Journal

The second off shore voyage of Amara

I found the second sail of Amara a lot more stressful then the first.

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Beautiful Sunrise in the Chesapeake

Both Rick and I were nervous about sailing from Norfolk, VA to Tiverton, RI, without a professional Captain on board. But neither of us talked much about it before hand for fear of increasing the other’s worry. It reminded me of driving the car the first time solo. You have trained, you have done it with others, but now it was up to you. Rick plotted out the course on the iNavX and Raymarine. I got out the paper charts and verified. I had seen it on paper, so in my head I knew we were never going to be real far from shore. But for some reason being out of sight of land was really bothering me this time.

Unlike our first sail, we had overcast skies much of the time. I found night watch eerie and unsettling when I was not able to see the moon or the stars. Also, as we got further north there were many more boats, and fewer with Automatic Identification System (AIS). I had gotten used to being informed of the size, speed and direction of other vessels.  It enabled me make adjustments to our course so far in advance that I never even saw the other ships with my eyes. So I certainly did not have to worry about being on a collision course with them.  In the dark, with a ship in the distance, watching to see if that vessel, was going to move off of the random “fixed point” I had chosen on Amara and having that “fixed” point, keep bobbing around with the motion of the sea, made it difficult and painfully slow to determine if we were on a collision course. It was so stressful and scary for one of them, that even though I hated to wake Rick, I eventually did in order to get a more experienced opinion if we were in danger. Thankfully, we were not.

The best part of our second ocean voyage on Amara was the pod of Dolphins that played with us. They would swim beside us on the port side, then go under our bow, and swim along with us on the starboard, and back again. It was so playful, there was no doubt they were doing this on purpose. It is so hard to explain just how it felt to have dolphins playing with you. Rick and Greg also got to see a pod of pilot whales, unfortunately for me, I was napping at the time. Rick saw a large but gratefully very dead shark on one of his watches. The closer we got to Rhode Island, especially once we were turning into land, the more Lobster pots to avoid.  Which was an all new challenge for me.

Can you find three dolphins in this picture
Can you find three dolphins in this picture

When we got within view of Block Island, I don’t believe I have ever been more excited to see land in my life.  We also had cell reception again, so it was like getting back to civilization. Rick expertly, navigated up the Sakonette River to our mooring ball at Standish Boatyard. We had some challenges getting hooked onto our mooring the ball at first. But Rick came up with an excellent solution and before long we were all hooked up and ready to head to shore.

I was literally so happy to be back on land, I was seriously considering kissing the ground when I got off the Amara in Tiverton.

The first ground I found was either paved or covered in weeds, so I thought better of kissing the ground there.  It was wonderful to see Shannon again. It had been a long time. It was also great to get to see Eric and Shannon’s house and celebrate our arrival with a lobster dinner.

Greggie gets anchored while checking out the Harbor area of Newport near Eric and Shannon's place
Greggie gets anchored while checking out the Harbor area of Newport near Eric and Shannon’s place
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Yummy Dinner
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Shannon & Eric ready to eat their Lobsters
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Rick and Shannon riding back to Amara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was good to know Amara was moored where a larger ship did just fine during hurricane Sandy. But it was still hard to leave her to go back to Colorado. For the most part, I sleep very well on her. Especially, when there is just a light rocking. I was ready for her to be my home. I wanted to be on her more then at our “real” house. Which was great motivation to get things packed up, quickly.  I knew Captain Marty (Eric) knew way more about taking care of her than I do, but she was my baby now.  When we rode away, she seemed so lonely sitting there by herself. When I told my friend, who does have an infant about being up at night doing watches and so forth, she agreed it did have similarities to having a baby and now I was hooked.

Amara at Standish Boat Yard, Tiverton, RI
Amara at Standish Boat Yard, Tiverton, RI

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Here is the story of my first visit ever to Norfolk, VA and spending time in (or is it at?) a marina.   Thanks to the Nor’easter heading our way, we choose to find a safe harbor for a few days. Since we also needed to fix whatever was making our Raymarine system alarm every few minutes and get Captain Marty back to his “real” job. We found our way to Bay/Little Creek Marina, Norfolk, VA.  When the sky opened up and continued to rain for days we were quite happy with our decision to duck into the Harbor. We tried to get Eric out on a plane that first evening, but the weather still delayed him another day.  Our first day in port, Rick quickly got Amara’s Raymarine equipment up and running again. Apparently, it needed a factory reboot and for us to learn there is a specific order in which our ships electronics need powered on and off.

When we determined the weather was going to keep us there for possibly 5 days, and not much was within walking distance, we decided it would make sense to rent a car. As we set off down the dock, we stopped to chat with Michelle, our next dock neighbor. When she discovered our plan she offered to let us use her Toyota, Tacoma. Handed the keys to us right there. We got inside to discover the truck didn’t even have 10K miles on it.   I had heard that sailors where generally generous and helpful people, but this kindness really blew me away.

The next day we meet Pat, while doing our laundry. We hit it off right away. She and her boyfriend, John, deliver boats for their livelihood. Pat loved to fish and tell interesting stories. Later in the week, we met Jen and Kevin, who were there to enjoy their boat that was part of a boat share program, as I understand it. Rick gave them a tour of Amara, and Jen fell in love. So Jen’s sister, Leslie, came to visit the next day. Apparently, Jen couldn’t stop talking about Amara. I regretted not remembering to have them sign our ship’s log (I need to get better at that).  Most of the people we met at the dock were so very friendly, I found it interesting when other “next dock” neighbor, opposite Michelle, barely said a word.  When he did it was to apologize for making noise.   I think he and his wife were there the whole time we were.  So it goes to show, when it comes to the sailing, as with much of life, you can be as social or anti-social as you want.

The White Swan a Brazilian Tall ship
The White Swan
a Brazilian Tall ship

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Thanks to our new friends on the dock, we learned that the coming weekend was “Haborfest”, Norfolk’s annual celebration of their nautical history.   We got up early Friday morning, threw off the dock lines and set sail Amara to downtown Norfolk.   We didn’t get far into the bay before Captain Rick decided to turn us around. The visibility was very poor, ½ mile maybe, we could not see a single ship with our eyes, but our Automatic Identification System (AIS) was saying vessels were all over the place. Rick did not want to risk Amara or our crew’s safety in any way, especially since we had heard there tends to be a lot of drunken sailors hanging out at Harborfest. So we went back to our dock and got an “uber” ride over to the festival. We were there a little after 11 am. We seemed to be the only ones there, besides people setting up shop. The “parade of boats” started at noon. So after getting the lay of the land, we settled in to watch the parade. There were many different types of ships in the parade, from small sailboats, to a naval destroyer, to U.S. coast guard ships, including their “Tall Ship”, the Eagle.

U.S. Coast Guard "Eagle"
U.S. Coast Guard “Eagle”

A tall ship is one of those huge sailing ships that look like they are from a century or more ago. They remind me of ships from movies like “Pirates of the Caribbean”. It may have rained on our parade that day, but I discovered that marine parades just keep floating.

Looking down the deck of the U.S.S. Wisconsin
Looking down the deck of the U.S.S. Wisconsin

 

 

When the parade was over, we headed to the “Nauticus” museum and toured the Iowa class Battleship, “The Wisconsin”, one of only four ever built. At 890 feet long and a crew of hundreds it had once been a floating city. I found the self-guided tour very interesting.   We saw the computer rooms, outdated electronic devices, millions of cables, sleeping quarters for the officers verses the enlisted men, shower rooms, etc.

But the most memorable was the signs to warn women on the one side and men on the other, that the active bathrooms that were part of the ship were NOT part of the tour, even though they appeared to be the some heads used when the vessel had been in operation. After that we joined a guided tour of the Navy Destroyer, the Mitzcher, given by her crew.

the real Bathrooms on the Wisconsin that were "not part of the exhibit"
the real Bathrooms on the Wisconsin that were “not part of the exhibit”
Yes, those are guns on the U.S.S. Mitzcher
Yes, those are real guns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mitzcher had recently returned from somewhere near the Middle East. So interesting to see the helm of that boat, and have young men that don’t even look old enough to drive a car, tell us about how they drive that ship.

 

 

Rick and Greg on the Brazilian tall ship "The Swan"
Rick and Greg on the Brazilian tall ship “White Swan”
Rick in front of the U.S. Coast Guard ship "The Eagle"
Rick in front of the U.S. Coast Guard ship “The Eagle”

When our tour of the Mitzcher was over, we enjoyed some food and drinks, and entertainment. Then we made our way to the “Tall Ships”. We first went on the Brazil ship,  “The White Swan” in English. What an amazing sight to see; The gorgeous wood work, the height of the sails, the built in ladder’s up to the massive sails, the detail, quality and beauty of every thing in sight.   Even the marking for the various “sheets” (the “ropes” to the sails) had engraved plaques naming what each was for and there were hundreds if not thousands of them. I thought for sure Rick would be dying to see aboard the U.S. coast guard’s tall ship the “Eagle”, as well; Thankfully, he like the rest of us was too tired, so we got an “uber” ride back to the marina.

By Saturday, the weather was sunny and nice, by Sunday it was down right hot. That made waiting till Monday to set sail hard. Being on the dock at “Bay Marina” was a great learning experience for me to be sure. I had had fun learning naval history, meeting lots of people and getting to know the area a little, but I wanted to get home to Colorado. I had a home to pack up.   It was sunny and beautiful where we were and getting hot.  But the report was that out on the ocean, it was still rough and the weather poor. As hard as it was to wait, I am glad we did; it was still not smooth sailing when we got out to the ocean on Monday. If that was less rough, I was glad not to see “more rough”. Being stuck at “Bay/ Little Creek Marina”, Norfolk, VA was an opportunity to learn many things. Especially, the reminder that there is a God and I am not He/She. I can only take life as it comes, especially the weather, practice living one day at a time and trust God has a better plan, then I do.

Greg enjoying the morning on our way out of the Chesapeake Bay
On our way out of the Chesapeake Bay

The First Sail of Amara

The tail of the “First sail of Amara”, we planned to sail straight from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Tiverton, RI, but God had other plans…

Our Motley Crew for our first long journey: Greg Stewart, Eric Martin (Capt'n Marty) Rick and Brenda.
Our Motley Crew for our first long journey: Greg Stewart, Eric Martin (Capt’n Marty) Rick and Brenda.
Ann Wall sending off our lines
Ann Wall sending off our lines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We sailed out of Fort  Lauderdale on a beautiful sunny Thursday afternoon. It was good to get underway without any hitches this time. The highlight of our first sail on Amara was just that, everything was a “first”; our first friends to send us off, our first crew, which included Greggie (Greg Stewart) and Captain Marty (Eric Martin), the first sunset, the first sunrise, the first meal at sea, the first time on watch (all by one’s self), the first dolphin sightings, you get the point.  Rick and I were so very excited to be on our first voyage, and keep reminding each other that this was the first of what ever on the ocean for Amara.

There truly is nothing like being on the open ocean.  Like the view of nothing but blue all around you.  How weird it looks to see lighting striking way in the distance, thankfully.   I enjoyed many things about being on the ocean, the slow pace, the peace and quiet. The time to read, I finished three books in less then a week. That has never happened at home. I had much time to think and pray especially on night watch. Time to pray for those I know fighting cancer, and their families, my church,  and my loved ones. For me being surrounded by the amazing sight of the blue ocean water, is a reminder of how small I am and how big God is. It was a very big treat to see the dolphins for the first time on the open ocean.

Catching our first Tuna, yummy!
Catching our first Tuna, yummy!
Captain Marty (Eric) with Amara's first catch
Captain Marty (Eric) with Amara’s first catch

I think we did alright with our first provisioning for a long passage.  We had plenty to eat.  It did not hurt that the best first was the first catch, a Mahi-Mahi. After which we caught our first tuna, then another Mahi, all of which made for a number of very yummy first fish meals. I am glad to report, no one experienced their first case of seasickness on Amara, thank you scopolamine patches.  Besides sea sickness, one of the other challenges of ocean passage making on a ship Amara’s size, is that the activities of daily living become more challenging when the floor below you can move in any direction at any time.  We keep meals simple, like warming soup, or quick sandwiches.  I also did my best to organize foods that would be used together in the same location, sometimes using plastic storage bins in the fridge.  That all seemed helpful.

Sunrise
Sunrise

We did our first nighttime watch schedule from 8pm to 8am. We were each scheduled two hours at a time. With four of us on board that meant some nights two of us did two watches and the other two people only one. We rotated who had which times, so we all experience different times of night watching the horizon. My favorite was the night I got to watch the sun go down, slept for almost 6 hours, then got to watch the sunrise the next morning. I think the sun over the water was so beautiful both coming and going. With the need to be awake during the night, we all needed naps during the day. One day I slept till noon, can’t recall the last time I did that.  Doing a casual watch during the day allowed all of us to catch up on sleep as needed, so the plan for now is to continue to do watches this way.

Sunset
Sunset

I enjoyed many things about being on the ocean, the slow pace, the peace and quiet. The time to read, I finished three books in less then a week. That has never happened at home. I had much time to think and pray especially on night watch. Time to pray for those I know fighting cancer, and their families, my church,  and my loved ones. For me being surrounded by water, is a reminder of how small I am and how big God is. It was a very big treat to see the dolphins for the first time on the open ocean.

Navy ship behind our dock at Little Creek Marina
Navy ship behind our dock at Little Creek Marina

Our plan for the first sail of Amara was to sail straight to Tiverton, RI, but God had other plans. Since our start was delayed, (see Rick’s post from May 28, 2015 for details), Captain Marty needed to get back to his real job, weather was moving in, and we began to experience problems with our Raymarine navigation equipment, we thought it was best to make a stop at Norfolk, VA. Entering the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay for the first time was an exciting experience that soon became a bit scary when we heard the sound of machine gun fire. All of us sort of instinctually put our hands up.  We were most happy to discover it was the Navy doing training near by and that there was no danger to us. We had our first stay at Little Creek/ Bay Marina. Our first visit was to this Norfolk marina was a lovely adventure, which I will cover more in my next blog I have entitled  “sitting on top of the bay”.  We were all safe and that was the most important part.  We got Eric off on a plane eventually and when it started to rain and continued to for the next 3 days,  we were very thankful we had made our first tough decision to find a harbor before the storm hit.

Norfolk – an amazing Naval history

We have been way laid in Norfolk, VA for 4 days now due to weather. A frontal boundary from the north has slowly moved down, bringing high winds from a NNE direction. That is 20 to 25 knots of wind from the exact wrong direction. If we were to have gone out in that, it would have been a rough ride and now that our crew is down to only 3, that would not have been a great idea. So, we wait.

BUT… much to our surprise, we have landed on the weekend where Norfolk celebrates its naval past with “Harbor Fest”! Making all that we could of this time, we spent a full day exploring and touring ships that you do not see every day. Everything from Tall Ships to Battleships and Destroyers! What a sight.

Tomorrow, Sunday June 7th about mid day, we will set out for Newport. It is 350 miles from the opening of Chesapeake Bay to our summer home in Tiverton, RI. Will the wind shifting in a much better direction, this passage should take us about 58 hours or so. We will be sure to get the tracker up and running on our departure so you all can watch our progress. This part of the passage has me a bit concerned due to the high level of commercial shipping out of New Jersey and New York. We will be extra vigilant in our watches. Also, we do have the RayMarine system working great now, so radar and AIS is up and doing its job!

Farewell to Norfolk! Hello Atlantic Ocean!

Ready to depart… BUT

Wednesday May 27th was a day I want to forget!
With all the excitement you would imagine in departing the dock at 6:20am, Amara back away with ease. Waiting just north of the 17th Street causeway bridge in Fort Lauderdale was something we had done many times and it is just part of living up the ICW in Florida. You wait for bridges. As I maneuvered Amara about, suddenly the forward gear would not engage. Our departure time was about tides and currents and it was high and flowing out, under the causeway. With no power to maneuver, we were drifting with the current toward concrete and steel.
I am so thankful that Eric Martin was on board and with his knowledge and calm style, he did get the transmission into reverse, we backed away from the bridge safely, but nerves were tense and frankly I was terrified our beautiful boat was going to be damaged beyond what I ever want to imagine. We got into a shallow area where we dropped the anchor and took a deep breath!
Why did this happen? In the shifting linkage from the lever in the cockpit to the transmission, there is a small plastic coupler. This coupler is light weight and it can break. WOW… have you ever heard of throwing the baby out with the bath water? I know things are going to break and boats need repair. But, please… timing is everything. That was too close, so maybe that was it, right? That was our close call for next… lets say 10 years! 🙂
Towed back to the dock: Brenda called Tow Boats and they came out with a very skilled young man, who tied us up and 10 minutes later we were sitting at the dock again, bruised but not broken!
We took advantage of the extra day in Fort Lauderdale! Greg and I changed the oil in the Dodge, getting ready for the drive back to Colorado in about 10 days. Brenda and Eric went off and got some last minute supplies and then we grilled a fabulous steak dinner.
Today – Thursday May 28th: we will get the parts, fix the lever and depart when we are confident the fix is complete. The weather is still looking good and departure is close.

We did call this an adventure!

Following the Dream

Amara at anchor in Fort Lauderdale IMG_3705

Amara the dream boat

I believe God gives us dreams. The kind we have when we are awake as a way to inspire us. When I met Rick, I quickly learned that it was his dream to sail around the world. I knew nothing of sailing. The idea of living on the ocean in a boat was not anything I had ever contemplated before. My dream was to travel the world, see far away lands and experience nature in all its splendor. The ocean is one of the most mystical parts of nature. I can stand on a beach for hours and just watch it. It so reminds me of what a large God I serve. He is even more massive then the ocean. I thought sailing around the world with such an accomplished sailor meant that I would be reading books, napping, swimming and eating chocolates, of course!  That sounded pretty good. We didn’t do any sailing before we got married, so I only promised to try it, I couldn’t promise I would like it.

So between then and now, I have taken some sailing courses, chartered a sailboat in the Caribbean, sailed and motored around Lake of the Woods, and participated in a sail training expedition in the South Pacific. Can’t say I have fallen in love with sailing yet. But I have fallen in love with SCUBA diving, which is a huge deal to this girl who used to be afraid of drowning.

After many twist and turns in our lives, and much time and research into various business opportunities, we decided that we were at a crossroads of starting a business that would have us working seven days a week for not a lot of money or we could try the “cruising life style” for awhile. We thought and prayed; and we agreed that we did not want to look back on our lives someday and wish we had gone sailing. So we signed up to go to Cruiser’s University at the Annapolis Boat Show this past April; we also ended up converting a trip to Florida, in January, from a business trip to a fun/boat-shopping trip.

Let’s not buy yet, honey…

…right?

We were only going to look at sailboats while we were there. I was very sure we need not bring the checkbook; I even made sure to remind my husband that we were in no hurry to buy, as our finances were a little unsettled at that time. Then we stepped on board a boat by the name of “YellowShoes”. She had the most beautiful teak wood steering wheel. Something like you would expect on an antique boat or in some kind of museum. We went down below.The interior was exquisite, with beautiful teak wood, Compass rose inlays and cedar closets.  My dream house would have cedar closets. I have yet to have my dream house, but now I have gotten my dream boat. I felt a real peace on board. The feeling that, I really could live here.

IMG_3701 Compass rose detail IMG_3699

Catching the dream

A wise friend once told me that if, when I was shopping, I saw something I would regret not buying, then by all means buy it. I was in love with that boat. It was really something special and it already had just about every safety feature imaginable. We still had to wait to know our finances. The waiting was hard, but I was confident that if it was meant to be it would not sell before we could buy it. So by God’s grace we were able to buy her, and change her name to AMARA. Which is a whole nother story.

Friday with Lindsay = Why not drive to Key West!

Friday May 8, 2015
We did not work today, instead, we drove 3 1/2 hours to Key West, FL. It brought back memories of when I was 18 when my Dad and I came to Florida to get our open water SCUBA certification. We did a “day trip” to Key West from Tampa… that was a very long day. Yesterday ended up in a traffic jamb in Miami, sure glad Brenda was not with us. I know how much you love 7 lanes of door to door / bumper to bumper cars honey!

All good… ended the day with a movie and AHI Tuna for dinner.

Working away in Fort Lauderdale

The work is steady and being a boat, always seems to be above the budget! The major issues are dingy, electronics update, refrigeration leak repair and getting the new name put on AMARA.

We are getting through it. As I have learned to say – “It’s Manageable”

The one big thing I am excited about is the friendships we are building. People are what make life a joy and people are what make life challenging. In the process of working on Amara, it is apparent that  we are all different. I have been praying that God gives me the grace (aka: Amara) to be a light onto this world. We have met some amazing people and know that they will be friends for life. Others will come and go as we set sail on alternate courses. Its all good… oh so good! IMG_2922IMG_2933