New Blog Post

What’s new around here? Lots of inquiring minds are asking, “Where are you,” and, “How are you,” and, “When are we going to see you!?” So here is the scoop. We have not been lounging around on the beach or kicking back sipping cocktails. We’ve been moving Rode Trip, day by day, northbound toward the Chesapeake. It’s been a long trip back to the United States from Panama!

After returning to Bocas del Toro, Panama we spent a grand total of two days cleaning the boat inside and out and preparing to depart. From Bocas we sailed an unforgiving, upwind passage. It all started smoothly as we motored east through light winds, trying to make as much east as possible prior to the trades building. Then the wind built and we changed our course to north. This was one of my worst passages as I was terribly seasick! I spent most of my watches bent over the railing, hurling whatever remained of my insides over the side. I simply could not adjust to the motion of sailing upwind; with 20-25 knots of north-northeast wind against us Rode Trip made slow progress slamming into stalling waves though she tried with a reefed main and jib. The motion was jolting, and the crashing waves were loud against the hull. My biggest challenge was to stay hydrated. Brian kept water at the ready and I sipped now and then. I managed to keep down about four pretzel rods and some applesauce. After four days, I was never so happy to reach Providencia!

We spent one week in Provodencia to rest and recover from our trip. Providencia was just as fabulous as it had been during our first visit. The dry season had ended, all the flora was lush and green. The days were hot and the nights cooled just enough for a comfortable sleep. The east winds funneled through the boat like an industrial fan, steady 25-ish knots for days. And when the rains came they were short lived. We reconnected with people we’d met during our first visit to the island. Soon enough, it was time to leave once again.

From Providencia we sailed directly to Key West, Florida. During the first 36 hours we faced the treacherous upwind, but this time the wind was lighter, 15 knots, and we added the staysail to our powerhouse sail plan. I only threw up twice, which was a vast improvement! The remainder of the passage was lovely; we spent a total of eight days on the water. Taking six-hour shifts at watch we were each well rested, but still stifling hot! Most nights we marveled (I marveled, Brian looked out tentatively) at lightening shows from nearby thunderstorms. During the days we lounged about the boat cooking and tidying, reading, and trying to keep cool by dousing ourselves with sea water and fresh water rinsing at the end of the day. Arriving at Key West marked the end of passage-making as we know it with Rode Trip. From there, it would be Intracoastal Waterway and short hops on the outside as we’d continue north along the east coast…

We are still cruising, although treating it like our job to deliver our boat to the Chesapeake. Aside from short visits in areas where we have friends we’ve been moving every day…at a steady 4.5 knots. We hoped outside from Key West to Lake Worth, FL and then slogged through the state along the ICW. We made another hop from Amelia Island at Fernandina Beach, FL to Wrightsville Beach, NC. That was a fabulous downwind sail for two days with one long 24 hours of motoring on a glassy ocean to complete the trip. Most recently from Wrightsville Beach, NC we hopped outside for a long, 70nm day to Beaufort, NC where will continue north from this morning. Our final destination is Deltaville, VA where we have found very affordable yard storage for Rode Trip. But we really would rather see her sell while she is well maintained and sailing. A yard is simply no place for a boat!

The Trip that Went South: Get Ready…

BMac arrived on schedule and we were all buzzing with excitement upon meeting him at the dinghy dock at Wrightsville Beach. We were all eager to hop aboard Rode Trip and haul anchor; however even though we’d intended on departing that same night, the weather was not ideal. Brian and I would not have liked it, but we would have stomached the predicted 25-30 knot north blow. We did not think that was the best way to introduce BMac to an offshore passage; in the dark with 6-8 foot waves after having just stepped foot aboard. Also we were extra cautious from our experience last year along the Carolinas’ coastline having encountered 40 knots when departing on a similar forecast. We’d gotten our asses kicked! So, we postponed our departure to the following morning when the wind was predicted to taper yet continue 25-28 knots through the next day.

BMac and I reviewed charts while Brian prepared a batch of macaroni and cheese for the following night’s meal. Then, using the replacement bulbs that we’d shipped to BMac to bring along for us, Brian installed new bulbs into our running lights which were all conveniently out. Upon removing the port side green bulb, the socket fell away to pieces! Before we could enjoy the town we all made the two-mile trek to West Marine for a last minute replacement light.

That evening we stopped at Lighthouse Beer & Wine where we kicked back with microbrews in hand. Then, we had our “last supper” at Tower 7 where our timing was right for Thursday’s special of $3 margaritas and as always fabulous mexican cuisine. We settled back aboard Rode Trip for the most important final preparation, phone calls to our mothers. That night, true to forecast, the wind howled! BMac mentioned feeling the boat move as he laid in his bunk and we were relieved we hadn’t set him atop the ocean for these conditions. We had a bit of excitement when Brian peeked out the hatch to observe a nearby anchored sailboat dragging all the way across the anchorage! “Look at that,” he exclaimed, “it’s dragging isn’t it!” I confirmed the boat he’d spotlighted was clearly dragging, sideways towards the docks. Brian and I hopped into the dinghy and zoomed over to the boat. By the time we’d arrived the boat had just bumped the end of the docks. I had to knock on the hull twice to rouse any response. We’d assumed the single handed captain was dozing to a movie that I could see through the port side window. “Hello,” he responded as he fumbled his way into the cockpit without turning on a single light. “You’ve dragged!” we exclaimed. “You’ve landed at the docks, can we help you?” Still, without turning on any lights or bothering to look around at his surroundings he replied without alarm, “Thanks, um, no, um let me just fire up the engine. Where are you?” We highlighted Rode Trip with our spotlight to indicate our location. The boat had been anchored just beside us and thank goodness hadn’t dragged into us! We backed the dinghy away as the captain did fire up the engine and motored himself away from the dock. We returned to Rode Trip and watched, painfully, as the boat was motored through the anchorage without any use of spotlighting to direct where it would re-anchor. Finally, the boat had stopped well beyond us and we were content to go back inside.

The following morning everything was ship-shape. We made breakfast and with a final weather check had confirmed our fears about last evening’s forecast. The weather buoys off of Frying Pan Shoals were recording 40 knot wind speeds (we checked weather buoys via www.windfinder.com – updated hourly). We wanted to make some tracks although the wind had not yet tapered, so we decided we’d motor down the Intracoastal Waterway and exit at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. We made one final trip to shore to deposit trash, fill the shower bag, take a walk to the beach, and make a pit-stop at the public restrooms.

BMac and I hauled anchor and we were finally on the move!

Weather Window OPEN! and Crew Scheduled to Arrive

The time has arrived and we are totally ready to put on our sailing pants and GO! This time next week we’ll be sitting in the sunny Abacos, Bahamas with rum punches in hand, sand on our toes, and fresh fish for dinner. Don’t worry, I’ll send along plenty of photos to rub it in…um, I mean to share our experience at these new (for us) set of Bahamaian islands.

Our friend, BMac, has enthusiastically volunteered to join us for this offshore passage. We’re happy to welcome him aboard! BMac got acquainted with Rode Trip last year while during our visit in Annapolis, MD he took the helm without hesitation. This will be our first time with crew aboard for an extended, offshore trip and we’re looking forward to extra hours of sleep, flawless sail changes, and swabbed decks from this greenhorn. Ok, I don’t want BMac jumping overboard before we arrive! Brian and I have selected our weather with BMac in mind with hopes that we’ll have a smooth sail. We’ll review safety, use of VHF, use of radar (we’ll all be getting a crash course in the newly installed AIS), basic windvane and sail adjustment, charting and log book entries, and very important use of the composting head. Certainly it won’t be all business, but our goal will be for BMac to experience the ocean safely and to participate in whatever aspects of cruising he is comfortable. Wish us luck!