Friday, May 5, 2017

Blossom's Out of the Shed and Ready to Cruise

A calm evening

It was wonderful being back on board! Our time back on Blossom began with a long weekend of storms. The temperature dropped 30 degrees and we had thunder and lightning with pouring down rain. It was awesome! The cool weather meant we could open the doors and windows and get down to business without sweating to death.

When we arrived, the boat was half washed. I wish I’d taken a picture of our swim platform. There was no fiberglass for want of bird poo. But they came and finished the job on Saturday and Blossom was looking spiffy again.

Our first night having happy hour on the flybridge, I insisted, though it was a tad cold 😊
A few nights later it was more comfortable

The first few days were spent doing the basics. Everything had to be cleaned – not only had she been sitting for months, but we had bug-bombed right after we left to get rid of our weevil infestation. (It still sounds weird and I have no clue how we managed to be infested by those things.) We had covered all openings to the boat with plastic sheeting so there was surprisingly little dust and no bugs aboard. I was grateful for this as we’re under a shed and spiders are plentiful here (spiders turn me into a shrieking hysterical mess.) And all systems, machines and appliances had to be started up and tested to make sure they still worked. I've elaborated upon our "spring commissioning list" below in "Boat Business".

We did a couple provisioning runs while we were here. The first was apparently too big – both Martin’s and my credit card were refused and we were issued Fraud Alerts. We got that cleared up and now the boat is well stocked with everything from salt and pepper to wine and beer. One must have the essentials!

Luna Moth

This gorgeous little creature got blown onto our boat deck while we were in the shed. I did some research and found that it’s a Luna Moth. Without a mouth, they live a short life - meant to love and die. I released him into the trees, I hope he got lucky!

While we were gone, we had some canvas work done. We were really happy to return and find that he did a great job, we’re really happy with it.

Storm Plate Cover

Center Console

Cover for the toys

The marina is incredibly busy right now because we’re in the midst of the “northern migration”. All the folks who spent the winter and spring down south, in Florida, Keys. Bahamas, and beyond are returning north as hurricane season approaches to get out of the insurance exclusion zone. There's also a 40th Anniversary bash for Krogen's up in RI so there have been tons of gorgeous Kady Krogen's heading through as well. The yard gets hit with a double whammy because they store a lot of the northern boats, who, like us, want to get out and start their season now that the weather is nice up here. 

 Heading north
Boats waiting for the bridge which opens on the hour

The Wednesday after we arrived there was room for us on the dock so we quickly moved the boat over – with so many boats passing through we grabbed the dock space when we could. It felt great to be out of the shed and into the sunshine and we were entertained all day long with the constant stream of boats coming up and station keeping as they await the bridge.

Martin felt a bit rusty after 8 months but he did great!

Blossom at the dock

The view our first night having happy hour on the flybridge at the dock

One afternoon I went to see if we had any packages waiting for us and I saw this mess piled in front of the store:

Our life raft

Later that afternoon we were told that that mess was our life raft! It had been sent to Winslow for recertification (life rafts have to be recertified every 2-3 years depending on the brand). What a shock to find out that ours somehow deployed while being shipped back. The shipper piled all the contents onto a pallet, shrink-wrapped it and delivered it that way :/  This is a big ticket item and we’ve been told we’ll be getting a new one free of charge. I sure hope so!

I took walks in the morning and have a few photos showing the area around AYB. 

 Goose with a heck of a lot of babies

Chesapeake Mosquito control - spraying along the roadside

View from a wooded walking path of the crowded dock with Blossom squeezed in there

I was thrilled to finish a quilting project while we were here too! I started it in 2013 - I'm a very slooow quilter. Here it is, hung in our stateroom but visible from the galley through the mirror.


Although we were a bit isolated on this visit, sticking to the boat most of the time, we did enjoy a really lovely evening with a couple currently doing the "loop". We noticed a beautiful  trawler across the way one day and went to get a better look. She was a 43 foot red-hulled American Tug. Gorgeous! We shared a great evening with her fabulous owners whom we hope we'll meet again along our journey.

And so our 2 weeks flew by in a haze of cleaning, provisioning, commissioning, repairing, prepping and a bit of socializing. She's in the process of being detailed (polish all the stainless & waxed) and Ed came by the morning we left to clean the bottom and check our zincs so we should be good to go when we return in mid-May.

It felt wonderful to be back on the boat and it was hard to leave her again when it was time to head back to Florida. We're looking forward to returning and spending a little over 2 weeks slowly winding our way up north to Annapolis.

Boat Business:

Martin re-commissioning Petal & the davit

As expected, we found a few things that had gone awry over the past 8 months, some were no surprise, others were a bit perplexing. The big-ticket items that failed include: Sea-Fire, Wavenet units on both generators and the bilge pump. Our spring commissioning included testing all systems, equipment and appliances. A full list of re-commissioning is below with more details.

Systems & Equipment:
o  Fresh water system: Ran water to get rid of coolant used to winterize the boat
o  Black water system
o   Install new Seagull water filter in the kitchen sink
o   Wing engine
o   Hydraulics: thrusters, windlass and raw water pump
o   Main Engine. Had to by-pass the Sea Fire to start it and tightened a few clamps to put a small coolant leak off
o   High bilge pump - filled the bilge to it's tippy top to verify it would turn on
o   Dinghy engine and bilge pump
o   Davit
o   AC system - replaced air handler screens and added tablets
o   Sea Fire – Died over the winter. It was sent out, returned and Martin reinstalled it in the 2 weeks we were aboard
o   Bilge pump –It was rebuilt and reinstalled within a few days
o   Generators. Both gens started up no problem but both Wavenets (remote control panels) were blinking and had to be sent back for reprogramming. Martin will install them when they get returned to us
o   Ultrasonic hull cleaner. We have 2 units and one failed a few days ago. We’ll order a new one to be install later in the month

Appliances and gadgets:
o   Eartec Headsets - a necessity for us!
o   Replace batteries in fire & co2 alarms. One alarm broke and needs to be replaced
o   Sewing machines, running great!
o   Kitchen appliances: Replaced our toaster oven that had been acting up last season.
o   Clothes washer and dryer – swept the dryer vent as it'd been taking longer and longer to dry clothes last season
o   TV: Martin replaced the tv in the guest stateroom with a slightly larger smart tv. We got a smart tv in Florida and I love it – having access to Amazon and Netflix is wonderful!

o  Sort through the Ditch bag and Medical bag and replace expired contents  
o  Polish screens
o   Clean lines 
o   Lube the flopper stopper tracks
o   Cockpit chairs have been bleeding rusty circles forever, we sealed them up with nail varnish and will replace the screws later this summer
o   Added felt pads to 9k gen pump. It “clicks” and drove me nuts, now we can’t hear it from the stateroom.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Returning to Blossom!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 8 months since we said goodbye to Blossom, tucked up under her shed in Virginia. We expected to be back by the end of March at the latest but hadn’t planned on our lives changing as they did after our return to California!

To make a long story short, we made a quick and somewhat surprising decision (even to us) to move to St. Petersburg, Florida shortly after we returned home last summer. To paraphrase, a friend of ours said, “if it’s meant to be, it’ll be easy”. And with the move, everything just fell into place, including finding a house when we weren’t really house-hunting… And so we started off the year in a new town and a new home where we hope to grow old(er) 😊.  

Our 2017 Cruising Season is going to be a bit different than we had thought as we’ve decided to do some renovations to our house and yard that are going to keep us busy over the next year. We’re a bit too hands-on to leave when there’s so much happening at our new home so we’re going to try to do a little bit of everything. Rather than explore the NE coast we’re going to keep Blossom in Annapolis and poke around Chesapeake Bay throughout the summer and into fall. We may leave her at AYB again next fall/winter and pick up our original plans in 2018. We’ve found a home base for the summer in a key-hole marina that should keep her safe through hurricane season if any storms decide to head north again this year. It’s within a bike/Lyft ride of Annapolis and an added benefit to this location is that we can fly non-stop to BWI. We’re hoping to spend at least 2 weeks a month aboard to give us time to hang on the hook and explore the nooks and crannies with our dingy and kayaks. Though we’ve moved east, we still plan to live aboard Blossom and cruise a portion of each year. We think we’ll be keeping Blossom up north for a few years, cruising late spring through early fall to escape the brutal hot summers in Florida.

So here we are!  We’ve been a bit apprehensive about returning to Blossom after so many months (okay, I’ve been apprehensive, Martin is totally nonplused) – but it’s undeniable that boats don’t like to sit idle and 8 months is very long time. Not sure of what we’d find, we’ve come on a one-way ticket. AYB is a great facility and she’s been under cover in brackish water so fingers are crossed! If all goes well we’ll get her commissioned and around to the dock in the next couple of weeks and then return mid-May-ish for a leisurely trip to Annapolis.

We have our work cut out for us - this is what we returned to…

All windows covered, cupboards open, clothes vacuum packed and humidifier on. The next week or two will be spent putting her back in order. We’ll blog at the end of the week with a commissioning report.

Stepping aboard Blossom truly felt like coming home. She’s a train wreck, but she’s home 😊

Our travels will be a bit more contained this year than in the past, but who knows what adventures await us!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Land Lubbers For A While

Blossom under cover 

Well, we’re back in CA now. After 10 hours of travel we found ourselves 3000 miles away, 30 degrees cooler and land-bound once more.

Our last week at AYB was crazy busy. We were so sad to say goodbye to Jo & Robbie after spending the most wonderful time with them coming up from Charleston. We enjoyed our last dinner out at the Pirate’s Cove and then said goodbye the following morning as they continued their journey northward.

Neither could believe that this “corn bread” was not a sweet cake, it was that sweet!

Us saying goodbye (thanks for the pic Jo!) I forgot my camera :/

The heat index was over 100 degrees the last few days and we were melting. It was so bad that they had to send the yard folks home in the afternoons, it was just too much. Thankfully, we could leave the AC on until the very last minute. It was still tough, especially for Martin who had a lot of outside tasks.

Yup, that says 102F and it was just as humid :/

We enlisted the help of an employee at AYB, Levi, for three days and he was amazing. Blossom is cleaner today than she has ever been! It proved very fortuitous that we had help too, as the first day of cleaning I managed to fall down/off a stair and twist my ankle. I hobbled for a few days but managed fine.

 Ouch, ice at night helped 

As for the prep work we did on Blossom, we have an extensive list that we used last year when we left her at River Forest in Florida. This year we made some changes since we’re leaving her in the water (fresh/brackish) and under cover (in a shed) rather than on the hard. The basics, however, were the same: clean, prep, wrap all vents in plastic and leave with a dehumidifier on and fans blowing.  Our list from last year is a long one so I thought I’d just link to it here if anyone would like to see it. I'm quite sure it's overkill but hey, she's our baby! Of course, we didn't do any of the things that required being out of the water.

Blossom resting

Here’s a list of some "boat business" items we took care of and some things that we did differently this time:
  • Ballast. Martin moved a total of 1500 lbs of lead from the port side of the laz to the starboard side. (In that heat, yeah, it was a drag.) This significantly improved our left-lean. We should only need to offset the current lean with about 100 gallons of diesel, a much more acceptable amount.
  • Weevils. I couldn’t figure out what they were eating and they were all over the boat. So Blossom got bug-bombed a couple days after we left. The exterminator said he’s only seen a weevil infestion a dozen or so times in his 20 years on the job but that it can happen. Lord knows what they’re eating but they are in every room of the boat and there is NO food on that boat. I’m suspicious of my quilt batting so we removed it all. (My 3 quilts from the boat are currently living in our freezer in the garage. 1 frozen week and they should be dead!) The bomb should take care of any other little creepy crawlies that try to get near the boat for a few months as well.
  • Rugs. We steam cleaned the rugs, carpets and couch with a Bissell. It’s small and portable and yup, it was life changing. (I bought one the day we returned and just finished doing all the rugs in the house – if you have pets and/or allergies, it’s amazing!)
  • Spiders. AYB is known for spiders – specifically, spiders pooping on the boat from the roof of the shed. She was cleaned and waxed early this week and will be washed down monthly. Hopefully a full wash and detail in the spring will keep her looking like new, despite the spidy poop.
  • Winterizing: the folks at AYB will be winterizing B this fall. Their winterizer guy used to work at Deltaville and knows Nordhavns well. He and Martin went over the plan and we feel confident all will be well. (We shouldn’t expect a “deep freeze” but best to be safe…)
  • Diver. We'll have a diver check periodically on our bottom growth and zincs (or aluminums as they are), 
  • Canvas. We spoke with a contractor and ordered a few more pieces. We’re replacing the large piece that covers our kayaks as the one we have is too lose and flappy. We’re also having a cover made for the dinghy helm and the storm plates.

We celebrated our last night in Virginia by going to see The Secret Life of Pets and having Mongolian Barbecue for dinner. Such the rowdy couple!

We’ve only been home for a few days but we’re adjusting to life on land. We both miss Blossom but I think we’re also ready for some off-the-boat r&r. It was a fabulous, busy cruising season and now it feels decadent to be home without the list of boat chores to attend to! We’re looking forward to our time in CA, knowing that we’ll be itching to get back to Blossom next spring!

See you all in March…

Safe travels and fun adventures to everyone!

 Our new view for sundowners (note fleece jacket and slippers), it's summer (near) SF after all :)

ps: This is actually the penultimate blog post of the season, though my last. Martin will be posting a map of our travel route and stops for 2016 as he did last year!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cruising up the “inner banks” of NC

The past two weeks have been truly lovely. We’ve had an amazing time buddy boating with our friends Jo & Robbie, cruising through NC and into Virginia via the ICW. The area is as beautiful as it is remote. We’ve enjoyed several pretty anchorages, exploring in the dinghy (looking for bear, fox, deer, alligators – without much success!) and honed our 500 card game skills. We feel extraordinarily fortunate to end our 2016 season in the company of such warm and wonderful friends.

Here are some photos from our travels which I’ve broken down by anchorage. Our first stop was just east of Oriental, NC, seeking shelter from s/sw winds.

Barge on the waterway

Mellow day on the water

Gratuitous pretty photo of Southern Star 

Several osprey were nesting on the markers, only red though, they must not like the green!

Calm before the storm

Anchored just off the river

On our way to Oriental

Small town America, everyone we met was so friendly!

Easy dinghy ride in but not so easy on the way back

 One big gust and we did a 180

One heck of an evening storm

Jo & Robbie treated us some amazing grilled prawns that evening (prior to the storm!)

Our second night we tucked in to Bonner Bay, NC. looking to shelter from the sw winds. It was a gorgeous area and we were happy we chose this anchorage when a mean storm blew in that evening (again).

Coast Guard training: towing 

Anchoring in Bonner Bay, NC

Exploring in the dinghy. Man was it hot!

Yet another evening storm, one gust was up to 50!

Our next stop was a popular anchorage just west of the Pungo Canal. Normally there are a few boats here but we’re late in the season and I think most folks are already well up into the Chesapeake and beyond by now (and it’s too late into hurricane season to see many boats heading south).

Passing by Hobucken some dolphins came to play

Our anchorage just SW of the entrance to the Pungo River canal

There are some very big bugs here and equally large dragonflies to eat them

Another evening storm came through that night, it started off so pretty!

We spent two nights there and took the opportunity to go exploring. We headed out in the morning to beat the heat as it was forecast to be 95 degrees that afternoon with a “feels like” in the low 100s. Heading west on the Pungo River, we travelled up the Pungo River until it turned into Dogwood Run, covering about 12.5 miles. We stopped when we came to a bridge that Petal couldn’t fit under. It was Gorgeous! I took far too many photos but it was stunning, I have to share a bunch. Wildlife sightings included an otter or beaver carrying a read to its nest, a big black water snake, numerous hawks, a turtle, an osprey and a bald eagle. The evening was topped off with a game of 500 and one of the best curries I’ve ever had. It’s really, really nice to have friends who cook so well J (Actually, the evening was ultimately topped off by yet another mean night-time thunderstorm).

Photos from our morning exploration up the Pungo River/Dogwood Run:

Friday morning we headed out early for the longest travel day of this trip. We passed through the Pungo River Alligator River canal, up through the Alligator River, across the Albemarle Sound and tucked into south end of the North River where we anchored, again looking for shelter from west wind and a possible evening storm. Along the way we spotted deer and an enormous turkey. Apparently we just missed a black bear swimming across the canal - we chatted with a sailboat who had sailed right past him, even making eye contact!

Saturday we had a very short run up to Coinjock Marina. This marina is known for 2 things – cheap diesel and excellent prime rib. We’ve only been once before and they had run out of prime rib so I called ahead. She asked if we wanted the 16 oz. I thought that sounded like too much so I asked what other portion sizes they had, thinking to down size. “16 or 32” was the reply. So what I took away from this is that no one leaves Coinjock hungry!

Hanging on the dock at Coinjock

Reality set in Saturday afternoon as we both started working on our “to-do” lists for getting Blossom ready to be put into storage. That night we all ate prime rib, of course, we ate a lot, in fact, and it was delicious!

Prime rib at Coinjock

Jo working the cards for our 500 game

Mama duck and 6 ducklings crossing the river at dusk


Sunday we headed out early and made it to AYB by early afternoon. We had to squeeze through a bridge that can only half open (it’s been repeatedly smashed by towing vehicles - ouch!).

Southern Star squeaking through

Barge coming by

But otherwise it was a quiet trip full of osprey. (Up here they seem to prefer the greens)

Osprey nesting on the (green) markers

We arrived at AYB early afternoon. We're at opposite ends of the dock so there's quite a walk to get together!
Blossom on the south end, Southern Star on the north

Barge waiting for the bridge at sunset

It was a nice surprise to find that there are several restaurants within walking distance so we enjoyed a nice dinner out on the water.

 View from the restaurant

Guys and beer

And now the work begins! The plan is to spend the next few days prepping Blossom for her off season. She’ll be in the (brackish) water and under cover for the next 8 months or so. We’re pushing our cruising season forward next year as we plan to cruise the northeast, exploring the Chesapeake, going up to New York to visit family and possibly as far as Boston. Our thought is that the following year we would head farther north to Maine or possibly beyond. So our 6-month season will shift to April-September for a couple of years.

This is our penultimate post of the 2016 season. I’ll be back with one last blog post (obviously, with some input from Martin), detailing our preparations to store/winterize Blossom. That will likely be one big “Boat Business” blog post.

Boat Business:

  • Engine starter battery/smart charger. For the second time this year, our smart charger decided to take a little break. We realized the battery was critically low when the engine wouldn’t turn over. Martin paralleled the start batteries and we were on our way but we need to trouble shoot why this happens every once and a while.
  • Seeking balance. We’ve been running lighter than we ever have over the past week or so. We’re down to just over 300 gallons of fuel, had very little fresh water and not a lot of black either. We were shocked at how differently she sits when so light! All things being relative, it felt like we were bobbing like a cork in the evening storms. We figure we’re about 4 tons lighter than “normal” and all 4 of those tons are from the bottom of the boat so it really makes a difference. We prefer her heavy! She’s also “dressing left” more than usual. We don’t have enough fuel to balance her out. One of Martin’s to-do’s is to move around some ballast this week so we aren’t so left-heavy.