End of the Line (Almost)

Good morning, everyone. I do apologize for the absence.

At last writing, my wife Pam and I were on the dock in Southport, North Carolina, waiting for ideal conditions under which to depart for our next major destination in Charleston, South Carolina.

We found them. And we had three days of travel in which we overlooked only a few channel buoys; fought only a few crosscurrents; ran aground only twice and only (presumably) in the most luxuriously soft, comfortable sand; caught every bridge opening we were aiming for; and stayed off every rock ledge we wanted to avoid. (Needless to say, that would be “all of them.”) The only experiences we had were pleasant ones, and I hope to write about one of them in particular soon.


Interested party.

Meanwhile, Meander landed here in Charleston on February 13. And it is here that Pam and I finally committed to a decision that, notwithstanding my stubborn desire to march through this lifestyle just as I had imagined it, had already been half-decided between us for the previous two weeks.

We decided that this is not the season for us to push on to Florida and the end of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).

Anchor aweigh

It comes down, mostly, to this. After six months, we are still not fully ready and able to anchor Meander on a regular basis. And our trip south is effectively being shortened by the costs and delays associated with this situation.

Regular anchoring is an important capability for us to pick up for two reasons.

The first reason is simple. Anchoring often costs nothing or next to it, while overnight rates for transient boaters at marinas are expensive drains on our shrinking cruising kitty.

The second is also simple, but introduces a frustrating sidebar into our current situation. Honey the Golden Retriever has a solid five-year record of thorough housetraining, and the chances are therefore slim that she can be retrained to relieve herself on the boat’s foredeck. So it is important that we be able to throw down Meander’s anchor somewhere and use our dinghy to get Honey to a suitable landing on shore.

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That’s right, Mike. As with your flatulence, so with your anchoring: Try to blame the dog.

But the edges of the ICW generally alternate between private property and marshland no one is interested in owning. Landings suitable for canine relief and exercise are therefore rare, often beyond our capacity for rowing and best reached by a motorized boat.

We have a brand-new outboard motor for our dinghy. But it has been sitting on its stern pulpit mount for nearly three months now, devoid of gasoline or motor oil, because dinghies with motors generally must be registered in their home states.

And although we sent in our application to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about two months ago, this hasn’t happened for us yet.

It must be Obama’s fault

The first delay, caused by our misunderstanding of what the DNR considers original boat documentation, was our fault. But the second is on their end, the result of a new computer system that somehow is not programmed to accept the dinghy’s Hull Identification Number.

These delays, in turn, forced us to spend many more nights at marinas than we had expected. And now the cruising kitty is really beginning to show it. And one way we can control the financial bleeding until we can anchor regularly is to commit to marinas, such as the Charleston Maritime Center, for longer stays that allow us to forego the pricey overnight rates in favor of considerably less expensive weekly or monthly rates.

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Neighbors on the Cooper River outside the Charleston Maritime Center.

So we have developed both an administrative need and a financial need to slow down a while.

And our boat insurance policy requires us to be north of Norfolk, Virginia between June 1 and November 1 to keep us, in actuarial theory, somewhat less exposed to the risks of the hurricane season.

So at the rate we can now afford to travel, we would probably finish the long journey to the end of the ICW just in time to have to turn right around and come back.

To heck with that. Decision made.

Change of plan

And, in a way, it’s a relief. I am averse to rapid change, largely because I cannot maintain my natural rhythm in it.

Not that the boat is to blame, incidentally. In truth, I never had any natural rhythm to maintain. If I had, it would have revealed itself quite nicely in the pleasant, routine-inviting workaday life I led before Pam and I bought and boarded Meander. But I believe my wife and the three bosses I’ve had in the past twenty years could testify that it never turned up.

In any case, the chance to stay put in Charleston awhile has been a blessing. We’ve found warmth here both in the climate and in the people, and I’m getting a chance to catch my breath.

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East Battery, Charleston, SC.

We’ll stay until mid-March, taking care of small boat projects, seeing the city, and turning our attention to ways to bring in some income. Pam will be contemplating new directions for her blog, Something Wagging This Way Comes, and I am thinking of trying to become a freelance proofreader. (I think I would make an ekscellent proofreader.)

After that, we may decide to travel to Beaufort, South Carolina, and spend a month at a marina that advertises free shop support for do-it-yourselfers working on bigger things.

And after that, I guess we’ll see; but I expect our bow to be pointing north once again soon. Florida has done without us until now, and I imagine it can afford to wait for us one more year.

Meanwhile, wherever we go, there we are.



Pelican: Pamela Douglas Webster.

Honey the Golden Retriever: Pamela Douglas Webster.

Pam and Honey on East Battery: Mike Webster.

Self-inflicted Silence

Time flies when you’re having fun.

Or, as is more usual in my case, when you’re sitting around on your sailboat waiting for someone to remedy some stupid thing you’ve done that has cut you off from your computer so you can get around to writing your blog again.

Remote operations

At the height of our recently completed trip to Southern New Jersey to visit my brother Andy and his family, we stayed in a beautifully set but rather isolated marina that left us without the RF bars needed to communicate reliably with the outside world. And since my trip planning and blog posting activities rely on those bars, Andy picked me up one evening after work and drove me forty minutes to the better connected family home to work through the evening and spend the night.


Sure, it’s pretty, but where’s the wifi?

With me were a laptop and its key accessories. I also had a set of charts, loosely laid in an elegantly conceived kitchen trash bag to protect against dirt while mitigating creasing. And finally, to determine distances and compass headings on the charts, I had transported a divider and a parallel rule in the same trash bag.

Well, I had the divider anyway. At the dining room table, I discovered that I had apparently left the parallel rule on the boat, leaving me a step short of completing my navigational task.

But at least I got a blog post off.

Unforced errors

The next afternoon, my sister-in-law Brenda returned me to Meander, and I sat down that evening to finish my trip planning.

That’s when I found out my parallel rule was not on the boat after all.

“Ah ha,” I said, “I knew I brought it to their house! It’s probably just sitting around somewhere unexpected, maybe in Brenda’s kitchen! But that kitchen is forty minutes away, by gum! I can’t ask her to drive it to me! But we’re starting our return trip to Cambridge first thing tomorrow morning, darn it! That’s OK, though! I know what I’ll do! First, I’ll stop talking to myself in all these italics and exclamation points, golly gee whiz! Then, I’ll email Brenda and ask her to ship the parallel rule back to our Cambridge address.”


I hope he doesn’t leave me somewhere by accident, unless it’s in a room with open bags of endless kibble.

As I opened the laptop’s email client, however, I was interrupted by a popup screen that informed me, “Your battery is down to 7%. Please recharge.”

And that’s when I found out that my laptop’s power cord and charger weren’t on the boat either.

A helping hand

One phone call later, Brenda found the power cord and charger sitting on her dining room table. . . you know, right where I left them. But the parallel rule’s recovery had to wait for the return of daylight. Brenda found it the next morning out in the driveway, where it had slid from my trash bag the previous evening as I’d gotten out of the truck.

And since the morning in question was a Saturday morning, the post office in their rural hometown was closed, delaying shipment for two days.

But the following Monday, Brenda promptly got them into the mail, and I received them three days thereafter. And as a result, I’m now head-over-heels in love with my sister-in-law.

My wife gets it completely, but please don’t tell my brother.

I can keep silent. For a price.

I can keep silent. For a price.

Something Wagging

So my laptop sat in its bag this past week, completely inoperative with a 7% charge remaining in its battery.

And, noting my second prolonged blogging silence in three weeks, many in my readership would have had to wonder if I finally managed to send Meander down to Davy Jones’ locker, carrying us and Honey the golden retriever with her, if they didn’t know that my wife Pamela has a blog, too.

I mentioned the blog, Something Wagging This Way Comes, in my last post, although I forgot in my haste to provide a link to it. Pam has been writing it consistently now for more than five years. And although it revolves around Honey (and, by extension, all dogs and the people who love them) rather than Meander, the fact that Honey now lives on Meander means Pam’s dog-oriented blog often more reliably portrays aspects of our boat life than my boat-oriented blog does.


When the gloves come off, they’ll keep you posted.

So if my occasional lapses on Bimini Dream ever leave you in doubt about Meander, please drop in on Something Wagging or its Facebook page and take a look around. There’s a reasonable chance that Pam will have left recent clues about what’s going on here. (Also, the pictures are cuter.)

In the meantime, I’ll still be on board here, probably continuing to try to recover the things I keep losing.

Things like my competence. And my sanity.


Honey licking her chops: Pamela Webster.
All other photos: Mike Webster.


A five-year-old dream came to fruition last Tuesday, the day that Meander became finally and fully ours.

But now that we have the paper to prove it, our work has just begun. For your consideration, we have listed below what we think we now have to do to get off the dock and start the “cruising” part of our liveaboard cruising lifestyle.

Landlubbers will be impressed by everything we know. Veteran cruisers will, of course, not be surprised at everything we don’t know.


  1. Review basics of engine operation.
    1. Create “start” and “stop” checklists.
    2. Test run.
    3. Identify, label, and practice with throttle and transmission.
  2. Make short service trip to local marina.
    1. Perform initial holding tank pumpout.
    2. Check fuel tank level. Fill to ¾ if required.
  3. Freshen sanitary system.
    1. Holding tank.
    2. Waste piping.
  4. Restore freshwater system.
    1. Pump out old standing water from tanks and lines.
    2. Clean.
    3. Fill.
    4. Test every faucet and fixture, including shower.
  5. Finish stowing.
  6. Learn basics of other systems to fullest extent possible while at slip.
    1. Batteries
      1. Find out types and maintenance requirements.
      2. Find out if they can be charged by alternator as well as by shore power.
    2. Lights: Test at night for function and correct panel labeling.
    3. Navigation instruments
      1. Develop instrument list.
      2. Match transducer locations with cockpit gauges.
    4. VHF radio
      1. Finish and post operating and emergency instructions. Include radio alphabet.
      2. Test unit.
    5. Refrigerator: Find out what the “refrigerator” switch on Meander’s AC panel does.
  7. Review and achieve compliance with all federal requirements for recreational boats.
    1. Complete known carriage requirements.
      1. Stow charts.
      2. Stow day/night flares.
      3. Stow life jackets.
      4. Mount fire extinguishers.
    2. Research requirements for keeping a ship’s log.
    3. Check for other requirements.
  8. Create pre-launch checklist.
  9. Charge batteries.

SHAKEDOWN CRUISE (defined here)

  1. Preparations.
    1. Review the Navigation Rules of the Road.
      1. Steering and sailing rules.
      2. Lights and shapes.
      3. Sound and light signals.
      4. Other rules.
    2. Pump holding tank if required.
    3. Charge batteries if required.
  2. Pre-launch drill.
    1. Run through pre-launch checklist.
    2. Make a log entry.
  3. Exercises.
    1. Practice maneuvers under engine power.
      1. Tight turns forward.
      2. Tight turns in reverse. Review prop walk.
      3. One-second bursts to maintain way or to stop.
      4. Backing and filling.
    2. Perform sail handling maneuvers.
      1. Hoist, reef and furl all sails.
      2. Try basic sloop and cutter configurations on all points of sail.
      3. Heave to.
    3. Develop and practice crew-overboard recovery procedures.
      1. Wife overboard (Pam).
      2. Husband overboard (Mike).
      3. Dog overboard (Honey).
    4. Practice making fast.
      1. Alongside docks.
      2. In slips.
    5. Practice handling ground tackle in daytime anchorages.


Fairport Marina, Fairport, VA to Cambridge Municipal Yacht Basin, Cambridge, MD. Estimated trip duration: Four days. Estimated departure date: Who the heck knows?

  1. Plan a route.
    1. Select marinas for three overnight stays.
    2. Select backup marinas and anchorages.
    3. Chart primary and alternate courses.
  2. Identify a weather window, ideally with winds from south to west.
  3. Day-before preparations.
    1. Do laundry.
    2. Empty refrigerator of perishables.
    3. Provision with non-refrigerated food.
    4. Get extra cash.
    5. Pump out holding tank.
    6. Charge batteries if required.
  4. Pre-launch drill.
    1. Run through pre-launch checklist.
    2. Make a log entry.
  5. Cast off.