Friday, August 29, 2014

The Beast and Beauty

After this morning's post about things that go wrong on a boat, Pope says that, to be fair, I need to give equal time to the positives. So here they are. Positives, from a pessimist's perspective.

The solar lantern, though bruised and battered and missing its base, still works great as an anchor light.

Pope got the running lights working while sitting at a dock waiting for diesel. No bolts or nuts were lost overboard (like last time). We only lost 45 minutes waiting for the diesel guy to get to us.

The wind picked up about 4 pm and blew away the biting flies and no-see-ums. What a relief. They were so aggressive they swarmed my water glass (driving out the no-see-ums) and chewed up Pope's legs and feet--a rare phenomenon. But now all is well.

After two tries and numerous untanglings of sheets snd halyard, Pope whipped the colorful spinnaker into fine form. It raised our soeed to 5.1 knots!
Pope practices flying his beautiful kite, a joy to behold.

Last night was blessedly cool at our mooring in Whitemarsh Creek. NO mosquitoes!

The overheating engine cooled down quickly this morning with the addition of more water in the new heat exchanger. We only lost 1/2 hour waiting for it to cool down.

Despite the delays--which only means we will miss happy hour with our friends on S/V Pearl and Chinese carryout for dinner--we'll get to Solomon's Island in plenty of time for nightcaps! 


3 in 12: A New Record?

You've heard me say it before: There's always something going wrong on a boat.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

There was the time Pope sprained his foot leaping off the boat onto.a wet, slippery dock. (Oops, I mean stepping carefully off the boat...)

And those little snafus with the crankshaft when we tried to leave Nassau.
Albert the Bahamas diesel wizard, on board

Water pump in North Myrtle Beach.
Shiny new water pump

Sandbars in Georgia and Pipe Creek, Bahamas.
Towboat US to the rescue; the marine equivalent to AAA

Lost cap that holds the oar in the oarlock on the dinghy. Straps and fabrics disintegrated by sun.

I could go on. But you get my drift. (Pun intended.)

This time, I think we should get a prize: 3 times in 12 hours. Auto pilot cranking and groaning from possible stripped gears, running lights shorted out,  overheated engine from lack of water circulating in heat exchanger.

What's next on our marine adventure? What records will be break? We left our mooring at 8 am sharp. It's now 10:15, and we're waiting for diesel at a fuel dock. We have a 10-hour trip to Solomon's Island, and we have 10 hours of daylight.

Stay tuned for thenext 12. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Glory of Sea and Sky

As much as I enjoy activities in DC--this week: yoga class, gym, Shakespeare play--there is no comparison with a day on a boat in the visual sense.

I walk out of the house to fast-food trash on the sidewalk, broken car windows in the street, delivery trucks, street signs, homeless bodies on stoops of retail shops.

In contrast, last night at Galesville, where Pope races sailboats on Chesapeake Bay, I was treated to these glorious spectacles:

Maybe I should take up photography! In addition to guitar, harmonica, French, fitness, housework, theatre, museums, sewing, cooking, writing ..........

Copyright on all photos: Amber Jones, 2014. Cannot be reproduced without permission. To be published in my next coffee-table tome!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Incredibly Boring Routiness of Life on Land

If I'm not sailing, how can I blog? Would you like to hear about our ongoing problems with Comcast (the cable company)? 

The discovery of a photo of my great-grandfather? 

My learning a second cajun song?

A thrill a minute. I know.

How about the giant 9-foot inflatable dinghy in the living room???!!!
(Sorry, we already deflated it before I got a picture...)

See, I knew it. It all comes back to sailing...sigh.... it's the perfect subject for a spicy tell-all. What can be more suspenseful (and amusing) for armchair travelers than an invasion of mayflies, a prop disabled by barnacles, or a heat exchanger so rusty that it fell off in Pope's hands?

You get to gloat and say, "See, we told you so. That's why we stay home and watch TV."

Of course, it's staying home and watching TV that caused the problem with Comcast in the first place.

See, I've come full circle with nothing new or interesting to say. I give up. Time to take myself off to bed.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Vote For My Blog!

I entered Hostelling International's Big Blog competition! Cast your vote for my blog (simply "Browse Bloggers" and search for my name, Amber Jones). Help me win a chance to swap places with a blogger overseas.

If you enjoyed my tales--all true, I swear it!--boost my rating with your vote, and send me on another grand adventure. (Which I will duly document for your continued reading pleasure.)

Click on the image or go directly to this link:

Thanks for your vote of confidence, and your interest in my semi-entertaining rants and raves!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Home Again, After 3,300 Miles "At Sea"

Echo II is home at last as of August 11, 2014: Holiday Hill Marina on the Rhode River in Edgewater, Maryland, from which she sailed on October 24, 2013. Boat and crew completed a journey of approximately 3,300 miles despite weather, breakdowns, mishaps, insects, and just plain old-fashioned toil, as recounted during the foregoing months in this blog. We were indeed "at sea" a lot of the time!

The last few yards to our home marina!

Let's unload this baby quickly, and get home to a hot shower!

At the marina dock to unload endless stuff; then we tied her up to a mooring ball out in the harbor, Echo II's new home; came to shore by dinghy, deflated the dinghy and brought it and the outboard home in the back seat of the car

We made it--round-trip to the Exumas! And survived. Where's the next adventure? Pope is inviting people to cruise on a river barge in France---with him serving as captain!!

Leave the Light On For Us

If anyone were going to get seasick on Chesapeake Bay, it could very well be in these conditions: sails full, heeling the boat on its side, while plowing through chop at a different angle, sending the bow up and down, up and down, so that the boat gives a liitle "twist" coming down off each wave. A roly-poly motion we experienced crossing stretches of ocean between islands in tbe Bahamas.
No problem for us here. We are in familiar waters, in our own bay, having plied them many times in the old Pearson, its outboard lifting out of the water on big waves, prop spinning futilely (a good way to burn out an engine). 

Now we motor-sail with an inboard Universal diesel, the kind long-distance truckers run for 30 or 40 hours hauling tons of freight. Ours in 16 horsepower--slow, but plenty of power for our 30-foot boat.
View from the helm, spinnaker and main sails up with engine assist due to low wind

After a winter of discontent--well, at least tribulations and uncertainty--my spirit lifts to be close to home, all systems working properly, in waters Pope knows like the back of his hand (though who really studies the back of their hand???). In addition to excursions on the Pearson, for years Pope  has raced schooners, sloops, and trimarans up and down the bay.

In our current boat, Echo II, we compromised narrow hull and sleek shape built for speed for a broader beam, less heeling, and more comfortable living conditions. We putter confidently past Cove Point, Chesapeake Beach, Herring Bay--en route to the mooring ball reserved at Holiday Hill Marina in Edgewater, MD, which we departed last October.
Natural gas offloading plant at Cove Point

Home stretch. I am grinning from ear to ear.

Division of Labor


Emergency management aupervisor

Chief helmsman (on the wheel, checking the chart, steering the boat, scanning for obstacles)

Primary navigator and course plotter

Sail manager and tactician (furl, unfurl, untangle, trim, adjust)

Sail mender

Amateur diesel mechanic and fully competent outboard mechanic


Leak stopper and one-man general maintenance and repair crew

Muscleman and beast of burden

Updater of Captain's Log (Star Date.....)


First mate:
Backup helmsman and navigator

Human winch, i.e., anchorwoman: hauling anchor and chain up with back, abs, and pecs; washing off mud and clay; drying chain and rope; dropping it all in again next time

Dockhand and lines manager (they are NOT ropes, they are LINES, reminds the captain; please help keep them NEAT and SORTED, replies the first mate)

Galley slave: grocery shopper, meal planner, cook, can opener, server, busboy

On-shore provisioner, activities director, tour guide, and social chairman

On-board bartender, musician, and general entertainer

Accountant and bookkeeper

Housekeeper and on-board organizer, frequently employing expertise in finding things supposedly "lost"


Master blogger

Captain's companion



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Eye Candy

Visual poetry.
Pope LOVES his new spinnaker! While I shooed and scrubbed inside and out, trying to clear out the plague of mayflies, Pope flew his colorful "kite."
As I've said before, my experience is that  there is not much "leisure" time while operating a boat; it is hard work. However, sometimes there are stretches of easy sailing--no weather, no traffic, no challenges. So Pope played and I scrubbed, for hours, on a calm Chesapeake Bay.
Wait a minute!! How did I get the short end of that stick??!! Pope is a pretty tricky dude!

Bu the way, the swishing and squishing and scouring partially worked; this morning there are only a hundred or so healthy adult insects left on our cabin ceiling and walls. I haven't ventured outside to take inventory there; I am writing this from inside the sanctuary of my mosquito tent.
I have internet on my iPhone because we are anchored offshore Solomon's Island, a popular sailing center only a couple of sailing days from home. (Two hours by car, if anyone wants to join us for the rest of the trip.)

Our old friends on S/V Pearl are staying here the rest of the summer.

I mixed up the usual Dark 'n' Stormies and Gayleen cooked up an appetizer of cream cheese, wasabi, and sesame seeds. As pleasing to the eye as to the palate.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Hundred Thousand Tiny Flying Things

8:45 pm. Dusk. Slowing to anchor in Fleet's Bay, just north of the Rappahannock River.

Suddenly, from the evening sky, descended a horde of a hundred thousand (or more) flying insects. No time to install screens on the harches!

At first I thought they were mosquitoes. Aiyeeeee!!! Stuck at the bow feeding out anchor line; Deep Woods Off in a cubbyhole in the cabin.

But no, they weren't biting. Pope thinks they are mayflies, ephemeroptera (ephemeral because they only live a couple of days). I can't make a positive identification--even with hundreds of tiny specimens to study, swish away, sit on, accidentally swallow. Tiny. Fragile little bodies and transparent wings. They look a lot like mosquitoes--same size--without a proboscis and with a curled-up tail.

They cover every surface on the boat, in the boat, in our cushions and clothes, in our dishes, in our tea. Speckled arms and legs.

Thank goodness I brought my trusty mosquito tent to crawl into and cower for a few brief hours of sleep--leftover from India, where there are no screens.

7:45 am. Dawn. They don't want ro leave; they love our boat. We'll be cleaning up bodies for days, when the massive die-off occurs.

Not to mention the droppings they left on every surface.

I just hope, hope, hope these are not eggs.