Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Great Chesapeake Schooner Race

                The reason we stayed in Annapolis after the boat show was to witness the start of The Great Chesapeake Schooner Race.   After having sailed on the “Pride of Baltimore II” ten years ago, I have become one of her biggest fans.  This Annual event brings dozens of schooners of all vintages and sizes to race from Annapolis to Norfolk.  We sailed out to the bay from the backwater we spent the last two days in.  We could see a collection of two masted boats coming under the bridge, south from Baltimore (where the crews had met and partied the day before.)  The parade was led by Baltimore’s “Pride.”  She is a modern replica of the “Baltimore Clippers” which established themselves around the war of 1812.  These swift boats were successful in running the British blockade and as privateers harassed the enemy into submission.
                After a run of sunny and warm days, this one was a little harsh.  The sky was a low hanging brooding gray.  But the boats kept coming, about forty in all, and being midweek and poor weather, we were one of only three spectator boats.  I guess Schooner races don’t have the draw of roller derby or curling, IMHO.  The racers were divided into several classes with separate starts about fifteen minutes apart.  There was good wind at first, 15 to 20 knots.  When the third group started, so did the rain and the wind dropped to about three knots turning “Kodak Moments” to oil paintings. 
                Well I’ve been taking pictures of our trip all along, but have yet to have an opportunity to share them with you, dear reader.  Besides the daily rounds of boat work, regular chores and having new adventures piling up day on day, we are beset with technical glitches on all sides. From balky software for my new camera, to slow Wi-Fi service, the gremlins were everywhere.  On top of that, Microsoft’s vista had a brain fart and blew up Judy’s e-mail world.  This was followed by the BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH. 
                How lucky we are to have Ankur, our IT guru.  He got us back up and running by phone, but the rest of the stuff, photos, videos and GPS tracks will have to wait.  Stay tuned.
Steph,  10/14/10

A Day Off… or two

                I broke my watchband some months ago.  Now that my cell phone does all of the same tricks and more, I never replaced it.  That is to say, I have no idea what time we got up.  Having met the primary goals of getting to the boat show and visiting with friends, we were ready for a day off.  Well hooked on lovely Spa Creek, we sat around the boat in t-shirts doing chores that still (always!) remain.  Judy was up both masts to do small adjustments and resecure our radar reflector.  While she was up there, she took some pictures. She then set a new flag halyard on the starboard spreader so we can follow protocol and hoist the yellow “Q” flag for quarantine when we arrive in the Bahamas.  We will fly this flag until the Captain has the boat and crew cleared for entry.  We then replace that flag with a Bahaman flag as a courtesy when staying in her waters.  We replaced the genoa sheets and rigged our new fenders for service.  We cleaned up a little as we are settling in more each day.  Somewhere during the day a piece of porcelain veneer came unstuck from my lower left canine while eating an apple. 
     I woke the next morning deciding that the piece was large enough to be saved and recemented. A call to Dr. Kobren, my prosthodontist, had me hooked up with a local practice in Annapolis in no time, again, the wonder of technology!  So I grabbed my knapsack, cell phone and MasterCard and dinked to the nearest street that ended at the creek and tied to the dock and walked the four blocks to have my tooth repaired.  Another type of commute, and one I will learn to enjoy more and more.  I picked up a block of ice at a gas station and put it in my pack for the trip back to the boat.  We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Spa Creek.
Steph,  10/12 & 13/10

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Boat Show Part II (Playing Ketch Up)

  …..Each day bring new adventures, and less and less time to chronicle those adventures.  Now that I’m a week behind in my entries (and the events are fading like ripples in the water,) I’ll do a quick recap. 
                One of the popular events at the boat show is the tear-down.  Like New Year’s Eve in Times Square, The crowd’s anticipation grows as five o’clock nears.  There are lots of reasons, and one at the forefront of many sailors’ thoughts is “Sundowners” or evening cocktails. The purported sport is to watch as hundreds of vendors pack their goods, and the professional delivery captains vacate the harbor.  It’s a well choreographed procedure that involves moving boats, docks and merchandise in quick cadence.  The reason for the need for speed is that the waterfront will be transformed into the “Power Boat Show” after one day’s break. 
                We gathered on the roof of Pusser’s Restaurant adjacent and overlooking the show where drinks, live boat music, drinks, pub food and did I mentioned drinks (?).  It was party city when the ball dropped (actually no ball dropped, but a cannon was fired.) If you Google the Annapolis boat show, they have a time lapse video of the process (the boat recessional, not the drinking. )   Annapolis T-shirts and bumper stickers proclaim, “ANNAPOLIS, a drinking town with a sailing problem.
     On the roof/ patio of Pusser’s, we ran into Garry (Garry with two arr’s.) Garry works at West Marine in Haverstraw with us, and was visiting the boat show with his wife.  We hung out until our friends Rene’ and David showed up.   We met them and dinked out to the boat for a short daylight visit.  We headed back to shore for dinners and to move the car and avoid a parking ticket.  We had a pleasant evening socializing at Armadillo’s, a colorful waterfront dive around the corner from the Naval Academy.  This place is frequented by midshipmen, but not on date night, I don’t think.  It’s pretty raggedy around the edges.  Beer signs and photos of our fighting forces overseas festoon the rough brick walls.   Your mother wouldn’t approve.  A sense of pride and valor and support of the wounded vets project make this gritty waterfront bar real.  The “Best Burger in Town” and some great crab cakes made it a terrific choice.  The front row view of the ongoing tear down of the show added to the drama.
                We bid our friends good night and headed back to Bentaña for a well deserved night’s sleep.

Friday, October 15, 2010

“The World’s Biggest Sailboat Show.”

                Monday morning and the last day of the boat show.  A number of evolutions need to take place before going to the show.  While our blog audience consists of cruisers and landlubbers, I’ll describe some of the events that need to take place before we view the exhibits.  Besides the normal morning toilette and coffee we all partake in, the following needs to be done:  Redeploy the inflatable dingy (hereinafter referred to as our “dink”;) hoist and wash down the anchor ;  find a location closer to the show; launch the dink, and motor on down.
                The dink,  a ten foot RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) had been deflated and packed in its carrying case and lashed on deck since we left New York. So unlash, unpack and reinflate, then hoist it over the side into the water.  The Yamaha 8HP two-cycle engine was secured to the stern rail and also had to be hoisted over the side and fixed to the transom.  We tied her astern with a tow*-line and brought up the anchor which we washed off with the recently installed  wash-down pump which uses river water to wash the mud off the chain and anchor before it comes aboard.  
                We were now ready to return to Annapolis and find an anchorage within a few minutes of the show.   Spa Creek proved to be our best bet.  The week-end was over, and many boaters had gone home.  Just past the show and the Annapolis City Marina is the Sixth Street Bridge, or the Spa Creek Bascule Bridge. We called the bridge tender on channel 13 to request a bridge opening and got no response.   We called the harbormaster who advised us to try the phone.  We got right through and the tender was happy to stop all the pedestrian and vehicular traffic and let us through.  The miracle of cell phones!  A bascule bridge is one which has counterweighted leaves which pivot back and leave a clear way for our ~51’ mast.  This, as opposed to the Conrail Railroad Lift Bridge we encountered on the canal.  The lift bridge rises directly up, hoisted by cables in towers at either end.
                Putting the bridge behind us, we motored past lovely homes and condos till we found a spot we liked. The water was still and about 300 feet wide and 11 feet deep with docks on either side.  We dropped anchor, checked its holding and satisfied, prepared to debark.  Besides seeing the show, we were going to meet friends Rene’ and David, who are driving down from Warrenton, VA. We’re carrying extra life vests for them, portable navigation lights for returning after sunset and cables to lock the dink to the dock.  The City of Annapolis has a public dock at every street that ends at the water.  Limited dingy docking is available.  We motored to Dock Street which is just between the Naval Academy and the boat show. With about 20 dinks before us there was just room for one more.
                On to the show…Wrist bands on and about five hours to tour the tents, docks, boats and hundreds of vendors. Unlike the New York boat show, this is an On-The-Water show.  Boats are brought in, and temporary floating docks brought in around them for visitor passage.  I have never seen so many boats in my life.  Both in the show and surrounding waters, it’s sailboats and more sailboats.  It’s a good thing! Since we’re not in the market for a new boat, and seeing them is not a treat for me we wandered the booths in the tents.  First, to find our new friends Ian and Jason at PYI, they offered us a new improved zinc for our Maxi-Prop. 
                To be continued…..


Sunday morning at the “T” dock at Horn Point Marina and we board Tim, our visiting crew member, for a short sail and orientation, “showing him the ropes,” so to speak.  The sun was shining and the weather mild, but little in the way of wind to take advantage of.  We motored out into the fleet of Thistles headed to their piece of the bay.  We found Tom and the crew of “Mad Cow” and offered them a tow. Under the circumstances, it was a welcome amusement, and they tossed us a line.  Arriving at the SSA Race Committee boat, we cast them off and resumed our orientation.
                Tim is an experienced sailor, and it didn’t take long to be introduced to the lines and rigging of Bentaña.  With little or no wind we hoisted sail, practiced the jiffy reefing and furled the sails.  Tim completed the paperwork to officially sign on for the Rally.  We returned to the marina so Tim and Virginia could head home to Charleston SC for another work week.
                Our budget and sense of adventure precluded us from spending another night at the Marina, so we checked out the local anchorages.  Those near the boat show were all full, so we headed across the water to Whitehall Bay.   The bay itself is somewhat open to weather, but leads to several protected creeks.  We made for Mill Creek and arrived in the dark, the first sliver of moon making its appearance. The chart shows a series of navigational day marks (unlit channel markers on fixed pilings.)  They are shaped, numbered and colored according to convention, but hard to see in the dark.  The LED flashlights we use daily are ineffective at distance and our rarely used million candle power beacon was buried somewhere.   Fortunately we were being followed in by another sailboat, and after hailing her, discovering they were local, and asked if we could follow them in.  They were very helpful and since the channel was deceptively close to shore, it saved us from touching bottom more than once.  They lead us up the creek to a lovely spot where we spent a quiet night and prepared for Monday and our visit to “The World’s Biggest Sailboat Show.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Saturday, 10/9 on to Annapolis

After a bit of rest we awoke to a bright and warm day with a gentle breeze.  We sailed off the hook and headed down bay for about an hour when the wind trailed off and we set the “Iron Jib.”  We were headed for Annapolis and the biggest sailboat show in the world.  More importantly, we were going to meet up with Tim Harris, who will be joining our crew from Hampton, Virginia to Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas in a few weeks.  Tim had arranged for dock space at Horn Point Marina not far from the show.  We tied up and noticed the docks didn’t float.  Rob, the marina manager, said the tidal range here was only about a foot and a half.  We are used to about a five foot range on the Hudson.
                We met Tim at the dock, and showed him and his friend Virginia around Bentaña.  Tim was especially interested in our mizzen mast and is looking forward to sailing a ketch.  Tim and Virginia had dinner plans with boating friends here at the marina, so Judy and I enjoyed the hot showers ashore and set out to find Tom Lawton.  Tom manages the West Haverstraw West Marine and is a force to be reckoned with in a Thistle.   It happens the fall Thistle series of races is here at the Severn Sailing Association in Annapolis this week-end.
                The same lackluster wind which abandoned us this morning provided three races for the Thistlers.  We met Tom and crew, at Davis’s Pub, a sailor’s hang-out in a residential part of town.  Kind of another “O’D’s.”  Tom reported taking a fourth place for the day in a field of around thirty boats.  We found ourselves at another table, shared with three Boat Show vendors, Fred, Ian and Jason.  They sold esoteric equipment, some of which is on Bentaña.  It was a great night at an outside table with clipper city “loose cannon” (IPA) and some crab goodies fresh from the bay and boat talk.
                With a promise to see them tomorrow at the show, we headed back to the marina for another nights rest.  And so I’ll close for now and pick up this string on my next break.  Love to all

In 14 hundred and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue

It’s Columbus Day, and it’s been almost a week since last checking in.  We last reported motoring up the wide, flat, featureless Delaware Bay.  Dawn broke and evening settled in with little change in view, weather or routine.  In a bright, partially overcast sky and mild temperature, we had slight headwinds but kept the main sail up for stability (actually hoping for some favorable wind.) A favorable wind did arise and we motor sailed for a few hours in the afternoon and evening.  Twelve hours later in darkness we approached the entry to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.  Now we were on the river, instead of open waters, and the channel wound around a well lit nuclear power plant.  The navigation lighting was intense, as this is a major commercial transit point.  Bright range lights, shore-side light in the shallows and channel markers all hid the elusive entry to the canal at Dutch Neck.  We had been told that there was a lot of traffic, but there was virtually none as we tried to decipher the myriad lights.  Just then a tug coming from the north made her way into the canal, and we followed suit.   For the next couple of hours we had the waterway to ourselves.  Last night and tonight where moonless adding to the drama.  The canal on the East end is a ditch a couple of hundred feet wide.  It was quite surrealistic, gliding down this inky black channel with a dark sky overhead.  There were amber lights every two hundred feet along either bank, and they reflected in shimmering trails off to a curving vanishing point.  A slight chill in the air let a low mist waft up from the waters catching the glow from our steaming light.
                The western half of the canal is a series of natural waterways cutting into the Delmarva Peninsula.  Here we met a number of tugs and barges pushing east.  Each one hailed us on commercial channel 13 to make sure we saw them and to agree how we would pass each other on these narrow waters.  After Chesapeake City, the only urbanized section of the canal, the North End of the Chesapeake opened up to us. 
                By this time we were ready to take a break for a rest (we’d been under way since the GW bridge two mornings ago!)  Our friend Bob Shoemaker, with whom we’ve sailed the Chesapeake before, gave us some good stopping points.  We headed another hour south to find Still Pond, a shallow protected bay on the eastern shore.  About five other boats had tucked in there, and we dropped the hook for a good night’s sleep.  It was 6AM and the anchor didn’t grab the first time out.  Our new Delta anchor is well regarded, but the bottom was sandy and I discovered a glitch in the rig which I rectified in the morning.  Meanwhile the water was still and forecast to stay that way.     I let out an extra fifty feet of chain and went to bed with the “anchor drag alarm” set.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


                After a long berthing process, (too long according to some porch pirates) S/V Bentaña has slipped her cables, cast off her dock lines and headed out to see the world beyond the Tappan Zee. For months, people have asked when we were leaving to “Live Our Dream?”  We generally answered, “When everything is ready, around the end of September.”  As we worked to bring her up to the task of taking us off-shore, we realized everything was a tall order, and would be satisfied with being mostly ready. 
     October second was our first hard date, but Murphy’s Law, in the way of truly crappy weather and supplier problems held us up until Wednesday the sixth of October.  We, Captain Judy, Mary “the ship’s cat” and yours truly left the Nyack Boat Club on a fair tide in the afternoon. We got as far as the George Washington Bridge where we anchored for our planned well deserved rest before the long passage down the Jersey Coast.
                I am typing this on Friday the 8th   at 1530hrs, and we have been under way since yesterday at 1100.  You do the math. Glad it’s not in Roman Numerals!  The skipper is at the wheel and we are motoring up Delaware Bay.  It looks like what I imagined the mouth of the Amazon looks like.  You can barely see the opposing shores. We had been sailing since we left Weehawken NJ for a fuel stop.  A fair west wind carried us through upper and Lower New York Bay, down the Ambrose channel, along Sandy Hook and a “long reach along the beach,” as Tom Lawton put it. 
                The winds settled down at dark, and piped up again through the night when Judy and I took turns steering and sleeping.  As morning broke we passed Wildwood NJ, with its skyline of roller coasters and a Ferris wheel.  Off shore the fishing boats plied their nets, and small windblown song birds stopped by for a hitchhike.  It seems like it took forever to round Cape May, which brings us to our next passage, through the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

We finally departed!


Well, after months and months of preparation upgrades on the boat and weeks of 20 hour days getting ready, we finally departed the dock and Nyack Boat Club at 3:02 pm (1502) and shut the engine off 7 minutes later as we sailed away with a brisk 7 to 10 knot wind out of the WSW.  We hoisted all three sails and had a lovely sail down the Hudson with the current and were making 7.5 to 8.5 knots over ground! We are anchored near Alpine (just north of the George Washington Bridge.)

Now that things have calmed down a bit, we will be blogging more often, as cell phone modem allows.  We are on our way to Annapolis to the boat show and we also want to see the start of the Great Chesapeake Schooner Race.

Near the end of October, we will join a group of other folks on sailboats in Hampton, VA and on November 1 or thereabouts, we will depart with a group for the Bahamas and some others will depart for Tortola, BVI.