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6 Knots

6 Knots

by Chris Flanders

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Overview

This is a journey of two women who set sail on a 44 foot sailing vessel. Buffalo to the Bahamas was a very steep learning curve, sprinkled with groundings, leaks and electrical conundrums.

Add in amazing friendships, a group of experienced Canadians cruisers, 3000 nautical miles and you have an enjoyable, truthful adventure into retirement.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781456723484
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 04/08/2011
Pages: 244
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.63(d)

Read an Excerpt

6 Knots


By Chris Flanders

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2011 Chris Flanders
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4567-2348-4


Chapter One

Just the Facts

June 30, 2009, Buffalo NY

Like the personal columns say, I am a mature, white, long divorced, recently retired female. I am the mother of two sons, the grandmother of two red-haired girls and a tow-headed grandson. I am very active, love to sail, to cook and read. I am a closet writer. I can't dance well but I have a great personality (read that rounder than I would like for my height!) My name is Chris Flanders, a nurse practitioner with all the accompanying Type-A characteristics and the touch of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) that lets medical people multitask effectively. I am throwing in the towel and simplifying my life by going sailing with a friend on a 44 foot sailing vessel, Star of the Sea. More later about the word simplifying. The destination is tentatively Trinidad and the time frame is wide open.

My friend in crime/adventure is Margaret Mary Wagner, universally known as Peaches. She is single, white, a nursing home administrator, an ex-nun, also a longtime sailor who will retire just days before we leave on the boat in September. She was a Fulbright Scholar to India. She has a PADI Master Diver ranking and a couple of fine arts degrees along the way. She has more than the required amount of Type A personality along with administrative traits. Peaches also has a touch of OCD for good measure and very deep love for sailing. Upon leaving the convent years ago, she wanted to work with the elderly, sail, scuba dive, build a fine art collection and now join the ranks of the live-aboard sailors. Place a checkmark by all but the last, she has aced them all.

In conversation a couple of years ago Peaches asked if I was interested in cruising after I retired. I've sailed since I was 6 years old and recently started racing with her and her crew on Star of the Sea, a 36.7 Beneteau First out of the Buffalo Yacht Club on Lake Erie. We smiled and talked as our minds raced with possibilities, then she said "if you want to take off and cruise for a couple of years, put your money where your mouth is." I did, we bought the boat and we are frantically getting ready for our departure on September 4, 2009.

Retiring early seemed like such a risk, but now that I have retired it seems just barely in time. I used the word simplifying a little earlier. How do you simplify and unclutter 62 years of living in a few weeks? We sold the cars, prepared a home for sale, and entrusted the other home for family to use and care for while we were gone. Household items were packed in boxes, clothes were given away, food was shrink-wrapped, artwork was loaned out and bills were switched to auto-pay. Lists were made of all our important numbers for credit cards, insurance carriers, furnace repair men and plowing services. For fathers, sisters and brothers, contact information was compiled. Peaches' sister, Susanne, was given all the information that connected us to the world. She was to care for and represent us while we are gone. Simplify was so way the wrong word for all of this.

We have 6 weeks to get ready to go down the Erie Canal. Everything electric has been installed and checked out, the six man life raft is due for delivery soon and we just need to pack the boat (I know, just is another inadequate word). We have a few trips we want to take on Lake Erie before our departure. We have lots of friends and relatives to take out on the boat for fun. They all want to picture us on this boat when we are gone. Our plans are so very open, we could be gone a year or maybe 5. There are lots of loose non-marine ends to tie up. Peaches and I can't wait.

I've read stacks of books by cruisers, historical accounts of sea voyages and blogs talking of horrible seas, insurmountable difficulties with equipment and finally the raw power of Mother Nature. We still want to go where the winds take us, changing our sails as needed and enjoying our lives untouched by work, traffic or time schedules. The world is ours at 6 knots.

Chapter Two

Two Weeks to Cast-Off!

08/21/2-009 RCR Yachts, Buffalo, New York

We are scrambling to get everything perfect for our departure from the Buffalo Yacht Club on Friday, September 4th. I awoke a couple of nights ago to the realization that we can do a lot of this final preparation underway as long as all the necessary items are on board. Suddenly, perfect is not the absolute go-to word for everything.

Peaches and I spent a great week with friends and family at the Dunkirk Yacht Club. We celebrated birthdays, hugged grandchildren and signed up my 86 year old father, Bill, for the Baltimore to Annapolis part of the journey down the coast. We invited both sailors and non-sailors on board to see what they thought of our preparations, hoping that their comments would be encouraging. We should have been more tuned into their thoughts. "I wish I could take time out of my life to go do what you two are going to do but I can't right now."

Another said "You must be crazy to take off like this in the middle of a full recession."

My favorite was "You are going to live your dream and I am going to live mine through your stories." Alone with our thoughts again, we needed to listen to ourselves, cast off the lines to the dock and live our dream. I'll blog our stories. Maybe it'll help someone else to set themselves free.

We checked our Sirius Weather program before returning to Buffalo from Dunkirk for the chance of thunderstorms and with our newly found weather skills decided the storms were going well north of our Buffalo destination, five hours or so up the lake. I can sense your misgivings, even as I write this!

We left under sail, surfing the large waves back to Buffalo, the wind at our backs. We saw the dark band of storms looming closer and closer so we added the engine to get home sooner. We pulled in the sails, revved up the engine, cleared the decks of all loose clutter and prayed that the brand new Bimini would stay attached in the accelerating winds. It went from 18-20 knot winds and 6-8 foot waves with chop to a lightning festival complete with a strong downpour. Suddenly the waves flattened and the wind accelerated to 48 knots. We were in a downdraft of strong wind. Peaches turned the bow of the boat into the wind and we held our breath.

What a sturdy and well-handling vessel Star of the Sea turns out to be. After about half an hour of wondering how we could ever handle this for days at a time in the open ocean, the wind diminished and the waves returned. No waterspouts were in sight. We did a 180° turn toward Buffalo and started breathing again. I failed to mention that we had a good friend with us who is not a sailor. From about half a mile out of Dunkirk, she was suffering from mal de mere into a bucket from all the wallowing the boat did between waves. She had the good sense to be too frightened to throw up during the worst of the downdraft. She said her entire life was flashing by her eyes in full living color. She quickly rethought her dream of joining us later in our journey!

I am so glad this stupidity happened to us before leaving on the trip. The boat is almost fully loaded and as close to her traveling weight as she could be. So, if she could handle this little Lake Erie blow, she could handle anything. So could we. We are not invincible, but are so much better prepared for our new life because of this sudden storm.

Chapter Three

Four Days and Counting

08/31/2009 Buffalo Yacht Club

It is hard to sleep when your head is working like a computer that seriously needs defragmenting. We are both making progress toward our goal of leaving on Friday. Peaches is retired and has fully shifted into panic mode. There are sliding piles of papers in all corners of the house, piles of unsorted clothing covering the floor and the furniture. Poor Peaches is wandering from pile to pile picking up things, shaking her head and throwing them into opened boxes or back onto the piles. I didn't think until now what a huge burden she has on her shoulders, sorting and packing for herself in just four days. I've been squirreling away things and making lists for months. I am in complete pack-it mode. The boat looks like a bomb has hit it and all her guts are exposed. We'll never get it packed before the Bon Voyage party in two days. Help!

Peaches' sister, Susanne Tocke, says she visualizes us leaving the Buffalo Yacht Club with several dinghies tied in a line behind us, loaded with all our earthly goods. It may come true. We just bought 2 car carrier bags, the kind you strap to your car roof, to tie in front of the mast on the deck. All the stuff we need, absolutely need will be packed in these hopefully waterproof bags until we get time to go through them. Now we are going to look like the families escaping the dust bowl with our rocking chair hanging off the port side and the cow trailing behind, surfing the wake behind the swim platform! These bags will allow our crew of two able-bodied men to have a place to sleep and move about the boat. There is so much stuff, so little room, poor cow.

About our crew: Burt Smith is Peaches' cousin and loves the water. He and his wife, Sue, crewed with us last summer as we tried to race our Beneteau 423 in the open class for the Buffalo Harbor Sailing Club races. We always came in last, but we got the hang of all the winches, the in-mast furling sail and even the new asymmetric spinnaker sail. Did I mention we always came in last? There were times when the race committee boat had already headed back to the warm and comfortable bar at the yacht club before we rounded the last mark! Our steep learning curve had started. Burt and Sue stuck it out for the whole season and Sue encouraged Burt to go on the Erie Canal/Hudson River part of our adventure. Two women couldn't set off without some testosterone on board. It seemed to make our families less fearful and our friends more comfortable with our crazy scheme.

John Pettis, from the Buffalo Yacht Club, is our other volunteer crew member. He is the proverbial old salt. He has been on boats, under boats, in their engines and up their masts all of his life. He knows diesel engines like he knows good food and beautiful women. Between the two of them, we can have a fear-free start to our trip. John can trouble shoot the mechanics, tell great stories and helm the boat until he drops. Burt knows the Erie Canal and boats in general. He also has stories to tell and by the end of this adventure, so will we. My job is to keep the coffee and the food coming.

We've had our immunizations and our passports and other documentation are in order. As of today we have the new and spare alternators, fuel pumps, water pumps, spare bulbs and fuses, hardware, clips and widgets. Filters of every shape and color, belts for the Volvo engine and spare bilge and shower pumps adorn the piles of stuff in the boat.

Like carrying an umbrella to keep away the rain, these spare things will keep us warm, safe, dry and well hydrated.

All that is left is to divest ourselves of the houses and cars, pack the reference books on board, have a couple of wonderful good-bye parties and shove off. Thanks to all of you who have listened to us over the past years plan our trip out loud over and over until we got it right. So, think about coming to join us for a short while in the location of your choice along our route. We hope to have the excess baggage tamed before we turn right at the Hudson River and head south from the Erie Canal to Hop-O-Nose Marina on the Hudson.

Chapter Four

Turn Right at the Erie Canal

09/06/2009 Niagara River, Tonawanda, New York

We left our slip at the Buffalo Yacht Club on September 4 after a quick lunch. We headed up the Black Rock Canal, under the Peace Bridge to Canada. What an attitude adjustment it is to go right toward Niagara Falls instead of left out past the breakwater to race. The Star of the Sea is no longer a sailing vessel because the mast was wrapped up and taken by truck to Hop-O-Nose Marina on the Hudson several weeks ago. All the bridges on the Erie Canal have less than 15 feet clearance so a 58' stick is out of the question. Our mast is waiting for us.

The boat is loaded from the keel to the deck with all of our earthly goods. Burt and John's two duffle bags hardly made a difference. The boat has fenders, boat hooks and 3 car carrier bags on the front deck (yes, yes, I know it was only two but now Peaches' stuff is all here to be sorted through). We don't want to miss a minute of our journey. The camera is never out of our hands. It still seems like an afternoon boat ride, not the biggest thing Peaches and I have ever done.

The Black Rock Lock and the swing bridge were the first of many such interruptions along our way this first day. I was at the helm for this first part and the strong currents were a surprise. My learning curve angle just got way more acute! We continued on to Tonawanda and turned right, tucking into the Erie Canal. As we went through Lockport, the sides of the canal were full of friends and family waving and calling to us from the shore and bridges along our way. I had trouble steering because I wanted to wave with both hands at the same time. Thanks guys!

So, we are motoring along at about 5.5 knots in the sunny warm weather. There isn't much boat traffic even though it is a holiday weekend. We left at noon so John could finish up some business at his shop and we could arrive at a good place along the canal to spend the night. No anchoring allowed. We slipped along through the shortening daylight and pulled into the wall at Medina, NY. The town has a stone face wall with cleats spaced so we can tie up. It's almost dark but the yellow street lamps make it easier. We secure the boat, tidy up and walk into town. In most of the towns we pass, the canal runs close to the main street. Burt knows the towns, the restaurants and even the locations of the West Marine and hardware stores from other trips through the canal in his motor boats. A quiet dinner at an Italian restaurant, some wine and talk make us all realize how very tired we are. As we walk through the deserted streets back to the boat it strikes us, this boat is our new home.

At dinner, Burt and John made us a deal. They will get up early in the morning, shower on shore and when the sun comes up, motor down the canal to the next lock. Our part is to set up the coffee maker the night before and get up for the next lock. A perfect deal. I can hear them bumping around in the salon, then the boat bobbing as they get off and on the wall, the coffee maker grinding the beans and then the engine starting. Remember going on car trips with your parents, the engine humming and the movement of the car putting you into dreamland? That's how our mornings were in the canal.

We both slept fitfully in the V-berth because it was all new and also because there was not much shoulder room for two ladies with great personalities but rather Rubenesque bodies. Boxes of papers, for Peaches to go through and eventually send home, fill the floor and the sides of the room. John sleeps in the salon where the table converts the couches into a bed. Burt sleeps in the back berth. The engine starts, the water flows past the hull and we both fall sound asleep, no responsibilities for a bit.

Everyone takes their turn at the helm until we come to a lock. I take over as the rookie helmsman and bring the vessel up against the starboard wall of the locks. That part is easy. Boats coming the other way might be in the lock so waiting for the lock lights to turn green is a little harder. Watching ahead helps so you can slow your forward progress, check the other boats around you for position and check the current and the winds. Sometimes you get too close and need to turn and circle if there is room and sometimes you just go into reverse. John made a game of having me practice figure eights in slow reverse while we waited for the green light. I can't imagine where I'll use this skill, but John is always right.

The Erie Canal is beautiful, clean and practically empty of traffic. There are birds flying everywhere, swooping through the dense trees at the sides of the canal. Occasionally the shore opens up to fields of corn or pastures. Small towns are scattered here and there and sometimes a main highway runs parallel to us. We feel like we are moving along at a good clip until the cars blow by at 70mph. It takes us all day to go the same distance a car goes in one hour!

(Continues...)



Excerpted from 6 Knots by Chris Flanders Copyright © 2011 by Chris Flanders. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgements....................iii
Chapter 1 Just the Facts....................1
Chapter 2 Two Weeks to Cast-Off!....................4
Chapter 3 Four Days and Counting....................6
Chapter 4 Turn Right at the Erie Canal....................9
Chapter 5 The Erie Canal Saga Continues....................12
Chapter 6 The Hudson River....................15
Chapter 7 New York Harbor and Sandy Hook....................18
Chapter 8 Cape May and Delaware Bay....................22
Chapter 9 C&D Canal and the Bohemia River....................27
Chapter 10 Havre de Grace MD....................30
Chapter 11 This and That....................33
Chapter 12 The Baltimore Inner Harbor....................37
Chapter 13 Lost and Found....................40
Chapter 14 Just Transportation....................44
Chapter 15 Sailboat at a Sailboat Show....................49
Chapter 16 A Swim in the Chesapeake....................53
Chapter 17 The Sun is Out, Come Out From Under Your Rock!....................56
Chapter 18 You Otter Know About This Place....................59
Chapter 19 Navigation How Do We Do It?....................63
Chapter 20 Whuppa, Whuppa, It Works!....................67
Chapter 21 The Intracoastal Waterway....................70
Chapter 22 The Swamps of North Carolina....................73
Chapter 23 No Buddy of Mine....................77
Chapter 24 Christopher and Columbus....................80
Chapter 25 Osprey Marina....................85
Chapter 26 Georgetown, South Carolina....................88
Chapter 27 It Was a Dark and Stormy Day ....................92
Chapter 28 Toogaloo River to Beaufort....................94
Chapter 29 Galley Fare....................97
Chapter 30 Georgia on My Mind....................100
Chapter 31 Darien River....................103
Chapter 32 Amelia Island, Florida....................106
Chapter 33 The Tides Line Up....................109
Chapter 34 Yacht on Stilts!....................112
Chapter 35 Ta-Dah!....................115
Chapter 36 Highlights of 2009....................118
Chapter 37 What a Mess, the Boat Threw Up Again....................121
Chapter 38 We've Gone Coastal: The Dark Night at Sea....................124
Chapter 39 Relaxing....................128
Chapter 40 A Junk at Vero Beach....................131
Chapter 41 Our Trip Smooth, INTREPID'S Rough!....................134
Chapter 42 Gulf Stream Crossing....................137
Chapter 43 Nassau to Exuma Park....................141
Chapter 44 The Longest Happy Hour or How We Survived the Storm....................145
Chapter 45 Bread and Water....................150
Chapter 46 Exuma Park, What Lies Beneath?....................153
Chapter 47 Black Point and Georgetown, On the Move Again....................157
Chapter 48 Georgetown....................162
Chapter 49 Georgetown Rediscovered....................166
Chapter 50 Black Point Revisited....................171
Chapter 51 What is the Name of this Beach?....................175
Chapter 52 Anchoring, the Long and Short of It....................178
Chapter 53 Hitchhiker in Paradise....................182
Chapter 54 Shroud Cay, A Day in the Mangroves....................185
Chapter 55 Nassau and Eventually the Berry Islands....................189
Chapter 56 Crossing the Gulf Stream II....................194
Chapter 57 Welcome Back to Vero Beach....................196
Chapter 58 The Bucket List....................199
Chapter 59 OOPS!....................202
Chapter 60 OZ, How Two American Ladies Found Their Courage....................204
Chapter 61 Anchoring in a Mud Puddle....................207
Chapter 62 Welcome Home to Fernandina....................210
Chapter 63 Sea Beans and Other Beach Stuff....................213
Chapter 64 Moonlight on the Sea or How We Got to Charleston....................216
Chapter 65 Hey, Who Said it Was Okay to Rain?....................219
Chapter 66 Up On the Hard....................222
Chapter 67 My Whole Body Aches, but Star of the Sea is Resting Comfortably....................224
Chapter 68 A Day to Remember....................228
Chapter 69 It Was So Hot That....................231
Chapter 70 Landlocked in Chautauqua....................234

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