Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving in Georgetown

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Our greatest thanks was that the fog cleared Tuesday morning enough, that even with rain we could see sufficiently to continue the voyage to one of our favorite areas on the entire ICW. The Waccamaw River
has some development like around Myrtle Beach but some beautifully remote sections as well and we returned to one of our favorite marinas, Osprey. While they have discontinued the grill restaurant service, complimentary pastries and coffee are provided and they give out what is by far the best welcome bag anywhere with shampoo, laundry soap, beer caddie etc and at only $1 /ft – one of the best prices yet for dock space.

 Wednesday’s 30 miles to Georgetown was again most scenic even in the continuing rain and easy to navigate as the river widens. Once docked we enjoyed a riverfront late lunch at the 5 Rivers Tavern, and purchased several bags of the very special Carolina Rice at the
Rice museum as part of our traveling gourmet Christmas gifts to everyone this year, and bought a painting of a pelican to make the boat a bit more homey. The sun finally made an appearance for the first time in at least 5 days, brightening both ours and the cats spirits.
 Today it’s dinner at the Rice Paddy restaurant and a day of cable at the dock football. Go Lions!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The joys of unusual days and holding in Holden

After a rainy start to Sunday, and a loss by the Detroit Lions, the weather calmed enough for us to take a long walk on the beach; making all the trials and tribulations of past days all worth it.
Dophins were playing in the waves, while small pipers picked at the edges in the sand in search of food, and pelicans glided just above the water in flight. Absolutely magical and calming. The food at MOJOs was again wonderful and we met owner John, who is also friends of previously mentioned and missed Ann and Gary.

 Wind switched to the SW overnight and the swells in the harbor became even more rolling during the night; but we departed Monday am into the teeth of 15-20 for the short 2 miles back to the ICW and then south, planning to reach Little River. However the morning fog didn’t burn off and while we made it through Foley’s shoals at high tide just fine, by the time we were about 3 miles from the even more unpredictable Shallotte inlet our visibility had diminished to less than 100 ft. So while we could navigate the ICW channel with instruments only we were concerned about not being able to see the movable buoys marking the shoals at the inlet and so turned around and went back to Holden Beach Marina to wait it out and hope for better conditions tomorrow.
 Right now we are parked directly underneath a bridge on the gas dock and happy for the accommodations, even without power or water. And it isn’t every day you can experience a mostly empty plastic bottle of soda fall out of the sky and hit your boat, obviously some auto bridge passerby. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A few tough days on the ICW but Bald Head reward

Some people say sailing is long periods of monotonous yet relaxing time interspersed with moments of sheer panic/excitement/ terror. The past two days have been a bit more of the latter. Traveling south from Beaufort after a terrific shrimp and grits dinner at Front Street Island Grill  Within an hour 5 other boats had grounded even with our advance warnings on the radio , so at one point we considered creating our own marina right in the middle of the channel as several boats anchored waiting for the tide to rise further. We have frequently run across several instances of super low tides but this was the first we witnessed such drastic difficulties in the marketed channel. Most waited an hour until the tide rose a bit but since we were a bit more entrenched in about 3 ft of water, even the rising tide wasn’t going to be enough so we had to call for a tow – our first ever. 
we traversed numerous areas of significant shoaling, and as we approached Browns Inlet just a mile south of Onslow bridge, marker 61 we saw a sailboat apparently aground near the right bank with a trawler going back and forth along the bank apparently trying to assist. We saw the red marker, but a second temporary green was hidden by the sailboat so we tried to pass on the ocean side and went aground hard. This was one of the more unusually narrow turns as these markers were but 30 ft from the right bank and only 50 ft between them so apparently what was need was a quick zig zag through the only relatively 5 ft deep water.

 Three hours later than planned and as the sun was again setting for a cold night we docked at Swans Marina in New River, and then because of that days misadventure the next day was more stressful than warranted, as every time we got into an area of less than 8 ft we slowed to less than 4 mph (we had hit the day before at full speed and bounced 3 times), so the planned 64 mile long day seemed even longer. However, the other lucky side of the day was that we caught every one of the bridges that only open on the hour or half hour along Wrightsville and Bogue Sound in perfect timing, only because wind and ebb tide were at our back even reaching 12 mph at one point. And the reward was that we were able to make it in one day, thus spend 2 nights, at one of our favorite places – Bald Head Island, Cape Fear just off from Southport.
We love being here and having a fairly relaxing Sunday but miss the fact that our good friends Ann and Gary don’t live here anymore so we aren’t sharing this part of the trip with them. Good appetizers at MOJOs and back this afternoon to catch up on some football.

 Tomorrow more shoal areas that are some of the more difficult but we should be able to get there at relatively slack tide on the high side (it has been difficult to time exactly since there are so many areas of shoaling and so few daylight hours, so we can’t leave until at best 6:30am and currently much of the time high is 8-9a and low around 3p so just depends on where they are in our day’s plan). We are both beginning to see the advantages of heading out to sea but with just two of us a little bit more difficult an option to go 150 miles at a time. Still having fun but it is stressful and wearing more times than we had anticipated, and the cold weather hasn’t helped our spirits. Today a bit warmer but raining, same tomorrow and Tuesday.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oriental and Beaufort

We returned for just one night to one of our favorite places on the ICW, Oriental, to the marina’s Tiki bar which we enjoyed briefly in spit of the cold temperatures. The best bath facilities yet were in Bellhaven, with towels provided and lots of bath amenities like hair dryer and clock radio for music, shampoo; but Oriental’s Marina is a close second.

 Enjoyed the first shrimp sandwich of the trip with southern style vinegar coleslaw at M & Ms
  after one of the more beautiful sunsets ever,
 We were able to sail most of the way from Bellhaven across the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers to Oriental as the wind had shifted to a more favorable 10-17 NW direction. On our walk to dinner we saw two river otters playing in the yacht basin.
After a bagel breakfast at favorite coffee spot "Bean",
it was on a calm Wednesday to Beaufort traveling the scenic Adams creek south a short 25 miles to beautiful Beaufort. On the way we saw our first dolphins first swimming alongside our vessel then the one traveling just behind us.

Our slip neighbor in Oriental, Matt and Kate who are Australians cruising for 3 years showed up across from us again in Beaufort and we all enjoyed the complimentary “wooden nickle” beer offered to slip renters at the Dock House restaurant, while we periodically checked our laundry progress.
  Still cold but with the sun out we get a few hours from 1-3p of relative warmth for the cats and ourselves to enjoy.

 Also docking here for the night was the Presidential yacht “Freedom” first commission I believe for Roosevelt.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stormy layover in Bellhaven

With an unfavorable weather forecast and a night of 31 degrees we regretfully decided to abandon plans for Roanoke Island and headed straight south on the ICW first to Alligator River Marina, and then down the Pungo River and Canal to Bellhaven. Enjoyed a two hour sail across Abermarle Sound with following north winds and some beautiful marshland scenery but lots of narrow areas of tree stumps and shoals to navigate. Cloudy weather limited photo opportunities; but we do keep reconnecting with fellow travelers Express Mail and S/V Daruma both of whom we first met in Hampton and they are here in Bellhaven to sit out the high southeast winds and rain today for a more favorable wind direction tomorrow to Oriental.

 Our updated short term plan is 3 days in Beaufort and then the last 10 days of November or so cruising the Carolinas back to some of our favorite spots. Then December through Georgia and Florida with the plans about two weeks later than initially intended, to now cross to the Bahamas around mid Jan.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Really enjoyed the IMAX theater in Hampton that was showing “Interstellar” , a really intelligent and human interest message style sci-fi movie. Then Thursday morning we departed for a short day of 25 miles through the very busy Norfolk/Portsmouth area and seven or so bridge openings and one lock (a small two foot drop in comparison to the huge 40 ft drops on the Erie Canal) to Great Bridge, VA (sight of yet another battle). The military might of the USA was so amazingly in evidence as we travelled along the river and saw  at least 30 vessels from aircraft carriers to destroyers, passing by several areas with security patrols on the water. Some of the bridge tenders are wonderfully informative (although times of openings are posted they may change due to commercial traffic) with notifications of when the bridge will be opening announced on channel 13 while others in what can only be described as a bit of a power trip do not even respond to hailing. For a short while we travelled with fellow first timers aboard Express Mail, a Hunter 44, but they turned to go down the Dismal Swamp while we chose the Virginia Cut since our hope is to head a bit eastward out of the ICW to Roanoke Island. Much of the cut is beautiful but under cloudy skies less than spectacular in photos so only a few were taken.

 Speaking of power trip most of the folks traveling along the ICW are courteous but ever once in a while you get that self absorbed jerk, and yes usually a powerboat, that doesn’t pay attention to no wake zones. Then again what can you expect from a boat named Norma Jean with the deck female in furried cowboy boots from Ft. Pierce FL (coming into Coinjack NC).

 Arriving mid afternoon, we ate out early and had one of our best meals yet though was in at Great Bridge at “Kelly’s” – great quality meat cheeseburger with wonderful beans and rice/peppers & onions as a side, and lightly battered fried fish tacos, good service by a dedicated bartender and reasonably priced at $42 with tip with 2 glasses of wine. There is also a great walking memorial to the battle of Great Bridge between the marina and the restaurant that due to rain we only experienced as a passing glance.

  As soon as morning Norfolk rush hour ended allowing the bridges to open for boat traffic we departed in yet another cold morning of less than 40 degrees with long underwear on again for the 35 miles to Coinjack NC.  In this area we experienced some of the classic marshland beauty of the ICW but some narrow channels requiring constant attention. The artic dip is playing havoc with our intent to anchor out along the way as we need the electricity each night at a dock just to keep from freezing ourselves and the cats.

 Upon arrival at Midway Marina in Coinjack both kitties took a walk on the deck and along the dock with Cindy while Jay did laundry.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Solomons Island to Deltaville to Hampton


We decided to spend a second day, Sunday, relaxing in Solomons Island at beautifully landscaped Spring Cove Marina with a bike ride and a visit to West Marine to get a smaller halyard as the clutch’s teeth may have worn enough or the line has swelled so that getting the main down is virtually impossible without great effort. We visited the Calvert Maritime Museum which is for a small town absolutely wonderful to see the quality of the exhibits. They have reclaimed the Drum Island light
which is one of four remaining screwpile designs anywhere so that it is on display, plus a paleontological display of fossils from the nearby cliffs,
a bugeye fishing vessel, several aquarium specimens including a river otter; and most amazing a skeleton of a megaladon (an extinct 60 ft, 60 ton shark).
Closest restaurant Anglers provided a bit of an undesirably bright atmosphere with noisy bar, but a pretty good hamburger and some unusual and creative spiral curly fries.

Taken from the Wiens Lord Nelson "Fair Wind"
  Monday with an absolutely terrific weather forecast, after waiting for early morning fog to clear,
we travelled the 60 miles to Deltaville , past the mighty entrance to the Potomac River, and hands down one of the best marinas anywhere, Dozier’s. We lounged on the porch of the marina in wood rockers for an hour enjoying one of the most beautiful sunsets ever,
and then ate on board with most of the restaurants closed, but reconnected with Mike and Linda Wiens and dog Riley.
For one of the first times the weather was warm enough during our trip to sit on the forward deck out in the 65 degree sunshine. Upon arrival we could tell that we had crossed the line to Virginia and a more southern location as accents changed as well as the manners, more pelican sightings, and the beautiful marshlands of tidal waters with southern pines scenting the air.

 Tuesday regretfully needing to make some additional mileage south we departed in calm seas amidst an absolute crowded bay of fishing boats, traveling the whole distance under motor with building seas, patchy fog and drizzle, increasing winds to Hampton Roads. The river is the sight of the historic Merrimac/Monitor Civil War battle and numerous museums. We plan to stay two nights to prepare our plan for the next week on the ICW starting just across from us on the James River in Norfolk. Great pizza dinner tonight at Venture restaurant with a wonderfully balanced appetizer of just spicy enough meatballs with a sweet sour thai sauce, basil and fried onions on top.

 In addition to the above mentioned fishing frenzy of boat dropping chum and circling to net their catch, we have witnessed caravans of large fishing vessels traveling everywhere along the Chesapeake and more crabpots than we could ever count showing up in the most unusual and unexpected location; so a sharp watch has constantly been at the helm. The cats are still mostly enjoying their days on the boat, and as we are the time spent with them

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Annapolis and Solomons Island

We arrived in Annapolis early Thursday afternoon on a rainy but not windy day, passing under the massive Chesapeake Bay Bridge;


and the terrific folks at Bert Jabin and A & B yacht service immediately began working on the macerator. As with all repairs the project continued into the following am but was completed so we had enough time to rent a car and tour Annapolis. While the work was being done on Thursday we did the classic cruiser errands of water, cat food, propane refill – all the things too heavy to carry back from grocery stories when nearby. The highlight of Friday was walking the campus of the Naval Academy. And Michigan State was playing Navy in basketball the night we were there!! Go GREEN. Also met some Belgians who have been cruising for 3 years and waiting major repairs to their boat at Jabin from a nasty encounter with some rocks when their anchor broke loose.

For dining we enjoyed Sam’s Waterfront the first evening, a healthy .8 mile walk from the marina, with Cuban sliders for Jay and Steak/frites for Cindy treated with a slightly overwhelming balsamic vinegar sauce. Then Friday night was Pusser’s Landing on the mall in Annapolis connected to the Marriott Hotel, a nice throwback to the original in Tortola but just okay food.

 The wind as predicted for Friday did pick back up to gale force winds so we were happy to be in port, and then the temperature dropped dramatically to 40 degrees, and by Saturday morning frost was on the docks. We departed in sunny skies and calm winds for the fairly long trip, about 55 miles, to Solomons Island. The wind picked up midday so for the first time we were able to set the sails, but after about 2 hours it picked up to 16 mph into our face and the Chesapeake waves built, slowing our progress. Another great sign we saw our first pelican today, then 2 more, so southern progress is being made. We have pretty much made the decision that in consideration of the effort to get the boat this far to our selected “cruising grounds” that it is likely we will leave the boat on the Chesapeake over the summer when we return to Traverse City; and then return next fall to do more cruising.

  Patches and Pounce
have times of enjoyment but are mostly just tolerating our lofty cruising goals. Pounce has finally figured there is not need to meow in the middle of the night so we are all sleeping a bit better. Love those kitties.



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

An end to the storm layover and an ebb tide fight north on the Delaware then south to Rock Hall MD

As the wind was going to shift to the south on Tuesday , and the national elections choosing other winded folks, we delayed our departure from Cape May yet one more day and enjoyed another terrific breakfast at the Lobster House.. This time it was a split of their outstanding chipped beef on toast, a side of “grapple” – a spiced liver patty, and a grilled cinnamon roll, amazing!!. This complex is  also amazing with raw bar, retail fish market and lots of outdoor dining. After breakfast another walk around town viewing the marshes and the harbor in the sunshine. The sun is out and we leave at dawn.

 Tuesday brought one heck of a long day as we traveled north on Delaware  Bay constantly chasing ebb tide all the way as each hour we motored north caught up with the flow at about an hour delay for each 7 miles. The boat was moving at 9.45 mph and yet with the flow our speed over ground was more like 5 and sometimes less. Finally after 11 hours we reached the Delaware – Chesapeake Canal as the sun set, arriving about 2 hours later than predicted. No other choice as we had to wait to get off the ground (literally we were about a foot buried at the slip) with a minus tide at Cape May the night before, and the sun to rise to be able to navigate the shoals around the bottom of Cape May’s peninsula. Even then there were some unmarked obstacles getting out of the marina that we “bumped” with the keel. The saying goes if you are in New Jersey you will be in the silt at some point. Lots of interesting boating traffic along the Delaware, and with others we talked about the length of ebb tide many agreed an odd occurrence. Arriving at Summit North Marina to some peace and quiet in this state park( even the kitties enjoyed the slower pace)
we were looking forward to a night out in celebration of a long trip but unfortunately the restaurant was closed so we dined upon lasagna leftovers after Cindy took an ankle spraining fall on the rustic planking stairway up to the restaurant.

  Wednesday was terrific as we decided to shorten the day to something like 30 miles (rather than the 60 the day before) and with the more minor tidal 1.5 ft versus 4-5 on the Delaware we made it to Rock Hall (across the bay from Baltimore) by 3pm.  There we met some fellow cruisers , Mike and Linda, and locals Jim and Jo for some chat before going to Waterman’s Crab House for a crabcake sandwich for Cindy and grilled flounder for Jay. With light rain tonight predicted and a storm moving late Thurs. eve to Friday we will go to Annapolis tomorrow to lay over for a day or two, and to get our sewage macerator installed. There are some great anchorages nearby we hope to explore more of them when we don’t have a bit of a time press to get south before cold weather. A few cute places in Rock Hall (one of the more original was a house with fore and aft of a boat stuck out each end)
but a fairly closed up town in off season. We have noticed how much the descriptions of places in the guides are all the same and that perhaps a more realistic version is needed.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

New Jersey Coast Overnight Leg

Our second day on the road back to Atlantic Highlands,NJ was intended to be just a driving and logistic day to rendezvous with friend Ken Queale from Boston, position the truck for storage and then shove off to sea the next day. However, the weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday was pretty negative with the approaching low bringing high winds and cold, so instead we took care of logistics and took off around 7 pm for an overnight motor the 120 miles to Cape May.

 The weather just wasn’t going to get any better than it was Thursday night with light northeast winds about 5-10 mph astern in less than 2 ft following seas; but as we were both reasonably exhausted from rushing to get the house closed up and driving two long days it was to say the least a bit stressful on our old bodies. However, a beautiful sight of New York City lights and a half moon until about 11pm really made for an memorable trip. After a Ken procured Italian deli dinner aboard, Cindy took the first watch until about 12:30p with Jay napping on deck to provide a better comfort zone in case of nighttime disorientation (like the unlit fish haven stakes); then it was pretty much Jay and Ken alternating until 6a when Cindy came back on duty .

Two Old Salts

 We arrived around 11 am in Cape May and obtained a slip at Utsch’s marina after filling the diesel tanks. Ken relaxed on board while Cindy and Jay went out to lunch in celebration of completing the long sail at the Lobster House. Great lobster melt and shrimp salad sandwich. The storm arrived Friday night and blew strong all day Saturday with rain. The decision was made not to even attempt departure until Monday so Ken headed back home with an early in the week commitment, and we took the first day in over two months for complete relaxation. Ken’s a fellow sailor with local knowledge of the NJ coast and inlets and his help was greatly appreciated.
 It’s Sunday and for the first time ever we have connected our cable so that we can watch Sunday football. But before that we took a nice post breakfast (also enjoyed at the Lobster House breakfast cafĂ© nearby, and they have a raw bar, a dcockside snack bar and retail seafood and pastries all in the one complex just two blocks from Utsch's marina) walk into Historic Cape May. So many beautiful Victorian homes like the "Southern Mansion". 
Linden trees on Washington St.

Wind is at times even higher today 25-30 but no rain. We hope to try to leave tomorrow if it abates to a westerly 10-15 as predicted but for sure by Tuesday with light southerlies predicted as we head north to the Delaware – Chesapeake Canal, then Annapolis by Wednesday before the next storm hits Thursday.

  The storm all of our friends back home are experiencing as well, and even more so those in the northeast with snow, was quite a change from the terrific weather we have enjoyed so far. It will be nice to start working our way south to warmer climates over the next few weeks.