Saturday, October 8, 2016

Annapolis Sailboat Show, Day 1

We drove 500 mi north from Charleston on Thursday and arrived at the home of good friends in Patuxent River, MD before 9pm. Sylvia Grandstaff and I have been flying-nerd buds for over 15 years; six years ago tomorrow she married an equally big flying nerd, Hugh, who also happens to be a big sailing nerd since he attended the US Merchant Marine Academy and sailed competitively there. The four of us have a ton of the same interests and outlook on life and get along famously, but we don't see each other nearly enough. Sylv is a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army - I would've voted her "least likely" when we met - and is now attending the extremely selective & rigorous U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Pax River (yes, they train Army rotary-wing test pilots too). On Saturday Sylv gave us a tour of the Naval Air Station and USNTPS, and I got to see the Blackhawk in which she suffered a catastrophic engine failure last week at the worst possible time (good engine at idle, up against airspeed and rotor speed autorotation limits). If she hadn't done everything right she probably wouldn't be here to tell me about it - but this being Sylv, she did everything right. After the tour we rented a pontoon boat and goofed around on the river until sundown, and then hung out all evening in their 270 square foot tinyhome which they share with two cats, a bird, a ferret, and their cuddly rescue pitbull "Savvy." Yes, Sylv and Hugh are that awesome. We can't wait to have them down to Windbird.

Dawn and I drove up to Annapolis today and Sylv & Hugh followed about an hour behind. It rained all day, more heavily in the afternoon, as Matthew's far northern bands crossed the Midatlantic region. Accordingly, I intended to shop for foul-weather gear first-off, but we initially didn't find anything we really liked in our price range at the Helly Hanson or Henri Lloyd tents. I did find a bunch of really excellent vendors to talk to about or get information on electronics, new mainsail quotes, our Awlgrip bootstripe color (Jade Mist Green, I think!), bottom paints, our worn windlass gypsy, offshore PFDs, LED lighting, etc etc. But it wasn't until Hugh arrived that he steered us towards the Zhik and Musto foul-weather apparel booths. "Oh boy, here it comes," I thought - I knew how expensive Musto is. But amazingly, they had a BR2 Women's Offshore Jacket in Dawn's size on sale for $200, which is a fantastic bargain, so she got that. I tried on an MPX Race Offshore Jacket and thought they had marked it down to $290, but alas, that was the bin number - it was $680 (on sale from $800). Fantastic jacket, I loved it, but not willing to spend that. Hugh ended up getting a Zhik jacket for $330, on sale from $400. I tried one on and it was pretty decent, but it was still a bit above our intended budget and seemed a bit on the light side to me. Well, Gill didn't have any medium OS2s ($199) in stock and I wasn't in love with the Henri Lloyd Freedom jacket on sale for $175, so I didn't get anything and instead got soaked all day in my wool sweater. I was maybe being a bit stubborn because I didn't want the rainy weather to pressure me into making a purchase I'd regret. So tomorrow I'll go back and try on the Henri Lloyd and Zhik again, and maybe hunt a little harder for bargains in the Musto tent. I love Dawn's jacket. It's comfy and built like a tank - it should last her 20 years.

Some nice friends of Sylv and Hugh's (Dan and Nancy, I think?) met us at one of the restaurants near the town dock where we had lunch and painkillers before pushing back out into the rain. Eventually the four of them departed to find the Hendricks Gin tent while Dawn and I continued our search. We tried on PFDs several places and ended up buying Spinlock 5Ds, which are considerably more expensive than we were planning on, but with absolute top-of-the-line features and extremely comfortable to boot - and about 25% off retail. We also bought tethers while we were at it. And lastly just before 5pm I decided to get one of the new battery-powered SOS strobes that meet the USCG signaling device requirement. The flares on Windbird are expired (shhh!) so this will make us legal, though I'll keep the flares in the ditch kit too.

After we left the show, we met up with the four others at the Fox's Den bar for pizza and beer, then said our goodbyes (Sylv and Hugh won't be coming back up tomorrow) and headed up to our Airbnb condo north of the Naval Academy. It's a really nice place, and we laid low tonight drying out and planning our day for tomorrow. I feel like we didn't get a ton done at the show today, but we did get a pretty good feel for what is where and should be more efficient tomorrow. I finally made a decision on which direction we're going to go with our post-lightning electronics overhaul, and the final result should be pretty awesome. So I have about $8000 worth of electronics to order tomorrow, gulp, and I'm gonna see if I can't get them all for maybe $6800 or so. There are actually a lot fewer suppliers of marine electronics here than I expected, so there's pretty limited opportunity to play them off each other. Mind you, insurance will be covering a portion of it, but probably less than we thought...there's a "new-for-old" adjustment I didn't realize would apply. In other words, we don't have much choice but to buy a new autopilot brain, but they'll only give us the depreciated value of our 10-year-old one. So we're still value shopping, even for stuff the lightning took out.

Awright, so talk about burying the, we do not yet have any news of how Windbird fared during Hurricane Matthew. South Carolina seems to have been hit a lot harder than Florida and Georgia, as Matthew finally came onshore in the Charleston area. The winds weren't terribly high (60 kts was the highest I saw reported at Charleston Airport) but the storm surge was pretty big and came right at high tide. Up in Myrtle Beach, John Schwab reported that Lightkeeper's Marina came close to losing their docks as the water lifted them to the very top of the pilings (and this at a place 6nm from the nearest inlet, where they only had 3' of storm surge during Hugo). See pics below. So that has me a little worried...Windbird is 14nm from Charleston Harbor but the Wando River is entirely tidal. I called Charleston City Boatyard tonight and the call was routed to the manager's phone number; he said he had evacuated with his family and hadn't heard any news from the yard yet (that's good, right?) but should know in the morning. So I'll call then & try to resist doing it obnoxiously early.




  1. Fancy flashlights for distress signals may be legal but friends don't let friends buy USCG approved pyrotechnics, SOLAS all the way and damm the expense. There really isn't any argument once you've seen them fired off. Buy them wherever the commercial fishing fleet is shopping.

  2. Love the coat, Dawn--Looking good! Keeping good thoughts that Windbird is just fine! Love you both!