More Hijinks on the High Sea & Why Poodles are Smarter than Dolphins

The last two days have gone as well as I had hoped, other than a few operator errors.  As I write this, I am about 20 miles of the coast of Maryland, just abeam off Ocean City, MD and about 60 miles south southwest of my destination, Atlantic City.  Hopefully, I’ll arrive there at 6 p.m. tonight.

Let’s recap.  Since leaving Savannah exactly a week ago, I have been running hard to get north and get home as I have people to see and places to go.

Being alone, makes it somewhat harder, as I do not get a rest at the wheel while in the ICW, must be constantly vigilant, not to get out of the narrow channel and run aground and lastly, since I need to make miles, I have had to put in 14 hour days, just to go 100 miles per day.

Tug Goose Creek and the RR Bridge
Tug Goose Creek and the RR Bridge

The day before yesterday, it was an 18 hour day as I pressed on till 11:00 p.m. so that I could get by a bunch of annoying bridges that only open at certain times during the day, but will open on demand at night, thus saving tons of waiting time.

Thus Thursday night, I got past the Great Bridge and was tied up on the wall between the Great Bridge and the Great Bridge Lock.  Locking thru the next morning, I was 12 miles south of my destination, Portsmouth, and thanks to a great tug boat captain, I was being fueled in Portsmouth at 10:00 a.m.  All my efforts of the night before would have gone in vain, if not for this helpful captain of the tug Goose Creek,

who warned me in a timely fashion to keep up with him, as there was a railroad bridge, that while normally open, was going to close as soon as his tug passed through, as there was a train coming.  So not only did this captain tell me to come as quick as I could and get behind him, he also told the bridge operator that I was running as fast as my little legs could take me and not to close the span on me.  That was really thoughtful and I thanked him.  It saved me more than an hour and this was confirmed when I saw the parade of boats (that had been held up) come past as I finished fueling up almost two hours later.

I got 620 gallons (2400 liters) of diesel at the cheapest price on the east coast, $3.47/gallon.

So by noon, I was underway, passing out of the ICW forever, into the mouth of the Chesapeake, near Hampton Roads, current home port of the Aircraft Carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), which just happened to be docking just as I was leaving.  Impressive sight, though it meant I had to spend the next few hours staying out of the way of her support fleet as they came steaming up the channel from the Atlantic.  It only got hairy once, as a large bulk coal carrier, a navy oiler and little old Dauntless all converged at the narrow channel that is the passage over the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel. I snuck around the red buoy just as the oiler was turning into it.  He missed me by 900 feet and I was finally in the Atlantic.


Waves and wind were as forecast, so I had already put the paravane poles out and had adjusted the guys.  Now the portside pole is slightly bent due to operator error a few days ago.   This had the effect of not wanting to fall away from the boat as freely as it should.  I, like the little experimenter, I am, decide it really didn’t matter, for as soon as I threw the bird in the water, the pole would have to get to its correct position.

Wrong, wrong wrong as Leonie used to say.

So, as I deploy the birds, by basically throwing them overboard, the port side pole is not extended all the way and the line for the bird has so much slack that the wind catches it and it snags on a small cleat that is on the hand rail of the upper deck. But I don’t see that immediately, so as the bird goes in the water, the line is snagged, so the bird is right next to the stern of the boat, instead of being 15 feet out. The pole is standing straight up though bent back towards the stern. Not good, I think, I put the boat in reverse, to completely stop all forward movement, so I can retrieve the bird and try again.  I pull the bird back in, see the snag over my head, climb up on the cap rail to unsnag it and all is well, as I throw the bird back in the water, the pole goes to its normal position.   I then throw the starboard bird in and we are underway.  A few minutes later, as I am walking around the boat, checking that all is OK and the lines, guys are all well-adjusted, I see that my stern pole and American flag are missing.  The only thing left is the stub of the wooden pole where it broke.  I wonder how could that have happened? Age Probably?

Then, it dawns on me, as this 40 pound bird came flying around the back of the boat, it must have wacked the flag pole breaking it off.  Of course all this happened in full sight of the Navy Oiler, you know, the one that came within 900 feet and they are probably still laughing about it.  Just returning from a deployment, they probably needed the laugh more than I needed the flag and pole.

Navy Oiler 8
Navy Oiler 8

A week earlier, the crew of the large container ship that passed ¼ mile away while I was stopped dead in the water for more than an hour, must still be scratching their heads wondering what I was doing.  They did see me climb the mast (thank you John Duffy for installing those mast steps) to put the up-down guy back thru its pulley. And thanks to my Captain’s class, I knew not to wave my arms signaling distress.

A few hours earlier, I had been experimenting (there’s that word again) with the winch, trying to tweak the system I use to pull in the poles.  When done with my experiment (which by the way did show me why a self-tailing winch is different than a regular winch and much more costly) I had retied the up-down guy line, but clearly not well enough.  This same guy came loose because I had not properly secured it. When it came loose, all hell broke out.  I was standing on the bow, admiring the view as Dauntless cut through the Atlantic blue water, when I heard a not so loud thunk.  Thunks are never good and in this case, when I turned around, I saw no pole!

I looked again, thinking my brain was just canceling out stuff it sees all the time and still no pole, but then as I go aft, I see the pole is aimed straight down to Davy Jones’ locker.  At least it and the bird attached to it are still attached to the boat.  John and Red had designed the paravane system so that in case of a snag or something stupid like this, the pole was the weakest link. So, while the pole did bend a little bit, the bracket attached thru the gunnel (wall of the boat) was fine.  It did take me awhile to figure out how to get this pole which is supposed to be extended at a 45° angle from the side of the boat was now at 180°  Eeek

The bent paravane pole
The bent paravane pole

Well, it took me awhile to figure that out, but eventually I used the boom to extend the line a few feet away from the boat, so as I used the winch, the line had some leverage that wasn’t straight up. It worked and while I am stopped in the water doing this work, I see the one boat, a large container ship get closer and closer. The one and only boat I see all day and he is going to go right by me.  Well, this does make me nervous, as I am underway, but not making way.

So I’m up on the top of the mast, as this big ships glides by. I just had to rethread the guy line thru the pulley and down to the cleat where I made sure to attach it correctly, so it couldn’t slip off again.

The pole has few degrees bend in it, but works fine none the less.

Now the day itself started out strangely enough.

That morning, more than a dozen dolphins arrived to swim with my bow wave and the two birds in the water; I thought it was a great omen.  In my excitement, holding the camera with one hand, I open the pilot house door with the other.

And that’s when things started to go bad.  In my haste to open the pilot house door, go out and take pictures, I managed to snag with my foot the cord and charger for my laptop, which I use for my primary navigation system.

As my foot went to step over the sill onto the outside deck, this resulted in me drop kicking the charger converter into the ocean. I was mesmerized as I watched the cord slide off the deck and into the ocean. The realization came to me immediately that I had no backup, it would be days before I could get anew charger and therefore, I would have to be navigating with my smart phone for the next two to three days. I’d done it before, but it’s not the way to go. All of this flashed before my brain in those seconds.

Then, I realized, maybe one of the dolphins will know this was not a mackerel I threw to them and therefore snag it for me. I looked down hopefully, wishing to see one of them surface with the charger in its mouth. I’m even starting to think how I could retrieve it from them.


Then reality set in, even with a dozen dolphins around, wouldn’t you expect at least one to grab on to this cord and retrieve it for me?  I did!  I regret to tell you that not one offered to help.

I now think Poodles are smarter.

An aside.

I was curious as to which aircraft carrier this was, so I googled CVN 71 and Theodore Roosevelt turns up.  I really admired him, reinforced by my experience as a principal in the NYC school system, as fate would have it, in the Theodore Roosevelt High School Campus.  TR’s most famous quote, “Speak Softly, but carry a big stick; you will go far.” I didn’t.  During my time, I did the opposite; I spoke loudly and carried no stick. A dangerous position to be in, umm sort of like Obama. (Julie has learned from my mistakes and she is far more like TR).

Well, at least that strategy got me to Dauntless sooner rather than later.

I wonder what kind of boat Obama will get??


All’s Well that Ends Well



Sunrise on the Miami River

Sunrise on the Miami River
Sunrise on the Miami River

A fascinating place, the Miami River, full of real working boats and interesting people.

I promise to write about it more later, but have little time this morning, as this is the big day.

Richard and I have finished out painting project.  The cap rail, and forward hand rails have been painted!  We have also replaced 95 teak bungs and screws in our teak deck.

Next up, Dauntless is being fitted for her stabilizer paravanes (aka flopper stoppers) today.  Long planned and anticipated.  One way or another, I will write of the process and outcome (hopefully great).

This video doesn’t exist


See more photos at