Monthly Archives: October 2011

Random thoughts, by Lala

We are so glad we succeeded in our longest to date ocean passage and made it safely to Atlantic City, but now we’re stuck here! At least for a few days, and even on the weekend, the weather window is small and not super ideal. But we are hoping to make our next passage to Cape May, NJ in a few days. Until then, we are going to try to enjoy Atlantic City, although I must admit this is one of the last places I want to be stuck in for days. We are not a gamblers, and even if we were, we have no extra money to lose right now. This is not a good place to be on a super tight budget! (although winning some money would be nice, so we’ll at least put a couple bucks in some machines, I’m sure!)
Yesterday the wind was howling so strong and the weather was so dismal we didn’t even leave the boat. The anchorage here is a ways from any access to the scene of Atlantic City, and to get there requires crossing a channel with a strong current, so we didn’t venture out in our new, very wee dinghy that only has a 3 horsepower motor. We just stayed put and baked cookies, did some deep cleaning, watched movies, and rested from our long sail. I even got to weave on my new loom that I just got for our boat, which is working out great. (the one I had on Wee Happy belonged to someone else, and I had to give it back)

Random photo -- Horseshoe crab skeleton on the beach

So I will take this time to fill you all in on a bit of random news. First of all, we decided on a name for our new boat! It was quite a process to decide, and we had a long list of possible names ranging from Snonomo to Delilah to Invictus, but finally we couldn’t resist the segue of the name WAY HAPPY. It is after all, a continuation of the Wee Happy journey, only now we feel we can do it way better on this boat! Not that we have been way happy every moment on this trip….but it is all a journey, and not a single destination, right? New boat lettering is on the way (for now we have temporary lettering on the transom) and we will soon be putting up a new and improved blog site.

Just in case any of you were wondering as intensely as I was about what the heck a wren was doing way out at sea, I may have solved the mystery. Last night I was looking in the great bird guide my dad recently gave me (Thanks, Dad!) and discovered that our bird friend was actually not a wren but a sparrow. A “Seaside Sparrow” to be exact. There is a variety of sparrow that only lives along the Atlantic Coast of North America, and whose habitat is grassy tidal marshes. So we were in this bird’s conceivable range. A part of me loves unexplainable weird mysteries, and that part of me is disappointed to find such a rational truth, and there is another part of me that NEEDS TO KNOW things, and that part of me is satisfied to have the answer.

As long as I’m talking about needing to know the identification of things, here is another mystery. We found a strange fruit on Block Island that I have never seen before. Green, brain like hard tissue about the size of a large orange. The tree was bigger than an apple tree, maybe related to a walnut tree. In fact the smell kind of reminded me of fresh walnuts. A fresh, grassy citrusy smell. I asked some locals and they called it things like “ugly fruit” and “bitter orange” and recommended that we don’t eat it. One guy said that this fruit is found no where else but Block Island. We tried looking it up on the internet but only managed to find a few other people asking what it was and no answers. Do you have the answer? Does anyone out there know what this fruit is?

Block Island mystery fruit

Last on my random bits of news list, yesterday Slowmo was the winner of the daily cat fight. Our two cats are brothers from the same litter, and they love each other dearly. Every day they fight as a form of play and they can get quite rowdy. But Mojo almost always “wins” because he is way bigger and fatter than Slowmo. But yesterday Slowmo prevailed, and here is the video. Feel the tension….

Ok, that’s enough rambling for now. I’m going to go help Capt K climb up the mast in his attempt to stop the banging of the mast cables. This morning it is very calm in the anchorage (in fact, the first thing he said upon waking this morning is that it was so calm it woke him up! We’ve been getting used to constant rocking and banging for a week now!) Will report back later on the success of that project.

Shakedown! We made it to Atlantic City

Here we are in Atlantic City, after a nearly 40 hour trip from Block Island. Whew!! We did it! We got here just in time, too, because the now the wind is starting to really howl and rain is on the way.
We had smooth, calm sailing most of the way, although the last 60 miles or so was a downwind run that caused the boat to rock uncomfortably for most of the day. I got a little seasick for the first time ever and felt pretty green all day.
We had hoped to make it in just before dark, but as it turned out we approached the inlet just after dark, and it was incredibly stressfull navigating our way in with a crosswind and 6-10 foot waves on the beam. The anchorage here is really sketchy with minimal markers, and was it not fun getting in here in the dark. With all the brightly lit casino buildings here, the anchorage sure is dark!

A few highlights of our sail were a large pod of dolphins who played and swam in our bow wake under the silver full moon light at 3 am. They were magically delightful, and a sweet surprise!

We also had a unexpected hitchiker who accompanied us for a good portion of the trip. A tiny wren found our boat 15 miles off the coast of Long Island and stayed on and around the boat all day and all night. He hopped around the deck taking a break from wherever he was going…..where was he going? What was a lone wren doing way out at sea?! Migrating perhaps….
Anyway, I gave the wee bird some water and crumbs and they were much appreciated.

Our cats were too busy with their itinerary of napping and lounging inside the cabin to even notice our visitor out on the deck. But at about 7 am the bird flew inside the cabin and did those cats wake up fast!! (as did I, who was sleeping at the time) There was major commotion inside for a few mintues, with the bird flapping wildy trying to escape, and two cats having the most exciting time on the boat EVER. Amazingly, the wren escaped, and disappeared for quite a few hours. But later in the afternoon I saw him return, circle our boat a few times as if the say goodbye, and then flutter off alone over the vast sea.

Other than our few visitors, it was pretty uneventful out there. Here we were all nervous about going out to sea, and once we were out there, there really wasn’t much to do or worry about! (except for the inlet). We had lovely mild weather and light winds, so it was a breeze!

We have now expierienced our boat in a pretty wide variety of conditions, and are getting to know her better. The shakedown cruise is shakin!!

– Capt’n K & Lala

Considering departing for big jump to NJ tonight

Sitting here in the old harbor at Block Island. Day is waning. Winds are northwest and steady. We wanted to wait for them to shift to north before leaving, but it looks like our weather window is shrinking. So, now we are tentatively planning to leave tonight to head to Atlantic City or Cape May, NJ. It’s a clear sky with almost a full moon, and the temperatures are nice and warm. With this northwest wind we should make good progress through the night to the southwest. Then tomorrow the winds are supposed to shift to the north and lighten up. That means we’ll make slower progress but make a more westerly course. Then Monday night and into Tuesday the winds are supposed to shift to the northeast and then east, which should make going west or south a breeze.

So, we are estimating that it’ll take us 36 hours to make it to Atlantic City. If we leave tonight and then show up on Tuesday morning, and if the winds are still fair and we are not exhausted, we may continue on southward to Cape May before pulling in and anchoring.

A slight chance exists that we will find our progress and stamina good enough that we might continue on from Cape May NJ straight south to Ocean City or Norfolk. This chance looks slim, but is a possibility. If that east wind is fair on Tuesday and Tuesday night and Wednesday, then it is remotely possible that we could arrive at Norfolk by Wednesday afternoon or evening.

This is a big jump for us. To date, we have not made any passages longer than 60 miles or so. The jump from Block Island to Atlantic City is 165 nautical miles. It’s the next logical step in our cruising curriculum, so to say. We’ve made overnight passages before, but we have not yet done a 24 or 36 hour jump. So, this is pushing our boundaries again. It makes us nervous, but it is what we have been talking about for a month now.

We are more experienced sailors than we were with wee happy. We have made a few offshore passages and overnight passages. We are ready for a 24-36 hour run now. Just a bit nervous. Wish we had a buddy boat to go with, but that hasn’t lined up for us even though we’ve been looking.

So we’ll be without internet and cell phone access until we make it to the NEw Jersey Coast. Then we should be able to get online with our iPad to make a post. Alternatively, we will be monitoring VHF channel 16 the whole way incase any of you are on a boat in the same area as us.

Now, I’ve made an interactive google map of our planned route. It is totally rough and estimated on the fly with my hand on a mouse. The points are not accurate waypoints or GPS coordinates. We are going to sail based on wind conditions, not this estimated path, but it is a good way to visualize the passage on this blog. So click on it and explore the points and route line if you like.

View Planned Passage Block Island to Atlantic City in a larger map

The sights of Newport

We were only in Newport for a very short time, just enough to wander around the town a bit and get some pizza, and dinghy around the crowded harbor and gawk at the gorgeous sailboats there. Newport is after all, the home of America’s Cup, and some mighty racing boats are based there. These shiny, sleek, sexy boats who live up to names like Glory and Gleam are something to behold! There were also some other fun and unusual boats, and here are a few of our favorites for you to see:

A small "cruise ship" charter sailboat with the wonderful name of Arabella

A most awesome pirate ship!

What is it about these ships that stirs the soul so?


Gleam, a sleek racer

The winner of the most unusual boat....what is this? An oriental boat of some kind with marvelous dragon carvings

SloMo checked out the great boats with us, but wasn't as excited as we were

Made it to Block Island

Quick entry. Went to Newport last night. Keeping true to its trend, the wind was dead against us again! So we beat to windward all day today and just anchored off the east shore of Block Island in the “old anchorage”.
Rolly, but nice moonlit night. Tired but alive. West winds all day tomorrow, so we’ll stay here and hang out until they turn north.

– Capt’n K & Lala

P.s. There is one REALLY annoying thing about our new boat.
There are cables inside the mast that bang around when the boat rolls from side to side, making tons of noise. In this rolly anchorage, the sound is enough to drive us totally crazy. I dont know how we are going to sleep tonight! Actually it has been bothering us for a few weeks now. We need to remedy this situation ASAP, but doing it without taking the mast down or climbing up the mast in the dark in a rolly anchorage is near impossible. Aaargh!!!!

Plan? What Plan!

Today was a disaster. (but we are alive and well to write to y’all about it, so I guess it wasn’t that bad)
It started out first thing in the morning with both of us having near heart-attacks when I almost crashed our boat into another boat in the mooring field while exiting Cuttyhunk harbor. It was a terrifyingly close call, and an epically stupid move on my part due to losing control of the steering because I thought the engine was in gear and it was actually in neutral. Some angels must have been helping us out on that one, I still am somewhat in shock over how close we came to hitting that boat.

Then we proceeded to leave the harbor and face 20 knot winds on the nose with turbulent waves coming across Buzzards Bay. We had to head straight into the wind for aways to get out of the harbor, and we bucked like a bronco making very slow headway. It was a wild, rough ride. Some people find sailing like that pure bliss and fun, but I found it pretty stressful. We were motor sailing into the wind until we reached open enough waters to alter our course for better sailing. And then our engine died. Just like that, the engine suddenly died. We had no idea why. It happened so suddenly and without warning….

Ok… problem….we’ll sail. There’s definitely enough wind for it! So we sailed across Buzzards Bay until we reached the mouth of the New Bedford harbor. We contemplated continuing on our planned route in the direction of Block Island/Long Island and figuring out the problem down there, but it seemed more prudent to find out what the problem was sooner rather than later. We couldn’t go all the way into the harbor under sail alone because it was straight into the wind and the entrance is very narrow. So we thanked God that we have a membership to TowBoat U.S. and called them for a tow.

That was a new experience, getting towed in a sailboat by a tiny little tow boat! The guy who helped us was wonderful. He towed us right into a narrow slip (that was impressive) in a marina that was right across the street from a West Marine and several other boat supply stores. Cap’t K. tried trouble shooting the problem and could only determine that it was a fuel supply problem. Luckily within a few hours we had a diesel mechanic on board who knew way more than us. We almost had another heart attack when he suggested that it looked like a problem with the fuel injector pump (the main reason we are so stressed out about money is because we just spent $2,000 on a fuel injector pump for Cap’t K’s car)
But on further investigation, he discovered that it was a clogged fuel pump. Apparently the wild ride we were on bucking the giant waves stirred up a bunch of sludge that had been resting at the bottom of our 40 year old fuel tank, and to make things even worse, some water seeped into the fuel tank somehow. Those two things combined clogged our filter in jiffy! With a new $30 fuel filter, he got it running again, and gave us a bunch of helpful tips on the care and feeding of our engine. Brian was another wonderful angel!We still have some trouble shooting to do on our water in the fuel tank problem, but that is another story. For now we are back in business.
So, here we are tucked into a marina slip, enjoying hot water and full electric hookup, feeling both grateful that things weren’t as bad as they could have been, and also feeling major regret for having missed the wind window we had been counting on to get us west. Tomorrow the wind is going to turn west AND die down to light and variable. So we will be waiting for better wind to make it to New Jersey.
Our plan right now is to try to make it to Block Island tomorrow, and enjoy ourselves there until Monday, when the wind is forecasted to be in our favor once more.
But who knows what will happen!!! Planning is starting to feel pointless….

Made it to Cuttyhunk

What a ride! 2 seconds after the last post we got hit by a storm and had to drop sail and don our foul weather gear. Spent the next half hour keeping the boat’s nose into the wind and getting doused with spray. Woo hoo! Our first storm!

The rest of the trip was nice on a broad reach flying just half of our jib under mostly clear skies with brisk winds gusting occasionally to 30 knots. Then we saw a lone race sailboat on the horizon. They were flying a spinnaker! Crazy, those racers, but we opened up our jib all the way after seeing how they were doing. Sure enough we sped up a full knot and the ride was no more or less comfortable

Lala brought us all the way into Cuttyhunk pond an hour before sunset, and then we failed to set anchor three times. Too much mud and grass here, so we tied up to a mooring. Now the wind is gusting to 35 or 40, and we are glad to be tied up for the night.

There is suppod to be a boat that goes around selling oysts from 5 to 7, but they arent answering on the radio. Probably too late in the season. Darn! Well at least we are off on our trip now! Hope to make it far to the west tomorrow. Probably not just jumping out to Atlantic city. We are pooped.

– Capt’n K & Lala

Cuttyhunk it is.

We have launched. We are out in Buzzards Bay, with 12 miles to go to Cuttyhunk harbor. Yay! We have a lovely and strong northwest wind and it is smoother sailing than we expected. So far so good on leg one of the shakedown cruise!

– Capt’n K & Lala

Plan version 1.1?

So we didn’t leave yesterday. Captain K was finishing up a project for one of his consulting clients that took a little longer than expected. So we sat in the harbor on wifi until that was completed at 5:00 pm. We just had to make a judgement call, and it simply was more important to finish up the project well than to leave on our initial schedule.

It’s the advice that we’ve heard most often on our journeys, “don’t travel on a schedule.” e.g. be flexible and don’t lock yourself into any specific travel dates. Let the weather and intuition guide you. That has served us well, but it is also maddening. We sat here all day yesterday with perfect ideal beautiful sailing weather. Lots of lovely vessels dropped their mooring lines and hoisted their sails to the masthead and flew away in to the glistening waters of Buzzards Bay. But not us. We sat here grinding our teeth and making much needed money.

C’est la vie, or “Sail a Vie” as some boat names punnily say.

So now we are going to amend our plan to simply this: go out there and then decide where to go. How’s that for a well laid plan!

No, seriously. That seems the best option. It’s powerful out there today. Lots of wind. Lots of gusts. Probably big waves, and the current in the bay will be against us. So maybe we’ll go to Cuttyhunk still as our first stop, but maybe we’ll take a right instead and hug the coast to keep in the less intense wind and then put into Newport, RI. We should be able to post our decision from our iPad 3G while we are out there, but who knows. We might not post again until we are anchored somewhere this evening.

Tomorrow looks like it will be a little bit less powerfully windy, so we’ll decide then if we are heading to New Jersey or going to cruise the Long Island Sound to stay in protected waters before heading to sea.

Plan for Flying South (v.1.0)

The Route from Massachusetts to Norfolk

It looks like we are going to get our chance to leave sooner than expected. That’s a nice surprise after these many weeks of waiting for all details to come together. The last thing holding us to land is the sale of my car, and that should be completed by this evening. Wow. So now that we know that this is going to happen, we’ve taken a good long look at the weather forecast and the charts.

Our new big table covered in charts

We have considered going straight from here to Norfolk Virginia. That would be a 72 hour straight line trip that would take us about 100 miles from land at the furthest point. While a great idea in theory, our reality is that we are not feeling up to the challenge right now. So we are going to trust our instincts and stay closer to land where we can find places to anchor at night and do a few shorter legs rather than one huge long one. We haven’t been able to plan anything until this point because you never know what the weather will do. Now that we know the car is leaving tonight, we can look at the next week’s forecast and make a plan. You can see that plan in the picture. Click on it to see it bigger. Now the lines and points are approximate, but is shows the general course and itinerary. We plan to take off tomorrow and go to Cutteyhunk Island at the end of the chain of islands in Cape Cod and anchor there for the night. Then the wind should shift to the north and we will shoot fifty miles to the west on Wednesday and anchor in Montauk for the night. Then on Thursday morning we plan to take off for a 155 nautical mile jump to Atlantic City New Jersey. We should arrive on Friday morning or afternoon, so it’s an all day and then all night trip. If we pull in early on Friday, then we can continue on south to Cape May at the southernmost tip of New Jersey to anchor there for the night instead. The last leg of the trip would start on Saturday morning when we plan to jump south for another 155nm trip to arrive at anchorage in Norfolk Virginia sometime on Sunday afternoon. This route feels much more prudent to us than one straight trip from here to Norfolk. It really will be our shakedown cruise on this new (to us) boat, so it just feels better to stay closer to land and therefore to help if needed. It also gives us the chance to stop and explore an island on the Cape and Montauk before leaving New England for good. It would be tragic to spend all this time here in Massachusetts and not make it to one of the islands on the Cape in our new boat! Her old name is “Nobska Lady” which refers to Nobska Lighthouse on Cape Cod, after all. We of course might change our plan at any moment based on updated weather information or our energy and endurance levels. Two 155nm legs back to back with one night on anchor in between may prove to be a bit more than we want to do right now. That would mean two 24 hour overnight sails separated by maybe 12 to 24 hours on anchor. Sounds reasonable, but we’ll find out when we get there. We’re hoping that the speed and comfort and easier motion of this boat will allow us to stand longer trips on the ocean. The more 24 hour jumps we can make doing 150 miles at a clip, the faster we’ll get south of the coming cold weather. Maybe we’ll even work our stamina up to doing 48 hour legs along the coast. We’re starting slow and reasonable though rather than biting off more than we may want to swallow. Maybe it would be different if we had a buddy boat, but that hasn’t lined up for us yet.