Livin’ Large on the 52

After our shall we say, adventurous, first night on the Bay, we decided to spend Friday in Deltaville, VA to let the winds die down before we headed offshore.  We were all a little edgy and needed some downtime to recover from the night before. And to triple check the weather to make sure we were staying clear of any more of that crap. Just getting into the marina in Deltaville was an adventure, with a narrow corkscrew channel that had us just a few feet away from a sandbar on one side and the beach on the other. Not a big deal for a little fishing boat to navigate, but a giant catamaran that’s 52′ long and nearly 30′ wide? Adventurous. We all held our breath and silently hoped we wouldn’t run aground. We spent the day de-icing the boat and managed to find a pizza shop in town that was actually open. Winning.

The forecast was looking good, so we headed out early the next morning. We all were thankful that the weather had improved and we settled into our roles aboard with ease. Chris navigated, Mischelle painted, I read, and Matt…. Well, unfortunately Matt wasn’t feeling too well. Must have been the extreme change in temps coming from FL to MD. Or the Deltaville pizza.

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We stayed within 2 miles of the shoreline so we could get cell service to stream the Ravens playoff game on Chris’s phone. I’ll be honest, it was pretty cool hanging back, eating spaghetti and watching the game all while sailing a boat out in the Atlantic. Too bad they lost in the final seconds of the game. This trip is definitely providing us with some pretty cool moments so far. In fact, we even have a theme song for the trip: ‘I’m on a Boat’  by Lonely Island. Give it a Google on YouTube. It’s pretty fitting.

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The reason for all of the tape and table coverings is to protect the boat. God forbid that a $1.4M yacht get dinged up by the lowly delivery crew.  However, we did tear up the microwave making bacon bowls one morning.  Probably the best As Seen on TV product ever.  Because, let’s be honest here,  EVERYTHING’S better in a bacon bowl. I think Chris is their unofficial spokesperson, seeing that he had at least four of them. Don’t worry, after a little Windex and some light scrubbing, the microwave is good as new again. It’ll be our little secret.

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Sunday was a beautiful day on the water, and the temps finally started to warm up as we headed south for Charleston where we would spend Monday night.

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Coming into Charleston was pretty neat because the whole city was enclosed in a big thick blanket of fog. I guess this is pretty typical for Charleston in the wintertime. It was a little unnerving not being able to see more than a quarter mile in front of you… Thank God for AIS and radar.

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First thing on the “to-do” list after we docked and refueled was to dry out the bilges so the damn alarm would stop going off every time the slightest splash of water would hit the sensor. It seemed like that thing was going off every 10 minutes the night before, and it was getting really annoying, really quickly. Bilge = Blue Job = Boys.

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Another Blue Job? Adjusting the rigging for the mainsail. He looks pretty comfy up there, no?

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In Charleston, we met up with Jack and Tyler, who are with Annapolis Yacht Sales as well, and happened to be en route delivering a boat from Annapolis to FL too. It was a mini AYS rendezvous!  I must admit, our ride is much nicer than theirs. Maybe I’m partial because ours is a catamaran. A magnificent 52′ catamaran that’s well stocked with delicious food and a fun crew. Sorry, guys. You’re missing out.

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We headed out early this morning for another two days offshore, with Jack and Tyler following us down the coast. The fog is still pretty thick, but we’re hoping to get at least another nice day on the water before we land in Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday.  This trip has been so much fun, I almost hate to see it end. It’s been great for us to not only connect with some good friends that we’ve really been missing, but also to get us excited for the next leg of our journey – Bahamas, baby! However, I’m thinking it may be a bit hard going back to our boat after livin’ large on a boat this grand for the past week. I could totally get used to this!

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And the art that Mischelle was working on earlier in the week? She used the picture of Chris adjusting the rigging as inspiration for her latest watercolor.  Wow.  I swear, she has more talent in her little finger than the rest of us combined.

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Big Shrimpin’

Our next stop after Charleston was a small town just 30 miles or so south called Rockville, SC.  We have a small gear oil leak in our port engine and we were told that there was an excellent marina just off Adams Creek in Rockville, SC which was owned by, Anthony Black, a man who would be able to help us out.  Matt already knew how to repair it, but figured having a second set of (trained) eyes to confirm that it was just the leaky seal and not something bigger was worth the stop.  And so we headed off to our first unplanned stop of the trip yet.

Coming into the river from the ocean was interesting.  We’re really not used to these strong currents down here!  I accidentally dropped a can of Pringles into the water when we were in Charleston, and the damn thing floated almost five feet down river before I had a chance to jump off the boat and onto the pier to grab them! (Thankfully, they didn’t get wet and were 100% still edible).  This time, we didn’t time our entry into the river right and were fighting a four knot current coming straight at us as we made our way in.  We went from going five knots out in the ocean to around one knot as we entered the channel.  To put it into perspective how excruciatingly slow we were going, we saw people walking on the beach next to us and we were pretty much going the same speed as them. Look at the water slicing through our line.  It’s crazy how aggressive these currents are!

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It turned out to be well worth the long entry though!  The scenery was beautiful and we were the only boat in the anchorage.  We settled down to a nice spaghetti dinner, happy to be all alone in such a small slice of Southern heaven.

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The next morning we made our way over to the marina where Matt rigged a pretty cool contraption out of a few pieces of wood and some nylon straps to lift the engine up just enough so he could shift it forward and access the faulty seal.  

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Once he had it opened, Anthony, the marina owner (who happens to be a diesel specialist), took a look and confirmed that, indeed it was just the seal.  OK!  This is good!  We got a replacement seal while we were in Charleston, so Matt just popped the old one off and went to put the new one on…. annnd realized that it was the wrong size.  <Sigh>  He put the engine back together and ordered yet another seal to be delivered to us in Florida.  Hoping this one works!  These seals are only about $3 each, but cost us about double that in shipping. Anthony was so great, letting us tie up to his dock and pick his brain for free.  We offered to pay him, to which he just smiled and declined, so Matt gave him a twenty to take the pieces of wood he used so he could hoist the engine up again when we got the new seals.  On the way out, we made a furry friend (name unknown), who I think was the marina pet.  Strange and funny.

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After a somewhat disappointing morning, we decided to head back to the same anchorage and enjoy an unplanned free day.  We had seen a few shrimping boats come in the night before, and took the dinghy up the river to where they were docked to see if they had any fresh shrimp for sale.  We bought two pounds of freshly caught jumbo shrimp for $14.  Not bad. 

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The woman who sold us the shrimp also mentioned that there were oysters in the river, and all we had to do was wait for low tide and the picking was ours.  Yes, please!  We waited a few hours for low tide, gathered a bucket, some gloves and a hammer (to break the clusters of oysters apart) and headed towards shore to catch us some dinner.  As soon as we got out there, the bugs and gnats swarmed us.  They were seriously everywhere – on our body, up our nose, in our eyes – so we had to pause and slather on a thick layer of spray before proceeding any further.  Matt would search for clusters on the beds, which looked like concrete clumps the size of volleyballs, and take the hammer to chip off some of the larger ones.  He’d then hand them to me so I could scrub the mud off of them and put them into a cooler of ice. 

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Meanwhile, I was beheading and cleaning all of the shrimp we bought.  Let’s just say it was a messy job and that I have a new appreciation for the clean and deveined shrimp they sell at the grocery store.  Unfortunately, Matt sliced his foot pretty badly on one of the oyster clusters even though he was wearing his Crocs. They’re sharp as razor blades and you had to be careful handling them.  Hey, no pain no gain, right?  Hoping he doesn’t get gangrene and have his little toe fall off. After about thirty minutes or so, the sun was setting, we were cutting ourselves on oyster shells and shrimp tails, swatting gnats that were swarming our every crevice, finding and cleaning our bounty, with no one around in this little slice of Southern heaven.  We both agreed that the moment was so perfect and we felt so content and peaceful in our own little world.  Matt said that even if he did loose his little toe, this moment was totally worth it.   

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We went back to the boat ready to prepare our feast – our shrimp and the nearly three dozen oysters we had collected that afternoon.  We shucked a few and had them raw, but they were so salty that we decided to steam them instead.  Plus, we didn’t want to come down with some nasty shellfish poisoning this far from a hospital and with no health insurance.  We’re adventurous, not stupid.

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Dinner was great!  We stood in the “kitchen” steaming and eating in batches.  We even busted out the garlic butter and Old Bay.  This was definitely one of the best nights we’ve had on the trip this far.  All because of an impromptu stop.  I guess we’ll have to schedule more of those into our trip.  Ha! 

Currently back out in the ocean for an overnight trip to Fernandina Beach, just north of Jacksonville.  So excited to be in Florida!  We should be in the Keys the following week, just in time for Thanksgiving!

Charming Charleston

We’re getting ready to wrap up our stay here in Charleston and head out tomorrow, which we’re both pretty excited for.  Funny, because when we pulled into the marina after two days at sea, I said how happy I was to be tied to a dock again.  Now, almost a week later, we both have that traveling itch again and can’t wait to get on the move again.  It seems our max stay at any given place is only a few days.  Even though we’re ready to be on our way, our stay in Charleston was beyond awesome.  Let’s just say we loved it so much that we’re adding it to the list of one of the places we may consider relocating to after this trip is over.

Since we were running about a week ahead of schedule, the original marina we had booked months ago couldn’t fit us in, so getting the spot we had was sort of a happy accident.  We had a great view of downtown and enjoyed a few nights sitting on the boat watching all of the freighters and even a few cruise ships make their way up and down the channel.

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The College of Charleston sailing school would head out each night on these tiny sunfish boats that would come right out of the dock next to us.  The currents here are pretty strong which was something new to us, since we never had to factor in currents back home in the Bay.  I’m not sure how these little boats were able to maneuver with no motors.  I thought for sure #10 below was going to crash into the bulkhead, but they were able to tack at the last minute.  These twenty somethings are much better sailors than we are, that’s for sure.

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We even saw dolphins come in from the ocean and right into the marina.  It was crazy. You’d just be sitting outside and hear a big splash and sure enough it was a dolphin or two right next to the boat. A diver here at the marina said he was working on a boat the other day and saw a 7ft shark while he was underwater.  I think I would have soiled my wetsuit if I saw that.

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Downtown Charleston is a really neat place with a good mix of historic and trendy, all with a touch of Southern charm.  A few people we talked to compared it to a much bigger version of downtown Annapolis, which I think is a fair comparison.  We spent a full day exploring the city, starting on King Street so we could duck into the Apple store and get a replacement battery for our Mac.  It had been struggling to hold a charge and we wanted to get it fixed so it wouldn’t die on us in the Bahamas.  We stopped to ask someone where it was but didn’t really need to… all we had to do is look for the crowd of hipsters in their skinny jeans and blazers hanging out on the sidewalk furiously typing on their ginormous iPhone 6 plus.  Found it!

While we waited for our appointment at Apple, we wandered down the street and happened to stumble upon Boones Bar, which is the only Raven’s bar in Charleston.  What are the odds??

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We sat, had what I consider to be the best beer I’ve ever tasted – a Kentucky Pumpkin Bourbon – snacked on fried zucchini and chatted it up with the bartender, who after hearing our story, thought we were the coolest people he’d ever met.  Funny, because sometimes we forget how neat our story is until we actually hear it out loud.  It doesn’t seem so outlandish to us now because, we’re actually doing it.  We’ve been living on the boat for so long now, it just seems normal.  The only thing that’s changed is the scenery.

After we picked up our laptop from Apple, we headed further up King Street and discovered a little slice of heaven at Juanita Greenberg’s, which is a pretty odd name for a taco joint. They describe themselves as THE best Mexican place in Charleston, and I will wholeheartedly agree with them.  Best part is that you got two tacos and a PBR for $6.  If we went to college here instead of York, I think we’d be making this place our second home.  The tacos were the best I’ve ever had, including the authentic street tacos from the food trucks that hang out in the laundromat parking lots. I know, I’ve been making some bold food statements lately, but man oh man, the South knows how to cook!

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We decided it would be best to walk a bit at that point, and headed south towards Battery Park, where we sat on a porch swing and had a great view of our marina across the river.  We even spotted our boat, thanks to the bright orange headsail.

From there we headed back north through the French Quarter, where we ogled at the historic mansions that were set along the cobblestoned side streets lined with palm trees.  We stopped in at Magnoila’s and had their famous fried chicken platter and (of course) shrimp & grits.  Ah-mazing.  By then, it was almost time to meet up with our friends, Zane and Karen, for dinner at Prohibition, a neat little speakeasy resturaunt back up on King Street.  Oh Charleston, your temptations made our wallets a little smaller and our waistlines a little larger.  Time to get back out to sea and on our way.

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At Prohibition, they had this huge map on the wall with the caption “The World Is Yours”.  Indeed it is.

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While we were sorta close, we rented a car and made the six hour drive west to Columbus, GA to see the girls at their new home.  This will probably be the last time we see them, and wanted to give them one last scratch for old times sake.  Here’s a head scratcher for ya – we have a MD driver’s license, with a DE address, renting a car in SC with FL tags to drive to GA.  Hmmm.

The girls are doing great.  So great, in fact that they barely even registered us when we drove up to the house, as they were too busy chasing the kids to even really notice us pull up.  I grabbed the phone to take a video of their reaction to seeing us again, but got such a lukewarm reception that I figured that it probably wasn’t YouTube worthy.  You know what though?  We’re happy that they’ve adjusted to their new home so well that they were having too much fun to notice us. After it registered who we were, they ran up and gave us kisses and started tunneling in between our legs waiting for a good scratch just like old times.  After we had dinner, we settled down to watch Frozen (I think we were the last people on earth who haven’t seen that movie yet), and Yingling went over to what I’m assuming is her new favorite spot at the foot of the couch to cuddle by one of the kids.  It nearly melted my heart.  They’ve found their forever home.  Love them.

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Tonight we had Zane and Karen over to the boat for dinner.  They’ve made our time in Charleston so much fun, it’s part of the reason why it’s now at the top of our list of places we’d consider moving to.

You may have noticed some changes on the blog, like a Where Are We tab that shows our GPS location and will allow you all to track us where ever we go.  That’s all Zane’s IT wizardry there.  That guy can work through code like Motzart composing a piano concerto.  And he’s a professional photographer too. A true Renaissance man indeed.  Check him out here.

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Next stop is just a few miles south in Rockville, SC, where we’ll stop for a day to repair a seal on our engine.  It’s leaking gear oil pretty bad and we want to take care of it sooner rather than later.  To get to it, we’ll have to basically shift the entire engine forward, a job that I’m sure will take the better part of a day.  All this to replace a $3 seal.  Oh the joys of living on a boat!

Awendaw Green

Charleston is proving itself to be a pretty awesome place, and we haven’t even made it downtown yet!

Our first night in town, we met up with Matt’s high school buddy, Zane, who took us out to this amazing outdoor music venue called Awendaw Green, located just outside of Charleston in Mt. Pleasant. Every Wednesday, they hold a barn jam featuring local and regional musicians of all types.  The line up changes each week, and includes half a dozen acts per night with genres ranging from bluegrass to punk to country to rock.  A few bands get there start here, including an American Idol runner up who still comes back to play every now and again.  The bands were all pretty good, but it was the setting that really did it for me.  The place is outdoors, with lawn chairs and fire pits scattered around the stage, which is actually an old barn with a tin roof awning that was the “stage”.  Posters of acts that had played here before were plastered along the faded pine wood on the side.  There were white christmas lights strung up everywhere that gave it this ethereal glow, and a huge tree just off the stage with old trombones, horns and saxophones hanging from it.  It was like a festival scene, but much smaller, and so much cooler.  I’m horrible at estimating, but If I had to guess, I’d say that there were about 150 people there in total, ranging from young to old, from families to hipsters to lowcountry locals, kids and pets alike, all just hanging out together and enjoying some good music in this surreal setting.

We met up with Zane’s lovely wife, Karen, and their two boys, who greeted us with a cooler full of beer and a picnic table set with all sorts of munchies.  The place was amazing, the company was wonderful and the music kicked ass.  It was pretty much the perfect night.  If we lived here, we’d be hanging out at this place every week with our camping chairs and cooler (and probably Zane & Karen) in tow.

I really wish I would have taken more pictures, but I was pretty much a walking zombie at this point, having been up for nearly 24 hours straight.  Despite my struggle to stay coherent, this place absolutely blew my mind.  If you’re ever in the Charleston area on a Wednesday night, it’s well worth the trip to go check it out.

Thanks so much, Zane, for sharing this little gem with us!  What a great way to kick off our stay!

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Moorehead City to Charleston

It’s 2am and I’m at the helm on my first official night watch at sea. The water is calm, the moon is bright, and there’s nothing but open ocean all around me. Pretty cool.

We finally made it out of Moorehead City around noon on Monday, after holing up in our boat for nearly three days being sloths and binge watching the first three seasons of Game of Thrones. We tried to save them for when we got to the Bahamas, but decided that being stuck in a place for a few days waiting for the weather to impove was a just cause to break them out. What a great show. I totally get the hype now. Thanks, Mom!

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I shouldn’t say we were total sloths. We did change the oil and fuel filters in both engines and reprimed the bilge pumps on Sunday. Figured that since we’d be motoring most (if not all) the 220 miles to Charleston, might as well have fresh oil in the engines to start out with.

After he was done, Matt went to start the engines… and nothing happened. Nada. They wouldn’t start. After about 30 minutes of troubleshooting (and a few choice words), he noticed that the kill switch to the starboard engine was just slightly pulled out. No fuel = no start. Rookie mistake. One engine solved and onto the next. Turns out that there was air in the fuel line in the port engine, so he bled it and, surprise!, it started up just fine. Hey, just two more things we know to check for if we ever run into this problem again. Since I’m not the best at troubleshooting engines, I worked on cleaning the boat, happy to be plugged into shore power again so I could vacuum. That was about the highlight of Moorehead City, hence our eagerness to get the hell out of there and on our way.

Just past sunset, about 20 miles out from Moorehead, we were greeted by a pod of dolphins, which just blew our minds! It’s like they we’re welcoming us out into the ocean or something. They started at the bow of our boat and made their way to the back, where they started jumping out of the water and doing all sorts of tricks. One jumped up about six feet, right off the back of our boat! For a split second we were nearly eye to eye with this dolphin. It was sort of like those shows at the aquarium, but about a million times cooler. IMG_3251

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The water is a beautiful neon blue color and so clear, we could see the jellyfish nearly 15 feet down. If the the water of the Bay is the color of tea, then the water out here is the color of blue Gatorade.

 

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So, I’m gonna be honest. Overnighters really suck. We decided to devide the night into four shifts with one of us on watch while the other sleeps: 7-10, 10-1, 1-4, 4-7. During our shifts we passed the time by reading, playing Sudoku, snacking on pistachios, star gazing, playing with the GPS to see how much longer till we get there, all the time scanning the horizon to make sure we won’t hit anything. Thank god for autopilot. You just set it and forget it. Sorta like a crock pot. There’s been no wind, so we can’t even work the sails to pass the time. So. Boring. During your “off” shift, you only get about an hour or so of decent sleep before it’s time for your watch again. I’m predicting that we’ll be spending our first day in Charleston sleeping a deep glorious slumber to bring us back from the zombie like state we’re currently in.

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Surprisingly, we’ve both been feeling a little queasy and popped some Dramamine a few times already. Not the ‘I’m gonna barf all over the back of the boat’ type of sick, just feeling a little unsettled. The ocean is actually pretty calm, but the slow swell is always present and I think that’s what’s been messing with us. So ready to be done with this little offshore trip. Don’t think we’ll be crossing any oceans in our future, that’s for sure.

We approached the Charleston inlet around 4am this morning and had to dodge a few freighters coming in and fought a current of 1.5 knots while making our way up the river, but we’re here! Feels great to not be on the ocean any more 🙂

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