Sailing, sailing, over the bounding main!

Note: We are not currently in the Chesapeake – thankfully, given the time of year.  I’m just WAY behind on blog posts.

We have a love/hate relationship with the Chesapeake.  I’ve posted about how the sailing in New England is far superior to the Chesapeake.  But still, there’s something magical about the Chesapeake Bay.  Every time we initially arrive, we think about settling here some day when we swallow the anchor.  Usually by the time it’s in our rear view mirror, we’re cursing its existence after having either wind on the nose, no wind, or 4-5 foot square waves with a 4-5 second period.  But not this time.  This time we had our best trip – hands down – along the length of the Chesapeake Bay.  

We took advantage of several days of VERY favorable westerly wind of about 20 knots or so.  Skirting along the shore to keep the fetch down, we had a splendid (albeit chilly) sail from Annapolis to Solomons.  

Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, built in 1875. It’s the last screw-pile lighthouse on the Bay in its original location.

From there it was another fantastic sail to Mill Creek in Reedville where we hung out for a few days.  The forecast was for light wind, but on the nose, so we figured we’d wait until it was light wind behind us – just in case the light wind ended up being stronger than forecast.

Point Lookout Lighthouse at the mouth of the Potomac, built in 1830.

 

Mill Creek is one of our favorite anchorages on the Chesapeake.  It’s so scenic, and there’s protection from any direction depending on where you drop the hook.

We mixed it up by going from Reedville to Bryant Bay in Mobjack Bay instead of our usual stop in Deltaville.  I’ve never been crazy about the anchorage in Jackson Creek in Deltaville.  The holding has always been suspect to me, and it’s usually pretty tight with a lot of boats.  So we had a longer day to Mobjack which gave us a shorter following day to Norfolk, a new stop for us.  

A beautiful sunset on Mobjack Bay.
An aircraft carrier being worked on in Norfolk.
This tugboat is the “Robert T.” It reminded me of my dad, Robert Thomas.

Our friends Vanessa and Kurt spent a weekend last summer in Norfolk and spoke highly of it, so we decided to get a slip and check it out.  We ended up liking it quite a bit.  We were able to see my Aunt Rebecca who was kind enough to drive down from Charlottesville, and we also did some touring around and eating out.  

Norfolk had an active downtown area, and we walked the Cannonball trail through the Freemason District which is Norfolk’s oldest neighborhood, a national historic district with beautiful 18th century to early 20th century homes.  

The downtown library was VERY nice!

 

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is the only colonial-era building still standing in Norfolk. It’s believed the Liverpool, a ship in the Royal Navy, fired this cannonball that became lodged in the church.

Honestly, we barely scratched the surface of Norfolk and will definitely be stopping there again.  The Battleship Wisconsin, the Chrysler Museum, more neighborhoods – there’s still a ton left to see.  But, we can’t see it all in one visit.  For now, it was time to continue heading south.  

It’s always a relief when the Jersey Coast and the Delaware Bay are in our rear view mirror.

We ended up waiting a week in Port Washington. The remnants of Ian combined with another system leaving us hiding in the boat for several days.  The wind blew over 25 knots and the rain poured, but we were on an excellent mooring with good protection so we spent the days reading, surfing the Internet, baking brownies, etc.  Before and after the weather we were able to restock our groceries and the booze cabinet, grab some pizza from Carlo’s Pizza (our favorite), do laundry, and Jeff even was able to go metal detecting for an afternoon.

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A beautiful sunset before the weather came in.

It was clear from the various Facebook groups that the weather had caused a log jam of cruisers in western Long Island, all waiting to continue south. Normally our next stop would be Atlantic Highlands, but it sounded like EVERYONE was going there. It’s a good spot, but the anchorage isn’t huge and if we couldn’t get in behind the break wall we were going to be exposed with a wind shift the following night. So we decided to switch things up a bit and reserve a mooring ball at the Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club in Brooklyn.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip down the East River:

Our two-night stay at Sheepshead Bay was excellent. It was a true working man’s yacht club with very friendly members, and it was a no-brainer to decide that from now on it will be our stop to stage for the New Jersey coast. It always takes a good 45 minutes to get from Atlantic Highlands into the ocean, and rounding the point at Sandy Hook is always a sloppy pain in the tail when there’s any wind. From Sheepshead Bay we were out in the ocean within minutes – a much nicer experience.

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Going by Coney Island on our way to Sheepshead Bay.

Before we left Sheepshead Bay we wandered down to Brighton Beach/Little Odessa, and picked up some tasty treats at the large Eastern European grocery store there. We wanted to explore some more, but Jeff’s foot wasn’t 100% yet, so we decided to save it for next time. Despite countless visits to New York City, it was an area we had never been to, and we enjoyed it a lot.

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This is the kind of local joint my dad would have loved. Open since 1970, the decor appears untouched, and the beef sandwiches were tasty!

 

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Artistic sailboats in Sheepshead Bay. I thought it looked cool.

After two nights at Sheepshead Bay it was time to make the trip to Cape May. We had a great forecast with 10-16 knots predicted from the west and northwest, and a full moon rising before the sunset and falling after the sunrise. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.

We actually sailed for 2/3 of the trip, which was the most we’ve ever been able to do. The west wind gave us virtually no fetch until it picked up and clocked a bit shortly past Atlantic City. At that point the Jersey Coast demanded her pound of flesh and things were VERY sloppy with a steady 20 knots of wind. The fact that it was only 41 degrees out didn’t help, but we powered through – not like there was any choice!

We’ve noticed that every time we go along the Jersey Coast, the sea state gets lousy in the same area. It’s around where the coastline bends farther away from the rhumb line, just past Atlantic City. So we decided that for future trips we’re going to continue to hug the coast south of Atlantic City, even though it will add some mileage. The motion comfort will more than make up for the added distance.

The flotilla that began on the East River continued, and we sailed with at least 25 other boats that day and night – most heading to Cape May. Cape May isn’t the largest anchorage but we squeezed in, and after a four hour nap we felt very refreshed.

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The anchorage is right by the boot camp facilities for the Coast Guard. We could hear them chanting.

An additional ten hours of sleep that night had us bouncing up with the sunrise to move up the Delaware Bay. With two days of virtually no wind, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions to move up that unholy body of water. While we certainly prefer sailing over motoring, if we’re motoring because there’s no wind on the Delaware Bay, that’s definitely a win in our book!

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Now THIS is what we like to see on the Delaware Bay!

 

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Cohansey Creek is one of the few anchorages on the Delaware Bay. It’s a nice spot, well-protected from fetch with great holding.

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Obligatory nuclear plant photo.
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This is our third time on the C&D Canal, but the first time we’ve had a barge pass us.
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Beautiful scenery on the upper Chesapeake.

After anchoring at Cohansey Creek the first night (we still stay FAR away from that damn Reedy Island), we landed at Bohemia Bay and put Pegu Club in a slip so we could enjoy a few nights of living on land while we visited with our good friends Kurt and Vanessa, and Jay and Tanya from S/V Minx.

After saying our goodbyes, it was another wind-free motor down to Annapolis where we anchored in Weems Creek and enjoyed the last day of the boat show.

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Originally we thought we’d be well south by the time the boat show came around, but the weather delays worked to our benefit. We picked up a few goodies, unexpectedly and delightfully ran into our cruising friend Larry who we last saw in Eleuthera (and will see in the Exumas this winter), and then it was time to continue down the Chesapeake Bay.

“This don’t look like the Coachella Valley to me.”

We ended up staying a week in Mattituck. For awhile we joked that we were going to be spending Thanksgiving there. We were extremely well-protected as several fronts rolled through, and we waited patiently. We read posts from cruising friends who were motoring steadily down Long Island Sound, bashing their way down the New Jersey coast, then bashing some more up the Delaware Bay. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. We weren’t going to do that if we could help it. If that meant sitting around for awhile, then so be it.

While we were in Mattituck we poked around in the Italian market that we had enjoyed last time, we went grocery shopping at the bigger market, and had some of the best damn BBQ we have ever tasted, including in the south, at Meat’s Meat which was new to us. The only downside of staying there was when we woke up one morning to discover that the boat had been thoroughly strafed by the damn cormorants. That sucked, and took quite awhile to clean up.

A beautiful Mattituck sunset.
I loved the name of this local bar.
SO GOOD! Ten out of ten.
Pegu Club hanging out in the anchorage.

Finally our patience was rewarded and it was time to leave.  It was going to be a tack-fest with wind on the nose for the first two days to Port Jefferson and Northport, but the third day would be an excellent beam reach to Port Washington where we would be well protected for the next lengthy weather system.

The predicted wind the first two days ended up being on the higher end of the forecast, so much so that we decided from now on we would take the highest forecasted gusts and assume that’s what we would see for the steady strength.  But it was three wonderful, boisterous days of sailing.  

Pegu Club was a very salty girl after our sail from Mattituck to Port Jefferson.

We were actually surprised at how comfortable we were with the conditions.  I thought that taking the winter off would make us a bit more tentative, but it seems to have had the opposite effect.  We tacked back and forth through winds in the upper teens and low twenties the first two days, and we learned quite a bit about the best sail trim for Pegu in those conditions.  

On the third day we had the forecasted beam reach to Port Washington, but first we had to blast our way out of Huntington Harbor with a steady 24 knots on the nose.  Once again, we were shocked at how we handled it.  In the past, we absolutely would have turned around.  Instead we knew that if we could just suck it up for 15 minutes or so, we’d be banging a left and flying down the sound on a beam reach.  And we were.    

A blustery beam reach to Port Washington.

In fact, we were so thrilled with how great the sailing was that we made our way into the wrong harbor!  As we were sailing along, we started saying “Hmmm.  Wait a minute.  This doesn’t look like Port Washington.”  Or as Bugs Bunny said, “This don’t look like the Coachella Valley to me.”  That’s because it wasn’t.  We were one harbor too soon.  Our punishment was fifteen minutes hard on the wind, blowing 20 knots, before turning off onto a beam reach again.  Ah well.  Lesson learned.  Always put a route in the chart plotter, even if we think we know where we’re going!

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Oops – wrong harbor!

Once we were actually in Port Washington, we took one of the transient yellow moorings and settled down for what we knew would be an extended stay while we waited for decent weather.  It was fine with us, though.  Out of all of the places we’ve been to on Long Island Sound, Port Washington is our number one choice for a lengthy stay.

One goal for this cruising season: more sailing, less motoring.

Each year when we head south, we are always balancing how quickly we should go. Making tracks usually equals motoring, which we aren’t crazy about. Big Red is great, but we both prefer the quiet of being under sail. Not to mention with diesel currently at $5.00/gallon, it makes sense to use the floppy white things as much as we can.

So before we left for this season, we decided we would try a new strategy. Whenever possible we will pick a close anchorage, an intermediate one, and a long one, and let the wind dictate where we drop the anchor. We are also going to try to take full advantage of favorable currents vs. motoring against them, even if that means leaving a bit later in the day than we normally would (so that would be a good close anchorage day). There are many places along the ICW where the only real option is to motor, and the current changes with each inlet. But for everywhere else, we’ll try to sail and ride the currents.

As our departure date drew closer, we both REALLY wanted to get going. Jeff had broken his foot at the end of July so we already knew our goal of leaving Labor Day weekend wasn’t going to happen.

Poor Jeff spent a lot of time lying on the settee in an attempt to heal as quickly as possible.

Then our first and second target dates came and went because I wasn’t finished sewing the connector. When the connector was finished we still had a few projects to cross off the list, but we finally got to the point where we started saying, “That can wait, that can wait, that can wait.”

Looking ahead at the next week’s forecast, we knew we would make very little progress due to some fronts coming through, but we didn’t care. It was time to go. So around 2:30 on Saturday, we did. We had previously decided on Old Saybrook which was only around 15 nautical miles away, and the current was in our favor, so we shut the engine off and sailed 2/3 of the way before the wind died. Not a bad start!

We hadn’t been to Old Saybrook since our first trip south in 2018, and it was nice to return. North Cove is extremely protected with free moorings for transients. We had already planned to meet up with some land-based friends on their boats which they keep there, and as we motored down the fairway we heard, “Hey, Pegu Club!” It was our cruising friends on S/V Evergreen! We had met them in 2019 on the Dismal Swamp when they were making their first trip on their old boat, S/V Catalpa. They are based in Massachusetts and we knew they were planning on heading south again this year, but we didn’t expect to run into them so quickly! What a great surprise!

The next day was filled with going from boat to boat, catching up with friends. The wind was howling outside of the cove so we were all staying put, and we made the most of it, having an excellent time. It was a fantastic beginning to our trip.

The next day Evergreen left to head to Mattituck, but we had some errands we wanted to run in Old Saybrook so we stayed for one more day. Jeff pitched the idea of just staying in Old Saybrook given that a strong front was coming in a few days, but ultimately we decided to make some progress.

Riding the current down the Connecticut River, the forecast called for light winds so we had resigned ourselves to motoring to Port Jefferson. After an hour or two, however, we had an unexpected steady 10 knots. Remembering our new strategy, we shut off the engine and tacked our way over to Mattituck. It was a splendid sail, with winds of about 10-16 knots the whole way.

Lighthouses at the mouth of the Connecticut River.

As we came to the Mattituck inlet, one of the ways we’ve gained confidence over the past four years became immediately apparent. The wind had increased to 18 knots and the water was sloppy. Typically Jeff would have gone up to the mast and had a rolly, wet ride to drop the sail. But instead we decided to leave the mainsheet loose and head into the creek where the water would be much flatter. Once we did that, we decided to wait a bit longer until we approached a heavily treed area which dropped the wind, and the mainsail came down easy-peasy. In the past we wouldn’t have had the confidence to wait patiently like that as we entered a narrow, winding inlet. So between the sailing and the sail handling, we were two very pleased sailors as we dropped the anchor in Mattituck’s small anchorage.

With a very strong, lengthy front approaching, we initially planned to leave Mattituck for Port Jefferson the next day to ride out the front. The Port Jefferson anchorage area has substantially more space than Mattituck, and although the wind protection wouldn’t be as good, the fetch protection would be excellent. But as we were pulling off the mainsail cover, lifejackets on, on the verge of heading out, Jeff suggested we stay put instead. We would have a touch more fetch here, but the wind protection would be better, and we’d have the option to leave the boat. I agreed to stay as long as the anchor was truly set. After one minute in reverse at 3,000 rpm’s, I was convinced. We were staying in Mattituck.

And we’re off!

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Yay!  We’ve cast off the dock lines to begin our fourth trip south to the Bahamas!  After taking last winter off, we are both VERY excited.  It’s like being a newbie again, but much less nerve-wracking since we have a better idea of what we’re doing.

What’s the plan for this cruising season?  A combination of ICW and outside hops (when the weather permits), revisiting some favorite spots for longer stays, and exploring uncharted territory.  We’re hoping to visit some places in the Bahamas we haven’t yet been to – Long Island, Cat Island, maybe the Raggeds.  And last but certainly not least, we’ve finally decided we’re ready to tackle what will be our longest non-stop journey to date: we’ll be returning to Connecticut from the Bahamas via Bermuda!  Yikes!

If you want to know exactly where we are on any given day, you can click on the “Where is Pegu Club” link on the right side of the page.  So come along for frequent posts of what will undoubtedly be many adventures this season on the mighty Pegu Club!

Canvas (part three) – some final projects before we cast off the dock lines.

We still had some canvas work to do before we could head south, but after completing the dodger we knew it would all be easy-peasy by comparison.

The top priority was a new bimini.  The bimini goes over the helm in the cockpit to protect the helmsman from the sun and rain.  I completed one right before we left in 2018 and immediately knew I wanted another crack at it.  I just wasn’t happy with how it looked.  Fortunately, switching our canvas color from navy to toast gave me the perfect excuse to try it again.

It’s amazing how much more experienced I’ve become with sewing canvas.  When I did the first bimini, it took well over forty hours and I struggled the whole time.  But this one?  I whipped it out in less than half of the time, sewing with confidence the whole way.  It was SO much easier than the dodger, and we’re very happy with how it looks.

Once the bimini was finished, it was time to sew the connector.  Jeff has been advocating for a connector between the dodger and the bimini for quite some time, and although I really didn’t think it was necessary, I finally agreed just so he’d stop pestering me about it.  I thought it would be easy, but I hit a major roadblock partway through.  I couldn’t get the measurements to work according to the Sailrite video.  We made five or six trips from the clubhouse to the boat to test fit, and as the number of trips increased, so did the volume of my muttering given that I didn’t want to make the damn thing to begin with.  Finally we came up with a theory that resulted in the connector being WAY too large, so I trudged back to the clubhouse one last time to shorten it, hoping I wouldn’t make it TOO short.  Phew!  Success!

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Finally, after at least triple the anticipated hours, the connector was finished.  I’m not crazy with how it looks, so I’ll probably try again next summer.  However, I’ve admitted to Jeff that having a connector is AWESOME!  It provides SO much more protection in the cockpit from the sun and rain, and we can leave the boards out of the companionway on rainy days.  He was right.  Mark the date!

To round out the cockpit canvas, I sewed some weather cloths to give us more privacy and some protection from sea spray.  We’ve seen many of them with the boat’s name along the side and I really wanted to do that, but we ran out of time.  That will be a project for next summer.

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Last but not least, I sewed some seat covers for the Porta-bote.  Whoever was the genius that decided to design the dinghy with black seats should be summarily fired.  The seat covers were extremely straight forward, consisting of hemmed material and velcro, and they’ve worked out very well so far.

Phew!  When we were finished, Jeff mentioned that our friends on Lone Star and told him that we had done a TON of canvas work this summer.  Looking back at it, I realized they were absolutely right.  A mainsail cover, interior cushions, two throw pillows, a dodger, bimini, connector, weather cloths, and dinghy seats.  All of this plus a part-time job at Shenny, driving the launch and working at the t-head.

By the time I was finished, I was more than happy to put everything away one last time so that our friend Jeff from S/V Infinity could take it home and use it over the winter.  There will be a few canvas projects next summer, but for now I’m glad to be closing the sweatshop’s doors for the season.

Canvas (part two) – a new dodger and mainsail cover.

With the interior cushions complete, it was time to turn our attention to a new mainsail cover and dodger.  I had made a mainsail cover several years ago before we started cruising, but it was navy blue.  While that color works great in southern New England, we discovered it’s hot as hell down south.  In fact, when we were in the Chesapeake during Covid summer it was almost too hot to touch.

Jeff and I had MANY discussions about what color we should switch to.  He wanted tan, but I was decidedly not a fan until I found a shade I liked on a Shenny friend’s boat.  Unfortunately, he sold the boat last fall and couldn’t remember exactly what the color was called.  So we ordered about ten shades of tan samples from Sailrite to see if we could narrow it down.  I didn’t want anything too tan, but Jeff didn’t want anything too light.  We settled on Toast, and while at first I still wasn’t convinced, I’ve since decided that he was right. We’re both VERY happy with it.

Making the mainsail cover was relatively easy, particularly since I had done it before.  The challenging part was the lazy jack slits.  Despite my best efforts at measuring, they were off enough that Jeff needed to move the lazy jack hardware.  Once that was complete though, the cover looked great.  Now it was time to tack our hardest canvas project to date: the dodger.

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One mainsail cover – check.

A dodger is installed at the front of the cockpit to help keep wind and rain out of it.  Our old dodger frame was crooked and we had decided we preferred the added height, width, and depth of the Sailrite dodger frame, so we were truly starting from scratch.  One of the keys to a good looking dodger is a rock-solid pattern, so we spent several days making the frame and pattern.  It was VERY challenging with height changes and curves, but we finally decided it would be ok (we hoped).

Next, our good friends Jeff and Denise from S/V Infinity came to our rescue once again, allowing us to use their house as a canvas workshop while they went on vacation.  Yes, this was the same vacation that we were supposed to go on, but we knew we simply did not have the time given the projects we hoped to accomplish this summer, so we had VERY reluctantly decided to pass.  Instead I switched shifts with one of my co-workers, and we had four solid days to put our noses to the grindstone and knock most of the dodger out.

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Getting ready to sew the main window.

We worked as a team, following the Sailrite video step-by-step, and by the end of day four we were back at Shenny putting the dodger on the frame with bated breath.  Hmm.  It looked good, but we had a pretty substantial wrinkle along the side from excess material.  I posted for advice on the Sewing on Boats Facebook page, then we took it off the frame and sewed a dart.  Back on the frame it went.  Much better!

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Marks where we want to make our fix to remove the large wrinkle.

So were we finished?  Heck, no!  We wanted to be able to roll-up the main window for better ventilation.  Off came the dodger from the frame.  Back on the frame it went.  

Now were we finished?  No way!  The main window was much smaller than we had anticipated, leaving us with two large blind spots on the port and starboard side.  We needed to insert two fixed windows.  Jeff didn’t think it was necessary, but I insisted.  Off came the dodger from the frame so we could make the two fixed windows.  Back on the frame it went.  Jeff agreed that the visibility was now much better.

How about now?  Noooooo.  One of the things we liked about the Sailrite frame was that it had horizontal hand holds along the sides.  We still needed to make the cut outs for the handholds.  Off came the dodger from the frame.  Back on the frame it went.  

Why couldn’t we do all of this at once?  We felt once we made the cut for the roll-up window it might change the dodger shape a bit, so we wanted to wait to pattern the fixed windows until the roll-up was finished.  Then we thought the fixed windows could change the shape a bit for the cut-outs for the handholds, so we waited to pattern the cut-outs.  Was it necessary?  Maybe not.  But after putting in about sixty hours and spending a lot of money on the kit, we weren’t going to screw it up with a roll of the dice.  

Taking the dodger on and off wasn’t as simple as it sounds.  We needed to be very careful not to scratch the Strataglass, which is what the windows are made out of.  At $153.95 for a 54″ x 55″ piece, we preferred not to mess it up immediately.  We ended up with one small scratch which wasn’t too bad given how often the dodger was manhandled during the sewing process.

After the handhold cut outs were complete, were we finished?  YES!  Time for celebratory cocktails!

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We’re going to move the fasteners on the center bottom to stretch the material out a bit more, but otherwise it looks great!

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We added the two fixed windows on either side of the center window. As you can see, before we put them in the blind spots were huge.

So after all of that, are we happy with it?  Definitely.  The dodger turned out SO much better than we thought it would.  Frankly, we were shocked.  I was afraid it would be a wrinkled mess and it definitely isn’t.  Would we do it again?  We’d rather not.  However, given that we have more time than money, it was a no-brainer for us to give it a try.  The frame and materials alone were $1,700, and we were able to make changes and customize it as we went along.  The labor for a professional canvas maker would have easily been another $4,000.  So despite the sweat, angst, and occasional gnashing of teeth, we have no regrets.  Future canvas projects will seem easy-peasy compared to this one!

Canvas (part one) – new interior cushions.

Pegu Club came with a navy blue sail cover and dodger and green interior cushions.  The dodger and cushions were reaching the end of their lifespan when we bought her back in 2015, but we inserted new foam in the cushions and limped along with the dodger before it all gave up the ghost towards the end of last summer.  The cushions were tearing, Jeff was bottoming out on the settee from the wimpy foam, and the dodger leaked like a sieve.  So we knew coming into this year that we would be doing quite a bit of sewing on the Sailrite this summer.

I’ve blogged about our Sailrite before – it’s a fantastic machine and has more than paid for itself.  Sailrite has excellent step-by-step videos on YouTube.  Even if you haven’t sewn before, you can definitely do your own canvas work as long as you start slow (I recommend a tote bag) before working your way up to more complex projects.  Since it had been a few years since I’d sewn anything, I started by making a handful of totes to get used to the feel of the machine again before getting to the cushions.

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These Sunbrella totes hold up much better than the giveaway boat show totes.

Having made cockpit cushions already, I knew making interior cushions wouldn’t be too difficult.  The hardest part was going to be deciding what fabric we wanted to use.  Pegu Club is our home, and this was going to be a great opportunity to put our personal stamp on her decor.  We’ve always gravitated to a mid-century modern style, so after ordering several sample pieces it turned out to be a relatively easy decision.  The only tricky part was that the material was striped.  I had never sewn with stripes before, and I knew it was all-too-easy for it to end up mismatched.  We were going to have to be careful to make sure everything was lined up.

Lucky for us, we were able to use our good friends’ Jeff and Denise’s house to go on a sewing binge.  We drove up there on a Friday with all of our supplies and foam and took over their living room and dining room for the weekend.  We were SO grateful – we never could have sewed them on the Shenny picnic tables.  The cushions were simply too large.

We used the Sailrite “30 minute box cushion” pattern for three out of four of the cushions, although at well over 30 minutes per cushion, there was clearly some creative licensing going on by Sailrite in choosing that pattern name.  The fourth cushion was a traditional box cushion because it was angled due to the shape of the hull.  Jeff W. was a huge help to my Jeff when it came time to cut the foam, and I think he was amused by my occasional teeth-gnashing and seam ripping.

We had a few hiccups that we were able to improvise fixes for, but by mid-morning Sunday we were all driving down to Shenny for the moment of truth: would they fit?  Although I measured at least five times before we headed up to Jeff and Denise’s house, I was still pretty nervous that they wouldn’t.  So you can imagine how thrilled we all were to discover that they fit perfectly, the stripes matched up, and the foam provided plenty of support so that Jeff no longer bottomed out when he sat down.  Yes!

Even though we’ve had them now for well over a month, I still come down the companionway steps and think about how much I love this pattern.  Well worth the effort it took to make them, the cushions reflect our personal style and has made Pegu Club feel even more like our home.

Old cushions:

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New cushions:

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Yes, we have a dinghy problem. Dinghy #6.

I swear we were perfectly content with our 8′ Walker Bay hard dinghy with the flotation tubes (also known as dinghy number five).  Purchased in the fall of 2019, we had easily dragged it onto rocky beaches, it went fast enough to keep us happy with our 2.3 hp outboard, and we had successfully and easily towed it to and from the Bahamas twice.

And that right there was the problem: we had to tow it.  The Walker Bay took up most of the room on the foredeck, and we have set our sights on going farther afield (details to come in the future).  We needed a dinghy we didn’t have to tow, and we still didn’t want an inflatable.  That’s how we ended up with dinghy number six, the ugliest dinghy I have ever seen in my life: the Porta-bote.

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Unpacking the new dinghy.

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The 10′ porta-bote put together (from Google images).

Our friends Tom and Anita on S/V Lone Star have had a Porta-bote for many years so we were familiar with it, and other cruising friends of ours bought one in 2018 and were very happy with it.  So we waited for a boat show special and pulled the trigger on a 10′ model.

At 10’4″ long and 5 feet wide unfolded, the Porta-bote collapses to a width of 2 feet and a thickness of 8″.  With standup paddle board J-hooks that we purchased separately, we can store it against the hull on the outside of the boat.  We can also store it on the side deck, but that limits us to going forward on the opposite side of the boat.

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This is how it will look stored on the J-hooks.

It’s a bit heavier than the Walker Bay, but substantially lighter than the Achilles inflatable (dinghy number four).  It is every bit as tough as the Walker Bay, so we can drag it up onto sandy or rocky beaches without puncturing it like an inflatable.  And its sheer unattractiveness makes it an unlikely target for thieves.  It scoots us along very quickly with our 2.3 hp outboard, has much more room for groceries and supplies than the Walker Bay, and it’s a VERY dry ride.

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Jeff taking the Porta-Bote out on its maiden voyage.

We have yet to try setting it up on the boat, but we’ve been told by other people with 30′ sailboats that – with some practice – we can do it in a few minutes by lying it athwartship across the lifelines.  I’m sure there will be much swearing involved the first few times, but by the time we get to Florida we should be old pros at it!  In the meantime, after trying it out in our harbor, we can unequivocally say that it suits our needs perfectly.  It looks like dinghy number six will be sticking around for a VERY long time.

I can’t believe we used to do this every year.

Before we started cruising we had to haul out Pegu Club every fall and get her ready to go back into the water the following spring.  It was all we knew, so we had no idea what a gigantic pain in the ass it is until we didn’t have to do it while we were cruising.  As we worked on Pegu this spring, a very frequent refrain could be heard: “We’re NEVER hauling out in New England for the winter ever again.”

We had three weeks to get Pegu Club ready, but between Jeff’s schedule at Defender and the weather gods’ complete failure to cooperate, we went down to the wire.  Every speck of her interior needed a good cleaning – that alone took two days.  The bottom, propeller, and boot stripe were painted.  We installed a new, brighter anchor light and replaced the VHF coax cable and antenna.

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Jeff soldering connectors on the new VHF cable.

The engine was dewinterized, along with changing the gear box oil and engine oil/filter, air filter, alternator, impeller, and primary and secondary fuel filters.  Despite our best attempts to ensure the galley foot pump didn’t have any water in it over the winter, it cracked anyway, so we needed to replace that.  A new hand pump was installed in the head, and we replaced the broken light switch in there.

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It was taking forever to prime the hand pump, so Jeff had the brilliant idea to use our shop vac to suck the water into the hose. It worked like a champ.

Coir was prepped for the Nature’s Head composting toilet.  Items like cushions, clothing, and food were loaded onto the boat.  New connectors were installed on the AIS cable which we had to cut last September when the mast was removed (it’s a long story).

These were all things we expected to take care of (except for the galley foot pump, but it had happened to us once before so it wasn’t a complete surprise.)  But because it’s a boat, there were certainly some unexpected issues that cropped up.

When Jeff was working on the engine he discovered that the muffler hose was chafed so we replaced that, along with the hose that we had replaced in the Bahamas after IT had chafed.  The hose from the Bahamas wasn’t as robust as we prefer, so we wanted to install a better one.  When Jeff removed the muffler hose he cracked the muffler, but we didn’t realize it until we were test-running the engine and water started dripping out of the muffler.  Cue another trip to Defender to buy a new muffler.

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Boat yoga.

Pegu Club was in the water, but still in the travel lift slings, when we discovered that water wasn’t coming out of the exhaust like it should have been.  What the heck?  It had worked fine when we ran it for 10+ minutes on the hard, using water in a bucket for the raw water intake hose, so we knew it wasn’t the muffler.  We motored 100 feet to the wash down dock, and after some sleuthing we discovered that the raw water seacock had failed in the closed position.  We didn’t know it when we were on the hard, because the bucket method bypasses that seacock.  We have no idea how it failed (it was working fine when we hauled out and it was only 7 years old), but after a quick haul we had a new one installed.

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Fortunately, the broken seacock proved to be the last of the winter gremlins.  After tuning the rigging and putting the sails on, Pegu Club was ready for us to start sailing (and cruising post-Labor Day) on her again.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we had no idea what a hassle decommissioning and commissioning a boat is until we no longer had to do it.  Now that we’ve experienced the joy of not having to close Pegu Club up for the winter, we’ll be sure to be far enough south not to have to winterize if we decide to leave her again for several months.  Some things are a hassle no matter where you are: removing food, cleaning the boat, etc.  But letting the boat sit in freezing temperatures for months on end brings its own set of issues that we’d just as soon not deal with anymore.  Fortunately, we don’t have to!