Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year, What's Next for Skylark

Off the coast of Carolina
2010 has come and gone a light speed. When I was a kid, I my Grandmother once mentioned that time seems to go much faster when you get older. Well, I can say without reservation that she was absolutely right. I can't believe I am sitting here on the last day of the year thinking back over the shreds of memories I have collected. And this last year was a big one. As you all know, 2010 started with plans of sailing Skylark from Washington, NC to Jacksonville, FL. So much planning time and energy was spent getting ready for what would turn into a life changing event. The weather really played havoc on the trip, but all said and done, I wouldn't change a thing. Well, maybe a couple of things

I certainly wouldn't change all the new friends I met and have made along the way. It was almost like a stage production as the support team was tremendous. Amy of course supported me all the way as well as family and friends who watched intently as we logged each mile. But there were so many more folks involved. Quite a few go nameless as they were met breifly, only leaving a great impression. And that's really what cruising is all about. Meeting the nicest people in that little bar in the middle of nowhere. A cast of characters that makes the whole thing real.

All in all, my best guess is that we completed just under a thousand nautical miles to get Skylark from NC to FL. Crazy since the trip should have been a little more than half that in actuality, but when you have to sail with the wind on your nose for so long, the miles really add up. Anyway, the trip changed my life in many ways most of which I have described in previous posts. I look forward to keeping the momentum going in the new year and sharing the adventures with all of you.

Now Skylark sits happily secure in her new home down in Florida. So I ask myself, what's next. Well, I have a bit of work to do now to get Skylark ready for her next adventure. I know I always enjoy reading about what other folks are doing to their boats, so here is a short list of whats on the front burner.
  • Pull engine to replace oil pan
  • Replace carburetor
  • Replace fuel tank
  • Rewire engine harness and charging system
  • Install new fresh water tank
  • Replace winches
  • Have boat pulled and bottom painted
  • New 3 bladed prop
  • Solar panels
  • Bimini/dodger
  • 2 additional house batteries
Of course I will keep you updated as this stuff all happens. The plan is to have this mostly done by the end of March so I need to get started. Would love to hear from any cruisers out there that have experience with solar power and any recommendations you might have to get me started. Thanks in advance.

OK, so the boat is ready, where to? 2011 holds some unknowns as to "where" at this point. I need to start getting Amy accustomed to longer sails and ocean swells. I think a great start for us would be a trip down to St. Augustine. We can sail the river and do a quick hop down to the St. Augustine inlet in a total of about 67 miles. From there, I am thinking of heading further south and eventually making it to the Keys. Work is still a consideration, but if done right, I am thinking we can make it all happen.

One known however for 2011 is my 40th birthday. Yikes. As I said before it goes way to fast, I am sometimes shocked that 40 is here. But as long as we are all doing what we want to be, age doesn't matter so much I guess. I will say that certain priorities have changed a bit and now it's time to start "doing." So with that said, lets get out on the water and do it before it really is too late.

I want to thank everyone for reading over the last year, it has been a lot of fun. I hope you will continue in the future as we put more miles under the hull and meet more great souls along the way. I wish everyone a very happy and healthy New Year. May everything you desire come to pass.

Fair winds and calm seas.
s/v Skylark

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Skylark!

Christmas morning, 2010.
Wishing all a very Merry Christmas. Be safe out there and think only warm thoughts if you are still up north. If you are in Asheville, this is what you are seeing out your window right now.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Misery, thy name is Winter

It has been weeks of 20 degree weather, terrible winds, sleet, snow...the works in NC. It gets dark so early that by 7:30, you feel like going to bed just to get the day over with. Well, I was able to break that monotony by coming down to Skylark for a few days. I knew I was in for a welcomed change when I stopped for gas in Georgia and the temperature was 65...65 at night! It has not been over 35 in Asheville at the peek of  afternoon since early November.
Anyway, I stepped aboard at 11:00pm and by 11:20, everything was setup and it was like I never left. I can't describe the joy I get when I sit on the settee with a beer and some good music playing after the long drive down. I think a smile from ear to ear sums it up nicely. Everything was as it should be, and with the little heater making everything nice and toasty, I was ready for bed.
So in a few days, I will bring Zachary back to Asheville so we can all spend some time doing holiday stuff. He really enjoys the mountains and the snow, so we should have a nice time. But in the meantime, I will take in some sun and enjoy the warmth while I can. Snow tubing is on the agenda for next week, so I have to start mentally preparing now. If only it was a trip down south on Skylark. Oh well, maybe next year. :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Book Report, Circumnavigating Low Key

So I just finished Captain Woody Henderson's new book, Circumnavigating Low Key, and thought it was great. He tells the story of his 2 year adventure sailing around the world on a Cal 33, Low Key. Yes, I especially loved the fact that he made it around the world on a boat very similar to my own. I have emailed with Woody a couple of times and discovered he started out on a Coronado 27 as I did before going to the Cal. Great thinkers I guess. :)  Anyway, if you have a chance to pick it up, I highly recommend it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Song that Says it All (in 21 seconds)

Came across this song on Latts & Atts radio. I have to admit, I had to listen twice, but after the second time around, I laughed quite hard. I think she gets it. :)

A favorite musician among the boating crowd is Eileen Quinn.

Her CD Degrees of Deviation has a song called "My Old Job". All her songs are spot on to the cruising lifestyle, so go to her website and check them out.

(Music is copyright (c) 1999 by Eileen Quinn)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One Year and Still Blogging Along

Pulling into Morehead City, NC

Tomorrow, Wednesday November 24th, marks the one year anniversary of Skylark's first blog post. Wow, I can't believe what has happened this last year, everything seems like a blur at this point. When I realized that we were coming up on a year, I went back and read through the earlier posts. I had to laugh, as in quite a few cases, I didn't remember any of what I had written. Especially all the events leading up to the trip down to Florida. That was an anxious, albeit, incredible time in my life and I am not surprised some of those details fell into the shadows. What I do remember without a doubt is that I am truly thankful for all the help and support I have received along the way. I am certainly no Hemingway, but I hope I was able to get my appreciation across to all of you. Thanks.

Skylark at home in Jacksonville, FL
Throughout the year, I have received wonderful feedback from the folks that follow and made some good friends along the way. The sailing and cruising community is made up of some of the nicest people I have ever met. Having the same dreams of sailing off into the sunset makes for some fun discussions. Many "coldies" have been consumed talking about trips, sailing and the monsters that live over the horizon. As I recently read somewhere, it never gets old. As a matter of fact, there is not a day that goes by where I don't check in with cruisers out there blogging their way around the world. In many cases these folks become like family as you watch progress, offer advice and help when you can. I really enjoy following along and have been lucky to feel the warmth of far away, and not so far away places as I watch the snow fall outside the window here in North Carolina.  For those of you that would like to to follow too, there is a place on my blog that's lists my favorites. Take a look sometime and say hi to others out there. I am sure they won't mind at all.

Anchored off Oriental, NC
 To me, and to many of the folks that read these blogs, sailing or cruising is not a hobby, sport or past time. It's truly a way of life...a lifestyle that allows you to be in tune with the elements and brings you, as far as I am concerned, a sense of spirituality that is hard to find anywhere else. To some, being 40 miles off-shore in a very small boat upon a very large ocean is something right out of a horror movie. Not seeing land for days and knowing there are very large creatures only inches from your feet makes for a scary afternoon. But to me, being on watch at 2:00 am when the only sound you hear are the waves along the hull, the feeling of a warm breeze and the presence of stars like you have never seen before is what it is all about. At that very moment, when the only light for miles is coming from the dim red glow of the compass everything is as it should be.

Then there are the people. The people I have met along the way have been some of the nicest, most interesting bunch I have ever met. Most would give the shirt off their back if you needed it but all that I have met would certainly help raise a jib up the furler, drill a 4 inch hole or run some electronics. The people are what glue everything else together. Of course those quiet 2:00 am nights are wonderful, but having someone to share it all with is pretty great too. I truly hope I meet a lot of you out there so we can chat about monsters and have a few "painkillers." No matter how hard the wind blows or how high the waves get, the right people make all the difference between adventure and disaster. (Thanks Bob Bitchn')

My tattoo
So with that said, I look forward to keeping you all updated as we continue to enjoy Skylark and plan for new adventures. The to-do list has been prioritized, so it's time to get started. I don't want to miss one day of the spring sailing weather. I know the first trip will be to St. Augustine, so if there are any folks in the area who to stop by for a coldie and few stories, give me a shout. There is always room.

Have a great holiday season and a wonderful new year. See you out there...
Jim and Amy
S/V Skylark

Friday, November 19, 2010

So it's not exactly sailing related...

...but how many times can you hear me say the weather is amazing, the boat is great and all is well. So, as I sit here enjoying the incredible sunrise, I thought I might share a quality YouTube video to help start you Friday. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Never Gets Old

No matter how much time I spend working on Skylark or the constant trips moving gear to and fro, I always smile when I look across the docks and see her sitting peacefully in her spot. Skylark is, at least from what I can tell, the oldest boat in the marina. Her lines make her stand out from all the new designs floating near by. She always gets a lot of looks from folks strolling the docks, especially after a good wash down. It never gets old.

Since the trip, I haven't started any new projects. Mostly because it's been so hot, but also because I wanted to just relax and enjoy things a bit now that Skylark is in Jacksonville. I have however broken out the list of to do's and started to prioritize for the spring. I will say the barnacle growth here on the river is astounding. In over two years on the Pamlico river, I had very moderate growth and only pulled it once for a pressure wash. In the 6 months that I have been here, the bottom is completely covered so a cleaning and a good coat of paint is up on the list. Then there is the engine, but that's a story for another time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

November Sunset

It was 80 degrees, sunny and beautiful today. Makes working all the more tolerable when you are in a setting like this. The breeze came through the cabin keeping everything nice and cool and the best is, there is not a drop of humidity. As the sun went down, I snapped this pic as it went below the marina office. A nice day all around. It's now about 60 degrees, I still have shorts on but Zachary calls it a bit brisk. I guess its all what you are used to. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Night and All is Well

After a long 6 hour drive I have made it safe and sound back to Skylark. Will be here for a week and looking forward to enjoying the warm November days down here in Jacksonville. Will update with a few pictures as the week goes on. The sea air feels great and the cool night will be perfect for sleeping.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Something to Think about on a Friday Afternoon

Pulled this from Captain Woody's, Latt's and Att's Captain Woody, website. This little story makes you think a bit after a long, tiring work week. I don't think he will mind...Enjoy.

The Mexican Fisherman
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, "Only a little while."

The American then asked, "Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?"

The Mexican said, "With this I have more than enough to support my family's needs."

The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life."

The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you will run your ever-expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "15 to 20 years."

"But what then?" asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said that's the best part. "When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."

"Millions?...Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."

-- Author Unknown

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Best Week Yet

I just got back from a week visit on Skylark. I can't begin to describe how wonderful the weather was the entire visit. The days had absolutely no humidity just touching the 80 degree mark while the nights were calm and cool dipping into the 50s. For the first time since being in FL, there was no need at all for the air conditioner as we left the companionway boards out and the forward hatch open to cool things down. One night, I actually put the cabin heater on low just to wake up to a toasty boat. Thats one of my favorite things, knowing it's cold outside, yet having the boat warm and cozy when the first rays of the sun come through the forward port holes and you don't have to shiver when you get up to make coffee and peak out the companionway to watch the sun come up. It was perfect. As well, without the AC, the silence made for some deep sleeps and boy, I needed it.

October is a perfect time down in NE Florida to start tackling those projects that were too hot to handle in the dead of summer. There is always a constant breeze, but nothing like you would get ripping down the river in August.  I was able to get some good deep cleaning in, the first major overhaul since the trip. I found salt in some very tight places, not surprising, but not nearly that bad either. Skylark is a very dry boat and proved that time and again through out the trip. There were quite a few mechanical problems to say the least, but other than that she performed very well for a 41 year old boat. A true testament to the quality of  construction Bill Lapworth expected back in the day. I am still planning to replace the Atomic 4 this winter and really look forward to next springs adventures. In the meantime, I am going to thoroughly enjoy my time on Skylark and slowly but surely get her ready for next season. I had a wonderful visit with Zachary and we could not have enjoyed the days together more, and that is what it's all about. As he said, Skylark feels like home...I couldn't agree more. At least this year for the first time in maybe 40 or so years, Skylark won't have to worry about snow. Hopefully, I won't either.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Hi all,
Sorry I have been so quiet the last few weeks, but work and family stuff has been a lot more crazy than normal and I have not been able to get to the boat. Planning a trip in a week or two for a nice long visit. The weather is much cooler now and I am looking forward to a good nights sleep without the air conditioner pounding away all night long. I will send an update when I am there.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stars On the Water

It was extremely windy today, but the wind is now dying down and it has turned into an absolutely perfect night. Cool and no humidity, who would of thunk it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful...

It is very nice to be back on Skylark tonight. Have had a rough couple of weeks with work and then a few weeks of being sick. I got here tonight about 8:00pm and she was waiting for me, just like I never left. Will be here for about a week, so will keep you updated on new events. Right now though, everything is status quo and I am hoping for a very relaxing few days. So far, so good.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

So I was in Jacksonville from last Friday till yesterday, Monday night. Wanted to check in on Skylark and stay a few days before coming back with Zachary for his last summer adventure in Asheville before school starts. Kids in Florida start early and go back August 16th, so we decided to come back to NC until he has to start.

I tell you though it was not a tough decision as the temps in Florida have been crazy hot. For the entire time we were there, the heat index had the temps close to 110 with actual air temp near 100. Even the pool was uncomfortably warm to swim. At one point, they pumped out some water and cooled it down with the hose. And then in the afternoon, thunderstorms with winds at 50 mph and torrential rains were the norm. Way to hot to do anything on the boat. At this point, I am going to hold off on the non-essential projects and start again in November when the temperature cools down a bit. Thank god for the air conditioner.
All in all though, I think Skylark likes her new home and has been doing very well. I will stay for a week or so when I bring Zachary back on the 14th so I can hear about the first days of school. Maybe by then the hot weather will break a bit.

Skylark? No, not our Skylark, but another I saw in Charleston on the trip down.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tuning Your Rig

I came across this PDF on one of the sailing sites and thought it was a good tutorial on rig tuning. This topic comes up a lot with cruisers so I thought I would post the link. Hope it helps...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vanuatu, Kava and Cruising

Kava-powder-from-vanuatu-ready-to-mix-with-waterImage via Wikipedia
Over the years, I have read dozens of books depicting actual voyages of folks cruising all over the world. Lynn and Larry, Tanya, Herb and a slew of others have written about their journeys and all of them had something in common. When in the South Pacific, especially on the island of Vanuatu, they all were lucky enough to be involved in a Kava ceremony. Kava is a drink made from the Kava root that from all accounts I have read, has a muddy texture and tastes, well, like mud. However, the affects from Kava range from tingling lips to all out euphoric feelings.
I have always wanted to taste Kava but never figured it would happen. Well, that is going to change. Check this out...

Kava Bar opens in downtown Asheville
From a recent press release:
Vanuatu Kava Bar, the first nakamal – or traditional kava bar — in North Carolina, has opened for business in Downtown Asheville behind the Orange Peel just south of Hillard. Although a grand opening is planned for July 9th, doors are already open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. until 1 a.m. Offerings will gradually expand to include numerous specialty drinks and light island fare.
Of course, already on the menu is fresh-squeezed kava-kava juice, made from the milled root of Piper methysticum, or the “intoxicating pepper.” The elixir has been used as both a relaxing social beverage and ceremonial libation by tribes throughout the South Pacific for centuries, and is said to have relaxing, euphoric qualities.
The kava at Vanuatu Kava Bar comes from Vanuatu — thought to have the strongest varieties in the world. The nation’s laws mandate organic growing of all kava as well as a minimum-per-kilo rate that is paid to growers, to ensure fair-trade. Pictures of those who harvest and clean the kava for VKB adorn the walls, involved in various stages of the process, scribbled with “best wishes” and words in Bislama.
Vanuatu Kava Bar strives to be a true nakamal, the Vanuatu word for a place to drink kava, which translates as “place of peace.” Thus, there is no alcohol served, but with the selection of drinks and herbs, there is really no need for it. The space also functions as a gallery for handcrafted tikis and cypress furniture that is available for purchase.
The planned grand opening will happen on July 9th, with “Stereo Afro,” featuring members of Discordian Society, at 8 p.m. A kilo of kava root will be squeezed into several gallons of the elixir, and the relaxing potion will be served free until it is gone. The giveaway is a way to introduce people to something they might not otherwise try. Doors will open at 4pm, and there will be 2-for-1 drinks until the free batch is brought out and events start.
The Vanuatu Kava Bar is located at 151 S. Lexington in downtown Asheville. For more information, call 505-8118.

When I get a minute to go, I will tell you all how it tastes and what effects it actually has. Should be fun...very cool.
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Friday, July 9, 2010

Leg 2 - Morehead City, NC to Jacksonville, FL

Ok, I get the hint, you want to hear the story. Ok, ok, I was hoping I could get a few more sessions of therapy in before getting into it but apparently it's not to be.

Leg one left off in Morehead City, NC after some horrible weather put a stop to our trip the first time around. So that's where we will pick it up from now. But before I go into the details, let me start with 2 very important lessons learned from all this...

1) Going south in June is a very bad idea. (Here is why...the winds are prevailing from the south west continuously. I have never seen anything like it. SW winds every day, every night and that's the direction you want to go, SW)

2) Having a schedule to adhere to on a sailboat is also a very bad idea. (Now this one I knew, but I had no idea to what degree this would come to)

So with that said, here are the details.
I got to the boat on Friday June 11th to start prepping for the trip. My crew was due in the next day and I wanted to be ready to get out early if at all possible. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. On Saturday morning, the winds were whipping at 30 knots from the, you guessed it, SW and there was no way we would be able to leave. As well, I had to get the head sail back up after the repairs and the wind would not have let us do that regardless. We decided to stay put and work on the boat while we had the chance. As it turns out, our time at dock was extended as the winds kept up through Sunday, so Monday was now our planned departure time.

With the boat ready, we left late Monday at around 3:30 on the slack tide. If you have never been to Morehead City, the tides through the area can reach 4 to 5 knots and makes for very tough maneuvering around the dock, so slack tide it is.
Winds were down now and we were able to motor pretty well until we hit the inlet. There was a fishing tournament going on and the fleet was coming back in with the days catch. Bottom line, we got creamed by the massive wakes of these boats, one after the other. A fine start to a long trip.
We made it out past the third channel marker and made our turn SW to pick up the rhumb line to Cape Fear. That was about 5:00 pm Monday.

The winds were light and it was hot. The previous days winds made for some nice four foot swells that unfortunately played havoc with my crew mates stomach. It didn't take long until full blown sea sickness took over. It was a very slow next few days and the heat at times was unbearable. We eventually made it past Cape Fear and I was quite relieved to see the outer marker, actually a huge platform, go by to port as we crossed the shoals. The winds were very lite and of course from the SW, so progress was extremely slow.

On Friday though, things took a turn for the worse and my crew member had to get off the boat. We were back at Oak Island, NC at the Southport Marina by Friday night at 5:00 pm. About 4 days on the water, most out of site of land. I love that... :)

I now had to find a replacement and fast. Dockage at Southport was not cheap although it was a great marina. As a side note, the town of Southport was beautiful and the folks were fantastic. And best of all, I was able to find conch fritters at one of the local restaurants. I am always in search of a good conch fritter and I was not disappointed. All of the water front places had great food but I went back to The Provision Company for those fritters. If there, I highly recommend the place as well as a conch fritter if you never had one.

So Saturday I pulled out all the stops and started looking for help to finish the trip. None of the folks I knew were free at the time so I posted a crew wanted add on, a place on the web were you can talk sailing all the time, and waited.
Not long after, I had a call and the rest is history. Lets just say I got very lucky. Scott Watts, a delivery captain/mechanic/electrician/shipwright/master of all nautical answered the call and was available. I wonder if knowing what he knows now, he still would have answered. :) Oh well...we will never know...unless he posts a comment. :)

Anyway, he was at the boat on Sunday and we were prepped to leave Monday. We left the dock at around noon and immediately faced SW winds at 10 knots. Another great start to the trip. For the next 3 days, we knocked our brains senseless beating into SW winds the entire time. At this point, it was time to motor, but as I had mentioned in past posts, the motor and it's components have seen better years and it was nothing but problems. (One) of the biggest problem we ran into with the engine was all of the gunk at the bottom of the fuel tank getting sucked up into the fuel line and killing the engine. Eventually, we had to bypass the old tank with a new plastic tank on deck, but I will get to that later.

All said and done, and this is the very short version, we made it to Charleston, SC on Friday the 25th. A total of about 450 miles from Washington, NC and about 130 miles from Oak Island, NC.

There is one notable entry I did want to include on this leg of the trip. It happened about 20 miles off of Georgetown, SC at about 11:00pm. We were beating as usual into 4 to 5 foot seas heading SW in about 15 knots. We had a reef in the main and about half the jib out driving as well as could be expected into the seas. All of a sudden, and this is no joke, the winds completely died and the seas went flat. It was in an instant and I barely noticed it before I got a look at the15 foot wall of water coming directly from the stern, 180 degrees from the direction the winds and waves were just a minute prior. Somehow, Scott realized what was happening, got the tiller pilot off and lined up in the best possible spot to catch the wave just right. We got soaked as part of it broke over us, but Skylark was able to ride over the rest before getting put over on her side at about 35 degrees. We really did go flying, but Scott was able to get her back under control and turned around before two more waves, somewhere in the 10 foot range passed behind the first. No more than 30 seconds after the third wave passed, the winds picked up out of the SW again and the 4 footers were back as well from the SW.

Scott has been around the world multiple times on a sailboat and has never seen anything like it, especially in the Atlantic. There were no large ships around that could have thrown a wake like that and no one else that we could find that experienced the waves. We have no idea why they formed or where they came from but they were real and I would swear to it on a stack of whatevers. Rogue wave maybe? Well maybe, but who knows. I do know that if it hit us on the beam, it would have rolled us for sure. Lesson learned...when it's your watch, pay attention.

We wound up stopping at the Charleston Harbor Marina for the night...this is Friday the 25th now. Another really nice place, but a bit crowded for my liking. It was here that I made the decision to jump ship as I had to be back at work Monday and it was an easy place to leave from. I was really disappointed to say the least that I was not going to finish the trip, but I knew Skylark was in good hands.

This is another part that could go on and on, but lets just say the next few days were very eventful with the engine. Due to the weather on the outside, it was decided that Scott would finish the trip down the ICW from Charleston to Jacksonville. Well, after quite a few break downs and a new tiller post bracket and fuel tank, Scott and his buddy Gary made it to Jacksonville where Skylark will call home.

Bottom line, Scott and Gary got through a lot of issues to finish the trip and was as professional as you can get. There was never a time that Scott felt he couldn't complete the trip and did everything in his power to get his crew and the boat to it's destination safely. I would recommend Scott to ANYONE who needed a boat moved, built, restored, repaired, or anything boat related anytime. He works out of St. Augustine Florida and has a website, that shows what he can do. Please check it out.

So that's the story. I know it's a little condensed, but I think you will get the general gist. Keep an eye out for the upcoming adventures on the St. Johns.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New Neighbors

So I had heard from the locals that there was a family of manatee that like to stay in the protected waters of the marina. Today I was lucky enough to be welcomed to Florida by the calf. I can't believe how large these animals are. The parents were HUGE! It is so nice to see wildlife thriving so close to people like this. As a matter of fact, there is a very large turtle that hangs out under one of the piers. Have not gotten a pic of him yet, but I will do my best.

Monday, July 5, 2010

4th of July weekend in Jacksonville

It has been a busy few days, but we certainly have let ourselves enjoy the weather and the holiday on Skylark. Zachary has been a huge help and has been very excited every step of the way. He was especially excited when it was time to install the 19 inch flat screen Amy gave me. It fit perfectly on the port bulk head and was broken in with just the right movie...Jaws.

The marina had a barbecue yesterday and went all out with fantastic food and deserts. The pool hit the spot as the temps climbed into the 90s and the fireworks were unreal. We sat on the bow and watched at least 50 displays up and down the river. It went on for hours and seemed like it would never end. Zachary said we had seen enough fireworks for four 4th of Julys. I think he was right.

Went all out with dinner tonight and made brats, pasta and a salad. Started off with cheese and crackers as we watched a procession of fishing boats heading out for a night of crabbing. They seem to enjoy blocking all of the channels with their pots. It's a wonder they have any left with all the yahoos in their stink pots flying all over the place. Anyway...

It's a beautiful night and I just had a night cap while watching the other sailboats bob gently at the docks. It's real quiet here at night which is perfect for me. The people here are great and everyone has been so nice. I think this place will do very nicely. It has everything we need and then some.

Plan is to do a few more days of chores and then head on back Wednesday afternoon. Looking forward to getting home. Zachary will be coming to Asheville for two weeks in August right before he heads back to school so that will be a hoot as well.

So far so good here in Florida. As far as the trip details, I am still working on them. :)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Skylark is Home!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am extremely happy to announce that Skylark is officially HOME! At 5:00 this afternoon, the trip from Washington, NC to Jacksonville, FL came to an end and Skylark is safe and sound in her new birth in Flemming Island Marina. I can barely comprehend that fact, but needless to say, I am ecstatic. Zachary and I will be spending the 4th of July and a few days after getting her back to "non-cruising" state. She deserves a nice break after 3 hard core weeks at sea. I think we all do.

I promise to get the story up as soon as possible. I was waiting for the ending before starting the beginning. Thanks for all you support, it truly meant a lot.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Leg 2 Trip from Morehead City to Jacksonville Update

Sorry guys, I know there are quite few folks wondering what happened as again, a 4 to 5 day trip took more than 2 weeks. I have yet to wrap my head around all the events since I left for the boat on June 12th, but I will certainly give you a story and a half as soon as I can manage it. Bottom line for now is that everyone is ok and the boat is very near it's final destination. You just gotta love cruising. :)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Leg 2 to Jacksonville Update

I have been pretty hush hush lately about plans for our trip down to Jacksonville. We have run into so many snags over the last couple of months that I thought maybe I need to keep my mouth shut and just wait until it's real close. Well, we are leaving for the boat this afternoon to start preparations and provisioning. I hope that's close enough. :)

The plan is to leave Morehead City, NC tomorrow, Saturday June 12th. We have good weather forecast for the next few days, so as of now, we are looking good. The first big hurdle is getting around Cape Fear, but the weather looks like it will cooperate till Sunday morning before the winds change, so we should just make it far enough south west before having to head west when the winds come around.

The repaired sail was delivered to the boat on Wednesday, so I feel really good about the sails for the trip. Thanks to Paul at Omar Sails in Beaufort for getting that done for us. Dave and I need to install the new GPS, but other than that, I feel confident Skylark is ready. Who is Dave you ask? I will save that for another post. :) Allen was not able to join the trip this time, so I welcome Dave aboard for this leg.

If it's possible, I will ask Amy to post progress as we make our way down the coast. I don't plan on being very far off shore most of the way, so I am thinking we will have cell reception when we get closer to Charleston. As of now, we are not planning on stopping, but there are tons of inlets that have good anchorages, so if we need to, we will. Safety is of course key, so we will take our time and do it right. I plan to be in Jacksonville Thursday morning, but there is no such thing as a set schedule on a sailboat.

Wish us luck. If nothing else, I will post when we get in and let you all know how it went.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Abby Sunderland sets off both EPIRBs

After following blogs day in and day out you really start to know folks. Especially in the sense of cruisers, it almost becomes like a scattered family around the globe. So it really hits hard when news like this comes over the lines. Lets all hope she is OK and they get to her soon...

Teen sailor Abby Sunderland focus of emergency rescue effort

A rescue effort has been launched in hope of finding Abby Sunderland, 16, who set off her emergency beacon locating devices from the southern Indian Ocean early this morning.
Sunderland, who had been attempting to sail around the world alone, endured multiple knockdowns in 60-knot winds yesterday (Thursday local time) before conditions briefly abated.
However, her parents lost satellite phone contact early this morning and an hour later were notified by the Coast Guard at French-controlled Reunion Islands that both of Sunderland's EPIRB satellite devices had been activated.
One apparently is attached to a survival suit and meant to be used when a person is in the water or a life raft.
Abby's father struggled with emotions and said he didn't know if his daughter was in a life raft or aboard the boat, or whether the boat was upside down.
"Everything seemed to be under control," Laurence Sunderland said. "But then our call dropped and a hour later the Coast Guard called."
Abby is hundreds of miles from land. The rescue effort is being coordinated by the Reunion Islands and Australia. Sunderland had been sailing in 50- to 60-foot seas and it was dark when the EPIRB devices were activated.
The Sunderlands are asking people to pray for their daughter, a high-school junior from Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Abby was for several months one of two 16-year-olds attempting to sail around the world alone. Australia's Jessica Watson completed her journey last month, just days before turning 17.
Abby's brother Zac, who graduated from high school, completed a solo-circumnavigation last summer at 17.
The timing of Abby's trip was criticized by some because it was placing her in the middle of the Indian Ocean when the stormy Southern Hemisphere winter was at hand.
-- Pete Thomas

Status Update

Abby has been found alive and well. Her boat was damaged but is still sound. She should be picked up by a fishing vessel on Saturday

Friday, June 4, 2010

Chartplotter Update

Although the laptop loaded with SeaClear chartplotting software and a GPS puck is a good idea on paper, practical use revealed something very different. There were a few problems with the system, at least, on Skylark there was. I have touted SeaClear in the past, so I wanted to follow up for those of you thinking of going this route.

Don't get me wrong, SeaClear is a great for trip planning. I love it and will continue to use it when figuring out distances, way points, etc. For the price, free, its ease of use and general functionality, it's the way to go in my opinion. Since it uses NOAA charts which are also free to download, it's a win-win. With that said, unless you have a nice, dry and light controlled pilot house, I would recommend a true charplotter. Here is why...

There were multiple issues, but the biggest draw back is the glare from the sun making the screen virtually unreadable. Most of the time, we were unplugged from the inverter, so it was running off it's battery and very dark. It became a little frightening coming into Morehead City with nothing but a black screen and channel markers all over the place. Using it on deck was impossible, so we had to keep running below to find a dark corner to crouch in and yell up way points. Of course night time use is a lot better, but its still tough to use on deck.

The second draw back we found was having to charge the batteries all the time. This brought the house bank down pretty quickly. Of course having methods to keep up with the batteries like solar or wind chargers would help with this one, but I think it just not worth it in the end, it just takes too much juice with out a dedicated charging system.

The last draw back back was having a laptop in a rocking, sometimes violently moving boat. There is no "safe" surface on Skylark where you could put the laptop without the possibility of it flying across the boat. Allan's laptop went soaring across the cabin but miraculously landed on the settee cushions. Between that and the salt, I have been told by other cruisers you are lucky to get a few months out of it before it's dead from corrosion. You can get a Toughbook, which I would suggest anyway if you bring it on board for long periods, but they are a bit expensive.

So for the trip to Jacksonville, I went ahead and got a Garmin GPSMAP 441 Chartplotter. I got a great price and it comes loaded with all of the east coast charts as well as the Bahamas. Buying charts separately for these things costs a fortune, so I think it was a good deal. It gets mounted directly to the boat, is made to get wet and can be read in the sun. Power usage is low, so there you go, a perfect package all rolled into one.

Quick overview:

The GPSMAP 441 has faster map drawing and panning speeds. Plus, these waterproof units, have a high-sensitivity internal GPS receiver,compatible with various NMEA 2000 components

The GPSMAP 441 is a compact chartplotter that features an ultra-bright 4” QVGA color display along with an improved high-speed digital design for increased map drawing and panning speeds. It’s ready to go with an easy-to-use interface and a built-in, satellite-enhanced basemap preloaded with all U.S. coastal areas, including Alaska and Hawaii as well as detailed charts for Bermuda. The GPSMAP 441 also accepts BlueChart® g2 Vision cards for added features and functionality such as high-resolution satellite imagery, 3D views and Auto Guidance technology.

The GPSMAP 441 comes ready to go with preloaded U.S. coastal area map data. For areas outside the U.S., the GPSMAP 441 has a worldwide basemap with satellite images in place of more traditional maps. The GPSMAP 441 also comes standard with a high-sensitivity GPS receiver for superior satellite tracking and quicker acquisition times. In addition, the GPSMAP 441 can receive U.S. graphical weather data via optional GXM 51 satellite receiver/antenna. And with an SD card slot, it’s easy to add additional maps without connecting to a computer.

I am looking at a 21watt solar panel as well to help with off-shore battery charging, but that's another post. :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jacksonville Trip Update

Sorry I have not posted much lately, but work responsibilities have been brutal. Here is the latest and (not so) greatest updates...
As of today the sail is still not repaired, so I am going to have to push the date of departure to the week of June 7th. Along with the repair, I have had an unforeseen work commitment pop up that cannot be moved, so this delay is a definite at this point. Needless to say, I am quite disappointed, but there is nothing that can be done. The good news is the winds have been turning to a more consistent northerly direction which will help our cause greatly. In general though, the weather really hasn't been very good with rain and winds daily up to 25 to 30 mph, a big reason why the sail is not done. Still very unpredictable, but it is getting better. It's only a matter of time now, but it seems like six months since the first leg and not just a little over one.

Some stats on the leg from Beaufort to the Jacksonville Inlet. From inlet to inlet, we are looking at 352 miles. If we get the weather window we are hoping for, we could make that in just under 3 days at an average of 5 knots. I feel pretty comfortable with that number as we were actually averaging around 6 knots with a 15knot breeze on leg one, so I think that's a safe estimate. We will be no more than 40 miles off shore at the furthest point, but closer to 20 once we hit Charleston, SC the rest of the way down. I have a screenshot of the trip route taken from SeaClear. The red line shows the way.

From the mouth of the Jacksonville Inlet, it is 32 miles down the river to Skylark's new home. That will take about 8 hours or so to do. Fortunately, the vertical clearance necessary to get under all the bridges is 60 feet, so with skylark being only 46 feet off the water, it's a clear shot all the way. Now, lets just hope hurricane season doesn't start early this year.

Oh, and if anyone would be interested to take part in this leg, let me know. I can work with the dates a bit, but I am figuring on the later part of the June 7th week for now. Certainly would not mind an extra hand or two, so give me a shout if its a possibility.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 28th

So May 28th is the start date we have set for the second leg of the trip. I cannot believe the weather the last few weeks and truly hope we get some of the westerly winds we are looking for. Regardless, I am ready to go. To be honest, and to some folks surprise, I have been ready to go since the day we got back from leg one. :)

Since we have been waiting anyway, I had decided to get some restitching done on the head sail as some of the UV cover had pulled away in the last storm along with a 6 inch tear along a seam that got caught on the spreaders. I spoke with Paul today, the rigger from the sail loft doing the repairs and they still have not been able to get the sail down due to the weather. As most of you with a boat know, it's really tricky trying to pull a large genoa off a roller furler in 25 knt winds. For those of you who don't have a boat, to get a sail down from a  roller furler, the thingy that rolls the sail up at the front of the boat, you have to "pull out" or unroll the entire sail before pulling it down the forstay track. This causes a big problem in heavy winds and is basically impossible for one person to do by themselves. Tomorrow though looks promising in the early morning. With Morehead City being so close to the ocean, the sea breeze tends to kick up in the afternoon and stays pretty consistent through the night. Again, fingers crossed on this as we are running out of time.

Got an update on the winch. It is officially shot and the parts are near impossible to find. I will have to do some searching for a replacement when we get down to FL. In the meantime, we will use the winch that's there, it will just require a little more effort occasionally. Since leg two consists mostly of off-shore sailing, we won't have to, hopefully anyway, tack that often, so we should be ok.

I will have more updates to follow as the weekend gets closer.

Monday, May 3, 2010

That Time Again

Depending on weather, which by the way has been very difficult to predict in April, I am looking to see if we can start Leg 2 to Jacksonville on or around May 21st or 28th. We are estimating about 4 days from dock to dock if we get the right conditions. I am hoping once we start getting into May, the winds swing a little bit more to the west. The winds have been either SW or SSW for weeks now, directly in the direction we want to go. Will have to keep checking with, but for the next 10 days or so, we are looking at SSW winds the whole time.

In the mean time, I am having someone down to look at the port winch that broke on our last leg. Hopefully these guys will have the right parts for a 42 year old winch as a new one is a cost prohibitive at this point. It still works, but we lost the ratcheting functionality, the basic principal behind how it keeps the sheets from spinning the winch freely and injuring the the crew. Hoping to hear back from them this week. Fingers crossed.

I was in Jacksonville last weekend visiting family and stopped by the new marina to check out the pool they just put in. We lucked out as they were having a grand opening party with barbecue, some cocktails and some good folks. Really looking forward to getting down there and enjoying the summer. The marina and the pool looks great and will be a great place to keep Skylark.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

And now for Something Completely Different...

Amy and I decided to get back to the water this weekend, but in a different sort of way. We packed a few breakfast bars, some dried fruit, bananas and a jug of water and headed out to Brevard, NC, about 45 minutes from Asheville to do some waterfall hunting. Fortunately, we found our prey easily in DuPont State Park, home to 5 great falls in easy hiking distance. The weather was iffy, but we timed it perfectly only getting drizzled on for a minute or two. The cold front that moved through kept us cool and out of the sun, a perfect day for a hike.

After we finished the hike, we went into down town Brevard for some lunch. The beer was cold and the food was excellent at a place called the Square Root. If ever in the area, check it out.

Have some pics, enjoy...

The falls. They were running fast this time.

Looking forward to some swimming in the river at the bottom

We had some problems with the woodland creatures and our only way out was for Amy to get all street on their ass.

I had to calm down a bit after the ordeal was over.

As we climbed out of the river basin, the trees tried to pull us in with an all out root attack.

Again, Amy had to come to the rescue using her Wonder Twin powers to save us.

I was a heck of a trip, but we made it home unscathed.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Long Term Plans

For those of us who work towards a "Long Term Plan", I came across a post on a sailing forum today that quite honestly changed my views of planning the future completely. In this forum, a gentleman asked for opinions on their Long Term Plans to see if their sailing future was a possibility. Basically, he wanted to know if in 18 years, could he and his wife leave their land based life behind and sail off into the sunset. A very good question and it was obvious they took most everything into account when making their plans. One of the responses he received however is something that I will never forget and felt it worth putting here for all of you to read. I hope you get as much out of this as I did. I want to thank Dave on the s/v Maxingout for the following post.

You have long range plans with lots of assumptions about the future.

My experience is that life is a non-linear experience, and assumptions about the future are not worth very much.

Long range plans to me only have meaning for six months to twelve months in the future, and even then things can change radically.

I wrote a page on one of my websites called "The Man With The Unplan".

THE MAN WITH THE UNPLAN*** I am the man with the unplan

I am the man with the unplan. What is the unplan? The unplan is simple: my long range plans are firmly set in jello, and are therefore subject to revision, reversal, and massive change. Although I know who I am and where I am going, I don't have any long term plans set in concrete.

My life is full of maybes, perhaps, and possibilities, but real long range plans are clearly out of the question. Three of my colleagues who had long term plans are no longer alive, and the handwriting is on the wall and in clear focus. The message says, "Today is the only day I have, and I need to make it count for something good."

I used to be a man with a plan, When I was halfway through college, I made a plan to go to medical school, and I did it right on schedule. But after that, the unplan took over. When I was an intern, I planned to become a pathologist, but instead, I became an eye surgeon. I planned to practice general ophthalmology, and instead became a retina and vitreous surgeon. I made a plan to work overseas in Saudi Arabia for five years, and instead stayed for eleven years before I set sail on the ocean of my dreams. I planned to spend two years sailing around the world on my yacht, and it took eleven more years to complete my circumnavigation.

Life has been full of twists, turns, and reverses, and it's easy to see why I am the man with the unplan. I didn't realize I was the man with the unplan until I had a car accident in New Zealand. When I rolled the van I was driving, I broke two legs, five ribs, one scapula, and I punctured one lung. I spent nine days in the intensive care unit, had three operations, and received seven units of blood - all of this was quite unplanned. I stayed in the hospital for two months and gradually regained my ability to walk. It took six months to be able to bend my right knee ninety degrees, and that made it difficult to climb on and off my yacht.

While I was hobbling around on crutches in Whangerei, New Zealand, I passed a real estate office that had an advertisement in the window for waterfront property - one kilometer of ocean frontage. At the bottom of the advertisement were the words, "For long term plans." I looked at those words and burst out laughing. Those words - long term plans - were massively presumptuous in the world in which I lived. In my world, I didn't know if I would ever walk normally again. Skipping and running were out of the question. First, I had to progress from hobbling to limping. Even my trip around the world on my sailboat was up in the air; I didn't know when or if it would ever continue.

I realized then and there that I was the man with the unplan. Although I had a general direction to my life, and I had a list of things a mile long I wanted to do, I no longer had solid plans or even a schedule. My life was full of possibilities, but long term plans were a thing of the past. When you are fifty old, and you don't know how much time you have left, you leave the long term plans to young whippersnappers who feel like they are immortal.

Since that time, I have been living more in the moment. I have a general direction to my unplanned existence. I planed to sail across the Atlantic Ocean sometime in November, December, or January, conditions permitting. I will probably cruise in the Caribbean from January to June, and then I will arrive back in the USA in June, July, or August. That's my unplan.

The truth is, I was never very good at squeezing my life into any type of mold, and plans are sometimes the most restrictive molds of all . Anyway, the majority of my plans have turned out different, maybe even better, than I had hoped. So I have decided to stick with my unplan and see what happens. One thing you know for certain, we will be surprised when we see how it all turns out.

By the way, God, if you happen to be listening, I would appreciate it if you would extend my unwitting and unplanned existence for another forty or fifty years, because there is so much to do and so little time, and I want to make the next fifty years into a real adventure. I promise I will do better this time. Amen.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sailboat 7 Day Diet Plan

Since there is a diet geared to just about everything else out there, I thought why not have one based on a week of sailing. OK, you have asked for it, so here it is:

Lose 7 pounds in 7 days!

1) Get yourself a sailboat and a week off of work. Be sure to pick a weather window that is quite questionable

2) Bring just enough crew to make the trip insurable. In most cases, this is 2 people total

3) Bring food that's not so great even in the best circumstances

4) Make sure your watches completely exhaust you so that the thought of anything other than bed makes you sick

5) Be sure your anchorages are rough and windy causing sleep deprivation and "anchor dragging" anxiety (Remember, excess anxiety is the key to this step)

6) Repeat steps 1 through 5 daily for seven days

7) Take a look at yourself if you can bare it on the 7th day and see how it went

For even better results, repeat steps 1 through 5 until you are anemic or in need of medical attention.

Please send $5.00 to S/V Skylark if you want this incredible new weight loss program sent directly to your companionway hatch. :)

I am not just the president, I am also a client!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Leg 1 - Washington, NC to Morehead City, NC

I have a lot of updates and don't know exactly where to start, so I will follow along with the Log Book and add the juicy details along the way. As far as pics, I have a few to add, but as you continue to read the progress of Skylark on the trip, you will understand why we don't have as many as you would expect...

Day 1, April 13
My sailing buddy Allen came in from West Virginia that morning arriving at the dock at about 3:30. While I was waiting for him, I did the final preparations to the boat as was ready to go when he got there. I had been at the boat since Monday and was able to get through most of the last minute details saving quite a bit of time. Once we had his gear stowed, we ran to the store for a last few things and was back at the boat by 4:30. We cut the lines at 5:00 and headed down the creek for the last time. I really enjoyed my time at McCotters. The folks on my dock were the nicest people and always lent a hand no matter what. Special thanks to Iverson, Robert and Glen for every thing you had done for me in the last year. It is very much appreciated. I can only hope my neighbors in Florida are as nice.

The weather when we left was about 80 degrees and sunny. Winds were ESE @ 5 to 10 knots. With only about two and a half hours of sailing before we lost the sun, it was decided we would stop for the night in Bath. Never being there before, I had not realized how shallow and narrow the entrance to bath was and for the first time on the trip, we kissed bottom. We were going very slow and easily backed off. With the sun gone, we got as close as we could to the leeward shore and dropped anchor. It was a cool night falling into the 50's with about 15 knot gusts and the occasional sprinkle. There was some chop as well, so I set a stern anchor to keep us tight into the wind. With no one else around, it worked well and kept us relatively still.
We didn't get much sleep that night so it was a bit of a rough start.
Sorry, no pics of the first day.

*Quick note: The engine had been leaking oil from the start of the trip and we had watched it carefully when ever it was running. It never caused an issue as oil pressure and temperature were exactly where they should have been the entire time. What it turned out to be was that the reservoir was slightly over filled, and it caused the oil to leak out an over flow. Once we got to the correct oil level, the leak disappeared.

Day 2, April 14
Allen's alarm had us up at 7:30 and it was time to make some coffee. The weather was still overcast and windy blowing around 15 knots again and it was 46 degrees. Even though there is a plaque on the stove that says don't use for comfort heating, I put two burners on and warmed the boat up a bit. We left about 8:30 heading towards Indian Island and the mouth of the Pamlico River and Sound. At that point, we had a decision to make. We could cross the sound and head out Ocracoke Inlet or, head down the ICW and go towards Beaufort Inlet. NOAA made the decision for us. The winds on the sound were 15 kts+ and the waves were upwards of 5 feet. We decided to head down the ICW instead and let the passing front move out before heading to bigger water. I am glad we did as the sailing on the Neuse River was amazing. So with the decision made, we headed SW and sailed on to Oriental, NC. This was my first time down the ditch this far up and enjoyed some of the sights. It was also my first time under a fixed bridge with Skylark and breathed a sigh of relief when we made it under. I am 46 feet off the water and the bridge was 65. Even knowing that, it seems like it was going to hit regardless. But alas, we made it unscathed and it made for some good pics.

We made it to Oriental harbor and dropped the anchor at exactly 6:00 pm. We had about 6 boats anchored there with us and the weather cleared and was beautiful. I whipped up a good dinner and got ready for bed. This would be our best nights sleep in many days.

Day 3, April 15
We picked up the anchor at 8:00am and started across the river to pick up the ICW. It was a little cool, but sunny and clear with winds at our back at 5-10 knots. Our destination for today was the turning basin in Beaufort. We figured it would take a while to cover the 20 or so miles especially just motoring, so we figured we would take our time as we would anchor in Beaufort for the night before heading out. There was very little traffic on the water so we just plugged along down the middle of the channel till around 11:00 when we pulled into Boch Marine to top off water, get ice and oil and charge the batteries. It was an easy approach, but the tidal drop is close to 4 feet. We had plenty of water however and was able to get everything accomplished accept ice. There is very little there, both services and amenities, so I would recommend going a bit further to the next marina if you are in the area. We left at 12:30 and continued to Beaufort. We made extremely good time and saw the Beaufort port cranes and water towers on the horizon not long after.

*Another side note. The ICW channel is extremely narrow heading into Beaufort, so be sure to watch your depth sounder like a hawk. We kissed the bottom but didn't get stuck because we veered out of the channel just a couple of feet.

At 1:45, we motored under the fixed and train bridge into the port of Beaufort and headed for the inlet. It was exactly 2:00 pm as we crossed into the Atlantic. The weather was perfect with seas at 1 to 2 feet and a 10-15 knot breeze. The problem however was the the wind was out of the SW, directly on our nose. So we were left with two options. We could sail west towards the coast and then tack south and run up the coast to our mark where we could cross Cape Fear, or, we could sail due south about 45 miles out to sea, tack once to a straight shot to the Jacksonville Inlet. Looking at the charts and considering the weather, we decided to head south to sea and keep a safe distance between us and land.

We had all the sails up and were cruising at around 5.5 knots. The sea state was still quite comfortable and so was the southerly breeze.

Day 4, April 16
As the night continued, we started our watches. About 3 hours on, 3 hours off. It was 4 hours till we were completely out of sight of land. Maybe another hour till we lost sight of the Point Look out Light off to the north east. It's quite a feeling not being able to see land. There were no other ships out, so we were very much alone on a very big sea. The real fun came when the sun went down. There was only a sliver of a moon and the stars were incredible. It got so dark you truly couldn't see the bow of the boat or the top of the mast. You could hear the sails ruffle now and then, but couldn't see them. The only light was coming from the compass. A tiny red glow that barely allows you to make out your course. But not long after, I switched on the running lights as well as the mast lights and it lit the boat up for all to see. We only say one ship that night, a tanker probably on the way to Beaufort.

By dawn however, things were starting to change. The last NOAA report we listened to as well as other weather services predicted Friday's weather to be sunny with winds 10 to 5 knots. By 6:00 am however, the wind was already at 15 knots guesting higher. The seas too were growing and now crested at about 6 feet. Annoying yes, dangerous, no. We reduced sail and pressed on for another hour when we notice the wind and waves both picking up dramatically. Again we listened to the NOAA broadcast but this time, it had changed to winds at 25 to 30 knots and seas 8 to 10 feet. OK, this was getting a bit more interesting especially being 50 miles off shore.

Not being dramatic, but this is the last picture we were able to take for days.

Only an hour later, the winds were 30 to 35 knots and 10 foot waves were the norm with some a little higher. The other issue was that it was not supposed to weaken until Sunday, so we would have to cross Frying Pan shoals in this with winds and waves picking up even higher. We had another decision to make.

With no real end in sight, we decided to head back to Beaufort and let the waves push us there. It would be a long day, but we figured we could make it back before dark. It was the right decision to make. Not long after we turned around on a due north course, the winds gusted higher and we were seeing waves over 15 feet come directly from the stern. Skylark's cockpit is about 4 feet from the water, so we are talking waves nearly 4 times that coming from behind and lifting us way up and then dropping us into the following troughs. It went from very annoying to survival. It does make you look at things a little differently, but my only concern at the time was the safety of Allen and getting us all home.
We were both tethered to the boat and stayed on deck together. The waves were very steep making the ride unbearable but we did keep moving in the right direction. Many times, the waves broke over the cockpit soaking the both of us.
It wasn't until about 4:00 pm when we spotted land again. We were so exhausted that we barely made it. Because of the winds, we had to shoot for Cape Lookout bight, a small inlet that would give us protection. We did make it around 7:00 pm. We dropped the anchor, and passed out. Literally.

Didn't know Allen took this one...

Day 5, April 17
We stayed in the bight through Saturday due to the wind and waves still blowing and decided we would have to postpone the rest of the trip to Jacksonville for a couple of weeks as we both ran out of time. In days, we got through half of the trip. In miles, we have about 350 to go. We will do this over a long weekend in the beginning of May. Right now, Skylark is safe and sound in a marina in Morehead City and ready to go. Being about 15 minutes from the ocean will be a great place to start and allow us to have much better forecasting. April is a tough month for weather, so I guess all in all, we lucked out.

Day 6, April 18
We left the bite at 8:00 am and sailed 12 miles to Morehead City where as I mentioned we have Skylark in a marina near the inlet. She will be looked after there well until we get the rest of the way down. We were in by 1:00 and I was back home in Asheville by 10:00pm. The best part of it all was I was back in my own bed. About 2:00am however I woke Amy up and asked her to check the anchor.:)

So that's it for the story but I wanted to put this out there for anyone that might be looking for a boat. The Cal 34 is an incredibly well made boat that handled very tough conditions with ease. Her design is just perfect for heavy weather and the confidence I know have in her is off the charts. I would take her anywhere and would recommend a Cal to anyone thinking of long distance cruising. And that's first hand experience.

And of course I wanted to thank Allen for coming along on this adventure. I know it was tough, but we got through it and looking back, it was a hell of a ride. Allen has already signed up for the next leg so that obviously says something...and thats, we are both nuts. I have made a friend and that is always a good thing. Not to mention, he might need crew to help bring his boat down to the Caribbean. :)