Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Portland, Bar Harbor and Acadia

We truly enjoyed the town of Portland as it reminded us quite a bit of a the culturally, culinary eccentric blue collar place we experienced in St. Paul Minnesota many years ago. Probably the most photographed lighthouse is the Portland Head.

Just amazing! On our way we stopped in quintessentially nautically scenic Camden and Cindy enjoyed the best lobster roll yet at Cappy's.

 Our second day "DownEastCoast" was spent at Acadia National Park and lunch in Bar Harbor at the "Thirsty Whale" where our server Sarah, no kidding, grew up in Traverse City!

 Instead of commentary this spectacular area is best described by photos.

Monday, November 9, 2015

More Coastal Sights

After an all day fog on Friday, as can only be experienced in New England (so time was spent at the Woods Hole aquarium), we journeyed under partly sunny skies to Martha's Vineyard for the day by ferry from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven. The harbor there was filled with so many classic sailing yachts that we would swear there wasn't a stone of fiberglass to be found anywhere.

      One of the most scenic locations on the island was the Aquinnah Cliffs. Indian legend tells of giant Moshup who slayed and rendered whales with the blood being the red in the cliffs and the black the ashes of the fire on which he cooked the fat.

Witness the windy selfie for the days weather.

We also went through Mememsha where scenes from the movie "Jaws' were filmed, and particularly enjoyed Edgartown which is so much like the quintessential whaling village it was in the past.

Finishing in Vineyard Haven with what else, ice cream for Jay.

 Then our travels led north to Maine, via one of our favorites Gloucester. As we did the last trip into this area we have been on a quest for the best clam chowder, and while Norwalk has it pretty good the best truly is still at the Gloucester House.

 So many places use canned clams rather than chopped fresh ones and the difference is noticeable. The one at the Gloucester House, where we visited 20 plus years ago and Cindy first ate almost 50 years ago just does it all well, but she just wishes she had enough appetite for what looks to be the world's best lobster roll as well.

 And of course the obligatory visit to the Gloucester Memorial to more than 5,000 fishermen of the area lost at sea.

 We spent today touring Portland, which is definitely a foodie haven with streets of the port area filled with restaurants, yet another chowder at J's Oyster, and one of the most unique Calamari presentations we've ever had at DiMillo's.  The lightly breaded calamari was served with a balsamic vineyard reduction sauce drizzled over it along with a tomato caper bruschetta scattered over the top. Amazing!
 But the most beautiful sight of the day belonged to the Portland Head Lighthouse!


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

On a New (England) Road again

Departing Maryland through New Jersey, where all gas stations are full service by mandate, and New York we arrived in Connecticut. After successfully but blindly finding a Norwalk riverside place we'd had a New England Chowder over 20 years ago that we'd since labeled the best ever, at the SoNo

Seafood restaurant we journeyed forth to our days destination of Mystic Seaport.

After checking in to the local pet friendly La Quinta (and yes Pounce is still enjoying his hotel rooms, especially when they have a window sill he can sit upon) we journeyed at dusk as always to anything on the water, in this case the Bridge restaurant (actually in Pawcatuck) for an amazingly tender and buttermilk crusted fish and chips after another chowder.

Today (just to keep track, Wednesday Nov. 4) we arrived at the entrance of this amazing historic village just minutes after opening and stayed until closing time. It was almost a mecca like pilgrimage to see the Charles W. Morgan (especially meaningful since we'd met one of the principal players in the ship's reclamation, Matthew Stackpole, and his wife Martha when they stayed at our bed and breakfast 2 years ago when doing a presentation to the Maritime Heritage Alliance Association in Traverse City).

We enjoyed so many of the whaling exhibits as well the re-enactors and their stories. Quite an amazing place
and we bumped into one of the crew on the Denis Sullivan at last year's Schooner Festival in TC, Kathryn, who was a was on another boat in Mystic waiting for a second crew to arrive; so small sailing world it is.

  At the end of the day we stopped in to CP Oyster Co. in Mystic for some local oysters for Cindy and Jay continued his clam chowder comparisons.

 All three selections, SoNo - Bridge - and CP have been good with only minor flavor differences - Bridge a bit hotter with pepper (which Jay preferred), CP more clammy broth with smaller pieces of clam. Cindy's take on the oysters, in the photo foreground with the Mystic River past the bar's windows - a selection of a Danbury, MA and two Rhode Island - a Ninigret Nectar from Ninigret Pond , and Conway Pearl RI all were small and salty with very minimal differences due to the closeness and similarities of their waters and all delicious.

 Tomorrow on to the Cape and Martha's Vineyard.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

End of the Adventure, for now

   After brainstorming the electrical issues on the boat Wed/Thurs. it was determined that all 3 batteries had completely drained, so new ones (and yes they are expensive) were purchased on Friday. We traveled north to the dealer Tri-State to pick them up and Jay installed them on Saturday along with fixing the bilge float ( a possible culprit in the battery drain but not solely responsible). With the delayed departure date we explored our options again and made the decision Monday to ship the boat back to Traverse City by truck. So the rest of our time was spent taking sails off and removing as much of the rigging attachments as we could before the mast is stepped next week.
  Many factors such as the logistics of sailing home in the spring and early summer, as we have as yet to secure innkeepers for enough dates, and the flow of waters against our travel at that time of year; but mostly because of the disappearance of our cockpit canvas which makes travel in marginal weather so much more comfortable (and we are getting too old to suffer), and the accumulation of aggravation from last winter's problem led to this decision.  A sad day for sure but we believe the best decision right now.
 In between all the decision making and working on the boat we did get to spend Sunday at the Downrigging Tallship Festival in Chestertown put on by the Sultana Education Foundation.
The highlight of the show was the Dutch Barque  "Kalmar Nyckel" from Willimington DE.

Historic Chestertown was charming of course as well.

Friday, October 30, 2015

On the Road Again or Bridge Over Continuing Troubled Waters

After surviving the Storm of Aug 2, which devastated so much of the beautiful foliage in our area (40 trees down on our property), and enjoying some late but terrific fall colors in Northern Michigan,
we departed on Monday October 26th to get back into the proverbial saddle by sailing the Balia back south for the winter. The intent was to take a few weeks to enjoy the Chesapeake, since our trip home last spring was so rushed, and get to Southport, North Carolina by Thanksgiving; then return to Traverse City for the holidays and back to the boat in February for a few points south then begin the journey back up the east coast and take the alternate route back to the Great Lakes through the Champlain Canal and Montreal.
 As we began our travels our cat Pounce quickly adjusted to hotel life by finding new places for relaxing.
 But alas the sailing god curse was upon the Ruzaks again as two days before we left the charter operator in Maryland reported that the batteries were not holding a charge. So upon arrival Tuesday we have spent the first 3 days here testing the batteries to determine if one or all had a problem and today we purchased 3 new ones.   If all goes well and this is the fix, versus something else draining the batteries; we have decided that we are going to miss our original timeframe for leaving. So instead we will either winter the boat "on the hard" here in Maryland then return next spring to pick up the trip north; or if after Jay installs the batteries tomorrow we discover more problems then we would still leave the boat here to have the yard try to determine what else is going on. Or if all well at just the batteries we may call it quits and ship the boat back to Michigan by truck.
 We vacillate daily between the options but by the early part of next week we will make the final decision, then leaving the inn in competent hands we are going to take the opportunity to travel north to Massachusetts and Maine by car before returning home for the holidays. And what an odd coincidence that the day after we arrive a blimp from the Aberdeen Proving Ground just south of where we are breaks loose and roams for 200 miles west into Pennsylvania wiping out power lines along the way. Is this some electrical anomaly or a balancing of nature forces. Who knows but we are definitely frustrated and apparently our canvas cockpit enclosure has gone walkabout and no one knows where it could be!
 In the meantime we are enjoying the area with a great, albeit expensive, crab soup at the Tidewater Grill while Jay enjoys the north end of the bay scenery on the Susquehanna River.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Naval Battle of our own

 After 7 days we are beginning to finally recover sufficiently from the incident that occurred last Sunday during a beautiful sail on Chesapeake Bay to be able to recount the story without further emotional consternation, well almost! On the morning of our departure from Norfolk a most ominous fog bank rolled in that had the appearance of a dust storm thousands of feet high, perhaps a portend of things to come but once that cleared we enjoyed a two hour motorsail up the River to Hampton Roads then out onto the Chesapeake sailing north between Cape Charles and Cape Henry with a destination of Yorktown. With 12 knots on an east wind beam reach doing about 7 knots we suddenly heard a “thunk” but saw nothing in front or behind. About 10 minutes later we recognized that our bilge was filled with water and Cindy went on communications detail calling in the MayDay to the Coast Guard while Jay investigated the source of the leak. The short version is that our propeller shaft was “gone” (later found to have slipped backward and jammed against the rudder) so Jay commenced stuffing the hole while Cindy coordinated assistance and packing the kitties into a single carrier with lifevests attached around it, and threw the valuables into a backpack in case we needed to abandon ship.

 Within minutes 2 powerboats were on escort duty while we sailed on (no motor drive available and limited steerage) toward land, then the Coast Guard arrived in about 30 minutes to board us to assist in water control and to help take the sails down later under wind pressure. Under escort we sailed up the York River about an hour more until the towboat arrived to take us to Jordan marine (on Sarah's Creek in Gloucester so literally "up a creek without a paddle"), where the boat is once again up on the hard for repairs. The gist was that the set screws which hold the propeller shaft in place in the coupler had either managed to vibrate loose (the shaft being kept in place by the forward motion of the propeller shaft when we were motoring, but once under a strong sail set pulled backward by the resistance of the water on the prop) or were not properly installed in the first place. The jury and insurance coverage is still out on this one!

 We have tried to make the best of our time while here this week and the owners of Jordan Marine have been great trying to get our boat repaired in less than 10 days (in 2 days the prop dent had been fixed and the shaft checked with a new more stable system in place for the set screws, and a new strut – holds the shaft for those who don’t know – ordered and shipped in) so we can still get north in time for the opening of the charter season on the Chesapeake and return home.

 Owners Charles and Julie Duke also invited us to their home for a crab/oyster bake as they have a seafood business as a second business to the marine repairs, and it was amazing to taste blue crabs , clams, and oysters fresh within hours of their removal from the water. Well at least for Cindy as Jay does not care for crustaceans of any variety except shrimp and snails, but he did manage to swallow a quarter of an oyster Rockefeller.

  During our time we have been cleaning the boat and relocating storage items up to Havre de Grace Maryland, things we were going to do once we arrived there but doing now to save time at the end of our travels that we now won’t have to spend.
We also ventured to Yorktown Battlefield where we learned that at the beginning of this momentous battle that was the turning point of the Revolutionary war, there was a naval confrontation between Cornwallis’ English fleet and the newly allied French one just off the entrance to the Chesapeake from the Atlantic very close to where our own seafaring battle began (Jay stood next to a cannon with a view of the area in the background).

       Walking the trenches and redoubts were awe inspiring, and Jay made a new friend of the owner of the local Ben and Jerry’s, Bob, who gave him a lifetime 10% discount pass on their ice cream – he’s in heaven. Most interesting artifact at Yorktown Battlefield visitor center was the Lafayette
cannon with a dimple in it caused by a shell, which allowed Lafayette to apparently emotionally recognize it during a later visit.

We skipped the more Disneyland like Historic Williamsburg, now at $41 per person for entry, for a trip to Jamestown. This first permanent English settlement took place in 1607 predating the arrival at Plymouth, and was the site of the Virginia Company’s council of government upon which our current governmental system later became based.                                                           
A truly amazing story of survival against horrendous odds including a multi- year drought that strained the at one time friendly relations with the Powhatan Indians, a situation that was made peaceful with the marriage of Pocahontas to planter John Rolfe. The marshes offered the makings for tar and the church was rebuilt over the initial foundations in 1907 to commemorate the 300 year anniversary of the landing, as was the obelisk.

 So our revised revised revised revised revision of the trip is that instead of taking 10 days to enjoy some areas of the Chesapeake, once the boat is repaired (cross our fingers just two more days) we will motor or sail the last 200 miles in a very crunching 2 max 3 days; then the drive home now that the truck has also been repositioned at the north end of the Chesapeake in Havre de Grace for charter over the summer with BaySail.

  Our next and last entry will be a recap of the “best of”s. For now we are happy to be dry and safe. This has admittedly not been the trip of which we dreamed, but has provided other insights into our characters that may not have been possible otherwise. Perspective is Everything!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Nights in Norfolk

 Our crossing of Abermarle Sound was peaceful after again negotiating the tricky Manteo channel, arriving in Coinjock in time for a much deserved nap after worrying most of the previous night. After a brief stop at Atlantic Yacht Basin for the most reasonably priced dockage anywhere at $1 per ft., we travelled the lock and bridges leading to Norfolk. We used one very long 14 hour drive day to retrieve the truck from its storage in Charleston, with a brief hi to friend Brad Wade. Then decided an extra day or two was needed to explore Norfolk a bit more after we had enjoyed one of the most unique experiences ever.

 Just blocks from our Portsmouth dockage is the Commodore theater which is styled in a nightclub dining set up with tiers of tables for two and four people, but instead of live entertainment you watch a movie while eating. So just hours after our arrival we found ourselves at the Wed. matinee eating sandwiches that were quite tasty, popcorn and a pitcher of diet coke while watching “the Woman in Gold” which we can highly recommend. The persons who recommended we do this are the owners of a nautical reclamation and antique store that is amazing, Skipjack’s which has a website at

 Friday we walked around Norfolk downtown with its amazing MacArthur Mall, and drove through the historic
district and Hague

residential areas, and stopped at Dumar’s – flagship drive in of the inventor of the original waffle cone machine, which is still at this location but originally at Coney Island where Abe Dumar first displayed his idea. Ice cream connoisseur Jay was in heaven -  Out to dinner at local Lobscour restaurant with a terrific early dining special that included some of the best hushpuppies we have ever had.

  We decided there was so much to do and see in this beautiful waterfront city

 that another day was justified to take the Naval Base cruise. Learned more about battleship, submarine and aircraft carriers in one day than in several years (and for Cindy a lifetime’s worth), followed by a walking tour of the USS Wisconsin (one word - huge)

, and the Naval Museum. The might of our nation’s navy was never more evident, and really evokes pride.

We enjoyed the convenience of a ferry just blocks from our Portsmouth marina to downtown Norfolk


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mastering the shallows

With a great weather forecast we departed from the ICW at Little River Inlet, and for the first time sailed into the Cape Fear River going past the shoals at Bald Head Island on a well planned wing-on-wing sail set. By doing so we enjoyed a beautiful sail on the Atlantic and bypassed two of the more notorious shoal areas of Shallotte Inlet and Lockwood Folly to arrive in Southport just in time for their Spring Festival, which we opted out from in favor of a burger at one of our favorite waterfront restaurants, Provision Company.

Then it was a successful passage thru a very tricky area at marker 63 where the depth was less than 5 ft at high tide with a quick S turn between two temporary buoys about 25 ft off the shoreline, the same spot we first ran aground last fall when 7 boats were stuck in the same area. This time we not only had our own experience but followed a fellow cruiser, seasoned on their 6th trip, thru the area after we both had anchored at a terrifically scenic basin at Camp LeJeune. It was Easter Sunday so no live fire maneuvers were taking place luckily.
 On to a couple of nights in Beaufort to catch up on our mail, thanks to Sharron for forwarding, get re-provisioned,
and a dinghy ride to Shackleford Island and the Rachel Carson preserve. This was definitely a highlight of the entire trip as we took a walk through the marshes and got to see the wild horses up close and personal.


A nice crossing of Pamlico Sound and two more nights at anchor, one somewhat windy but wide open and nice depth and the other very protected

(which was very desirable after a close encounter with a massive storm cell during the day)

   but shallow, and then to one of our not so favorite places at Alligator Marina (aka the Shell Station) but nicely position for the next day’s journey across the Abermarle to Manteo on Roanoke Island, yet one of the very most shallow and narrow entrances we have ever witnessed (there is even a video on youtube to explain how to get into this place).

 A procedure often done but Harbormaster Carl was one of the most friendly for our check in

, and then it was on to another traditional first stop around the corner for Jay’s ice cream,
 and to a bar to watch the Masters, along with a grooms party prior to their wedding at the Manteo Lighthouse.

Manteo Lighthouse

 A bittersweet year as not only are we not home to host our annual Masters Golf party but friend Ben Crenshaw played his last competitive round. this year on Friday.

 But  no matter what the situation the cats always seem to find a place that feels safe.