Monthly Archives: December 2010

St. Augustine, Pirates, Blues, & meeting old friends & new

We just went outside yesterday for the first time sine the Jersey coast. Before that we met up with a few other sailors that were all waiting in St. Augustine for the weather window to open.

The Black Raven Pirate Ship

We pushed into St. Augustine late in the day, passing up a nice marsh anchorage around 3:30pm. We tried to sail for a little while, but the wind was on the nose again, even though the sun was out, and it was beautiful. On approach to St. Augustine at sunset, we were greeted by a pirate ship! It came out of the city harbor and through the drawbridge covered in lights and pirates. The city skyline was a veritable feast for the eyes.

St. Augustine is the oldest city in America, they say. Ponce de Leon landed there and fathered the city, just like he did in Puerto Rico. There is a fabulous Spanish fort there that matches the fort in San Juan Puerto Rico. All of the buildings on the waterfront were covered in lights, and the central park full of immense live oak trees was a carnival of lit trees.

We decided to pick up a mooring ball from the city marina rather than anchor out. That gave us access to the city through the marina, laundry facilities, bathrooms, and showers. Sweet!

We called our other cruising friends to see if anyone else was in St. Augustine and found that Roark & Sherry, our Vermonter friends from s.v. Good Goose were there! We’d expected them to be long gone south, but they’d held up in St. Augustine because it is such a wonderful city.

We resolved to connect up that evening at a bar with fifty beers on tap! We were so happy to see each other and reminisce and process about running aground on the Wahoo river. Turns out that they ran aground the very next day! Twice! The second time they had to wait out the tide until the boat floated off! Lucky for them they were not in a gale like we were.

The day after we ran aground, we decided to rest in our anchorage on the Wahoo river, while Roark and Sherry decided to head out and continue on. The logic was that it was better to continue on in nasty weather rather than sit on anchor in nasty weather and make no progress. They “got the snot beat out of them” though! Roark said that the gale winds were right on the nose the entire time and the chop was too. It was so strong that he couldn’t even keep his boat’s nose into the wind. It would just get blown over to the other side every time he woud try. At that time, even at full throttle, he made only 0.2 knots headway! All day was around freezing but with a 30+ mile per hour windchill. Add to that the fact that they took on water over the bow filling the cockpit and soaking them with bucketfulls of water every wave for hours!

We were nice and tidy in our anchorage while they were going through cold wet hell. Glad we decided to wait it out! We both learned lessons from that one!

After the 50-beer bar, we went to another place where a blues band was playing and a bunch of sailors were hanging out that Roark had cruised with at times along the way south. The walk there was a fun filled adventure through a boisterous town with eeryone out in santa hats and raindeer horns. Choo choo train shuttles toured around the city full of laughing happy people that would wave and shout “hey” to everyone on the street.

At the blues bar we met the other sailors, namely Roberto on Dream Catcher, and Sam on Zarnitsa. We would later travel with them both on our way outside on the ocean from At. Augustine to Daytona Beach’s Ponce de Leon inlet.

As it turned out, I knew Sam! He and I had met years before at Morningside flight park in New Hampshire. He’s a paraglider pilot who’s flown in Iceland and lots of other places in the world. As it turns out, he was also the yacht broker that brokered the sale of our sailboat to its previous owner! He also had brokered the sale of Good Goose to its previous owner, so he knew both our and Roark’s boats personally! Who knew! He played harmonica with the blues band, and the only person dancing was a crazy one armed man that looked like a skeleton or a pirate!


We all went back to Sams boat to check it out and hang out a little before heading to bed. His boat, Zarnitsa, is amazing. It is a 31 foot long mini-transat boat, which means that it was built for transatlantic racing in a class of boats that are less than, say, 40 feet long. It is a gorgeous, sleek knife of a boat with a huge mast and long fin keel. It is all rich Siberian chestnut & Russian white oak wrapped in fiberglass with mahogany interior. It has a delicious warm feeling inside. That boat is a lot to handle, though! Performance and speed come at the cost of constant attention and difficult handling in heavy weather. All the things that made it sexy also made it a bit scary. What a beautiful small boat.

Lala masters the bowline

The bowline: the most useful sailing knot

It’s been a frustrating process, and it’s taken much agonizing, but Lala finally mastered the bowline knot yesterday!

Most people teach the knot by describing the standing part of the rope/line as a “tree” and the loop at the bottom of it as a “rabbit hole.” Then the end of the line is the “rabbit” who pops up through the hole, runs around the tree, and then dives back into his hole.

That’s an easy description, but getting the fingers to understand the process of tying the knot is a much different matter.

The bowline is an excellent knot because it makes a loop at the end of a line, it is easily untied, and it does not jam after being heavily loaded, and it does not horribly decrease the strength of the line.

Any knot decreases the breaking strength of a line. Many decrease the strength of the line by over 50% because the knot becomes the weak point. But, the bowline is popular because it doesn’t decrease the strength of the line that much.

So if you don’t know a bowline, then check out the picture and grab a rope or string and see if you can figure it out! It’s one of the most useful knots around!

Capt’n K

Stopped by a Coast Guard gun boat

Coast Guard gun boat submarine escort

Today we were stopped by the Coast Guard. We were transiting a section of the waterway by a submarine building facility. It just happened that while we were there making our meager 5-knot headway, a huge high-tech submarine came speeding in the inlet escorted by two Coast Guard gun boats. The first came roaring up to us with a man stationed at the machine gun on the bow, eying us seriously.

Then the second gun boat came to back up the first. We stated our intentions to stay clear to the west and wait out the passing submarine. The gun boat stayed with us to make sure that we didn’t mean any funny business! Imagine us meaning funny business with a nuclear submarine!!!

Nuclear submarine and Coast Guard gun boat escort

The strange thing was how seriously the 18 year-old machine gunner was eying us. He never took his eyes off of us. I sat there admiring his tether (safety strap connecting him to his boat and gun) and wondering if he was cold.

The sub passed quickly, and soon the gun boats went roaring off to escort him into the sub “yard.”

What a blast!

Processing in Florida

We made it to Florida! We passed through Hells Gate. We dealt with the constant turns and troubles of the Georgia waterway. We made it through the Great Dismal Swamp. We survived a gale while aground. We managed to not get run down by a speeding container ship. We met many wonderful people, and we have seen so many wonderful places.

The north Florida savannah

And, today we crossed into sunny Florida. The arctic blasts from the south have stopped, and warmer winds are prevailing. The Carolinas are getting hammered with sleet and freezing rain, and we’ve made it just far enough south to escape the slop. Whew!

What a relief!

The days are short. The solstice is near. We get up before dawn, anchor before sunset, and sleep after dark. Every day we see the sun rise and set. We watch the stars to see Polaris descend slowly the further south we migrate. Herons and cranes and pelicans surround us. We marvel at the reflections that we see in the water. We sample oysters from the sea. Salt is everywhere. The marshes extend like great grasslands and savannahs for miles around us.

The forests are a complicated mixture of great live oaks that extend above like enormous protecting arms covered with flowing and dangling wisps of Spanish moss. Tall pines tower towards the sky and shelter palms in their shade. Jungles of fan leaved palms intertwine with small cacti on the forest floor. Here you would need a sharp machete and sturdy boots to make your way through the woods. There are no rocks. Only sand lies beneath the life, and that sand is infiltrated by salt. Salt is everywhere.

With the cold behind us, we remember our bodies. We emerge from countless layers of insulation to recall our skin. Our toes still have yet to touch the sand. Our bodies still have yet to submerge in the waters, yet the waters are warming.

I remember to breathe. Stress suppresses the diaphragm. After the sun descends beneath the western horizon and the colors bleed quickly from the endless sky, the mind is awash with business. The tendrils of the rat race are slow to die, and I must use my will to command my self to relax.

It’s okay to relax.

It’s okay to relax.

I tell myself this over and over in the night. Here, now, I do not have to “do” in order to exist. Here, now, I can “be.”

We are “human beings” after all, aren’t we?!…

I feel the pull to make to-do lists. I feel the addictions to business trying with all their might to drive me to action, but here, now, there is nothing that I “need” to do.

How completely I had defined myself by what I did before we left. The “doings” became my identity. Here, now that I have let go of that, I find myself searching for handles on which to hold. Who am I if I am not a doctor? Who am I if I do not have a home on land?

Everyone asks where we are from. It is a nauseating question. Everyone asks what we do. More nausea ensues. We are living, breathing, vibrant creatures here, now. Let’s play! Places are important, but states and countries are only lines drawn on maps by powerful men. They do not unite. They divide.

At night I fight the urge to do. If I am not doing, then what am I to do? I tell myself that it is okay to relax. It is okay to take a break. It is okay to have a vacation or to change from a state of doing to a state of being.

Why do we work so hard and have all of these conveniences if not to have more free time? Isn’t that what we all want? Don’t we all want more time to explore our inner selves, our relationships, our passions and interests? If we are surrounded and awash in noise, how can we hear the voice of God?

Here, now, we find everyday that we are being guided by forces at work behind the unfolding story of our lives. Call them “accidents” or “coincidences” or as Jung put it so eloquently, “synchronicities.”

I am learning not only to trust my intuition but to rely on it. Countless times I have felt the need to do a particular thing, like look over my shoulder only to see a fast oncoming boat that I had not noticed before. When I’ve gotten the sudden “out of the blue” thought to check the gas can, I have found it empty and changed to the second tank just in time to keep the engine from quitting. I used to call such things strange. Now I am beginning to relax into trusting these clear moments of guidance.

People ask us where we are going. We don’t know.

The feedback that we are getting from God reinforces our faith that we will be shown our way. The right door will open for us when we are ready for it. Until then, all we have to do is decide what to do in the moment. It is a beautiful way to live.

We are not encumbered by the morning drudgery of plugging into the capitalist system. For many it has been a blessing, but for many it drowns out the guidance of God.

Guidance is often spoken softly in your ear.

If you are surrounded by noise, you very well may miss it.

Blessings and well-wishes to you on this December evening from Wee Happy. Thanks for checking it.

Capt’n K & Lala.

Podcast: WAHOO!!! Running aground and waiting for the next high tide on the Wahoo River

We’ve run aground plenty of times. We’re traveling on the ICW after all! Everyone rubs the bottom or gets stuck a little now and then.

Thanks to our trusty honda outboard, we’ve always been able to get off easily. Just stick her into reverse and wiggle your way out. Easy.

Well not this time!

Wahoo River

The hidden island that we found in the Wahoo River, Georgia

We got stuck on a submerged island as the tide was going out. The wind was so strong that we could not get off, and the tide was going out so fast that after half an hour we were stuck beyond help. Add in the 30+ knot gale force winds and sub-freezing temperatures and the quickly coming nightfall, and we had one hell of a night. Thank God for our dinghy and for our guardian angels!


What lies beyond Hells Gate

Veins of the Earth

A few days ago we passed through an area called “Hells Gate”. I felt at the time an impending sense of doom and dread, and the name felt perfectly appropriate. We were entering the Georgia section of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), and we have been hearing stories for a while now of how bad the Georgia ICW is, and how at all costs we should avoid it. We were told of how shallow it is, how endlessly winding the course is, and how it is just an endless expanse of boring coastal marsh. I had it fixed in my head that we were NOT going to do this section of the ICW, and that no matter what we would find an ocean passage out to skip Georgia and just make it to Florida already!

The other factor contributing to my sense of gloom and doom has been the weather forecast. Gale force winds and sub-freezing windchills have been the norm for days now, and warmer weather is barely on the horizon. If there was ever a time to NOT go out on the ocean, this is it. There is just no good weather window for us to make even a short ocean passage right now. It looks as if we are stuck on the Georgia ICW.

So the gale force winds arrive and we brave through it, seeking a better anchorage. First our sail breaks. Not a major disaster, but it needs to be repaired before we can use it again. We are further doomed to motoring. Then, we ran aground onto a sand bar and spent most of the frighteningly windy night getting unstuck. (listen to the podcast for more details on that horrific experience).

Then, we anchored near an island that was recommended to us by the dispatch operator at SeaTow, the company that almost had to come haul us off the sandbar. In the morning when we awoke after our night from hell on the sandbar, I was telling K. that I needed some moral support from our community, from friends, from the outside world. I just felt so alone out here in this vast expanse of marshy nothingness. I prayed for some voice to come remind me we weren’t alone. I managed to get online for a brief moment to post a plea for connection on Facebook. (not much cell service out here, and our internet connection is dependent on being near a cell tower). Within five minutes of my “call to the world”, I heard an unusual sound outside and went to look to see what it was. A pelican had landed on our boat, and sat there, completely calm,looking at me! I have been in love with the pelicans since we first started seeing them in North Carolina. Every time I see them fly by, gliding smoothly inches above the water, or flying in great flocks in an ever changing V formation, I have marveled at their dignified beauty in flight. I LOVE these birds and had even declared them my new “totem animal”. Until now, all the pelicans I’ve seen have completely ignored our existence. They have not acknowledged us in any way or come even near our boat. But yet now, here was a pelican who was entirely unafraid of me and looked continuously straight at me. (as much as a pelican can look straight at you — as their long, long beaks cause them to look at a funny angle with their eyes.)

My new friend the Pelican

As majestic and noble as these birds look in flight, they look hilariously awkward and weird up close. I took the arrival of the pelican as a “sign”, and immediately felt a boost in my spirits. A few minutes later, a second pelican arrived, this one hanging out (and pooping) in our dinghy. We had new friends!! We were not alone!

Hitchin' a ride

Since the gale force winds were continuing for yet another day, and we were exhausted from our ordeal the night before, we decided to stay put in our snug, protected anchorage for the day and chill out. (it wasn’t hard to “chill” as the high temp only reached the 30’s.) We took our dinghy over to the large island we were anchored next to and explored. We found an empty, enchanted place that soothed and calmed us after our stress on the water. Areas of tall, stately pine trees towered overhead, dancing in the wind, along with various palms and tropical plants. These were interspersed with areas of sandy plains or “savannahs”, partially covered in sea grasses. We felt odd walking among the palms and along the beach in full arctic clothing, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. If it had been warmer this island would have been a gorgeous spot to set up camp for a few days. We found oysters and sea shells, and got to lay down below a lovely live oak tree in the sun. The island felt like a gift, and we appreciated it! After our stressful experience running our boat aground in a terrifying storm, we felt an increased sense of gratitude just being alive and together and safe.

If you look at a map of this area of Georgia, you see that there an endless number of rivers, big, small and very wee, that look like veins in the landscape. Or perhaps they look like the sensuously curvy branches of the live oak trees. If Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, then this is the land of 10,000 rivers. I looked at this area on Google Earth and it is really stunning to see the number of curvy bodies of water that make their way in twisting curving paths to the sea. Art from Mother Earth. You can see for yourself by looking at the interactive map on the right hand column labeled “Wee Happy Voyage”, which shows our route down the coast. Click on “view Wee Happy in a larger map”, and then zoom WAY in on Georgia and see how beautiful it is. This interactive map shows each anchorage we have stayed at, and K. has been really diligent about logging our journey this way. Check it out! (or see photo above)

So here we are, doing the dreaded Georgia ICW. And even though it’s been freezing cold and stressful and slow, I have discovered that there is beauty everywhere, even here. I have to admit, this landscape is growing on me and maybe this is just where we need to be….

Sweet Savannah

Savannah was the main city along the Eastern seaboard that we had both been looking forward to visiting. Even after how impressed we were with Charleston, we were told “wait ’till you see Savannah!”
(although I still want to move to Charleston!)

As we left our boat tied up to the city dock on the downtown waterfront, we were immediately greeted by an entire boulevard park lined entirely with large live oak trees. They were so beautiful they actually brought tears to my eyes.

Beauty of the oaks

It was worth it visiting Savannah JUST to see these trees. Live oaks, a variety of oak I was previously unfamiliar with, are some of the most gorgeous trees I’ve ever met. Words cannot convey, nor can a photo express, just how lovely and graceful they are. If you have experienced them, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I recommend a visit to the South to become acquainted with them.

Another beautiful one

As we meandered around Savannah, we came upon a park every few blocks filled with more stately live oaks. Oglethorpe, the famed founder of Savannah, had the brilliant idea to design the city so that every small neighborhood looks inward towards a central park square, which takes up one square block. We were charmed by each and every park, as well as by the well preserved old mansions and gardens in the historical districts. Savannah is a lovely city indeed!

We happy in Savannah!

While we were in Savannah we got to meet a fellow weaver and sailor (she may be the only one besides me!), a gracious woman named Suzanne and her husband Doc. They keep their sailboat on Lake Champlain but spend the winters in Savannah, and we had tried to connect over the summer on Lake Champlain, but somehow never managed to meet. I found her through a weaving website called Weavolution. Suzanne invited us to her home to have dinner and take a bath. We were thrilled at that offer and spent a wonderful evening with them, enjoying being in a REAL house and eating yummy food! We shared sailing stories and had a lovely time. I got to see some of Suzanne’s weavings and talk about weaving with another fiber junkie! She has a great blog and website at Thanks to both of them for their sweet generosity!

We learned while docked on the Savannah River, that it is a major port for large shipping vessels, such as this one, passing our wee boat:

We feel very wee next to this mega tanker!

Need a holiday gift from a sailing weaver?

Dear Wee Happy friends and followers,
Dreamweaver Arts (which is comprised of me and my little loom) is weaving lovely  scarves for sale! Just in time for holiday gifts!

Sea breeze scarf

Now is your chance to support our adventures by purchasing one of my super special, one of a kind, fantastic handwoven creations.

Can be worn in the hair or as a scarf!

Check out my online store to see my offerings, or contact me for more info. More items will be added soon, and also feel free to custom order a handwoven piece in your choice of colors and designs!

You can find out more about Dreamweaver Arts and the work I do on my personal website:

And thanks to Aaron, who was my first customer in purchasing a scarf woven aboard Wee Happy!!

Made it to Savannah…That’s GEORGIA, y’all!

Got up before dawn today to get going early to Savannah. Yesterday we left Beaufort at noon thinking that we’d ride the ebb ride all the way out to sea. Then the plan was to ride the flood tide up the inlet to Savannah. We really wanted to sail, not motor on the ICW. When we got to the decision point where we could turn left to go to sea or right to stay on the ICW, we checked the weather and learned that the bouys were reading 2 or 3 knots of wind on the ocean. Damn.

With sunken hearts we continued on the ICW towards Savannah, but had to stop about 30 miles down because the sun was setting. Right now the stern light is not working, so we can’t sail or motor at night. There’s a short in the wiring, and it’ll need to be replaced. In the mean time, i’ll have to run some temporary wiring just to get it up and running again. Gotta have that light!

So today when we took off before dawn, I had a feeling that the wind might pick up. I pulled out the jib, and she stayed full and added a little boost. Our course to Savannah would vary a little between west and southwest, so the fairly constant northeast wind meant that we would be able to sail the entire way to Savannah! What a joy!

So we did between 6.5 knots and three knots when the tide changed against up. We could have sailed right up to the city dock here in Savannah if we’d wanted to! Had to take evasive manouvers to get out of the way of an oncoming container ship, but we knew he was coming before hand, so we were ready.

So now we’re going to explore this city and get off the boat for a while. Thanks for checking in!
Capt’n K.