Monday, September 28, 2009

Niagara Falls

On our journey from the USA to Canada we took the boys to see the thunderous Horseshoe Falls at Niagara. Magnificent.

Friday, September 25, 2009


We are taking a road trip to Port Hope, Canada to visit Nicola's relations and her mother who is flying in for three weeks.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not always easy

Buoy 61. Spa Creek. Annapolis

Seraphim is being fixed: engine, dinghy outboard, heating, mainsail, bimini and life raft. It’s all here and it’s easy. On Monday 7th September, Labour Day Weekend, the equivalent of our August Bank holiday and the last perceived weekend of summer,
Seraphim and her crew took a buoy in Annapolis. After three very tough weeks which brought on the “we-want-to-give-it-up blues”, it all began to get better.

Friday 21st August to the end of the month.

Hurricane Bill came through, thumped the Canadian Maritimes and blew out. From our safe marina in the Catskills Mountains the Seraphims motored back down the Hudson River to overnight at 79th Street Boat Basin.

Early the next morning, with the strong (ebb) tide going our way it was south along the west side of Manhattan, taking in some more spectacular views. Passed Battery Park, around the tip of Manhattan - then Wall Street, up to the East Side, South Street Seaport, under the Brooklyn Bridge, passed the United Nations and to Hells Gate, which since John had timed the tides was exhilarating but not hellish.

A couple of hours out of Manhattan, our first stop was the enchanting City Island which seemed like a little England to us. A Fish and Chip shop and pubs which actually looked inviting, not the usual fake blahs. A place to stay a while but with Newport in our sights, it was onwards. An invigorating sail revived our energies jaded from anxiety over Hurricane Bill. It was then the weather radio brought reports of tropical storm Danny and the news radio reports of Senator Edward Kennedy’s death.

Danny was an unstable system and potentially much more unpredictable than Bill. I thought of JFK’s words, or a dodgy paraphrase there of, we don’t do this because it’s easy.

For Hurricane Isabel in 04 we did not move and hoped she would miss us, she remained on track right up the Chesapeake. A direct hit. (The full account is here under Hurricane Isabel in the Archives.)

A year later, in the UK we prayed hurricane Ivan would miss Moonshine in Grenada. Ivan stalled around St Lucia, zig-zagged, and turned towards Grenada. A direct hit. We now get out of the way. Newport, Rhode Island and the rest of Long Island Sound were abandoned as we returned to New York. Danny was upgraded to Hurricane strength. Two in two weeks, enough already.

The grey, rainy trip around NYC echoed our mood. Fortunately a buoy became free just after our arrival at 79th Street Boat Basin, grateful thanks to the God of Buoys. Pedro, the charming laconic dockmaster greeted us and took care of us. I had not realised the Boat Basin has featured in several movies such as “You’ve Got Mail.”

That evening a vital part of Seraphim’s engine water pump failed. After dark the dinghy outboard died. (The spare had been lost overboard) Enough already. We had discovered it was not possible to row against the 3.6knot current in the Hudson. It was not safe to stay on the buoy without a dinghy. In the dark and wrung out we took Seraphim alongside to the 79th Street dock where we were still rolled through the night by the wakes but onto uber fenders.

To bolster or rather bulk up our crumbling energies we breakfasted at Nicks (Broadway and 77th) on the finest Eggs Benedict’s, served by Angelica who even after forty years in New York retains her thick German accent calling customers “Darlink” and “Sweethaaart“. (Think the “goyles” in the Kitkat Club in Cabaret).

The Seraphims know the Garment District of Manhattan well, it is the area around the American chandlery, West Marine. I mentioned the incongruity of the location to Ed, the manager, who replied 37th and 5th have all you could need: clothes, marine shop, porn and psychics, and our canteen “Main Noodles” around the corner.

After too many visits to West Marine Jack insisted on visiting “Encore”, his name for Concorde. On display near the Hudson River next to Aircraft Carrier, Intrepid.

After a final visit to West Marine to secure a dinghy outboard and with a spare water pump holding the engine problem, Seraphim bid farewell to New York in the same early morning light in which we had arrived, three weeks before.

And the breakages continued.

The New Jersey coast is ugly in all ways. There are few harbours and the inlets to reach them can be treacherous. The ocean floor is twenty metres deep for at least five miles out which forces an ocean of water to pile up into confused, short waves causing the boat to slam down. Uncomfortable and exhausting at best. Our trip north had been a rare window of calm.

En route north to New York the weather had been benevolent, an overnight sail took us from Cape May to Sandy Hook. However the journey south in what was considered a good forecast, a north east wind, was gruelling. Only 100 odd miles seemed a 1000 perpendicular. The mainsail ripped. We don’t do it because it’s easy.

In a mere 15 knots the entrance to half-way point Atlantic City was perilous. The anchorage was untenable and we were forced into taking a place on a dodgy dock at Kammerman’s Atlantic City Marina.

In the evening, projected light displays cover the nearby casino tower blocks. From the gambling Mecca it was a slog onto Cape May where the anchorage is beside a Coastguard Boot Camp. Reveille at dawn, marching and more marching and taps at sundown.

Weeks earlier, in 90 degrees in early August, waiting for weather on our voyage north we took in Cape May’s seaside town. It's an $8 taxi away from Utches marina which is 20 minutes by dinghy from the anchorage. The taxi driver boasted of the “old” Victoria houses, all artfully decorated to lure Bed and Breakfast guests.

Leather skinned dragons who reminded me of the Iguanas in the Bahamas guarded the beach and demanded $5 per adult. The lizard eyes fixed on us. Our polite request for a 10 minute paddle with the children was met with a $10 “tag” fee or a no. I hoped what wasn’t already shrivelled soon would be. On the bash south from New York we did not leave the anchorage.

Finally the end was in our sights but the crashing and rolling as the Atlantic ocean clashed with the entrance of the Delaware River produced some of the worst conditions we have experienced…until we entered Baltimore. Scores of motor boats regardless of the damage their wakes caused, powered out into the Bay leaving yachts thrown around and children and loose items sent flying . My contempt for stinkpots sank to new depths.

We don’t do this because it’s easy.

We anchored in Canton, a suburb of Baltimore, with a huge Safeway and a West Marine within five minutes and a playground within 10. Easy.

The nearby Inner Harbour in Baltimore has a great deal to see if you are willing to pay $15 to park the dinghy for 5 hours, or the yacht at $1.25 per foot overnight. (Evidently the buses from Canton are cheap and frequent, but extra hassle with children.) After a brief explore and a visit to Hilarie, a fellow Solomons Island Hurricane Isabel survivor, the Seraphims were left out of sorts to find we had a court summons for illegally parking our dinghy. 18,000 miles and several capital cities, this was a new one. A spotted “yuf” (possibly related to the Cape May Dragon) and his pal Goofy drove up on a golf cart, the Department of Transportation ... Spotted yuf was indifferent to our complaint, however, Goofy came up with the bright idea of just pay $1.25 a foot for our 8 foot dinghy, that would be cheaper … Good bye Baltimore. The expensive Aquarium, the Maritime Museum, Science Museum and all could wait.

Taking a buoy in Annapolis was like coming home. It claims to be the sailing capital of the East coast (as does Newport, Rhode Island.) And there beside us was the Heart of Texas, cruisers whom we had last seen five years before in Luperon, Dominican Republic when I was ten days pregnant with Jack.

Here we are in Annapolis where it is easy.