Sunday, March 18, 2007


The final posting

When we created this blog it was "The cruising adventures of Karen, Jeff, and Tucker aboard M/V aCappella." Sadly, that has unexpectedly ended. This will be the final posting.

We've heard it said that there are just "dog people" and "not dog people." We assuredly are of the first group. Tucker was our family and our life.

We know when a dog finds us that we are striking a bargain. They will love us totally and unconditionally. We will bask in that love and see them through their old age. We know when we do it, that day of pain will surely come but we do it anyway because the reward is so very great. We were cheated in our bargain. Our pain came too early.

In the life of every "dog person" there will come one dog that will touch them in a most profound way. We believe that Tucker was that dog for us. He was the most affectionate and loving creature that we have ever encountered.

In our head we know that we will be happy again and will let that next love find us. But our hearts and souls can't believe it right now. Thank you for the many emails, comments and thoughts we have received. Your love has helped.

For us, we are not continuing on to the Bahamas. We doubt that we can manage to bring the boat home to Maine. In fact, we're not sure we can even keep this boat any longer as much as we love her so. "Dog people" may possibly understand this.

We'll close with pictures celebrating our puppy. Rest in peace, Tucker. We will never, ever let you out of our hearts.

(please slowly click videos twice to view)

Thursday, March 15, 2007



He was the most affectionate dog we have ever known. He was most happy when he was with other dogs. He loved to catch a frisbee. And dinghy rides. And being near people. And he was such an integral and important part of our lives.

Cancer took Tucker today. We never really got to say goodbye. It wouldn't have been fair to allow him to come out of surgery - he wouldn't have lived past the recovery. There were no signs and symptoms until it was too late. He had the very best of care available anywhere. We've searched for some type of answer. There just isn't one.

We don't know what we're going to do. We can't move the boat right now. We just need to swing around the mooring we're on until we can somehow pick up and move on.

Karen & Jeff


It's bad...

Tucker had many tests this morning. He was poked, stuck, X-rayed, and analyzed. The results were evaluated by two veterinarians. The facility that he's at is exceptional. It's more of an animal hospital than a clinic.

He's getting blood transfusions now. He'll be in surgery this afternoon. He has some type of growth on his spleen. It is most probably hemangiosarcoma - a common aggressive cancer in dogs. There was no way to know that he had it and there was little that could have been done. He hid it so well showing minor, if any signs of tiredness. The videos of him yesterday don't show a sluggish dog. If he were here now, he'd be calling to the dolphins swimming around the boat.

There are some other remote possibilities but you can see in the face of the surgeon that the probable outcome here isn't good.

We'll be at the hospital this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Vero Beach

It was an easy ride down the ICW to Vero Beach. We left around 9 and entered the lock that separates the ocean tidal waters from the ICW. Locks take some practice but we've done a few and it was pretty easy.

After the lock, we transited through the Barge Canal (I always say Canal Barge for some reason) and turned south onto the ICW. After a handful of hours we reached Vero Beach and pulled into their municipal marina facility. We're on a mooring (#49) in this protected and lovely spot.

On the way down Florida's ICW we continually pass dolphins. Tucker has a special relationship with dolphins. He has this high-pitched, different type of bark that he uses to call them. Dolphins mainly play in boat bow wakes but Tucker stands on his stool in the stern when calling for them. Interestingly the dolphins line up at the stern of our boat and jump and play there squeaking back.

Tucker's vet appointment is at 8:30 am tomorrow. Gene is picking us up at 7:50. Now I just have to convince Karen that she would be way better than me at collecting a urine sample from Tucker for the appointment...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Tucker is sick...

He doesn't want to be sick. He wants to be in the Bahamas where he'll swim, see his old cruising dog friends, and shuck coconuts. But there's something wrong and we can't go until we know.

His urine has gotten very dark. It could be a sign of dehydration or it could be something worse. He often doesn't drink when the engines are going and we're aware of that. We noticed this dark color a few days ago and even though we just finished a double-overnight passage, we got him to drink a lot (he can't resist playing with the hose even if we're 20 miles offshore).

We talked to our vet back home and have done a ridiculous amount of research on the internet about canine biological systems over the last few days. There are people who have had open heart surgery who haven't had as much research done as we've done with Tucker's amber urine. The bottom line is that we have to see a veterinarian.

There is a veterinarian in the Abacos. The important word there is "is". There is only one and he runs between all of the different islands. It would be a mistake to leave for the Bahamas when we can have great care right here. So we've modified all our plans. We're leaving for Vero Beach tomorrow where we'll stay until Tucker has some tests done. His appointment is at 8:30 am on Thursday. Gene and Kathy from back home who Winter in Vero Beach are helping - it would be very, very difficult to pull it all together without help from people we trust. When we get a green light to go, we'll figure out a different path to the Bahamas from there.

There is no way that I'd consider any other compromise to getting him back to full health.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Going, going, going...

The long period waves continued through the night. We came to the inlet for Fernandina Beach and watched it go by - we're gonna keep going.

Being alone during a night watch can be scary. It takes some getting used to and you have to learn to trust your instruments. Night vision is important and every light and LED must be kept dim. We put blue tape over many of the lights to cut down on the light emitted too. With good night vision, you can see an amazing amount especially when the moon is overhead. Unfortunately, the cell phone doesn't acquire night vision so you're going to get a limited view in the video.

At one point in the video I say that the Palm is showing we have 4.9 nautical miles left to go. I meant 4.9 hours. I can't edit video on the mobile phone (yet!).

When the sun came up we decided to keep going to Cape Canaveral. We'll see Fernandina Beach another time. For now, we'd like to take advantage of the good weather. This means another overnight - our first back-to-back set.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Undocking Charleston...

What a beautiful day in Charleston, SC. Mid-70's, sunny, calm waters. We couldn't have designed a better day. At 1:00 pm, we undocked from the Charleston City Marina. This shows a little about what it is like to pull away from a dock with aCappella.

A couple of hours later and we're in open water about 5 miles offshore. There is a big difference in comfort when you have long period waves like the ones we're experiencing today.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Charleston City Marina

As we expected, we're "stuck" in Charleston until the weather clears. It's pretty rough offshore right now. We're on the MegaDock at the Charleston City Marina. This is one of the best facilities that we've come across - it is always nice to stay here. They just drove us to Harris Teeter's (a high-end grocery store in the Carolinas and Virginia) and brought us back. We're doing some small projects on the boat so we'll have more free time in the Bahamas as well as seeing our friends here.

If we could choose a place to be stuck away from home, we'd choose Charleston any time.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Deal or No Deal...

When we left New Bern we knew the weather might be a problem. It was a breezy passage to Beaufort. As we exited the inlet it became rougher and rougher. I looked over at Karen and knew this wasn't going to work.

We got to the end of the inlet and turned away from Charleston toward Cape Lookout. An anchorage listing in ActiveCaptain led me to an incredible anchorage (thanks, Phil!). It was huge, protected, and no one was there. I let out 200' of chain and we didn't move an inch.

In the morning we had a difficult "deal" to choose: 1) take off now in somewhat better conditions, or 2) stay at anchor or in the area probably for 3-4 more days until acceptable conditions materialized.

We left.

It was pretty rough at first. We were in 3-5' following seas which were growing rougher. NOAA had promised better conditions as we moved south. For once, NOAA came through. We started seeing 3' waves which diminished further as the sun started to set.

We arrived in Charleston at around 8 am. We're at The City Marina studying the weather reports and charts for our next leg to Fernandina Beach. It's the exact same deal or no deal situation once again for tomorrow...

Monday, March 05, 2007


We're off...

Two quick videos taken as we pulled out of our comfortable marina to enter the unknown of the sea. The first is pushing the throttles forward to move us out of our slip. The second is moving through the Trent River Bridge. Karen and I communicate through headsets so she is talking to me as I'm filming - but you're only seeing one side of the conversation on the video.

The forecast isn't great and I'm a little worred. We decided that we'd get to Beaufort and see what it looked like offshore. We have an anchorage picked out (behind Cape Lookout) and we know a couple of marinas around there. We'll be there around noon and will have about an hour to make the decision to go or stay. The forecasts have been dodging in and out of our comfort zone. That in and of itself causes discomfort! We'll see when we get there. We're in no rush. It's the journey, right?

Sunday, March 04, 2007


We're wimps...

(Click on the graph to show it larger)

We could leave today but we're wimps. The sea conditions are just within the limits of our comfort zone but that is only if the predictions of lower wave heights materialize. Since this is going to be an overnight passage to Charleston and since we haven't been on the boat in a while we're being a little over-cautious and staying in New Bern for another day. is a wonderful resource for boaters. I love it. When we are cruising I pay $10/month for it to get extra predictions and extra graphs and charts. It is free for 2 day predictions and simple graphs. The graph above is one of the many additional ones you get when you pay for their service. This graph shows wind on top in blue over wave height in colors dependent on their period. The lower the period, the more choppy the waves. This chart is for the offshore area between Beaufort, NC and Wilmington, NC. It tells me that the winds will be pretty brisk over the next few days (and mostly behind us) and that waves are around 6 feet this morning reducing to under 4 feet tomorrow and Tuesday (and mostly following seas). The pink color of the wave height tells me that the low period will mean choppy waves instead of rolling, nice waves. I'd rather be in 6 foot waves with a 15 second period than 3 foot waves with a 5 second period. Still, the reduction in sea conditions happens tomorrow and Tuesday. That is a safer time to go. Especially for wimps.

Friday, March 02, 2007



The front that came by was pretty huge. Winds have been gusting to 45 knots with downpouring rains and rough sea conditions. It has settled down a little but it will take a couple of days to head offshore with safety. It's an amazing 75 degrees right now. The warm wind feels strange.

If we're going to be stuck here I'm going to experiment with some longer videos. I took two - a quick walk-through of the inside and outside of aCappella and a short video showing the engine room. At times when I'm outside, it is very hard to hear what I'm saying because of the wind. It's probably better that way - you'd rather be watching the boat!


Thursday, March 01, 2007


The day to leave has arrived (almost)...

After about 10 days of preparation, the deadline has arrived. Today is the day we're starting our trip south. Or is it?

There are a variety of places that I use for marine weather. NOAA is always a good source and their text broadcasts are the basis of almost all other data. Other web sites take that data and combine it with other sensors and models to give additional forcasting. I like and have been using it for four years. One of the things it does is that it provides an overview display with green, yellow, or red flags. We use this in our decision about moving the boat. If the flag is green for the duration of the passage, we go. If it's yellow, we usually don't go unless we completely understand the issue and will be well-protected. In addition, sometimes it is yellow before moving to green and we're often willing to put up with slightly more difficult conditions with the knowledge (hope?) that it will probably get better. We never, ever move if there is a red flag. Period.

Today's leg would have had us going offshore, overnight from Beaufort, NC around Frying Pan Shoals and onto Charleston, SC. The overview from BuoyWeater above is for the area just offshore of Beaufort for today and tomorrow. Twelve foot waves at 8 second period? I don't think so. We'll watch this one pass over tied securely to our slip. It doesn't look like this wind will pass completely until the end of the weekend.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


The things they don't show you in the cruising books...

We're back in New Bern getting the boat ready for cruising to the Bahamas. This takes a couple of weeks of maintenance, cleaning, provisioning, etc.

This is our third day back on the boat. So far we've done the following:

- Replaced the GPS (it was acting up - got a Raystar 125 on eBay)
- Loaded everything back on the boat from home
- Did a first pass cleaning
- Purchased about 30% of the food we'll need
- Removed the engine heat exchangers and sent them out for cleaning
- Removed both engine water pumps for new gaskets
- Re-wired the entertainment system (left speaker channel wasn't working)
- Made a master "to-do" list
- Checked scuba tanks (1 needs filling)
- Made 2 trips to Wal-Mart
- Made 2 trips to West Marine
- Made 1 trip to Lowe's
- Made 1 trip to Target
- Made 1 trip to Napa

This is all just the beginning. Our list of things still left to do is two pages long.

This morning we drained the water tanks and opened them completely to manually clean the crud out of the bottom. It's been almost three years since we did this and it was time. Last time I was the one who opened them up and cleaned them. Today, Karen drew the short straw. Ya gotta love a girl who's willing to do this.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


We're in New Bern!

We had a beautiful night in Belhaven, NC anchored behind the town
breakwater. Today was a nice day. Eighty degrees. I feel guilty complaining
about the heat.

It was an easy trip to New Bern. We topped off the fuel tanks and pulled
into the slip where aCappella will sleep for the next few months until we
head off for the Bahamas. Tucker is very happy. Real walks on real grass
every day. Life is good for man and beast.

This will be the last entry until February 2007 when we prep the boat for
the next part of the journey.

Until then...


Grounding at the Alligator River

When traveling southbound there is a very well known spot that gives cruising boats problems at the mouth of the Alligator River. This exact spot has been discussed recently on the Trawlers and Trawlering list. NOAA updated the chart for this area in August, 2006. A variety of buoys have been moved over the last year or so. We've been through this exact spot 4 other times without incident. Yesterday we grounded to a stop in 5.5 feet of water.

We were extremely prepared for this problem area. We had the very latest in charts loaded on the electronics although the Raymarine's C-Map display still had the older data for this section of the Alligator River. In addition to this, we discussed at length that we would not rely on ANY of the electronics at all. It would be used as an aid to our navigation. Equally important was the view outside the pilothouse windows of the buoys and other boats. As we approached the area, we pulled back the throttles to idle forward which caused us to move about 2-3 knots through the area while staying in control of our position.

There are two bad sections in this entrance to the river. The first is right after mile marker 80. The green buoy "3" has been moved significantly to the west. It used to be aligned with the next flashing green and the magenta ICW line ran in almost a straight line. It is now obvious on the chart that you are supposed to move way over to the west. The chart doesn't properly show what this change looks like in real life - there is a major movement of that green "3". We were looking specifically for this new buoy placement and found it but it was much further over than we expected. About half of the other boaters in the area didn't even see the moved buoy and went straight. A couple of them grounded on the expanding shoal area. We went through this area fine and never saw less than 10 feet of water.

The next problem area happens as you go around the shoal on the other side. The magenta line clearly shows the turn to the west and the alignment with the channel proceeding south. We followed this without problem. Instead of following the magenta line, we moved a little to the west earlier so we would be better aligned with the channel. The chart shows that there is 8 feet of water in this area. The reality is that the shoal has obviously grown much further to the east and south because we were nailed where the red X is shown in 5.5 feet of water. We draw a little under 6 feet but had filled our tanks with fuel the night before and were probably an inch or more deeper and very close to 6 feet. This shoal came up fast and we had no time to move to the east or south. We grounded to a complete stop.

Since our props are 4.5 feet below the surface, I felt pretty confident in using the port engine to power forward with the rudder turned hard to the right while using the bow thruster to the port side to move us horizontally east. It took a full five minutes for us to wiggle off and into 10 feet of water. It felt like it took an hour.

It is obvious now that you have to follow the magenta line much more closely than we did today. In this case, I believe that following the electronics a little more would have kept us 50 feet to the east and we would have avoided this uncomfortable exercise and analysis.

In the end, nothing was hurt and nothing was damaged except I probably lost some bottom paint from the very bottom of the boat. This is the second time that I've experienced a slow grounding. They say that there are two types of boaters - those who have gone aground and those who will go aground. How many times do you have to be a part of the first group?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Typical ICW view

The ICW is made up of connected rivers and land cuts. The land cuts can be
many miles long. This is the Alligator-Pungo Canal. It looks like this for
more than 20 miles - almost perfectly straight with nothing anywhere for

We're on our way to Belhaven, NC and should be there by around 3:30 to
anchor for the night. We had an "event" this morning at the mouth of the
Alligator River where we grounded to a halt in 5.5 feet of water. It was
pretty rotten for 5 minutes until we wiggled off. I plan on doing a full
analysis of this tonight with chart clippings and will make a posting about

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?