Monday, May 25, 2015


The Bucket List is getting Shorter


...and we're off!

Resuming our cruising adventure up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), we couldn't have been happier with the beautiful day that dawned. After the long hiatus in Brunswick, Georgia, we went under the Lanier Bridge, turned left and started our travels north .

Our first bit of excitement was just a couple of hours later when we knew we would be passing the waterfront home of our friends. They were waiting for us with their binoculars at the ready. Unfortunately, their property is heavily wooded and we couldn't spot their exact house, but we know that they were waving. They emailed us the fact. Actually, they waved, and waved until
their arms got tired. Seems that they were surprised at how SLOW we were moving along when underway. Yep, a whopping 6mph which just barely gets the wind blowing in our hair.

Because we draw 5 1/2 feet (that is our keel hangs down 5 1/2 feet below the water surface) we have to be very careful about the changes in the tides for our travels. The 6 to 7 foot tidal changes make it so that the channel is too shallow for us at certain times of the day. We watch the tide forecasts (which are never very accurate for inland travel) and eyeball the changes. When it looks right, we start the day and plan for our stopping point that afternoon.

After exactly 2 weeks out we are today tied to a dock right on the ICW at the Atlantic Yacht Basin in Chesapeake, Virginia. We've anchored out in the wilds every night for two weeks by simply pulling off of the marked channel into a river or bay. But we needed to fuel up and to walk to a grocery store for produce and ice cream so we choose to tie up. The bonus is that there is unlimited wifi so I can upload photos and post a blog!

So, you may ask...what do you see along the ICW?  Mostly, when we were in Georgia we wandered a squiggly path through the beautiful tidal marshlands. The land is flat and the temperatures were quite warm down south in Georgia. It turned a little chilly the farther north we travelled.

As we moved through South Carolina and into North Carolina we saw a lot more houses directly on the waterway with docks and boats. BIG houses and small. Sometimes there were even mounds of earth with trees on them! Real hills! We also started to encounter miles and miles of houses that all looked as if they had been built in the last few years - almost exactly the same style and building materials used for every house. Cookie cutter million dollar houses - I'd like to know why?

We crossed a special item off of our Bucket List! Many years ago we vacationed with my family in Holden Beach, NC. The ICW could be seen from the upstairs balcony and Jonesy spent many hours watching the boats go by. He made up his mind that someday he would pass by Holden Beach in a boat. AND WE DID!

Most days we have been absolutely alone, chugging along the water, soaking up the scenery. Yes, we have hit the bottom mud many times with our keel. It's not fun, but we haven't actually gotten stuck yet so we haven't had to call a tow boat. The water is very shallow in some places even in the charted passageway and has shoaled over especially where there are inlets from the sea or a little river. Jonesy calls it "tapping the guard rails of the race track" so as long as the boat isn't damaged we keep on racing motoring.

We've entertained ourselves with watching the wildlife, reading books, studying the depth sounder and multiple charts, and of course knitting. When we are closer to the sea and not moseying around an inland canal, we often see small, dark colored dolphins. These dolphins are very shy and don't come over to the boat to play with us as the ones we've met at sea do.

Large osprey birds are busy with their nests everywhere. They have discovered the safety of the channel marking poles out in the water for their nests. We've seen nests atop several markers in a row. We haven't seen chicks yet, but the parents have been busy sitting on the nests.

At one point in North Carolina, our progress was stopped by a US Navy patrol boat. We were passing through Camp Lejeune and there was a Marine military maneuver taking place where they floated a pontoon bridge across the waterway. It was entertaining to see a tank cross the temporary bridge. It was also interesting how quickly the bridge was taken apart and we were allowed to pass - FAST!

One night we anchored in a horseshoe curve in the cypress swamps of South Carolina. Right there at the river's edge we saw an alligator lurking among the water hyacinth! Later in the afternoon he crawled out of the water and sunned himself on a log with 5 large turtles. After dark, I went out on deck to see what I could see as I usually do at anchor and I must have scared him as there was a bump on the hull and a big splash! I'm really glad we have a BIG boat which is 5 feet above the water!!

We stopped in the charming little city of Swansboro, NC and dropped anchor right off of the free city dinghy dock. From there we ate breakfast in a great local diner then walked (more like waddled) about a mile up to the grocery store - a real Piggly Wiggly! Of course we also stopped in at the The Salty Sheep Yarn Shop so I could pick up some wool washing soap and fondle the beautiful yarns! Oops! Another project has been added to my queue on Ravelry to knit up.

Many of our travel days have been some of the best we have ever had on the boat. We've had perfect weather and no hitting the muddy bottom some days. Other days have been, well, not so nice. We have learned a lot.

We have learned not to get too close to a swing bridge as some of them open way too slowly (for our liking) and tidal currents threaten to drag us into the bridge pilings! As our mast is 63 feet tall, we can safely slide under the "fixed" bridges, but we have to radio ahead at the draw bridges which often only open at certain times of the day. It's hard to keep a big sailboat stationary when there is wind and current - actually, it is impossible to wait at a standstill.

Negotiating a swing bridge caused the only time (so far) that we both said naughty sailor words. Nope, we didn't hit the pilings, but the bridge operator told us that many other boats have done so.

We've learned to simply slow down and enjoy the trip and let working boats and folks in a hurry go right on by us. We've also learned that it is imperative that you have at your fingertips the loud canned boat horn to blast at inexperienced or inattentive boaters and jet ski riders. Sheesh. This isn't Disneyland - it's actually dangerous to drag your kids around on a blow-up toy at great speeds around other boats. We don't want to be part of a calamity so folks, play safely!

We've learned that we are much happier if we only travel about 50 miles each day and not push ourselves too much. Long days are no fun, and anchoring in the dusk is too scary especially because we are always at someplace where we've never been before. Yes, we have all the cruising guide books, but depths of water change and we often cannot get this big girl into shallower places.

We've seen many things that have astounded us too. How about this high rise boat storage yard? There was also storage inside of the building in the rear. We watched as a big forklift hauled a boat around the yard. Scary!

Check out this campground for travel trailers. We saw several of these types of campgrounds along the way. They are all travel trailers in these parks - no manufactured or mobile homes - just all different sizes of travel trailers. What a great way to spend the summer and fish to your heart's content. This sort of lifestyle is attractive to us voyagers.

So we've crossed off several items from our Bucket List over just the last two weeks. These are:
CROWDED - Very rare but scary

Of course, we are, at the same time, adding to our Bucket List. But that's another story.

Tomorrow we're taking off again and will get to experience our first lock since the Panama Canal transit back in 2008. It's just a little lock but we are a tad apprehensive. No real worries - we'll just chalk it up to another learning experience whatever happens. 

Life is good.

OUT TOO LATE Looking for a deeper spot to anchor

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Let the Cruising North BEGIN!

NIKI WIKI with Terry on deck
On a recent windless morning, Jonesy hauled out the jib and mainsail for a pre-cruising visual inspection. All looks good. He made such a racket stomping around the deck over our bunk and cranking out the lines that it woke me up. I knew what he was doing, so I grabbed a cup of coffee (which Jonesy makes every morning in our drip coffee machine) and went out on deck.

We've completed every chore required before we can leave and have fully provisioned the galley. The dry erase white board which acts as our central planning center is completely blank!! There is absolutely no space left in the freezer and food cupboards.

We are excited about getting OUT and zooming along at 6 knots (approx 7 mph) through the wilderness! Along the way we will wave to our friends Michelle and Kenny who have the house on the marsh that I house sat. We've never done that before - so that's a new experience for us too.

Terry on NIKI WIKI trying to wake up
One of the last chores that was my responsibility was to make replacement tie-down straps for our 6-Man Life Raft that lives up on the foredeck. The harsh sun of the tropics had damaged the strapping. Should we hit a wake, the dang raft could bounce right off of the boat.

So I took out my trusty 38-year old Elna sewing machine (that Jonesy gave me the Christmas before we were married) and whipped up the replacement straps. Now it is safe and sound. Even though we are planning to stay in the protected waterway, we may still have to go out in the big ocean and we both feel so much better knowing that we have a Life Raft.

After a 2 day delay due to Tropical Storm Ana here on the East coast of the USA, we will be heading out tomorrow morning after taking on fuel, settling up with the marina, and getting rid of every last bit of trash while we still can.
We have a Verizon WiFi hot spot so hopefully we'll have signal along the way and can share some photos.

Now, for knitting and ceramics... I've been busy making another pair of felted wool mittens. I used the exact same yarn, same washing
machine, but different detergent. This second pair is MUCH SMALLER! I can just barely squeeze my chubby hands into these. Thankfully, there are kids of all sizes in Kazakhstan who need warm mittens so these will find a new owner.

As for socks, I've been test knitting a new pattern for a friend. I'm not sure when I can share a photo, but I am enoying the process and the feel of the lovely yarn from Wooly Wonka Fiber generously donated to knit for the Kaz kids.

In the meantime, here's a photo of my current take-along sock project. The yarn is Vesper Sock Yarn by Knitterly Things in a colorful self-striping colorway (donated by my friend Michelle for the Kaz kids - thank you!). I'm so very lucky to have friends who have great taste in yarns and also who are brave enough to part with some of there stash to see frosty toes get a chance to be warm.
Hug Me Socks in process

The pattern is a very simple one, and one that I use often. It is my own Hug Me Socks design. Really, it is just 2 rounds of plain stockinette followed by 2 pounds of 2x2 ribbing. Repeat. This stitch pattern creates a thick and textured fabric that has lots of stretch. Stretch is important when making garments such as socks for sizes unknown. I like to make things that will fit a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

So now on to ceramics! I've really enjoyed my hours in the studio of the Glynn Visual Arts Center and am a tad sad to not be able to play with mud while we are cruising. But, I'll dive back in once we return to Brunswick here.

These past weeks I concentrated on making more bottoms for pine needle baskets, and some glaze test color tiles. I'm using a clay body that has more red iron in it than what most of the other clay-players in my group. The glaze works differently over darker clays. So I made some small samples for future reference.

At the spur of the moment I threw together a free-form tray - added some embellishments - and dunked it into two different glazes. One end was dipped in a barrel of shiny brown glaze, and the other end in a satin finish green glaze. The section in the middle is where the two different glazes overlapped.  I love the effect!

Now what should I serve in this? Whatever I decide, it will get used even if it gets broken in rough seas at some time in the future, I'll enjoy it while I have it.
Ceramic Tray Glaze Play

Life is good.

Saturday, May 02, 2015


Sweet Sounds and Accomplishments

One bit of advice that I picked up years ago was to "celebrate your accomplishments". Sometimes we get so focused on all the little things that are going wrong, or that simply need to be done, and we forget to pat ourselves on the back for jobs well done. This past week, the crew of the sailing vessel  Niki Wiki have some major project completions that needed to be celebrated.

We have ignition!
Ahhhh - it was the sweet SOUND of success when the big Perkins diesel engine finally got fuel up to the injectors and into the engine! Here's a short video taken during that first minute of the engine running after the big rebuild. It's been many months since we've heard it's mighty rumbling. Jonesy (head down in a red shirt) was still down in the bilge adjusting the injectors when I took this video from the helm.

Whooo hoooo! We can now go cruising! Sure, there are still some other projects to take care of before we hit the Intracoastal Waterway headed north, but now that we know that the engine is
purring again, we need to spend some time planning. As Jonesy said today..."It's hard to be in a hurry if you don't know where you're going!" We've pored over the charts and cruising guides and have decided to go for it next Saturday, May 9th. That is our planned "Get out of the Marina" date.

Jonesy next tackled the clean-up of our trusty dinghy named Scooty Puff which has been hanging off the stern of Niki Wiki on davits since last July. Then he mounted the Yamaha 15hp motor on Scooty's transom and got it to fire up on the 2nd pull. We now have a big movable home and small inflatable waterway transportation.

While Jonesy worked on the boat stuff, I've been spending time putting things (mostly my crafty stuff) away into secure cubbies and lockers for the trip. We tend to spread our stuff out in the boat while in a marina, but that's not going to work when we are traveling. Even wakes from passing motorboats can make the Niki Wiki rock and bounce and anything loose will bounce too. I've also been provisoning with the shelf stable items such as coffee, paper towels, cereal, beans and rice, drinks and condiments. We will not be able to shop for food very often and may need to walk a long ways too, Plus it is a lot of work to lug and transport heavy or large items in the dinghy so I like to stock up on the important items.

The Darien Seaport Sweater
Crafty Accomplishments

Ta-da! Here is the completed sweater that I knit for a teenager who will age out of the orphanage in Kazakhstan. The shaping and pattern stitchwork of this sweater is based on the traditional fishermen's gansey sweaters. It is 100% wool, but is a heavier weight (thicker) yarn than the original sweaters were knit from so that it is warmer for the extreme low temperatures where it will be worn.

I have written up the initial pattern notes and charts, but still have to do the size "grading" for multiple sizes so that more knitters can recreate it. That's a big part of the fun for me in the whole knitting process!

The final knitting and blocking of the sweater was done while I was house-dog-dog-dog-cat sitting for a friend. The house sits right on the tidal marsh near to the Darien Seaport. Check out this sweet view of the wetlands from the screened veranda where the sweater dried. For 4 days I played with the dogs and cat, soaked up the view, knit and sewed.

The sewing projects were repairs on our big Shade Tree awnings for the boat and a little awning we had custom made for the stern deck. The tropical sun of the past few years had weakened the fabrics and all it took to produce rips and holes was a fierce windy storm last fall while we were off on our car trip. So I spread them out on the concrete driveway under the giant oak trees with spanish moss swaying and evaluated what needed to be repaired. It was almost too much fun be outside working on a sunny, dry day with temps int he high 70's and loving dogs watching me.

 And there has been more knitting going on (like you didn't know already). Here's a pair of smaller sized socks knit from some yarn generously donated by a fellow knitter. These are knit with Patons Kroy sock yarn which did all the color work for me. I just knit plain socks.

But another pattern caught my eye while browsing Ravelry the other day. Now that I've finished the gray sweater above, I find that I have some extra wool. I've always wanted to make some felted mittens so I did!

The pattern is called "Norwegian Fisherman Mittens" (free on Ravelry) and is very simple to knit. After knitting them I tossed them in a top-loading washing machine with hot water and a couple of winter blankets to have them shrink and felt into a tight, thick fabric.

The Knit Picks Wool of the Andes yarn felted beautifully!
Before and After Felting
 See how BIG the loosely knit mittens were before they were felted? And then you can also see that the finished mittens fit my hand with a nice long cuff and some extra room for a thin pair of liner mittens on the inside. Perfect!

Of course, there is already another pair on the needles. Why argue with success? I have quite a large stash of this type of yarn in many colors so I think this will become some of my cockpit knitting as we travel the ICW.
Remember the ceramic trivets that I shared before? Well I offered one to a friend on Ravelry and here's a picture she took of it in its new home! I also tucked in one of my handmade buttons. My friend offered to send me some of her handmade soap. So now I am using some wonderful, natural soap that smells of Lemongrass. I used to grow lemongrass on the grounds of Mario's Marina in Guatemala so the smell reminds me of those days so far away and not so long ago.

Speaking of Mario's Marina - it is no more. The lease was terminated so the business of the marina was abandoned and all boats had to vacate. It was sure nice while it lasted and many cruisers have fond memories of time spent there and the wonderful people who worked there and became our friends. We spent 4 hurricane seasons (of about 5 months each) at Mario's. Here's a very recent photo of what is left - just the docks and facilities and no boats. Change is inevitable so enjoy the present.

NO BOATS at the old Mario's Marina - May 2015

Life is good.

Photo from Bob and Trish Meredith, s/v Barnacle.

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