welcome to our blog!

This blog tells the story of our 22-month sailing journey from Oakland, California, to Bristol, Rhode Island, aboard our beloved Bristol 32 sailboat, Ute. Please feel free to browse through the archives (partway down the sidebar to your left) to see pics and read stories of our adventures in North America and Central America . (Sorry the first 3 months of the trip are missing - they vanished somewhere in an internet cafe in Mexico - but all you're missing is CA, Baja and Western Mex).

If you're trying to track us down now that we're landlubbers, try us at uteatlarge at yahoo dot com. Thanks!

Monday, July 30, 2007

the Not So Dismal Swamp

Phew! Finally, some internet access! It’s been too long…..evidently Americans are greedy with their technology…it’s funny to us that we routinely used wifi access while bobbing amidst remote islands in the Caribbean….but can’t get a connection here in the U.S. for all the tea in China.

I’m posting this from the North Carolina Welcome Center on the NC/Virginia border, where they are decidedly ungreedy and provide a computer for visiting boaters to use, along with a free dock to tie up to, and bathrooms and showers. That might not sound like a lot of excitement to you, but free docks are practically unheard of in the U.S. – in fact, most marinas charge anywhere between $30 and $100 a night just to tie up. So we were thrilled when we tied up for free at Elizabeth City last night, and here this afternoon! We're in the heart of the Great Dismal Swamp, which is a lot more great than it is dismal, in our opinion. What a beautiful place...maybe when we have more time online we'll subject you all to a history lesson about the Great Dismal...but we'll let you off the hook today due to time constraints!

To bring our travelogue up to speed: we left St. Simon’s, Virginia with a loose plan to sail offshore to Beaufort, NC. Plans changed about 300 miles into the trip when we spent a sleepless night dodging what seemed like a ring of lightning closing in on us from all sides. The decision to head back into the ICW went along the lines of “to hell with this, we’ve had enough lightning for one trip” and the time and tides synchronized to make it easy to get back inside in northern South Carolina. After a quick and painless entrance through a well-marked inlet, we were, once again, putt-putting up the Intracoastal Waterway, looking forward to amenities the open ocean can’t offer, like sleeping together at night, cooking real meals, and stopping for treats like ice. Truth be told, I am loving all this time on the ICW. The scenery is amazing, and it’s really a rich cultural experience – in fact, coming from California, South Carolina seemed every bit as strange and exotic as Panama to us.

Our first night back in the Ditch was one of our favorites so far – we dropped the hook outside a wee town called Bucksport, on the Waccamaw river (some parts of the ICW are naturally occurring rivers, and other stretches are entirely man-made canal). Surrounded by thick cypress jungle and swamp, it was Carboniferous-era primordial marsh meets the Everglades with a touch of Deliverance thrown in. The best part was the smell – yes, it sounds peculiar – but the forest and the swamp smelled fresh and sweet, especially in the early morning as we weighed anchor just after sunrise.

The next couple nights found us anchored in remote niches along the waterway, invariably near enough to shore to get assaulted by bugs, but also close enough to smell the forest and hear the nightly serenade of the frogs and cicadas. It was ICW business as usual until we crossed the North Carolina border and…whoa….where’s all that smoke coming from? Oh, shit. Kiki was having issues, it seemed. We threw out the anchor at the side of the channel so we could turn her off and investigate (another advantage of being in the ICW – you can do that!). Lo and behold, the coolant reservoir was empty, and when we fired her back up she was guzzling fresh water almost as fast as we could fill her.

To make a long story short, this little mishap led to two fun-filled weeks in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And by fun-filled I mean hot, expensive, stressful, sweaty, and filled with cussing. It wasn’t all bad, though – far from it, in fact – we met some fantastic people, were astounded by their generosity, and got her up and running again with a whole new set of haskets and a resurfaced head. For those of you that are boaty or mechanically inclined, feel free to email us for details, but suffice to say we were happy to get it fixed. I blame it on the lightning, not only just because I am commited to doing so now, but because the offending gasket (it took us most of the two weeks figure out what the problem was, by replacing everything else) was one we had to mess around with when we pulled the transmission in Ft. Pierce. Granted it was rotted out anyway, but now we have Mr. Lightning as the Ultimate Scapegoat.

The folks at Anchor Marina in North Myrtle Beach deserve all your nicest thoughts and best karma vibes, as they bent over backwards – and bent some rules too – to help us get back on the road again. We couldn’t have dreamed up a nicer bunch of people, and they saved our butts. Thanks to everyone there, especially Laura and Guy. You rock!

We were back on the aquatic road again as of last Tuesday, under yet more time and budget pressures than before but nevertheless happy to be safe, repaired, together, and underway once again (and with some new friends, to boot). At this point, our goal has been pared down to getting the boat to Connecticut, in one piece, at some point, without having to sell our bodies on the street. That said, we are having fun along the way – when your maximum traveling speed is six miles an hour, you can’t help but stop and smell the roses, no matter how rushed you may be.

Since Tuesday, we've covered 300 more miles and are a mere 30 miles from the Chesapeake, which thrills us no to end! We've passed well inside notorously scary places like Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras, while enjoying fantastic scenery and peaceful nights at anchor. Hopefully, we'll be in the Norfolk area tomorrow night, where we'll get the latest weather info and make some decisions about what the next leg will look like.

We'll post more soon, with pics hopefully. Thanks to all or your blog readers who are sticking with our trip, even though it's a little less exotic and adventurous than it was a couple months ago. We appreciate you! Hugs, UTE

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad all is well. Stay away from the lightening. Got some dock suggestions should you find yourself near NYC.