S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


We're in Beaufort, NC. This was to be our jumping-off point for St. Thomas, then it was to be our jumping-off point for a coastal trip to Florida. Weather, of course, doesn't look good for any offshore sailing until Friday, at least. So our likely route now is two more days of the ICW, then offshore in two- to three-day hops to Miami. From there it's just a short cruise across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.

Beaufort is great. Big Daddy Wesley's grocery carries boiled peanuts and Moon Pies. We saw a guy sitting on his heavily-decorated front porch watching his LIFE-SIZED, SINGING SANTA--both times we passed the house. We also liked a dog hanging out on a the edge of a second-story roof, surveying the street. I (Dean) love it.

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four point four

NOTE: The following post contains some hyperbole. Jill wants you all to know that we were never in any danger of hitting the tug.

Sit down, lubbers, and I'll tell you a tale that'll turn your hair white.

'Twas nigh on two bells (5 P.M. to those that don't know no better), on Friday, the 25th of November. Brisk, to be sure. Why, we had on all the clothes we had with us. The S/V Delilah and her crew were steaming down the winedark Alligator River Canal, a desperate place, hewed from the solid clay of North Carolina. Straight as an arrow she be. Until the Wilkerson Bridge, that is. There, the river, she becomes, for a moment, serpentine. And shoal. Very shoal. Thin water, some say. And narrow as a topman's mind. We was proceeding along as the sun bid goodnight, and was following the cans that the Army Corps of Engineers had placed here and there, when the TUG FROM HELL appeared fine on our starboard bow, pushing a monstrous barge.

The crew panicked. "What to do?" cried they. The stalwart skipper did not blanch, did not shrink from his duty. He put the wheel hard to port, hoping against hope to miss the Leviathan bearing down upon them. Delilah, noble and fine vessel as she is, obeyed the command. For a moment, it seemed all would be well. Have you ever seen a barge run over a sailboat? It's not pretty, to be sure. Suddenly, just as we passed out of harm's way, we slowed. Then we stopped, engine still chugging mightily. Did Delilah's bow actually RISE out of the water a hair? The incredulous captain looked at the fathometer: 4.4 feet she read. Delilah draws 5.8. And there we sat, as darkness grew...

As this is a family blog, we cannot report the next few minutes of conversation. Let's just say some very salty phrases peppered the air.
A passing sailboat offered help, but we didn't want their boat to go aground also. Some guy on the VHF piped up to suggest that we kedge off--using our dinghy and and an anchor. Our dinghy is deflated and stowed so well that we will have to dismantle the boat to reach it some day, so that was not an option. We have a stern anchor, which Roger (a.k.a. The Mayor, of World Headquarters fame) had donated to our cause. We threw that over, tied to the halyard, and winched it in to try to tip Delilah sideways a bit and shorten her draft. No dice. But we weren't that worried. We have "fifty dollar insurance" from Boat U.S.

It turns out that "fifty dollar insurance" means that they pay the first fifty bucks, and the sucker who needs the tow pays the rest. I won't go into the gruesome details, but fifty bucks does not begin to cover tow charges on the water, which they make up on the spot when they see how desperate you are, plus travel time. And they always seem to be at least forty-five minutes away.

We waited, and it got dark, and we tried a few things, and we sat some more, and then the bow seemed to shiver a bit. Dean threw her in reverse for the twentieth time, and this time we discovered we were moving. Tow Boat U.S. appeared two minutes later to collect their hefty fee for travel time and to advise us that we should sign up for the more comprehensive tow package. Thanks. At least we got free of the shoal without their assistance. The two ludramons (that's some phonetically-spelled Gaelic) in the towboat hardly knew how to come alongside Delilah, and I've heard horror stories about boats damaged by tows that tried to drag them THROUGH obstructions.

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Thanksgiving at Buck Island

We anchored to the north of Buck Island (mile marker 56 on the ICW in NC) for Thanksgiving. Jill made chicken, potatoes, and beets. We had picked up a can of cranberry sauce earlier, so we had all we needed as far as I was concerned.

Of course, family and friends were sorely missed...

North Carolina at last. And still it's cold! What gives?

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Broken Lock

Twelve miles. Twelve measly miles. We left Norfolk yesterday (Monday) and started down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), hoping to get to Coinjock, NC at mile 49. We happened to be travelling with three other sailboats, which was nice, as there are lots of bridges to call and ask for openings, and this took the pressure off us.

Things were going well enough (in spite of the driving rain) until we got to the Great Bridge Lock. The lock keeper couldn't open it. Seriously. So we waited on the north side for about 1/2 an hour, then it opened and they let us in. After waiting for another group of boats that had just come through the last bridge at its scheduled opening, the lock keeper had trouble closing the gate, and we sat for 1 1/2 hours while they worked on the electrical problem before giving up and closing it manually--why it took them so long to come to this conclusion while traffic built up on the southbound side, I don't know. This wasn't a big canal. I'd have been happy to take my turn at the capstan when we entered our second hour of waiting. And all of this for a one-foot drop in the river.

By the time they let us out, we didn't have enough daylight to get to our next anchorage, so we stayed at the free public dock just past the lock and bridge in Great Bridge, VA.

We walked to town, got groceries, and had really bad takeout Chinese food with our neighbors, Tom and Louie, on "Corsair," a 57' schooner. Tom has equipped her with two cutlasses and a cat o' nine tails that he made himself many years ago and kept hanging in his living room until he sold his house last month. We watched "Captain Ron," which they had picked up in a nearby pawn shop, then sank into a deep sleep.

There's yet another gale warning today (yes, even this far inland), so we're staying put at our free dock and trying not to think about the good times to be had at Tina and Ian's, just a few miles behind us.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Happy Days

One of many great meals we had in Norfolk was at Doumar's, a barbecue and shake joint that still offers curb service. You pull up in your car and turn on your lights. A waitress takes your order and delivers your meal on a metal tray that hooks onto the door of your car. A pulled pork sandwich with slaw costs $1.90. Unlike Happy Days, however, the waitresses don't wear rollerskates.

Hospital Point

Tina and Jill in Flutter, with Delilah in the background

Here's where we've been anchored all week - Hosptial Point in Norfolk, VA. There are naval vessels all over (I (Dean) almost ran into a submarine) and many, many commercial vessels, which makes navigation tough. We're leaving tomorrow morning very early, in order to make the bridge openings in the ICW.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Jill and I have been seeing an unusually large number of meteors (meteorites) during this trip. There have been three that have been bright enough to illuminate the boat. One, in fact, was so bright I (Dean) thought that a boat had turned a spotlight on us. That, needless to say, was pretty scary. They have been spectacularly colored, as well. I finally found, via http://skytour.homestead.com/met2005.html that we've been seeing the Taurids meteor shower. Cool.


Luxury! We are on land at the moment, staying with Tina, Ian, and Malcolm at their new home in Norfolk, VA. We reached Mile Marker 0, the beginning of our journey on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), at 7 o'clock this morning (after a 43 hour nonstop trip), and we anchored at Hospital Point. Tina came zooming out on her boat, Flutter, to pick us up.

We made the trip from Atlantic City to Norfolk in one hop. The first afternoon of sailing was terrific, and we made 7 knots under jib alone, but then the wind died, and we had to motor nearly all of the rest of the way.

At 3:30 on the first night, after the moon set (the color of a lit jack-o-lantern as it went down), I (Jill) was struggling to stay awake when I noticed the water around the boat was breaking. It took a minute for me to realize that about a dozen dolphins had joined us. Without the moon it was fairly dark, and the dolphins' dark fins were difficult to see above the water. But the really cool part was that the water was filled with phytoplankton, little guys who glow when they're disturbed. I've seen them in the water before, but never in such numbers that all of the water glows as if somebody has switched on a blacklight under the water. As the dolphins shot through the water and charged the boat, the phytoplankton formed bright blue tubes around them and lit up their bodies. Then they'd dive under the hull and surface on the other side in another iridescent splash. They stayed with the boat for over a half hour, until Dean came up on watch. Dean saw a meteorite bright enough that he thought a spotlight was on the boat.

The next night was not so much fun. In fact, it was not fun at all. We entered the Chesapeake Bay after dark, and we realized a little too late that the chartbook we have for the ICW starts at Norfolk, well inside the Chesapeake Bay, not at the entrance itself. We held our breath a few times as we squeaked over a few shoals (down to 7.2 feet; we have a 5'8" draft), and neither of us got any sleep as we made our way toward Norfolk, but we made it in the end. It's the last time we'll go anywhere without a chart.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

More NY pictures

Ruins on Roosevelt Island

Passing the Statue Of Liberty


Prison ship off of Rikers Island

Misc Pictures

Jill doing route planning

Up against the wharf in Old Harbor, Block Island

40 knot winds in the Great Salt Pond, Block Island

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Snowman on the hop!

It turns out that you can see the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City from many miles out at sea, and who knew I (Jill) would ever be dying to get there?

The last 24 hours have been a departure from form. We left Oyster Cove, in Long Island Sound, with the intention of going 15 miles to anchor in Throg's Neck. When we got there, it was still early in the day, and we realized the currents would be with us at Hell Gate, so we decided to continue through NYC. After we passed Riker's Island and what appeared to be a huge prison boat, got a big whiff of the East River, invaded the security zone of the United Nations building, passed the Statue of Liberty (pictures to come) and motored into Sandy Hook, NJ, we realized that we had a good forcast for the night and that Atlantic City was just 75 short miles away!

We had no wind at first, but it filled in from the east--finally, not SW--we rolled out the genoa a hair and we flew, by Delilah's standards, anyway. At one point Dean clocked us at 7 knots with just the double-reefed headsail out.

We got into the Trump Marina this morning (the marina where we met up with Greg during the delivery of his Hunter). I'm not thrilled to be paying so much for a slip after days of anchoring and tying up for free, but we plan to get our money's worth in hot water. Showers all around! Dean is at least a pound lighter.

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Dateline: Norwalk

We're in Norwalk, CT, in Long Island Sound. We sailed from Block Island to the Sound Saturday morning, anchored for a few hours at Duck Island until the current was with us again, then "sailed" through the night to Norwalk. It was a very surreal experience. There was no wind, so we motored the entire way. Some sailors we are...

When we got in, still in dense fog, we almost ran into dozens of crew teams in their racing shells. About halfway up the harbor, we were stopped and told that there were races in the harbor and that the public dock, our destination, was not available. Oh, yeah, I (Dean) also ran aground--in soft mud. I had sworn never to do that, but I was avoiding the shells. No damage because it was mud. We had to wait for three hours on a mooring, then put in at the town dock.

The whole reason we rushed into Norwich was to avoid a cold front that was predicted to move through this afternoon, bringing high wind, rain, and possibly lightning. But it's now 3 o'clock, and the sun is burning off the fog. Still, it's nice to be ashore again, sitting in a bakery and enjoying a slice of red velvet cake (guess who ordered that) and a kouign amans, which is like a croissant but with sugar on it (okay, I ordered both things).

We also picked up our chart for the East River and Manhattan. I expect we'll go through there Tuesday, weather permitting. Although, who knows? Predictions are for W winds where we want to go west and S winds where we want to go south.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Those nasty winds

Some of you might think that we'd be almost to our destination by now. Those who think that are wrong. We're in Old Harbor, Block Island, grinding up against the wharf (we will need to buy a 2 x 4 to keep Delilah off the pilings). Sand from the wharf is ALL over the boat. Nasty. We put in here because even though the wind today was from the NW, we couldn't make it all the way to the Great Salt Pond, our original destination.
The good news is that we are able to go ashore for the first time since we left Boston on Sunday night. We stayed for two nights in Cuttyhunk Pond, which was calm and pretty, but we did not feel like blowing up the dinghy for such a short stop.
NOAA is predicting SW winds through Saturday, so we might just sail through Long Island Sound (thanks for the charts, Susan). Then again, the wind is now predicted to turn S on Sunday, meaning we'll have to sail close hauled all the way to Virginia unless we wait here for a while. We are lucky that it has been warm.

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