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Fourth of July, 2005

Here we sit at Port Annapolis Marina. It was a long week, 1067 miles from Pier 17 (formerly Summerfield's) in Ft. Lauderdale leaving on Monday June 27th and arriving here yesterday morning. With one day of off time in Beaufort, NC, the combination of wind, weather and sea, plus watches it seems all we had energy for was to give the Rose a quick wash. Who knew that just sitting around in the cockpit of a sailboat for a few days could be this tiring.

Tonight there will a firework display near the U.S. Naval Academy and with the historic tradition of this fine city and school we are anticipating quite a show. Although hard to tell from the present architecture, this city served as the Capital of the United States in 1783-1784. Surprised? So was I.

The trip from Lauderdale was mostly uneventful. Well that is not exactly correct. The 28th of June we received a flyby from what appeared to be a Navy S-3 Viking which came down off our port side and appeared very close, close enough we could clearly see the pilot. Tyson Bernthal, our passage instructor from Ocean Sailing Academy, had said in all of his years of sailing he had never had anything like that happen. We were about 120 miles east of Jacksonville when this occurred. The plane was so close and going so slow we thought it would fall out of the sky.

Not to think too much of this but that night in a pouring rain we could see a ship off the port bow, large on the radar, and when the lightning would strike we could see what appeared to be a landing deck with red light on the stern. Considering the helicopter that circled the boat we became a little concerned. I called Tyson up to get his opinion and he hailed the vessel with their lat/lon to no avail, no response. If this was the Navy which we are pretty certain it was, why did they not respond to the radio?

All said and done the following night while about 75 miles out of Beaufort I picked up ship on the radar again about six miles away. After watching the radar for about half an hour it became apparent that the bearing was not changing and we had closed to about three and a half miles. At this point I was concerned and hailed the ship as Navy Vessel at their lat/lon. Again no response to the radio. For the next thirty minutes the ship held this distance and bearing and finally I told Sue we were going to get closer and turned towards the ship. In about ten minutes of heading toward the ship it turned sharply across our bow about two and a half miles away, crossed and paralleled our reciprocal course heading southwest. In about thirty minutes you could no longer see them on the radar.

When we pulled into Beaufort early on the 30th we met a couple who had come in the day before basically on the same course. When we told them about our Naval exercises they said that essentially the same thing had happened to them. We can certainly understand the need for security today but to not respond to the radio seems unreasonable. Without a doubt in our mind they could see our radar and new where we were, and most likely who we were, so why not respond. My best guess they saw the radar and thought to use us as a training exercise.

Our trip was for the most part fast, up to 11 knots motor sailing in the Gulf Stream and with the exception of rolling in a following sea for about 18 hours, mostly pleasant although wet at times. We used Commanders Weather for routing and forecasting and I was very pleased with the forecast as compared to what we saw. The two items I did not catch on the forecast was the rain that followed us all night and the rolling of the Stream. I guess I should have figured that isolated rain could mean it tracks with us for awhile, and now with my first experience with the Stream I will expect some motion.

One of the upgrades to the boat was a new chartplotter and 6000i radar by Northstar. While by most peoples standards not a cheap fix I believe this was an excellent purchase. The radar has a range of 32 miles which gives you plenty of time to respond at night and can be overlaid on the plotter or viewed side by side. By adjusting the unit we were able to identify where the squalls were in an effort to dodge the big rains and then switch back to look for other ocean going targets. If you are doing passages this is certainly one way to enhance your safety. The installation was done for us by Bob Berger of Hi-Tek Marine Systems II, Inc. in the Palm Beach area. The work was complete and clean and Bob spent more than enough time on the water with me insuring I understood what I had and I highly recommend him. You can top this deal off with a generous rebate from Northstar for the plotters.

Beaufort was a neat place to pick up fuel and take a day to work on "the Rose". We think that the rolling for 18 hours had broken the filament in our tri-color as well as the anchor light. So to provide entertainment to the nice people at the Dock House, Sue quickly winched me to the top of the mast and the repairs were done posthaste. These are the kind of repairs I like, fast, easy and no additional parts needed, unlike repairs I normally run across.


























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