Years ago, as students we drove across the USA east to west coast, some 3500
delivering a car for someone who was transferring from NY to San Diego, then
with less than $50
hitched back. There is still masses of America we havent seen, so we used
threat of hurricanes as a reason to delay putting Intrepid back in the
water, and headed off by car west (not quite as far though).

North Carolina is the home of big tobacco - and a lot of what we saw
surprised us. There are 2 varieties of tobacco plant, the best is called
sweet scented, and comes from S America (the North American is rougher) and
to produce good
tobacco it needs to be starved so that it stores energy in the leaves
(unfortunately this also makes it vulnerable to lots of diseases) so there
has to be lots of crop rotations and slaves were needed to make it
profitable. North
Carolina's topsoil used to be 2 feet thick, but this had reduced to 4 inches
by the civil war. Durham NC is where cigarette smoking really took off - as
late as
1870's.  Of course before that there had been cigars snuff and chewing
tobacco, cured by air, but it needed an 18 year old slave who fell asleep by
a charcoal fire to discover
that using charcoal to cure at higher temperatures
produced a bright yellow cured leaf - bright leaf - used for cigarettes. In
the aftermath of the civil war a
defeated confederate soldier, Washington Duke, returned to his home in
Durham NC to find his only remaining possessions were a cartload of bright
leaf tobacco, and 2 blind mules. Fortunately for him, victorious northern
soldiers were discovering a taste for the bright leaf during their campaign,
and Duke's first 'production line' producing cigarettes sold well in the

His son Buck Duke saw the benefits of new machines and by 1900 the
production of cigarettes in Durham was a massive industry - aided by
advertising that amounted to a full 20% of revenue. Buck Duke created the
first brand
loyalty so that people asked for a Lucky Strike, rather than a cigarette -
he also used corporate acquisitions to combine with rivals, so that by 1920
(after a WW where Generals demanded cigarettes in vast numbers for the
troops), American Tobacco was close to a monopoly. Buck was far sighted
enough to endow Duke University in Durham in 1920's and today Durham is the
'City of Medicine' with 5x the doctors/population than elsewhere, and
arguably the best medical faculty in the world. Ironic. Today only
McDonalds  spends as much on advertising as tobacco used to - and they
aren't addictive or harmful are they?? Overall though Durham is a city
without a centre - University Faculty outside town, looming tobacco
warehouses and down at heel boarded up shops in the centre. Developers must
be waiting for it to get really bad before inventing a 'city centre mall'
with parking and safe areas.  In fact near Richmond, we saw one mall that is
not enclosed - it uncannily resembles an ordinary UK town centre like
Tunbridge Wells with small shops laid out in attractive pedestrianised
alleys - only difference was they had placed it 10 miles out of town.

Durham is about 150 miles in from the coast; we drove another 150 miles west
to the
Great Smoky Mountains - 6500 ft high, and the southern bit of the
Appalachians - the Trail runs north/south along their ridge at up to 6000
ft. The Cherokee Indians hunted here, and when pressure for land became
intense, the states tried to persuade them to become farmers (which used
much less land than traditional hunting). A minority sold out on behalf of
the rest, developed their own alphabet, and ceded all the Cherokee land by
treaty in return for farming land in Oklahoma and money. These became the
western Cherokee. Others resisted and after killing 500 white settlers in
Fort Ming in 1830, Andrew Jackson (who later became President) led a
disparate group of vigilantes who ran the Indians off their lands and forced
them on the Trail of Tears west to Oklahoma. Thousands died on the Trail and
when they did arrive, the desire for vengeance was so great that they killed
many of those Cherokees who had 'sold out' earlier. A few Cherokees stayed
in the
Smokey Mountains aided by a young white boy who had been orphaned and
adopted by the Cherokees, used the law to fight their case, and in 1850's
the Supreme Court ruled in their favour, and the Eastern Cherokee stayed in
a reservation just outside what is now the Smokey Mountain National Park.
The Mountains themselves were almost totally logged out in the 1920's - when
the states and benefactors bought the almost worthless land for $2.50/acre
and gave it to the Federal Government for a National Park.

Today the area is magnificently
forested again, which is encouraging - except that the woolly algidlae is
killing the hemlocks at a great rate so that in some places every other tree
is dead. The Park Service are breeding beetles which attack the woolly
algidlae, but can only afford to rear 1 million/year - and 3 million are
needed... The air in the Smokey's is hazy/Smokey - we thought due to natural
mists. To some extent
yes, but the air is only half as clear as 50 years ago. Industrial pollution
(mainly sulfates) from the Ohio Basin north and west of the Smokys is
dramatically reducing visibility, so the Smokys (America's most visited
National Park) have pollution as bad as any city. We had seen the same thing
in Baltimore far to the east where
watercourses are badly affected. We were there just as autumn was starting,
the leaves just turning, and the
scenery is fantastic - but fragile........

From Smokey Mountains we drove a further 200 miles west to Nashville
Tennessee for a birthday weekend of country music (my birthday was 2nd
October). Friday we went to Grand Ole Oprey in its 'new' auditorium 10 miles
out of town at 'Opreyland'  We were last in Nashville in 1973, for about the
last Oprey at the historic Ryman Auditorium in the centre of Nashville. I
suppose we should have guessed it, but things have changed - Opreyland went
bankrupt, and only survives as a live weekend radio show (with a 4000 live
audience) - but we were witnessing the greying of America. The audience was
largely aged 50+, and where once the songs were about wide open spaces they
now were about medical problems, social security and mortgages, and first
prize was a rocking
chair! Scary. Much better was Saturday 2nd Oct downtown - we went on a 12
hour birthday bar crawl listening to rough young music played for 'tips' -
the band pass the hat around every hour. Tennessee was real frontier state
and civil war battleground - it seceded but lots of Tennesseans fought for
the Federals, and Tennessee quickly bounced back and today has one of the 9
highest earning communities in the USA (Belle Meade -  in excess of
$100,000/person in 2000)

North East of Tennessee is Kentucky which was also frontier territory and
where both Lincoln and the Confederate leader, Davis were borne, but didn't
secede, and is now horse country (think Kentucky Derby). In Lexington we
passed though acres of horse pasture contain animals whose value we could
only guess at - but the gleaming white fences, immaculate barns and grass
hinted at winners - we watched polo and shire horses at the horse park (any
young horse lover would be entranced by it all), but West Virginia was 200
miles further North East, and we had an appointment with ...... White-water.

If Kentucky is now smooth and civilised, West Virginia  is as rough as they
come in the US - it broke off from Virginia at the start of the civil war,
and subsequent influx of Scots and Irish did nothing to diminish its
rebellious character, enhanced by rugged rather than pretty mountains and
gorges, and the exploitation of massive clean coking coal which powered the
US and British navies in WW1, and created temporary prosperity and a mining
class growing through affluence to the desperation of large scale mine
closures in the 1930's. Today West Virginia is one of the poorest states in
the USA, they strip mine coal from mountain tops and take it out by rail
along river gorges, only 54% of the working age population are in work, and
the state is relying on tourism - but gasoline at $2/gallon has halved
visitor numbers to the Park we went to. We were there to raft the Gaulee
River home to the Olympic whitewater course, - on only 4 weekends/year they
release surges of water from the dam upstream along the narrow gorge past
100 named rapids. We wimped out of the Upper Gaulee where there are more
than 15 Class 5 rapids, but went on the Middle and Lower with only 4 Class 5
rapids including Sheer Screaming Hell (1 is easiest, 5 is hardest, 6 is
supposed to be unraftable).

We had to wear wet suits as the autumn water was
already cold - we went with a small organisation so we were the only raft on
the river. We were only 4 in the raft - John and Britney who had married
only the day before (he drives tugboats on the Ohio)
were the other guests - plus a brilliant unflappable guide,
Karl. Nicky was pretty scared, but at the first Class 5 the whole raft
bucked so suddenly that the bow was vertical and John was washed out. He
surfaced after a bit, but Britney at first didn't realise he had gone then
when she did realise, became a bit hysterical thinking she was already a
widow after just a day.....we got John back, then after 2 more Class 5's
Nicky sat out a real surfing
one on the bank , and both John and Britney were washed out, so Karl and I
had to get
them back....Brilliant fun.....followed by an end of season Buffalo Wings
eating contest for the guides (the name comes from Buffalo NY where during a
particularly nasty snow storm all they had to eat were chicken wings -
largely discarded up that point). The sauce they come with was  particularly
spicy, and the winner (stripped to the waist) ate...4 pounds in 10 minutes.

West Virginia publishes a chart showing when the leaves turn (seems to
depend on altitude unsurprisingly), and we were right in the middle of the
fall in the Cranberry Wilderness - in UK it is rare to see a deciduous
forest - here flame orange and red and yellow trees contrasted with enough
conifers to provide staggeringly beautiful colours everywhere as far as we
could see in every
direction. We hiked through the wilderness - we saw no bears but magnificent
cascading streams and no people. We stayed at Marlintown - a prosperous
mining town turned derelict, now trying to turn itself into a tourist town.
McCall's Lodge - a converted chapel - charged $40/night - about the
same price as many budget motels (Bread and Breakfasts are about
$65-110/night for 2).Then back east to Intrepid, via the Annapolis Boat Show
(very informative, but not nearly as big as Southampton Boat Show) and
Colonial Williamsburg - which used to be the capital of Virginia Colony and
now is really a Disneyesque recreation of what some people think the past
must have been like - scrubbed antiseptic remodelled houses with polite
queues for meals in the 'pubs'. Picturesque though, then to Yorktown where
the Brits finally gave up America. I hadn't realised it but the British
really lost because sea power failed - the French fleet in America defeated
the British making life impossible for the 7000 British and Hessian troops
surrounded in Yorktown by 15000 Americans and French. Surprisingly no-one
seemed to have thought of making the colonists British citizens with all the
rights and obligations...(well, Pitt did but he wasn't PM then).

We had had real problems with the previous tenants from hell in Littlefield,
Kent - now we encountered the boatyard from...well, if not hell,
purgatory... here in America. Deltaville
Boatyard seemed a good place to leave Intrepid, and we had asked them to
give us an estimate for some relatively minor work. However as soon as
Intrepid was in the yard, they refused to allow qualified Raymarine
technicians in to repair the radar, on the basis that they could do it as
well themselves. We were leaving for UK the next day so there was not much
we could do - so we asked them to email us an estimate - but when we
returned we found the radar still not completely fixed, and a bill of $2800
for the radar alone. The total
bill they presented including relatively minor mechanical work was in excess
of $6500 - a fair amount would have been
$3500. The trouble is that the boatyard are effectively the only people who
can put the boat in the water - and they won't do this until their bill has
been paid. I negotiated them down by $1500, took Intrepid to the proper
Raymarine dealers (Marine Electronics - Karl Haydon) - who were excellent,
very competent, did a complete check, and discovered lots more knock
on damage from the lightening strike. As a 'guest' in America we are always
grateful for the
hospitality we receive, and it is painful to be treated as an open cheque
book. Still, its as well to be reminded that life is not all plain sailing.

The first debate between Kerry and Bush was on Thursday 30th Sept. 62
million Americans (out of a total population of 283 million) watched -
4% behind in the pools and with only 1 month to go before the elections on
2nd November had to overcome a string of relentless Bush adverts portraying
him as a flip-flopper who bends with the political wind. In the event, Kerry
did this and more, attacking Bush more vigorously and giving clear concise
answers. Kerry's original campaign manager had stopped him attacking Bush in
the belief that voters don't like negatives - but with Bush's ferocious
negative advertising, Clinton's advisors are now becoming much more
influential and persuaded Kerry to go on the attack. Bush looked rattled and
shifty. Result: Kerry 2 days later is now equal in the polls. The VP debate
was much more equal - Cheney is more at home behind a desk, and insisted
that the debate be sitting, and he performed OK. He attacked John Edwards
for being a trial lawyer who is driving up medical costs by suing doctors
and drug companies in mass tort cases for malpractice. Edwards retorted that
law suits only amount to 1% of medical costs.  (I know all about tort
lawyers - I read John Grisham!).

Health is a big issue here - over a 'breakfast meeting' today at the marina
after the 2nd debate, it was the main concern of
Americans we talked to - typical health insurance in the room was $600/month
(360 pounds) and
due to increase by 10-40% next year. Drugs from Canada ordered over the
internet cost one lady $170 - in the US she had paid $400. Kerry wants to
allow drugs from Canada - Bush wants to ban it - on the basis that the
Canadian drugs may not be safe and he needs one year to check them - even
flu vaccines which are in short supply because the damn British made a
contaminated batch - he said
the same thing 4 years ago. We thought that Kerry won the final debate
(excellent questions from the moderator) and Bush looked uncomfortable -
confirmed by polls the next day with some 47% giving it to Kerry, only 30%
Bush, and undecided's improving their view of Kerry - he looked more
confident and has started saying 'When I am President.....' and meaning it.
Good of America to supply such first rate drama - although many Americans
don't think much of either.

Intrepid had been out of the water for 3 months by now, and that's the
length of time that systems start to decide they are not needed or loved,
and sulk - well, remind you of their existence. As we headed south, first
the pressurised hot water sprang a leak in a pipe - in the 8 feet deep sail
locker - fixed that, then the fridge came out in sympathy - fixed that -
loose connection, then replace the alternator belt, service the engine...Oh
well good to be back in the routine of 'mucking around in boats' - and
meeting new friends Penny and Derek (Exxon Brits who became American
citizens 10 years ago).

The stories from boats caught in Hurricane Ivan in Granada are too awful for
words - we could have so easily been there - these were boats and people we
crossed the Atlantic with. Insurance are refusing to pay because it was a
named wind storm.... We are very lucky in our insurance agent - Bill
Southgate at Bishop Skinner who is doing the ARC this year and is very

We are currently at Beaufort NC having traversed the Dismal Swamp and ICW,
harried by all the power boats also heading south (although one large power
boat passing us much too close much too fast stuck solidly just 100 metres
ahead of us, and had to stay the night on the mud - none of the other power
boats offered to help him; Tow Boat US got him off next morning). This
evening we head into the Atlantic to sail overnight to Carolina Beach.
Weather looks ..... dark and stormy. We send best wishes to everyone, we
love to hear from you..........

Back to Ships Log Index

Back to Home Page