Thu 27 May 2004 19:48 America/Belize
Position: 17° 56.363' N 87° 44.031' W; 5354.8 miles since Alameda, California

We're under way again, leaving Belize -- we should be into Mexican waters in three hours or so. We had a long motor out from Belize City, following a channel we'd never taken before, a badly-marked narrow channel through shallow water, winding between islands to a gap in the reef east of the city.

Once out in the ocean we set sail, and we're now heading north silently, and making a decent 5.5 knots. Right now we've covered 41 miles, and have 205 to go to Isla Mujeres in Mexico, our first possible stop.

Our strategy from here on is based on finding the Gulf Stream, a current which runs along our route but in different places at different times. Also, there are strong counter-currents to watch out for if we stray out of the stream. Since these currents can make a difference of four knots either way, it's well worth our while to get it right. So we're taking careful note of reports from other boats ahead.

Fri 28 May 2004 20:41 America/Belize
Position: 20° 42.841' N 86° 52.459' W; 5533.7 miles since Alameda, California

We've caught the Gulf Stream! We've just finished a run of 168 miles in 24 hours, all under sail, which is pretty decent. The current set in not far out of Belize, giving us 1.5 knots, which has been steadily increasing; as we passed between the island of Cozumel and the mainland, the current was 3.3 knots.

So now we're sailing nicely in a steady breeze, making over 9 knots, 219 miles out of Belize City. We're just north of Cozumel, about 5 miles off the Mexican coast. The only problem is that the wind is setting somewhat against the current, which creates a nasty steep chop, so we're bouncing all over the place. Apart from that, it's been great; warm and sunny except for one squall just outside Belize.

We've decided not to stop at Isla Mujeres -- things are going too well, and the weather is set to remain favourable, so we'd rather make the miles while we can. That means we're headed past Cuba for the Straits of Florida, and the Florida Keys. We just hope that George W. doesn't steal our boat...

Sat 29 May 2004 20:26 America/Belize
Position: 22° 44.972' N 85° 04.628' W; 5694.1 miles since Alameda, California

Things have slowed down a little here, though we've certainly been getting our value from the Gulf Stream. We actually covered 193.3 miles in 24 hours -- an average speed of 8 knots sustained for a whole day, which is remarkable for a small boat. We were sailing at 10.4 knots for a little while.

Now we've left Mexico well behind, and we're passing the west end of Cuba, heading north-east towards Florida. We've covered 380 miles since Belize, almost 100 of which were due to the current. The current and wind are both down now, so we're going more slowly; but the sea is also a lot flatter, so we're having a nice, gentle ride, under a clear sky with lots of stars out.

Passing Cuba

One strange thing is that we're picking up VHF broadcasts from Florida, despite that VHF is supposed to have a 20-mile range, and we're 200 miles from Key West! We presume this is due to strange atmospheric conditions. We've been listening to the coastguard in Key West and St Petersburg; but, very handily, we're also getting the 24-hour US weather broadcasts, which include Gulf Stream predictions. It's nice to hear the familiar weather broadcasts again, which we haven't heard since San Diego.

Sun 30 May 2004 12:18 America/Belize
Position: 23° 26.274' N 84° 24.129' W; 5751.9 miles since Alameda, California

The Tropic of Cancer: we left the tropics as we crossed the Tropic of Cancer northbound.

Sun 30 May 2004 21:50 America/New_York
Position: 23° 34.300' N 83° 51.577' W; 5785.0 miles since Alameda, California

We have left the tropics! After five and a half months of tropical voyaging, we crossed the Tropic of Cancer today for the second time, this time northbound. The odd thing is that is seems to be hotter than ever now! Of course, the Sun is moving north too, and is close to dead overhead at mid-day.

We've slowed down again -- the Gulf Stream takes a big loop into the Gulf of Mexico between Cuba and Florida, and we're not going all the way in there, so we're cutting across the mouth of the loop -- so not much assistance from it right now. And the wind chose this time to go light and turn east, so it's straight on our nose. Not only that, but the wind is kicking up another nasty steep chop, so it's back to bouncy motoring, rather than smooth sailing!

The biggest disappointment, though, is how quiet it's been. We saw a few ships as we crossed a shipping lane west of Cuba, but since then we haven't seen a single boat; and I don't think we've seen a dolphin, bird, or fish on the entire trip. The lack of fish is particularly annoying, as we were hoping for some more interesting food than what we have left in ship's stores -- mostly stuff we bought in San Diego.

Still, we'll keep trailing a line, and hoping...

Mon 31 May 2004 21:32 America/New_York
Position: 24° 03.778' N 82° 17.347' W; 5878.5 miles since Alameda, California

We're now almost between the Forida Keys and Cuba, just a little west of Key West, having covered 580 miles since Belize. The narrowest part of the Straits of Florida is just ahead, where Cuba and Key West are just 80 miles apart. We're currently tacking south, to get back into the Gulf Stream, as the wind has been pushing us steadily north -- hopefully we should get back in fairly soon.

We had a dolphin visit at dawn today, the first one since Belize -- about 15 Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphins, who swam along under the bowsprit for quite a while. The strange thing was that we were barely moving through the water at the time, but they got into the usual wake-riding position; so they were actually sitting almost motionless, lined up under the bowsprit, occasionally changing places with each other.

Wed 2 Jun 2004 00:04 America/New_York
Position: 24° 25.912' N 81° 37.381' W; 5993.1 miles since Alameda, California

Well, we sailed past Key West today, and then decided that there really aren't any other convenient places to check in on the Florida coast. So we doubled back, and now we're motoring in light winds towards the entrance channel; we've got about 13 miles to go to Key West, after doing 683 miles out of Belize City. It helps that Rachel has checked in here before, so she knows the anchorage pretty well. Hopefully we'll be anchored there in about 3 hours; then we can get checked in, and try the "world's best fish and chips" that Rachel has been raving about since San Diego!

Key West
Wed 2 Jun 2004 22:53 America/New_York
Position: 24° 33.830' N 81° 48.644' W -- Key West, Florida; 6009.8 miles since Alameda, California

We finally made it into Key West at 4 a.m. this morning -- the entrance channel is very long, but at least well-marked, and we have a detailed chart, so getting in at night wasn't too tricky.

Naturally, we slept pretty late, but we still had an action-packed day today. We got into town and checked in -- a pretty easy process here; it involved the usual office visits (customs and immigration) plus a phone call, but it was all pretty straightforward, since the offices are actually within walking distance of the water, and in the same building. A cruising permit for a year was just $19, and immigration for 6 months was free; this is by far the best deal we've had (Belize was close to $100 for 2 months), which of course means we can spend more time here spending money. I can't help thinking other countries would benefit from this approach.

Sunset at Key West

After all that, we sampled the "world's best fish and chips" -- which was truly great; did some shopping for cruising guides for the east coast, and some hardware for the boat; and topped up our food supplies. We finally picked up some ice, and got back to the boat for cold drinks.

Key West is jam-packed with tourists, playing on the water in every way imaginable; and the waterfront is lined with huge expensive hotels. The town, though, is surprisingly pretty, especially away from the main tourist-trap shopping roads, and has some lovely tropical architecture. We're actually not in the tropics any more -- by 67 miles -- but the weather here is about as hot and humid as any we've seen since leaving San Diego.

So we've come full circle, from the US back to the US; it feels like quite an achievement, and we still have a lot of cruising left, even just working up the east coast. The best news, though, is that we may finally meet our friends on Gitane again. We got to know them and their boat -- a close relative of our own Westsail -- pretty well in San Diego; but since then, although they left just a month before us, and they've been sailing almost the same route as us, they've been lagging behind, as they decided to spend some time on the west coast of Mexico. We kept in touch by email, though, and for the last week or so they've been getting close enough to talk -- albeit with difficulty -- on the short-wave.

Now they're heading this way; they left Honduras about the same time we left Belize, so they've been a day or so behind, but now they're heading into Key West to check in. So tonight Rachel and I are standing by the VHF, ready to guide them in to the anchorage as soon as they get here; and we can't wait to meet them again, so we can finally swap tales of our trips.

Thu 3 Jun 2004 22:43 America/New_York
Position: 24° 33.833' N 81° 48.638' W -- Key West, Florida; 6009.8 miles since Alameda, California

J and Jenny on Gitane got in at 4 am. this morning, just about the same time we got here; we were up to cheer them in, and help them get anchored just beside Moonrise.

J and Jenny on Moonrise at Key West

They picked us up in their super-fast dinghy this morning, and we went into town together; we showed them where to check in, but unfortunately customs and immigration weren't at home -- they must have been out checking a cruise ship in. So we all went for a walk, tried some "world's best fish and chips", and toured Key West, which really is a very picturesque town. We visited the southernmost point in the continental United States, and some of the waterfront, then came back to Moonrise for snacks in the cockpit while watching a fabulous sunset and swapping tales of our trips. Altogether a great day.

Sat 5 Jun 2004 00:15 America/New_York
Position: 24° 33.838' N 81° 48.617' W -- Key West, Florida; 6011.0 miles since Alameda, California

Gitane got checked in today, at last; they tried several times, but the immigration people were either in meetings or out of the office. Rather frustrating, but finally they were officially admitted to their own country! Meanwhile, we took Moonrise over to stock up with fuel and water, which was pretty straightforward at one of the fuel docks on Key West.

Gitane in Key West

We had another social evening tonight, on Gitane this time, with an excellent stir-fry by Jenny, discussing plans for heading north; hopefully, we'll be able to keep together for at least part of the way.

Moonrise cruising off Florida (by Gitane)
Sat 5 Jun 2004 23:10 America/New_York
Position: 24° 32.720' N 81° 24.447' W -- Looe Key, Florida; 6045.5 miles since Alameda, California

We got under way today, along with Gitane, and we headed out to sea accompanied by the Saturday morning rush of power-boats screaming by towards the fishing grounds. Once we were out of the long entrance channel, though, things quietened down, so we set sail side-by-side, and spent an enjoyable hour or two experimenting with our sails, and taking pictures of each others' boats.

Gitane dousing her jib

Our destination was Looe Key, a small reef east of Key West; unfortunately, the wind wasn't helpful, and the current was dead against us, so we ended up motoring most of the way. We got here about 6 pm.; it's a submerged reef, with a number of mooring buoys set up around it so that pleasure boats can come here without their anchors tearing up the bottom. All four of us immediately jumped into the water for what turned out to be a fantastic snorkel -- the water was warm, noticeably warmer than Belize, and there were loads of fish -- including one 4-foot long monster that swam unconcernedly right by us. (Fishing isn't allowed here.)

Corals at Looe Key (by Gitane)

Right now we're trying to decide if we have the energy to go on tonight...

Sun 6 Jun 2004 20:43 America/New_York
Position: 25° 05.651' N 79° 50.710' W; 6149.2 miles since Alameda, California

Well, last night was drama night. After our nice snorkel, we decided that the mooring was pretty unsuitable to spend the night; it was very exposed and rolly, and if we broke off the mooring for any reason, we'd be straight on to the reef which was just 100 yards behind us.

Gitane felt the same way; but unfortunately when they were doing their pre-sail checks, they noticed that one of their engine mounts was broken. This is potentially pretty serious; the last thing you want is the engine coming loose inside the engine room in rough seas, and while still running! So they decided to spend some time looking into a jury repair; and we decided to wait with them, in case they needed help or a tow.

The wait was very uncomfortable, as the seas got more and more rough; soon, both boats were plunging wildly up and down on their moorings. Then At about 1.20 am. disaster struck -- there was a deafening "snap" on Gitane -- the mooring had broken! With no choice left, they started their engine and motored off the mooring, and then decided to head off rather than try to get another mooring and wait the night in these conditions. We decided to follow suit, and in 10 minutes we were under way.

Gitane decided to stay close to the coast, since they're only going as far as Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the moment; since we're heading farther north, we took a more offshore route. We had a long motor, with the wind on the nose, but we set sail just a couple of hours ago, as we turned around the bottom of Florida and started heading north. We're 30 miles offshore, to catch the Gulf Stream, which means we've taken a big detour around the southeast corner of Florida; going in closer would have put us in an awful head current, whereas out here the current is 2-3 knots behind us. So now we're and 141 miles out of Key West, and we can see the glow of Miami ahead, about 40 miles away.

Sunset between Cuba and the Bahamas

We're keeping in touch with Gitane via the radio -- last we heard, they were doing OK; but we'll be keeping our fingers crossed for them.

Mon 7 Jun 2004 21:28 America/New_York
Position: 27° 40.214' N 79° 43.998' W; 6308.5 miles since Alameda, California

Yesterday we were sailing through the corner between Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas; today we sailed up between Florida and the Bahamas, and now we're past the Bahamas, and out into the Atlantic proper for the first time. Actually, we've had very light winds, so the engine has seen a lot of use; but now the southeast wind that's supposed to have been here all along has started blowing, albeit weakly, and we're sailing. The good news is the Gulf Stream -- 3.5 knots in our favour. We've covered 300 miles exactly since Key West; 1000 since Belize; and we're 32 miles off the coast of Florida, just southeast of Cape Canaveral.

We're still seeing no marine life here -- no dolphins, birds, or anything. The only change to endless water all around is the parade of freighters that's been passing for the last few days. We've been trailing a fishing line since Belize, and we've had absolutely no luck with it. We had one nibble today, but the fish was gone before I even got to the line -- obviously we're doing something wrong. Oh well, more veggie soup tonight!

Sunrise off Georgia
Tue 8 Jun 2004 20:25 America/New_York
Position: 30° 30.351' N 80° 09.053' W; 6481.9 miles since Alameda, California

We had a very squally night last night; one squall in particular seemed to follow us, from 3 am. to dawn, pelting us with heavy rain -- but the most alarming thing was the huge bolts of lightning all around. We got through unscathed, though, and today has been another fast ride up the Gulf Stream -- we hit 11.9 knots under sail at one point.

Right now we're 65 miles offshore, east of Jacksonville, just approaching the boundary of Florida and Georgia. We've covered 474 miles since Key West.

Wed 9 Jun 2004 22:14 America/New_York
Position: 32° 22.169' N 80° 41.111' W -- Port Royal, South Carolina; 6601.5 miles since Alameda, California

We've made it back to land -- at least within 100 yards or so. We've decided that we need to be heading north pretty quickly, much as Florida and Georgia would have been interesting to visit; on the other hand, we need fuel and propane, so we're going to put in to Beaufort, South Carolina. Since we got here after dark, we stopped at Port Royal, a convenient anchorage that's well enough lit to get in at night.

Today was mostly motoring, since the wind was very light, but we had a few bouts of sailing. It was pretty uneventful, except that we started seeing some wildlife at last! The first was when a huge fish grabbed our best and most expensive lure -- a big enough fish that it snapped the line right at the reel, so we lost most of our fishing tackle. The good news is that our average fish catch is going to be unaffected by this (it will still be zero), and we'll be expending a lot less effort.

Apart from that, we had several dolphin visits today. Anything up to 12 or more dolphins at once came and played in our bow wake, swimming along and jostling for position literally within inches of our bow. We sat on the bowsprit, almost close enough to touch them when they came up for air; they stayed for half an hour or more at a time, and they definitely started enjoying themselves more when we upped the throttle and started moving faster. (We normally motor at 4.5 knots to conserve fuel.)

Entering the channel into Port Royal

It's definitely becoming very noticeable that we're not in the tropics any more. Although it's still very pleasant, over the last couple of days the climate has become noticeable less hot and muggy. Also, it's light much later -- in the tropics, the sun sets about 6 pm. and it's pitch dark pretty soon after; but tonight, twilight seemed to go on forever as we worked our way up the inlet towards Port Royal. Not surprising since we're now 32 degrees north.

So here we are, having covered 594 miles since Key West; not a bad stretch. We'll probably spend a day or two here, then head north some more. We'll be taking the chance to explore the Intracoastal Waterway a little; this is an amazing waterway that runs from the Chesapeake Bay all the way down to Florida, following creeks and bays the whole way. It's great for small boats, and very scenic; so hopefully we'll have some nice cruising ahead.

Thu 10 Jun 2004 19:01 America/New_York
Position: 32° 25.727' N 80° 40.845' W -- Beaufort, South Carolina; 6605.9 miles since Alameda, California

Quiet day today -- we slept in to recover from our passage, then spend a few hours putting the boat in order. Finally, we moved up the Beaufort River to Beaufort, where we're now anchored. With a bit of a storm coming in, we decided to wait until tomorrow before we row to shore. But the cool thing is that when we get there, we don't have to go through customs and immigration! It seems like that has been the ritual every time we've been ashore for the last six months.

A nice waterfront property in Beaufort

The trip up the river was nice; our first real stretch on the Intracoastal Waterway. The waterway was made by joining up natural inlets and creeks, which certainly abound on this stretch of the coastline. Today's trip was typical of the waterway -- rural riverbanks on either side, with large, nice houses, marshes, and trees down to the water's edge -- live oaks, a kind of evergreen oak; no more mangroves for us.

Fri 11 Jun 2004 22:46 America/New_York
Position: 32° 25.172' N 80° 39.395' W -- Factory Creek, Beaufort, South Carolina; 6607.6 miles since Alameda, California

Beaufort is a beautiful Southern town; established in 1711, and it looks it, with beautiful old houses flanked by elegant porches, majestic live oaks, and shady gardens. We spent the morning wandering the town; we'd intended to post some borrowed DVDs back to their owner, but the post office was closed for the national day of mourning for Ronald Reagan. (They don't ask whether you're a Republican; they're closed to everyone.) We did find a really nice cafe / bookshop, where we indulged in our first chilled coffee drinks since San Diego -- a treat I think we've earned!

Wandering around Beaufort

After relaxing for a while along the beautiful Beaufort waterfront, all shady trees and swinging seats -- actually, Beaufort has a lot of trees -- we returned to the boat, upped anchor, and went to the fuel dock for diesel and water. Then we headed to our next anchorage -- just over a mile away, but a lot more convenient for the supermarket. Getting there, though, involved going through a swinging bridge -- my first ever opening bridge, although Rachel is an old hand at this from her last time on the Intracoastal Waterway. We called the bridge up, and they dutifully opened; this is every boaters' right, but it was quite something to see hundreds of cars backed up on the main road for at least quarter of an hour -- all for us!

Ian relaxing in Beaufort

We branched a little off the Waterway into Factory Creek, a little creek between a big marsh and Lady's Island, where we plan to do our next round of provisioning. We're anchored between a marina and a dock belonging to a huge mansion; pretty typical of the waterways here. Since we're in a tidal river, with no room to swing around, we set out both a bow and stern anchor, to hold Moonrise parallel to the current. Since it's really sheltered here, we're looking forward to a peaceful night.

Sat 12 Jun 2004 22:21 America/New_York
Position: 32° 25.172' N 80° 39.394' W -- Factory Creek, Beaufort, South Carolina; 6607.6 miles since Alameda, California

We spent the day on Lady's Island, just beside Beaufort, anchored in this beautiful, tranquil little creek; we filled a propane tank, did laundry at the nearby laundromat, and got some provisioning done, but the main thing was meeting lots of amazingly friendly and hospitable people.

Into Port Royal and on up to Beaufort.

The staff at the marina beside our spot have been extremely helpful, letting us land our dinghy there, and giving us directions; even offering to drive us to the car rental place if we need it. And they aren't making a penny off us, except for the odd dollar for a bag of ice. The folks we met in town are just as nice; and we spent half an hour talking to a couple of cruisers from Maine, who have a boat in the marina. Their boat is a powerboat, a Dutch canal cruiser, perfect for the intracoastal waterway and beautifully designed and fitted out.

All in all it seems like we've found a really wonderful spot here. With this in mind, we're reconsidering our future plans. By the way, Gitane made it safely into Fort Lauderdale, and they're making ready to continue north; so a big part of our planning is around meeting up with them again.

Moonrise in Factory Creek
Sun 13 Jun 2004 21:14 America/New_York
Position: 32° 25.171' N 80° 39.392' W -- Factory Creek, Beaufort, South Carolina; 6607.6 miles since Alameda, California

Had a lazy Sunday today -- did a bit more boat cleaning up, and sat and looked out over the river and marshes around the boat. The view is really picturesque, despite the cloudy skies and mists; it seems this is thunderstorm season in South Carolina, and we've had one or two a day lately. In fact, a huge thunderstorm just passed over Moonrise; there were dozens of lightning flashes every minute, and some big bolts coming down within a few hundred yards of the boat. We're still getting some bright flashes. With a huge metal mast sticking up in the air, we always feel vulnerable to lightning, but no hits so far. At least there are boats with taller masts in the nearby marina!

We also had some surprise visitors this afternoon -- dolphins! We've seen quite a few dolphins in the Beaufort River, but were were surprised to find them right up in the creek this afternoon, just yards from the boat.

Tue 15 Jun 2004 00:29 America/New_York
Position: 32° 25.171' N 80° 39.391' W -- Factory Creek, Beaufort, South Carolina; 6607.6 miles since Alameda, California

Had another quiet day in Beaufort today; we visited the library, using the Internet to check the weather forecasts offshore, and made some phone calls. We're thinking of heading north for the Chesapeake tomorrow, and the weather is looking favourable; so all being well, we'll be off fairly early. We've already stocked up on snacks for the offshore leg, so we're pretty much set.

Tue 15 Jun 2004 22:07 America/New_York
Position: 32° 22.190' N 80° 41.117' W -- Port Royal, South Carolina; 6618.7 miles since Alameda, California

Our plan today was to follow the Intracoastal Waterway up to Charleston, then head out to the ocean and sail on up to the Chesapeake. The problem with taking the Intracoastal all the way is that it's slow going; you can't move at night, and the route is so twisty, and prone to shoaling, that it requires full concentration all the time you're moving. So a passage up the waterway tends to consist of shortish, slow-moving days; unlike a 24-hour-a-day ocean passage.

So the Charleston route we had planned would have been slower than heading south back to the ocean, then turning north; but, of course, the waterway is a beautiful destination in its own right. So we planned to overnight at an anchorage some way up, to get to Charleston the next day.

Passing the Ladys Island bridge

This morning, though, dawned dull and rainy -- in fact, it rained up to noon, which didn't inspire us to get an early start. When we finally got going, we decided to head to the fuel dock to top up before the long run -- which meant going through the swing bridge, and holding up traffic, twice in a row. Then we finally started off up the waterway -- actually the Beaufort River in this section.

We hadn't got very far, though, when thump -- we ran firmly aground, on an uncharted shoal in the middle of the river. We couldn't power off, so more drastic measures were called for. We put the stern anchor in the dinghy with Rachel, and she rowed it out and dropped it about 100 feet astern. Using a winch on the anchor line -- a technique known as kedging -- in combination with the engine, we managed to pull back off the shoal and get afloat again. We then set the main bow anchor while we set about retrieving our by now well-dug-in stern anchor, again in the dinghy, and stowing away its 350-foot rode.

All in all, it was a classic recovery, but by the time it was done, we didn't have a chance of making our anchorage before dark. So, we changed plans again, and headed back downriver towards the ocean -- through the swing bridge for the third time today! Luckily a different bridge tender was on duty this time.

As we passed through the bridge, I saw ospreys nesting on one of the pilings on the bridge fenders -- quite a common sight on the waterway. I got some photos, and the bridge tender, who was watching us pass through, pointed out another nest on the other side, so I got pictures of that too, after thanking him for his help. Farther down, we passed under a higher fixed bridge, and saw an osprey with at least two small chicks on another piling.

Now we're anchored back at Port Royal, within 10 miles or so ocean, ready for an early start tomorrow.

Wed 16 Jun 2004 20:37 America/New_York
Position: 32° 09.605' N 80° 08.394' W; 6659.5 miles since Alameda, California

We got underway today, quite early, and headed down the long entrance channel to sea -- it was 6 miles to the entrance to Port Royal Sound, and because of a long bank of shoals just offshore, we had to go 10 miles south of that before turning east to head for the Gulf Stream once again.

The weather was good at first, but as we motored down the channel, three or four rain squalls moved in and gave us a good soaking. Once out of the sound, we started ploughing into horribly steep waves, caused by the ebb tide, which was giving us a push out, running dead into the south wind. Conditions seemed absolutely horrible, but when we finally turned east, it eased a bit; still, setting the sails was a challenge. But within just fifteen minutes or so, it all calmed down; we had moved out of the current flowing out from the sound, and left the big waves behind.

Now we're sailing along smoothly under full sail, in a light breeze, heading just north of east; in 90 miles or so, we should be back in the Gulf Stream, and heading north-east for the Chesapeake.

Thu 17 Jun 2004 18:58 America/New_York
Position: 32° 35.785' N 77° 59.966' W; 6772.5 miles since Alameda, California

Had a great sailing day today; cruising along under clear skies, warm but not too hot -- actually, it's getting a little chilly at night, and I may need to start wearing shoes on night watch again. THe wind died later on, so we've been motoring to get out into the best part of the Gulf Stream -- so far, the current is helping us, but not too strongly. The motivation is that we managed to get in touch with Gitane again -- they're heading to the same place as us in the Chesapeake, but they're ahead, so we need to hurry to meet up with them. So hopefully we'll find the 4 knots they said they caught on the way up.

Fri 18 Jun 2004 20:51 America/New_York
Position: 34° 46.093' N 75° 18.448' W; 6969.1 miles since Alameda, California

We had a rash of ships today -- the busiest part of the trip so far -- but now it's gone quiet again.

The wind and waves are getting noticeably stronger as we head towards Cape Hatteras, which is now 27 miles ahead. We're making 7-8 knots, with the Gulf Stream still helping us, so we're set to make the Chesapeake in the next day or so.

Sat 19 Jun 2004 20:30 America/New_York
Position: 36° 30.949' N 75° 24.702' W; 7094.1 miles since Alameda, California

Struggling on against awkward seas and wind dead on the nose... we're now about 44 miles from the entrance to the Chesapeake, 20 miles offshore. We're seeing more ships around now, but that's about it, except for lightning storms -- luckily none overhead yet.

Sun 20 Jun 2004 21:37 America/New_York
Position: 37° 32.822' N 76° 19.738' W -- Jackson Creek, Virginia; 7174.5 miles since Alameda, California

The Chesapeake Bay is well known for warm weather and light winds; a sailing paradise, if somewhat lacking in decent wind.

A ship passing the Chesapeake bridge-tunnel behind us

Well, you could have fooled us. Last night was horrible -- as we struggled towards the Chesapeake, the wind and waves got worse and worse, and the temperature plummeted until it was bitterly cold; but as the sun rose, the Chesapeake bridge-tunnel was finally ahead of us. But once into the bay, things got even worse; with the wind howling dead ahead, and the waves slamming into the bow, we were struggling to make 2 knots under full power.

As we worked up the bay, though, things gradually improved; the wind was still dead ahead, so we were still motoring, but at least we managed to make a little more speed. 20 or 30 miles into the bay, we were at last making decent progress, although it was still very cold.

Ospreys nesting at Jackson Creek

Finally, about 3 pm., we turned into Jackson Creek, a small creek in the western shore of the bay, 44 miles up from the entrance. The wind died down, and the temperature rose, as we made our way through the tiny entrance channel into the creek. And it was well worth it -- after passing 4 or 5 osprey nests perched on the entrance channel markers, we found a beautiful, sheltered little bay, with almost glassy water, surrounded by large houses and a small marina.

An old tug in Jackson Creek

We joined about 4 other cruising boats anchored here, finishing our trip of 560 miles from Beaufort. We headed off to shore, and a 2-mile walk took us to the marina where our friends on Gitane had their boat hauled out a few days ago, where we met them again at last -- for the first time since Key West. We headed off into town for dinner, and had a great time getting re-acquainted.

J, Jenny and Gitane after their epic trip

With out arrival at the Chesapeake, we're within a few miles of the latitude of Alameda, where we started; just over 14 months, and 7,375 miles ago. It's been quite a trip, and feels like a pretty major accomplishment, having taken Moonrise down almost to the equator and back up, and halfway around the continent of North America.

So, our plan now is to spend some time here, fixing the boat up; the first order of business is to do a little travelling inland, and get Rachel's car, among other things. So this is going to be my last daily update for a while; I'm not sure when I'll be able to use the radio, but I'll send out irregular updates from time to time.

Fri 9 Jul 2004 22:52 America/New_York
Position: 37° 32.907' N 76° 19.852' W -- Jackson Creek, Virginia; 7174.6 miles since Alameda, California

We've been busy since our last log -- we've covered a few thousand miles, though sadly by car, not boat.

First off was a lightning trip to Atlanta, to retrieve Rachel's car from storage. This was a long drive -- about 10 hours -- and there seemed to be road works all the way. Still, we stopped for a recharge at Rachel's brother's apartment -- handy for him, as he'd just had knee surgery (literally, the anaesthetic was wearing off when we arrived), so we fetched and carried for him as he learned to get about on crutches.

I got back to Moonrise (still riding safely at anchor, thank goodness) before Rachel, and in time to meet the Gitanes. They'd been in Florida for a possible boating job which fell through, so they were heading north again, to visit J's folks in Maine; they just had time to invite us up to join them. So when Rachel got back, we spent a night on board and headed up to Maine.

Portland, Maine, as seen from the ferry

Our drive north was tiring; it was supposed to take 12 hours, according to the online mapping service we used, but it took far longer. We had to work our way around Richmond, Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Boston to get there -- quite a lot of traffic. Still, we got there, seeing a little of the east coast along the way, and arrived on J's little island off the coast of Maine just in time for their Fourth of July parade.

J dressing Mr Bush

The theme of the parade was "Presidents Past and Present", and Rachel and I got roped in with local character BJ to do a "Bush Senior and Junior" item -- BJ liberally covered with foliage as Mr Bush, pushing a mini-Bush on wheels, and four of us dressed as secret service agents leading him along on wires. It seemed to go down pretty well, and we won first prize!

J at the helm of Miss Breezy

J, unfortunately, missed the parade, as he got roped into acting as a delivery captain, ferrying a band and some caterers between the island and the mainland for a local wedding. As a bonus, Rachel and I got a ride on Miss Breezy, the lobster boat he was driving, so we saw some more of Casco Bay, which is absolutely beautiful.

BJ got hold of a huge load of fresh Maine lobsters with the prize money, so we had a slap-up feast that night -- after setting some fireworks off, naturally.

Out on Nepenthe

We had another day on the water on the 6th. J has a 22-foot boat, Nepenthe, in Maine, and he and Jenny took Rachel and I out for a sail. Sailing such a small, light, and responsive boat was a great diversion after so long on Moonrise, and we had a lovely sail, from Chebeague island to a restaurant on the mainland known for its chowder. After a great meal, we sailed back, or tried to, as the wind gradually died. Our outboard motor had already given up the ghost, so when we found ourselves between two rocky points with no wind at all, Rachel took to the rowing dinghy -- which we'd been towing along behind us -- and towed us, by oar power, through the gap. This worked splendidly until the wind suddenly filled in and we took off away from Rachel -- but we looped around and picked her up pretty soon.

View from the ferry

After all this fun, and wonderful hospitality, it was pretty sad to leave, but we had to go -- leaving Moonrise on the anchor was a little stressful, even in the very sheltered inlet she's tucked in to. The journey home was terrible again, but we too a little time out to see New Jersey and a little of Delaware and the Chesapeake. And the highlight was getting home and finding Moonrise exactly where we'd left her.

So now we're back on Moonrise, or at least I am, as Rachel has taken off again to make a quick trip home to Wisconsin. Hopefully she'll be back before too long.