Now before you all get excited; no, there was not a literal knock down of our boat. Just a metaphorical shattering of any presupposed confidence we thought we may have rightfully earned and owned. I will start in the middle of my story before going backwards to relay our goings ons since the last post.
We started our journey from Oriental, the four of us, one happy medium sized family (and one very nervous dog).
yes we had another baby, and yes it was during the pandemic, and yes it has been quite the year.
We went to Taylor Creek where we always go for a chill little anchorage.
This is our first time on the boat without any friends, extended family, or Captain Stan. We opted to take it easy and just stick around the anchorage. Until I woke up the next morning with ants in my pants and we chose to make a run for it to Cape Lookout for a night or two of confidence building and a little ‘see we can do this with the kids, no problem.’ Even the dolphins seemed to cheer us on.
With the exception of the night before, a string of days prior had been windy AF, blowing the tide in oriental to record heights. By the time we got to Taylor creek it was calm and an evening had passed with no blustery conditions. So the ants in my pants got the best of me, and we all decided to go for it. It was slack tide, (so I thought) and the wind was light. Although the wind that was present, was coming in direct opposition of the last bit of outgoing tide that we were riding on. I decided to ignore that fact since it seemed to be such a mystery as to whether or not the conditions in the inlet would be calm. They always seemed the worst when I tried to plan it perfectly, and the best when I didn’t really think too far ahead.
Ill make this story short.
It was awful.
the inlet was worse than we’ve ever seen it, and this time we had no help and both our kids on board.
Not my proudest moment.
I’d like to paint a prettier picture of myself, but that’s not my job. In fact, gone are the days of writing anything other than the nitty gritty dirty truth of what my life really feels like. I don’t want or need anyone thinking my poo smells any better than it actually does.
So, here we are, getting our asses kicked about halfway through the inlet. The kids are loving it. We had baby proofed the settee for them, so they were both just laughing along with the waves like they were on a bumpy ride at the fair.
We kept telling each other that it would smooth out once we passed the inlet to turn toward the cape. But it just got worse. And the choppy inlet started to form a rhythmic orchestra of giant walls of water; obscuring the horizon and sky in front us, picking us up at the peak of every watery mountain, and pitching us down into the trough below only to pick us right back up again on the next crest.
That all probably would have been doable. The waves were awful and it felt so uncomfortable, but I think we could have withstood it all the way to the cape. I know that our boat can handle so much more than our emotional tolerance. But trouble comes in pairs at best, and so the disasters began to unfold at the worst possible time.
Before embarking on our travels, we had spent about a week and untold amounts of money on a new dinghy and motor.
It was hoisted up on the davits, riding along fine behind us. until it wasn’t.
Im still not exactly sure what happened but somewhere there was too much slack in the line that secured the dinghy to the davits, and that little bit of slack almost cost us our new ‘car’. Our brand spanking new dinghy with 15 horses was dangling from the davits and swinging the motor perilously close to the back of our boat. It knocked a locating beacon off its track sending it flying to the front of the cockpit, and setting it off.
For a brief panic stricken moment, I thought that the coast guard had just been alerted. But it was just a beacon. Duh.
After being separated from the beacon, the brackets holding it in place instantly became a dinghy popping murderer.
Adam was left holding up 200 pounds of dinghy + motor to prevent a collision with the ruinous brackets and to keep the motor from smashing into the back of the boat.
At which point I decide to turn this boat around because what the hell no sea shell is worth this shit.
And just like that, Adam fixed the dinghy problem one handed by lashing one of the tubes to the davits, and we surfed on what felt like one long continuous gentleman’s sailing wave all the way back to Taylor Creek.
As we approached the channel, we saw another Catamaran emerging towards the inlet. I wanted to wave and shout “don’t do it!”, but as they got closer I saw that they were all life jacketed, harnessed, tethered, and prepared. (Lesson take away in italics there).
Tail between our legs, we anchored back in Taylor Creek and tried to relax and regroup.
I forgot to mention that its winter. And we were cold. And things were starting to get really uncomfortable.
And it didn’t help that every time I dinghy-ed over to the docks at Beaufort, there was a lovely little sailing family tying up their dingy, and all 3 kids would hop out, all happy, safe, smiling and seasoned. Well, I said to myself, their kids are older, so that’s probably why it looks so easy.
Then I look to my left and there’s a guy motoring his dingy across the creek with a baby strapped to his chest, a cocktail in his right hand, the tiller in his left, and a toddler on the bow.
What am I missing?!!
This shit is hard.
STOP MAKING IT LOOK SO EASY A**HOLE!!!
Well I think my first mistake was thinking that maybe it would be a breath of fresh air: finally getting our kids and ourselves on the boat of our dreams.
Yep, that was the first mistake. But who am I kidding, neither Adam or I have ever spent our free time just ‘kickin it back.’ We were made for these kinds of misadventures and long hauls of living. I think. The jury might still be out on that one, but we aren’t giving up yet.
Here is the mood that most live aboard family’s make their journeys out to be:
Lets get real. Its more like this 70% of the time:
Maybe its just us, maybe we are the only family out there with kids that cry, and family dynamics that fall below the social media threshold of unicorns and rainbows, but, I’d like to think that we all struggle and there’s no sense in trying to appear otherwise.
And then, when we finally start to feel some reprieve from our guilt ridden and confidence shattering ride on the Beaufort merry go-f***-yourself,
We wake up in the middle of the night to a fun little excursion we like to call:
the anchor dragging.
It got really windy, like really windy. And I just barely convinced Adam to go out and check our position. Only after he checked our position on the navionics app, and saw that little yellow line of horror creeping away from our swing circle, did he finally go out.
He came back to bed, and got under the covers.
I asked, ‘so did we drag?’
“yeah, I think we did a little”
“Um….. Like how much? And why are you wearing that stinky sweater?”
“Because I think I’m going to have to go back out there and do stuff. “
As he drifts back to sleep I start to panic a little, knowing my husband all too well, and so I go out into the midnight sky, and what do I see?
For better or worse, on our return from the inlet we anchored windward of a beacon tower of some sort. In my defense, we certainly weren’t the first to do it. There is always a sail boat anchored here. So, being the turkeys that we are, we also anchored there. And in this regretful head smacking moment, that big black moonlit tower was looming what felt like only feet away from our stern.
So I rush back downstairs, wake the kids up and put them in the cockpit/playroom with a movie while I shake Adam into his senses.
Dude, we HAVE to reset the anchor. We are going to hit that fucking thing back there whaever it is.
As I’m speaking I can see in my anxious and possibly over-exaggerating mind that this ‘thing’ is just getting closer.
So he begrudgingly agreed, and we reset the anchor at 130 AM in 30 mph gusts and frigid temps.
Then we put the kids to bed and laid awake to ponder the past unfurling events of the evening, while trying to block out the potential future events that could still unfold. like a beautiful flower.
So that was fun.
Here’s Mr. Nasty in the day time. The photo really doesn’t do his midnight side justice.
And of course the next morning, Mr Mom drives by in his dinghy with his baby and toddler and waves a cheerful good-morning at us (sans cocktail this time, thank god or I might have hung it all up right there). They’ve probably got a set of twins back on the boat too.
We stayed for about a week while we tried to enjoy the lovely town of Beaufort on one side of our anchorage, and the muddy shores of Carrot Island with all their wild horses and tiny sea shells on the other.
One of my favorite spots in Beaufort is the Old Burial Ground.
While reading up on the stories behind these ancient graves, I came across some Tuscaroran history here, which holds a special place for me since my American Indian heritage is descendant from that tribe
We finally found a trail to the golden grassy fields where the horses play on the Rachel Carson Preserve/Carrot Island.
We went to the NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort which is always a pleasant surprise. They have truly great exhibits there, despite being somewhat small. They had a full sperm whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling with an extensive Black Beard exhibit below. Adam was THRILLED to see that black beard himself was bested by the Beaufort Inlet. It was the treacherous shoals of the Beaufort inlet that grounded the notorious Queen Anne’s Revenge.
And their maritime library! Made me want to brew some tea and take a seat on their cozy antique couch and read about pirates all day. But then the babies started simultaneously crying about a half a second into my imaginative literary longings. What was I thinking. Read a book? HA!
So after some cold days on the boat, and in the dinghy, and on the beach, we headed back to Oriental to learn all the things that we should have learned before heading out in the first place.
Like, how to properly set an anchor. Before we left, we had actually just replaced our chain. And in the words of Pat from Provisions, it was “not exaggerating: really really bad.” And I think that brand spanking new chain may have given us a false sense of security in how much rode you need to let out. ALWAYS have a minimum of 5 to 1. And 7-1 is even better. In Taylor Creek, the anchorages can get kind of tight as you go up the creek, so it’s tempting to let out less chain so you don’t swing into the banks of the Rachel Carson Preserve or into the channel.
Or you could do it like the behemoth Catamaran behind us, and anchor literally in the middle of the channel while not giving rats ass about boat traffic or channel markers. (a part of me wishes to posses a pair so bold).
Finding our chain type ended up to be way more epic than expected. Like all boat projects turn out to be. We needed 3/8′ chain, but our chain was so corroded that we couldn’t see the stamps to decipher if it was BBB (bend before break) or G4. It has to match. If it doesn’t, it will pile up in the gypsy. The gypsy is the drum inside the windlass with perfect slots that fit the chain to pick it up and roll it out. All of this is new to us since our last boat didn’t have any of that, as we had to hand pull the anchor every time. This anchor is a whopping 50+ pounds, and the chain is probably 400 lbs. Just getting the chain on the boat and into the locker was a 3 man ordeal.
So how to find out if we need G4 or BBB? well, we tried calipers and precise measuring, but couldn’t make sense of any of that since the measurements on the chain manufacturer’s site weren’t adding up at all… So then we tried a 10 foot sample of one of the chains, and hand pulled it to see if it would hold, but the angle was wrong. Ultimately we ended up borrowing a 50 foot section of chain and installing it to our anchor at which point we dropped and raised it till we were convinced that it fit perfectly. The difference in the two types of chain are minute but crucial.
A spanking new chain on a Manson Supreme still needs to be set correctly. So, we learned a little more about that from our new boat neighbors. Sheri and her partner are the proud new owners of the coveted Fontaine Pajot 2 boats down from us in Oriental. It sold, after years of interested buyers vulturing about. At least one person a day would walk down the docks and ask us if we knew anything about it. Well, now it has new owners so I finally have an answer for all the interested parties out there.
Anyways, our boat neighbor gave us his scoop on anchoring. The scope (which we already knew but for some reason didn’t adhere to this go around) is key, and then while setting the anchor you want to try and avoid the chain piling up on itself. And after you get your scope out, you wait. Wait some more, and then back down. ‘The waiting is the key’ he said, and I remember Stan doing that when we set the anchor night after night up the ICW. The waiting allows the chain to sink into the bottom, really sink in. And then when that’s done, you back down. Gently throttle back till you have mimicked a 30 knot wind.
Oh, and don’t anchor with a beacon tower on the lee side of your boat.
The timing was great because this guy clearly knew his stuff, and we were ripe for some healthy tutoring. Among many other things, he helped me get Adam safely up the mast for the first time, which I really appreciated beyond telling. Adam is no stranger to heights, so I was a little surprised to hear him utter the words “this is awful” as he approached the top of the mast.
As Stan say’s “looking up the mast is 55 feet, but from the top looking down its 100 feet.”
So as will always be the case, there’s still a reason to go up the mast again.
The top of the mast was only half the battle while replacing the anchor light. In the process of using the 3 wire coaxial cable for the new 2 wire anchor light, there was then an additional unused current coming back down the mast lighting up a breaker that was not in use. We needed to find the rogue wire that ran to the running lights that used to be at the top of the mast. So the live wire was located after many a tight squeeze into tiny uncomfortable places, and was disconnected from the junction box at the bottom of the mast. There were running lights installed in the front of the boat, so we didn’t need the ones up top, but we did need to kill that wire so it didn’t short out something else at what would inevitably happen at the worst possible time. So that took an entire day, but with some help we managed to tie it all up.
So let’s back up a little, its been over a year since our last post. And SO many things have happened. Ill try to make it short.
First off, we have a new blog name, in case you didn’t notice: the boat notes. I got tired of pronouncing and repeatedly spelling ‘t-h-e f-r-o-g l-o-g-s” across the bar to interested locals. So I went with what feels like a simpler name, and no longer titled after a boat that we don’t own anymore.
Speaking of the Frog. She has a lovely new owner that I am dying to meet. They nicknamed him “captain crash.” at the marina. (I think there might be some boat docking drama behind that). And no joke, he sails that boat almost EVERY DAY on the Neuse. We couldn’t be happier with how that worked out. We see those candy cane sails flying almost every time we are in Oriental.
And our boat has a new name! It was Oh Henry when we bought it, named after Stan’s grandson.
We decided to name her Kikio, after Emilia’s precious little ball of orange fluff.
And saving the best for last, we have a new addition to our family. Pepper Miles Blake
She is not so keen on dinghy rides currently, but there’s time for that to change.
After I had Pepper, I was faced again with the inevitable task of pediatric water safety. I contacted Emilia’s ISR instructor, and asked if we could get on her schedule for Pepper, and for Emilia to have some refresher swim lessons. I was not looking forward to driving to Tennessee and back every day for what would most likely be 8 weeks, again, and was even further disheartened when Jennifer told me that she was completely booked for the foreseeable future.
So while waiting for my latte in a coffee shop in south Florida, I made the fateful decision of inquiring what it would take to become an ISR instructor myself. I emailed my inquiry to Infant Swimming Resource, and from there began the epic journey of becoming an ISR instructor. It didn’t even feel like a conscious decision, more like a turning wheel of events that all came and went with the quick intensity of a hurricane.
I spent every day in the water with a Senior Master ISR Instructor in Florida for 6 weeks, (all while pumping, breast feeding, and supplementing my 7 month old with a bottle) after which I received my official certification as an Infant Swimming Resource Instructor.
Then we returned home just in time to begin a 7 week swim season of my own in Black Mountain, NC before the weather got too cold.
That was a rough couple of months. But we made it through with a new career and a little more assured water safety for our kids.
Thank you for reading this far into our journey!