The Tale of Sweet Allie – Further down the line

As I was planning my purchases, before ever buying Sweet Allie I was contemplating safety equipmentand ran across the Delorme InReach. The following is the trip map from my trip. It is fascinating even to me as I can go back and look at the actual dates and times that I sailed the trip.

If interested you will probably need to zoom out to find Barnegat Bay and then mess with the map to allow you to see the trip, or any given segment. Click on a dot to bring up the date / time. You can for example zoom into the very point where I hooked the miraculous u-turn in Cape May. And there is some very funky stuff in the map, not sure why but some segments are doubled etc. No Ideee.

BTW I just rediscovered this yesterday and so will use it now to help me with dates and times. So far the tale has been purely from memories.

So I bought the InReach and set up service before I ever left NC, and then the InReach proceeded to post position messages, which were immediately inserted into the map. The messages were sent every 10 minutes. Which drives home again just how slow we move on a boat. My sister Sarah, the one promising the memory foam mattress for the vberth, is a flight attendant. When I gave her this link she immediately became fixated on tracking my progress. Every time she could get on her phone she would pull up the map to see where I was. I started teasing her that she was stalking me. And of course she would check in and several hours would have passed but I am only a few miles down the road so to speak.

Anyway, I would talk to her daily at the end of her day, just telling her details of my trip, and she was able to sail vicariously. And I enjoyed her company across the 14 days of my trip. I know it is 14 days now because I can see my start day Sat Sept 12th in Barnegat Bay and my end date Sat Sept 24th in Washington NC. Kinda cool.

On Friday, Sept 18th I started the engine and motored back out into the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, headed “home”. I did not actually have a home for Sweet Allie yet, my intention was to sail into New Bern and find a place to keep her. It didn’t work out that way but that is future tale. Today was a beautiful morning for motoring and I headed out. An hour later I cleared the canal out into the elk river and then out into the upper end of the Chesapeake bay. My destination was Anapolis MD which I figured to reach by late afternoon.

The upper Chesapeake is beautiful, quiet and green. Small craft visible but far between This was really my third day of mile making, the time between Cape May and today being spent getting work done for the client holed up in the Chesapeake Inn and Marina. So I was back on the water.

My plan was to motor down to Norfolk and take the Dismal Swamp Canal to get down into the Albemarle Sound. The Chesapeake bay is perhaps 160 NM or more from the mouth of the canal into Norfolk and so it would necessitate several days of travel. I had been studying the tourist stuff to do along the way and Annapolis is definitely recommended. So even though it was going to be a short day getting there I had determined to stop and play tourist.

Tillie served me well and I just hung out in the cockpit enjoying the sunshine. The wind was at my back and I had smallish following seas so it was a thoroughly relaxing trip. I would discover that the Chesapeak can get seriously nasty when bad weather kicks up. It is a long stretch of water, and pretty wide at least in the south and so if the winds get up it can get pretty good size waves. This day however, there was only a light breeze and so only very small waves.

Around 3:45 PM I sailed under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and prepared to enter the port of Annapolis. Annapolis is a big “sailing” town, tons of sailboats. Tons of watercraft of all descriptions, from huge power boats down to water taxis, and lots of sailboats. And this was my third real day of trying to act like I was a sailor. I had scouted the charts and discovered an anchorage right out in the bay, just off the channel ending in the Annapolis Harbor as it is marked on the map. Since I had no dingy, my plan was to anchor and call the water taxi, and go ashore. Actually I had heard there was a free dock but I was a bit chicken to try that right off so I thought I’d scout it out.

I’m motoring in and there are power boats all around me just seemingly going wherever they wanted. Very… disconcerting. And then as I got closer, and I’m studying Navionics on my tablet, I discover that the anchorage where I had decided to anchor for the evening was the site of what appeared to be a race of some sort. Or maybe just training or lessons or something. There were two groups of little tiny boats, probably 20′ and they were sailing around in circles like ducks in a pond, round and round, no obvious lead boat. With a power boat for each group with someone on a bullhorn squawking directions which I could not make out. All over the anchorage.

Probably rude of me but I figured that anchoring came first and so I just aimed my boat for where I planned to anchor and watched the little duckies scatter, dodging around me to regroup on the far side as I passed through. Nobody seemed obviously annoyed, no road rage, no obvious signs of irritation. In the meantime I did the idle crawl thing, put it in nuetral and as I coasted I went forward and dropped anchor, then came back and cut the engine. And looked around with immense satisfaction. I was getting pretty good with this anchor thing.

Unfortunately, by the time I made this happen I was just barely off the channel, not where I wanted or planned to be. And I noticed power boats zooming past me on all sides, going pretty darned fast. Nobody seemed perturbed with where I was but I was perturbed with where I was. So I reached down to start the engine, intending to up anchor and move a little. And nothing. I turned the key and absolutely nothing happened.

This was the first, but not the last time that this occurred. What does one do when the engine not only won’t start, it won’t even turn over. Not a sound. I popped downstairs to see what I could see electrically. I got out my multimeter and measured the batteries, all charged. Looked at my DC breaker panel and discovered that it was completely dark. It hadn’t been dark when I came down, but it was now. Sigh. Everything was working just minutes ago when I motored in.

After 30 minutes or so of frustration I got on the phone and called… Seatow. Two tows in under a week. I was in a strange town and basically just explained to SeaTow what had happened and asked for suggestions. It was Friday night, already after hours. They explained that most likely I could not get any mechanics for a reasonable price until Monday so they made some calls around and found a marina to tow me to. And so they did.

Inreach tells the sad tale.

I decided that I might as well enjoy my situation and so I went out to dinner. At the Chart House. I called to make reservations and was told that Army had just won some very important football gameand the whole town was in the Chart House celebrating, but if I would just wait until 9:00 things would thin out. And it is Friday night after all. So I called for a water taxi to pick me up at 9:00 and hung out, worrying. Then I decided to try it again. The engine started right up.

The question now, is that good or is that bad? I turned it off, started it right back up. So NOW what was I going to do? Go to dinner!

Around 8:30 I walked down to where the water taxi picked up and headed off to the Chart House. It is quite a nice place, built on a pier sticking out into the bay and looking out across the water at the old part of the city. There were very expensive motor yachts tied up at the pier along one side and an old sailing ship tied up on the other.

At 9:00 it was packed with revelers. And I was told I could wait until 10 and it might clear out. So I went outside and called mom. Talked to mom for about an hour until they had a table for me, then had a very expensive dinner, with absolutely horrible service (but the meal was good), took the water taxi back to my boat, and went to bed.

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