If all good things must come to an end, then it had to happen sooner or later. After 7 years and nearly 400 tips, DIY projects, yarns, and wordy expressions of opinion, we have decided to end our Monday posts and shut down the website. We will still be sharing tips and great information on our facebook page, and pictures of both the practical and eye candy variety on Instagram. So as we and technology move along, please move with us and like and follow us at either or both of those locations. And as always, feel free to swing by and say hi when you share an anchorage with Eurisko. Thanks for all the support. See you out there.

Sail North to Go South Part 1

July 4, 2016

Cruising requires a degree of flexibility that few people encounter in their "normal" lives. Weather-dependent behavior consists of not going to the beach if it is forecasted to rain, rather than not being able to go to the grocery store for two weeks. Vacation destinations are chosen for their sightseeing opportunities, amenities, and culture, not according to the direction of the prevailing winds. And never does traveling south first require a several-day jaunt NORTH. At the speed of a slow walk.

In October of our second year of cruising, we were ending a workstop in Solomons Island, Maryland, provisioning and preparing ourselves, the boat, and our three boys for a meander to the Caribbean. The boys said goodbye to the local friends they had made during our stop, my colleagues threw me a mini-bon voyage party my last day at work, the bilges were full of food, and charts, cruising guides, and dreams of palm trees filled our every waking hour. We were finally on our way!

Too far north

Our youngest son worked the manual windlass to raise the anchor while our oldest cleaned the Chesapeake Bay mud from the chain. My husband, Dave, put our 23-year old motor in gear and we all froze. Something wasn't right. The motor was having to work far too hard to push Eurisko at even harbor speeds, and Dave had very little steerage. A quick mental checklist led us to the conclusion that her bottom (and therefore her prop) was fouled. We had been stopped, working rather than sailing, for several months, and in the tannin-colored waters of the Bay, we couldn't see the marine growth likely slowing our progress. Out of sight out of mind only worked until we tried to use the motor. Knowing that the best solution was a haulout, we turned off the motor as soon as we were out of the harbor, and sailed toward Pt. Lookout Marina.

We scheduled a haul for "first thing in the morning," so now all we had to do was get there. We approached their challenging channel at sunset (5:11), just as the wind died, leaving us scrambling. Our kerosene port and starboard lights were still stowed (we hadn't planned on sailing at night) so we turned on the electric ones. Since we usually burn kerosene lights, we hadn't replaced the electric stern light that an earlier lightning strike had fried, so we filled the kerosene anchor light, wrapped half of it in aluminum foil, and called it a stern light. We plugged in the spotlight, slalomed our way around crab pot bouys, and strained to find the unlit marker that was farther out than the lighted ones at the tricky corner. Then the fog rolled in as we got close to shore. We were guessing where and how far off shore we were anchoring because it's really hard to tell distance by a spotlight, in the fog. Anchor down, Smith Creek off the Potomac.

Breaking the ice around the boat

The next morning was so cold the coffee in the French Press was tepid by the time it finished brewing. Time to go south. But first a quick haul, pressure wash, and back on our way. Or so we thought. Once we could use the motor again, it convinced us that we needed more than a pressure wash to fix this problem. The transmission started making a horrendous noise and slipping in and out of gear. While he had the motor box off checking the transmission fluid (which seemed to be leaking), he checked the engine oil, too. You could hear echoes of the nails being hammered into the coffin of our trip south. There was metal in the oil.

Rather than push our luck, we turned off the motor and long tacked down the Bay, crossing the shipping lanes far too many times for comfort. After dark, crossing the shipping lanes got too stressful, so we sailed into the Great Wicomico River at 6 knots, only to feel the wind slowly die until we anchored under sail in almost no wind.

Once we were stopped we could consider our problem and possible solutions. Our choices seemed to be to use the motor so that if she was going to die she did it while we were on the Chesapeake where we had resources and connections or to use it only when we needed it so it didn't completely die as soon. The answer was obvious, but we still had to convince ourselves. As much as we hated to give up our trip to the Caribbean, we really didn't want the motor to finally die while we were approaching a bridge on the ICW. We postponed making any definite decision until we talked to a Volvo mechanic about our options. The closest one we knew of was in Deltaville, Virginia, so we continued our southward trek.

The next day was the beginning of a new habit for us. Born of necessity that season on the Bay, sailing off the anchor, sailing to our destination, and anchoring under sail became a common occurrence that we still enjoy, over a decade later, even when we have a working motor. We set the drifter, bobbed, floated with the tide, occasionally hit 4 knots, and got very familiar with the surrounding area as we spent 12 hours sailing 9 miles, only 6 of them actually toward our destination. Anchor down barely out of the channel, at the mouth of Dividing Creek.

Another sunrise saw us sailing off our anchor, but this time we had wind. It seems the closer we get to tricky sailing, the more wind there is, because after 25 miles, as we approached the channel into Fishing Bay in Deltaville, we were short-tacking at 6 knots. In a narrow channel, at those speeds, blowing a tack put us outside the channel and in danger of running aground. But quick thinking and an even quicker tack brought us safely around, and by the time we sailed into the anchorage we had forgotten our motor woes and were actually enjoying sailing.

The death tolls of our Volvo were rung by the mechanic in Deltaville who quoted us a price to rebuild our transmission that was a third of the price of a new motor. Now we could no longer deny our fate. We needed to repower. For a fleeting moment we considered throwing the damn thing overboard and just sailing to the Caribbean, but we decided there would be too many places we couldn't go and things we couldn't see if we tried that. Like Dave said, "We're just not that good." The next question was where to be for the months required to install a new motor. Our needs were simple: a dock to make working on the boat easier and so we could have heat for the coming cold months. We had connections (friends, family, and a marina where Dave used to work) in Baltimore, so with a boat fully provisioned to go to the Caribbean, with a crew of five who was counting on the days getting longer and warmer with every passing mile, and with a first mate in tears, Dave turned Eurisko north up the Bay the next day.

But the fun still wasn't over. MONDAY we'll continue the story of how we sailed north to go south.


Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?

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