A Baptism on the shores of Snow’s Cut, rescuing a hapless canoeist, tidal currents, and our anchoring set up.
Setting up “Firefly’s” solar system, composting heads, a neighboring boat drags into us, and sailboats as the original solar powered vehicles.
If you haven’t done so, leave us a review on iTunes, thanks for listening!
Navigation errors and the wrong way to re-fuel underway. Perfect Chesapeake Fall days, the industrial beauty of Hampton Roads, the Dismal Swamp Canal, and the measured pace of travel by boat.
Building a plywood dinghy, the real challenge of setting off to go sailing, sweating out Hurricane Joaquin, and getting ready to shove off!
After a two year refit, “Firefly” swims again! Some thoughts on nautical traditions, fun times learning how to dock, and sea poetry?
The Bonnie Boat Sailing Podcast is the audio adaptation of this very website, with some reflections borne by the benefit of hindsight thrown in for good measure. It is my intention to get the podcast rolling with the story of our ICW trip and eventually begin to expand the scope with more sailing-related content.
ANZ632-030615- CHESAPEAKE BAY FROM NEW POINT COMFORT TO LITTLE CREEK VA- 657 AM EDT TUE MARCH 29 2016 E WINDS 15 KT. BECOMING S IN THE AFTERNOON...WAVES 2 to 3 FT.
Greetings from Gloucester, Virginia! We’ve been back for about 6 weeks now, and I admit dear reader, that I have been avoiding you. I’ve been avoiding writing of our homecoming, of our last days on the boat, I’ve been avoiding trying to sum up our trip. I’ve been avoiding the finality of it. So off with the band aid! We left Elizabeth City, were spoiled sequentially by the crews of “Oceanus” and “Rejoice,” we had an appropriately rainy trip up the Dismal Swamp Canal, we had a great visit with Ryan’s Uncle Brooks and Aunt Lisa in Portsmouth, and as the radio transcript above suggests, we had a bumpy ride out Hampton Roads and up the Chesapeake Bay.
Upon our return to Mobjack Bay, we had a wonderful reunion with Ryan’s family, we were spoiled by the hospitality of friends, and we were warmed by the company of all. Cause all of a sudden it got pretty damn cold. And then, I went back to work, Ryan began looking for work, we moved into a new house, we bought furniture. At times it feels like we never left. Some nights I still wake up to check the anchor. In our bed in our house. Cut the lights…
South Mills Lock
Motoring North on the Dismal Swamp Canal
Ryan, the voice of radio “Firefly”
“Firefly” and “Rejoice.” We were treated to a wonderful Easter meal aboard, thanks guys!
The anchorage on the Lafayette River, Halloween 2015. Southbound
Chesapeake Bay aftermath. Definitely should have tied that down, and that, and that…
“Firefly’s” Old-New Home at Compass Marina! Fantastico!
“Firefly’s” New-New Home at Mobjack Bay Marina! Inexpensive-O! (also very nice)(but not quite fantastico)
Free Dinghy Rides!
East River, Mobjack Bay
Gun-shy or lazy? Finally had to shake out that 2nd reef
But in consolation, she gets her own themed beer! Courtesy of Ryan’s dad Joe.
Fig. 12 From the yacht “Aleutka,” photo courtesy of J from Chickadee, who shares my obsession with obscure small yachts, like “Aleutka.” Also, the real lesson of the trip, see below.
I think the lesson* of this trip has been to live in the moment. (*see Fig. 12) The process of getting ready for an adventure is one of expectation, of planning, of forethought. The process of enjoying an adventure is to discard those expectations and allow the journey to take its course. I think. The tension between mindfulness and anticipation is what makes living afloat so beguiling. I love sailing because it forces you to be in the moment, to pay attention to your environment. Meanwhile, life on the water demands forethought and preparation. As we rounded the corner out of the Lafayette River and into Hampton Roads proper, we used all the tricks we had learned these past months to keep “Firefly” moving upwind into the swell. There were several moments in the swirling confluence of the James River, Chesapeake Bay, and the wide Atlantic winds we both considered turning around and trying again another (calmer) day. But “Firefly” could take it, she had taken us this far, and the only flaws she revealed were flaws within ourselves. “Trust the boat” you hear people say. I trust “Firefly,” and at the mouth of Hampton Roads we started to get our mojo back. I trusted myself, I trusted my work on the boat. I trusted Ryan, and she trusted me. We made our way out the shipping channel and made our turn North. With seas on the beam we rolled heavily, but the more favorable point of sail sped us on our way. By the time we were abreast the York River things were moderating, and when the light at New Point Comfort hove in sight, we were rolling downwind, giddy, unbelieving. We tied up “Firefly,” and walked to our friends Jess and Jared’s house. We had made it home.
Hand on the tiller, eye on the wind, and mind on the horizon…
...COPY THAT (BRIDGE)(CHICKADEE)(CALISTA)(ELARA)(CORSAIR)(WHISPER) (REJOICE)(OCEANUS)(GEMINI)(STEAMBOAT)(SKOOCH)(ATOM)(NO QUARTER)(SOULTIDE) MOVING BACK TO CHANNEL ONE-SIX, FIREFLY OUT.
Aboard a small sailboat, the winds and seas define the experience. Waves are children of the winds, and the winds are capricious. When talking with other sailors, it’s interesting to see the breadth of different feelings towards different bodies of water. What the weather is doing on any one day colors your perception of place…we met many folks who had uncomfortable days on any one stretch of the ICW, where we had benign sunny skies and following winds. Of course the opposite is true as well. We recall with trepidation stretches which others remember with fondness. During our trip South, we were fortunate to have settled weather during the majority of our open-water crossings (Chesapeake Bay not withstanding). Sailors speak of the Alligator River and Albemarle Sound with a shiver, we had uneventful crossings southbound. Anchorages suffer the same fate, Pine Island, Grahams Creek, Long Key were incident pits trying to break our stuff. In settled weather, they are bucolic and serene.
Before we left, Jim Wagner of Regent Point Marina showed me a poster on the wall of his office. It reads “The superior sailor uses his superior judgement to avoid using his superior skills.” Discretion is the better part of valor. It’s taken me just about the entire trip to really learn this. That being said, if you wait for superior conditions, you will never leave the dock. So when NOAA was calling for SW 10-15 kts, 1 foot seas on the Albemarle, we knew we couldn’t wait for much better (Despite the foreknowledge that NOAA almost always underestimates, or so it seems to us anyway).
We made our way North up the Alligator River and through the opening bridge. That was our first hurdle of the day, the bridge doesn’t open in winds of 35 mph or more, or on the bridge tenders discretion. We’ve heard tales of the bridge not opening in 25 mph winds…which would necessitate a 20 mile beat to windward back to the nearest protected anchorage. We were very relieved to have light winds and an open bridge. As we negotiated the river mouth, and raised our now habitually double-reefed main, the winds and seas began to pick up as expected. The truth of it is, even 1 foot seas are rather uncomfortable aboard our little boat. As we got out into the middle of the Albemarle, the wind shifted to the west, apparently funneling down the east-west axis of the sound. This set up a cross sea, with a chop from behind us from the Alligator River, and seas rolling down the length of the sound. Winds were the forecast 15 kts, but the gusts were enough to plunge the rail in the water even with our tiny scrap of sail up. “Firefly” likes to sail leaned over, no doubt. We motorsailed on, and after about an hour and a half of white knuckles and held breaths we got under the lee of some headlands about 8 miles distant, enough to check some of the larger waves. As we entered the Pasquotank River, the winds increased to 20+ kts, but by then we were in protected waters and “Firefly” put her shoulder down and fairly flew through the chop. We dodged crab pots disguised among the whitecaps. We joked and laughed in the lulls, happy to be safe. We tied up at the free docks in Elizabeth City, and fairly ran for a burger and some beers.
Experiences like this have given me a new-found understanding and respect for the small boat voyagers I consider my heroes. I can’t imagine taking a small boat in the ocean, and yet the allure is still there. Perhaps someday. Perhaps on OPB’s (Other People’s Boats) (or Other People’s Blogs). We are expecting North winds for a few days, so we have some time to leisurely make our way up the Dismal Swamp Canal and the Elizabeth River, and prepare for what will surely be a memorable sail up the Chesapeake Bay, and home.