The Pendulum Swings

October 26, 2017 

    Sometimes weeks seem to blur together with a sense of consistency and continuity.  Other times, the pendulum swings in the opposite direction and… boom… last week seems a world away from where you are now.

After leaving Back Creek on the 15th, the pendulum definitely swung in a direction opposite from the busy, engaging, clock-oriented schedule we had at the beginning of the month.  We sailed back under the Chesapeake Bridge and returned to the Magothy River where we anchored at our old stomping ground behind Dobbins Island.  For over a week, we split the days either doing maintenance tasks, going out for day sails, or simply chilling out aboard.

Rare land excursions were limited to a couple of times of stepping onto the Magothy Marina dock – holding tank pump-outs, fresh water, diesel, gas, ice, garbage and oil disposal… truly a one-stop shop (what else could a person possibly need?); or a dinghy ride ashore followed by a long walk to the grocery store for provisions.

Liveaboard Shopping

The whole process of something as simple as a trip to the grocery store becomes an incredibly challenging task when you literally don’t know the layout of the land, are based from a boat, and have no vehicle.  One can easily imagine this would have been exponentially more challenging thirty years ago before the internet age.

Kris is the undisputed Master of the iPhone and Google Maps and always earns her keep when it comes to us knowing where what we’re looking for is located, what route we need to take once we’re on land, and what location is the best bet for getting ashore, all well before we ever set out in the dinghy.

Always in the back of our minds is the knowledge that whatever is being acquired will have to be carried back to the dinghy. This becomes especially significant when the distance is upwards of a mile and we are carrying a half case of Coke, a half case of beer, a half gallon of Jack Daniels, a half gallon of Kraken Rum, and a bag of ice in addition to the just purchased groceries, newly finished laundry, and a gallon of motor oil!

A guilty pleasure we’ve been known to indulge in on rare occasion is ordering a delivery pizza by phone while we’re walking back to the dinghy. If timed correctly (and this is important), the pizza arrives at the dock your dinghy is tied to just after you do. Some things are just worth the occasional spurge… bringing a piping hot dock delivered pizza back to our boat via dinghy just has a decadent and thoroughly satisfying feeling about it and probably should never be questioned in it’s logic.

Other than a couple of trips ashore and a couple of dinghy exploration excursions, life existed quietly in our forty six foot by fourteen foot two inch world.


After ten lazy days anchored on the Magothy River, we headed about twenty five miles south, ten miles beyond Annapolis, to the South River so Kris could have a change of scenery for her forty-ninth birthday on the 26th of the month.  We picked a secluded cove with good protection on three sides that was right next to Quiet Waters Park, which certainly lived up to its name.  A mere couple minute dinghy ride to a nearby kayak rental facility gave us access to the only dock available to tie the dinghy to which, in turn, gave us access to the dozens of trails which meandered through the park.  Though I can’t take much credit for contributing to an unforgettable birthday, Kris did get her wish which was to go for a birthday run through a picturesque park amongst the stunning colors of an autumn forest while being able to see her sailboat anchored in the cove… nice.


On A Loose Leash… And A Long Anchor Chain


October 13, 2017

    The busy first week of October had left us feeling slightly smarter, though quite exhausted and socially drained.

The entire week before the boat show we watched boat after boat arrive – big, new catamarans; luxurious multi-million dollar power boats; salty wooden double-enders; super shiny production sailboats whose refrigerators held more than their holding tanks.  Boat traffic in the bay became ridiculous.  Even our little anchorage all the way up Back Creek which we had largely to ourselves for weeks (already too tight to put out a comfortable scope of anchor chain) now was being shared with three other boats!

Every excursion through Back Creek was a never-ending slalom around boats which had anchored in the channel for the show.

When we visited Dena and James on S/V Nomad, they recounted to us how one of the sailboats that had anchored very near to the slip they were in had put out an inadequate scope of chain and dragged their anchor when the wind picked up, crashing into one of the pilings that Dena and James’ boat was tied to!  Apparently it took something like an hour for the older couple to sort out how to get off the post without smashing into Dena and James.

In turn, we recounted to them how a couple had, just the day before, anchored their sailboat in way too close proximity to us (despite having other equally good options a bit farther away) and were subsequently given a citation by the Harbormaster for anchoring too close to a nearby dock – anchoring boats are supposed to maintain a 75 foot distance from marina slips and private property.  They moved the boat; but, much to our shock and dismay, basically anchored just as close on the opposite side!

As Dena and James went on to describe the yacht as displaying a Canadian hailing port and having a very protective German Shepherd aboard, Kris and I realized simultaneously that this was exactly the same couple who was anchored next to us!  We spent the rest of the evening nervous about Exit being dragged down on by some crazy Canadian couple’s sailboat, but were relieved to find no such thing had happened when we returned in our dinghy later that night.

Nonetheless, we decided it was time to pull up anchor and get the Hell out of Dodge.   Though the 2017 Annapolis Sailboat Show had ended, the 2017 Annapolis Power Boat Show was in full swing, gearing up to begin in a couple of days.   There were undoubtably other nearby places on the Chesapeake that offered a lot more water with a lot fewer boats. 



With only about a month left before we needed to be getting underway on a southern heading (more than one person has commented that we are already a week or two behind the crowd… ok with us… and we had better get prepared to be cold if we leave much later… not so ok), we are desperately trying to get our refrigeration system sorted out by switching it over to 12 volt which also requires getting solar figured out and installed as well, before we set off.

This requires us to stay in fairly close proximity to Annapolis, where the refrigeration guy we’re working with is located, in case we can get everything sorted and on the schedule.

So, for now, though we can’t go far, we have a wide open body of water to explore.  On a loose leash… and a long anchor chain!

Sensory Overload

October 5-8, 2017

    The long anticipated Annapolis Boat Show came and went leaving mixed feelings. There were large aspects of it that were 100% schmooze and sell, with an unhealthy dose of: if you’ve got money and safety is important to you, then YOU NEED THIS!  Certainly a focus on getting the attention of those with a very hefty, disposable income.  And a whole lotta people!  After our rather secluded and quiet previous couple of weeks, sensory overload definitely began to kick in.

However, the truth is… as first time boat owners, everything is already so new that just wandering around from booth to booth, attempting to take in everything we were seeing, was largely reminiscent of kids at a toy store!



The seminars ranged from very informative and inspiring to rather bland.

But it was great to attend seminars featuring Pete McGongle (our broker from Swiftsure Yachts), Dave Skolnik (delivery skipper, electronics expert, teacher & sorcerer sailor), as well as John & Amanda Neal (of Mahina Expeditions – who we consulted with while in Borneo regarding potential yachts).

In addition, we were available to offer our volunteer services to assist with a seminar focused on sailing south on the ICW (something we’ll be undertaking within the next month).

It was quite strange to able to see, and even meet, some of the most iconic and recognized names in the sailing world; people who had been the subject, or more likely the author, of so many of the books and articles we had read over the last ten years – Jimmy Cornell, Lin Pardy, Nigel Caulder…

Maybe its just adding a human element to printed words you’re reading, or a more ambitious networking with invaluable potential future resources; regardless, hearing from, and talking to, likeminded people (many who have already been liveaboard cruisers for decades) simply solidifies our commitment to carrying on this legacy of adventure.

Then again, this legacy of adventure is about self-sufficient and self-sustaining sailing, not squandering your cruising kitty at a boat show!

Having just purchased our first boat with so much to learn, I’m gonna give an overall thumbs up to the 2017 Annapolis Boat Show experience; but I’d also quickly add that I think one boat show is plenty… next year we’ll probably opt to buy more solar panels or upgrade our lines instead!




Oh, Those Marinas…

Sunset next to Chesapeake Harbor Marina

October 4, 2017 

Marinas are strange organisms.  Every one is unique in certain ways while, at the same time, exactly like the last one you visited.  That’s speaking from the vast experience of both marinas I’ve been in.

No doubt, the late night laundry option and endless supply of hot shower water are two decadent guilty pleasures we are very keen on.  However, there are also a wide range of characters every marina seems to have in play.

They range from very pleasant passerby conversations… like the guy walking his golden retriever who handed us a business card and declared, “I’m an engineer.  I know how things are built.  And you, my friends, have a brick shithouse that’ll go anywhere!”…

… to the sheer entertainment and sometimes painful witnessing of humans interacting with each other – for example, while having pizza in the cockpit with my parents as an expensive, production line 40 foot Bennetau comes around the corner trying to get into its slip, bow thrusters whining away, husband at the wheel and wife at the bow holding a dock line, both wearing what looks to be a very expensive set of headset radios (meant to reduce the ineffective yelling that often occurs between the cockpit and bow during a docking or anchoring maneuver), only to hear the husband scream at the top of his lungs from the cockpit to his wife standing at the bow, “Turn on your fucking headset!”

Always an adventure… rarely a dull moment.

But the marina served its purpose and my folks were able to come aboard to visit our new home.  We even managed (by we I really mean Kris) to navigate out of the marina, get my parents out for their first sail ever to visit St. Thomas Lighthouse and sail beneath the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and return unscathed to tie up again at the clearly posted No Docking inner wall of the marina.

Three things were abundantly reinforced during my parent’s visit:

  1.   Whenever possible, let Kris do the close quarters maneuvering.
  2.   I couldn’t ask for two parents who are more supportive, in all aspects of every seemingly crazy endeavor we undertake.
  3.   Never ride in a rental car my Dad is driving!

Brief Reflections

October 2, 2017  

    Our purchase of Exit closed three months and a day ago.  Our exodus from the United States took place exactly nine years ago.  Our first date occurred exactly thirty five years ago…

So much seems so foreign and new and yet, at the same time, seems so normal and comfortable.  So many intersections and decisions.  So much research and information and, at the same time, so many spontaneous and gut-felt options pursued.  But for a million different prior outcomes, we could find ourselves now in a million different scenes… none of them here.

I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


A Tight Place

September 30, 2017 

     “Just wanted to confirm our arrival and double check about maneuvering space into the slip.  I have to warn you, Exit does not maneuver well in tight spaces,” was Kris’ inquiry to the Harbormaster at Chesapeake Harbour Marina.

     “No worries.  We have plenty of space… you’re on Dock F,” was the reply.


     Docking is certainly one of the highest stress moments we encounter. Its the one situation where our goal is to make contact with something hard and immobile. We’re pretty sturdy as far as boats go; so, with a dock it could be a toss up as to who would come out on top… it would largely depend on the specifics. A long skid alongside the dock would not fare well for Exit.  Bouncing from piling to piling could rip out stantions, tear the anchor clean off the bow roller, or pull the dinghy down from the stern arch.  On the other hand, I’d consider putting my money on Exit in a straight ahead bow-first collision!

     Regardless, they’re all nightmare scenarios; as a rule, we try to avoid any variation of an uncontrolled collision. We follow the philosophy don’t go any faster than you’re willing to hit something! Busy marinas raise the stakes one notch higher as they are populated by big multi-million dollar fiberglass boats that make horribly expensive crunching sounds when run into.

     Kris is becoming more confident in her ace record of docking, but every approach still gets the adrenaline going. Personally, I am glad to not be at the wheel. Kris started the close quarters helm duties and has gotten very proficient at reading situations and understanding what Exit can and can’t do.

     As the foredeck crew, I bear the responsibility of getting the necessary dock lines and fenders prepared and standing on deck at the moment of contact to tie off and potentially fend off any last moment hard impact.

Watching a boat move through the water is very different from making that boat actually move. At 46 feet in length and approximately 42,000 pounds, Exit is simply put, slow to start moving and even slower to start turning. From a dead stop, she has almost no steering in reverse!

We discuss strategies (for docking, entering a marina, etc) as best we can before we commit, and a pass-by just to see the lay of things is even better; but once things begin I have learned to generally keep my mouth shut. Verifying Kris has seen something or helping with spacial awareness is one thing, but oftentimes just shutting up seems to be the most helpful option.


     The entrance to the Chesapeake Harbour Marina was tight, and it didn’t help that the powerboat we had waited on for 10 minutes in the bay to go ahead of us finally decided to pull in behind us, only choosing to pass us just as we reached the shoreline.  There was slightly less than barely enough room for two boats and our forward view was blind as the marina channel took a ninety degree turn to the left immediately in front of us.

As we came around the corner I did little to raise confidence levels when I blurted out, “Holy shit!  That’s a small fucking space!”

Stretched out before us was a narrow corridor of water with the structure of five piers on either side.  Of course, the nearest piling bore the marker “Dock A”, meaning our dock was all the way at the other end…”Dock F”… “F” as in fuck!

Standing at the bow felt like a Loony Tunes cartoon moment for me.  Both eyes literally bugged out and the scene before me narrowed down to a pinpoint, a hundred or so yards away at our goal, the last finger pier.  Lining the docks on both sides of the narrow channel we had to navigate were huge multi-million dollar power yachts, too big to fit inside any of the marina slips!

Fortunately, no one appeared in front of us headed in the opposite direction.

Looking calm and collected at the wheel, Kris threaded the needle from Dock A to Dock F silently saying shit…shit… shit! 

Probably looking much less calm and collected, I went back and forth between the port and starboard toe rails, monitoring whichever side was closest to a mega-yacht, not so silently saying fuck…fuck…fuck!

Kris was definitely Cool Hand Luke as we slowly came around the piling marked “Dock F”.  We were turning to the right into the last channel – on our right was the finger pier of slips which included the one we were assigned; to our left was the building that housed the marina office and restaurant, and directly opposite our slip… perfect… the rather full outdoor bar!  Now… Exit generally turns heads anyway; but, at this moment, we had just become the happy hour spectator event.

Even with a 60 foot mega-yacht to navigate around, Kris absolutely crushed the maneuver.  With only a bit of a push off to clear our bow of a piling, we slid into our slip unscathed, denying the bar patrons an eagerly anticipated disaster to witness.

     Brilliant boat handling skills skipper!!!

As we secured the dock lines it became immediately apparent that we had a very different problem.  The entire reason we were paying $130 a day for a marina slip was for my Mom to have accessibility for getting on and off the boat.  These piers were about 2 feet too short and 20 feet shy of reaching our lifeline gates.

When we pointed this out to the manager at the marina (a nice enough guy) he suggested that we back into the slip to which Kris laughed and said, “that’s not gonna fuckin’ happen.”

The manager (still being a nice enough guy) offered to move Exit for us.  We could only hope that our outward appreciation masked our inward skepticism that anyone could coax Exit into that slip backwards…

    Scene 1 fade to black… Cue Scene 2…

     I believe the guy’s name is Colin.  He asks a number of questions. “Is the prop offset?”  “Is it single rudder?”  “How many horsepower is the engine?” “Is the centerboard down?” He seems to know exactly what he’s doing… and he seems to be a nice enough guy.

Kris re-emphasizes, “I’m not joking.  She doesn’t maneuver well in tight places. You’ll have almost no steering in reverse from a stop.”

The response is, “No worries. I’ve had to do a lot more with a lot less.”

After jockeying back and forth a number of times, and needing a push off from both the mega-yacht and a small power boat whose owner sitting in the bar was a rather willing spectator but much less friendly participant, Colin decreed what Kris had been trying to convey since standing in the marina office… “She definitely doesn’t turn easily.”  After which Colin completed an estimated 9-point turn to get us out from in front of the bar and around into slightly more turning space.

As Colin worked forward and back, then started slowly backing from Dock E towards Dock F, I asked the silly question, “Are you gonna back all the way in?”

He responded, “Yep.

After a bit more aggressive negotiating back and forth I vividly recall hearing the guy standing all the way over in the bar (the less than friendly guy who owned the small boat we had to push off of…) say,  “He’s not gonna try to back that fucker all the way over here, is he?”

There seemed to be a moment of hesitation… and then suddenly we were turning left away from the bar instead of right.  “Screw it,” Colin said.  “I’m putting you right up against the dock wall where it says ‘No Docking'”.

Sweet!  Problem solved.  No damage to anyone’s property or pride and we have perfect placement to get my folks aboard!

I didn’t mention anything, but certainly noticed Kris’ discrete grin… not gonna be one-upped today.  She knows her shit… I’m happy as the foredecker!


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