Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Best Laid Plans – Annapolis to Charleston

(This post brought to you by Rick.  Note the jaunty blue color….)

This post will be a two parter – first the “why did it take too long,” and then some details about the trip to Charleston.

Part 1

The plan was for MT, Skip and me to sail overnight down the Bay to Norfolk.  We would drop off MT in Norfolk, then travel three days down the ICW to Beaufort, NC to avoid sailing around Cape Hatteras, which is notorious for bad weather.  We would pick up Ryan and Sarah in Beaufort, then sail offshore to Charleston, which would theoretically take about 36 hours.  So, weather permitting, we’d be in Charleston after about a week.  Weather permitting.

I was confident that the weather was going to get us at some point on the way to Charleston – I just didn’t think it would be day one.  Skip, MT and I left Annapolis Sunday morning, with a forecast of 15-20 from the northeast, higher down the Bay, but also supposedly laying down as the afternoon and evening went on.  We rolled out the jib at 1AH (for the non-sailors, that is the channel marker leaving Annapolis that designates where to enter the Chesapeake Bay), and were off to the races.  Except the wind was more like east, and built to more like 25-30.  We rolled in some jib, and kept going, waiting for the forecasted decrease in the wind.  It did lay down for a bit, but a couple of miles past Solomons I started seeing 27, then 28 and so on, until we were getting 33s.  With a forecast that hadn’t been right yet, I decided we’d rather not cross the Potomac in that much breeze after dark, and turned back to Solomons.

An hour or so later we tied up at Calvert Marina, evaluating potential ways to divide up the rest of the trip to Norfolk.  After discussing one or two options, the conclusion was a short day Monday to Fishing Creek, and an o-dark-thirty departure for Norfolk Tuesday, so that we could get past the Gilmerton Bridge in the afternoon (more on that in Part 2).

But that meant we’d already lost a day, and therefore also lost the crew ready to join in Beaufort (turns out it didn’t matter – with the weather on the day we’d have left we wouldn’t have gone offshore anyway).  And, since I hadn’t taken Calypso offshore before, I wasn’t ready to go overnight with just two of us.  That meant that we’d have to stay in the ICW, and get outside when weather and possible hops between inlets and anchorages permitted.

This is where the logistics get important.  Unlike the Chesapeake, there often isn’t a marina or anchorage around every corner.  And since one of these guys might be running after dark,


you can’t anchor in the channel, which is often the only place deep enough to anchor.  Or just pick your spot and pull over for the night, like this.


Okay, the chart didn’t show the marina


but it was interesting watching the chart plotter show us sailing through the marsh, then dry land.

Plus bridges often only open on the hour or half hour.  Plus there can be current (Calypso travels under power at about 7 miles per hour under ideal conditions – our actual speed varied from 5 to over 9, depending on conditions).  The veterans know this, but you sit down with the charts, the bridge schedules and list of places to stop, and lay out each day’s travel, with options for weather.  For example, we could have gone “outside” from Beaufort to Wrightsville Beach, which could have saved us a day.  But the day we’d have made that passage the wind was blowing from the southwest.  And you can guess what direction we were going.

The net result is that some days we could only make 40 miles instead of our theoretical 70 or 80 mile range.  We didn’t just stop at Coinjock at 2 in the afternoon because we wanted to see the big sport fisherman.  We just couldn’t make the next stopping point before dark.

Part 2

Now for some highlights and observations about the trip.  Eva already posted about our encounter with the submarine, but I’m posting another photo.


Watching it blow by us, about 50 yards away, as we were approaching Norfolk harbor, was amazing. The armada of naval vessels moored in Norfolk is equally impressive, including the USS Laboon, where our niece Rachel is stationed as a newly commissioned ensign.


Past Norfolk is logistics problem #1 – the Gilmerton Bridge.  The bridge serves a major road, and so it doesn’t open at all between 6:30-9:30 a.m., or 3:30-6:30 p.m. during the week.  Traveling at Calypso speed you either make the 3:30 bridge, or leave a marina in Norfolk at 5:30 a.m. the next day.  Otherwise you spend two days getting the 40 miles rom Norfolk to Coinjock.  See part 1 – we decided that Fishing Creek in the dark was better than Norfolk in the dark.  We dropped MT at Tidewater Marina right on schedule – early even.  Like we’d make the 2:30 bridge.  Then I got my next lesson in losing control of your schedule – the railroad bridge that is “usually open” was down.  As time ticked down on making the 3:30 Gilmerton Bridge opening, it finally opened.  A few miles further along we locked through at Great Bridge then stopped for the night.  For a buck a foot, a hot shower at Atlantic Yacht Basin beat out fighting for space at the free dock!

Eva has mentioned some of our stops – after Great Bridge we stopped in Coinjock, NC, anchored in the Pungo River in North Carolina


picked up marinas in Morehead City (see if you can pick out which one of the boats in the photo is not like the others . . . )


Hampstead, North Carolina (our detour on to dry land from Part 1), Southport, NC


and the Waccamaw River.  We anchored in a creek in the low county of South Carolina (Price Creek, if you are looking at your chart),


and finally tied up at the Charleston City Marina


Nice neighbors, huh?

We didn’t stop in many of the typical southbound spots (or if we did, not for very long), so my photo gallery is mostly scenery, which is varied, but not too exciting.  The waterway is everything from industrial Norfolk area to the cypress swamps in the Chesapeake-Albemarle Canal in Virginia


and the Waccamaw River in South Carolina


to the coastal pine forests of North Carolina


to the marshy low country of South Carolina, like our last anchorage.

So that’s it.  Because someone out there wants the details, 585 miles, 10 1/2 days, 79 engine hours, 2-1/2 days of pure sailing, 11 bridges and one lock.

So that’s how we got to Charleston.  Next stop, Vero Beach . . .

Desert Island

There are many questions that can be asked to get a conversation going:  Which historical figures would you invite to a dinner party?  Chocolate, vanilla or strawberry?  Who do you get to use your “Get Out of Jail Free” card(s) with?  Ginger or Mary Ann?  (Or for the ladies, the Skipper, Gilligan, Mr. Howell or the Professor?)  If you were stuck on a desert island, which book(s) would you want to have with you?  Or whose music?

The music question has become more important for me in recent years.  I’d stopped following a lot of music from the mid-90s to the early 2000s, being more committed to building a career, among other things.  But both Rick and I started getting back into music again, really, with the first post-Hurricane Katrina Jazz Fest (which is a lot more than jazz — thank goodness — since jazz is not at all my thing) we returned to in New Orleans.  That became the first of 7? 8? (and counting) consecutive trips, including one I booked on a day’s notice because I wanted to see the subdudes.  And we go to a lot of live shows in the DC area, as well as taking the occasional road trip.

For me and Rick, when answering the Desert Island Music question, our Venn Diagrams intersect at Mark Knopfler (best known from Dire Straits, but who has a very productive solo career).  We have a tacit understanding that if MK’s tours don’t take him to the DC area, we will travel for a show.  So it is that we found ourselves going to Las Vegas for 26 hours to catch a show that is part of a very limited West Coast tour.  As it turns out, our last live show before sailing off to our Desert Islands (the Bahamas) was to see our Desert Island artist in the Nevada desert.

Of course, if we’d known at the time we booked the trip to Vegas that I would be starting my sabbatical a week later, I’m not sure whether I’d still have done it.  But having scored front row seats for the show, I couldn’t resist.  As it was, Rick flew home from Charleston on Thursday (Calypso only having arrived there the day before) only to turn around to fly to Vegas on Friday morning. I’m not a huge fan of Las Vegas, but it’s a fairly easy and affordable destination to reach from BWI.  And, for the sake of convenience, I’d changed our reservation from a hotel on the Strip to The Palms, where the concert venue — the Pearl — was located.


We arrived at The Palms before 10 a.m., but were able to check in to a newly renovated (and ultra-trendy) room in the Ivory Tower.  After offloading our little bit of luggage and loading up on caffeine, we grabbed a cab and indulged in some of the non-gambling entertainments offered by LV — since neither of us is a big gambler.  For us, that meant shopping, dining, and people-watching.  We had a great lunch at Mesa Grill (Bobby Flay’s restaurant at Caesar’s Palace — where we focused on appetizers — amazing!) and dinner at B&B (Mario Batali’s stellar offering at the Venetian).  We arrived back to The Palms to find dozens of taxis depositing concertgoers to the venue, and grabbed our tickets and seats just minutes before the show.  The security guards gave the front row people purple wristbands as identification.

Our seats at MK shows have been progressively better and better: from seats on the lawn at Wolf Trap, to the 11th row at the Warner Theater, to the 4th row at the Verizon Center (on a tour with — ugh! — Bob Dylan).  We’ve never had a bad view, but this was incredible.  The Pearl theater, which holds something over 2,000 people, has great acoustics and sightlines.  But in the front row, we got not only the benefit of the venue’s great qualities, but also were able to observe the tiny little details that make a show like this so amazing — the interaction among the band members, the professionalism of the crew, and, of course, the main attraction: MK.

What can I say about the show?  My vocabulary for music isn’t as developed as it is for writing about sailing and travel.  So, I’ll say it in my inadequate way.  The man whose music drew me in from the first note of Sultans of Swing in the late ’70s, and kept me through his soundtracks and through Dire Straits’ mega-stardom in the mid-’80s, and drew me in to his solo efforts, kept me rapt for every moment of the 2 hours of this show — and left me wanting more.  The setlist included a mix of new music as well as Dire Straits stuff, each song benefiting from the additional energy and creativity available at a live show.  MK speaks to his audience not just with his words, but with his second voice — the guitar he wields alternatively like a precision instrument or like an axe, as the song requires, and always identifiable as no one else’s but his.  His songs tell stories, but he leaves gaps that enable listeners to add their own meaning and interpretation.   I hated when the show ended.

(Now for a bit of editorializing.  There was a contingent of fans at the show who had the utter and complete conviction that there is only one way to enjoy a concert, and it is theirs.  That meant that right after Telegraph Road and before the encore, they rushed the stage and planted themselves in front of the rest of the audience, ignorning the security guards’ too polite (since they were ineffectual) requests that they return to their seats.  If any of audience members complained, the stage-rushers either exhorted them to stand up as well, or gave them grief for having the audacity to want to enjoy the concert their own way.  While I personally don’t get why anyone would sit in the front row sending text messages throughout the concert, I defend their right to do so — since they paid for their tickets and may have traveled a long distance to get to this show.  Not cool.)

As the show ended, I was very glad we’d decided to stay at The Palms.  Having been awake for 20 hours, I was glad not to have to endure the hassle of a long taxi line and a slog through late-night traffic on the Strip.  Instead, a short elevator ride.  And, the next morning, the airport and home.

Now, on to desert islands….

The First Leg: Completed


Charleston … The Holy City

As of late this morning, Calypso and her intrepid crew of Rick and Skip, arrived at the Charleston City Marina and its Megadock — so named because of its length of more than a quarter mile.  (Makes you pack your shower kit really carefully — lest you forget your shampoo and have to go back for it — if you’re hoping to indulge in unlimited water and a shower stall that doesn’t rock.)  Calypso has a much more convenient slip assignment, but they will wait out the tide at the Megadock and then reposition.  Calypso will be staying in Charleston for a few weeks, until Rick and the next complement of crew return to continue the journey.

In the meantime, Rick and Skip will enjoy a well-deserved dinner at Poogan’s Porch, while I enjoy my last evening of delinquency (without Rick’s supervision) at home.  Starting tomorrow, I’ll need to force myself not to put on pajamas right after getting home from work, and I might even cook a proper meal instead of taking my chances with what’s left in the freezer.

Rick’s being away, and on the waterway, really demonstrated the quality deficiencies of our iPhones as actual telephones.  Whenever we talked, the connection was so crackly we gave up after a few minutes.  Mostly, we communicated by text message, with a few emails and Facebook posts thrown in for variety.  So, until Rick chimes in with a more detailed post about this part of the journey, I’ll patch together a few impressions from our fragmented communications.


Columbia, Maryland is not the only place with interesting place names.

I’m not sure I need to elaborate any further here….


One of these things is not like the others….

In Annapolis, we are surrounded by a large contingent of boats with sticks and, by extension, lots of people who understand what we’re up to for the coming months.  This dock in North Carolina, where Calypso’s is the only mast, shows where the marine industry is heading.  And it’s not in the direction of more sailboats.  Our own manufacturer — Sabre Yachts — has abandoned building new sailing vessels altogether, as has Hinckley.  We’re a dying breed.  (Of course, our boats last forever, so you can’t get rid of us so easily.)


Local Fauna?  Wilmington, North Carolina.

odyssey13.2 odyssey13.4

Marsh Houses

Maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t join Rick on this leg of the trip.  I’ve long though about retiring in the South Carolina Lowcountry.  I’d probably be taking down realtor names and mentally furnishing and decorating my dream home on one of the tidal creeks.  We’ve enjoyed several beach vacations and tennis trips, but I imagine that seeing this beautiful region by sailboat is a completely different experience.


Price Creek, just north of Isle of Palms, SC

This was last night’s anchorage.  These waters are so unlike the Chesapeake that we’re used to.  The tides create significant currents, and the tidal range is measured in feet, not inches.  At night, you can hear a snap*crackle*pop sound that to me sounds like sizzling bacon.  But the only thing that sound has to do with bacon is that it’s made by shrimp (which are really yummy over grits with bacon) snacking on the bottom of your boat.  Dolphins are also regular visitors.


Other Wildlife….

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I undertook a major cleaning and organizing project, to ready our house for our absence.  When cleaning out one of the cupboards, I found this beastie.  How such a large bee or wasp could have been missed by me, who is almost comically terrified of flying, stinging insects, is unfathomable.  And how it got inside the cupboard to die is also a mystery.  (If it had been alive, Rick would have heard my shreiking and flailing from South Carolina, and I probably would have moved into a hotel until he returned to dispatch the monster. Bug killing is a Blue Job.)

I’ve also been handling the more mundane paperwork and busywork to get ready, both at work and at home.  Stuff like arranging for mail forwarding.  Cancelling subscriptions.  Dealing with bank accounts.  Doing battle with a certain health insurance company whose name begins and ends with the same vowel (grrrrrrr!).  Although I am anxious about sailing offshore and standing watch, that might be better than dealing with some of these bureaucrats….

The Most Dangerous Thing

To borrow an observation from Comocean’s blog, the most dangerous thing on a boat is a schedule.  I’ll get Rick to post later and explain more fully the decision-making process.  But if you’re looking at the map (, it’s obvious that the original plans to (a) get to Norfolk from Annapolis in a single run, and (b) include a long offshore run from North Carolina to Charleston, have been scuttled.   Due to the weather and sea conditions, a less ambitious routing is now in place.

Michael left Calypso in the Norfolk area, but a day later than planned.  Daylight in Norfolk allowed the crew a better look at the activity in the area of one of the world’s largest naval facilities.


We occasionally — once every couple of years — spot a submarine in the shipping channel off Annapolis, but I gather sightings like this are far more common in Norfolk.  (Photo pilfered from Michael’s Facebook page.)

Now it’s just Rick and Skip piloting Calypso through the ICW, with the additional crew who would have joined in North Carolina for an offshore leg being excused.  I’m insanely jealous, because exploring the ICW has long been a wish of mine.  However, for this sabbatical, we decided to forego a leisurely meander down the waterway in order to maximize our time in the islands.  Rick are Skip are making a more purposeful trip down the ICW, but you still get to see a lot when you’re only going 7 knots.


If you’ve spent beach vacations in the Outer Banks, this is what the backside looks like in autumn.  This view is abeam of the Corolla/Duck area.

When Rick and I originally planned to make this journey (which would have been in 2004), it was an altogether different world, technologically speaking.  At that point, I had just been issued that most-advanced handheld communication device: a Treo.  Being in touch with home base would have involved much more complicated machinations.  These days, at least while in the U.S., being plugged in is much simpler.


The outlets near the nav station are filled with chargers.  Gotta keep the iPhones, iPads and iPods powered up.  (Another photo pilfered from Michael.)

Of course, all of those devices work only where there is a reliable cellular network and/or WiFi.  As we get deeper into the Bahamas, if we can’t voluntarily unplug ourselves, it will be done for us….

P.S.  The boys confessed to breaking into the Pop-Tarts this morning.  Even though I got the wrong flavor.

Crimes and Misdemeanors

I am told by my legal advisors that in Calvert County, it is a crime to libel a husband.  The punishment is severe: allowing the husband to leave the seat up for 30 days without comment (not even an elaborately heavy sigh as she puts it down) from the wife.  Accordingly, since the mere suggestion in my prior post that the crew of Calypso would leave their bunks unmade could have been actionable, I hereby retract that comment.

Here is the photographic evidence:

calypso.beds made

For me to question the accuracy of that image, in the absence of a time/date stamp, would also be a problem in Calvert County.  So I won’t.  Instead, I say “Good boys!”  Now you can have some Halloween candy from the jar.  (I’m sure you don’t know where it is… It’s on the port side….)

And, yes, the fact that Calypso is in Calvert County instead of having made it all the way to Norfolk means that the weather wasted no time in altering the best made plans.  After sustained 30-knot winds, the crew wisely implemented Plan L and put into Solomon’s Island.

And They’re Off

The last week has been a mad dash to get Calypso ready to go.


Rick’s poor hands are banged up from inserting themselves into tight, dark spots like the engine compartment.  All of those pesky little problems that we either endured (scalding water from the shower head) or “fixed” inelegantly (when in doubt, take a hammer to the starter), when the longest we were staying on the boat was a week, had to be dealt with.   At least the week’s torrential downpours have shown us that the boat is mostly watertight.

Meanwhile, I scrambled to stock the lockers and fridge with a mammoth run to Giant; it was fun to look at everyone else’s shopping carts and identify from the contents or quantity who else was heading south.  I filled the boat freezer with food that can be eaten underway — jambalaya, pasta, almond butter chicken.  I feel like I have one foot still in the working world, while the rest of me is picturing the coming weeks.  My spreadsheet sits open on my office computer, while the open items have slowly been checked off, with the remaining tasks to be taken care of in Florida or just before final departure.

The weather has been proving to us that we’re right to leave.  With cold, rain, and wind, it feels more like November, when we haul the boat and store it on land, rather than the beginning of a new adventure.  The boat has been rocking and rolling, making those last few nights of sleeping aboard in Annapolis a challenge.

Friday night, Rick picked up Skip (ex-Moondance) from the airport, and Bob and Phyllis (Comocean — who have been going down to Florida and more recently Charleston for their boat winters) joined us aboard for happy hour (the boys drinking straight Ron Zacapa, and the ladies a bit more civilized with white wine) and a chart review session.


Rick already looks like he’s adapting to the cruising lifestyle.  Shorts on, regardless of the weather; super-short hair; and the scruffy beard.  However, he did put on pants and a shirt that didn’t have any “been-there-done-that” sailing references on it before we headed to Ruth’s Chris for a final crew and advisor dinner.  Luckily, we had our own little alcove, which contained our enthusiasm.

crew advisors

Michael (Running on MT), Skip and Rick, and Bob and Phyllis, at Ruth’s Chris.

The weather was no less pleasant on Saturday morning, when we headed to the boat show for those last errands.  Despite the rain and high water and the legitimate need to wear foul weather gear, there were a lot of people at the show.  We finished our business by lunchtime, but not before running into many friends.  Saturday afternoon, we visited with Rick’s family; the gathering coincided with 3 nephews’ birthdays and a visit from Rick’s aunt from Montana and his niece from Norfolk.

Lots of wind this morning, but it was blowing from the right direction.

departure3 departure2 departure1

As little as sailors love cold and rain, they kind of like getting into foul weather gear.  Promptly at 9 a.m., I saw the gang off the dock along with TJ (Samba!) and Joyce (ex-Watermark).  They are headed for Norfolk in one straight shot, and then plan to go down the Intracoastal Waterway down to Beaufort, North Carolina, so as to avoid passing through some rugged waters off the North Carolina coast.  How they go beyond that will be determined by the weather.

It’s a boy’s club now aboard Calypso.  Will they tell dirty jokes and belch all day and night?  Will they eat nothing but Pop-Tarts and Halloween candy without adult (read: female) supervision?  Will they leave their beds unmade?  We may never know….

Calypso and Pride, on Chesapeake Bay

As of right now, we’re still on the Bay. But departure day nears.  At least that’s the plan.

It’s all happening so fast. Just over 2 weeks ago, our lives were “business as usual.” Work (practicing law) during the week; sailing on weekends from our base in Annapolis; and living for vacations, most of which involve the islands and many of which include sailing.

Nearly 15 years and 3 boats ago, we came up with a 5-year plan that would have had us taking a year off and going cruising to the Bahamas on the Sabre 34 sailboat we’d just bought.  (For those not in-the-know, “cruising” in this context has nothing to do with cruise ships and The Love Boat, but refers to sailing our boat to exotic locations so we can do the inevitable repairs there.)  We’d have gone in 2004. But for various reasons, we abandoned the plan and put it off until, perhaps, retirement.

Then a few weeks ago I saw a chink of light in the armature that was our life, and drove a wedge into it, opening it wide. On a Thursday night in September, I sent Rick an email: “Let’s discuss a sabbatical tonight. I know it’s kind of sudden, but what if we went cruising this year?…” By Friday morning, I’d talked to my mentor, another partner whose opinion I value, and my managing partner. By Friday night, it was all systems GO.

And by “GO” I mean feverish, hurried preparation. In order to get our boat Calypso, and ourselves, ready to head south before the weather here turns cooler-than-comfortable, and in order to accomodate our already-paid-for travels, Rick will be taking the first leg of the trip without me.  Our goal is to have him and crew leave Annapolis during Sailboat Show weekend (mid-October), and hopefully getting as far as Charleston.   In mid-November, we hope to get down to Florida and do final provisioning and preparation, with a jump across to the Bahamas in early December.  And someday, we’ll have to come back.  That’s the plan right now, anyway.

While I’ll be working full-time through November 1, Rick is making a full-time job of prepping. Even so, I am an inveterate list-maker, and my spreadsheet now stretches to 7 pages, not including the sticky-notes plastered around our bedroom which are the results of my semi-legible scribblings in the middle of the night.  And that doesn’t even touch provisioning.

Amazon Prime is getting a workout from us — there is very little we can’t buy, and get delivered quickly — on that miraculous portal of all things necessary and desirable.  Lightweight folding chairs for the beach?  Got ’em.  A 1000-count bucket of meclizine?  You betcha.  An extra supply of underwear, in case we’re not near a laundromat for a while?  Amazon has it.

Of course, that doesn’t even include the boat stuff.  The West Marine and Fawcett’s staffers probably give each other high-fives when they see Rick coming.  While Calypso was well-equipped when we bought her the day before Hurricane Irene hit in 2011, and had traveled far, updating and upgrading was required for this adventure.  We’re upgrading the ground tackle (getting a Rocna anchor) and dinghy, adding new electronics, and adding some other modest improvements that will enhance our lives.  She has undergone check-ups by our diesel mechanic (Yes, we have a diesel mechanic, and he’s a good one who actually returns calls.  For the right price, we’ll share his name with you) and marine electrician, and will receive minor repairs.  At the same, we have neither the time, the budget, nor the will to get some nice-to-have-but-not-strictly-required stuff like davits, solar panels or wind generators, cockpit enclosures, or water makers.  We’re hoping that not having much time means that we won’t have over-analyzed.

We’re also grateful to our friends who’ve gone before us, especially Skip and Harriet of Moondance, who’ve cruised from Annapolis to the Bahamas 3 times on their Sabre 38, and made it most of the way on their fourth trip, only to end up permanently settling in Vero Beach, Florida.  They sold their boat the day before we made our decision, and are proving more than generous with their advice, time and gear.

That’s where things stand right now.  You’ll notice I keep using the words “plan” and “hope.”  As with all things sailing-related and weather-dependent, Nature has a good laugh at those of us who dare think that “plans” are anything more than wishes that may or may not be granted.  Stay tuned.