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“Under the Rainbow” With apologies to Dorothy

Dorothy wished to fly over the rainbow, but in the end concluded that there was no place like home.  Thus, it was somehow fitting that a rainbow arched over the Kittitas Valley wind mills  as we descended into Ellensberg, a scant hour and a half from that most emerald of cities, Seattle.  Rainbows on land, as porpoises at sea, harbinger good luck for Elizabeth Jean’s crew.  The rainbow grew brighter as we turned west towards the Cascade Mountains.  As we crested the mountains, rain beat down on our ruby red Rav as she conveyed us home.  Flame hued bushes lit the evergreen slopes.  Soon we were at sea level, having completed the third of our three cross country road- trips in two months.
The red highlighted route shows our path in September from the east coast to Seattle.  The blue route shows our return east at the end of September and early October with boat gear.  The green route shows our final path in mid-October.  Thanks to all our friends and family who made time for us in their busy lives along the way.
Eric is smiling because he was able to retrieve Elizabeth Jean’s carefully wrapped and stored doors without unpacking the entire storage unit.  If it looks as if he is about as far back in the unit as he could be that is because we intentionally stored the doors deep in the storage unit because we would not be using during our voyage.  It seemed to be a good idea at the time.
We didn’t find munchkins, but we did find trolls in Mt. Horeb, self-proclaimed troll capital of the world.  You can find the trolls in Wisconsin on the blue route.
We spent the Columbus Day weekend working the Passport booth at the Annapolis Boat Show.  In the process we became friends with the team that is helping us find a good home for Elizabeth Jean.
A huge rainbow pointed our way to the Emerald City.
Fall colors glistened as seasonal rains welcomed us to the Cascade Mountains’ west side.
Our new friend Joan, office manager of the Passport dealership, awarded us the Chutzpah trophy.  A number of our friends just called us crazy for our cross country travels.
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“Sitting in limbo” Jimmy Cliff

Almost four months have passed since we secured Elizabeth Jean to a dock in Hampton Virginia, just in time for a squall to wash clean her salt-rimed decks. These four months have at times had that “caught “in-between” feeling of which Jimmy Cliff sings. At the same time, 120 days (about a year’s third) have eased us from seafaring to a less salty, but equally rich life.

In July, we joyously celebrated daughter Jean’s marriage to our new son-in-law Max. July began our new OPB (Other People’s Boats) voyaging mode as we helped our good friends on Bonni Jean II, a well-appointed 44 foot catamaran, transit from Annapolis to Long Island Sound. July ended with us back in Annapolis facing the heart-tugging and mind-numbing task of removing our belongings from Elizabeth Jean to prepare her for sale. On August 25 we spent our last night on our sweet ride and drove off all lump-throated in RAV, our new-used Toyota land yacht. We ended August gamely spinning at Soul Cycle in Brooklyn with daughter Beth.

For our vessel decommissioning and meandering passage west to Seattle, we reactivated the friends and family bed-surfing plan that we perfected after our first cruising season. To all who recently welcomed Elizabeth Jean’s crew into your homes and helped us re-find our land legs, a hearty thank you. Mariners who are tired of the sea joke about walking inland with an oar until someone asks what it is. There they settle, safe from the sea’s charms. On September 24, we planted Elizabeth Jean’s original anchor (an oar would have been easier) in front of a snug little house just north of Ballard. Everyone in this Seattle fishing community and pleasure boating center knows precisely what it is. The sea is within whispering distance; she calls us still.

To hear Jimmy Cliff reggae us down the road click the link below:

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Heading Home: A Haiku

Gibbous moon above.

Scorpio rising astern.

Gliding, homeward bound.

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Day 6: “Everything that slows us down . . . is a help” May Sarton

The great capes are weather pivot points.  As we rounded Cape Hatteras, cool moist air enveloped us.  We added layers to the tee shirts and shorts that had been sufficient to the Cape’s south.  The sun inched up over the horizon, joining the moon which had risen late and remained high in the sky.  Cape Henry, the entrance to Chesapeake Bay lay less than 100 hundred miles away.  At 6 knots we would enter the commerce-dense Bay in darkness.  We preferred day light.  As the south wind gusted to twenty knots, we reduced our jib to a napkin.  Elizabeth Jean mosied her way up the Outer Banks at a leisurely 2 knots.  Slowing down helped us savor Elizabeth Jean‘s last day on the Atlantic Ocean.  With daylight’s arrival the following morning we passed the Bay’s fishing fleet putting out to sea and joined the cargo ships and naval vessels entering the Bay.  Around 1300 (1 pm),  we tethered Elizabeth Jean to the fuel dock at Salt Pond Marina in Hampton Virginia.  Four hours later, the squall hit.  The torrential rains and arcing lightning, when viewed from our secure dock, reminded us of our decision six days earlier to leave the Bahamas rather than linger and shorten our weather window.  Had we stayed in the Bahamas we would have been weathering the storm rounding Hatteras. 

Rounding Hatteras brought cooler weather.  Eric reviews possible marinas on his iPad and in the Waterway Guide for Chesapeake Bay.  Go Hawks!

Ocean Jedi, Aircraft Carrier #69, steamed towards Norfolk as we made our way to Hampton.

 

Elizabeth Jean, secure at Salt Pond Marina, over seven hundred miles from the Bahamas just hours before the squall hit.

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Day 5: “Elizabeth Jean in her element” Captain Sullivan’s note in the log

By midnight at the beginning of our fifth day out from the Bahamas, the wind was gusting up to 16 knots, rewarding our earlier faith in its return.  Elizabeth Jean’s reefed main and full jib powered us along at seven knots; Perkins rested.  Much of South Carolina’s coast was now behind us.  The coastline jutted northeastward into the Atlantic, shrinking our distance from land.  Cape Fear, north of the South Carolina–North Carolina Border was under 100 nautical miles to the east, northeast.  Shortly after sunrise, we altered course towards a safe point off of Diamond Shoal, the beginning of the long passage around Cape Hatteras.  The morning weather forecast predicted another two days of good sailing before the cold front that would close our weather window arrived.  Our VHF radio, silent for much of our passage, hummed with reports of naval maneuvers, Coast Guard reports, and towing activities.  Cargo ships, also on their way to Cape Hatteras, accompanied us at a safe, but imposing two mile distance.  By 2100 (9 pm), Elizabeth Jean was nimbly gliding over the three to four foot seas with the wind gusting up to 27 knots.  As the midnight watch began, only the stars in the moonless sky and the Cape Hatteras Light abeam studded the dark, dark night.  Elizabeth Jean had rounded the fabled Cape in style.

Hatteras winks at Albatross as he hovers above North Carolina.  Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC.

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Day 5: “Elizabeth Jean in her element” Captain Sullivan’s note in the log.

By midnight at the beginning of our fifth day out from the Bahamas, the wind was gusting up to 16 knots, rewarding our earlier faith in its return.  Elizabeth Jean‘s reefed main and full jib powered us along at seven knots; Perkins rested.  Much of South Carolina’s coast was now behind us.  The coastline jutted northeastward into the Atlantic, shrinking our distance from land.  Cape Fear, north of the South Carolina–North Carolina Border was under 100 nautical miles to the east, northeast.  Shortly after sunrise, we altered course towards a safe point off of Diamond Shoal, the beginning of the long passage around Cape Hatteras.  The morning weather forecast predicted another two days of good sailing before the cold front that would close our weather window arrived.  Our VHF radio, silent for much of our passage, hummed with reports of naval maneuvers, Coast Guard reports, and towing activities.  Cargo ships, also on their way to Cape Hatteras, accompanied us at a safe, but imposing two mile distance.  By 2100 (9 pm), Elizabeth Jean was nimbly gliding over the three to four foot seas with the wind gusting up to 27 knots.  As the midnight watch began, only the stars in the moonless sky and the Cape Hatteras Light abeam studded the dark, dark night.  Elizabeth Jean had rounded the fabled Cape in style.

Hatteras winks at Albatross as he hovers above North Carolina.  Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC.

 

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Day 4: “Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense the stirring of a breeze” Carl Sagan

Moonrise and a shooting star brightened the quiet midnight watch as Day 4 began.  With winds hovering below 10 knots, Perkins (our faithful British diesel engine) kept Elizabeth Jean‘s pace above 5 knots, fast enough to reach the Chesapeake before our window closed.  Sunrise caught up with us at 6:15, 150 miles east of Savannah, Georgia.  At this point we had run Perkins for over 36 hours.  Over 300 miles still separated Elizabeth Jean from Chesapeake Bay’s entrance.  We expected the wind to freshen in a day or two.  However, to conserve fuel we turned off Perkins and hoisted our spinnaker to test our progress as the breeze stirred.  Our experiment lasted only an hour.  To fill our sail it was necessary to sail off our course.  While we had enjoyed our respite from engine noise, we concluded that the forecast of winds to come was sufficiently certain to risk consuming more fuel to keep us on course.

 

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Day 3: “The first man who ever saw a flying fish probably thought he was witnessing a miracle” Elizabeth Gilbert

The winds dropped throughout our third day enroute from the Bahamas to Chesapeake Bay.  By 18:00 (6 p.m.) the sea was so flat that the flying fish were leaving wakes on the water.  A warbler, far from land, circled Elizabeth Jean and finally landed to rest.  Amidst the calm, we assessed our own progress.  At 30 degrees North latitude, we were off the Florida-Georgia border.  At this latitude, the Florida Current, unconstrained by the Bahamas to the east meanders creating south flowing counter currents along the Gulf Stream’s eastern boundary.    For the last eighteen hours, while enjoying the relative quiet, a 1.5 knot counter-current had been silently slowing our progress.  We headed Elizabeth Jean west to return to the favorable Gulf Stream.

Photo credit: Luther Bailey

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Day 2: “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts . . . ” Psalms 42:7

It wasn’t their noise that captured our attention, it was the black bottomed clouds, from which the spouts emerged.  After an uneventful day of light rain, clearing skies and brownie baking, suddenly we were among the thunderheads.  The dark fingers of water that reached from the clouds to the ocean surface seemed to be the work of Voldemort or some other malign agent.  Eulalie turned on the radar, which captured the storm impulses as distinct targets on our chart plotter.  By avoiding the targets, Elizabeth Jean again safely passed north.

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Day 1: “I don’t want to overstate my concern about the squalls” Chris Parker

Chris Parker, our weather guru, strongly dislikes thunderstorms, squalls and lightning.  His forecast the morning we departed Little Sale Cay started with this energetic trio for the first day or two.  We could delay our departure a couple of days to miss the squalls and face several days of motor sailing.  A delayed departure would also shorten our weather window for reaching the Chesapeake by two days.  We pressed Chris on the trade offs between the risk of the “nasty-squallies” (Parker’s term for unsettled weather) and a shorter overall time to reach the Chesapeake.  Parker restated his strong bias against lightning squalls and then concluded, “I don’t want to overstate my concern.”  Ok, we decided after weighing the risks.  As we departed the anchorage, Eulalie saw a ragged dorsal fin approach our bow.  She recognized the distinct fin from the day before.  Shark? we wondered.  A cluster of fins fell in behind Ragged Fin and criss-crossed Elizabeth Jean‘s bow.  Dolphins!!! A good omen as we left protected waters for the Atlantic Ocean.  Eleven hours later, during the 9:00 p.m. watch, lightning tattooed the sky over Florida’s coast.  Had we made a colossal mistake?  If the squall reached our position, 160 miles offshore, a lightning strike could knock out our engine and electronics and cripple us.  We watched the light show nervously for a couple of hours.  Fortunately, the squalls stayed close to shore.  As the 12:00 a.m. watch began, stars overhead winked reassuringly at Elizabeth Jean as she made her way north under 25 knots of wind.

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