Sunday, February 03, 2013

Chester, the Walled Roman City

I've often said that in the U.S. a three hundred year old building is a museum; in England it's new construction.  My sister lives in a 300 year old farm house (updated of course).  Chester spans nearly two millenia starting as a Roman fort around 79 ad.  For a thorough history check this article on Wikipedia:

That all said, Chester is a tremendously photogenic city.  The walls that surround the city provide a great vantage point for photos and allows you to access all parts of the city without plying the streets which can be crowded with shoppers.  Chester is, above all, a marketplace.  As cynical as that may sound, it's been that way for centuries. The main streets have two levels of shops.

I'd like to be able to provide some iconic photo that would identify Chester unambiguously but I don't think it's possible so I'll just splatter some up here with explanations and see what happens.  Where I have it, I'll provide the plaque associated with the thing I photographed. As it is, the photos are mostly tagged with lat and lon info so if you download one, your photo viewing software may be able to place the photo on Google Maps. Fun and a magnificent time waster.

The following pictures are semi-random photos - they are in order of a walk around the wall and then some others in the city.  I had originally purchased a tablet to write and update this blog but I realized very quickly, even with a new keyboard app loaded (hacker's keyboard) it was painful to write and manage the HTML in a manner I wanted to do it.  So now that I'm home I can post these entries.

New Gate from wall
Looking along the wall towards Newgate
new gate explanation  board
Explanation board for Newgate
Newgate from the north wall

Newgate looking out from the city

Looking along River Dee towards Handbridge

Handbridge showing weir

Handbridge from the downstream side

A view of Chester Castle

A better view of Chester Castle. You can't get a real feel of the massiveness it projects, though.

Almost everything you want to know about Chester Castle

A view along the wall to the Chester Racecourse. This is the oldest horse racing circuit in England

Water Tower

And it's history

Another view of the water tower

Looking from the wall towards the narrow boat canal and basin

Northgate Locks

Narrowboat canal that runs along the north wall

King Charles Tower

History of King Charles Tower

Another view of King Charles Tower

Looking along the wall with the Chester Cathedral on the right

Eastgate Clock, the second most photographed clock in the world - Big Ben being the first.

Backside of Chester Cathedral
Eastgate Clock from Eastgate Street

Another closeup of the Eastgate Clock
View down one of the market streets and also proof that there are sunny days in England


Chester Town Hall
Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs Explanation

Chester Town Hall in the snow

Another market street in the snow

The area where Water Street meets Eastgate Street and Northgate Street.  You can see the two level shops, on the street level and on a walkway above the street level shops.  This area is called 'The Cross' but you can't see the monument in this photo.

Eastgate Clock in the snow, art picture.

Chester Cathedral view during a flurry

Well, that's about it for Chester.  Clearly the pictures were taken on multiple days.  You can wander around (and I have) every day for a long time and still find something new to see. 

Highly recommended: Albion Pub it's very near Newgate and the Roman Gardens. - good food, reasonably priced, and the sign states they don't want large parties, noisy kids, drunks, and racetrack patrons. 

Monday, January 07, 2013

My First Day in England and Moel Famau

Jubilee Tower, Moel Famau, Wales
Jubilee Tower
Well, my flight to England was uneventful, just as I like it. The flight to Amsterdam was on an Airbus A330 which was so quiet I didn't need my sound cancelling headphones. I was really amazed. Also it was fairly short, as these things go being just about 7 hours. 

The airport at Amsterdam is quite nice and clean. On my way to Kennedy my glasses had fallen apart so I went about the whole process of getting on and off the plane in a sort of Mr. Magooish squint. At Amsterdam there was a sunglass store who not only fixed them but would not take an Euro for it. Interestingly, McDonalds at the airport does not have the hash browns we've come to expect.

Anyway, after a 4 hour layover, I caught my flight to Manchester Airport which was only an hour.  I like Manchester Airport.  It's not so crowded or impersonal.

My sister and Dave picked me up and we toddled off to Chester for lunch followed by a nap followed by dinner followed by a nice night's sleep.

Sunday morning started out gray and if not exactly foreboding, not a day you'd like to be out mucking about in. However, as the morning wore on the sun peeked out and we decided  to go for a walk at Moel Famau in North Wales. It's the tallest mountain in the Clwydian Range.  Its name means Mother Mountain.

Moel Famau trail map
Moel Famau trail map
There are several trails up the mountain and many of them connect to other parks in the range.  It is in what the English call an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. They are not kidding. From the valley you start in near Loggerheads to the summit topped by Jubilee Tower is a constantly shifting view of deciduous and pine forest topped by grasslands. You should  be able to click  on the picture of the trail map and zoom into see the actual trails.

View from Jubilee Tower looking towards Liverpool
View from Jubilee Tower looking towards Liverpool

The walk we picked was about a 5.5km one with a rise
of 280 meters. It took almost exactly what the guide said it would or 2.5 hours. As we arrived it started to get cloudy and cooler which actually made the day more pleasant because it was, at times, a hard climb. Especially at the last bit.

 It was cool and breezy at the top so we only stayed a little while.  Still, it was surprising  to me just how many people were out and managed the climb including the tiniest of tots to some fairly elderly people. It isn't the hardest of climbs but is challenging enough that I  wouldn't have expected so many people to make it to the top.

The Jubilee Tower was built in 1810 to commemorate the golden jubilee of George III. Thomas Harrison of Chester designed it as an Egyptian styled obelisk to be built in three stages. The tower was never completed and in 1862 a strong storm blew it down. It was partially removed for safety reasons and the sturdy base is all that remains.

The trip down was far easier than the one up, I must say.  The trip home was short and followed by wine and cheese. Brilliant!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A New Start for the New Year

Psssssssssssshhhht!  Screeeeeech! Kaa-chunk! HMMMMMMMMMMM!

Well, it's a new year.  2013 to be exact and I'm resurrecting the sailing life.   Not that I haven't been living it - I have, or to be perfectly truthful, not too much sailing but building a marine service business here in Stamford, CT.

More about that:  Here's how to build a business very quickly:

  • Find something you like to do
  • Approach people who need that thing done
  • Show up on time
  • Do what you say you'll do and maybe a little more
  • Charge a reasonable price - which is not necessarily what the market will bear
  • Communicate with your customers 

Sounds simple, huh?  You'd be surprised.  Anyway, I like working on boats and that's what I do now, at least until wanderlust takes over again and I have to leave.

You might wonder why I haven't been posting at all.  To be honest, I had nothing to say, and might still have nothing to say but I'm hoping that's not the case.

Innisfail at Solomons Island, MD
In the intervening two years I've done some very cool things and been a captain on a TowBoat U.S. as well as several deliveries including a 91 ft Trumpy and a lovely 42' custom picnic boat.  More about those when or if the mood strikes.

Also during the last couple of years my sister and I have met our four half brothers and their family.  That's been pretty wonderful and has really opened our eyes to the whole other family thing.  Very nice.

Soon I'm heading to the UK for an extended stay where I'll be hiking in Wales and Scotland and perhaps Ireland.  So, the real reason for resurrecting this blog is to record those travels as well even though there's no sailing involved.

Finally, there are projects I want to do on Pelican that are fairly simple but will enhance her usefulness and will be fairly inexpensive.  Since I plan to go cruising again, I need to bring her back to cruise readiness.

With that said I'm off to a New Years celebration!

See you on the water.

Friday, April 30, 2010

McClellanville, SC to Surf City, NC

As everyone who has even cursorily read this blog knows, I love breakfast. I especially love it at a local diner kind of place. Dwayne and I had agreed to meet around 8 the next morning for breakfast at the local place. Sadly, it was too far from the marina to walk or I'd've toddled off on my own, but when I mentioned I'd like to go there, Dwayne had kindly offered to drive.

I was not disappointed! It was a great greasy spoon named, appropriately, the McClellanville Diner. The food was good, the service friendly, and the coffee spectacular. Thumbs up on this one.

Anyway, I had wanted to get underway fairly early. After talking with Dwayne about the channel just across the ICW called Five Fathom Creek. Hopping out there would save hours on the ICW and going down the river at Winyah Bay. Currents run moderately fast and I was sure they'd be against me, forcing me to run the ICW up to Southport (which I didn't want to do).

So with local knowledge at hand (basically, the shrimpers use the channel, it was recently dredged and should have more than enough depth), off I went. Keeping an eye on the depth gauge and following the channel resulted in a very pleasant hour or so through the marshes with depths never lower than 15 feet. The only caveat is to keep a straight line course to the G1 before turning east around Cape Roman Shoals. The chart indicates 3-1/2 feet but I never saw anything like that.

So, my plan was to head to Cape Fear and enter the Cape Fear River entrance to avoid going around Frying Pan Shoals. I knew I'd get there around midnight, would find an anchorage to sleep until the current changed, and then continue on.

The wind continually lightened so sailing was out. Still, the seas were kind of lumpy from the days of 20+ kt winds. Nevertheless, the moonrise was absolutely spectacular! Like the ones you see in the movies or whatever where the huge moon rises into an inky black sky. One of those moments at sea that makes it all worthwhile!

Naturally, as I entered the Cape Fear River channel, the engine died. With a great deal of swearing and so forth, I changed the Racor filter and removed some hose from the electric pump where there was apparently an air leak. Yah!

Long and short, I anchored in the harbor out of the channel in about 13 feet of water at 2am, had a shower and went to sleep for four hours.

Around 7am, I weighed anchor and headed up the Cape Fear River for Surf City. You may remember Surf City from the trip down. Seven really uneventful hours later I was there. Earl, the marina manager, remembered me and I had a great time meeting others on the dock. It was so nice, I stayed two days having breakfast in my favorite place - full hungry man's breakfast for $4.59. Add a dollar for coffee and it's one of the best deals around. It might be Batts Grill. If not, it's right next door.

I had heard from my friend, Doug, who was moving to New Bern, NC. We decided to meet in Coinjock for one of their 32 oz. steaks. Really, there's no other reason to go there. But since he was on a schedule, I decided to push to meet him.

On May 1st, I left to get past Beaufort.

Vero Beach to McClellanville

It was with a heavy heart I left Vero Beach and my friends Lee and Karen (and of course Gracie). A sunny and warm day to travel up the ICW to the first day's goal, Titusville. I'd been in touch with my friend Doug who was coming down to New Bern and we had decided to meet somewhere on the trip.

It's a fairly dull trip through Melbourne and Coco Beach, FL. No wind so it was a motor all the way. However, the weather always has a surprise up its sleeve. In this case, as I approached the Titusville Swing Bridge it poured. Not your usual pour but the can't see the front of the boat kind of pouring. It really makes you appreciate both the radar and chart plotter. It was over in a few minutes and I was right there for the bridge opening.

The Titusville Municipal Marina is a very nice facility. They have a decent little store and everyone was absolutely awesome. The town of Titusville is a short walk away. Titusville sort of lives or dies by the fortunes of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. There are parks with themes of the Gemini and Apollo projects with vast walkways and fountains and ponds and so forth.

The town is like many small towns. Small shops and stores and, of course, Your Place, a wonderful place for breakfast and lunch (dinner, too, on Fridays and Saturdays). It's not the least expensive diner I've been to, but the food is good and the service great and it's all fresh. It's worth having a bite at!

The Air Force's experimental ship was due to be launched on an Atlas V rocket so I thought I'd stick around to see it. From the marina you can see the Shuttle Assembly Building so I thought the launch would be spectacular. To be honest, I almost missed it - we did see the rocket but were too far away for anything other than the small rising bright speck and some contrail. That was a surprise - it also puts the shuttle launch into perspective because in Titusville, apparently, you can hear it!

Anyway, after a couple of days I was itchy to get going. So off I went. The trip from there to Ponce de Leon inlet is nothing if not long and boring. Really boring. There is the Haulover Canal (or Cut) which provides some amusement in the form of current but other than that, getting to the inlet is pretty straightforward.

I got to the inlet around two in the afternoon and raised sail for St. Mary's inlet. The winds were 15-20 out of the southwest so Pelican was sailing along just fine, although with the wind pretty far aft. But we were making six to seven knots through the water (about 3/4 kt faster over the ground) and it was beautiful!

The shaft generator was providing all power just fine until the belt broke around 1800. Still, I didn't start the engine until 3am because the wind died like someone switched it off.

When I got to St. Mary's inlet I decided to keep going to St. Simon's inlet for Brunswick. I mean, why not? The weather wasn't too bad and I was making great time. At St. Simon's it started raining and I stopped for fuel at Golden Isle Marina. I figured I'd head up into Georgia for a while. That turned out to be a mistake.

At 3:30pm, I stopped at the Darien River. I've written about that anchorage before on my way down. It's interesting anchoring in some strong currents but the holding ground is good. After 30 hours or so, I was pretty tired so I toasted sunset and went to sleep.

The next day I weighed anchor pretty early -I wanted to get past Savannah if I could. The winds were southwest at 18-30. Motor sailing almost dead downwind I was making 7+ knots with the jib - the motor was just taking up the slack in lulls (of which there weren't to many). It was warmish and sunny so very pleasant until I got to Ossabaw sound.

On my way down, I mentioned Hell Gate, a cut that makes a short cut through the sound. The problem there is shoaling. Even though it had recently been dredged, there wasn't enough water to go through for me - three feet at the entrance. So, I thought, no worries, I'll just head out to sea, turn up the channel on the other side of Raccoon Key. Good idea, eh?

Google Earth image, Ossabaw SoundChart of Ossabaw SoundExamine the chart on the left and the Google Earth image on the right. I made it out to the Atlantic just fine, and if I hadn't been such a chicken, I would have just taken the wind and headed up to Cape Fear and been done with it.

But, no, I decided to head back in and 'enjoy' some more of Georgia.

You'll notice that where the chart marks the channel there is no channel. Because of the shoals and the wind, the waves were 6 feet or so and in the troughs Pelican's keel hit - every 10 - 15 seconds or so. Not hard, but enough to rattle the rigging and my eyeballs. Since the chart showed a very shoal area north of the channel, I was worried of getting blow into it and having to deal with some really ugly consequences.

Guess what? After about 45 minutes of thrashing about and trying to get out of there I noticed that that shallow shoal doesn't exist. In fact, the northern channel that's not marked is fully and correctly marked on the chart. It was beautiful to find I could get on about my trip! What a relief!

Of course, now the current was against me so getting to Savannah was out of the question. I stopped at Thunderbolt Marina for the night. I was beat, worried about the keel, and very much humbled.

A couple of cocktails later, though, and I was good to go. It was a grand story to tell, so there it is.

The next morning I headed off to make some distance. Unfortunately, the U.S. Coast Guard decided to board me at the Savannah River and took 45 minutes to inspect the boat. This time, however, I got paperwork, finally. They were unfailingly polite but of the 4 yachts in a row, they stopped me. I don't get it.

I motor sailed the whole day - there's not enough wind to make good time, but with the engine running average speeds were well over 7 kts. Ended up at mile marker 509, Edisto River anchorage. It's a beautiful place. It could stand some exploring, but I'm in something of a hurry.

The next day was another great motor sailing day. Pleasant enough, but long. I finally arrived at Leyland Oil at McClellanville where Dwayne helped me dock and took my ridiculously small nightly payment. There's not much to McClellanville. It's mostly a commercial dock with fishing boats.

Lessons learned on this leg: Avoid mid Georgia if you draw more than about 4 feet. There is a lot of shoaling in the sounds. Also, I can run 30 hours without terrible difficulty.

See you on the water!

Vero Beach

As much fun as I had at Indiantown Marina I knew I had to be moving along. I wanted to see my friends Lee and Karen again before I made my way home. As it turns out, I got to see John and Paula and my cousin as well.

From Indiantown you just head east through the St. Lucie Lock (drop of around 14 feet) to the level of the St. Lucie river. The lock master there is, like all the lock masters, wonderfully friendly and helpful - when it's not crazy, he'll handle lines for you and stay and talk while the lock is cycling. It's almost worth going through just for that.

As an aside, here's what I've found: state functionaries are typically friendly and helpful. Federal ones are typically obsfucators and resistant to helping. This is not true for all of them, of course, but for a significant proportion of them. I mentioned this in the difference between the people who run the national park in Sanibel and the state park on Cayo Costa - mere miles apart from each other.

Traveling down the St. Lucie river is easy and you can watch mile by mile as the terrain changes from the wilds of central Florida to the relatively urban setting of Stuart. It is also, for me, like making my way back.

Here on this part of the trip I'm thinking I'm not exploring anymore. I've been here. I'm closing the loop of the adventure. My psyche is yelling, "Go back! Go back! Get thee to the Bahamas!" Of course, I don't. I reach the end of the St. Lucie River and make a left to go north past Ft. Pierce and to Vero Beach.

The wind is out of the southwest at 15 to 20 knots so up go the sails and away I go - it's essentially a straight shot to Ft. Pierce and an easy ride. As I get near Ft. Pierce I think I'll call Joe and Del, my cousins, to see if they are still in Florida and if we can get together. Del is and Joe will be back in a couple of days! Cool!

I made it to Vero Beach City Marina mooring field around 5ish and rafted with Lee and Karen aboard Morning Glory. It was sure good to see them! And Grace, the dog, too. We had dinner aboard that night and by the time it was done, I was truly ready for sleep.

The Vero Beach City Marina moorings are cheap - $13/day. The marina itself is pleasant and for $1.60/ft/day you can stay in a slip. So if that's what you need, it certainly is reasonable. True, it's far from anything like shopping, but Lee and Karen had a car...

The next day we had lunch at Toojay's which is like a NY Jewish Deli. They have terrific corned beef and pastrami as well as meatloaf and other very tasty comfort food dishes. There may be a couple of them, but I only know the one in Vero. Del came and joined us. She also convinced me to stay until Joe came down to pick her up.

I got my shopping done with the help of Lee. His patience and good humor still amazes me (Karen's, too). We got propane and food and did some stuff at Staples and went to Stuart and generally had a good time.

If you'll remember, Teri and I had met John and Paula in Key West and had hacked around for two weeks there. Then they went up the east coast and I the west hoping to meet again somewhere like Indiantown. I had gotten there first and finished before they did but as I checked my email I found they'd be in Stuart when I was in Vero. As usual, Lee and Karen were all up for seeing my other friends and off we went to Stuart for dinner with John and Paula.

I can't begin to express what a nice time it was - It was wonderful seeing them again and finding how they've grown as cruisers. It's like watching your fledglings leave the nest, you know, when you've been their boating mentor. Anyway, we ate at Luna's Italian restaurant in Stuart, just a short walk from the city marina where Jack and Paula were staying.

The next day they headed off to Indiantown for a haul and storage until next winter.

The night before I left we had dinner at a ribs place with Del and Joe. I had the all you can eat for $10.99. They had dry rub ribs and I love them! It seems that I spend an inordinate amount of time eating. Well, single-handing is a high caloric activity. (That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.)

Lee and Karen were waiting for their mast and new sails to be done. They expected to be heading south to Ft. Pierce for it all to come together. I had decided to leave and go out the Ponce de Leon inlet for points north.

Bidding Lee, Karen, and Grace a fond farewell I turned Pelican north for our next adventure, the trip to McLellanville via Titusville and the Darien River.

It is very possible I saw you on the water!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


This post will be fairly short - it's about something that's done so frequently that most of the terror is gone for veteran boat owners. Still, as your home comes out of the water on a couple of spindly looking straps...

As you know, I was at Indiantown Marina just about 25 miles west of the St. Lucie Inlet on the Okeechobee Waterway. It's run by Scott and Raquel Watson -who, in addition to being very boater friendly, look like movie stars.

They run a green marina - there's no working on boats in the storage area and in the work area they provide plastic sheets to catch all the detritus that comes off the boats during repairs. They require vacuum sanders and grinders and that you sweep up your plastic every day. They recycle antifreeze and oil in an simple and clean way. General rules are posted and they are clear, obvious and as non-officious as possible.

The staff is all very pleasant - the yard guys are friendly and helpful and the office staff take the time to talk if they're not running to catch a boat or some other service.

All in all, if you're in the area and need a haul, their Travelift is a 50 tonne lift. (Tonne = 2000 kg) If you live on your boat, they provide water and pump outs while in the work yard.

From their brochure:

Indiantown Marina is one of Florida's largest dry storage facilities located on the Okeechobee Waterway in Indiantown, Florida.

With access to both coasts and 20 miles inland we are considered one of Florida's best hurricane holes.

We have the capacity to store over 500 boats on land and a 40 wet slip marina.

We are a full service marine repair facility and a do-it-yourself boat yard.

Ok, so now you know about the yard. Here's the haulout story.

I had arrived on Friday evening and scheduled my haul for Monday. Get this: because I didn't get hauled until late Friday, they charged me the in-water fee for the day which was less than the work yard daily rate. Imagine that!

It turned out that the wind was a help getting me to the Travelift well and I backed down there like a pro. I didn't terrify even one other boater! As you know, backing up with Pelican is more or less random.

I'm leaving the images their normal size so you don't have to download them to get a good look. Here, the wind is from the port side gently blowing me towards the dock like I know what I'm doing.

The crew gently moves Pelican into the well where the straps have already been lowered - I had put strap markers on the cove strip (the one near the caprail) so that the operator knows where to put them - in addition, I have a drawing of Pelican that I showed the operator so he could confirm my placement.

Never rush the operator. Make sure they know what you're thinking and where the straps should go. Make sure you know where they should go. There is so much damage than can be done lifting the boat incorrectly that it's worth the extra effort. As it turns out, the straps go directly below both masts on Pelican. That's just to easy!

Once out of the water, I had the marina power wash the bottom of Pelican. I knew the paint wasn't in bad condition and no sanding would be needed.

This costs a reasonable $1.75 per foot and the wash water is collected so the toxic paint that comes off doesn't go into the water.

Finally, after the wash and a fairly long ride to the work area, Pelican is blocked for painting, waxing and other stuff. If you'll notice, though, there's 13 stands holding up Pelican. Can you imagine? Usually, if there's 7 that's a lot. Notice the stand under the area between the prop and rudder - it's to keep weight off the back of the keel that isn't too strong.

This is the first haul I didn't have to take the headstay off! Just dropped the mizzen boom. Wow, that makes life much easier.

What do you do in a short haul? The obvious, painting and waxing of course - then the not so obvious. Work and lubricate or repair/replace all your through-hulls. Check the propeller shaft and rudder shaft packing. Adjust or repack as necessary. It's a good time to check and fix any dings in the hull. ( I had one from the trip to Marathon where for some reason I believed I could get through five feet of water for several miles. I mostly could except for that one rock.)

Anything that needs to be done out of the water should be done now. But I've covered the basics. The first thing I did was wash the hull with hull cleaner (which is basically oxalic acid with soap) that removes the brownish stains. Then I taped the waterline. Finally, I painted the bottom and while one coat was drying I waxed the topsides.

Then back to the painting, back to the waxing, etc., etc.

Because the days are getting longer, there was more time to work. After two days I had multiple coats on the bottom (at least two and three around the waterline and at high wear points like the bow and front of the skeg). I asked the marina to move the stands so I could do where they had been (the marina specifically states in their rules that they will move jack stands) and in a few minutes up they came to do it. Wow!

The last day out, I finished the waxing with a couple of coats near the waterline and high wear areas (bow, transom). Included here are the before and after pictures - I sure hope you can see the difference!

I do know you'll be able to see how nice the bottom looks!

After this, I got dropped back into the water and took the afternoon to make sure the rudder packing was no longer leaking and that the boat wasn't going to sink any time soon. There were some other little maintenance items so I took care of them.

I filled up with fuel and the next morning I was on my way - just a week in the yard and I'm ready for the year. Woohoo!

Up next, Vero Beach!

See you on the water!