Captain Kidd's Boatyard



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ICW Trip April 25-May 1, 2019

Posted by [email protected] on June 6, 2019 at 8:30 PM Comments comments (0)

This year I’m celebrating my 20th anniversary of sailing! After living in Georgia for the last 13 years, and after reading about other small boat sailors doing the Intracoastal Waterway the entire length of the state, I decided that this was the trip that I wanted to take.

As the crow flies, it’s about 100 miles from St. Mary’s to Savannah. As the boat floats, it’s about 137 miles, much of which is pretty remote. Shoaling and skinny water are also big issues on the ICW. On top of that there would be tides of 6-7’ and currents that might hit several knots. These factors combined would make this a pretty ambitious trip for my level of experience.

In the early part of this year, I began to make preparations. I purchased a couple of highly recommended cruising guides and read up on the ICW with an emphasis on the Georgia section. I spent some time on activecaptain. I began studying NOAA charts 11489 and 11507 and talked with a couple of sailors who were intimately acquainted with the Georgia waters. I also studied the tides and currents using a couple of different websites, my favorite being Next, it was time to get Anago ready. I cleaned her up, had the outboard serviced and seriously upgraded her ground tackle. I also brushed up on some common sailing knots and even learned a few new ones. Lastly, I prepared a loose-leaf chart book of the entire Georgia ICW which consisted of small sections printed on 8.5” x 11” paper inserted into plastic sheet protectors. I added about 20 waypoints into my Garmin Etrex and marked them on the charts.

Then came the question of crew. I gave serious consideration to doing the trip alone but decided that company would be welcome. A fellow “forumite” from a sailing forum offered to crew with me. Norman is a retiree who is very smart and has a lot of experience as a recreational sailor and small plane pilot. Though he had given up solo sailing a couple years earlier, I figured he would be an asset to have along.

Friday April 26 was pegged as launch day. Norman bought an Amtrak ticket on the Palmetto that would carry him from Washington, D.C. and drop him at Savannah Station Thursday night. After a 350 mile drive from Chattanooga, I picked up Norman and we drove the next 100 miles to St. Mary’s where I had a room booked. It was after 1:00 a.m. when we finally hit the sack.

Launch day arrived sunny and breezy. A front that was forecasted to pass through around lunch time was already through by daybreak, so we were able to get an early start. I was both nervous and excited. After our complimentary breakfast, we transferred our coolers, personal items, and groceries from the SUV to the boat. Once at the launch ramp, we wound up having to work through several “issues” including a finicky motor. We didn’t actually leave the dock until 2:30 p.m.!

The NOAA chart 11489 calls this branch the North River which winds its way from the ramp about a mile and a half through the spartina grasses and marsh out to the St. Marys River. The wind was brisk and blowing out of the west behind that front. We chose to motor until we got out to some bigger water and were acclimated to our surroundings. I’m not sure how Norman felt, but I was absolutely elated to be on the water on such a beautiful afternoon in such beautiful surroundings. After all the morning’s frustrations, I was in heaven.

Once in the Cumberland Sound we turned north. There were markers everywhere: day markers, buoys, range markers. A little confusing but we made our way north. After a few minutes we hoisted a reefed main and sailed/motor-sailed the rest of the afternoon. Along the way we passed Kings Bay, the naval submarine base. I had entered my first waypoint just opposite the base where our route turns toward the Cumberland Dividings. There was skinny water all around and I did not want to miss that turn. We passed Crooked River off our port and turned into the Brickhill River. We anchored within site of the brilliant white Plum Orchard mansion. Norman suggested we throw out my 2 eleven pound danforths off the bow and anchor in a "V" pattern which seemed like a reasonable plan.

Now it was supper time. I pulled out the old trusty camp stove (maybe I should say rusty) and got ready to fry some fish. It would not light! I had packed some good suppers for us and now this. Supper was turkey sandwiches and chips followed by a Little Debbie oatmeal pie. We readied for bed and installed my hastily made companionway screens for ventilation and bug protection. I think both of us slept pretty well that night. We had made about 14 miles on day one.

When we awoke at sun up, we were still in the same place we were when we went to sleep. That was a relief for someone who does not anchor out much. We ate a quick breakfast of Raisin Bran Crunch, pulled the anchors which came up clean, and set out for the regions beyond. Our first goal was to get to Jekyll Island. It was a beautiful morning (in fact, the weather was just about perfect the whole trip). The air was chilly and we were taking on some spray so we donned our jackets. We motored all the way across St. Andrews Sound hitting the turn at low tide.

We docked at Jekyll Island Marina about lunchtime. They have 2 hours complimentary docking so we topped off our fuel tank and had a nice lunch on the veranda of their restaurant while listening to live entertainment. I then caught a ride to the local general store which was nearby and bought two cans of sterno. As we were leaving, I bought a 10 pound bag of ice to add to our coolers. Along with the drinks that I had frozen, the coolers stayed “cool” the rest of the trip.

We motored the four miles through Jekyll Creek, but once we were in St. Simons Sound we hoisted a full main and jib to take advantage of the 8-10 mph east to south easterly winds which were ideal. It was just a gorgeous day. Three miles off to our west we could easily see the Sidney Lanier suspension bridge which carries US 17 across the Brunswick River.

After we crossed the sound, we sailed to the west of Lanier Island and into the Mackay River. The rest of the afternoon we enjoyed a very relaxing sail on this meandering river, sometimes broad reaching while other times sailing wing and wing. We sailed to just short of Buttermilk Sound and anchored abeam of day mark "227" in just eight feet of water on a falling tide. Anago’s rudder drafts about three feet so I felt we would still be ok. I chose to anchor with my 25 pound homemade bulwagga. We had plenty of room to swing, and if wind or current turned us, I felt the “bull” would easily reset itself.

The sunset was very beautiful and peaceful. We opened a can of sterno and prepared supper, boiled cod and rice seasoned with creole. It was pretty tasty. We turned in early putting the plexiglass hatch boards in. The screens were nice but it did get a little cool the night before. We had made 38 miles on day two.

Sunday morning dawned with as beautiful a sunrise as the sunset the night before. And, even though I was restless much of the night with needless anchor worries, the “bull” had held us just fine. After a breakfast of bagels and cream cheese, a short "church" service (after all it was Sunday), we weighed anchor. I knew the bottom could be muck but the black stuff that came up was awful. After making a complete mess of myself and the foredeck, the anchor and rode were stowed.

My 4hp Yamaha started right up and off we went, northward ho. We motored through Buttermilk Sound and into the Altamaha River. The river had lots of islands so we had to be vigilant to follow the markers. Next we headed into Little Mud River, a fairly narrow stretch. Here's where we saw the gators sunning on the mud banks at low tide.

By late-morning we were into Doboy Sound. We were greeted by dolphins all through our trip but there were quite a few here. We decided to let Anago drift while we ate some lunch. By that time the wind was filling in so we hoisted our canvas and set sail! The wind was perfect through Old Teakettle Creek and with some crisp tacking we even made it through Creighton Narrows, a special delight after I had attempted to start the outboard as a safety measure and it failed to start.

Now it was time to cross the biggest waters of the trip, Sapelo and St. Catherines Sounds. I would say the winds were pretty steady from the SE at 10-15 with some gusts to maybe 20. It was a close reach 6 miles down Sapelo to the turn. The boat did great though there was a good bit of weather helm. I should have reefed the main but stuck it out. Crossing St. Catherines was just about the same. Later that evening we learned that the rudder had rotated up a bit which no doubt added to the pressure on the tiller. I tightened a few nuts and solved that problem.

Once we were in Bear River we began to look for Kilkenny Creek where we wanted to anchor. It was wide and deep. The chart showed an area that was supposed to be 15-17' but we never found it. With a motor that would not start and the sun setting, we had to anchor in about 30' of water. I threw out the bulwagga with 34' of chain and 100’ of rode. We decided we wanted more so we slid an 18 pound mushroom anchor down the rode and added more rode and chain. Not sure of the total but that gave us some peace of mind. We heated some formerly frozen Voila and called it a night. We were bushed and slept pretty well. We had made about 53 miles on day three.

Norman woke me up at 6:00 a.m. It was high tide and the winds were calm. The outboard was still on vacation, so we needed to get the anchor up before there was any pull on it. It took some work but we got it up and stowed. The now easy outgoing tide carried us out of Kilkenny Creek and back into Bear River, but we were going the wrong way. After a couple of miles we were drifting close to shore. I threw out an anchor and it grabbed the bottom. Now it was just a matter of waiting for the wind to fill in.

By mid-morning we had a little wind and attempted to sail off the anchor. We failed and wound up soft aground with 2 more hours of a falling tide. We continued tinkering with the outboard and finally she fired up! We worked our way out of the muck and were back in business. I decided we would motor while the outboard was cooperative. We flew into the Florida Passage and on out into the Ogeechee River. It was about time to do the infamous Hell Gate. I gave Norman the helm and the honor of doing the Gate, then it was on into the Vernon River. The waterfront homes were beautiful as well as the scenery. Ten miles out of Thunderbolt we stopped at Isle of Hope Marina for a break, and I called Thunderbolt to make sure they had a slip for us. After a few minutes we had things lined up. We started my now stubborn outboard and proceeded down the home stretch.

As it turned out, that ten miles became twenty! I took my eyes off the chart and missed the turn into the Wilmington River which cost me an extra 2 miles. Then, to top it off, I passed the marina! I knew it was just after a bridge, but I went a bridge too far! Literally. With backtracking that cost us about 8 miles. We finally found Savannah Bend Marina and tied up behind the fuel dock as instructed. We were right on time – sundown, but we’d done it!! We hastily closed up the boat and caught a ride across the bridge to Tubby's for a celebration dinner. With the 2 missteps, we had motored about 42 miles on day four.

It took us all of Tuesday to retrieve my tow vehicle and trailer from St. Marys and then to get the boat out of the water and ready for the trip home. We spent the night in a motel and Wednesday morning I dropped Norman off at the train station and I drove home, exhausted but exhilarated!

It took me three days to catch up on my rest and my hands were badly sunburned even though I wore gloves much of the time. As the trip now slips into my store of sailing memories, even with all the hard work that went into it, I am left with a great sense of satisfaction and pleasure. What a great trip! Let’s do another one!!


Sale Creek Sail

Posted by [email protected] on March 4, 2019 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

(We took this overnighter September 7-8, 2017.)

Forecast was right near perfect for an overnight trip: Thurs. afternoon northerly winds 5-7; Fri. all day northerly 9-10; temps mid-uppper 70's; clear skies. So I decided to do something a little different and my wife went along with it. I figured we could sail half the length of Chickamauga Lake if we shuttled the trailer.

I got the boat ready Thursday morning and went in to work for a few minutes around lunch time and ran a couple errands. Returned home and we headed around 2:30. Dropped the car off at the marina that is right beside the ramp at the Chickamauga dam. I called them and they said it would be fine to leave my boat there for the hour or so it would take to go back up the next day to get the tow vehicle and trailer. After dropping the car we headed up the lake to the Sale Creek Recreation area to rig and launch. The afternoon was gorgeous! No problems. Got underway around 4:20. But... there was no wind to speak of. It was supposed to fill in right around 4:00 so I figured maybe it would pick up in a few minutes. I didn't take a lot of gas with me since the forecast was so good. Well by the time I had I motored down the creek about a mile still no wind. There just before getting to the main channel we spotted a marina. Better get some gas. So we paid the extra steep price but it was worth the peace of mind. Turns out the afternoon wind never materialized. If anything it was blowing slightly out of the south. Wound up motoring all the way to the anchorage I had picked out on the Soddy Creek for overnighting. It was peaceful and we had a fairly decent night's rest.

Here's a selfie we took.

We awoke to a setting moon and mist covered cove.

The next morning the breeze started building early just as predicted. We sailed off anchor. The wind varied from light to 10-12 fairly steady with a few gusts to maybe 15.

Here's the early morning first mate with a smile on her face. That's always good.

The wind was just about straight down the lake. It turned out being easier to sail on a broad reach most of the day. I did practice sailing wing and wing and found that sailing a little "by the lee" helped to keep the genoa filled. Had some really good sailing. It was the first time I got to use the genoa for any real sailing. Always used the jib up until today. Off the wind it was perfect.

sailed by the Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant.

Here's a link to a short video we took during a decent little puff:

We arrived at the marina around 3:30, left the boat there, went and retrieved the tow vehicle and trailer, and returned an hour later. I let my wife go home to get supper ready (it's not delivery - it's DiGiorno) while I retrieved the boat.

All in all we motored or sailed about 30 miles as the crow flies, but I'm guessing you could add 3 or more miles for tacking. In 8 hours of travel that averages out to about 4 mph.

A nice two days!


Posted by [email protected] on May 18, 2015 at 11:45 PM Comments comments (0)

This report was posted originally on the TSBB forum on Dec. 4, 2012 about an excursion I had earlier that day on Little Bit, my SD11.

Well, like most boaters I have plenty of stories to tell - "The Adventures of Captain Kidd". Only thing is, my wife doesn't like the kind of stories I tell (through experience of course)

The day was perfect for an afternoon sail: winds 8-10 mph out of the south which is perfect for the lake I like, and temps in the upper 60's to lower 70's (how's that for December). So, I headed up to the lake.

When I arrived there was only one other car in the lot and it didn't have a trailer. I figured I'd be pretty lonely out there, not great if you get in trouble. I wasn't too worried.

Rigged the boat and off I went. As I was getting started good, I didn't like the way the lacing was on the sail, the luff was kinda bunched up. I figured I would loosen the lacing a bit and noticed it looked like it was caught a bit on the thumb cleat I use for the snotter. I have had a couple issues with this before and the cleat is a bit of a reach. I knew I was taking a chance, but I figured I have pretty good balance so I reached up to free the lacing. I couldn't quite reach it so I decided to stand up on the seat. Now in a small boat with only crew as ballast, this was a mistake in judgment. The bow went down, mast went over a bit and "in the drink" I went! And over the dinghy went - turtled! Always wondered what it would be like to capsize: well I was quickly finding out.

The water was a chilly 55 degrees (I got that info from my rescuers). Thankfully the air temp was good; otherwise, I could have been in some big trouble. There was no one around, so it was me and my wits. I did have an inflatable life vest on. It took two firm pulls to get it to inflate. I was a little surprised by the effort it took.

I swam to the side of the boat and leveraged it over with my weight and the daggerboard. When I tried to enter the boat from the stern, she went right over again. This time she was lying on her side so I just used my weight and rolled with her to the upright position.

She was obviously sitting low in the water. To my discredit, I had nothing to bail with. The boat was very unsteady. The two air chambers were keeping her rails just a few inches above the water. I must have been 300 yards or more from the dock so I started rowing. The sail was still up so I had some windage. I didn't want to move much or I would have been back in the water, so I just continued rowing, stern to I might add. The going was very slow. Gradually I felt the bow sinking behind me (I was facing the stern and rowing with pushing strokes). I looked back and the forward air chamber was leaking air very steadily. I guess I had failed to seal it up well. This made it impossible to row and even more unsteady. Over I went again, and I was still a long way from the ramp.

What do I do? Do I leave the boat and swim? Stay by the boat and wait for someone to come by? Well, I decided to swim and pull the boat. I held onto the inverted rudder with my left arm and swam with my stronger right arm. Again, the going was really slow. I was trying to be careful and gauge my body's reaction to the water. Everything seemed to be ok (lower case letters meaning so-so ok), but I was tiring. About that time I noticed two boats had arrived at the ramp. I was still maybe 200 yards from the ramp but I started waving and calling for help. The first boat in the water headed out to get me. It was a bass boat and when he arrived, I asked if he had a swim ladder or any way for me to get up. At that very moment a nice Searay showed up with two workers from the nearby marina. They had seen me go over and when I got the boat righted and was rowing, they figured I was alright. Eventually they realized I needed assistance and came. Oh, yea! A kayaker showed up about that time as well. Seems like in the end, there was plenty of help after all.

After an hour in the water, I boarded the Searay via a swim ladder and they towed the boat in. I pulled the trailer down and we got the boat loaded. I pulled her up to the lot and sat in the vehicle for about 30 minutes with the heat on full blast. I had no change of clothes. After I warmed up a bit, I secured the boat and headed home and straight to the shower.

Well, some good lessons learned and some things I need to figure out.

1) I can't stand on the seats, at least when I am alone and probably even with additional crew. 2) This means I need to figure a way to work with that rigging. 3) I need a bailer. 4) I need to seal up that leak.

I did lose the plug for the daggerboard trunk that I use when just rowing. I also lost my "Sail" cap. I also had put my phone, keys and a camera in a zip lock baggie. Guess what? the baggies are not perfectly water tight. I doused the phone and camera in rice when I got home. Will see if they come back to life.

Could wind up being somewhat of a costly mishap. At the very least I will have to buy another CO2 cartridge. Not too bad I guess considering I am here to tell my story.

Only 1 pic to show:

PS: Turns out neither my phone nor camera "came back to life". Along with the new CO2 cartridge, it was an expensive lesson. Oh, yeah. For Christmas I received two watertight boxes as presents! I use one faithfully on every trip I take on Little Bit.  

Chesapeake Bay Trip

Posted by [email protected] on May 18, 2015 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

After eight years (I wrote this account in a journal in 2008) many smaller details have been forgotten, but the trip is still fairly vivid. I’m going to chronicle the trip on a day-by-day basis. We planned a 5 day/4 night trip. We would leave on a Monday and wanted to be back by Friday evening for a special church service with an ensemble from Pensacola Christian College.

I don’t remember ever sailing Flying Lady, our Kells 23, on any body of water other than Lake Gaston, except our vacation on the Chesapeake Bay (I did have her on Roanoke Rapids Lake once but that was only to reposition her on the trailer). The Chesapeake Bay trip has provided us with a lot of memories over the years, memories which span the spectrum.

It all began when I learned of a tall ships parade that was to take place in the summer of 2000 in honor of the arrival of the new millennium. I thought it would be a great experience to be on the Bay as these majestic ships sailed up its waters. The parade was to take place in June.

As events would have it, Tara was involved in a serious head-on collision on June 3 and took a severe blow to her right femur. She was in Maryland at the time and was airlifted by medivac helicopter to the famous Shock Trauma unit in Baltimore. Though she had no broken bones the bruise was debilitating, at least for a time. Tara was on crutches and would be unable to sail. We delayed the trip for several weeks (and consequently missed the tall ships).

Day 1 – Monday, July 17

We left in the morning. Our trip to Deale, MD would take several hours. Deale is roughly due east of Washington D.C. and about 20 miles south of Annapolis, MD. I had researched the Bay using the Chesapeake Bay Guide and felt this was a good destination. I had found a marina that would allow us to park our tow vehicle and trailer for the duration of our stay. Tommy Daughtry loaned us his 2-door, red, Chevy Blazer which was a great blessing.

After much planning, it was quite exhilarating to finally be on the road for my first “big-water” sailing adventure. Excitement was tempered by caution though, and maybe even some trepidation. With absolutely no-zero-nada big water experience I was a bit nervous. I’d tried to do my homework and had studied charts, guides, chart plotting, etc. My skills (or lack thereof) were about to be put to the test, and the test was going to begin sooner than I imagined.

After only one hour of driving, as we were going around Petersburg, VA on I-295, something bright caught my attention in my right side-view mirror. Almost simultaneously I glimpsed something out of the corner of my left eye – a wheel zipping down the interstate past me! The bright-something was my axle throwing up sparks and the wheel was mine!! I’d lost a wheel off my double-axle trailer.

I knew better than that. I knew wheels needed grease but had neglected to check. At that time I didn’t have bearing buddies (needless to say I do now), so it wasn’t the easiest thing to do; but it turned out to be a costly mistake.

I immediately pulled off the interstate onto the shoulder. It just so happened that we were on the overpass of US 460. My wheel had bumped the passenger-side door of a car being driven by a twenty-something African-American military guy who was driving one of his family’s cars. He was very nice and understanding. Thankfully no one was hurt. I’m certainly glad we were on a divided highway and not some two-lane road where that wheel could have hit oncoming traffic and done some serious damage (to both body and vehicle).

Well, there we were on the interstate with a broken-down trailer. I disconnected the trailer and headed toward town. I stopped at a muffler shop and they recommended a guy who specialized in 4x4’s. We tracked him down and he agreed to fix it; but we’d have to wait for him to get off from his day job. Now the big question: will a 23’ boat on a trailer fit on a rollback? Yep – quit a sight!

Here's a picture of the boat at the shop up on jacks:

Day 2 – Tuesday, July 18

It took a full 24+ hours, a motel stay and $500 (he talked me into replacing both axles), and quite a bit of convincing to get Robin back on board (pun intended); but we were back on our way. We were able to get the boat in the water and into the slip by dark. The rigging went ok with a little bit of yelling but we were in the Chesapeake Bay. (hint: don’t yell)

Day 3 – Wednesday, July 19

After our first night on the boat we awoke to cloudy skies and windy conditions. A nor-easter was blowing in. We decided to head out and try it for a while. As we motored through the channel I was trying to be careful. I sure didn’t want to make any more mistakes on this trip. I kept the buoys right in sight. What I failed to account for was windage (my inexperience was telling). Suddenly, I felt us hit the soft bottom. Hey, what’s going on here? I quickly threw the motor into reverse, got out the boat hook to push a little and we were back into the channel. Close call! All I needed was a grounding with a storm blowing in.

When we got out into the open water we had 3-4’ waves which were coming in rapid succession. We didn’t even raise the sails. It would have been absolutely foolish to attempt that with our level of experience and the weather conditions. We returned to the marina.

I think this picture was taken on our way back in:

This was taken during the same segment of the trip - just can't remember exactly what point:

We decided to find some crabs. After a few phone calls (from a phone booth) we drove about 20 miles to Chesapeake Beach and enjoyed a $20 all-you-can-eat crab feast: truly a special treat for us after having lived in Maryland for almost 18 years and learning to love steamed crabs.

But the night was young… before we could get out of the restaurant Robin started feeling sick. By this time it was raining “cats and dogs”. We got soaked just getting into the Blazer. Very quickly we realized that Robin needed a bathroom and the faster the better. The problem was that we were in the country. Nothing around. Finally we found a convenience store. No public restrooms! A hedge-row and an umbrella would have to do. Poor girl. She spent most of the night in the marina bath house. Some vacation.

Day 4 – Thursday, July 20

By morning she was better. The rain had stopped so we headed out into the bay. Waves were 2-3’. We hoisted the sails and were finally sailing on the Chesapeake Bay! We sailed for a while and Tiffany had a blast with her feet hanging over the bow riding that bucking bronco. I tried to triangulate our position with Tara’s help (this was before GPS). When you’re on big water the shoreline looks like… well, shoreline. It’s hard to make out any distinctive features. Tara got a bit seasick. I was uncertain whether the storm was past and what kind of headway we could make towards the West River where I hoped to anchor for a night; so I headed back in. We ate lunch and took a nap.

Eating lunch on the marina picnic table:

The skies cleared and the wind subsided. I decided we could safely head up the bay. We motored on water almost as smooth as glass. I was constantly concerned about grounding or hitting under water objects. The chart showed lots of underwater trees. I was unsure as to how far offshore I was – one, two miles? It was otherwise pleasant motoring for a few hours. When we made it to the West River I tried to be especially careful to follow all the channel markers and buoys. That fear of grounding just wouldn’t go away.

We motored up the West River, turned north on the Rhode River and anchored in a peaceful cove on Fox Creek behind three islands. We enjoyed a nice supper and peaceful evening in the cove. We decided not to swim.

Playing cards that evening:

Day 5 – Friday, July 21

We awoke to a beautiful day. In fact, there was a deer grazing on the shore. We had breakfast and began the trip back. On the way out of the river we passed a large, black-hulled sailing yacht anchored off to our starboard. I’d like to have motored closer to get a better look but we needed to make some time getting back.

can you see the deer?

The trip back was actually quicker. Guess maybe we had some current helping us. One neat thing happened on the way back. We had a small, cheap portable radio we were listening to though it wasn’t picking up a whole lot. We did hear George Jones as clear as a bell sing “He Stopped Loving Her Today”. Man, what a tear-jerker. Don’t think any of us but Robin knew the song well and out there on the water the lyrics just hit us. A memory made.

leaving the anchorage behind:

About three miles out the wind picked up; and we were able to sail the rest of the way. In fact, we sailed around just a bit because it was just so nice out. Our time ran out though and we had to head in.

passing a crab boat:

on her nest:

Takeout turned out to be horrible. Takeout was always aggravating with the Kells (a problem I failed to solve until just before I sold the boat). The winch post was always in the way due to the angle of the boat ramps, and it was even worse with the marina ramp which was steeper than most. We wound up cutting the winch post off above the winch, hauling the boat, and then “splicing” the post back together with a piece of 2x4. To our good fortune there were contractors on site doing work on one of the marina buildings who helped us with tools and a piece of lumber. It was hot, we were frustrated; but, finally, we were able to get the job done.

The trip back to Roanoke Rapids was uneventful, and we made it in time for the special service.

Flying Lady back in her home waters:



Pensacola Trip

Posted by [email protected] on May 12, 2015 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

(We took this trip in October 2013)

We've known about the wonderful sailing around Pensacola for many years, so this has been a targeted destination for a long time. Here's an account of the trip as posted on the TSBB shortly after returning (with a few modifications).


I have only sailed on "big" water twice previously (a 3 day cruise on the Chesapeake Bay in 2000 and a 3 day cruise on Tampa Bay/St. Joseph Sound in 2007) which means these trips are a big deal to us. Both of the earlier trips were not without incident so I was trying to plan a trip that would be as comfortable, safe and stress free as possible. I decided to begin and end at Pensacola Marine Shipyard, sail to Pensacola Beach, to sailboat cove, and return.




Prep began weeks ago: cleaning the boat, going through boat stuff, a shakedown overnight on the boat, etc. I re-installed the boat's life lines, bought a new battery, installed a ss ladder, added a 12-volt plug, bought a battery operated lantern as an anchor light, bought a couple extra pins and rings, doubled checked ground tackle, etc. Prep also included coming up with an itinerary, making reservations at marinas, and getting advice from board members. Pensacola Tom and Gregg were especially helpful. Thanks to all who chipped in advice and suggestions. I also went online and downloaded charts of pertinent areas (NOAA chart 11383) and entered waypoints on my GPS using I print the charts off on regular paper and insert them into place sheet holders and then into a plastic binder. (You can see the binder in one of the pics below. The black cord is to my yellow Etrex GPS.) I particularly was interested in 3 waypoints: the entrance to Bayou Chico, the Fair Point marker, and the entrance to the ICW by Sand Island.


The last bit of prep went into scheduling the trip. As it turned out, Karen disrupted those plans but I wasn't about to drive 400 miles into a tropical storm. As it turned out, she blew out, we shifted our days back a little and wound up missing the weekend crowds.


Day 1 - Monday, October 7


We packed everything heavy in the back of the SUV since our load on the trailer tires is right at max. After final loading Monday morning we left Dalton around 9:30 a.m. EDT. The boat tows well behind the Trailblazer.



We took the eastern route through (really around Atlanta) and met our daughter for lunch just south of Atlanta. Always great seeing her and especially the little grandson.



After a brief visit, we were back on the road. I was hoping to make it to Montgomery before having to gas up but the horses were particularly thirsty. Turns out I was only getting 13 mpg when I was hoping for 15 or 16. After gassing up at a "dive" we were back at it. We came prepared to cook supper on the boat that night but since it was a little later than we anticipated we decided to eat supper once we got to Pensacola. We stopped at KFC on Nine Mile Road and had a wonderful supper. Best KFC I have ever eaten at - a very tasty buffet. Their cabbage was especially good.


We found the marina with no trouble, rigged the boat and got her into slip C-28, four down from Shane "Wallace the Great" (a famous TSBBer)  just as it was turning dark.



The night was peaceful though a bit chilly. I didn't pack a blanket but after a while wound up using a large beach towel which helped me sleep fairly comfortably. I was hoping they would have shore power for regular 3 pronged extension cords but the outlet was dead and I knew the next marina did not have the household type outlet. Just in case, I had bought a GFI to be safe. I ended up buying a 30 amp adapter at the store. Didn't want to but now I'll always have it. The battery being new had plenty of power for one cabin light but we had taken a laptop and a few DVDs in case we wanted to watch something. We never did.


Day 2 - Tuesday, October 8


The day dawned bright and sunny. Forecast was for light winds and warm temps. This was going to be great! After a simple breakfast on the boat and some complimentary coffee for my wife from the ship's store we threw off the lines and headed out.


It was a short 2 miles through the bayou to the end of the channel. We were on the bay! I hoisted the sails and shut the motor down. We were sailing. We headed ESE in the direction of the Fair Point marker. I wanted to get around it before turning SE toward Santa Rosa Sound. We were only making 1-2 knots, occasionally it would bump 3. At one point I even turned the motor back on. Along the way we ate sandwiches for lunch. Robin did a great job packing food for the trip.


Here's my wife at the helm on the bay. As you can see, the waters are pretty flat.


We finally made it to the Sound and decided to use the motor to head east to Sabine Bay where we were to dock at Sabine Marina. Here's a pic of the marina:


Not as nice a PSM but adequate. My one big complaint would be that the little fingers are not very steady. Was a bit of a challenge for my wife. The big plus: the boardwalk was right across the street! We decided to hit the boardwalk for the afternoon, come back at dusk, shower and go back for supper. We worked our plan.


It was Tuesday so the boardwalk was not crowded at all. In fact, some of the shops were not open, but we enjoyed the peace. We strolled around, got something to drink, shopped a little, and scoped out some restaurants for supper. I had originally planned to eat at Flounders, since we had heard so much talk about it on the forum; but we decided on Crabs on the Gulf side. Turned out to be a good choice.


Proof we were there:

Sunset over Sabine Marina:

Here's a picture of Robin at her birthday dinner (a couple days early but that's common for us) She absolutely loves steamed crabs: 

After an evening stroll we returned to the boat. The wind blew all night and our boat bounced from piling to piling. Not uncomfortable, just annoying. Maybe our lines were too loose? But I didn't want them too tight either with the tides. ???


Day 3 - Wednesday, October 9


The third day broke windy and overcast. I went out and bought some ice (the ice machine at the marina was out of order so I had to lug it from the Circle K), newspaper and coffee. The forecast was 5% chance of rain. The marine station was not forecasting anything foreboding either. After a leisure morning and breakfast, we decided to head out, though my wife was a bit reluctant. The wind seemed to be fading a bit. It was from the east and we were headed west so I figured we'd be ok. We got to the end of the channel, hoisted sail and set a course for the ICW channel at Sand Island.


We were moving along at a pretty good clip - the GPS was hitting 5 and 6 knots. We were on a broad reach very close to a run. If I had had a pole, I would have set the sails wing and wing, but I tried to stay on a course that would keep the headsail out of the shadow of the main. This pic was taken not long after heading out.

You can see the Pensacola Beach bridge in the background as well as the clouds and the sea state. It was great.


After a while the wind picked up just a bit and a few whitecaps started forming. Then it happened! Out of nowhere along come these huge 4-5' waves!! Now that's huge to someone not used to them in an 18' boat. And they were coming abeam from starboard. The boat was rocking side to side and I could just envision rolling starboard and taking a wave into the cockpit. My wife was really scared and one wave really got me concerned. I told her to grab the portable radio off the cabin bulkhead just in case.


Truthfully, I didn't know exactly what I should do. I didn't want to turn back into the wind. What I really needed to do was to set a course to take those waves at an angle; but  I was afraid a gybe would be dangerous and heading up to starboard would put me on the wrong course. So I just kept plowing forward and watching. The "terror" lasted 10, maybe 15, minutes at the most and just as quickly as the waves appeared they disappeared.


In hindsight, I believe that the waves were the result of the collision of the waters from the Bay and the waters from the Sound. The tide was going out and the wind was out of the east pushing more water into the mix. When we arrived back at PSM, one of the guys at the store said that it can get churned up like a washing machine out there. If I ever go back, I'll certainly be on alert to similar conditions. Thankfully, we made it through. 


We continued on toward the ICW and Sand Island. By the time we arrived at the the channel between Sand Island and the mainland the sun was out and the day was looking pretty fantastic. We went through with no problems though the waters were almost like rapids in a mountain stream. Someone had said we could probably make our way through on the other side of the island but I wasn't too eager to stretch my luck. We followed some other advice and went as far at the navy pier before turning to go into the cove. The shallow areas were pretty noticeable though. When we entered the cove the first thing we noticed was that the area on the eastern end of the island was taken; so we settled on the narrow strip about half way down. We had a little more privacy and high tide wasn't until the wee hours anyway. Here's the view eastward:


Really is beautiful and protected! First night anchoring out and we wanted to be safe. I dropped an anchor out a ways from the shore, went in gently bow first and when I touched bottom I jumped off the bow and buried an anchor on the shore. A little later I turned the boat around by simply tying off the rodes at opposite ends of the boat. I removed the rudder first though and was able to almost put the stern in the sand. Was just a short step off the boat to shore. Perfect!!

We had lunch and then I took a walk to the east end of the island. Met our neighbors - a man and his brother-in-law were sailing the two nice vessels (I believe they were both Endeavor 34"s) at that end. They were friendly and even offered for us to join them at their campfire later that night.


A beautiful view from the hilltop:




As the evening wore on my wife fixed stir fry for supper. Perfect one dish meal and not too difficult in the small "galley". Of course the "galley" is under my bunk. Here I'm reaching in from the cockpit for my share of the tasty dish.



 another beautiful sunset:

An exciting day came to an end. I was totally exhausted: the trip prep, journey down, two so-so nights on the boat, an anxious crossing of the bay. When it got good and dark, I zonked out! Slept like a log!! Didn't awake 'til sunrise.


Day 4 - Thursday, October 10


The day broke as beautiful as ever. I was eager to get the forecast for our trip back to PSM. I sure didn't want another experience like the day before and would do anything to avoid putting Robin through it. The winds were predicted to be out of the east at 11-14 with a moderate chop on the bay diminishing to 8-11 in the afternoon with a light chop. Sounded like the prefect ticket home.


We figured we could spend the whole morning on the island, eat lunch and then haul anchor leaving us plenty of time to get back before dark.


We did a the complete circuit around the island and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Of course, we discovered that most shells were inhabited by the hermit crabs. If we walked in the water, we had to watch where we stepped because there was no shortage of jelly fish.

Here are a few pics from the walk:


Upon returning we ate lunch and headed out. Again, I decided not to try the "shortcut" since it was low tide. As we rounded the backside of the island Robin spotted some dolphins playing in the shallows. It was cool seeing them especially since it was her birthday.


With winds out of the east again, I had already made up my mind that I would motor out to the buoy off the point of the NAS. Motoring out at about 5 knots I was surprised that the wind in our face was no stronger than it was. 5 plus the 10 or so should have been fairly stiff but it wasn't.


When we got to the buoy, I hoisted the sails. The winds were indeed lighter than predicted, but we enjoyed a leisurely sail into the bay at 2-3 knots of speed. My GPS said to head toward the white water tower so that was our mark. From the channel buoys we motored the rest of the way.


The late afternoon and evening were very mild and enjoyable. I explored the docks while Robin cooked us some ham steaks in the cabin. We ate dinner on the dock. When night fell the ducks showed up. I couldn't resist so I asked for a few slices of bread. Before it was over I had 12 feathered friends and quite feisty they were too.


We slept well our last night.


Day 5 - Friday, October 11


I had a small chore when daylight came. When I launched the boat I had pulled out the tongue extension. Unfortunately, I had failed to make sure the trailer wires were free and snapped them. So I just had to splice them back together. With that done and a little breakfast, we retrieved the boat, derigged her, packed up and hit the road. It was a beautiful day for the highway and we enjoyed the scenery. We took another route home - up through Alabama. It actually is a prettier drive. We pulled into our yard at around 8 p.m. EDT.


A swell trip indeed!



Tampa Bay Trip

Posted by [email protected] on May 5, 2015 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

I posted this on TSBB shortly after the Tampa Bay trip. I began this website not too long ago and decided to add some accounts of past sailing experiences. In this category I will post about trips on bigger waters, "the high seas".


The trip to Tampa Bay took place October 9-13, 2007. At that time I was sailing Heaven Bound, my 1990 Macgregor 26S. The following is the account as posted with a few minor changes:


Let me set the stage here: I've been sailing since 1999. I'm a lake sailor except for one 4 day excursion on the Chesapeake Bay in 2000. That trip was not without incident. In fact, my whole sailing career is loaded with "incidents". These have left my wife less than avid about sailing.


With that said, I have longed to take a nice trip to some bigger waters and give my wife a grand time. I have planned this trip for weeks to try and make it really special. So here goes....


We packed the boat on Monday and had her ready to pull out at 4:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. I would be towing with my Grand Marquis which I have always used to tow. I got to bed a little after midnight and was as anxious as a kid on Christmas Eve. As tired as I was, I had a little trouble falling asleep. The alarm went off at 3:45, and we were up and piling into the car. We pulled out about 4:20. It's about 10 miles to the interstate and that went fine.


I was careful to put a good amount a weight on the tongue so it would pull well. In fact, I used a bathroom scale and had 300 lbs on the tongue. That's all I could afford since I have a class II hitch and I also had my daughter's luggage that would be going back with her when we dropped her off at the Atlanta airport on the way back. The car was low.


After we hit the interstate it was not long until we all realized the car wasn't doing well. The trailer was swaying a bit, and when the big 18-whelers came by it was a bit unnerving. We drove about 10 miles and all agreed it wasn't going to work. None of us was up to 1200 miles of "white knuckles" riding on "pins and needles". We pulled off the road and assessed the situation. I was absolutely numb. All that work and now no trip.


We returned home and my wife went back to bed. I laid down on the sofa to clear my head and try to come up with an alternate plan. My daughter, who was so looking forward to the trip, put her mind in gear. She finally called my other daughter and asked if we could borrow their truck. So at 8:30 we exchanged vehicles and by 10:30 (I had to rewire the plug for the trailer lights - the truck did not have a "pig tail") we were "on the road again". And, boy, what a difference with the pickup! This was going to work. It was a beautiful day to travel. Traffic moved well and we had no problems in route.


We were getting a 6 hour late start though, and this impacted my planned itinerary. As we traveled, I had to rework my plan. Since I was so familiar with the area after weeks of studying charts and preparing, I was able to come up with a "plan B". I had planned to start at the Seminole boat ramp, motor to Dunedin Marina by dark and spend the first night there. There was no way I was going to make it by dark, so I decided we'd go to St. Pete, put in at their municipal marina and stay right there. No motoring in the dark.


We arrived at St. Pete about 8:30 p.m. We parked the truck in the marina and figured, since it was dark already, it wouldn't hurt to go ahead and have some supper first. We walked to "The Pier" and had supper at Cha Cha's on the upper deck in the open air. It was wonderful: a little warm but the breeze was blowing nicely.


Here are the girls having a late supper:


 We walked back, set up the boat and put her in the water. I went to start the motor and she wouldn't fire! I pulled and pulled and pulled on that thing. We were once again devastated with disappointment! We figured we had no choice but to take the boat out of the water, get a motel, and reevaluate in the morning. It was 3:30 a.m. when we went to bed. We'd been up almost 24 hours. Here's a pic of the frustrated crew:


When I woke up, I went straight out to the boat and guess what? It started on the first pull! I had flooded the motor the night before: my bad. But... here's a pic of a still eager first mate outside on the hotel parking lot:


After breakfast it was back to the St. Pete marina and setup time - again. We were in the water by lunch time. We decided to motor over to the courtesy docks. I usually check my reverse gear before docking. It's not very reliable; seems to want to kill the motor. Well, it did. More frustration. I decided not to try to dock without reverse.


We headed out into the bay. Here's "The Pier" as we're headed out of the marina:


I wasn't aware of the mid-day doldrums, but it was perfectly calm - and the day was hot. More frustration. I'd driven 600 miles to bob and bake! I can do that on my own lake. This was the breaking point for my wife. She'd been very patient, but this was about all she could take. She doesn't tolerate heat and she was ready to go back to Georgia! I just sat there like Tuesday morning wondering what in the world to do. While I pondered things, she took a dip in the "shark-infested waters": facing heat stroke or entering the food chain, she chose the later.


I decided we were here, and we would make the best of it. I began to motor out to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Within a half hour the wind started to stir. I was encouraged. A few minutes more and I decided it was time to sail. By the time I got the sails deployed the wind was perfect. We had the most beautiful sail out to the bridge. The winds were northerly at about 10mph and we were on a beam reach doing hull speed. I was ecstatic. I was able to sail all the way out to the bridge on one tack at full speed. That just hardly ever happens on a lake. What a great sail!


The winds built a little and I furled my headsail in a bit and was again comfortable. Waves were 1-2 feet. Again, a bit of a new experience for a lake sailor, but it was still pleasant for captain, mate, and crew.


As we were approaching the bridge, I was doing a bit of filming. Suddenly my daughter shouted, "Did you see that?!" Apparently I had just missed getting footage of a dolphin jumping 6' out of the water silhouetted against the western sun. Tiffany loves dolphins, always has - and she was overjoyed at the spectacle.

 Here's a picture of a slightly happier crew after we had sailed a while:


 Here's a pic of the 11-mile long suspension bridge back-lighted by a sun headed for the western horizon:

  We sailed under the bridge filming as we went. It was neat. I had driven over that bridge a few years ago and had looked down on the bay thinking to myself, "That's some big water, but I sure would love to sail on it." Here I was sailing under that very bridge.


I had wanted to sail to Egmont Key, but the day was getting on and my wife wanted to stay in the marina. We turned around and headed back. We were able to sail about half way back. When it was time to turn north, the wind was on our nose; so we motored the last half of the return trip. We arrived at dark. Here's a pic of the sunset just before we got back:

  As we approached the harbor and marina I hailed the dockmaster on the VHF (the very first time I ever used it!), and we set up dockage for the night. Bill was so nice. He's a liveaboard right there at the marina.


We spent a great night there and had a wonderful supper of salmon steaks, peas and carrots, garlic bread, and Zebra cakes for dessert: compliments of the chef (my wife). The shower facilities were absolutely spotless and it was nice to get cleaned up before retiring. I had asked Bill about mosquitoes. His answer, "What mosquitoes? Don't have any." He was right and the weather was so perfect that I decided to sleep in the cockpit that night. It was absolutely heavenly.

 Here is St. Pete from the marina:

  Thursday dawned as pretty a morning as you could wish. We leisurely ate a breakfast of pop-tarts and then hauled the boat out. I wanted to do Caladesi Island and sail in the Gulf so trailering over to Clearwater was really the only option. Once we trailered over to Clearwater, we launched at the Seminole boat ramp and motored out to the Caledesi eating lunch as we motored. The ICW was beautiful and the homes on the waterfront gorgeous.

 Here is a picture of the channel leading up to the marina as well as a couple of the marina as well:

There were only a few boats at the marina. In fact, only seven overnighted there. We checked in at the park office and were made aware by the large mounted skin on the wall of giant rattlesnakes that inhabit the island. Robin wasn't thrilled to hear that so decided right then and there that there would be no "exploring". We never saw a snake (although just as we arrived a large bull whip snake had been spotted over by the bath house). The only reptile we saw was this guy:


 We quickly got ready and went to the beach for the afternoon. Not many people there and after the last tourist boat left we were literally the only people on the beach as far as we could see either direction (probably 3 miles). We headed back before dark and had another great supper of ham steaks, green beans and potatoes, with Zebra cakes again for dessert. When we got our first mosquito bite the netting went up, and we saw maybe one more of the buzzing creatures the rest of the evening.

On Friday morning we did the beach walk shelling as we went. Along the way my daughter was given a tip to walk out into about 2' of water where she began to find some conches. Most of them were live and had to be thrown back, but she did find a few empty shells. My wife also picked up enough shells to give out to her Sunday school kids.

Here are a couple pics we took on the island:

  After our walk, we ate a lunch of PB&J sandwiches under one of the pavilions and set out for some really big water, the GULF!

It wasn't very far to the Gulf; and, after setting the sails with the boat motoring into a 10-15mph breeze, we turned south toward Clearwater Pass, about a six mile sail. I had set the sails with a reef in the main and the headsail partially furled. I quickly let out all the sails, and we were doing nicely with following seas of 2-3'. It was quite lovely.


I could have sailed wing & wing and headed straight for the pass; but, since I was in no hurry, we sailed a bit SSW on a broad reach. That put us a little further out into the Gulf, but it was a nice day and little reason for concern. The further we sailed, however, the more the wind picked up. According to the weather buoy, by the time we were ready to gibe back toward the coast, the winds had picked up to 15-16 knots steady with gusts to 18 knots (that's 17-21 mph). I estimated the waves were 4-5 feet. The girls got really nervous, especially after I executed a poor gibe and rolled the boat a bit. I really didn't want to sail through the pass, so I doused the sails and cranked up the Honda 8. She died when I put her in gear the first time; and, for a moment, I was a bit concerned myself - we were being driven by the wind toward the channel marker and beyond that was the rocky shore . She kicked in on the second try, thankfully, and we motored on into the Clearwater Pass. As it turned out, I could have easily sailed through the pass. Since the winds were out of the N, maybe a bit NNW, the pass was in the lee of the island which left the waters pretty calm. I motored under the bridge without incident, but as soon as we were out of the "shadow" of the pass, the stiff winds hit us.

We headed north up the ICW toward the Dunedin marina, stopping at the Seminole ramp on the way for gas. Now my wife would have really killed me had I run out of gas! Truth be told, I had checked my fuel a little earlier and I was dangerously low. Man, was I glad we made it to that fuel dock! If I had run out of gas in that narrow part of the ICW, those winds would have quickly pushed us... well, let's not think about that.


After fueling, it was a beautiful short ride to the marina with the sun lighting the eastern shoreline. Here's a shot:

  We arrived at the Dunedin marina and after were promptly assisted by Tom who lives aboard on "B" dock just down from where we had tied up. He pointed out the location of the bathhouse and made suggestions about local eating fare. After cleaning up, we decided to eat on the water at the Best Western Inn's Marina Cafe. It is right on the water and the evening was just perfect. They also have a 4 or 5 star restaurant but we'll save that for another occasion. Here's the view as we walked up to the cafe:

We ate from the light fare portion of the menu to save a few dollars and had a great supper. My daughter and I had seafood antipasto which was a variety of things including tuna, salmon, mussels etc with some special sauces. It was different, but I wanted different. It was a good choice. Robin had southern chicken salad which she loved as well. It filled her up. 


Here's a pic taken by the manager:

  After returning to the boat, I walked around the docks for awhile particularly noticing the sailboats.


We had a restful night’s sleep, we motored back to Seminole at daybreak. We were treated to one final joy on the way to the ramp when two groups of dolphins swam by about 30 yards off our port. We turned the boat around, motored parallel to them for a bit, and got a little footage while watching them.


We had a little wait at the ramp but finally got the boat hauled out. While getting the boat ready, a couple pulled in with a nice Compac 19. I introduced myself and asked if they had ever been on TSBB. He said occasionally, but it had been a while. Hope they had a good sail. We left about 10:00 a.m.  and dropped Tiffany at the Atlanta airport at 6:30 p.m. I felt a little funny driving through the airport towing a sailboat. We were back in Dalton by 8:30.


What a trip! What highs and lows! As I said, it really was the best of trips with a few moments of utter frustration thrown in to keep us humble I guess. One thing's for sure: we made some memories!


Sail on.



A Tent or a Tomb?

Posted by [email protected] on May 2, 2015 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (1)

I wasn’t sure what to title this entry: another overnighter on the dinghy, ride ‘em cowboy, two extremes, 3 seconds of terror or what? You see what I decided and I’ll get to it a little later. Suffice it to say that trouble can come most unexpectedly.

I had been looking for an opportunity to try out my new tent that Santa brought me for cruising on Little Bit. After a week of rain, there was a two-day window that looked like it might work; so I went for it. The forecast was for SW winds at 10-20 mph with about 20% chance of an afternoon shower with some possible lightning. We had been hit with some severe weather and were on the trailing edge of that weather. It was a bit risky; but I figured the worst that could happen was I’d capsize, lose the boat, and have to be rescued. Hey, why not?

I got to the ramp by the Chickamauga Lake dam a little after lunchtime. I figured I’d reef even though the wind would be at my back. I had never reefed Little Bit before but knew that reefing her sprit rig on the water would be extremely difficult in high winds, and I wanted to be as safe as possible: I’ve had too many incidents in my sailing experience and sure didn’t want to add to the list (knock on wood).

I normally launch my dinghy from the ramp versus from the pier. I push her off the trailer, pull the bow up onto the ramp and park my rig. When I return, I climb to the stern seat which lifts the bow and I can row away. The ramp faces due north. As soon as I got into the boat, the southerly wind gusted, grabbed the sail which was loosely furled around the mast, quickly turned the boat around 180 degrees and we were headed out into the lake. It happened so quickly I was taken by surprise. Never left the ramp like that!

Not that I needed to, but I decided to row out a little way just to be sure I had cleared a couple of buoys. When I went forward and untied the sail, the wind was so strong that it immediately wrapped the sail around the mast and the reefing lines all came loose. Oh, well. In that wind there was no way I was going to try to fix anything, so I just made do.

I headed northeast and sailed for a while with the bottom of the sail flapping. It actually wasn’t too bad: it just didn’t look too seamanlike, and the wrapped sail actually acted like a second reef (I’ve got to rationalize it somehow). After about an hour, I decided to duck into a small cove that provided shelter from the wind so that I could straighten out the sail and retie the reef.

With those little tasks completed, and after stretching my legs a bit, I headed back out. On the water it took my constant attention to keep Little Bit sailing. The winds were brisk to say the least. After the trip, I checked the Weather Underground almanac; it reported winds of 10-24 mph with 34 mph gusts. I was not comfortable trying to take pictures except for one. The wind slacked off a little as I was abeam of Harrison Bay State Park.

Here's the picture:

Next time I reef, I will tie off that loose clew to the first reef point. It's just too short to tuck.

I had picked out 3-4 possible anchorage sites, depending on how far I was able to sail, which would offer protection for the night. I made it 12 miles up the lake and settled on a cove on the north side of Bear Trace Golf Course. It was a welcome break after 3 plus hours of getting tossed about by a very lumpy lake which included two foot waves passing under me at times during the downwind sail. At no time did I ever feel that I was in trouble, but there was no turning back into that wind. I could have ducked for cover, but it was a test I wanted to take.

I wrapped up the sail and rowed around the cove looking for a good spot to anchor. I thought about going ashore and walking the golf course for a few minutes, but the shoreline was pretty thick. Eventually, I rowed up a little finger dodging some fallen trees and tied off the stern to one of them that lay across the end of the finger. To be sure, I inspected the tree thoroughly for any serpentine life forms before doing so. I then rowed back out a bit and dropped an anchor off the bow. The anchoring arrangement would keep me from swinging during the night. When all was said and done, I was only about 10’ from the shore in about 5’ of water.

Here are a few pics of the anchorage:

I settled in for the evening. After a supper of air temperature Chef Boyardee Pepperoni Pizza Ravioli and a dessert of Grandma’s oatmeal raisin cookies (they’re truly the best) washed down with some H2O, it was time to pitch the tent. Now, I had done it dry sailing; but I was a little concerned about doing it afloat in a dingy with a narrow beam rocking in the water. It actually went up pretty easily. I started by “building” my sleeping platform. Next – the tent itself. Since the 4 corners are not staked down, I was able to “accordion” the tent until I was ready to open it up and get into it. Once I threw everything into it that I would need for the night, I was able to sit inside the door of the tent and leave my feet outside straddling the center thwart which is where I sat until dark.

Here's a pic of my eats for the trip. Kept it simple:

And one of the tent set up but not fully opened up:

Here's one I took the next morning showing the platform set up:

Being a one person tent with a width of only 28”, it is tight inside; but it fits the inside dimensions of my dinghy. I took along a couple issues of a sailing magazine and read through one using a new headlamp I had received for Christmas while being serenaded by a chorus of chirps, chatter, and croaks by the local choir. Finally, it was time to retire for the evening. It was a bit tricky getting into my sleeping bag but I managed.

To get an idea of how narrow the tent is just notice that the sleeping bag is still doubled up to half its width.

The most notable part of the whole setup is the high center of gravity sleeping on an elevated platform. Any movements have to be done with that in mind. Along about 4:30 in the morning I needed to move around some and straighten out my sleeping bag. Somehow in the process (I was not fully conscious mind you at that time of morning) I got too far to one side of the platform and the boat heeled dramatically. It was like I had crossed an imaginary line (and by the laws of physics I had). Of course, the tent is nylon and slippery and when the boat heeled I slid sideways increasing the angle of heel. And now comes the 3 SECONDS OF TERROR! At that moment I became fully conscious. For just a split-second it was like I was in a car balanced and tottering on the edge of a cliff: one wrong move and over she goes. After a hard day’s sail in the most trying conditions I have ever sailed in and here I was about to drown in 5 feet of water only 10 feet from shore inside a tent that I thought for sure was going to become my watery tomb. I do not know how she stayed on her feet or how I managed to get back to the centerline without capsizing the dinghy, but I did and Little Bit came back to level. Talk about relief! It’s not spelled r-o-l-a-i-d-s. It’s spelled D-R-Y!!

The words of our good friend Howard Rice (I consider him a good friend to all small boat sailors) immediately came to my mind. To paraphrase, he said when sleeping on a small boat you need to be able to get out in a matter of seconds. You cannot afford to get trapped!

I do not know what would have happened had the boat capsized. Would I have been able to get out of the bag and out of the tent in time? Even in relatively shallow water would I have been able somehow to stand? Honestly, I do not know. I’m thankful I didn’t have to find out!

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much after that and I was very careful to keep my weight on the centerline. When I got out of the tent at daylight, there was a little bit of water in the floor: not a lot but it seemed to be too much for just dew. I don’t think it rained. Every time I looked out the tent window I could see the stars. Did I come so close as to actually take in some water? Wow!

Enough drama. As I sat with my hind-end in the tent and feet outside on the floor of the boat contemplating the events of the night and planning for the day, in the faint dawn light I noticed something swimming in the water about 20 yards away. It was swimming away from me and at first thought I figured it must be an otter. About that time it made a 90 degree turn toward shore, reared its head and smacked the water with its tail. It was a beaver letting me know whose turf I was on! How neat and what a treat.

After eating my breakfast of a Little Debbie cinnamon roll, the sun popped up. It provided an absolutely beautiful, idyllic scene; one I was fortunate enough to capture with my Nikon Coolpix which had been safely stored in a waterproof box.


By 8:00 o’clock I had my gear put away (if you can call it put away), the reef shaken out, the anchor weighed and the shore-line untied. The forecast was for near calm conditions and some late morning light NW wind which would have me pinching, followed by a westerly breeze on the nose in the early afternoon. None of that sounded good for the trip back to the ramp – at least in sailing terms; but return I must, so I settled in for some rowing.

Here's the anchorage in the early morning light as I was leaving:

And in this one you can see one of the fairways of the golf course:

As the beautiful sunbathed morning unfolded, the forecast was just about right on, all except the NW wind which never really developed. I wound up rowing 11 of the 12 miles back, and the one mile that I sailed can hardly be called sailing: most of us call it ghosting. I’ve done little rowing in my time but at about 10’ per stroke I figure I got in somewhere around 6000 strokes (man, am I going to be sore tomorrow). One thing I did learn was the semi-dory tracks better with the rudder in the water.

Here are a couple pics taken on the return trip. A pretty neat tree with what I guess is its root system; Chester Frost Park on the western side of the lake and then a pic toward Harrison Bay showing a lot of pollen on water. You'll notice how flat the water is which of course means? no wind...

About a mile from the ramp that west wind kicked up. I took down the mast to cut resistance and made it back in without incident. It was good to stand up and move around after being in an 11’ boat for 20 hours.

What a trip! Another overnighter? Yes. Ride ‘em cowboy? Yes. Two extremes? Sailing hard and rowing in a calm, yes. Three seconds of terror? Yes and double yes! A tent or a tomb? Thank the Lord, NO!

In the meantime, I will say I need to rethink the sleeping setup. If I’m on Little Bit, I will never sleep inside a zipped-up sleeping bag again and will certainly never sleep without my PFD securely fastened on my person! Furthermore, I have already been thinking about building another boat which would serve my purposes better. Right now John Welsford’s Walkabout is the leading contender. She is designed specifically with an open floor plan to allow for sleeping and keeping the center of gravity low. She would also be a better rower than the dory.

This excursion has given me a much greater appreciation for those who do those long distance trips like the FL120, TX200, and Watertribe events. 24 miles in about as many hours only begins to describe what those sailors do. And the way my bottom felt after the trip, I can only begin to imagine how theirs must feel after several days of what I just experienced.

Sail on, mate!

First Overnighter on "Little Bit"

Posted by [email protected] on September 18, 2014 at 10:55 PM Comments comments (0)

(I'm posting this a little late. This trip was taken on July 28-29, 2014 and the report was posted on the TSBB forum.)

Well, I had two full days to sail and the forecast seemed about as perfect as it could be, so I decided to give her a shot. We had a busy Sat/Sun so I couldn't finish prep until Monday morning. I finally launched about 1 p.m. It turned out I was missing part of the snotter. I jury rigged it using a locking hitch pin for a block and an extra piece of line. Here is Little Bit (oh, yea - I did officially name her with some thanks to Noemi) about ready to go.

You can see I have just about everything I need - gatorade, water, plenty of padding, brand new blue tarp, waterproof box (you do remember my capasize - right?) compartments stuffed with stuff and most everything is tied in. I did say "just about". I need to add something to my checklist - add a checklist. I forgot my sleeping bag. I also left my night reading (a couple Sail Mags, one issue of Woodenboat) and glasses in the truck - dumb me.


I thought if the winds were just right I might could get in 20 miles though I had picked alternate goals. Leaving late almost ruled out the 20 right away. As it turned out the winds were a bit fluky and more northerly than anticipated. It took me about 3 hours to go 7 miles. At that time I figured making the 10 mile destination was about all I was going to make.


Well, at the 7 mile mark the river turns north and narrows. I battled a half mile stretch for an hour and a half. Couldn't get through. I'd get almost through, get to the other side, tack and lose ground. Repeat. I'd get a good wind and would be bashing through and before you know it, I'm in irons - wind shift. Last effort I almost made it but the winds and waves were the strongest of the day. I was almost through and to the other side but I could tell the last bit that I was making too much leeway to make it and bailed. I sailed back to a small island and took a break including a little dip (in the water that is).

There was a cove behind the island. There I spotted the Chickamauga Hilton. That's where I'd settle in for the evening. I figured it would take a while to set the boat up for the night since I had never done it. I was done by 9:00 and had a bit of light left. It is quite a chore keeping all that stuff orderly on a little boat. And one mistake I made was putting the mosquito net up before the bed-boards. They are still unfinished and the net grabbed those boards like it wasn't going to let go! I wound up taking the net down and redoing it. With no bag and a forecast of low 60's I put on the only long sleeve shirt I had, a pair of socks and grabbed the sail for a blanket. Did anyone ever tell you that dacron has a very low R rating?


I did get chilly - not cold - just chilly. At one point I started to shiver but that didn't last long. The boat was fairly stable and the Thermarest camping mattress worked pretty well. I was only bothered by one mosquito in the early morning, saw one mayfly, and a few other flying critters on the outside of the net. It's a good thing I had the tarp because the dew was heavy. Here's the view to the stern:

I tried to cover one open end with a orange poncho I had and the other with a large leaf bag I brought. I slept with my PFD on. You can also see the "blanket" laying off to the side there. Of course, removing the sail meant I would have to rig the boat while in the water the next morning. I managed but it wasn't perfect.


Here's the shot of the morning taken from the anchorage out to the river/lake. That's the island I stopped at. The boat was right under that single tree on the right.

The winds were light to start the morning, in fact, I rowed for a bit three or four times; but then it filled in pretty nicely. I sailed the 7 miles back in two and a half hours.  

Here's the takeaway. Cruising in a dinghy has its challenges. After just 14 miles I'm going to be sore in several places. I had a blow-up seat cushion that took just about all the discomfort out of sitting for hours on end. However, my back has a very sore spot on it from leaning against the rear seat and I even has a foam cushion I rested against the whole time. Sitting still wasn't all that comfortable. Any real long cruise would have to have something more relaxing. The push/pull tiller is indispensable. I had the regular tiller along just in case but I never thought about using it. The tarp, mosquito net arrangement was difficult. I wish I had some kind of tent to set up over the boat. Rain would make it even more difficult. Of course, there's sometimes the option of tent camping on shore.


Will I do it again? Maybe. But then I have the Hunter 18.5 that has a bed in it!!! What fools we are.

On the Rocks

Posted by [email protected] on November 19, 2013 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

First blog post here. Welcome. Plans are to keep a running log of my sailing/boating/water escapades. 

Yesterday I took the dinghy out. Here's the writeup I posted on the Trailer Sailor Bulletin Board (

After two aborted attempts to sail the dinghy last week due to no wind, I gave it another try today. The wind forecast was better today, especially after the front that went through; however, it was almost too much wind. I do not have a lot of experience in the dinghy and the water is cold this time of year (don't ask me how I know:,dale,hunter,18,5,capsize).


The forecast was for 10-11 mph winds and just before I left they upped the forecast for 14-16 for a couple hours with temps in the mid 60's and sunny. Tomorrow's forecast is 10 degrees cooler and wind 6-7 mph. I decided to try today. If the winds were in the mid-teens I would make a decision when I got there. I thought with two reefs in I might just give it a try.


Well, I arrived at the ramp at about 2:30. Winds seemed to be around 6-8 mph, perfect. While I was rigging it kicked up a bit so I went ahead and put one reef in. About that time an older fellow meandered over and asked me about my boat. Turns out he is refurbishing a Catalina 22 and also owns a 1989 Macgregor 26. We talked for a few minutes and he left with his compatriots.


Wind was settling down so I shook out the reef and decided to go for it. Now remember, the episode in the above referenced post is still very fresh in my mind. I have only been out on the dinghy once since that ordeal and that was really a very brief outing; so my confidence level was running low. I sure didn't want to dump her again in the middle of the lake. My senses were on high alert.


The winds were out of the NW which made for a nice broad reach up the lake and a close reach back. I did two "laps" of about a mile out and back each time. The wind was a bit erratic varying from a few mph and jumping up to 8-10 from time to time. I sat in the middle of the boat with my muscles set to shift my weight and my hand quick on the sheet. The boat did fine; however, setting on the middle thwart puts a little too much weight forward and the bow was digging in some, especially on the broad reach.


On the last inbound leg, I felt I would be able to sail the dinghy up to the dock. As I was approaching the dock, say a quarter mile out, the winds began to get a little fluky and shifted a bit to the west. I was really having to pinch to hit that dock but I felt like I could make it happen.


Remember the forecast? 14-16 mph? Well, guess when the wind decided to pick up to 14-16 mph? You got it; and I'm not kidding (no pun intended) Final approach! I was about 50 yards from the dock when the wind slammed me. Now mind you - it's blowing onshore! I wasn't going to make the dock! It all happened so fast. It was too late to row. I didn't feel like I could make a tack without crashing into the dock; so I decided to gybe. I didn't make that either. The wind blew me right onto the rocks. Daggerboard and rudder hit bottom. Boat couldn't make leeway and over she went. It didn't really dump me. I just kind of stepped into knee-deep water.


Now what? Gotta get the boat to the dock and she's half full of water. I did bring a gallon pitcher with me (just in case - not that I really expected to need it) so I started bailing; but the wind (you remember that 14-16 mph wind) was still catching the sail and pushing the boat over. I went ahead and just took the whole mast down, bailed for a few minutes and rowed the boat over to the dock.


Once I got the boat onto the trailer, I changed clothes (yes, I also brought a change just in case), packed the boat up and came home.


All in all the outing was good. Just a bit of a hard landing.


Oh, and did I tell you that I had a water-proof box that I kept my phone and camera in - just in case? It worked. Sorry though, no pics taken. Too tense out there today.


Gotta go, there's the drier buzzer. Wet clothes are washed and dried for the next outing.