Where we at

Monday, July 27, 2020

Gratuitous pictures

Just a bit of stormy weather

Sunset peeking between two building in Baltimore

Calm sunset in the marina

She's been feeling lonely. I'm open to suggestions.

Okay, back to sunsets. Cuz, bored.
And beautiful.

This is the main building on the Johns Hopkins campus.
Really beautiful.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


There's never a dull moment in boating.

Last night we had a rip-snorter of a thunderstorm. It was bad enough that our dog was pretty freaked. We let her sleep with us until it passed. Many close claps of thunder followed brilliant flashes through the window coverings. Very cool. I love a good t-storm. Lizzie, not so much.

The winds from that storm, which affected a sizable part of the bay, churned up the waters a bit. So when we left this morning (crazy early) we had a couple of bouncy moments. As the day progressed it all calmed down. Ultimately a great travel day.

Up and out before sunrise.
Long day, so we wanted to be in before any storms
Except for this one thing: About 30 minutes out of port, as Russ was making us our lattes for the morning, the "Hot Engine" light went on for the port engine. I cut both engines immediately, which made Russ run up the stairs to see what was wrong (that's typically our "I need you" signal), only to have to run downstairs and check the engine. Which was smoking and filled the room with that burnt rubber smell. Yep, broke the fan belts. Again. Russ checks these every time he does an engine check, which is every time we travel. So it was a surprise.

In Cambridge there this little 1 room house.
It apparently is where Civil War business
took place. Just an office, no one lived here.
Given we'd been through this before we a) had backup belts to replace the shredded ones, b) knew how to drive with boat with 1 engine (which is a lot easier with autopilot, let me tell you!), and c) knew he'd have to wait until the engine cooled before doing anything. He continued to make coffee while I continued to move us along at 6 knots, making sure to overtax the remaining engine. About 30 minutes later, the belts were replaced and we were on our way. About 30 minutes after that (we had to wait for the place to open or it would have been immediately) Russ contacted an engine company in Annapolis for suggestions and ideas, namely replacing the current belt rig with a serpentine one which is stronger, easier to get on, and will clear this bolt.

Lovely calm waters all day.
Yes, it's a bolt that's the issue. Apparently one of the belts run very close to it and, if it vibrates at all, starts to shave just a little bit of belt away until there's a massive integrity issue. Quickly loaded the second belt immediately explodes. I'm sure it's exciting to watch.

On the plus side, Russ found a new engine guy he likes. So, you know, it's all about silver linings.

Last night's storm... it went on for quite a while.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Electrical Update, Mid-Shore Electronic

inQuest is on the right, at Mid-Shore
Ever have a problem that you wished were just a matter of flipping a switch to fix? Well, guess what. We did!

The Mid-Shore Electronics (MSE for short) technician that walked the boat with Russ discovered a hidden breaker switch on the generator. Once flipped, and viola -- power! We can run the AC on anchor, and cook and whatever. So, yay!!! Love quick fixes. 

As for some of the other tasks they involve various Maretron parts, and while the Maretron website says MSE are dealers, MSE doesn't seem to think so. We'll get those done at another time, meaning Russ will do it himself. MSE is going to layout a new panel for the helm to give us a little more space, and move our compass to give us more accurate readings. The latter hasn't been an issue since all the tablet we have also have GPS location, but it's been a nit. At times it's off by 30 degrees.


After. We move the depth gauge up next to the Garmin
(because we could never easily read it with the tablet)
and the power switches closer to the steering wheel.

We'll spend another day here and head back Wednesday to Baltimore.

Sunday, July 19, 2020


The last time we anchored out things were great, and we started to feel good about the boat. This time, not so much. In our morning routine Russ makes us coffee. In addition to the AC being an issue it looks like the inverter is a problem. While Russ grinds the beans by hand (it's a thing, don't ask me why), he boils water with an electric kettle and heats our soy milk in the microwave, both of which are power intensive appliances. When he turned the kettle on the power on the boat went out. This indicates that, while the batteries claim to have all sorts of power, they really don't. Thankfully, we're on our way to the electric guys.

Despite the warmth we got a good nights sleep. We woke to fog, which is not something I associate with hot conditions. We also woke with an excessive heat warning. Originally we planned on staying here 2 nights before going to Cambridge. But with the electrical weirdness and the lack of AC we're not in the mood. We headed to Cambridge.

Woke to this. And it's in the high 70s.
The trip was short, just about an hour. The anchor came up with no issues and we docked with no issues.  I like days like that. We were tied to the pier by 9:30. Already it was hot and majorly humid (recall the fog).

But with the dockside power we're cool as a cucumber inside. Thank goodness.

Without the aid of binoculars, the anchorage last night was so dark we could easily see the comet with our own eyes. That was very cool.

Calm on the way to Cambridge.

Pulling into the cute town.

Did I mention it was a cute town?

Not as dramatic as those on the internet but, hey,
it was taken with a cell phone!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

La Trappe Creek (heading to Cambridge)

No. Not that Cambridge. 

Russ made an appointment almost a month ago at a reputable company in Cambridge that does electric systems on boats. At the time we were having all sorts of issues. Now we're down to just a few. Additionally, Russ wants some new whistles and bells, and basically have pros look over everything we'd done thus far.*

We're due in Cambridge on Monday. But we decided to anchor out for a couple of days first.

The trip over was a little long but mostly uneventful. Lots of wakes and bouncing from the many boats on the bay. It wasn't quite as bad as the Sunday after the 4th of July, but the water was quite populated.

All those boats are fishing. All of them!

We passed big, big boats...

...and littler sail boats!

Our only excitement was when I realized that one of our bridle lines was missing. It wasn't missing like gone, but it was missing in that it had come untied and was in the water, being dragged under the boat. These lines are attached to the front of our two hulls and, once we set an anchor, we tie these to the chain so the boat rests on the bridle, and not the windlass. Important in bad weather. You don't want the boat pulling on the anchor motor. We cleverly made them short enough so, in this kind of situation, they couldn't get wrapped in our props. Yep, we're feeling pretty smart now! I stopped the boat, Russ got out a boat hook and fished the thing out. Then we were on our way.

Sunset on the creek
No issues anchoring. Other than the 90+ temps. (see footnote!)

In other, non-boat, exciting news it looks like our condo in New Orleans might be rented. On the bummer side of that, it might need to emptied by August 1st, giving us about 2 weeks to get that done. And, oh, the entire building is being tented for 1 of those weeks starting Monday.

Ah, life. Never gets dull.

*We just discovered that out AC doesn't work, even with the generator running. Yes. Never dull...

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

...and back to Baltimore

The blue blip in the center
was our MOB exercise
The anchorage last night was dandy. Due to the tides we were in pretty shallow water at the lowest point, sub 2 feet. That's below our keel, so around 5.5 feet if you were to jump off the boat. It was dark enough that we (finally!) saw Neowise, the comet. 

We left in the morning around 8am, after coffee, breakfast, and quick dinghy ride to walk the dog.

Local kids at the anchorage
had some fouled lines on their
sailboat. You can see one of them
climbing the mast to fix it.
Getting back was a simple matter of following our "bread crumbs." We have a number of GPS software apps we use while underway, Navionics and AquaMaps being our 2 primary navigational aids. Both of them offer tracking, so we can see where we've been and how we got around. Handy when you just want to go back home.

Navionics is our primary app. We search for a destination and it plots a course, taking into account our draft and our size. It isn't 100% accurate, since it fails to take our height into consideration. We've had to turn around because that bridge up ahead won't open and we can get under it. 

AquaMaps is great for depth information. Russ keeps it updated with the latest Army Corp of Engineers scans. It's invaluable in much of the south on the ICW, where depths can be seriously lacking.

The boat also has a Garmin navigation system, but we use that more for an additional map. It does display AIS information (if a boat has it, like we do, we can see them, their speed, and direction on the map), which is useful. I'm a fan of redundancy. I like many things to agree "this is where you are," "this is what's around you," and "this is where you're going." 

Fort McHenry in the foreground of the Baltimore skyline.

And the flag IS still there. Moreover, it's the same flag.
Well, okay, not the same flag, but the flag of 1814 when the song was written.
Count the stars.

Blue Bob, recovering from his ordeal.
A little over a week ago we assisted some boaters, if you recall. We'd decided that we need to do something like that on occasion, so our reactions aren't so "Ahhh! What do we doooo??!!" On a side note, occasionally while traveling you see things that just shouldn't be on the water; mylar balloons are an example. We agreed that, if the circumstances allowed us (we inconvenience no one and it's safe to do so) we'd combine these two things; clean up the water and practice our MOB (or, Man Over Board) maneuvers. As luck would have it, today we passed a blue mylar balloon. With Russ at the helm, headsets on, and me on the swim platform with a net, we "rescued" Blue Bob. Okay, I just made that up. It was a little tricky but we got it done.

That little experience under our belt Russ piloted us up the Patapsco River, into the marina, and docked us. 

Strawberry Crumble.... Mmmmmm
All in all a great couple of days. No new issues, everything worked as it should. We celebrated with pie.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Rock Hall

There's a big shoal just south of Rock Hall
which is why you go around, then up.
To test out the newly updated displays for the engines we took a trip across the bay to the small town of Rock Hall. We were here last year and remembered there was a restaurant that had dockage... and good crab cakes. Not a long travel, just around 3 hours. We left around 9 am.

You can see the opening on the side where
they lower the rope ladder for the pilot.
Weather was perfect with clear skies and just a slight breeze, so the crossing was free of drama. Should be equally good heading back tomorrow. The only excitement was a car carrier that was coming into Baltimore as we were leaving. It was being met by a pilot boat as we passed it. It's not uncommon for large ships to require a pilot when entering harbors. It's also not uncommon that those pilots have to board the moving container ship by way of ladder. I noticed a ladder ready on the side of the ship. If our timing was better we could have seen the guy climbing the ladder -- sounds so very 1700s but it turns out that's still the best way to get a single person onto another boat.

Docked at Waterman's Crab House.
When we first started the boating thing we believed we'd frequently take the boat to some restaurant, dock, eat, and leave. But on the entire loop we did that only twice; once to get some groceries (in Kent Narrows, just south of Rock Hall, as a matter of fact) and the other up in Canada at Henry's Fish House. So it was kind of novel to be doing it today. 

Getting to the restaurant required careful navigating since the waters in that bay were extremely shallow. Staying in the narrow channel was key, and a little tricky. We docked with ease with a number of lunching people watching the big boat come in. (There's a saying in the boat world: Sometimes there is a show, and sometimes you are the show. If you have a fear of performing, boating is not for you!) We docked without issue. After eating a wonderful meal we took a nap on the boat, walked the dog, then headed just around the corner to an anchorage. We'll spend the night here.

In case you were wondering, the new panels work great. So... yay!

This is the channel across the bay, west to east.
If you zoom the picture you'll see a distant red and white light. These are range markers.
The two lights are separated by quite a distance so when you line them up, one on top of the other, you are in the channel.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Hanging out for a week

Fay. Looks like it
was going to slam us.
Got nothin'.
I've never been to Baltimore prior to this visit, and I gotta say I am really impressed. Our marina is between two areas of Baltimore that have make great strides in revitalization, Fells Point and Canton. Right across the street is a Safeway, Ace Hardware, and my personal favorite, Original Pancake House (been there twice already -- hey, no judging!). Just down the road a bit is a West Marine (every boaters favorite store), and beyond that a large shopping complex with the usuals: Target, PetCo, Ulta, and other big box stores.

But more importantly is that both Fells Point and Canton have wonderful little neighborhoods, with nifty row houses (all new, some restored), restaurants, and pubs. We stumbled onto an Indian restaurant which was one of the best we've had in years (since living in Sunnyvale). Today we took a walk to Fells Point and saw amazing restaurants we want to try while here. Assuming everything doesn't shut down in the next week or so.

Good morning, Baltimore
We're continuing to repair the boat, mostly the water tank. Russ filled and drained it a number of times. He even used it for the first time today, taking a shower with that tank's water. He has an incredibly sensitive nose, so if there's even one molecule of diesel left in it, he'd know. His only complaint was that the Baltimore city water isn't as good as other cities we've been in recently. It has that "bug spray" smell.

Standard OPH order. 49er Flapjacks!
Also we're still tinkering with our electronics. We have never been happy with the little panels that are supposed to give us engine status. They have always read the battery and oil levels incorrectly. After contacting the manufacturer he wanted to reset them, a task requiring them to be in his hands. In the interim he sent us a single panel that would work. We've had a 60-cycle hum for a while, nothing major, but the new panel made it very obvious. Russ spent a bunch of time this week trying to track that down. He thinks he fixed it, but we need a ride to know.

... and goodnight!
We tried for the last 2 nights to see the comet, Neowise. This morning was pristine but we still didn't see it. Someone posted a picture of it they'd taken in Annapolis this very morning. Turns out we weren't getting up early enough. I'm gonna try again tomorrow. Up at 4 am!

To shake out our systems, and just enjoy what we can of the bay, we're taking a trip to Rockhall for an overnight, then back again. Later in the week we'll go to Cambridge. There's a well-known electronics place there and we made an appointment weeks ago. With any luck, though, we might just cancel that. One of our favorite towns is near it, Oxford (I know, right?!) so I'm looking forward to stopping there.

Russ working on the new water line (he replaced the
old one, just in case). He's laying on the engine.

The Litter Bug. This sits at the mouth a tributary and gobbles 
up all the litter before it gets into the river. It's solar powered
and only runs when the tide is going out. Very clever.

Daaaaaaw, it's so cute!

Ducks have made a swim platform off the back of this boat.

Our neighbors across the river.

Sunday, July 5, 2020


We didn't have to travel all the way to Baltimore today. It definitely made for a long voyage. Even yesterday we talked about stopping in Annapolis for one night. But, for some reason, we were antsy. We have a month long reservation there that will probably turn into a 2 month stay. And, given we could leave very early (which we tend to do), we'd still arrive by 2:30. Afternoon thunderstorms, like always, remain a slim possibility. But, you know. Us.

The first 4 hours of travel were almost boring. Flat seas, calm winds, and sunny. Then right around 10 am the seas started to churn. Not from weather or wind or storms, but boats. Lots and lots of boats. Zipping this-a-way and that-a-way, they got this huge body of water swishing and splashing. For the next 3 hours we were rocked, socked, and smacked in all sorts of directions. To add to that, the further north you go the narrower the bay gets, so the out-going tide slowed our progress to around 6 knots -- pretty darn slow for us.

Easterly travel into the Bay from Solomons 
We made the turn into the Baltimore area and just passed some dredging equipment. Russ was at the helm so I sat in the copilot seat keeping an eye out for crazy boaters. Something in the distance, just off our port caught my eye. It looked like people sitting on a small island. I got out the binoculars to see 4 people sitting on top of a boat... that was upside down. I pointed it out to Russ and we switched positions. He asked me to turn and get closer. As our boat turned toward them, they all began to wave for help.

Lots of lighthouses mark shoals
We got close enough to see they were, in fact, capsized. Russ hailed the Coast Guard. In such events they ask a bunch of questions, where are you, are there children involved, is anyone in need of assistance, do they have life vests. We told them what we could, getting close enough to talk to the folks. No injuries. But 2 needed vests. We carry spares. The first thing we did was toss them a couple. Then Russ could get a rope to them as I inched inQuest close enough that they could get off the hull of their boat. Pretty quickly after TowBoatUS showed up, asking if we needed help. Then the Coast Guard came, then the Baltimore Fireboat. It was quite the scene.

I couldn't believe with all the boats zipping
around WE were the ones who spotted them.
At this point they have our line.
After discussions with the 2 adults (it was a father and his 2 adolescent sons, and their friend who apparently owned the boat) they boarded the fireboat and were taken to the dock where their adventurous day began. Once everyone untied from us, we were on our way.

We docked around 3:30, about an hour later than we'd planned. Originally they wanted to put us in a slip, but we are a 16 ft wide vessel, and the slips are maybe 17 feet. Between the lack of space the wind that came up, it wasn't going to happen. They put us on a T-head, which was just perfect.

Once all the lines were on we took the dog for a walk. Minutes after returning to the boat, this happened:

Russ and I had just had a conversation that we needed to practice our "MOB" (Man Over Board) maneuvers. Never know when you'll need to use them. And then... Good gravy, what a day! 

The Coast Guard tied up to us. Eventually so did the fireboat.

Baltimore Fire Boat, waiting to get the stranded people to their dock.

Our "detour"

Baltimore in the distance.

After the rescue we had to move aside to let this car
carrier through the channel.