Saturday, March 14, 2015

Tomorrow morning we will uncleat the lines from Thunderbolt Marina to head south for Georgia's Golden Islands. We have really enjoyed Savannah and Thunderbolt but we are ready to leave for more adventures. Winter has finally loosened it's grip on the area...azaleas are blooming, little bright green leaves are popping out on the trees, and the no-see-ums are swarming ;) all signs of warmer weather.

One of our stops was the Ships of the Seas Maritime Museum in Savannah. It houses an interesting collection of model ships and figureheads gathered in the historic Scarborough House. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015


One of the more interesting, exciting, sometimes frustrating aspects of travel on the ICW are bridges, specifically bridges that need to open or lift in order for us to pass. We have encountered bascule bridges, swing bridges, lift bridges and even a pontoon bridge. Some bridges will open for you "on demand", some open only on a strict hourly schedule, some won't open at all during rush hours!
Every evening we plan the next leg of our trip by reviewing charts (maps), tide and weather. Bridge information is included on the chart with specifications of clearance so can plan accordingly ahead of time.

The Gilmerton Bridge (pictured below) south of Norfolk was our first "opening required" bridge. We had to delay our morning departure from Norfolk to get there after 9:30 rush hour when the bridge would open. 

Newer built bridges have a vertical clearance of 65 ft! We love these newer "fixed" bridges that accommodate our 55 ft mast nicely. I read that as bridges are replaced on the ICW they will build fixed spans that do not require opening.

 If you want a bridge to open you need to use the right language on the right channel of the VHF radio. The "right" channel changes from state to state.

"Ladies Island Bridge, Ladies Island Bridge this is southbound sailing vessel Sirene."
"Ladies Island Bridge go ahead cap'n."
"Good morning, this is sailing vessel Sirene S-I-R-E-N-E, hailing port Newport, RI requesting an opening please."
"Sirene I have you in sight. When you are closer I'll open up."

The getting closer part can be tricky. We try to time our approach to opening bridges with a little bit of current against us to give more control to our approach, if we get too close too soon we just go to idle and let the current push us back a bit. We've waited at some bridges perilously close to getting swept down into them while we watch cars crossing the bridge and knowing it will be at least a few minutes from cars being stopped to bridge opening. The bridge-tender's definition of "close" is often very different from ours. Once the bridge opens, we sigh with relief, and motor through the opening.

"Ladies Island Bridge, Sirene clear, thank you very much."
"You're welcome cap'n. Y'all have a good day now."

Monday, December 29, 2014

Family and friends...

We left Sirène safe and sound in North Carolina while we traveled to share the upcoming holidays with family and friends. We started with a road trip to Baltimore to meet our new granddaughter Vivienne, which was delightful. She's a real charmer, and her parents are naturals as is evident by what a happy and relaxed baby she is.
We had been looking forward to having a car to do Christmas shopping and maintenance items like a haircut and pedicure, and meeting friends for lunch...none of which we could do right away because our cars weren't working, a problem with my battery, and Bob's car is leaking brake fluid, so that needed a repair garage visit. Apparently cars don't like to sit idle for too long, but luckily these were easy fixes, and all the chores got done. We got the chance to spend some wonderful time with kids and grandkids, some friends, and our church family so it was all worth it.

I can't speak for Bob but as much as I was thrilled to be home with our loved ones, I also missed life aboard the boat. I guess I have become more acclimated to the slow-paced, quieter life than I realized. The Christmas holidays are always fun, and while I  enjoyed getting caught up with family, especially the young ones, it was an adjustment.  The kids are great and a true joy to be with especially at that time of year and nothing is better than experiencing Christmas morning through a youngster's eyes. We hope your Christmas was as filled with wonder and joy as ours was.

We are back on the boat, and the feelings are reversed... we are wishing we were home playing with, and reading stories to little ones and getting wrapped up in the craziness that is family home life instead of readjusting to the quietness of life aboard.

We will take a couple of days to provision and plan, before getting underway and continuing on our journey south.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year !

Monday, December 8, 2014


We are in Southport, North Carolina preparing the boat for a two week layup when we'll go home to celebrate the holidays with family and friends. At the outset of this "adventure" for lack of a better word, we thought we would be further south at this point in time. I need to point out that I am not complaining in any way about our progress made, I think we are doing great. We have moved at pace with our interests and curiosities and our ability/willingness to tolerate adverse conditions. We have met wonderful people and spent time in small towns we might never have even known about had we been zooming along in a quest to get south at all speed and at any cost.
I labeled this post "expectations" because that is the most surprising realization of this journey...our expectations, which we thought realistic, were way off the mark. We expected a pleasant daily sail/motor through scenic waterways with wildlife and waterfowl waiting along the shores to enchant and entertain us, part ICW part Disneyland. The truth...the landscape is no greener in the Chesapeake and along the northern part of the ICW in October than it is in New England...brown and leafless. The wildlife and waterfowl, if they are even in evidence in the summer months, have long ago flown south or burrowed under the dead leaves to escape the chill. The only birds we saw at the beginning of the ICW were snowbirds, like ourselves, heading south to try to beat the frost. The pleasant daily sails are intense, hours spent with one of us at the helm driving and watching water depth while the other closely monitors the charts and the marks/buoys that we need to honor to stay on course in the channel. It is challenging and exciting but it is also stressful thus exhausting.

I thought I would have time...plenty of time to paint the scenery underway, time to compose interesting blog entries describing our experiences, and time do nothing but relax and be in the moment, appreciating that we have the resources and ability to do this trip. The reality is that we are governed by weather, wind and tide, current, available hours of daylight and the mercy of bridge tenders. A typical day starts at 6 am with coffee and putting the boat to rights for sailing. We cast off  at about 7 am with plans to cover 35- 40 nautical miles or 7 hours underway whichever comes first. Sometimes we lose close to an hour waiting for a bascule or swing bridge's scheduled opening so we can pass by. When we get to our destination for the night we shut down, check engine and electrical systems, make log entries and then have dinner. After dinner we sit down to make the plan for the next day starting with weather forecast, then charts and tide tables and crossed fingers.

Once the plan is laid out and recorded we close up shop for the night and go to sleep. We look forward to days when we can stay in a place and explore and get a feel for the community, catch up with provisioning and laundry. Often weather will dictate that decision but some days we realize we just don't feel like we stay put. We are hopeful that those days become more frequent as we get into warmer weather and don't feel compelled to keep moving further south.
Then I may have time to paint all day.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Slowly making our way South...

It is hard to grasp how long we have been working our way South. We left Newport on September 28th! We've been at this for 6 weeks already! I guess on my more tired days I will grumble that it's taking too long to move south, but I know it isn't really taking too long. Its just taking as long as we need. We have been lucky to find shelter when we needed it, a means to visit family when we've needed it (Bob's Mom had a bad fall and was in the hospital with a broken rib and we went to see Brad and Donna and baby, who is due to make her appearance any day !) a nearby church to visit on Sunday, an opportunity to provision and replace resources and do laundry, an opportunity to get off the boat for a couple of days and sleep in a lovely hotel (thank you to Steve) and most importantly the boat is performing beautifully (knock wood). So no whinging allowed. We will stay flexible and optimistic :)
We are in Solomon's Island MD with plans to move out tomorrow. The forecast (as of this morning) says we should have 5 days to sail south without interruption. We really need that window to get to the ICW before ice starts forming around here. Just kidding, its actually pretty mild, we just turn the heat on for a little in the morning to take the chill out. Hopefully, once we get into the ICW, our travel won't be quite as affected by the weather, except for the big sounds like Albemarle and Pamlico which offer little shelter from the elements. We have started seeing pelicans so we know we are headed in the right direction! I will be very excited when we start seeing dolphins and palm trees !   still loving' the slow life

Monday, November 3, 2014

The boat...Sirène

I promised a post about the boat and how we live on her for those of you who have not had the pleasure of spending much time afloat, so here it is. I'm sorry it took so long.
Sirène, our home for the next 8 months, is a 2004 Beneteau 37 foot long fiberglass sailboat. In order to live on the boat we have had to simplify our day-to-day life to fit into a very small space,  220 square feet belowdecks to be precise.  Included in this volume of space are two berths (bedrooms), a main cabin, a galley (kitchen) and a head (bathroom).
The  main cabin is the living room/dining room/office/entertaining and library space on Sirène.
The galley has a two-burner propane stove/oven, a microwave which is only used to store tea and coffee, a double sink, a fridge, and a separate freezer. When we get underway all the "stuff" you see on the counter goes into the sink so that when the boat heels (leans over under pressure from the wind) they don't go flying across the cabin spilling their contents.
Looking forward to the vee-berth. A favorite nesting place of grandchildren and nieces and nephews.
The head is roomy with a large size shower space which I use as a closet. We rarely use the shower on board for a number of reasons; the water is rarely warm enough, we carefully ration the limited amount of water in the storage tanks, and its a pain to clean the bathroom after a shower because, even with the curtain, water goes everywhere. Fortunately most marinas have nice, hot, and clean indoor showers for cruisers to use. Many include the use of the facilities in the cost of the dock or mooring.
The navigation desk is the nerve center of the boat from where we direct electricity to various functions on the boat. Sirène has three large batteries, one is a dedicated engine starting battery, the other two are house batteries. The batteries are kept charged either by running the engine and using the alternator to feed them or by the two large flexible solar panels we have mounted on the bimini (canvas cover over the cockpit). When the sun is out the solar panels do a very good job keeping the batteries charged. Navigation instruments like the GPS chart plotter, the radar, the VHF radio and the autopilot, use power as do the depth finder and the anemometer. Other powered functions on the boat include the refrigeration, the cabin lights, the water pressure pumps, the stereo and the propane gas solenoid. I should point out that this is a 12 volt system similar to our car's electrical system, not the 110 volt that we use in our house. As is evident in the picture the nav station is also where we drop a lot of stuff when we come down the ladder in the companionway. I did not tidy up before I took the picture. (In case you are wondering about the diaper... it's held over the vent to the fuel tank so that it can catch any drip while we fill the tank with diesel.)

The 27 horsepower diesel engine that lives under the ladder (stairs) to the cockpit.

So that is our space belowdecks, it may seem small but it is perfect for the two of us...well unless we are not getting along, but then as they boat is big enough if you aren't getting along. Fortunately we get on pretty well most days ;)

What do you think? Could you live in this space for a few months?

Monday, October 13, 2014

 It's time to make this blog active! We (I refer to Bob, myself and the boat) have been slowly working out way southwest toward our goal of spending the winter in warmer climes. Right now we are in Jersey City in a marina across from Manhattan. It serves as a safe place to wait for the right weather window to jump off and get down the Jersey Shore into Delaware Bay. Today's email from our weather router stated that vessels are advised not to transit the waters of the Western Atlantic until Gonzalo exits the area. (maybe by Sunday) Which means we have plenty of time for museums and other enriching activities in the most exciting city in the world ! woohoo !

I will use some of the free time to introduce you to the boat and answer some questions about the benefits and the challenges of our life living aboard Sirène.

To our cruising friends who may in the path of any of the storms...stay safe.