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Good bye snowy Annapolis, hello Bahamas!!

We awoke at 0230 to drive to the airport. Three inches of snow on the ground…..great. We drove with one highway lane cleared and little salt on the road. We were almost to the airport parking lot when we slid sideways to a stop inches in front of a pole. Luckily, it was all very slow motion because we were not driving fast. Definitely the right time to get out of Annapolis, leaving Velocir in the snow, and head for the Bahamas to visit Amelia’s parents on their cruising sailboat, Motu Iti. (www.sailmotuiti.com)

Motu Iti by Velocir

Goldwin and Nancy have been relaxing in the Abacos this last month, and we are very happy to join them. Our first day was a bit breezy, but we headed over to a favorite of ours, Tahiti Beach, for some low tide nature viewing. The beach is a long sand bar that appears at low tide. The area is full of starfish, sand dollars, juvenile conch and other creatures.

Starfish by Velocir

Even though we have explored these waters before we always find something new, like this green starfish.

Conch by Velocir

A rare sighting, this juvenile conch came out of its shell for us (trying to turn over).

Conch eyes by Velocir

The eyes always get us, they are oddly adorable making them extremely hard to turn into a meal.  Luckily this one is not legally large enough to eat.

Runabout by Velocir

We zoomed around to a few good snorkeling spots. When Grant goes spearfishing he uses a pole spear with an elastic loop at the end (making it a homemade Hawaiian sling), dive weights to help him get down to look under crevices, a knife for safety and gloves to protect his hands from sharp lobster etc.

Snorkeling by Velocir

He found a spiny lobster in a grassy bank offshore, and speared it for dinner.

Lobster by Velocir

We also speared a few Lion Fish, an invasive species with no natural predators and dangerous spines.  It is very much encouraged to spear them.

Lion fish by Velocir

To finish our great day, Amelia made some conch fritters out of fresh-caught conch and a local batter Nancy had gotten.

Conch Fritters by Velocir

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Bon Voyage to MOTU ITI!

motuiti

We are excited to share with everyone that MOTU ITI has officially left on their cruise this winter.  After a lot of work and planning, their cruising dreams have become a reality.  They were the boat we featured in our “I’m On A Boat” Youtube series.

Their small sailboat is a Camper Nicholson 31.  Check out their blog at www.sailmotuiti.com!

motu iti2

Welcoming Our New “Crew”

Our trip last year to the Bahamas was a little underwhelming to our social life.  We met some really terrific people, but learned that when surrounded by an older crowd the key is to have a baby around.  Otherwise, as a young couple on a small boat you may as well be invisible.

Well, we’re not ready for a baby so hopefully the cutest puppy imaginable is the next best thing!?!?!  Everyone is planning to invite us over to see their boat, go on a fishing adventure and explore a new beach now, right??!?  Let’s have a long and fascinating conversation about our sailing adventures and the cruising lifestyle that doesn’t end with condescending comments like:  “Do you know what radar is?” or “Do you have charts?”

So, we’ve had our hands full the last couple of weeks with our newest addition!  This has been in the works for many months now, and it was finally decided that the Captains needed their “Crew.”

Crew is a Miniature Australian Shepherd.  Today was his first puppy training day and he is at the top of his class with “sit” and “down.”  He’s gone for his first swim, sailed in the new dinghy and likes to hang out on Velocir!

(All joking aside about babies and puppies, Crew brings joy to our lives that far exceeds any wistful social life….the part about being an invisible young couple on a small boat is not far from the truth.)

VELOCIR- An Albin Vega’s Journey from Graveyard to Blue Water Cruising Sailboat

Photos, photos, photos and the whole story!!! A narrated photo slideshow detailing the four year rebuild of the Albin Vega 27 sailboat Velocir. From bare hull to blue water cruiser.

A Singlehander’s Cruising Costs

cruising costs

Our friend recently shared his cruising costs and trip statistics with us aboard his beautiful 37 foot sailboat.  He is a singlehander, which means he cruises by himself.  Below are his costs for 257 days cruising along the East Coast of the US and throughout the Bahamas. These costs were incurred after leaving and do not include- $15,000 or more spent on the boat or $1,100 on food provisions before leaving.

Singlehander Cruising Costs

Food = any food purchased except restaurants
Restaurant = food someone prepared for me
Tips = given to dock help,  tips at restaurants etc not in this number
Boat = maintenance along the way, insurance for Bahamas $1,400
Laundry = just fun tracking
MISC = did not fit anywhere, ex. T-shirts
Total = divided by 257 = $78/day or 30 x 78 = $2,340/mo

Bigger boats cost more, but it is the marinas that get you.

 

Trip Statistics:
257 days
70 days at marinas, 29 different marinas, avg. marina $60/night, avg. marina depth 10.6 ft.
123 days at anchor, 51 different anchorages, avg. anchor depth 10.7 ft.
31 days at Free docks, 15 days on moorings, 18 days on hard

531.9 Engine hrs., $1,768 diesel fuel, avg. $4.43 gal, diesel engine 4JHE Yanmar 44 hp, .73 gph
This trip makes 6 Gulf Stream crossings and thus far all uneventful.
Water prices per gal ranged from .20 to .40 per gal and some offered daily, week or monthly rates.  For the combination purchased $228.90 between December 26 and April 16.

Cost of Cruising: Albin Vega Velocir

The cost of cruising is always a hot debate.  The general rule is that the smaller you go, the less expensive.  Every foot of boat increases costs exponentially.  The Albin Vega is about the smallest one can go in, and we think our costs reflected that.

Many people are curious about these things, and we hope this is helpful for any planners out there. 

Cost of Cruising: Albin Vega Velocir

Amelia has tackled the ominous mega-binder of everything Velocir to bring you a pretty fair outline of our costs.

Ways We Saved Money:

– Grant’s employee discount at Bacon Sails, so most of our budget was slashed 30%

– Buying a large portion of our materials and gear secondhand.

– Wedding gifts (tools, cookware, safety gear, SPOT, AIS etc)

– Lived with family and on Velocir while working

– Completed all installation and work ourselves

– Under age 26 (health care covered through parents)

– No debt to pay

– We were given hand-me-downs and many materials were lying around the family workshop

Cost of Cruising: Albin Vega Velocir

Outfitting Costs:

How much do you spend before you even leave!?!  Many people, Grant included, are very wary of knowing the actual cost of outfitting Velocir.  Well, Amelia can’t calculate it 100% anyways because we didn’t keep perfect track. We’d also like to point out that we went above and beyond in preparation.  It was worth it for us, but many of these things certainly do not need to be completed before going cruising.  It was as much a journey as it was an education.  Velocir was not purchased to go cruising. Amelia got it with her Dad as a father-daughter project and completely re-built it from the hull up.  A budget-minded cruiser would probably buy an already outfitted boat to save time and money.  But then you can’t have it “your way” and know every inch of your boat. Ah, compromise.

Approximate Total Cost: $27,000 (without employee discount 30% more)

To see a slideshow of the work done on Velocir click here.

Cost of Cruising: Albin Vega Velocir

To give a sense of our discount here are a few stats:

– Our New Sails: $2768 (Retail $5500)

– Our Chain: 85 cents a foot (Retail $3 afoot)

Cruising Costs:

Our cruising costs are 100% accurate.  Every receipt was recorded into a spreadsheet and reviewed monthly. Our goal was to spend no more than $1000 a month.  As you can see, the average cost per month was $920, and could have been less if not for our towing incident!  The total we spent during 8 months was $7421.  It turns out, once the boat is cruising-ready, it is the cheapest thing we can do.  (Not many lifestyles where you do not pay to sleep at night.)

Month 1 (Annapolis, MD to Wrightsville Beach, NC)

We are still working out the kinks, but focusing on sailing not motoring.

Cost of Cruising: Albin Vega Velocir

Boat Items: cleaning supplies, hose fittings, fasteners, extra manual water pump, deck wash pump

Misc Items: surf wax, cleaning supplies, books, postcards, fishing supplies, fishing license, etc.

Month 2 (Wrightsville Beach, NC to St. Augustine, FL)

A new toilet takes a chunk out of the budget.

Cost of Cruising: Albin Vega Velocir

Boat: new Nature Head composting toilet, hose, installation parts

Dockage/Mooring: St. Augustine

Misc: fishing supplies, leisure

Month 3 (St. Augustine, FL to Marsh Harbor, Abacos)

We stock up on food before the Bahamas, get snorkeling gear & pay customs fees.

Cost of Cruising: Albin Vega Velocir

Boat: oil, fasteners, hardware, paint

Dockage/Mooring: Cocoa, FL

Misc: Bahamian Customs, snorkeling gear, fishing gear, rum

Month 4 (Marsh Harbor, Abacos to Governors Harbor, Eleuthera)

Off on our own, not buying stuff.

Cost of Cruising: Albin Vega Velocir

Dockage/Mooring: Spanish Wells Mooring

Misc: rum, beer, taxi

Month 5 (Governors Harbor Eleuthera to Georgetown, Exumas)

By a grocery store again, enjoy fresh food!

Cost of Cruising: Albin Vega Velocir

Misc: rum, ice, festival tshirts

Month 6 (Georgetown, Exumas to Morgans Bluff, Andros)

Get stuck in Andros with no anchorage, fill-up on fuel for crossing.

Cost of Cruising: Albin Vega Velocir

Dockage/Mooring: Fresh Creek, Andros 3 nights

Misc: straw market, Androsia

Month 8 (Fort Pierce, FL to Morehead City, NC)

Towing incident, then resort to motoring to get through the ICW.

Cost of Cruising: Albin Vega Velocir

Boat: tow offshore, hoses

Dockage/Mooring: Fort Pierce, FL (towing related), St. Augustine mooring & NC

Misc: books, taxi to customs, local art

Month 9 (Morehead City, NC to Annapolis, MD)

Fuel: $56

Velocir’s Albin Vega Sail Design

A long winded discourse on our sails and why we chose them.

Small sails, big sails, old sails, new sails, high tech sails, old school sails, cheap sails, expensive sails and the sails that came with our boat fit into the cheap and old categories. I worked for 2 years at Bacon Sails and Marine Supplies in Annapolis, Maryland. Around since the 1950’s, Bacons is a family-owned consignment and new marine gear shop that specializes in used sails; and more recently new ones. My job title: “Sail Inspector”. Although the job came with neither badge nor magnifying glass I learned more than I ever thought you could know about sails.

Velocir's Albin Vega Sail Design

Sails are like a dress for your boat, you want a dress to look good and fit well. There are also about as many possibilities for a dress as there are for sails. I had seen so many designs and materials I wanted to put the lessons and my newfound knowledge to work; and with my employee discount I could!

I could have gone with a classic cross cut dacron sail, the kind you see on 90% of sailboats, but if we are building sails for our boat I want the best I can get.( FYI Dacron is a brand name like Band-Aid or Kleenex) Time after time I kept seeing these old sails come in just beat to hell and still holding together and with more shape than any Dacron sail its age. Cruise Laminate is, as the name says, a laminate, but not the plastic material (mylar) you see on race boats. Cruise Laminate is most commonly made up of  two layers of Dacron sandwiched over a grid of a white string looking material called pentex, the grid of pentex  provides a rigid strength far superior to Dacron alone.

Velocir's Albin Vega Sail Design

Sun is a sails number one enemy, Dacron will turn yellow and become extremely brittle, its called “sun rot”. Cruise laminate will not only hold its shape better, be stronger per weight of cloth compared to its Dacron counterpart, but will last longer. I have seen sails where the Dacron has completely rotted away in sections, but was held together by the pentex. Cruise Laminate has its own problems too. Older versions of the cloth were notorious for having the laminate separate which ruins the sail and all Cruise Laminates are susceptible to having mold and mildew grow inside the laminate and spread throughout. The mildew is merely a cosmetic issue, the whole sail can turn black and be fine and the cloth is now made with anti-mildew chemicals in it, but it is a problem.

     So we decided the positives outweighed the negatives and went with a 7oz (weight of the cloth) genoa and an 8oz main in Cruise Laminate. The sails were all stitched with a strong triple throw style stitching with Tenara thread. Sail thread is a frequent weakness in sails, often if the Dacron survives into old age the thread will rot and usually on the leach of the sail (trailing edge of the sail). Suncovers on rollerfurling genoas often need to be restitched several times in their lives.Tenara is a Goretex based thread which is sun stable, ie does not sunrot. Our suncovers and our entire sails were stitched with this thread and our leach is a heavier weight of Dacron so it will last longer.

     Most sails are horizontal bands on Dacron stitched together, called “crosscut”; strong a simple. Our sails are known as “tri-radial”, the panels of cloth radiate out from the three corners of the sail. The reason for this is that the sails can be designed with a 3-d shape cut into them, computers design the shape and tell you how to cut the panels and assemble the sail. The sails definitely improved our pointing. For most cruising boats the cost-benefit ratio of this style is generally not worth it, but for us it was negligible.

Velocir's Albin Vega Sail Design

     Our main sail is loose footed, which means the bottom or “foot” of the sail is only connected at the tack and clew. This gives the bottom of the sail a cleaner shape and the ability to have a line inside the foot to adjust for shape. Sails traditionally had the foot slide into the boom or had little slides to attach it. The general consensus is the materials of today make the sail and boom strong enough it is not necessary to distribute its load along the boom like that.

     Battens, oh the great batten debate. Battens are the (generally fiberglass) sticks in the sail that help give it a good rigid shape. Many cruisers will go with fully battened sails, which means the battens run the full width of the sail. This gives the sail a flatter shape and a generally good trim in all points of sail, but on the other hand mean you can’t adjust the sail shape much, they can be somewhat of a bear to wrangle when flaking or reefing, and really load up pressure on the mast side which can lead to problems when gear weakens over time.

Velocir's Albin Vega Sail Design

I love to fuss with sails, I enjoy tweaking things here and there as we sail along, it’s a game, it gives me an activity as we sail. So I went with what is called a “powerhead” setup. The top two battens are full while the bottom two battens are standard (ie go about 1/4-1/3 in from the leach). This means I get some of the plusses of full battens, but the body of the sail can still get some belly to it with some adjusting. We also got batten keepers that were lashed shut, not velcroed. Velcro will go bad faster than anything else on the sail and really how often are you taking out your battens that you need the speed of Velcro.

We went with two reef points rather than the classic cruiser three. Our reef points each take away 33% of the sail area, so they are quite deep. On our Bahamas trip we thankfully never had to use the second reef. The reason for this was less weight hanging in the sail which would hurt us in light air and less gear to lead back, in such a small boat the reinforcements in the sail and the lines hanging on it can make a big difference.

      Again, sails are like a dress, they should be a good fit and ideally a tailored fit. We measured everything 3 times over and altered the measurements from our old sails. We took about a foot off of the leach of the main sail so the boom would be just over head level in the cockpit. We made our genoa on the smaller side, 130% so we could roller reef and get good shape, in beam reaches or below we would fly the asymmetrical spinnaker, so we would only miss a big genoa head upwind in light airs. More often than not on our trip the genoa had at least a little reefing in it. We also had the genoa cut a little higher so we could see under it better from the cockpit.

     The leach line for the mainsail was run overhead through a turning block at the top of the sail (head) down to adjust at the tack. Now we could adjust the leach shape at the mast rather than trying to get to it out on the end of the boom since when I want to adjust it is when we are reaching or on a run. After using the sails for a year I have decided while this is good in theory, this setup has too much friction in a sail this small. It worked, but not as well as I would have liked.

Velocir's Albin Vega Sail Design

      Along the luff of every good roller furling genoa is some sort of padding, usually foam or rope. The reason for this is that when the sail is on a roller furler it can only reef so far before the sail becomes really baggy, which you really want a flat sail when reefing. Padding at the front of the sail helps bulk up the first few turns to give a flatter reef. Foam is the cheaper option, but over time will compact and stay that way. So we had 3 pieces of polypropylene rope in descending lengths on our luff.

       Again and again I saw shortcuts and problems with the design of suncovers on roller furling genoas. Firstly, unless you are racing, I think Sunbrella should be used for suncovers. Yes they weigh more than other options, but they last 3 times longer than other options and are easily replaced. Adhesive sun treated Dacron doesn’t work well and its remnants will look awful on the sail. I have also frequently seen a shiny mylar material that is also terrible. There is a vinyl like material that works ok, but is only slightly cheaper than Sunbrella and Sunbrella works so much better!

    Also make sure if your genoa has new suncovers put on that they wrap the suncover all the way around the edges of the sail. Often for cheapness or laziness the suncovers will be folded under themselves leaving the leach and foot tabling of the sail exposed to the sun. Though it may look like it will be fine, they will rot and your leaching will catch on the spreaders and tear it to pieces, happens all the time.

    Draft stripes, often a dark line of Dacron across the middle of the sail help you see the shape of your sails and are quite useful on bright days looking at a white triangle. We also found a product called Glofast which makes adhesive Dacron for draft stripes and whipping line that GLOWS in the dark. We have 2 glowing draft stripes on the main that really helped us see our sails and their shape on dark nights. The stuff will last the entire night and they are bright! It is comforting to see the sails with such ease on a dark night especially dead down wind, it helped us see the luff bubbling warning us of a possible accidental jibe.

Velocir's Albin Vega Sail Design

   My final piece of unsolicited advice is to protect your sails from the sun. Put the cover on the main sail, zip up your stack pack, and make sure the sail is totally covered. The biggest thing though is to take your sails down when you are not using them! If you are not using the boat in the winter take off the sails. Though they are covered, the sun will still get to them. If you hang up your boats dress and take care of it, they will last so much longer. Sails on a SAILboat are expensive and often neglected.

Velocir's Albin Vega Sail Design

Spinnakers! Light air and down wind nothing beats a spinnaker. Huge area of sail and made with material 1/6th of the weight of your normal sails. Cruisers today love asymmetrical spinnakers, aka gennaker, aka cruising chute. Similar to a traditional spinnaker, but with no spinnaker pole to deal with, fewer control lines, and easier to jibe. Mostly they come in 0.75oz or 1.5oz rip-stop nylon. Usually boats over 40ft will use 1.5oz, but we found a good deal on a used 1.5oz asymmetrical at Bacon Sails. We love everything to be stronger than is necessary and we had some fun flying our heavy duty spinnaker in over 25kts.

Velocir's Albin Vega Sail Design

Spinnakers are often used today with a snuffer, aka sock, aka spinnaker condom. A snuffer is a tube with a rigid mouth and a body of lightweight material used to help set and douse the sail. They make handling a spinnaker so much easier. They can be expensive, but we made our own without too much hassle and never had a problem with it. The two main types are chute scoop (budget) and ATN (Expensive French now made in China, but decent quality still).

Part of using an asymmetrical spinnaker is having a tack line. Asym’s are awesome because they can be sailed from a beam reach on down. Part of this is adjusting the tension of the luff with a tack line. Asym’s are meant to be flown in front of the boat, great for bow sprits but not so great for us production boats where the bow pulpit is the most forward thing of the boat. Our bow pulpit is well attached so we welded a ring on its front and ran the tackline back from that.

Velocir's Albin Vega Sail Design

Another piece of Asym gear on a common production boat is something to keep the tack of the sail in. When on a run you loosen up the tack line, so the sail wants to slide out sideways usually putting the tackline’s tension on the top of the bow pulpit, which can chafe it or when the sail luffs hard bend the pulpit. So many people will use something attached to the tack of the sail that goes around the roller furler. This allows the sail to slide up and down the furled sail as you adjust the tack line tension, keeping the asym in the center of the boat. ATN sells its “tacker” which does this quite well, though I have been on a boat with a tacker with a cheap shackle that kept failing. We have a piece of wire with two eyes and plastic beads (perroll beads) in the middle that roll up and down. The tacker seems to work best, but they are unnecessarily expensive (so what else is new with boats).

So, that’s all the big stuff I learned working on sails for 2 years and how it translated itself onto our boat. I hope this hasn’t been too long winded and can help somebody. Some will disagree with my opinions and observations, but people agree on sails about as much as anchors.

Ah, Home at Last- Back in Annapolis

DSCN1049

There was a lot of excitement about getting back to a house.  This last month we had really been pushing ourselves with long days.  Laundry and other projects had been put aside.

We LOVED our trip but there were some things to be desired- showers, real bed where you can stretch your legs out, standing up straight inside, refrigeration/freezer, and knowing when it rains the bed will stay dry/and when there is a storm, waves will not roll you.  It’s not that many things, but we do miss them after 8 months of cruising and 11 months of living aboard Velocir.           

As a special treat, our family and friends gave us a welcome-home party!  So much delicious food and amazing to see everyone again.  It was a taco party, and we made white sangria like we’d had in St. Augustine.  There was also tons of ice cream and cake!! 

DSCN1053

Velocir makes 98 miles in 14 hours

We had waited in Old Point Comfort, VA two days for good weather.  It would take us three days (140ish miles) and realistically the weather didn’t look good for the entire week.  Our family had planned a party and relatives were coming- oh  no!

It was a tough to be so close but yet so far.  We’d gone out and come back one morning when NOAA called for S  10-15 knots but it was ENE 25 knots all day. With 4 ft choppy swell on our beam, Velocir couldn’t make much speed and we were getting tossed around, so it wasn’t worth it.

The next day the wind finally turned S 25-30 knots.  A bit rough for Velocir, but we were headed N so the angle to the waves was okay.  We put up our main with a reef in it, kept the engine going and let out a scrap on genoa that keeps us from rolling in heavy seas downwind.  We were screaming down the bay at 7.5 knots the whole day!!!!  From 6AM to 8PM we made 98 miles to Solomons, MD.  Quite a feat for us and a distance we’d thought would take two days.Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse by Velocir

The Chesapeake is fun because instead of bouys our new marks are historic lighthouses.

Commercial Fishing on the Chesapeake by Velocir

Amelia saw some major commercial fishing on the Chesapeake Bay near the entrance to the Rappahannock that she didn’t know existed.  There were three massive blue fishing trawlers (like you would see in Alaska).  Bigger than shrimping trawlers, probably over 150 ft.  They were doing circles off the channel, which was very confusing to us and other cruisers around us.  Many people tried to call them on the radio but they did not respond.

As we got closer, Amelia realized each huge trawler was momma boat to two 30 foot silver fishing boats that were open-deck and had two giant 20 foot cranes on deck.  The cranes supported giant nets, and the two smaller fishing boats would circle around dropping the nets and picking them up again, while the huge trawler circled them. (Three groups of momma trawler with 2 crane boats)

To complete the whole process, two white planes circled them in the sky the whole time, obviously a part of the fleet.  Amelia was surprised this kind of fishing went on in the Bay?!?  Also worried because she spotted a sea turtle nearby.

We made it to Solomons, MD with an hour of daylight left to spare, staying at a friend’s dock.  Our last day is tomorrow!!!!

Straight Through the Alligator River

After a relaxing day at the town dock in Oriental, NC we headed out into calm calm weather and were greeted by a beautiful sunrise.  The wind picked up as predicted mid-morning so instead of motoring inside the waterway, we sailed around a few peninsulas before coming up the Pungo River to Belhaven, NC.

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Calm as can be outside Oriental, NC!  Later that night in the Pungo River massive thunderstorms swarmed around us.  To our north, lightening continued in bright bursts for hours and hours!  It was fun to watch and we didn’t get directly hit.

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The next day we motored through the Alligator River, which we’d skipped on our way down last Fall by sailing near the Outer Banks.  It was a straight canal, with submerged logs and stumps everywhere.  Thankfully no collisions!  We made it to Elizabeth City a day later, sailing across the Albemarle Sound.  It was some great sunny weather and warmer temperatures!

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When we finally reached the Dismal Swamp Canal we felt home-free!  Almost back to Annapolis. (After this we are practically in the Chesapeake Bay!)  The swamp canal was just a beautiful as we’d remembered.  Lots of birds, tons of turtles and lily pads.

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The first lock, South Mills, raised Velocir up 8 feet with water gushing in.

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At our second lock, Deep Creek, we added a conch shell to the lockmaster’s collection.  The conch garden is quite full! 

We headed to an anchorage we like near Old Point Comfort, VA.  It was so close from the Dismal Swamp Canal but many obstacles were in our path.  The only scheduled bridge was on a temporary schedule, so it was opening less-frequently than we thought.  By the time it opened, a train bridge in front of it had come down and a train was stopped in the middle, not moving.  It took two hours and there was a huge pile-up of boats waiting!

Now we will sit near Old Point Comfort for a weather window to sail north up the Chesapeake!

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