Monthly Archives: October 2011

The work of sailing

Getting the mainsail ready at dawnSince we have been in the North Carolina section of the ICW, we have been sailing much more than we expected.   Our goal on this journey south, and generally as sailors, has been to sail as much as possible, but we were somewhat resigned to the fact we would have to motor most of the time on the ICW section.  We chose the North Carolina section of the ICW in order to avoid going around Cape Hatteras, also known as the “graveyard of the Atlantic”.  This is a difficult area due to converging currents and weather patterns that play themselves out in sometimes dangerous and challenging ways right around Cape Hatteras, not to mention the fact that you have to go about 100 miles out into the ocean to get around the major shoals that form there.

Anyway, we have been pleasantly surprised to be finding some amazing sailing conditions in this section of the ICW.  And challenging ones as well!  We have sailed all the way down the Pasquatank River, across the entire Albemarle Sound, and up most of the Alligator River until it ended in a narrow canal.  We also sailed all the way down the Pungo and Neuse Rivers. And we weren’t just pokin’ along, either.  Much of the time we were doing over 6 knots, one day with a double reefed main! Our boat seemed to be “way happy” sailing instead of motoring!  She was literally dancing just this afternoon down the Neuse River in lovely, perfect even, 15 knot winds.  During this time we watched countless other sailboats go by with no sails up and motoring.  (Lala’s side rant:  Why?!  Why do these people who like to motor so much and are too lazy to sail even have sailboats?  And $100,000 sailboats at that?  Why not just get a comfy trawler and be done with it?)

Not only do we have a painfully small budget that we would rather spend on other things than a bunch of fuel, we just like sailing better.  I personally, have been known to become a psychotic bitch when the engine has been on too long.  So we try to eek out every mile we can under sail alone, and there is a price to be paid for that as well.  It’s a lot of work to sail!  Sure, sometimes you can get your sails all trimmed, put on the autopilot, and not have to lift a finger for 10 hours.  But the sailing we have been doing the last few days is not that kind of sailing.  It has been more like “high maintenance” sailing.  The kind of sailing that keeps you on your toes and leaves you exhausted at the end of the day.   That means a lot of sail changes, like, put the mainsail up, an hour later bring it down, an hour later put it up again. Change the headsail..oh now the wind is too strong for that one, change back to the other one.  Put a reef in the mainsail, take the reef out of the mainsail.  Lots of coiling and uncoiling, tightening and loosening of ropes. Tacking, jibing, keeping close-hauled to the wind, reaching, then running down wind.  And if you are inside the cabin, watch out for flying objects and be careful not to spill your coffee!

Cap't K at the helmOne of us has been on the wheel actively steering for 10 hours a day.  No autopilot here in the land of narrow channels and many shoals.

In the last few days we have had quite a workout doing all of this.  Simply motoring would have been a lot less effort.  We have been in a wide variety of sailing conditions, including some of the strongest winds we have ever sailed in.  We continue to be in “shakedown cruise” mode, meaning we are still getting to know our new boat and what she is good at, not good at, how to handle her.  We have learned that she is great at pointing towards the wind and we have been really impressed with her performance to windward. (which is great since the wind is almost always coming from the direction that we want to go!)  She is much slower going down wind, and I find that point of sail challenging anyway.  Although today we did a downwind run on the Neuse River and she sailed fantastically.

I both love and hate all the work it takes to sail.  There are moments, when the sails have been trimmed well, and the boat makes bouncy yet ever so graceful strides across the water, that everything in the entire world feels in a state of balance.  I am present with the here and now, and the here and now are wonderful.  And then there are moments, when the sails are flapping loudly, and the boat is rocking madly, and the wind is cold in my face, when I think “what the hell am I doing out here?  Who ever said this was a good idea?”

But isn’t this is just a reflection of life in general? It seems that no matter what we do and how much we may love it, there are both of these extremes in everything.

And I do believe that the work it takes to sail makes us all the more grateful for the miracle of the basic elements of the wind, and the water, combined with our intelligence to use them to make us go where we want. This is the beauty of sailing.

Safe Arrival at Oriental NC

We made it from Elizabeth City to Oriental NC. So sorry that we are missing the snow in New England. It really hurts to not be in 10 inches of snow right now 😉

Just a quick post to let you all know we made it okay. We will post our story tomorrow.

– Capt’n K & Lala

Location:Oriental NC

Crossing the Albemarle Sound (in sailor speak)

From our log book:

9:00am. Lala goes to post office to pick up general delivery mail in Elizabeth City. I check the engine oil, pump out the bilge, make bread dough and do the dishes. Then I check the diesel tank level. It is maybe 2/3 full…so estimate 20 gallons left. Planning on motoring for the next few days, so we need fuel.

Left the slip at 10:40am expecting to motor all day, but there is lots of wind from the sw. Gusty. Deployed the genoa then passed the point. Deployed the main.

Too much canvas.

7.2+ knots. Furled up the genoa to just a hankerchief and eased the main. Now averaging 6.3 knots. Motor off.

11:30am put a reef in the main.

12:00 to 12:15 attempted to lower the genoa and put on a small working jib, but the halyard car on the furler is stuck again and wont come down.

12:45 shift change. K on duty now. Pull out a bit of jib. Winds lessen. 5k.

1:30pm we’ve made it to the Albemarle sound.

1:45pm deployed all of the genoa. We need to make it south, and we cant point high enough with just a little jib out. The shape sucks. Have to have the whole sail out to get to windward. Needed to point 25 degrees higher after passing the marker. Luffing the reefed main. Now maiking 180 degrees magnetic in sw winds at 5k. Sweet

3:15pm 2.5nm to Aligator river entrance marker #1. cant make it under sail. Straight into wind. Starting engine to assist. Roll up genoa.

4:20pm rounding marker g9 to port and heading east for south lake anchorage. Motor off, deploy genoa. Sailing at 6 knots.

5:30pm anchor down. Stopped. Sails stowed. Cold beer.

6:30 raised Lala up the mast to clear the genoa blockage. She wimpered like a little scared girl the whole way up, but it was her turn. Brought her back down and changed genoa to small working jib for tomorrow.

7:15pm put bread dough in oven. Roasting roots too. Mosquitoes here. Using screens on companionway hatch.

8:00 pm Delicious homemade bread!!

– Capt’n K & Lala

Location:Crossing the Albemarle Sound

Leaving Elizabeth City NC

We are en route from Elizabeth City NC to cross the Albemarle Sound and get into the Alligator river. We plan to anchor there tonight and continue on through the canal towards OrientalNC from there. We will probably not make it to Oriental until Friday.

The happy swamp

Here we are in the famed Great Dismal Swamp. After going through Norfolk, the Dismal Swamp seems like a beautiful paradise. Norfolk is the dismal place…..all those ominous warships and monstrous tankers and dismal development along the water. The Great Dismal swamp seems delightful to us right now. And we believe it may be the first time our boat has been in fresh water! It is wild to be taking our blue water boat though the middle of a dense forest!

It is pretty shallow though! We ran aground almost as soon as we entered the swamp canal, and thanks to Capt K’s speedy action hauling out an anchor with the dinghy, we got off in a record 10 minutes and still managed to catch the lock opening a mile further down that we were racing to catch before we ran aground! Now, instead of having to watch wind and tides and currents, we have to pay close attention to the bridge and lock opening schedule and attempt to plan our travel accordingly.

Last night we tied the boat off to some trees in the swamp and spent the calmest night we have ever had on the boat. No one around but us and some owls hooting in the forest (and some super scary spiders).

Oh! And I almost forgot to mention the pizza! Pizza is something that Capt K. in particular CRAVES when we are out at sea or away from “civilization” for awhile. He starts to get obsessive about it. He’s been talking about it for days now. Well, yesterday, just after we passed through the lock in the Swamp, we saw a dock that you could tie up to with a pizza place just across the street! We stopped and tied up and half an hour later we were enjoying a hot pizza and a cold beer! Cap’t K sure was happy!

I know the whole pizza thing sounds trivial, but sometimes it is little things like this that can make your whole day!! And seriously, if any of you cruisers out there are ever going through the Great Dismal swamp, this is a GREAT spot to easily get some provisions. just tie up your boat at the free dock just past the bridge of the first lock and across the street is a big grocery store, pizza place, etc. Super easy and convenient!

That’s all for now…next stop Elizabeth City, NC. We are so happy to be in North Carolina, we love it here!

Capt’n K & Lala

Location:Great Dismal Swamp

Way Happy under sail video

A few days ago we managed to get a little video of our boat under sail, while we were trying out our spinnaker that we had never used before.  We rigged the spinnaker like a jib, and it worked great!!

Also, we just completed our second big ocean passage from Cape May to Norfolk, VA.  It was a rather slow sail as we had very light winds.  (either the winds are too damn strong or there is too little wind, what’s up with that?!)  But we did sail almost the whole way and are just getting more fuel now for the first time since we left Buzzards Bay!  Not bad gas mileage at all!

We had a smooth and uneventful time at sea, with the pleasure of watching two sunrises and one sunset!  When the weather is nice and calm, it sure is less stressful being out at sea than it is navigating busy channels and difficult anchorages!  We are getting better at doing overnight passages and being away from sight of land.

We are also really enjoying our new boat and finding it WAY more comfortable and easy to travel in than Wee Happy.  The more we get to know Way Happy, the better we like her!

Today we are heading into the Great Dismal Swamp on the Intracoastal waterway.  Hope its not too dismal!!

<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Middle of the night post

It is midnight and Im on watch. Cap’t K is below in the cabin sleeping and I am curled up in the cockpit with a blanket and a thermos of tea, trying to stay awake. At around sunset we were flying along at well over 7 knots, now we are creeping along at a sleepy 3-4 knots. All is calm. We have about 70 more miles to go before we make it to Norfolk.

The stars are keeping me company, as they have for thousands of other sailors before me. Im watching the constellations track across the huge sky and have seen an unusual number of shooting stars. It is a very dark night with no moon. The night feels endless and deep, the kind that makes you long for dreamless sleep.


Location:Off the coast of Maryland

Off for Norfolk

We are at sea. The eastern horizon is beginning to lighten. Stars are shooting right and left. A pod of right whales is nearby. We are heading southwest to Norfolk. Hope to arrive by tomorrow afternoon. Travelling with a buddy boat named Azure Mist. Cold. Moderate nw winds.

– Capt’n K & Lala

Revised plan

Got new information by radio from some Quebecois guinea pigs that went out before us, and we have revised our plan. The sea swells are still built up from the last 24 hours of 30 knot winds from the sw, which means they are right on the nose. Now the winds are nw at 20, which is great, but it would be a powerful run right into strong swell chop on the nose for all day racing to get in before dark. No thanks. Rather get a stick in the eye.

So we have decided to wait until tomorrow morning very early to take off. Like 3:00am early. The idea is to let the chop and winds settle down a bit so we dont beat ourselves up more than necessary. The latest weather report now looks like the winds would blow us all the way to Norfolk in 28-37 hours straight from here in Cape May. That would put us into Norfolk in one run with no stopover in Ocean City MD, which means that we wont have to deal with navigating that inlet and anchoring inside there. Inlets and anchoring are often the most stressful parts of the passage, whereas just sailing along in nice weather can be almost boring and mundane by comparison.

I dont know about you, but I am not a stress lover. Sure, I’ll rise to meet the occasion when it comes, but if I can avoid the stress then I will. The trouble is that we just pulled up the dinghy and strapped it down on deck partially deflated for the trip. So now we are stuck on the sailboat and cant get off unless we undo all that work we just did! That should teach us to make our final go/dont go decision BEFORE stowing the dinghy!

I guess we can use this unforeseen opportunity to clean the barnacles off the bottom of the dighy! Woo Hoo! This is the life! 😉 Barnacle cleaners unite!

Meanwhile Lala is being fantastically productive on her new loom. What an awesome loom it is for a boat too. Just feel the awesomeness:

– Capt’n K & Lala