Sandy Claws - Delivered!

Sept 16 - 26, 2005

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Sandy Claws Delivery from Northwest Creek marina in New Bern, NC to
Coan River marina in Lottsburg, VA.

Day 1, Thursday, September 15, 2005:
The day was a little cluttered with the diversion of our primary transportation being in the shop having its transmission rebuilt (under warranty). After work, the feverish pace started. On his way home from work, Bruce drove across town to complete the paperwork and pick up the keys to Karen's minivan from Mr. Transmission. Once Bruce came home, the family loaded up and returned the courtesy vehicle to Enterprise rent-a-car. Then they drove to the Richmond airport to pick up the one-way rental van from Avis. After stopping for dinner at Cracker Barrel, they drove the 1.5 hours to drop off the second car at the Coan River Marina. The family returned home a little after eleven and jumped in bed. Ahhh Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Day 2, Friday, September 16, 2005:
Cock-a-Doodle do! Rise and shine sleepy heads. The family was up; they loaded the rental van, and were off to the new boat. The new boat, soon to be renamed Sandy Claws, was on the hard at Neuse Harbour Marine in Bridgeton, NC which is across the Neuse River from New Bern, NC. The drive was totally uneventful and they arrived shortly after 3pm. The boat topside had been stripped for hurricane Ophelia. The storm surge made it to the boat but the water was only a few inches deep. Whew!

After doing a little re-assembly, the boat was loaded with our toys for all the good little girls and boys. Later, Bruce returned the rental van and caught a taxi back to the Neuse Harbour.

The family was able to use all the ship systems while on the hard including the hot shower! The biggest surprise was after just three flushes the holding tank was overfilled and pressurized! Who wants to remove the cap?

The only thing missing now was the engine. It had not been delivered yet. While the family patiently waited for the engine to be delivered, they took a few hikes through the little town of Bridgeton. The dollar store was second only to the Chevron convenience store for a fun filled afternoon of shopping and exploration. They went back to Chevron for a second visit.

The engine showed up at 5:00 pm and was installed in about 30 minutes. Uh oh, the travelift sprung an oil leak. We'll launch tomorrow, right?

Day 3, Saturday, September 17, 2005:
The boat was put in the travelift slings; the bottom was touched up and left to dry. The boat was launched at 2:30 pm. The engine test-run included forward, reverse, & cooling flow.

We backed straight out of the slip and started to turn, but wait the engine & rudders are turning in opposite directions. holy @#*%! I have no steerage except straight back! We used the engine at high power to drag the boat to a safe anchorage about 100 yards away from the pier and pilings.

We had connected the steering cable from the wrong side and not bothered to check the operations from the helm. Once anchored, it took about 15 minutes to re-install the cable correctly. We are now on the way to Northwest Creek marina. An hour later we were at the marina fuel dock then took it around to the slip.

The Northwest creek marina had not faired well from Hurricane Ophelia. The surge had put over 1.5 feet of water in the main building. The marina crew was very good. If there weren't the photos, you would have never known because the place was spotless. Not all equipment was working yet, but all the important ones were.

Dave Moffat gave the boys a ride in the travelift

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Sandy Claws - front sling placement

Sandy Claws - rear sling placement

Sandy Claws - and sling blade

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Sandy Claws - south under New Bern Bridge

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Sandy Claws - Ryan at the helm

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Day 4, Sunday, September 18, 2005:
Destination: Hobucken, NC.
Distance: 45 nautical miles.
Time in route: 6 hours
Fuel Use: 12.4 gallons
Gas Gage: ¾ tank

We motored out of the marina at 0800. We weren't sure of the fuel capacity and consumption rate. We motor sailed in smooth seas and fair skies. After we passed Broad Creek east of Oriental, a collision situation came over the horizon. A shrimp trawler was coming at us running full speed. I altered course, the trawler altered course to match. I altered course three times. Each time the trawler matched the course change. Could it be pirates? Does he want to hit us? Within a few minutes, the trawler eventually pulled very closely along side and asked us for directions to the ICW canal and Hobucken. The captain requested that we don't tell anyone. So we took his picture instead.

We continued into the Bay River, up Gale Creek into the ICW. We made it to Hobucken and turned east into Jones Bay. We anchored in the breezes and shallow water about 1/8 mile off the marsh. The sunset was beautiful; the winds were about 10-15 knots. It couldn't get any better. It didn't. After dark the winds completely stopped. We heard a noise similar to the Japanese Zeros coming into Pearl Harbor. It was a cloud of mosquitoes coming across the bay! Quick, turn off the lights. Hurry, close up the boat before they get here! Oh no, too late. The not-so little bastards had CCHT, cybernetic citronella homing technology, installed. They followed the scent from the citronella candles like truckers headed to an all you can eat greasy spoon.

Come to find out, Deep Woods OFF is like BBQ sauce to these genetic mutants. Rumor has it they actually mate with the ducks. Nothing worked. The air was hot and humid. It kept us at just the right temperature, akin to prime rib under the warming lamp. We were kept juicy being basted in our own sweat. We were slowly being eaten alive! When the sun rose the carnage had stopped. We were left feeling like stand-ins on every episode of Dark Shadows. Tyler and Ryan were covered with over 100 whelps each.

I now know what Captain Blye must have felt like that fateful morning before being cast adrift.

The next morning the crew wandered the deck with the same demeanor as hurricane victims on the morning after. Hundreds of mosquitoes were lounging about the ship swollen from the previous night's spoils. They couldn't fly or walk. They just waddled.

Everyone took great pleasure in squishing the bloated ones. Squishing them was much like stepping on those little ketchup packs. The blood, our blood, went everywhere. It was great therapy for the trauma survivors.

Sandy Claws - Minnesott Ferry

Sandy Claws - Minnesott ferry

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Sandy Claws - Oriental

Sandy Claws - Who says men don't ask directions

Sandy Claws - Which way to Hobucken?

Sandy Claws - hundreds of dragon flies get a free ride into the Bay River

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Sandy Claws - Gale Creek

Sandy Claws - Gale Creek

Sandy Claws - our first barge!

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Sandy Claws - Jones Bay
Day 5, Monday, September 19, 2005:
Destination: Alligator River Marina, NC. (We didn't make it)
Distance: 73 nautical miles.
Time in route: 11.5 hours
Fuel Use: 21.83 gallons
Gas Gage: ½ tank (?)

We happily motored over to C.E. Mayo at the Hobucken bridge for fuel, ice, and to walk Kiki. Good news the fuel consumption was less than two gallons per hour. Yesterdays fuel consumption rate matched last night's blood sucking rate. We continued up the canal to Goose Creek and across the Pamlico River. The crew took turns showering and eating while underway. We were motor sailing at 8 knots up the Pungo River when we passed Belhaven. The shallow draft allowed us to short cut the marked channel and shave off a few miles. This was a very beautiful day of sailing. We dropped sail and entered the 22-mile canal headed to the Alligator River.

The speed was now 5.7 knots. We passed a lot of southbound traffic including a WWII LST with a hailing port of St. Vincent, Grenadines. The canal was a very different with unique topography. We exited the canal into the Alligator River at 5:30 pm. We continued up the Alligator River to statue mile 90 and dropped anchor. We were very careful to be a mile east of the channel and still a mile off shore. Thankfully the winds blew all night. I modified the anchor bridle to turn the boat and stop all the rocking from the chop. Not a soul in sight or within hearing distance. No sign of man at all. Ah, perfect!

Wait, what's the roar? Is it a really big mosquito? No, it's a jet. Hey, it's at tree top level. It's flying right over us. Damn that's loud. Oh man, here come more of them. Several days later we found that we had anchored a few miles west of a bombing range. Note to self: Next time bring charts AND maps that show those types of features.

The propane water heater made showers a welcome morning ritual while at anchor. The counter measure was yet another full holding tank. The holding tank quickly became the limiting factor for the entire trip.

Sandy Claws - The morning after the carnage

Sandy Claws - Where did the mosquitoes bite you?

Sandy Claws - Jones Bay in the morning

Sandy Claws - The survivors

Sandy Claws - C.E. Mayo & company

Sandy Claws - Hobucken Bridge

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Sandy Claws - I gotta pee

Sandy Claws - entering the ICW north of Belhaven

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Sandy Claws - The swash buckling crew

Sandy Claws - Swan Quarter Bridge clearance 65 ft.

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Sandy Claws - I gotta pee

Sandy Claws - I said, I gotta PEE!

Sandy Claws - a WWII LST landing craft

Sandy Claws - the hailing port was St. Vincent

Sandy Claws - Ryan resisting his math teacher

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Sandy Claws - a rare stork sighting

Sandy Claws - oh wait, that's Tyler

Sandy Claws - Math's done, fire up the gameboy

Sandy Claws - leaving the ICW canal into the Alligator River

Sandy Claws - butterfly hitches a ride

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Day 6, Tuesday, September 19, 2005:
Destination: Elizabeth City, NC
Distance: 38 miles.
Time in route: 6.5 hours
Fuel Use: not measured
Gas Gage: 3/4 tank

Bruce was up early and got the boat underway before the others awoke. Two hours later we were at the Alligator River swing bridge. Now how does this work? Open Says Me! Hum, that didn't work. Hailing the bridge tender on channel 16 and 68 didn't work either. You can see the guy looking at us through the window! Break out the horn and give it three blasts. The bridge operator hailed us on channel 13. This tidbit of information was omitted in the cruising guide and all publications onboard. Using channel 13 came in very handy for the remaining bridges on the rest of the trip.

We pulled into the Alligator Marina at the N.W. base of the bridge. Fuel and pump-out were ordered. The dog was walked. Back in the channel again and heading north. We motor sailed across the Albemarle Sound and even raised the home made tri-radial headsail and sailed up the Pasquotank River into Elizabeth City.

As we pulled into the city docks, we saw a golf cart and camera crew descending upon the slip we were aiming for. Oops, we can't fit into that narrow slip. We had to back out and move over several slips. The camera crew tore down and relocated to the new location. It was tempting to move a few more times just to watch the camera crew have to relocate again.

We pulled into a tight slip without bumping or rubbing the pilings and finger pier. Thank god it wasn't worse in front of the cameras. The audience included Fred Freeling of the Rose Buddies, Pamela, the director of the Dismal Canal Visitor's center, and a PBS camera crew. They were filming the Cruising Carolina seeries based on Claiborne Young's cruising guides. The seeries is scheduled to air in February 2006. Fred welcomed us, ensured that I cut and presented Karen with a rose, and then PBS interviewed us. The entire activity was filmed in great detail. After the activity died down, I checked the batteeries and found the voltage was low. We relocated to Pelican Marina where we could use shore power to recharge the batteeries.

That night we had a wonderful seafood dinner next door at the Marina Restaurant. The food was good and the spunky staff was a lot of fun.

Sandy Claws - Alligator River Bridge

Sandy Claws - Alligator River Bridge

Sandy Claws - channel 13 works!

Sandy Claws - Alligator River Bridge

Sandy Claws - Alligator River Bridge

Sandy Claws - Alligator River Bridge

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Sandy Claws - Kiki on watch

Sandy Claws - See the speed....

Sandy Claws - Elizabeth City Blimp hanger

Sandy Claws - Elizabeth City docks

Day 7, Wednesday, September 20, 2005:
Destination: Dismal Swamp Visitor's Center, NC
Distance: 23 miles.
Time in route: 6.5 hours
Fuel Use: not measured
Gas Gage: 3/4 tank

We were up early around 0600. Karen & Ryan walked into town to visit the bakery while Bruce repaired the seized macerator pump and prepared to set sail for the 0830 lift bridge opening. We were trying to make the 18-mile trip and the 11:00 South Mills lock opening. This segment was one of the nicest legs of the trip. The Pasquotank River narrows and winds through a jungle-like scenery up to the South Mills lock.

We arrived at the South Mill lock one hour early, anchored, and took a break until the lock opened. We were the only northbound boat entering the lock that morning. The lock raised Sandy Claws eight feet to match the canal height. This was our first locking and was a great learning expeerience for the entire family especially the boys. Tyler and Ryan climbed the ladder to explore the lock at ground level and take pictures. It took about 45 minutes to transient the lock and the lift bridge.

We were on our way up the Dismal Swamp canal to the visitor's center wharf. We arrived around 2:30 pm to be greeted again by the same PBS camera crew. This time they brought Claiborne Young himself. They filmed our arrival and then left. We were able to tie-up for free and use facilities for the night. The weather was cooler, the breeze steady, and the bugs were light. This was a very restful evening in the swamp.

We were prepared for much worse (buzz, buzz).

Sandy Claws - Pelican Marina

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Sandy Claws - Elizabeth City docks

Sandy Claws - Elizabeth City bridge

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Sandy Claws - up the Pasquotank

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Sandy Claws - Karen found the home she wants

Sandy Claws - Karen found the home she wants

Sandy Claws - Ryan swells with pride

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Sandy Claws - Tyler dances on the bow

Sandy Claws - root beer color water

Sandy Claws - Delusions

Sandy Claws - Delusion headed south

Sandy Claws - the eerie Pasquotank at South Mills

Sandy Claws - Looks like grass and I gotta pee

Sandy Claws - Why is the grass moving?

Sandy Claws - inside South Mill lock

Sandy Claws - inside South Mill lock

Sandy Claws - the boys climb the lock ladder

Sandy Claws - kings of the hill

Sandy Claws - moored in the lock

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Sandy Claws - South Mill lock sign board

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Sandy Claws - closing the south gates

Sandy Claws - the north gates open

Sandy Claws - eight feet higher

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Sandy Claws - barge just north of the lock

Sandy Claws - South Mills

Sandy Claws - South Mills

Sandy Claws - South Mills bridge

Sandy Claws - South Mills bridge

Sandy Claws - traffic jam in South Mills

Sandy Claws - The ditch

Sandy Claws - The ditch

Day 8, Thursday, September 21, 2005:
Destination: Waterside marina in Norfolk, VA
Distance: 38 miles.
Time in route: 5.5 hours
Fuel Use: 21.83 (from Alligator marina, Day 6)
Gas Gage: ¼ tank

Bruce awoke at 0600 to start the canal transient by daylight. The goal was to make the 11:00 Deep Creek lock opening 22 miles further north. Avoiding debris, submerged logs, and fallen trees were best done in good light. A southbound trawler from Alexandria did it the night before using a floodlight and hand held spotlight to light up the canal.

The family awoke about an hour later. We passed the Lake Drummin feeder canal; the Corp of Engineer's canal tender Elizabeth and numerous fallen trees that almost completely blocked the canal. The engine was stopped many times to coast over logs and floating debris. Steering was limited due to the potential of the mast striking the trees branches that lined the entire canal. Overall the "ditch" wasn't that bad.

Karen fixed a large breakfast and took a HOT shower while underway. Sandy Claws arrived at the Deep Creek lift bridge an hour early. We tied up to the wharf on the southeast side of the lift bridge to wait for the opening. It's not well publicized, but the bulkhead was adjacent to a good Mexican restaurant. A Hardees, auto parts, small engine repair shop, and Food Lion shopping center were across the street. We decided to walk to Hardees (about 300 feet) and get the crew a round of milkshakes and cinnamon biscuits. Bruce even had time for a hot shower before the lock and bridge opened. We just kicked back, listened to music and enjoyed the morning together. Deep creek was a great rest stop.

Once the southbound traffic was locked through and the bridge opened we were once again in motion and headed north. This time the lock lowered us about six feet into Deep Creek. Our VHF radio and autopilot lost power for about an hour. The power came back on it's own. Bruce was concerned about the five other bridges tenders on the way to Norfolk and how we would communicate. The gremlin stayed away for the rest of this leg. Later, Bruce found and fixed the loose connection.

We had a great time studying the transition to the hustle and bustle of the Norfolk waterfront industry. The boys were completely wowed that our little boat had the power to cause a traffic jam while the bridges were opened allowing us to pass. The bridge tenders seemed to enjoy a spirited verbal exchange in a game of one-upmanship. They always had to have the last word. We passed the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and pulled into Ocean Marine to top off the fuel and you guessed it, pump out the holding tank. Only this time would be different.

We entered the marina unannounced and were met by two dockhands. The pump out system was slightly different and seemed to not be flowing. I asked the dock hands if the pump was on. He replied, "it's always on". I again mentioned that it wasn't flowing yet. He said lift it a little and see if it's sucking. I barely broke the seal and was hit with a fecal fountain that seemed to fly everywhere before I could reseal it. Now the dockhand stops and restarts the PRESSURIZED system. It is really sucking now. In the cloud of effervescent aroma that followed, the family jumped off like rats from a sinking ship and allowed me to wallow in the mire, literally. No, I was not as happy as a pig in slop. After the mess was hosed down and the bill was settled we hurried across the river to Waterside Marina for the night. As the saying goes, a little of that shit goes a long way. I spent over an hour sanitizing the cockpit of the boat to eradicate the lingering aroma. The worst part was knowing that the aroma was from the previous customers.

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Sandy Claws - Canal tender

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Sandy Claws - Tyler at the helm

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Sandy Claws - Tied up at the Deep creek wharf

Sandy Claws - Milkshakes are awesome

Sandy Claws - Mexican Cantina

Sandy Claws - Deep Creek lift bridge

Sandy Claws - Deep Creek lift bridge

Sandy Claws - southbound traffic

Sandy Claws - inching to the deep creek lock

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Sandy Claws - Blue Bonnie

Sandy Claws - inching to the deep creek lock

Sandy Claws - lock tender's house complete with banana trees

Sandy Claws - I64 bridge in Chesapeake

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Sandy Claws - Rt 13 lift bridge opens on request

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Sandy Claws - Karen's Rose from Elizabeth City

Sandy Claws - another lift bridge on the south branch in Norfolk

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Sandy Claws - barge

Sandy Claws - tug

Sandy Claws - Open says me!

Sandy Claws - charts in hand and staying out of traffic

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Sandy Claws - Naval Shipyard

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Sandy Claws - cruise ship in dry dock

Sandy Claws - approaching Waterside - Norfolk

Sandy Claws - approaching Waterside - Norfolk

Day 9 and 10, Thursday, Sept. 22 and Friday, Sept. 23, 2005:
Destination: Nowhere
Distance: 0 miles.
Time in route: 0 hours
Fuel Use: N/A
Gas Gage: full tank

We enjoyed just being tourists in Norfolk and having the air conditioning for the 90+ degree weather. Kiki loved staying on the boat while we were ashore. To prevent returning to a frozen wiener, we had to be careful not to put her cage in the direct blast of the AC airflow.

We walked, shopped, ate, and visited the Nauticus maritime museum. The whole family loved it.

Ryan made us aware of his early nine-year old hormone development when he asked to eat at Whosters (Hooters). We asked why and he replied, "because they have hot chicks". That night he wanted to use the binoculars to watch the Hooters Girls from the boat cockpit. Dad quickly confiscated the binoculars and sent Ryan to bed. Dad kept the binoculars close at hand for the rest of the evening :-)

Dad feels that Ryan is a very clever young man.

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Sandy Claws - I gotta pee - Macarthur Center

Sandy Claws - dockside

Sandy Claws - in the marina

Sandy Claws - the slip

Sandy Claws -Waterside - Norfolk

Sandy Claws - Waterside - Norfolk

Day 11, Saturday, September 24, 2005:
Destination: Windmill Point (we didn't make it)
Distance: 40 miles.
Time in route: 5 hours
Fuel Use: N/A
Gas Gage: ½ tank

The weather was cooler and overcast. The weather forecast called for 10 to 15 knot winds and two-foot seas. We left Waterside around 7:00 am. As we headed up the Elizabeth River we raised sail and went through a pod of dolphin as we sailed past Sewell's point. When we crossed Hampton Roads and the Hampton tunnel the winds strengthened and the chop started to build. After crossing the tunnel the winds and seas continued to build. I decided to continue thinking it would settle after getting away from the shallows. I was wrong.

As we continued towards Poquoson the Northeast winds where now gusting to 25 knots and steep closely spaced 5-foot waves were forcing the boat to hobbyhorse. This action made the new crew very ill. The crew was prone and looking very green. Bruce continued to press on across the York River and duck behind New Port Comfort into Mobjack Bay off Pepper creek. It was past the time to stop. The entire crew was wiped out at 2:00 pm. The weather forecast was NOW saying small craft advisories until Sunday morning!

In the process the microwave was thrown on to the galley floor. The spare gas can lashed on the bow was gone. Several waves broke over the bow and flooded into the cockpit. Karen was soaked and ready to kill! Every interior screw, bolt, and fixture was shaken loose. Bruce noticed a strange cyclical sound. As he tried to find the source, he found the mast base had sheared all four screws and the mast was freely rotating back and forth in its member. The rough seas and pounding stressed the mast and the small base screws. Upon inspection, there was no mast wedge to support the mast and the screws could not support the mast alone.

Bruce jury rigged the mast base using dock lines run to the bow cleats and used the mast mounted winch to tightened the line to prevent further mast rotation. This also would prevent the shrouds from popping off the spreaders. That could have resulted in a demasting and extensive boat damage.

We rested and waited for a milder weather window. Sunday morning the East winds were supposed to be light.

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Sandy Claws - Canadian Frigate

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Sandy Claws - Dolphins

Sandy Claws - Dolphins

Sandy Claws - Dolphins

Sandy Claws - Dolphins

Sandy Claws - Dolphins

Sandy Claws - Dolphins

Sandy Claws - Dolphins

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Sandy Claws - Helicopter carrier

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Sandy Claws - Carriers

Day 12, Sunday, September 25, 2005:
Destination: Coan River Marina (home)
Distance: 50 miles.
Time in route: 11.5 hours
Fuel Use: 22.38
Gas Gage: ¼ tank

We set sail around New Port Comfort and pushed north in 5 knot, east winds, and 1-foot seas. We motor sailed at about 4.5 knots. We were passing Windmill point around 1:30 pm. We decided to press on ahead for the Coan knowing that we would be racing sunset.

The winds clocked around to the southeast. We were able to fly the spinnaker with speeds over 8 knots. We continued trimming sails and rounded Smith Point at 5:30 pm. Still twelve miles from home and sunset only 1.5 hours away, we were now running with the winds on our port quarter. The boat was now surfing with the wind, running between 8 and 9 knots under the mainsail and fighting against the tide (6 knots SOG by GPS).

As the sunset, we were still about 1.5 miles from the entrance day marks. We had the boys stationed on the bow as crab pot watches. We made the entrance day mark to the Coan one half hour after sunset. We dropped sail and motored slowly into the Coan River dodging crab pots and stakes with only seconds of advance notice. None of these day marks were lighted. We entered the marina just after 8:00 pm. We found our new slip and tied up. It took a few minutes for the excitement to diminish and realize we were safe and sound. A few live-aboards came out to see who the new arrivals were. We turned in around 10:00 pm for a welcomed rest.

With two exceptions, the trip was a family success. As a family, we stretched our minds and limitations. Each challenge was successfully met and handled safely. The family is looking forward to the next adventure. A few repairs, elbow grease, and money will have the boat ready for what tomorrow brings.

Yes Virginia, there really is a Sandy Claws!

Sandy Claws - New Port Comfort Lighthouse- Mobjack Bay

Sandy Claws - Tug and tow

Sandy Claws - Smith Point Lighthouse

Sandy Claws - sunset on the Potomac

Sandy Claws - Disk on the Potomac