Monthly Archives: November 2010

Another boring day

Dear Wee Happy Fans and Followers, we know that you are awaiting grand tales of wild, daring experiences, but here is the truth: we don’t have any exciting adventures to write about lately. We have just been motoring along the Intracoastal Waterway and it’s actually kind of boring. Some days the most exciting thing is going under a big bridge or seeing a particularly outrageous mansion along the waterfront. Today, the most exciting thing we saw was a fishing boat surrounded by a million birds hoping to steal some of the fisherman’s catch.

Fishing boat surrounded by birds

We bought fish today from the fishing company that owns this boat, and are looking forward to cooking it tomorrow! The guy who worked there was so “salty”, he literally looked like he was covered in salt.

Anyway, back to our boring life. We just want to make sure y’all (can you tell we are in the south now?) are not too jealous, and wanted to give you a little reality check on our status.
Most days have just been hours and hours of steering the boat in a straight line, looking around at the water. A highlight of the day is always breakfast….here is a little glimpse:

It IS relatively stress free, and the boat is not rocking and rolling in big waves, so I really can’t complain that much. But I’m really missing sailing, and we are planning on our next ocean passage, which, if the weather cooperates, will be on Thursday.

Holiday Gift from Wrightsville Beach

We decided to stay an extra day in Wrightsville Beach, with the unexpected and fun reward of the North Carolina Annual Holiday Flotilla happening right at our anchorage. We had front row seats to what amounted to a boat parade, featuring boats of all kinds decked out in holiday lights and decorations. You know how some people really go ALL OUT decorating their homes with lights for the holidays? Well, there are people who do it to their boats as well! Some people spent serious amounts of time and money on very creative ideas. Like this one, which features Santa’s sleigh atop what we interpreted to be a sea dragon:

And if that weren’t enough, after the Flotilla Parade, there was a fantastic fireworks display right on the waterfront.(again, we had the best seats right on our boat!) It had one of the absolute best finales we have ever seen and we were extremely impressed. There’s nothing quite like fireworks….

Last night and this morning were very cold. Ok, maybe not as cold as Minnesota, but still cold when you are just a step up from camping. We got our long johns and gloves back out and set our compass once again to SOUTH. The cold keeps chasing us and we have to keep moving. Today one of our friends we had been traveling with was sick and they decided to wait at anchor until she feels better, so we are hoping to meet up again with them in a few days.

But I enjoyed a long, brisk walk this morning on the beach (wearing long johns) before we left and enjoyed that irresistible pull to collect seashells along the shore. The shells always look more beautiful when they are wet and glistening in the sunshine on the sand than they ever do once I put them in my pocket and take them, but I couldn’t help but pick some anyway….


What we are thankful for

We are spending Thanksgiving in Wrightsville Beach, NC.
We finally made it to a long, sandy, fabulous beach!!!

Here are the top ten things we are thankful for on this day of Thanksgiving:
1. Our guardian angels who are working overtime protecting us

2. All the other angels who have come in the form of kind people, easy circumstances and beautiful moments who have helped make this trip a success so far

3. Towns that have dinghy docks near the town center

4. Towns that have public restrooms near the dinghy docks!

5. Free hot showers!

6. Our new autopilot!

7. So many opportunities to see the sun rise over the water

8. Our cats who give us so much love and affection.

9. The miracle of the internet that helps keep us connected to you

10. And, YOU, our family and friends who we feel so much love and support from!

We are thankful we made it to the beach!

$1 Kale and a new autopilot

For the last 1,000 miles, we’ve been steering Wee Happy by hand mostly. K got our bought-used-on-craigslist auto pilot to work for a little bit here and there, but mostly it’s a piece of junk and is destined for the trash. Sailing down the Jersey coast hand steering the boat through the night in the cold was the most difficult time we’ve had yet. We need an autopilot if we are going to go offshore at all again to make any crossing, and having one means that we can have our hands free to deal with other things on the boat. It also means that for the most part, you can sit back and read a book while on watch, and you can steal away for a few minutes at a time into the cabin to make coffee, etc.

So we’ve been looking at every marine supply store that we’ve found for the last 1,000 miles, and we finally found one in Morehead City, NC that had one in stock. Since the store is ten miles from the city docks, we had to get a bit closer with the boat in order to make the store accessible to us. So we found an inlet with a marina that is only a mile and a half from the store and went in for fuel. Took the folding bike to the store, got the new beautiful piece of engineering magic, and headed back to the boat.

New Raymarine st1000+ autopilot on our Albin Vega Wee Happy

New Raymarine st1000+ autopilot on our Albin Vega Wee Happy

On the way I passed an old jalopy of a farm truck on the side of the road with a scrappy sign that read “mixed greens” so I had to stop. This guy loaded mounds and mounds of freshly picked kale into a bag for me. His farm was hidden right behind the big box stores on the strip mall of urban sprawl that went on for miles and miles from Morehead city out to the west. He would only take one dollar for that huge bag of kale, and he was gracious and just plain thankful for having a customer stop! If only we could have gotten more! All these hundreds of cars pass this guy every minute on a four lane road bound for wal-mart or some other mega corporation that makes billions by paying workers in third-world countries at the expense of US jobs, and none would stop at this little farm stand for the deal of a lifetime on FRESH local produce with no middleman and no big bonus check for corporate executives. Needless to say, the freshly picked local farmer grown kale made Lala very happy when I got back to the boat!

The sweet fresh kale

I was so overjoyed about finally having the autopilot, and Lala was grinning from ear to ear because we had fresh crisp local farm grown kale to eat (a nice break from the junk-white-sunbeam bread that is the only bread we’ve been able to find recently)! So the day really turned around for us from there.

We jumped back out into the ICW and started heading southwest again, as I hooked up the new marvel of technology and Lala cooked up kale and eggs and hash for a late breakfast.


Travelling with the fleet

Back in Elizabeth city, the “harbor of hospitality” that is listed as one of the top-100 places to live on the east coast, we met up with a bunch of cruisers that were heading south on the ICW. We took the opportunity to join up with the fleet and travel together with them on the great migration south. Since then we’ve been making very good progress and have been getting to know the other cruisers.

One couple is from Deltaville, which is just south of Annapolis. They are traveling on a 47 foot steel hull sailboat that they purchased for $100 and saved from the scrap-yard! Yes, they got a 47-footer for $100! Now that was just the hull. It came with no masts, sails, engine, or rigging. They’ve spent the last year living aboard (to save on rent) and fixing her up to sail. They just put her in the water last week with a new (but used) engine and new (but used) masts, and this is their shakedown cruise. Ann and Owen are overwhelmingly good-hearted and gracious, and we’ve been enjoying “rafting up” with them at night for the last few nights. It’s inspiring to hear about their huge $100 find and to see with our own eyes that this cruising lifestyle does not have to be expensive, and it is not just for the rich! The name of their vessel is Steel Dreams.

Steel Dreams and Woodstock

We met a solo sailor named Calvin, who has never sailed before in his life. He just purchased a 25-foot Hunter sailboat named “Woodstock” in Annapolis from the Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating association, and he is sailing it south now. They showed him how to hoist the sails, and he’s off and sailing now! One sure hopes that he’s reading about sailing technique and all that, but it is inspiring to see how someone can get the sailing “bug” and then just commit and go and do it like we are!

Now, towards the other end of the spectrum is “sol mates,” a 2007 32-foot catamaran that the owner just sold for $172,000! We met Mike (the previous-owner) and Daz (his hired help) in the dismal swamp, and we locked-through with them a few times and had burgers together in Elizabeth City. IT’s funny, because we saw the name of the boat and thought that since they were two guys, they must be gay! But after getting to know them we learned that’s not true. Mike hired Daz to help him deliver the boat from Annapolis to Florida to it’s new owner. 🙂 Still the difference between our wee happy vessel and the almost brand new 32 foot catamaran way like the difference between an old camper an a new condo.

Sol Mates and Wee Happy waiting to lock-through

We also met a French-Canadian couple traveling with their 10 year old son on a vessel named Turbulence I. What a weird name for a boat! Bryan, the skipper, has wanted to take his son cruising for years, and they finally got a boat and launched to make sure they did it before the boy reached his teenage years. They have a nice boat, a 1988 Catalina 33(?), which is spacious and comfortable and has a full cockpit tent, but it set them back by $70,000. So they have a mortgage and the boat is not paid-for. They’re also run into technical problems along the way and had to cover for a few costly repairs. Just yesterday while traveling with the fleet, their propeller broke, and they had to get towed back to a marina with the capability of performing that repair. This is terrible news for them, as we were all planning to spend Thanksgiving together in Wilmington Beach. Now they are stuck, alone and without power, in a marina where no one will be working because of the holiday! That means that in all likelihood they won’t be repaired until early next week.

The last man that we’ve been traveling with is Kimbel on a 28 foot vessel named Kestrel. He’s a rugged and stalwart individual with a wonderful sense of humor and a warm smile. Last night he had us over to his boat for a delicious dinner. He installed a RV three-burner stove with oven before he left on the trip, and he baked a butterball turkey and rosemary potatoes for us. His boat is a bit rough around the edges, but he’s installed the new stove/oven, refrigeration, a good new VHF radio, a new flushing toilet (aka “head”), and a strong bimini.

All in all, traveling with the fleet makes for a more enjoyable trip. If something breaks then people are right there to help you. We don’t feel so all alone, and we are making much better progress now that we leave early in the morning with the fleet.

1,000 miles in two months!

So, we left around October 1st, and now it’s nearing the end of November. So we can simply say that we’ve been traveling for two months now. We just discovered the odometer function in our GPS chartplotter, and it’s been running since we installed the thing at the beginning of our trip. Today, right now, actually, we are crossing over the 1,000 mile mark. That’s an amazing amount of distance for us to think that we’ve covered.

Still, we can do some basic math for fun. So let’s divide 1,000 miles by two months; that’s simply 500 miles per month. Then let’s divide 500 miles by 30 days per month, and we get an average of 17 miles per day.

Wow! 17 miles per day! We are flying down the coast here! Hold on to your hats everyone! We have another 1,000 miles to go to make it to Miami, so we might be there by the end of January at this rate!

Wee Happy Radio now live on Pandora

Hey all you sweet people! We’ve been using Pandora for a while now, and we’ve developed a beautiful and charming radio station on it for you. Just click on the link in the right-hand column on the top to listen.

The mix is lively and light and fun, and makes for smiley-listening.

If you’ve never used Pandora before, then this is an exciting day for you! Pandora is an amazing internet-radio technology that is both intuitive and intelligent. You can use it to create radio stations based on music styles, artists, and songs that you like.

So give it a shot. Tune in and enjoy! It’ll always be available on our web site, so when you want to listen to a lively fun radio station, click the link!

Beyond the swamp

For those of you who were left wondering how we managed to escape the Great Dismal Swamp, here is a little update on some of the details of the last few days. After motoring and sailing through the remainder of the Swamp, we arrived in the town of Elizabeth City, which apparently has an international, legendary reputation for welcoming boaters coming out of the Great Dismal Swamp. Their reputation is well deserved. It was like a surreal dream coming out of the swamp into a sunny harbor, where several very friendly people waved to us from the shore and assisted us in tying up to a free dock provided by the city. We were told upon arrival to come to the free wine and cheese party sponsored by the city as a way to welcome boaters. Seriously?! Ok, we’d love to! Our guidebook said that there was a fitness center in town who offered a sauna, hot tub and showers to boaters for $5. SIGN US UP! We had been looking forward to this for days. Was this town for real? Free docks, wine parties, and hot tubs, all just for us?!? I guess it was our reward for surviving the Great Dismal Swamp! The main street looked like a movie set, perfect and calm and clean, like something from the 1950’s. We got to the fitness center to find out the guidebook had lied. There had never been a hot tub or sauna there, but there was a hot shower, which we enjoyed, although with a little disappointment! Back at the wine party, we met up with a large group of people heading out early the next morning to continue south and have been traveling more or less with them for the last few days. Tonight we are all “rafted up” with them in the harbor of Oriental, NC, where we were also offered free wine by a wine tasting party that was happening on someone’s porch! I like North Carolina!

4 boats "rafting" together

We also met a guy who has even less sailing experience than us!
He bought his boat on Ebay, picked it up and sailed out of the harbor on his trip south without EVER having sailed before, not even once! He said the people who he bought the boat from told him which rope to pull on to raise the sail, and that’s about all he knew when he left. He seemed to be doing fine though, and he was a great inspiration to me!
Today I had somewhat of a breakthrough in understanding how to sail. I’ve been increasingly annoyed with how much we have had to run our motor the last few days on the Intracoastal Waterway. Mostly it’s because we are in channels that are too narrow for sailing. And also because sometimes we need to cover a certain distance to the next harbor before it gets dark, and motoring is the only way to get there fast enough. This afternoon we entered into a large bay with a nice wind and immediately everyone in the sailing fleet put the sails up and turned the motor off. Ahhhh, so lovely! A silent break from the annoying hum of that motor! Then we had to make a turn towards our destination, which put us directly into the wind. All the sailboats took the sails down and put the motors back on, because everyone knows you can’t sail directly into the wind. But remembering some tips that our friend Rene the sailing instructor told us, I realized that we COULD sail into the wind, at least ALMOST into the wind. K. was not feeling so well and was resting inside the cabin, and so I experimented by myself in getting the boat to sail into the wind. It meant we had to zig zag a little, but it was so much more enjoyable than motoring, and I really increased my confidence in sailing. And it was much slower. That is the trade-off. That is why our whole culture is so addicted to motors. We want to go the speed WE want to go, not the speed the wind or other power will take us. I’ve spent a lot of time the last few weeks thinking about this trade-off. I plan to write more about it as I refine my thoughts on this subject. We are exploring an interesting edge of being on a different timeline, one that is best not measured in miles per hour.

Blazing through North Carolina

We’ve hooked up with a flotilla of sailboats transiting the North Carolina outer banks and sounds via the ICW, and we’re really putting the miles under the keel, so to say. Tomorrow’s goal is Oriental, North Carolina, which is rputed to be the state’s sailing capital.

The travelling here is way way way more dismal and swampy than the Great Dismal Swamp. Weird.

The sun is out, and it’s about 70 degreez this afternoon. We haven’t made it to a beach yet, and we dedcided to skip Kitty Hawk. If all goes well then next week we’ll be day siling on the ocean along South Carolina’s coast.

There is no cell phone signal out he, so our internet and phones don’t work. We has to come to a cafe on land to make this post. So, more will come when get back in cell phone range tomorrow or Sunday.