Follow Joe and Leah aboard SENECA

Sea trials

After a bit more epoxying and sanding and adding the seats, I was ready to see if she floats. We decided on Kate’s parents pool as the best place to test her out. I really wanted to see how easy or hard it was to bolt her together in the water and check for any small leaks. Here’s how she did!
I put her together in about three minutes the first time. I’m sure I can improve on that with practice, but it worked great. Granted this was a pretty calm day in the shallow Redick Sea. There’s also a pick of Morgan and Eric taking her for a row.
Only a couple pinhole leaks which can easily be epoxied. All that is left is to dress her up and properly name/christen her. That will happen next week in a lake.

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cutting the dinghy

After a bit more epoxying and sanding I was ready to cut the boat in half. You can imagine this is very unnatural thing to do. When building the center bulkhead I inserted cardboard in between the plywood pieces which make up the double bulkhead. This leaves room for the saw cut. It is done with a handsaw so you can ‘feel’ your way in between the bulkheads. I got a little off half way through and started from the other side to meet in the middle. Now I had two boats!
The next step was to sand and clean up that cut and tape and epoxy the new outside corners. Pics will be coming soon.

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nesting Dinghy 2

I let that epoxy set up overnight and then the straps can be cut off and I mix up more thick epoxy and filet all of the interior seams. Now we were ready to tape and roll epoxy on the interior seams. Another night of drying and Eric and I flipped it over , cut and sanded the outside seams and then taped and epoxied the outer seams. I then rolled the entire boat with a coat of epoxy.

September 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nesting Dinghy

I chose to build a Two-Paw 8, an eight foot nesting dinghy designed by B&B yachts. I ordered the plans months ago and stared at them, then put them on a shelf and out of my mind. Towards the end of this summer my thoughts returned to boats (along with a lot of prodding from my friend Eric) and I dusted off the plans and forged ahead. I ordered the epoxy and cloth from the designer and I had to special order the marine grade plywood from a lumber yard.
With enough material to start Eric, his son Morgan and I got to work laying out the panels to be cut from the ply. If your not familiar with the stitch and glue technique, then you would have been right with me. The basic idea is panels are cut out of plywood and then you drill pairs of holes in alone the side and stitch ( I used plastic wire ties) the panels together until you have what looks like a boat. There is a bit of prying and pushing and clamping involved. When your happy with the shape you check some measurements and diagonal measurements to ensure it is nice and square. Then you mix the two part epoxy and thicken it with silica powder to peanut butter consistency. The epoxy is then put on the interior seams in between the ties.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Messing about with boats

Ten months ago I put SENECA up on the hard in Haugue marina in Socastee SC. Since then I have been working in landlocked Charlottesville VA ( Work has been great, but I am too far from the sea. I have kept my sanity by not thinking about sailing until recently. With only two months until I go south to prep SENECA for this winters cruising, I decided to build a new dinghy. I have been wanting to do this ever since I saw Sunrise’s nesting dinghy from my first season cruising. The post that follows will follow my progress.

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Charleston to Georgetown with Mom

(I am bringing the blog up to date after slacking off for nearly four months)


I spent the afternoon enjoying Historic downtown Charleston and now I was not really sure what to do. Seneca needed to be hauled out and I needed some rest. I decided to leave Seneca in the slip at Ashley Marina for a week and my Mom, my sisters, Alison and Caroline, and my nieces, Savannah and Sienna all drove down from Myrtle Beach to pick me up and bring me back there. We had a great day in Charleston eating and shopping and then returned to Myrtle Beach where I would end up spending the rest of the summer. I went back a couple days later with my great friend Shawn and took advantage of having downtown real estate in Charleston. Shawn eventually helped me find a cheap haul out yard right in Myrtle Beach where I would eventually store SENECA. The trip was about three days up the ICW. I decided to bring her up to Georgetown, a two day trip, and leave her anchored there hoping to get a couple more sailing trips in before hauling out. I was also looking forward to taking my other sister Kelly and her three daughters, Kayla, Elise and Julia out sailing when they came to visit later that month.

So my Mother jumped at the chance to crew from Charleston to Georgetown as long as we did not go out in the ocean. Shawn drove us down and saw us off on Monday morning. Mom had been on the ICW with me for a day on the way down, but had never spent the night on a boat. We crossed Charleston Harbor and headed north on the ICW. The wind was just off our starboard quarter and allowed us to roll the jib out for almost the whole day. This part of the ICW is particularly beautiful going through the marshes leading to the huge Live Oak trees with Spanish Moss hanging off. We had one bridge to go through and had a very pleasant day. that evening I found us a really spectacular anchor spot right off the ICW where we were surrounded by marsh and there was not a house in sight. Dolphins swam right up to us and around us as I cooked a great dinner and opened a bottle of wine. Mom made some phone calls and was so excited to tell everyone about our day and where we were anchored. The sunset that night was one of the best I have seen.DSCF5552

DSCF5555That night I set Mom up in the main cabin with the new big bed and I settled in to the Vberth. Before I could get to sleep Mom asked me if I would sleep out in the cockpit in case pirates boarded us. Being the good son I slept outside with the machete close by andfortunately it did not rain and we did not get attacked. We woke up having not been slain by the dastardly ICW pirates and got a nice early start. Another great day on the ICW. The winds and tide were with us and we counted 13 or so alligators. Pulling into the nice little harbor of Georgetown I tied up at the free city dock and got Mom on dry land and then I went out to anchor. Happy with my anchorage I rowed Bubbles in and we had a really nice lunch and a beer while we waited for Alison and her husband Brad and the kids to pick us up.

It was so nice to be able to share a little bit of the cruising life with my Mom. having her on board for that trip was really wonderful.

Thanks Mom, maybe next time I will take you out in the ocean.

November 7, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Last week Leah, my faithful sailing companion, work dog, and simply the coolest dog I have ever been around, passed away. She was a huge part of my life especially that first year I moved on the boat and we sailed down the ICW, through the Bahamas and down to Puerto Rico. I could not have hoped for a better boat dog. She had a great life and she will be missed by many.

November 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The sail north…part 3


After clearing customs and immigration and grabbing conch fritters and a cold Kalik I was back on SENECA to have my much deserved dram of rum. I tried to sleep, but it was so hot in the boat that I only managed a short nap before getting up and jumping in the marina pool and showering. As I do whenever getting to a new place I spent the afternoon walking, scouting things out and generally getting a feel for the town. By this time of the season in Marsh Harbour the cruisers have been replaced by luxury deep sea fishing yachts. Little (yet mighty) SENECA sat in her slip surrounded and dwarfed by these modern day hunting ships most of which were unoccupied and waiting for a charter. This all lead to the town quite slow even by Bahamian standards. I was not looking for nor expecting spring break, but I was dying to tell some sea stories over a couple of beers to someone besides my bird friend, Bandito.


Today was spent provisioning for the next leg and there was a fairly big grocery store which I shopped at. I was able to replenish my stores from the last trip and add some things that I learned I craved out there. I added a bunch of canned juices and coconut water (a real treat) to vary my drink selection, more fruit and a few more cans of pasta and chili for the quick easy dinners.

Back on the dock in front of the marina a local guy was making fresh conch salad. I grabbed a bowl and found a palm tree were I could sit and enjoy the fresh conch salad and a cold Kalik. Sitting there I was flooded with a feeling of contentment. I thought about the last five years and how much I had learned about sailing and boats and cruising. I had sacrificed a lot and it worked hard to get here and under that palm in the Bahamas on that day it was all worth it.

At happy hour a beautiful young girl sat next to me at an otherwise empty bar. I was able to tell her with my tales of crossing the grand ocean and she told me how she had just arrived and … she was waiting for her charter captain boyfriend to come back from a sail. Damn, the Gods are good to me, but not that good. I returned to my marina and few new people that just sailed in were in the pool. I joined them and talked sailing and Charleston for a bit. Also at the pool were some really nice sportfisherman gave me a steak hot off the grill. Pretty good night.


In the morning I bought a couple last minute things and checked the weather forecast again. The winds were looking light for the next week, but I did not want to sit around waiting for better winds. My thought was to get out and head west and hopefully get some lift from the gulf stream. At 10:30, with my batteries charged, I pulled out of the slip and gassed up. When I sailed out into the harbor I planned on anchoring out in a small harbor for the night and do some fishing and swimming, but the 10- 15 knot winds were moving me along pretty well so I kept sailing out of the channel and got on a heading to Charleston.

I cooked a nice dinner and then winds tapered at dusk as I butchered the ukelele and smoked my mersham pipe. With the full batteries I kept Gilbert on all night and was able to get on a good sleep schedule.


Winds were light, but at least was expecting that. I trolled a coupple fishing lines and was entertained all day by a family of fish that swam along in my wake. It was a slow day averaging 2.5 knots. Ran the engine for a couple hours after dinner to keep the batts charged.


Wind picked up that night with gilbert on the helm. I was actually doing 4 knots! The seas were building by morning and got to be 3-5 with breaking crests. Wind shifted to the west and put me on a more northerly heading.

As the sun went down winds were really building and I reefed the jib. A couple hours later some lightning packed squalls were catching up to and surrounding me. I had waited too long to reef the main and by the time I decided to it was really dark, seas were up to 5-8 and breaking, and winds were gusting 25+. ‘Reef early’ had always been my mantra, but with all the light winds I guess I forgot what it was like to be overpowered. I had to head up into the wind and seas to reef. Holding on to the mast and reefing (strapped into my harness of course) in the dark while taking waves over the bow is not fun. After getting the reef in I turned to run with the seas and was very relieved how much it control I regained because of the reef. Gilbert was unable to deal with the following seas so I was forced to hand steer all night through the squalls.


At 5am the winds finally calmed and Gilbert took over as I slept hard for three hours (through my alarm) in the cockpit. Winds were down to a very nice 15 with some lingering seas. Winds were still west and I was able to hold my rhumbline to Charleston. I was able to sneak in a couple of naps and catch up on sleep today. Had an MRE dinner and ate a mango that a woman had given me in Marsh harbour. By night I was picking up VHF weather forecast from the east coast coast gaurd. That made me feel close.

Winds shift to NW.  Gilbert drove for 11 hours allowing me to catch up on sleep.  By morning I was definitely in the gulf stream as I was swept north.  only 80 miles from Charleston!  at 1:15 I saw dolphins, always a good 2:00 I was picking up South Carolina radio stations.  Winds shifted to SW as I got through the stream.  Kept very close watch on the horizon expecting boat traffic to increase


Sailed until 5am and I could see buoy lights and a few boats.  Made some coffee and at 6:20 I passed the outer channel marker.  I was soon crossing over my southbound route from 4 years ago.  I fired up the engine as the winds died for the last time and motored past Ft Sumter.  Motoring through the early morning glassy Charleston harbor I straightened up SENECA and made phone calls.  By 10 I was pulling into a slip in Ashley Marina.  US customs met me at the dock and two really big agents came aboard making SENECA feel tiny.  They checked me back into the country.  I then did my much deserved dram.  Opened a tiny bottle of champagne that I got back in Culebra.

5 dayy 399 nm.  Four years SENECA was back in the US.

October 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The sail north… part 2


Had a nice breakfast then raised the mainsail.  Poured a big glass of wine over the deck for Neptune and untied myself from the mooring ball at 6.00.  I had a good 20 knot NE wind and sailed through past Cayo Norte on just the main and then rolled out the full jib.  Incredible day of sailing.  On a really comfortable broad reach with a nice following swell lifting me I was riding down the ten foot swells at 8+knots and holding a steady 7 all day.  At 4.00 I had cheese and crackers and a cold Medallia light beer.  Before sunset I had the leftovers for dinner ran the engine in neutral for an hour to charge the batteries and with everything looking good I jumped down for some sleep.  Keeping rested and still being responsible by staying on watch is the biggest challenge for single-handers.  I was planning on sleeping 30 minutes at a time so I could scan the horizon  and check my course and sail trim.  Even though the chances are extremely low, the most serious danger is being run over by a cruise ship or freighter.  When you first see one on the horizon could be near you in 20 minutes.  I really shouldn’t leave watch for more than 15, but it is hard to function on that little sleep and after getting west of San Juan there shouldn’t be that much traffic.  The first night I did very well and would find myself staying on watch for quite awhile before forcing myself back to sleep.  Part of that was that I was still learning to trust Gilbert after he had been broken for so long. I was always able to fall asleep at the drop of a hat and especially after wearing myself out on the helm in the sun all day.  Jumping up into the cool night air would wake me up in a hurry to.  You find that you are alert the moment you open your eyes and start to scan the horizon. Around 5:30 the eastern sky would start to brighten and I do not know of a better sight then the sunrise after a night at sea.  It rejuvenates your body and mind like nothing else.


The point of sail I was on left it very comfortable for me to still cook even with my non-gimbaled camp stove.  At 6 I would make coffee and go over my course on the chartplotter.  I was very pleased to see I had done 132 nmiles.  I had conservatively planned for 100 mile days.  At 7:30 with full daylight I would cook an egg sandwich and some more coffee.  This was another great day with SENECA galloping along happy to be off the anchor and not stuck in a harbor.  At 4 I had my cheese and crackers and mostly cold beer, a daily ritual which I would look forward to every day and call happy hour.  At dusk I began to see some storm clouds on the horizon and by midnight some lightning and squalls were really closing in.  I already had a reef in the main and I rolled the jib in a bit to get ready.  The sualls never made it to me but there was a lot of lightning, which really makes me uneasy.  Something about being out there with a 45 foot lightning rod sticking up with cables coming down all around me.   I slept hard after that and overslept my alarm a couple of times.  Gilbert was doing great, but I need to try and nap during the day to catch up on sleep so I can continue the 30 minute watches.


124 nmiles yestarday.  The winds start to lighten up.   The wind shifted a few degrees and my heading was now nearly due north.  Around 2 I decided to Jibe and that put me heading about due west.  winds were down to 10-12 and boat speed around 4.  With the light winds I had to really reach to keep the jib full.  I messed around with the whisker pole  to no avail.  I just had to go west at 4 knots which was not too bad.


I still got 127 miles yeasteday but I knew the winds were really lightening up.  That night I started to see some signs that my batteries were getting low, ie  low lights and Gilbert started acting up.  I had to wait til morning to add some fuel so I sailed as long as I could that night and finally when I was too exhuasted I had to heave to and catch some sleep


Only 104 nmiles.  Pretty good day.  Caught up on sleep.  Was able to add some fuel and run engine for a three hours which charged the batts enough to get Gilbert working.  Winds picked up enough to move me over 4 knots.  A small white tern with black mask visited me for the third day.  I started calling him Bandito.  Gave Neptune a beer during my Happy hour to celebrate crossing the Tropic of Cancer.


Bandito returned for his early fly by to check on me.  My journal reads “breakfast sand, realize I stink, I showered, my hair is orange, played  harmonica, cruise ship came close by in late morning.”


Wind less than 5 knots all day.  Drifting at 1.5 knots with jib rolled in and main slapping around.  All my electronics are flickering. I realize batts are not getting charged properly.  Have to shut down everything and use compass and hand held gps.  Bandito came by again.  I shaved and cut my hair.  2 beers and and a couple of rum drinks for sundowners.  Played ukelele.  Offered Neptune a dram of good rum at sundown and asked him to bring wind.


Still no wind to speak of.  Drifting. No electronics.  Batts dead.  Saw Bandito a couple of times.


Drifted most of the day.  Water a sheet of glass as far as I could see.  Not a breath of wind.  12,000 feet of water under me.  Water was the most amazing cobalt blue as far down as I could see.  Spend day reading and dumping buckets of sea water over me trying to stay out of the brutal sun.  Not a cloud in the sky.   End up staring off in the distance for any ripple on the water hoping it will bring wind.   I am only a hundred miles away from The Abacos Bahamas where I have decided to stop.  I do not have enough fuel to motor so I must wait for wind.  was hoping to make it tomorrow, but not sure at this point.  I did finally diagnose and fix my battery charging problem and looking back I realized it had been a problem for over a year with my batteries never fully charging.  Fixing that problem have really lifted my spirits which were being tested in this calm.  Winds pick up slightly that afternoon and I am doing almost 4 knots at sunset!


Stayed up most of the night to try and claw for every mile in the light winds.  I see lights of Abacos.  Winds very light at sunrise, but I can see land for the first time in ten days.  Winds pick up and I am able to motorsail the last four hours in.  With alternator working I have radio blasting, Gilbert driving and phone charging.  I get within cel phone range and make the rounds calling family and friends.  Raise the Q flag.  Shower and clean up the boat.  Enter Marsh Harbour at 10:30 and tie up at Marina.  Wait in air conditioned Marina office to get checked in by customs offficer.  With that done I walk across the street for conch fritters and a cold Kalik.  Then I go back to SENECA and pass out.  

Nine days -5 1/2 hours 818 nautical miles.   Leg one was over.

Details on Leg 2 coming soon

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The sail north… part 1

On July 1st I returned to Culebra, Puerto Rico by a couple of flights and a ferry.  I walked over to the local watering hole, The Dinghy Dock, had a couple of beers and hitched a dinghy ride from Lauren and Joe of RAGAMUFFIN out to SENECA.  It had been six weeks since I was last aboard. Longer than I had hoped, but at least i was there.  For four of those weeks I had nearly talked myself into leaving her down there another season.  That was something I really did not want to do, but money got tight and hurricane season was approaching.  It is always wonderful to step aboard after a long absence and especially to see everything in good shape.  I never really worry about theft because there is not much to steal (I actually did not even lock the padlock on the hatch), nor vandalism in the safe harbors I chose to leave her, but there is always was some doubt about the one anchor I had out holding well or another boat dragging into her.  

When I left I was already provisioned and ready to go except for my autohelm.  That part had arrived and was waiting for me. On thursday July 2nd  I installed the repaired unit in a few minutes and put my dinghy, BUBBLES, back in the water.  I rowed in to stock up on some supplies such as vegetables, rum, beer, water, and gas.  That afternoon all that was left was to move somewhere with nice calm clear water so I could scrape the bottom.  So I raised sail and pulled up the anchor (a chore!) and sailed out of the harbor and around to Culebrita where I grabbed a mooring ball.  Ihad my dram and went for a swim before going ashore to gather a few coconuts before sunset.  Then I cooked a nice dinner and a cold beer while listening to NPR.

The next day was nice and calm and I spent three hours srubbing the waterline and the entire hull.  There was a lot of growth, but I got her looking really good.  I went for a short motor around to recalibrate and test the autohelm, named Gilbert.  He seemed to be working well.  I rewired my running lights on the bow and checked everything I could think of. I sat in the cockpit and tried to put most things I would need within reaching distance of me.  I was actually ready to leave that afternoon, but it is bad luck to leave for a sea voyage on Friday so I would wait until morning.  I pulled Bubbles back on the bow, cooked a nice big dinner so I would have leftovers and made all my phone calls.  The weather looked and sounded good for the next few days and my idea was to head straight for Charleston and see how I was making out after a couple days always having the Bahamas a days sail away to the west.  I do not have a sat phone so I had no way to contact anyone.  I told my family that if the weather was good I would go as long as twelve days.  I figured I had ten before everyone started worrying. That night I had a some wine with dinner, a couple of cocktails as I made phone calls, then I turned the phone off and settled into my little 28 foot world for the next couple weeks.  I felt excited.  I was ready.

July 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment