. As I sat huddled under the dodger in the front of the cockpit, the only thing keeping me from falling fast asleep was the slam of the hull pounding every once in a while.

When 0000 rolled around, I looked below and saw Joe asleep, wedged into a cabin chair so he couldn’t move. I woke him up for his watch, and a few minutes later he came up. While I was waiting for him, I saw my first target of the night, a light several miles off the port bow. I also noticed that the wind had spun up to 30 knots or so.

I climbed into my bunk and slept soundly until 0330, when I woke up but stayed put for the next 20 minutes, dreading going on deck for watch. When I could put it off no longer, I got up and greeted Peg who reported no change. I got dressed and took my place on deck.

Just as I was settling in, the engine slowed and shut down. I jumped back to the controls and tried to restart the engine, but it would not come on again. Peggy quickly came up to see what the problem was, and when I told her that the engine would not start, quickly began to put up the mainsail.

Once the main was up, I headed off the wind to build up some way under sail while we figured out the problem. Peggy’s first guess was that we had run out of fuel in the starboard tank, though this was a bit earlier than she would have expected it to have run out. Her guess apparently proved correct because when we switched to the port tank, the engine started up just fine. As I steered the boat back into the wind and onto course, Peggy furled the mainsail.

Once she was done and things were beginning to get back to normal, I realized that I was seasick. After engaging the autopilot, more-or-less on course, I turned around and vomited repeatedly over the stern rail.

After puking, I got the boat settled down and resumed my position under the cockpit dodger. It was 0500 and I still had an hour of my watch to go. By this time the wind was a steady 30, with gusts of 35 knots or more. I saw a few lights way off in the distance and the first stirrings of dawn in the east but fortunately nothing that would require me to move much at all.

Joe came up at 0600 to relieve me, though it wasn’t entirely a relief. As I went below, queasiness overcame me, and I rushed up on deck to return the last bits of my dinner to the sea.

After sitting quietly on deck for a bit, I again went below and got into my bunk without further unpleasantness. Normally, the few times I get seasick I can vomit once or twice and then my body adjusts to the motion of the sea. This time it seems I wasn’t so lucky. Fortunately, I have not yet had a problem once I’ve gotten into a bunk and let my whole body just follow the motion of the vessel.

Since my next watch wasn’t until noon, I had a full six hours in which I could sleep uninterrupted. I woke up around 1100 and as soon as I came out of my bunk, the queasiness hit me again. I threw on the nearest garments, put on my safety harness and rushed to the stern rail to upchuck. I realized that I hadn’t fastened the buckle of my harness properly, so I sat in a cockpit seat to fix it and was overcome by nausea once again. Unable to move, I just turned to my right and threw up out of the starboard side of the cockpit. Spray coming off the bow quickly washed away my puke.

After sitting still for a while in the fresh air, I began to feel a bit better. Peggy told me that she had decided to turn in for Ocean City, Maryland and that we should be there sometime past midnight. Though we had changed course a bit, the wind had followed us to remain on our nose, and the boat was still laboring over the ever-increasing waves.

By the time my watch was about to start, I thought I was well enough to try some oatmeal. Running below to put a pack of instant oatmeal in the microwave, waiting on deck for the two minutes it heated, and then ducking below again to pull it out didn’t sicken me, so I began to eat it slowly as I took over the watch.

After eating about half of it, I took another trip to the stern rail – the oatmeal’s sojourn in my stomach was short. Once this business was finished, I settled in for what turned out to be another quiet watch. I guess no one was stupid enough to be out in this lousy weather, or if they were, they kept well away from us. I periodically took sips of water, and about halfway into my three hour watch ate what was left of the oatmeal.

At about 1500, Joe came up for his watch, and I foolishly mentioned to him that I had kept down about half of a cup of oatmeal. Silly me. I promptly was nauseated and deposited the remainder of the oatmeal to my right, over the edge of the cockpit and onto the starboard sidedeck. Immediately after this, I realized that the waves had died down a bit and seas were not washing over our sidedecks as they had been previously.

After my stomach settled somewhat, I figured that there would be some larger washing waves to come, so I went below to my bunk, off duty until 2000. During my watch, we had only been making three to four knots of headway toward Ocean City over the waves, so I wasn’t sure how far past midnight it would be when we got in. Each time I checked the GPS, it gave a different projection, the worst of them being that we would arrive after 0600.

At about 1830 I woke up and realized that the boat’s motion had significantly eased. I dressed and went up on deck. The wind was still on our nose, but it had died down substantially. Our speed had increased, putting our anticipated arrival time again at just about midnight. Peggy was looking exhausted and I was feeling what passed for chipper in the circumstances, so at about 1900 I offered to relieve her. After a short pro-forma protest, she agreed and went below.

This watch was as quiet as the others, but much more pleasant. The one point of interest was that at almost exactly 2100 the wind shifted abruptly from southwest to northwest and became a steady 25 knots with gusts above 30.

Since the wind was now on our beam, the boat began to heel a bit. Between the extra hull in the water and the extra thrust generated by beam reaching under our bare poles, our speed increased to almost eight knots.

When Joe came up for his watch at 2200, I stayed on deck. At about 2310, when we were a mile or two from the buoy outside Ocean City Inlet, Joe went below to wake Peggy.

Piloting an inshore channel at night is always challenging because the lights on buoys and fixed beacons can be difficult to distinguish from other non-navigational lights ashore. When the harbor you’re entering is a seaside resort entirely awash with brightly lit waterfront attractions, the challenge is multiplied. Proceeding slowly and carefully, we worked our way in.

Peggy had previously arranged with the White Marlin Marina to tie up on their fuel dock overnight. Although the White Marlin had one of the several well-lit docks in the harbor, its sign was unlighted. After creeping past it, we realized that we had gone a bit too far.

With the outgoing tide and northwest wind, when Peggy took the boat out of gear we began to drift slowly astern and slip to starboard. From our position, with virtually no maneuvering, we slid onto the end of the White Marlin’s fuel dock. As we touched, Joe and I jumped off with dock lines to tie the boat down. At 2345, the boat was secure and we went below, glad to finally be in port. For a few minutes we all sat around the cabin staring at each other until it sank into our sea-addled brains that we should be in our bunks.

I read for about an hour before falling asleep, waking a bit before 0800. Peggy came into the cabin to make coffee and breakfast. I got out of my bunk as Peggy was frying up her famous “brick”, which she served on kaiser rolls with cheese.

Munching on our sandwiches, Peggy and I went ashore to the dock office to see if we could get the boat fueled before heading out. On the office door was a “back in 15 minutes” sign that I strongly suspect had been there since the marina had closed the night before.

Back aboard, as we awaited the dockmaster’s return, we pulled out the charts to plan our next steps. Although it may still be possible to round Cape Hattaras and make Charleston in the time we have, the timing would be close and we wouldn’t have a lot of good options short of our destination. Peggy’s alternative is to sail down to Norfolk and work her way up the Chesapeake to Annapolis to leave Reality there for the winter.

Billdo’s tale of searching for Ralph reminds me of his youthful adventures with Papa Beando on the fishing craft, The Broker. He was known for his extreme illness and his equally quick and total recovery.

As far as I know, he has not experienced mal de mer for many years. Does this mean he is entering his second childhood?

We’re approaching Annapolis after another little twist in our saga.

Yesterday morning at Ocean City, we eventually found the dockmaster and fueled the boat, requiring 65 gallons of diesel to fill our 84 gallon tanks. We also wanted to top off on our fresh water, so I hooked up a hose and filled those tanks as well. Once this chore was done, I learned how firmly dried, regurgitated oatmeal adheres to fiberglass, even when faced with a heavy spray of fresh water.

At this point Peggy had just about decided to head towards Norfolk and then take a couple of days to work our up the Chesapeake to Annapolis. Before we shoved off, we each went up to the marina office to use the land-based heads. When Joe got back, he mentioned that he had run into a “rustic” who said that if we were to take the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, we could cut 100 miles off the trip. The C&D Canal is a 15 mile long sea-level canal that connects upper Chesapeake Bay above Baltimore with the lower Delaware River below Philadelphia. It cuts off the head of Delaware, dividing the more urban north from the rural south, as well as splitting Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Though the Canal is a major thoroughfare transited by ocean-going shipping, Peggy was concerned that she wouldn’t have clearance under the bridges for her 65 foot mast. We checked the charts and the Coast Pilot and found that all of the bridges had at least a 135 clearance, except for one railroad bridge that was a lift bridge, with 45 foot clearance when it was down and 140 foot clearance when it was raised. Peggy was still a bit skeptical, but we decided to take the rustic’s advice.

We finally got off the dock at 1200 and made our way back into the Atlantic. There was a nice breeze from the northwest and we were heading a bit east of north, so we finally got to put up the sails. Peggy took the first watch. I was due up next, so I decided to stay up on deck to enjoy the ride. As we rounded a buoy to head toward the mouth of Delaware Bay, we found that the wind was a little too close to our heading to sail there directly, so Peggy began sailing close-hauled, shifting the wheel back and forth frequently.

When I took the helm at 1500, I realized why Peggy was working so hard. The wind was varying from 16 to 33 knots, and as the gusts came and went, the apparent wind direction relative to the boat would change, sometimes significantly. Adding to this was the wave action, with a sharp inshore chop working to turn the boat, almost always away from wherever you wanted to go.

For about two hours I sailed the boat into Delaware Bay, tacking a few times to work our way toward our objective. Eventually, as we were fetching up onto some shoal water, Peggy decided that we should power up to the channel we needed to get to rather than continue tacking. We furled the jib and left a bit of mainsail up to steady us.

The main channel up Delaware Bay starts at a light marking Brown Shoal. Just after I started powering toward this light, I saw a large ocean-going tug pulling a giant tanker barge bearing down on us. I called the tug on Channel 13 to ask whether it was headed toward Brown Shoal, and when he confirmed this, I told him I would keep the heck out of his way. I diverted my course to port, figuring I’d duck behind him after he passed.

As I was heading away from the tug, I saw a large ferry to port that would cross both of our tracks. While I was wondering what to do, I heard the tug call the ferry’s captain, inquiring how he wanted to handle the crossing situation. The ferry agreed to go behind the tug and tow, and I then called and said I’d go behind the ferry. It took a few minutes of circling, but I was glad to be clear of the big boys.

Just as we were approaching Brown Shoal Light, I handed the wheel to Joe for his 1800 shift. I chowed down on some leftovers and then went below for a nap as were working our way buoy to buoy up the Brown Shoal channel.

I woke up at 2200, just as my watch was starting, and hurried up on deck. Fortunately for those of us piloting through it at night, the shores of Upper Delaware Bay are largely unpopulated, minimizing the amount of human light pollution. Nonetheless, there were still plenty of visual distractions. Finding marks was easier than against the tourist attractions of Ocean City, but the few settlements, aircraft warning lights on towers, and a well-lit nuclear power plant at the head of the bay meant that navigating from buoy to buoy at night was still quite a bit of work.

One particularly annoying set of bright white lights seemed to be located directly where we were heading. I initially thought that they marked a ship that was approaching us down the channel, but I couldn’t see anything on the radar and the lights didn’t seem to be coming closer to us. Once I switched to a new page in the chart book, I realized that the bright lights were range lights, with one beacon set high atop a hill and another set lower down in a line heading straight down the center of the channel. By maneuvering the boat so the upper light is directly atop the lower, you can be sure you’re safely in the channel. This made piloting a lot easier, and I was having so much fun with it that I didn’t bother to wake Joe up for his midnight watch.

At about 0030, Peggy reappeared topsides and kept me company as we piloted our way up the several ranges that lead to the C&D Canal. Peggy hadn’t transited the canal before, so she was both excited and concerned. I had, but only in daylight, and realized that it was a fairly easy run in general. I still was unsure about how it would be at night. Sometime after 0100 Joe came up, worried about missing his watch, but I reassured him that I had decided to let him have extra sleep. As it turns out, he’d need it.

When we were nearing the Canal entrance, we were hailed on Channel 13 by a tug pushing a barge headed down-river. He suggested that we pass “one whistle.” Under the navigation rules, vessels approaching each other on inland waterways can use horn or whistle signals to make clear their intentions. One short whistle blast means that the vessel intends to pass port-side to port-side and two whistles mean starboard to starboard. Today, even when using radio to communicate, the traditional whistle codes are often used by speaking them over the air. Not using the codes every day, and not wanting to screw it up, I confirmed “to port,” the tug reconfirmed “port to port,” and we wished each other well. I moved over to the far right of the channel and we passed without incident.

Shortly thereafter, we were hailed by a cargo ship that was also bound downstream. Her captain asked if we were headed for the Canal, and when we said yes, he suggested we pass starboard to starboard, allowing us to cut directly into the mouth of the Canal. We agreed and then crossed to the other side of the channel and began looking for the canal entrance.

Because the mouth of the C&D Canal is at a turning point in the main Delaware River channel where several side channels merge, and it is lit by both illumination and navigation lights, we were a bit confused as to the proper way in. After looking back and forth between the lights and the chart a few times, I glanced at the radar screen. There, plain as day, was the image of the Canal jetties that we had to enter between. I began to pilot the boat by the radar image and at 0200 had us in the mouth of the Canal, despite some initial skepticism from Peggy and Joe, who still hadn’t matched up the lights we were seeing with the markings on the chart.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the C&D Canal, maintains mercury vapor lamps every few hundred feet along either edge of the Canal, with strobes inserted to mark the Canal’s few gentle curves. Once we were in, I passed the wheel to Joe, who steered us down the path marked by the yellow lights.

As we approached the first highway bridge over the Canal, Peggy was still concerned about vertical clearance. From the perspective of a sailboat cockpit, where you look up at the top of your mast and then forward toward the approaching bridge, it never looks like there will be sufficient clearance. When we got to the bridge, we managed to squeak under it, with just enough room to stack another 65 foot mast atop our 65 footer.

About halfway down the Canal was the railroad lift bridge, the one place where we could have a problem. As we approached we saw that the lift was up. I called the bridge tender, who boredly confirmed that we could go on through. At 0300, when we had passed under the railroad bridge I went below for a bit, leaving instructions for the next person who wanted to take a break to wake me. I expected to be able to nap for two or three hours before being called again to take my place in the now thoroughly confused watch schedule.

When I woke up, I saw full daylight through the cabin ports, and looking at my watch, saw it was 0800. I quickly got up and found that Peggy and Joe had been on deck for the past five hours, working their way through the end of the C&D and the channels leading south through upper Chesapeake Bay.

When I came onto deck, both Peggy and Joe eagerly went below. Rather than simply crashing, Peggy cooked egg sandwiches for breakfast. When I was done with my sandwich and had set the autopilot to guide the boat through the clear, bright morning toward the highway bridges above Annapolis, I was able to pull out my journal and begin writing while I kept lookout for any traffic that might materialize.

Once again, I’m filled with envy. I’ve been in the C&D Canal a little ways. I love the northern part of the Bay. Who am I kidding - I just love the Bay! And I love night sailing, although it’s been more years than I can remember since I’ve been underway at night.

Great tale, Billdo!

“From the perspective of a sailboat cockpit, where you look up at the top of your mast and then forward toward the approaching bridge, it never looks like there will be sufficient clearance.”

Man, I HATE that feeling!

Great write-up so far, Bill. Thanks for sharing this. I’m going to be out on San Francisco Bay on our little sailboat this weekend for Fleet Week. Wooo!

see what happens when you mix angel hair pasta and sailing? stick with hardtack.

I’m sitting in the cockpit of Reality in the warm sun, sipping a rum punch and waiting Peggy’s chili cheese dip to heat.

As we were heading down the Bay, Peggy began calling marinas to arrange for dockage. It turns out that this upcoming weekend is the Annapolis Sailboat Show, and dock space is at a premium. She was able to find dockage for two nights at the Chesapeake Harbor Marina, a large basin surrounded by condos and town houses just a bit to the east of downtown Annapolis.

Getting here from the Upper Chesapeake was a snap. The William P. Lane Jr. Memorial Bridges, a set of twin bridges running from above Annapolis to the Eastern Shore had a 158 foot vertical clearance, so they weren’t a problem. Once we were under the bridges I turned us toward Annapolis, maneuvered around a small fleet of crabbers working a shoal, and found the marks for the channel leading into the marina basin.

Peggy took the helm around 1100 at the lighted beacon at the head of the channel and turned us up to the mouth of the basin. When we first entered, we saw a wall of boats that seemed to block our path entirely. Proceeding slowly, we saw a small gap in the middle of the docked boats. We headed for the gap and saw that it was a narrow channel between the docks extending from either side of the basin. We threaded our way in, and tied up at a bulkhead at the far end of the basin, just below the marina office and Sam’s Waterfront Café.

After we got in, we spent most of the day cleaning and relaxing, as well as visiting with a friend of mine who was in the area and stopped by. Peggy cooked penne alfredo with chicken, which we had with a bottle of wine.

Peggy and Joe were talking about walking into town after dinner. I admired their enthusiasm but was surprised, as they had been up virtually the whole time since before we hit the C&D Canal at 0200. Myself, once we cleared away the dishes at about 2000, I could do little more than crash into my bunk. Peggy and Joe set out for a walk, but despite their big ideas I heard them come in not too long afterward. I later learned they hadn’t gotten beyond looking at the boats along the docks.

Today was spent doing minor repairs and maintenance, along with Peggy’s trying to call nearby marinas to get a slip for the next few weeks, at least. We haven’t had luck with getting a slip, but the marina here does have space for us here for an extra night, so we’ve got a place to stay until Thursday.

Work is done for the moment, and I’ve got a friend coming to visit from Washington tonight, so I’ll sign off.

The trip is done. We’ve moved Reality to its final destination, though not without encountering yet another maritime hazard.

Back on Tuesday evening, the friend of mine from Washington, who had just moved there from New York, stopped by for a visit, and after cocktails she drove the crew into downtown Annapolis for dinner. After walking around the harbor for a bit, we went to Riordan’s Pub to eat. I had the crab and shrimp bisque and a salad, and everyone else had the crab cakes. My soup was great, and the others said that the crab cakes were excellent, and having tried a bite, I couldn’d disagree. My friend dropped us back at the marina, and soon we were bunked down.

Wednesday morning, Peggy was determined to secure long-term dockage. On Monday she had called Liberty Marina and spoken to someone in the office, who agreed to leave a message with the marina manager. When she called back, the person in the office said that she was on the manager’s list to call back, and that he would get back to her by Thursday. Having to move by then, Peggy asked if it would help to come down to see the manager, and the worker in the office allowed that it would. Peggy and Joe jumped in a cab while I stayed aboard Reality.

When Peggy and Joe got back they reported that Liberty Marina had been damaged by Hurricane Isabel, as apparently had its manager. When they got to the marina, he was sitting in the office looking at the wall with a thousand-yard stare. When Peggy explained who she was and what she wanted, he remembered the message and asked a few pertinent questions. Then he shut down again and resumed staring at the wall. After a while Peggy gently suggested “share your thoughts.” Eventually, he plugged back into the real world, said that he didn’t want to burden Peggy with his problems, and helped them out. He offered them a slip whose usual tenant would be away getting hurricane damage repaired.

After the marina-hunting expedition had returned to base, Peggy and I went to see Annapolis while Joe stayed aboard to work with his ham radio. We took a cab to the gates of the Naval Academy and wandered its manicured grounds for a while, stopping at the Academy Museum and the Naval Institute bookstore. Unfortunately, the chapel and crypt with the sarcophagus of John Paul Jones were closed by the time we got there. Once we were through seeing the Academy, we walked through the historic area of Annapolis, past the Capitol, into St. Ann’s church and down toward the waterfront. Though we went into several little shops, we found nothing we wanted to buy. When we had enough of town, we took a taxi back to the boat.

For dinner Peggy made a hearty beef stew in the pressure cooker. As it was cooking, I got a call from the friend that had visited the boat in Charleston on the prior trip, who had since moved to Maryland. She said that she and the friend that had visited me on Monday were in a car and wondering if I wanted visitors. I said sure, and they arrived just as we finished dinner. We hung around the cabin talking and eventually relocated to the bar in Sam’s, the restaurant at the marina.

Going to bed, I wondered about the weather for the relocation of the boat. That morning had been very foggy. A repeat of that weather would make the short trip out of Annapolis Harbor around to Liberty Marina in South River (located, not surprisingly, just to the south of Annapolis) more challenging than we would prefer. When I woke up, the day was hazy but bright, and it looked like we would be OK. We spent the morning packing and getting ready to go.

At 1015, we cast off and headed out of the marina. Despite my initial view of the weather, when we got to the mouth of the basin, we ran into a wall of dense fog, with less than 1/8 mile visibility. We quickly put on the radar and programmed the nearby buoys as GPS waypoints. We began to creep along the narrow channel from the basin to the harbor, trying to pick up the small buoys on radar. Joe stood on the bow as a lookout.

We had found and passed through the first pair of buoys, and thought we had located the second pair on the radar less than a quarter mile away. Suddenly we heard two short horn blasts and realized that one of our presumed buoys was another boat. I wasn’t sure whether the two short blasts were a signal to pass starboard to starboard or just a “hey, I’m here” signal in the fog made by a clueless boater (the proper fog signal being one prolonged blast). Whichever it may have been, I responded with two short blasts, presumably agreeing to pass to starboard, and we went ahead extremely cautiously.

A few minutes later we saw a large powerboat idling next to the second red buoy in the channel. We squeezed through the narrow gap between the boat and the buoy, wondering all the time why he wanted us to pass to starboard, if in fact he did. From there we picked up the final set of marks on the radar, again less than a quarter mile down-channel. We were almost upon them before we picked them out of the fog.

Once we were into the harbor, we picked up just a little speed. I kept a sharp eye on the radar and Joe remained perched on the bowrail, both trying to determine if any targets were boats closing on us. We regularly sounded prolonged horn blasts, particularly if we could see another vessel nearby on the radar or hear their horn blasts.

After a few nearby passes, we worked our way out of the harbor. As we approached South River, the view opened up, and our short trip upriver was very pleasant. We pulled straight into our slip, and at 1215 our voyage was complete. All that’s left to do is offload the gear from the boat and pack up the van Peggy rented to drive back to New York, leaving Reality in Annapolis for the winter.

Well, I have just one question - how can you be in Annapolis the day before the sailboat show starts and not hang around for that?!?!? You could have not only done the show, but we could have met up, and that alone would have been worth the delay. I mean, it’s ME we’re talking here! :smiley:

And here I though you were going to be talking about your decision to specialize in real estate law.