Lessons Learned by Mark

Now that we are officially back on land and have sold our sailboat, we’ve had some time to reflect on our trip.  We also thought it might be helpful to pass on some of the lessons we learned along the way to others who have similar aspirations or to those who just want to compare notes.  I divided the information into five categories that include buying and selling a boat, equipment and maintenance, safety, provisioning and finally home schooling.

Buying and selling the boat:  While there has already been volumes written about purchasing and selling a boat, what was unique about our experience was that we never expected to purchase the boat we eventually bought. To make a long story short, I had been searching for a more blue water boat.  Unfortunately, many of the boats of that caliber in our price range needed too much work and we would have never left the dock.  Our Hunter 37 which is considered a coastal cruiser was found by a friend in Florida who was convinced that this was the boat for us.  Our Hunter really hadn’t been sailed very much by the pervious owner, which isn’t exactly a good thing, but it had spent most of its life on a fresh water lake, which is. Consequently, even though the rigging was old, it was still in good condition.

When we considered what we were going to do with the boat, we concluded that we weren’t really going to be crossing a big ocean anyway so why not buy the coastal cruiser?  It was ten years newer than anything else I had looked at, it was beamy for spaciousness below deck, and it even had an aft cabin, something that would be a real advantage to a family of four!

Of all the items that can need work on a boat, I was mostly concerned with the following four:  sails, engine, rigging, and delamination in the deck or hull.  While our boat wasn’t perfect, it was in extremely good shape for its age.  Any problems that were found in the survey were reasons to further negotiate the price.  She was a diamond in the rough for sure, but we were able to negotiate the price a little lower because of it.  That being said, I ended up having to do more to the boat than I expected to get it ready for our trip, but it’s my understanding that is almost always the case!

Along the way we continued making improvements to the boat, straightening out the running rigging, fixing all the wiring, adding LED and replacing the faucets, many of the improvements weren’t expensive but the result was a boat that showed well.  The biggest project was sanding and refinishing the floors which took time but made the boat look 10 years younger.

Refinishing floors one section at a time.

Refinishing floors one section at a time.

Sanded floors were later finished using a satin finish polyurethane.

Sanded floors were later finished using a satin finish polyurethane.

When we moved onto the boat, several thru hulls were leaking.  Replacing the sea cocks, hoses and installing a new prop and shaft as well as bottom paint were the biggest expenses in part because it required 2 haul outs.

When the handle falls off your seacock you might want to replace it!

When the handle falls off your seacock you might want to replace it!

In the end, we had a boat that was in much better condition than when we started.  At the end of our trip, when we made it back to Florida, we advertised the boat on Craigslist and on sailboatlisting.com.  We priced the boat just slightly less than similar boats on the market and felt confident that ours looked better and was better equipped than any of the other boats on-line.  Finally we took an entire day cleaning out a room at a time and took the best pictures we could, using a wide-angle lens.  We sold the boat to the first couple that came to look at her which was fortuitous but it is important to add, I think, that we were able to pass on a good deal on the boat to the new owners because of what we saved when we bought a boat that needed a little work.

Main salon.

Main salon.

ll6

Vberth

Aft cabin.

Aft cabin.

ll8

Head

Equipment and Maintenance:  It’s safe to say that every piece of equipment on a boat has a certain life expectancy.  Usually the surveyor on a boat will inspect the sails and rigging for signs of fatigue but my experience on Truansea taught me to pay close attention to all of the hoses and engine components too.  During our trip, I replaced both water pumps and the lift pump.  I replaced the heater hoses that ran to the hot water heater because they had nearly chaffed completely through.  The exhaust hose was nearly rotted through, and I replaced the raw water hose to the head because of excessive cracking.  Boat U.S. states that any hose over ten years old should be suspect.  Finally when replacing your hoses, always double clamp beneath the waterline using high quality hose clamps.

indented rather than stamped hose clamps are less prone to failure and corrosion.

Indented rather than stamped hose clamps are less prone to failure and corrosion.

hose clammp fail2

Failed hose clamp

Don’t forget to inspect the mixing elbow on the exhaust system as well.  It is constantly exposed to high temperatures and saltwater, a recipe for corrosion!

When it came to maintenance of the engine, I opened and inspected the heat exchanger before we left the dock.  I replaced the raw water impeller, belts and fuel filters.  The fuel tank was polished to remove any sediment that might get stirred up in high seas.  In retrospect, some of the fuel in the Bahamas was dirty and it would have been nice to have a baja filter for fueling.  Because my fuel filter was rather small, I changed the primary filter every 100 hours along with the oil.  In place of a Baha filter, I sacrificed an old t-shirt to filter the fuel going into the tank.

Replacing the fuel filter when you buy a boat is clearly a good idea.

Replacing the fuel filter when you buy a boat is clearly a good idea.

Unless I had already just replaced the pumps on a marine engine, I would now keep spares on the boat if I was going to venture very far offshore.

Safety:  By far the most useful safety item we had on the boat besides our life jackets was our satellite phone. When our water pump failed in the middle of our crossing back to the states our sat phone was our only link in contacting Boat US and notifying the Coast Guard of our position.  Of course, we had an EPIRB as well, but the main advantage of the sat phone is the ability for two-way communication.

http://www.explorersatellite.com

We always kept a ditch bag handy.  In it were flares for nighttime, smoke flares for daytime, signal mirror, a flashlight with laser pointer & SOS signal.  We packed a handheld VHF with our sat phone and a hand-held GPS loaded with blue water charts. Finally, we threw in a few easy open cans of food and a couple quarts of water.

Had we been making longer crossings on going further south, we would have invested in a lifeboat.  As it was, our dinghy was our life raft.  We kept a horseshoe buoy and a lifesling on the stern rail.  Christine and I wore coastal inflatable life jackets and bought used harnesses and tethers at Sailorman in Fort Lauderdale.  Buying used equipment at Sailorman saved us hundreds on the outfitting of our boat.  The only other item I would have added to our safety list would have been strobe lights that clip on to your life jacket.  I would also recommend orange life jackets for kids as they are far easier to see from a distance.

Sailorman, a gold mine of used sailing equipment!

Sailorman, a gold mine of used sailing equipment!

The literal piles of gear at Sailorman.

The literal piles of gear at Sailorman.

Provisioning:  This was really my wife’s department, and she did a good job of stocking  the boat until the waterline disappeared!  Her posts already touched on the subject of provisioning so I’ll be brief.  Only to say that how you provision will be a function of your ability to refrigerate.  It takes a fair amount of power to keep food cold or frozen on a boat hence all of the solar panels and wind generators on cruising boats. Since we didn’t start our trip with solar or wind power we ate a good deal of TVP (textured vegetable protein) on our trip and it’s actually not too bad as a meat substitute.  Christine even added it to a white sauce when she made biscuits and gravy.  We bought along non-refrigerated meats like pepperoni for pizza night and summer sausage kept fine without refrigeration.

Finally if you’re headed to the Bahamas, bring plenty of paper towels and toilet paper.  They sell toilet paper by the single roll and the stuff isn’t cheap!

Don't let toilet paper rationing come to this! Back by popular demand.

Don’t let toilet paper rationing come to this!

Home Schooling:  Our strategy for homeschooling was following a couple of 4th and 5th grade curriculum workbooks.  In addition to the workbooks, we taught whatever was at hand when the opportunity presented itself.  We learned about Columbus in the Bahamas, Ponce de Leon in Florida and Blackbeard in Beaufort, NC.  We made timelines using the dates of significant events that had occurred along our route in the past such as the Civil War, etc.  Where we could, we watched historical reenactments and spoke with biologists in the field.

Seeing turtles, dolphins and sharks in the wild reinforced their understanding of animals in their natural habitat.

Learning about sharks in Bimini.

Learning about sharks in Bimini.

In this way, we covered our bases using the workbooks which provided a wealth of learning without using a ton of boat space.  But the real learning was in the doing.  Charting led to discussions of latitude and longitude.  Of course nothing teaches weather like watching a waterspout.  Our boat was a floating laboratory with new lessons everyday.

The world is your classroom.

Let the world be your classroom.

My opinion about schooling kids on a boat remains the same as it was before we started our adventure.  Schools would gladly teach all their students exactly as we did this last year if they could.  I have no doubt the rewards of an education afloat will be long-lasting.

Fair Winds,

Mark

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Truansea’s New Journey Begins by Christine

In my last post, I wrote “What is in store for Truansea next?  I can’t wait to share that with you, but that is another blog post.  Stay tuned.”  Thank you for staying tuned and now, the reason we ended the boating part of our trip… we sold Truansea.  We passed her on to the new owners and stepped off her for the last time Saturday morning to continue the rest of our trip by land.

Join us in congratulating the new owners, John and Marty!  We are so excited for them to follow their dream and begin their adventure.

So how did they find us?  Marty says she is not a computer wizard but somehow stumbled across our boat on Craigslist.  She called her husband John and in her southern accent said, “Honey, I found our dream boat!”

There have been many, what I call gifts, sent to us along the way on our yearlong adventure and John and Marty are two of them.

The first time we met John and Marty was in Beaufort, North Carolina where they came down to see the boat, spending a couple of days sailing and getting to know her.  Marty was bearing gifts of Virginia t-shirts for the boys, Virginia wine for us, and a gallon of Virginia peanuts (the best peanuts I have ever had).  John brought harmonicas for the boys, and CDs and a fly swatter for the family.  We had so much fun sailing with them, sharing meals and enjoying John’s jam sessions.  Marty and John had read our blog and were full of questions for the boys about cruising, life on a boat, fishing, etc. They already knew a great deal about the boat from the blog.  We had not realized what an important tool the blog was until we were well into our trip.  It was not only great for communicating with friends, family and cruisers but served as a maintenance and trip record for the boat.

John is a talented musician, is incredibly organized with a great sense of humor and is full of nothing but positive comments.  Marty is indescribably generous, and her enthusiasm is absolutely infectious.  She is the kind of person you want to hug when you meet her.

Following are two videos of John playing on our boat.  He plays a mean harmonica, accordion like you have never heard it and flute.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time with them.  As a parting gift from Beaufort, Marty came bearing packs of the boys favorite candy, Skittles and some candy bars.  It was a real treat, which they savored for days.  We worked out the contract details and would sail Truansea the rest of the way up the ICW and into the Chesapeake to Yankee Point Marina in Virginia for the survey and haul out.

The next time we saw John and Marty was at Yankee Point Marina.  Marty came bearing gifts of Lego’s for the boys and yes, more skittles.

John and Marty at the haul out.

John and Marty at the haul out.

The last time we saw them was on the day of the closing to go through the boat one more time and pass over the sails, so to speak.  John brought us a copy of his first CD and, you guessed it, Marty had more Lego’s and Skittles.  They have made such an impression on the boys not only in the gifts they bring, but in the friendship we have formed with them.

We feel so fortunate to have met them and all feel good about them sailing Truansea.  We all became quite attached to our boat and having her go to some person we did not feel a connection with would have been hard.

Logan taking Marty for a dinghy ride.

Logan taking Marty for a dinghy ride.

One of the questions we had is, “Are they going to change the name of the boat?”  The name Truansea fit  for our adventure, but the name Scuffletime fits their adventure.  I mentioned that John is a talented musician and he is part of a band named Scuttletown.  The CDs he brought the first time we met them was Another Sundown by Scuffletown and Roads by Scuffletown.   Check them out at http://scuffletown.net.  If you are reading this blog, you are the type of person that will love their music. The fly swatter he brought us on the first trip is a genuine Scufflehead fly swatter which was probably the most appropriate gift of all as it whapped a few hundred deer flies going through the Dismal Swamp area.  We played John’s CD’s and whapped flies for hours on end.  We are now die-hard Scuffleheads!

Marty was a kindergarten teacher who touched many people’s lives.  She is the kind of person you would instantly feel good about leaving your kids with.  More recently she has touched many people’s lives with her cancer foundation which she started based on her battle with ovarian cancer.  http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/state-regional/a-retired-teacher-battling-for-a-cause-larger-than-herself/article_1ff9e5f3-fabb-5924-a222-6f0cf507e2b0.html

https://www.facebook.com/MartyWhitlowOvarianCancerResearchFund/info

John has touched many people’s lives through his music and seminars.http://www.feiaa.org/event_bio.php?event_ID=125&ID=120&speaker=

We feel fortunate to have been brought into their circle.

Fair winds ~ Christine

Mission Accomplished by Christine and Mark

It did not occur to us, until recently, what a monumental goal we accomplished this year.fam done really

The sailors we have met working our way north in the states have given us a new appreciation and sense of pride for what we did.  Many people we met have been working toward their goal of sailing to the Bahamas and they cannot believe we got the boat ready to go and provisioned in 2 months, let alone sailed all the places we did this past year.  It took hearing this from at least 7 sailors we met before we understood what an accomplishment  it was.

Some of these people have been trying to go for years.  One we met has been trying to get to the Bahamas for 8 years.  For some, the weather window never seems to open up or they did not get their provisions and missed weather windows.  For others, boat repairs keep them at the docks.  Some solo sailors decide they need crew but cannot find the right person to go along.  Some want to gain more experience first.  Some run out of money before they cast off.  The list goes on.

The first realization we came to was that boat repairs are never done.  You have to decide what is absolutely necessary, thus stopping the outflow of money and leave.  Second, stuff as many provisions as you can in the boat before you go.  Whatever you forgot or run out of, you will either do without or another cruiser may have brought what you need.  Third, there is rarely a perfect weather window.  Be selective, but also be ready to move when the opportunity presents itself.  If it is too bad, you can turn back and wait a day or week and try again.

Looking back, being at the dock getting ready to go was the hardest part.  Once we cast off, it was much, much easier.  Not only did we make our goal, we set several new goals as we went and were able to make every one of them.  Our original plan was to take a year off with the kids and sail to the Bahamas, with a destination of Georgetown, at the end of the Exuma Islands.  We thought if we made it all the way down there, we would be lucky.

After arriving in George Town, relatively unscathed, we decided next to sail to Elethera, then the Abacos.  With summer approaching, we knew we wanted to be back in Florida where we could hole up if tropical storms or hurricanes threatened.  Many cruisers told us, “You have to do the ICW,” so we continued up the coast in the ICW all the way to its beginning in Norfolk.  After that, we continued north into the Chesapeake Bay, up the Rappehannock River where we are ending our journey on Truansea.  What is in store for Truansea next?  I can’t wait to share that with you, but that is another blog post.  Stay tuned.

The blue track is our road trip.  The red line is our sailing track.

The blue track is our road trip. The red line is our sailing track.  Our road trip was 2800 miles and we sailed over 1600 nautical miles.

If you have your own adventure waiting inside you, it has been said that the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.  Take it.

Fair Winds ~ Christine and Mark

Socks & Shoes by Christine

What are these things called socks and shoes?

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to put on socks and tennis shoes after a year of going barefoot and wearing sandals?  It.  Feels.  Strange.

I had not given thought to socks and shoes for quite some time until last week when our friends, Rod and Lisa, from Idaho came to visit us on the boat.  Rod slipped off his tennis shoes at the dock before getting on the boat to reveal his feet clad in crisp, white ankle socks.  It was such a strange sight.  I looked at his feet and blurted out, “Socks.  Wow, I haven’t seen socks in a long, long time”.   I probably have not seen an article of clothing that white in a long time either.  Whites never get washed separately on our boat or anybody else’s boat that I know.

It occurred to me then that the only people we have been around for the last year are cruisers who are solely in sandals or barefoot.  I then noticed that Lisa and her friend’s feet were clad in sandals but their feet were manicured.  That was also a revelation.  I don’t think I saw any polished toenails cruising either.  No doubt, the salt water would be hard on toenail polish and it is probably just too much of a bother to try and keep your feet looking good.

We had the time this morning, and felt the need, to get off the docks and go for a walk.  There are no sandy beaches or hiking trails where we are, but there are beautiful, woodsy, country roads to walk down.  Socks and tennis shoes seemed the appropriate footwear for the expedition, so we all dug around in the boat to produce the needed footwear.  After some period of time, we all found our shoes, and socks that matched close enough.  Logan made the mistake of putting his socks on inside the boat and almost fell down on the wood salon sole.  Lesson #1, do not wear socks in a boat.  Then getting off the boat he slipped on the side deck.  Lesson #2, do not wear socks on the deck of a boat either.

After what seemed like another long period of time, we managed to get on our socks and lace up our shoes.  We stood on wobbly legs on the dock.  How very strange it felt.  Here are a few of the comments heard:

These feel so tight…  I’m being constricted…  My feet are hot…  I feel tall with these on…  They feel like blocks of wood strapped on my feet…  They are so heavy…  I feel so lethargic…  I can’t keep my balance…  They make my knees tired…  They are rubbing on my toes…  My feet are getting sore…  Why do people wear these things anyway???

Our first time wearing socks & shoes in a year.

Our first time wearing socks & shoes in a year.

 

Feeling a little wobbly with our footwear on.

Feeling a little wobbly with our footwear on.

Getting our walking legs going.

Getting our walking legs going.

The hour-long walk conversation was pretty much all about socks and shoes.  If you ever get a chance to break free from these things called socks and shoes for a year, let me know how you feel when you put them on again!

Back at the boat, we all tucked our tennis shoes into the depths where they had been hiding this last year and I suspect we will not go looking for them again until we hit cold weather and our toes are near freezing.

We freed our feet on the walk back to the boat.

Let them be free.

Fair winds ~ Christine

The Pelagics by Mark

From time to time, on our trip to the Bahamas and up the ICW, we have crossed paths with a few sailors that have, shall we say, global iteneriarys.  It was always so fascinating to talk with these pelagic sailors that I wanted to update you on their progress.

Mike and Jennifer are now in Tahaite.

Mike and Jennifer are now in Tahiti.

While getting our boat ready to go in Florida, we met Mike and Jennifer on board Mahili.  They left Florida just before we did and have since transited the Panama Canal and sailed on to Tahiti.

We used to see them frequently making runs to McDonalds hardware in Ft. Lauderdale.  Mike was easy to spot wearing his signature blue terry cloth hat.  The skeleton that they gave the boys for haloween hung over our nav table for the duration of our trip.

They blog as they go and you can see their story on Facebook. MikeJenniferGough  mahili_au@yahoo.com

At the start of our journey, the first cruiser we met when we realized we weren’t in Kansas, or should I say Idaho anymore, remains at large in the Bahamas.  David on s/v Mist never ran short of stories to tell and our boys will always remember him as the ultimate sailor.  Unfortunately, you won’t find him on facebook.  You’ll have to discover him yourself but the best way to describe him would be a combination of Joshua Slocum and Tristan Jones!

David showing the boys what they used to do with pirates.

David showing the boys what they used to do with pirates.

Whenever I look back on the time he helped me change our exhaust hose, I tend to get that sinking feeling when I think what our trip would have been like without his help.

I have to admit, I never made this post until now because we were lucky not to have this hose blow out on us in the Bahamas and I didn’t want to tempt fate.  I understand now why sailors became so superstitious.

The exhaust hose was ready to go at any time.

The exhaust hose was ready to go at any time.

Finally, there was the meeting of Tom and Susi on s/v Troll.  They had put to sea from Germany, then traveled to Portugal, Morocco, and the Canary Islands.  They spent time in Gambia which they loved.  From there they went to Cape Verde, Brazil and Uruguay, and they did it all on a two masted junk rigged catamaran called “Aorai”. They built their own masts and made the sails themselves, no small task as one can see from the pictures.

Building new masts for Aorai.

Building new masts for Aorai.

Aorai, a catamaran built in Austria.

Aorai, a catamaran built in Austria.

Suzi hanging out on the dingy they built.

Susi hanging out on the dingy they built.

The mighty "Troll".

The mighty “Troll”.

Tom and Suzi on board "Troll"

Tom and Susi on board “Troll”

Tom steers with the emergency tiller until he replaces his steering cables.

Tom steers with the emergency tiller until he replaces his steering cables.

After cruising as far south as Uraguay, they began looking for another vessel more suitable for sailing in the colder North Atlantic.  They sold Their catamaran and bought “Troll”, a steel schooner in St. Martin.  We met them in Beaufort, NC on their way to Annapolis.  They had a few projects to work on before heading up to Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland and back to Germany.  I asked Tom what he still needed to do and here was the short list his gave me.

1.Replace masts, converting to Junk rig.

2.Install diesel heater.

3.Insulate inside of boat.

4.Install hydraulic steering.

5.Remove davits and install wind vane.

6.Make new sails.

Tom's plans for replacing Troll's masts.

Tom’s plans for replacing Troll’s masts.

I asked Tom if there were facilities for doing boat work in Greenland and Iceland, he appeared unconcerned and said, “They have welders which is really all we need because Troll is more like a fishing boat than a yacht”.

The wheelhouse.

The wheelhouse.

Again, you hear the stories of what some cruisers intend to do and you think, this just isn’t possible, but then they produce the evidence of what they have already done and you walk away believing that, wow, they are really going to pull it off!

If you’re going to dream…                                                                                               Dream big,

Mark

Beyond Beaufort NC by Christine

Aye, a lot has happened this last week!  I wish I would have had internet connection to break this post into sections.  In summary, we traveled 200 miles on the ICW in 4 days and one day we had to stop early in the day due to thunderstorms.  After reaching mile 0 on the ICW, we continued north to ‘negative miles’, as the boys put it, into the Chesapeake Bay.

The winds and storms finally let up some and we left Beaufort, heading north again on July 2nd.  Going through the Neuse River, just north of Beaufort was the biggest body of water we have crossed in a while.  The winds helped us along from behind and we managed to avoid the isolated thunderstorms still moving through the area.

Truansea sailing out of Beaufort, NC.  A classic sailboat in the foreground makes for a picture perfect start to the day.

Truansea sailing out of Beaufort, NC. A classic sailboat in the background makes for a picture perfect start to the day.

The following video is part of a typical morning for us.  We were headed up the Bay River in this video.

Going up the Pungo River, we passed a dredging rig.  Pictures do not do justice to how long these rigs are so I attached a video.  They drift in the wind so you do not want to be on the downwind side when you pass them in the channel.

In my last post, I showed some of the markers along the ICW.  The following mark is from a channel where you follow the red, right, returning rule, however the mark has a yellow triangle sticker on it, signifying you are also still in the ICW channel and this is the inland side of the channel.  After you are out of the channel, the marks revert back to green on the ocean side, red on the inland side.

Green, square dayboard marker with yellow triangle ICW.  The yellow triangles are normally on the red triangle markers.

Green, square dayboard marker with yellow ICW triangle sticker. The yellow triangles are normally on the red triangle markers.

Another example of a dayboard mark you need to understand to navigate the ICW.  Quiz, which side of this mark would you pass if you are headed northbound?

Another example of a dayboard mark you need to understand to navigate the ICW. Quiz, which side of this mark would you pass if you are headed northbound?

Mile 160.  We are getting closer to Mile 0 (zero)!

Mile 160. We are getting closer to Mile 0 (zero)!

Entering 'stump land'.  Just keep your boat in the middle of the ICW through here.  It is flat calm for this part of our day.

Entering ‘stump land’. Just keep your boat in the middle of the ICW through here. You can see that it is flat calm for this part of our day.

We have had a variety of sea life swim along with us while we sail, birds have landed on our boat and rode along with us, a variety of insects enjoy catching a ride and this butterfly enjoyed flying along Truansea, having a playful flight along with us for about 10 minutes.  I never would have thought a butterfly would do this.

There were quite a few dragonflies traveling along with us too and a bunch of them caught a ride and stayed with us for hours.

Dragonfly catching a ride on Truansea.

Dragonfly catching a ride on Truansea.

This one appears to be hanging on for dear life with his little legs.  The 'thing' he is clinging on to is what we call our mascot.  On our trip to Florida, this was on the dash of our vehicle.  On our entire sailing trip, it has been in our cockpit, above the instrument panel.  We really need to give the thing a name.

This one appears to be hanging on for dear life with his little legs. The ‘thing’ he is clinging on to is what we call our mascot. On our trip to Florida, this was on the dash of our vehicle. On our entire sailing trip, it has been in our cockpit, above the instrument panel. We really need to give the thing a name.

Another dragonfly hangs out on Logan's back while he does school work.  I had to laugh how it landed right on the fish's mouth on his t-shirt.

Another dragonfly hangs out on Logan’s back while he does school work. I had to laugh how it landed right on the fish’s mouth on his t-shirt.

Cole doing schoolworks as we sail along.  You can see where our mascot resides above the instruments.

Cole doing schoolwork as we sail along. You can see where our mascot resides above the instruments.

At mile 70 in the Albemarle Sound, boaters have to make a choice whether to take the dismal swamp route or the Virginia Cut route.  The Dismal Swamp Route we had been told is very scenic and is only 3 miles longer.   It is a shallow route and they recommend it only for boats with less than a 6’ draft.  Our draft is 4’9”, which gives us plenty of clearance under the keel.

In 1763, George Washington first proposed draining the swamp to harvest cypress for shipbuilding and cedar for shingles, then farming the land.  30 years later, he sold his part of the swamp to “Lighthorse” Harry Lee, father of Robert E. Lee.  Then in 1909, a lumber company purchased it and continued the harvest until the last tree was cut down in the 1950s.  After that the land was donated to create the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.  The area has regenerated quickly from our view on the water and it now has tall trees and is abundant in wildlife.

Have you ever seen a blimp hangar?

Have you ever seen a blimp hangar?  We saw this unexpected, strange site from miles away coming up the Pasquotank River south of Elizabeth City, NC.

Blimps were used to guard again German submarines.  From the gondola of a blimp, shallow U-boats were easy to spot.  If a sub dived deep, the blimp crew used sensors that detected the vibrations of turning screws and the magnetism of a hidden boat’s steel hull to follow them.  The blimp crews then called the warships to let them know where the U-boats were.  The blimps could stay in the air for 2 days without refueling.

The ICW is full of the unexpected.  This restored boat from the Vietnam War was one of them.

This boat pulled in to Elizabeth City at the dock we were at.  No, Logan did not get to shoot real bullets out of it.  They have it equipped with propane tanks to make it sound like it is shooting real bullets.

This boat pulled in to Elizabeth City at the dock we were at. No, Logan did not get to shoot real bullets out of it. They have it equipped with propane tanks to make it sound like it is shooting real bullets.

Okay girls, I have missed the marksmanship nights this last year, but I am keeping my skills up.

Okay girls, I have missed the marksmanship nights this last year, but I am keeping my skills up.

Do you know how hard it is to take pictures of fireworks, while trying to capture the foreground too?  This picture does not do justice to the incredible firework show we watched from Truansea at Elizabeth City, NC.  They lit the fireworks off of a raft in the middle of the harbor.  We had the best seats in the house, all to ourselves on the deck of our boat.  I can’t imagine I will ever experience a better firework show than this one.  It was simply fantastic.

Mark in the cockpit 4th of July, 2013.

Mark in the cockpit 4th of July, 2013.

Heading up the Dismal Swamp in s/v Truansea, north of Elizabeth City, NC.  This section of the swamp is quite wide and very picturesque.

Cap'n Mark enjoying a peaceful morning underway.  All the bridge tenders, dock masters, etc., address you as Cap'n when they talk to you on the VHF radio.  Not only do they call me Cap'n too, but they say, "Yes Ma'am" which makes me smile every time.

Cap’n Mark enjoying a peaceful morning underway. All the bridge tenders, dock masters, etc., address you as Cap’n when they talk to you on the VHF radio. Not only do they call me Cap’n too, but they say, “Yes Ma’am” which makes me smile every time.

The water in the ICW becomes much browner as we progress into the Dismal Swamp.  This is caused by the tannins in from the trees.  On white hulled boats, it creates what people call, “The ICW Mustache”.

You can see the brownish water behind us.

You can see the brownish water behind us.

The lock at the south end of the Dismal swamp raises us up 8 feet.

The first lock.

The first lock.

The scenery is amazing.

The scenery is amazing.

Hooray, we made it to Virginia!

Crossing into Virginia on the ICW.

Crossing into Virginia on the ICW.

These are the only 2 boats we passed today.  Both trawlers had very clever names.

bed, boat & beyond

Steel Magnolia.

Steel Magnolia.

We planned on staying at the visitor’s center in the Dismal Swamp for the night but we found out we are here at the dismal time of the year.  The deer flies are horrendous here for about a month and a half.  They do not respect any of the bug repellent we have and bite us from head to toe, even on the soles of our feet and on our nail cuticle.  It is crazy!

Mark is holding a Scufflehead fly swatter.  Wonder what a Scufflehead is?  Go to http://scuffletown.net.  Mark introduced John in his last post.  John, did you have any idea how useful your flyswatter was going to be to us as we made our way north after meeting you?  It has killed unimaginable numbers of deer flies, horse flies and one really big cockroach.

We are all armed with flyswatters through a section of the Dismal Swamp.

We are all armed with fly swatters through a section of the Dismal Swamp.  The pile of dead flies in the bottom of the cockpit was impressive.

The ICW takes a great deal of concentration to go through.  Some areas we have to play the tides to make it through without running aground.  Other areas we have to run with the ebb or flow.  This section we need to keep a sharp eye out for floating logs and overhanging trees to make sure we do not catch our mast in the branches.

Watch the trees to clear your mast going through the narrow sections!

Watch the trees to clear your mast going through the narrow sections!

There are 2 locks to go through on the Dismal Swamp section of the ICW.

Cole getting the fenders ready to go through the lock.

Cole getting the fenders ready to go through the Deep Creek lock.

Robert, the lock master at the Deep Creek lock asked where we were coming from.  When we told him we were in the Bahamas this winter, he asked if the boys had any conch horns.  The boys produced their horns from the boat and Robert blew them.  Not only was he great at blowing them, he could toot out songs on them and change the pitch of the horn by moving his hand in and out of the curl inside the horn.  He gave us an entire lesson on conch horn blowing.  We had no idea such variety was possible out of these horns!

He was also an expert in the history of the Dismal Swamp and gave the boys their history lesson for the day.

After we came out of the remote Dismal Swamp and turned the corner onto the main ICW, we were blown away by the sites of civilization.  Not just a house or two but full scale industrialization.

The first lift bridge we came to approaching Norfolk.

The first lift bridge we came to approaching Norfolk.  This was the first bridge we encountered that lifts up to a custom height according to the boats need.  Our mast is 59′ high and the bridge tender raised the bridge to 70′ for us.  Most all of the fixed bridges on the ICW are 65′ high.

The sight of Norfolk, VA ahead.

The sight of Norfolk, VA ahead.

WE MADE IT MILE O (ZERO) ON THE ICW!!!  We went almost 1,000 miles up this waterway.  What a trip it has been.  Another big check off our adventure list.

There were so many big ships, pictures do not do it justice.  We felt like a dragon fly bobbing on the water through here.

There were so many big ships, pictures do not do it justice. We felt like a dragon fly bobbing on the water through here.

another

ships2

ships3

hospital ship

ships galore

The sun sets on Norfolk.

The sun sets on Norfolk.

Not only are we excited to make it to Norfolk, but one of our Bahama cruising friends, Bill on s/v Providence is here.  We thoroughly love spending time with Bill and he hopped on the ferry to cross the river to where we tied up for the night.  He toured around the city with us.  One of the museums we went to was a Lightship Museum.  The first Saturday of the month, the museums are free – lucky us!

Portsouth Lightship Museum.

Portsouth Lightship Museum.

They were also having a nautical historical day so the boys, once again, got their history in.

Do any of you know what this is?  I did not before he explained it to me.  I'll let you readers try and figure it out!

Do any of you know what this is? I did not before he explained it to me. I’ll let you readers try and figure it out!

The next day we traveled up river 8 miles to the marina where Bill was at to prepare for crossing the Chesapeake the next day, a 60 mile run for us.

Cole petting Miss Kitty, who as bill puts it, owns him.  Bill is in the background talking to Mark.  I have met a lot of cool cats but Miss Kitty is at the top of the list.

Cole petting Miss Kitty, who as Bill puts it, owns him.  I have met a lot of cool cats but Miss Kitty is at the top of the list.

After we arrived in Norfolk, we received a call from our friends in Boise, Lisa & Rod, who are partly responsible for us taking on this adventure.  They did a 2 year trip through the Caribbean a number of years back and were one of our mentors in preparing to set out on this trip.  When Lisa called, she said something to the effect that they are visiting some friends on the east coast and wondered where we were at now.  I told her we just arrived in Norfolk.  They were doing a historical loop with their car that day and would be passing through Norfolk as well!  What are the odds of them and us being in the same city on the same day?  Crazy!  They stopped by the marina we were at that afternoon and had dinner with us.  It was great to see them in person and catch up.

Rod & Lisa from Boise!

Rod & Lisa from Boise visit us in Norfolk!

July 7th was a perfect sailing day as we headed out into Chesapeake Bay.  We were able to sail on a broad reach for most of the day, making our destination of Yankee Point Marina up the Rappahannock River off the west side of the Chesapeake Bay.

A beautiful day sailing Truansea across the Chesapeake Bay.

A beautiful day sailing Truansea across the Chesapeake Bay.

Fair winds ~ Christine

Waiting Out the Weather in Beaufort, NC by Mark

We arrived in Beaufort, NC on June 23rd and took a slip at Town Creek Marina.  When we returned to Florida we listed our boat for sale. A couple had seen our listing for Truansea and wanted to take a look at her before we arrived in the Chesapeake.

On the way up to Beaufort I noticed a few drips of diesel coming from a couple of compression washers on the fuel line that needed replacing.  Luckily the owner of the marina was working on his day off and I was able to buy the parts I needed.  After replacing the washers and bleeding the fuel lines, I noticed some new corrosion on the exhaust mixing elbow.  This could be a significant problem as I had learned from several other cruisers and although I had inspected the elbow before we left on this trip, we have also put 300 more hours on the engine.  Once again I was in luck, the marina had the elbow I needed in stock and even let me use their workbench to wrench the parts together.  The last thing I wanted was an exhaust leak with prospective buyers arriving the next day.

Old exhaust elbow starting to fail.

Old exhaust elbow starting to fail.

Installing new elbow.

Installing new elbow.

John and Marty enjoying a sail on Truansea.

John and Marty enjoying a sail on Truansea.

We took our guests, John and Marty, for a sail the next day.  With perfect wind at 15 knots, Truansea was sailing in the groove.  John brought a couple of harmonicas along for the boys and home schooled us all on the blues.  As soon as the weather lets up we will head north for a survey.

As is usual at a marina, we started meeting other sailors as we walked the docks.  At the end of one of the piers floated the classic boats a Pearson and a Swan 36.  We met their owners Mike and Eric.  Mike also owns a houseboat at the marina where he lives but takes his Pearson out sailing on the weekends or whenever the opportunity/wind permits.

Eric on Black Robe.

Eric on Black Robe.

Eric who is from Halfway, Oregon found his Swan on EBay in the Grand Cayman Islands.  He bought the boat there and sailed her back to the US. His advice for purchasing a boat in another country is to find a surveyor who can take a preliminary look at the boat to make sure the boat is being fairly represented before purchasing the ticket to see for yourself.  He was making repairs (as are all boaters) to his boomvang then heading out the Beaufort inlet to the Atlantic for an outside crossing to Charleston SC.  Mike was going to accompany him south and they were provisioning the boat while they also wait for a break in the weather.

Since the winds have blowing anywhere between 20 and 35 knots for the last several days, we decided to rent a car and visit the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores and also see Fort Macon.  The fort was built after the war of 1812 proved how vulnerable the nations coasts were to attack.  The Confederate army briefly held the fort during the Civil War before being recaptured by Union forces after 11 hours of constant shelling.

Fort Macon.

Fort Macon.

Preparing to fire a mortar.

Preparing to fire a mortar.

A sailboat that caught our eye seen from Fort Macon coming into Beaufort is S/V Troll.

A sailboat that caught our eye seen from Fort Macon coming into Beaufort is S/V Troll.

The town of Beaufort is rich in maritime history.  Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge was recently rediscovered where she sank after running aground outside Beaufort inlet. Artifacts from the wreck can be seen at the Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

Model of Blackbeards ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge.

Model of Blackbeards ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

The man who puts the ship in the bottle!

The man who puts the ship in the bottle!

Taking a break from boatbuilding. There is no shortage of old salts in Beaufort.

Taking a break from boatbuilding. There is no shortage of old salts in Beaufort.

The town also has a fascinating cemetery with graves dating back to the 1700s.  A brochure to some of the gravesites of interest can be picked up at the historical center and list, among other things, the grave of an officer in the British Navy who died on board his ship.  Not wanting to be buried with his boots off, he was buried standing up in full uniform.

Burying grounds In Beaufort.

Burying grounds In Beaufort.

Now that's an epitaph!

Now that’s an epitaph!

On returning to our boat yesterday, we saw a large double masted schooner aground just outside the channel.  I dinghied out to see if they needed anything while waiting for the tide to return.  Their massive steel schooner, s/v Troll, lay on her side unmoved by wind or waves.  The young couple on board had sailed her up from the Caribbean and are heading up the east coast on their way to Newfoundland then to Greenland and beyond.  Towboat US made vain attempts to free their boat, which finally refloated herself sometime between midnight and 2am.  We woke up to see her anchored next to us and look forward to hearing more of their story.

Troll aground just past the channel.

Troll aground just past the channel.

Troll at anchor the next morning.

Troll at anchor the next morning.

Fair winds,

Mark