Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Last Leg

Cape May

Friday (6/6/14) up early for showers at the Marina and breakfast at one the hotels on the water.  Leave around 10:00 AM for cool day of motor sailing up the Chesapeake to Chesapeake City.  Chesapeake City has some free docks and a small bay off the C&D Canal that connects the upper Chesapeake to the Delaware. We get in around 5:00 PM and anchor for the night.

Chesapeake City Bridge over the C&D canal
Saturday we are up early at 6:00 AM and discover, that most of the boats anchored around us had left.  Didn’t even hear them leave.  We are gone by 7:00 AM.  I assume boats left early to avoid the current flowing south.   

More C&D Bridges

Current going our way on the Delaware Bay
We had the current against us for a couple hours up the C&D canal, but once we got on the Delaware we were cruising fast for Cape May.   

We are getting a 3 mph boost towards Cape May and rode the tide most of the way down. 

Only in the last hour or so before reaching Cape May did the current turn against us.  Could not of planned it any better, except I didn’t. Just dumb luck to be at the right place, at the right time. We anchor in Cape May off the Coast Guard Station around 5:00PM.  Being a Saturday there is a lot of weekend boat traffic from sport fisherman. A few of them don’t understand the concept of a no-wake zone, but it calms down just before sunset.

Sanderling arrives Cape May

Sunday morning after working on some boat chores, Sanderling shows up from their over night sail up from Norfolk, Virginia, off the Delaware coast. I had just lowered the dinghy so I offer a quick ride to shore so Chrisy could walk their dog who refuses to pee on their boat.  Fortunately, for me he apparently feels the same way about dinghies.  Then Linda and I head to Utschs Marina to fill some diesel cans and go out to lunch. 

That evening we head to dinner with Roger and Chrisy at the Lobster House. That afternoon Linda and I had noticed that they have a dinghy dock which  saved us a long walk from the marina.

 Monday we sleep in and walk to down town Cape May, which is about a mile or so away.
This is our third time anchoring at Cape May, but we have never actually been to the Cape May that the tourists see. Still the off season, so not a lot of people, just mostly retired old farts like us. Of all the beaches we have been to on the east coast, Cape May is the only one that charges to step on the beach, Six dollars a day per person.  We decide to forgo a short walk along the beach.  We have lunch at a nice little Mexican place and walk back to the harbor and then back to the boat.
Cape May "Cottages"

Economic use of lettering to indicate "Closed"
Tuesday (6/10/14) we are up at 6 AM and quickly head out for Atlantic City. Good day of sailing and we get into Atlantic City around 2:00 PM.   

Atlantic City Light House lost amongst newer buildings
We stay at the municipal marina for about $1 a foot, no showers and no power on the dock we are on.  Right after we arrive fog follows us in from the Atlantic ocean.  Foggy the rest of the afternoon and the next day. 
Fog rolling in over the Casinos

Fog coming up the harbor
Trump Taj Mahal
We walk to the Boardwalk. Atlantic City looks rather depressed. We were told unemployment is near 15%.  There are large swaths of land behind the boardwalk casinos that is vacant.  Looks like they tore down blocks of apartments or row houses for “Urban Renewal” but never got to the renewal part.    With many other states now having casinos, business has dropped off. Casinos had closed and a number of others are slated to close in the near future. We walk into Trump’s Taj Mahal and the place looks a little thread bare, kind of like that thing on his head.  Hopefully his head doesn’t smell as musty. Walk back to the marina and have dinner at the Ale House.

Harrah's disappearing into the fog

That night the fog lifted a bit, to just very low clouds. This helped to answer a question we had sailing south, overnight, off the coast of New Jersey last fall. On a clear night you can see the lights of Atlantic City way up and down the coast. One thing we could never figure was something we thought looked like a huge drive-in movie screen since the colors kept changing, but we were too far away to actually see what it was. Turns out it was Harrah’s tall hotel building that has a row of colored lights between each floor which  they program as a bill board display with moving images. From way out in the ocean at night it can be very confusing. Soon as the fog lowers they turn it off, since not many people will be able to see it.

Thursday (6/13/14) we are up at 4:45AM to leave early.  Unfortunately a head emergency took an hour to resolve, so we got a late start.  Left by 7:00 AM in very thick fog, less than 1/8 mile visibility. Once we get out on the ocean the waves and wind are on the nose slowing our progress.  This makes it unlikely we can make Sandy Hook before sunset.  So I decide to head back into the municipal marina for another day. Worked on a number of maintenance projects.

Another boat heading north

Friday we try again, still foggy but not as bad as yesterday. We leave by 6:00 AM.  Winds are favorable for motor sailing, but still had pretty good swells rolling out of the southeast. Fog lightens up, could see the shore a couple miles away for about half the time heading north. By six o’clock we were approaching Sandy Hook and a squall line of thunderstorms were starting to roll through the area south to north. We change plans and round Sandy Hook in heavy rain. I put all unattached electronics in the large Faraday Cage (oven) for lightening protection.  Fortunately thunder and lightening, was fairly distant.  We head down to Atlantic Highland guided by our chart plotter in the torrential rain. We got the anchor down at 8:00 PM just after the rain started to let up.

Verrazano–Narrows Bridge
Sailing by lower Manhattan
Night time view from our mooring
Saturday morning was nice and clear and we motor sail to Manhattan to the 79th Street Marina to pick up an old friend, Ron Clark, at the Marina for the trip up the Hudson and Champlain Canal. After a walk in NYC and an early dinner we all head back to the mooring to get an early start the next morning. Again we are lucky with the tides and current.   

Bear Mtn. Bridge just south of West Point
We ride the rising tide and current almost all the way to Poughkeepsie. We again tie up at the dock at Mariners Harbor Restaurant, like we did last Fall going south.  Free overnight dockage with dinner. I don’t know if because it’s early in the season or the recent heavy rains, but the dock is remarkably free of bird crap. Last Fall we had to take our shoes off  before climbing back on the boat because the dock was literally paved in bird poo. Anyways, it was a nice surprise.

Walkway over the Hudson

Ron, Linda and I make a reservation for dinner and climb up the hill to the “Walkway over the Hudson” the old railroad bridge turned into a pedestrian walkway 200 feet over the Hudson. We enjoy the spectacular views of the Hudson and then head back down for dinner.

Mariners Harbor Restaurant and our boat from the Bridge

Ron and Linda walking back

View south toward Storm King Mtn. and West Point
Taking down the radar

Next morning I make pancakes before we get underway. Unfortunately no free ride today. We have some current against us for most of the day and arrive at Hop-o-Nose Marina on Catskill Creek around 3:00 PM, for mast removal. After fueling up and pumping out the holding tank we tie up under the mast crane. Ron and I immediately head to the shed where I left our disassembled deck frame, for the mast, last Fall.  I am pleasantly surprised to see it right were I left it, marked “Manana June 2014”.  Since it is late in the day we only get the sails off and folded. After we shower we head to their “Creekside” restaurant for dinner.  Their food is excellent as usual.

Tuesday (6/17/14) morning we are up early getting the mast ready to be pulled and reassemble the deck frame. Linda gets a ride to Walmart with Eric, a fellow with a 38 foot Erickson sailboat from Virginia. He is taking it to Lake Champlain for the summer without the mast. He is looking to avoid the hot Virginia summer. We take a break and have lunch at the Creekside restaurant. By early afternoon the mast is in its cradle on the deck and tied down and ready to go.  We go cool off in the swimming pool and then have dinner on the boat.

Ready to leave

Wednesday morning we leave but have even more current on our nose. We pass through Albany by mid–afternoon and enter the Federal locks at Troy late in the afternoon. We make it to the free wall at Waterford for the night. We get one of the last spots on the wall.  The floating docks are full with power boats, we are the only sailboat.  After dinner we walk into town and have ice cream at Stewards. 

Ron at the helm
Ron first lock, the Federal Lock
In the morning Ron and I walk up towards the Erie Canal lock to see the remains of the old stone locks next to it that is now a series of waterfalls that controls the water level of the next section of Erie Canal.  There are a few miles of the original hand dug Champlain Canal from the early 1800’s, before they damned the Hudson, which now comprises half of the present Champlain Canal.

We have a slow day because the recent rains have created a pretty strong current against us.  Late afternoon we head into Fort Edward by Lock 7 for the night. They have a free wall and again we get one of the last spots.  Could have had space for many more boats, but the power boats leave a couple boat lengths between them. The lightening rod on our mast is only about a foot from the boat in front of us. Unfortunately the owner was not on board. I would have preferred making him nervous, watching us pull up to him with our lance pointing at him.

Ron getting bored listening to boater talk.
We get invited over to one of the picnic tables for cocktail hour with the power boaters.  One of the boats is a trawler that we had previously met. Most of them are doing the Great Loop, via Lake Champlain and when they find out we are locals they pepper us with questions on Lake Champlain.  Going to Burlington is high on their lists.They all decide to leave around 10:00 AM the next morning, except for our friend on the trawler.  They plan on leaving around 8:00AM.  We plan on leaving at 9:00.

Friday morning we get up and each take showers in the Women’s bathroom since the men’s is closed. As we get ready to leave around 9:00 we hear the power boaters on the radio changing their plans about leaving earlier.  We quickly shove off just ahead of them and are the first boat in the lock.  I figure if they waste as much space in the lock as they  did on the town wall there would not be room for us in the lock. 

Busy lock
Hang on

Finally around 3:00  PM we reach Whitehall and Ron’s wife Ginny is waiting there to pick him up.  Linda and I do the last lock down to Lake Champlain by ourselves.   

Lock 12 doors open to Lake Champlain
We motor to Fort Ticonderoga for the night. In the morning we wake up to about 10 fishing boats around us, at least they are quiet.

Burlington, VT

Entering Mallets Bay and home
Saturday we motor home to Mallets Bay Boat Club. Beautiful sunny cool day, it’s great to be back on Lake Champlain, but it feels a little strange that our 280 days of living on our sailboat is over. We have gotten quite comfortable living the cruising life and it feels rather anticlimactic being back in Vermont. Back when we were both working, sitting at a desk, after a few days of sailing we would both have the feeling of pitching and rolling. We no longer have that sensation.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Chesapeake Bound

We spend the weekend at Osprey, visiting with Linda's sister, Claudia and her husband Larry. I did some maintenance, changed oil and filters and changed water filter. Not many cruising boats in the marina this time of year, maybe one a night besides us. I guess we are on the tail end of the migration north. We celebrate Claudia’s birthday Sunday night.
Leaving Osprey Marina

Monday (5/12/14) morning we leave at 8:15. We had wind and current in our favor most of the day. Most of the time we were moving over 7mph with the engine on idle and only the head sail out. I could not have timed the current changes any better if I had planned it. By the time we reached the Cape Fear river we caught the flood tide up the river and were moving above 10 mph for much of our transit up the river. We got into Carolina Beach around 7:00 PM covering 80 miles in one 11 hour day. A lot more day light than we hand in the fall coming south. In November and December we were usually anchored by 4:00 PM. Gertie is in the same mooring field that we pull into.
Some affordable ICW water front
The next morning the harbor master for the mooring field gives us a ride to the local supermarket on his golf cart. Nice little extra for staying on one of the town moorings. Did some more boat maintenance, changed heat exchanger zinc, cleaned out the raw water engine filter and changed the transmission fluid. That afternoon we go for a walk on the beach.

Camp Lejuene, Marines training
Wednesday we are on our way by 8:00AM. Gertie stays another day to get their engine mounts checked out. We have a number of swing bridges to deal with today. Some open on the hour and some every half hour. I adjust engine speed to time bridges so we do not have to wait for openings and waste fuel by arriving too early. Later in the afternoon we reach a couple inlets that were trouble coming south. Lots of shoaling, we saw a number of boats aground last Fall. We are pleasantly surprised to find out that the state of North Carolina had dredged these problem areas in March and we now had plenty of depth in these areas. Thank you NC. By 5:00 PM we are anchored in Mile Hammock Bay, part of Camp Lejuene, Marine training base.

There were about 13 boats here coming south. Tonight there was just us and another boat. Interestingly, the next night Gertie was there with about 7 other boats. The no-seems (little ity-bity-bitey bugs) are out in force and they are nearly impossible to keep out of the boat. Normal screens don't stop them and you can't see them. I take a couple extra fans and have them blowing on us all night to slow them down so we can sleep. 

Thursday we stop for the night at Spooner Creek, a stop we made coming south. We stayed at Spooner Creek Marina in the Fall, but this time we anchored in the narrow confines of the creek, which is lined with homes and docks. Fortunately, for us they have not changed the password to the WIFI. Thunderstorms are predicted for tonight and tomorrow and this very protected creek is a good place to be. We are also a short walk to a lot of stores like, Walmart, Radio Shack, Best Buy, etc. The wind and rain really picks up Friday morning so we stay put. This very small creek actually had white caps. Around noontime the front passes through and the weather turns nice, so we head out after stopping at the Marina for fuel and a pump out. We head through Morehead City and north, up the ICW. Saw lots of dolphins. Anchor in Cedar Creek for the night. We anchored there coming south. Gertie comes in about an hour later.

Blackbeard Yacht Club
Our plans for the following day is to sail up the Neuse River to New Bern to visit with Bill and Sandy (Hot Chocolate) who arrived home ahead of us, by a week or so. We are going to stay at Bill and Sandy's boat club, Blackbeard Sailing Club. Bill is the Dockmaster, so we have a pretty good connection. They do offer a nights free dockage to members of any registered yacht club. Bill gives us direction via cell phone and VHF radio as we get closer. Bill and Sandy are waiting at the dock to grab our lines. Shortly after Gertie pulls in behind us. Very nice boat club, 3 docks, no moorings. Although one interesting fact is when there is a potential hurricane all the boats must be off the docks. So most of the boats get anchored out in the creek, up stream from Blackbeard, when a hurricane threatens. That explains some of the huge Danforth anchors that are tied to the pilings on the dock in front of on some sailboats. Bill currently avoids that problem by keeping their boat at a marina a mile or so away, that has more protection and enjoys the club for the social aspects of sailing. We all head over to the marina for lunch.

Potluck dinner
That evening we attend a Potluck Dinner at Blackbeard. They have a guest speaker from The Salty Southeast Cruisers' Net, ( CrusiersNet.Net ). Kind of fun hearing him describe cruising areas on the ICW that we have been recently through. We did catch up with Sea-Vu-Play another Blackbeard member we crossed paths with frequently in the Bahamas, distinctive name on the VHF. Only problem with the name, man of the French Canadian boats assumed they to, were French Canadian. We have a great time, very friendly club members and a very nice club house.

Sunday morning Bill picks us all up for breakfast at their home. Sandy makes us a fabulous breakfast. After, Bill and Sandy takes us on a tour of New Bern. We can see why they chose to move to New Bern. Historical town on the Neuse river with quick access to some great sailing areas. Later we go back to their house for dinner and domino's. They may never get rid of us, if they keep feeding us so well. Monday I stay on the boat for a couple sewing repair projects, re-sewing a dodger zipper and making some changes to our Bimini, while everyone else goes off on various errands. A club member, Charlie, has a sail cover that needs some new stitches, so I repair that as well since I already have the sewing machine out. Again we have dinner at Bill and Sandy's.

Late Monday morning we leave for a short trip to Oriental, NC. Gertie goes to a boatyard to get engine mounts replaced and we anchor in the harbor. The town has some free docks, but they are all full. The anchoring area is very small. We kind of run aground checking out one spot. We back off with ease after our forward movement stops. Sandy and Bill stops by to take us all to a couple stores near town. We of course have to stop at the local marine consignment store. Always interesting, but more of a museum of old junk, entertaining, but still worthless junk. Some of the used marine equipment stores in Florida had some worthwhile items from teak and starboard to diving equipment.

I had Sandy's laptop overnight and used a linux bootable CD to save copies of all her documents and photos, because her Windows operating system is fatally damaged and will not boot up. I give her back her laptop. After she installs a fresh copy of Windows she can reload her documents and photos.

Wednesday we leave around 9:00 AM for Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks and say good bye to Gertie as they are waiting for their engine mounts. We have good winds and have a brisk sail to Ocracoke. Fortunately we are here before Memorial Day weekend, so the harbor is not too crowded. There are about 5 derelict liveaboard “sailboats” in the harbor without sails and one without a mast.
Ocracoke Lighthouse

Linda's arms and hands have been having an increasing tingling feeling over the past few days. We were getting concerned. Linda called her doctor back in Vermont and was told she should see immediate attention, implying it could be a heart problem. Called the local medical center late in the afternoon and they said we should call 911 and they would have to take her by ferry to the mainland. We both get busy Googling on our iPads and decide she has none of the 8 or so major symptoms that are precursors to a heart attack and decide the medical people are defaulting to the worst possible scenario without any logical reasons. We make an appointment to visit the local medical center in the morning and head into town for dinner at Dajio. Great restaurant, good prices and unique menu.

The next morning we meet Dr. Baker. Linda fills out a questionnaire and they do some minor testing, EKG and draw blood. She notes that Linda has just started taking Prilosec. I do a quick Google search and SOB, tingling of the hands, arms and feet is one of the many side effects that some people experience with Prilosec. The doctor comes back. Tests are negative for heart problems and she feels the Prilosec may be the culprit. She recommends switching to Zantac. They send out the blood sample for further testing and recommends we stay another day to get the results. Relieved we head back to the boat for lunch. Later we head back into town to rent bikes and ride to the Variety store for Zantac.

Friday morning we sleep in and have a late breakfast on the boat. We bike to the Ocracoke Lighthouse and to the beach for the afternoon. Not like the deserted beaches of Cumberland Island, lots of people here at the national park beach. Just south of this beach area, vehicles are allowed and it looks like a used car lot as far south as we can see. Later in the afternoon Linda talks to Dr. Baker about the blood test results and everything is negative for any heart related issues. Maybe it was the bicycling, but Linda sleeps much better that night.
Maybe I should of read this before we left Vermont

I had hoped to sail north inside of the Outer Banks and skip more of the ICW. Unfortunately the winds are blowing pretty hard out of the north, the direction we want to go, so we sail northwest across the Pamlico Sound and then up the Pungo river towards Belhaven, NC back on the ICW. Once we get across the Pamlico Sound we pick up Gertie on the Radio, they are about an hour ahead of us, with the new motor mounts in place. We anchor at the same anchorage on the Pungo river just before the start of the Alligator River – Pungo River Canal. Gertie radios back to make sure we have our screens in place before we arrive, the bugs are out in force.

Morning parade up the Alligator River – Pungo River Canal

Sunday (5/25/14) we have a long day ahead so we are off by 7:00 AM with Gertie. It takes a couple hours to transit the canal and another 4 hours to transit Alligator River to the Albemarle Sound. We cross the Sound to North River to anchor for the night. We are taking the Virginia Cut, an alternate passage from the Dismal Swamp, which we took going south.

Town of Coinjock on the Virginia Cut
Monday up and early again to cover some distance. The northern half of today's passage has three swing bridges which with odd opening times makes it impossible to get through at normal cruising speeds. On some sections we throttle back so we aren't sitting in front of a bridge for an extended period of time. The upside was we were able to sail without the engine running in a couple sections allowing us to listen to the wild life, between power boats zipping by.

Low swing bridge
The swing bridges here are some of the lowest we have seen. Even Personal Water Craft have to wait for an opening since the bridges are only three feet off the water. By the time we got to Great Bridge, the last one, the power boats that passed us at the first bridge are tied to the dock waiting for the bridge to open. The Virginia Cut lock is just north of Great Bridge and opens in sequence with the bridge for north bound boats. In between the bridge and the lock is a wall where boats can tie up over night for free. We and Gertie tie up for the night. A couple recommended restaurants we were hoping to try are closed, being Monday and Memorial Day weekend. We head for a local Bar and Grill that has a good crowd and fairly good food.

Sunset of the wall
Mid-morning the next day after some food shopping we shove off the wall to enter the lock just as the bridge opens. The lock is fairly full and we are side by side with a mega-yacht with a bow thruster that is probably more powerful than our diesel engine.

Virginia Cut Lock

 Sticker on the lock wall.
"Life is too short to have an ugly boat"

Two more bridge openings and we get to Plymouth by early afternoon. We get lucky and Gertie and Manana get the last two spots in a free wall in a protected basin in Plymouth across the river from Norfolk. Our fellow cruisers, already tied up in the basin, come to our assistance and take our dock lines. Our neighbor across the river is an aircraft carrier being refitted. Coming south it was inside a floating dry dock, now next to it. It just came out of the floating dry dock a couple days ago. We spend the afternoon walking around Plymouth.

Free dock at Plymouth
Battleship Wisconsin

Wednesday (5/28/14) we get up early and take the water taxi to Norfolk with Dan & Dawn and have breakfast there before we go to the Norfolk Naval Museum. Very large museum. We also toured the World War II, Battleship Wisconsin, which last saw action in the first Gulf War, refitted with cruise missiles. Most of the guides were once crew members on the Wisconsin which made it all the more interesting hearing their stories about life on a Battleship.

Aft deck Battleship Wisconsin

After a warm day in the 80's, we get heavy showers over night. Thursday is dreary, 66 degrees. We experience the second high tide that floods the dock, by 3 or 4 inches. We leave in the afternoon to go 10 miles north to Willoughby Bay so we can quickly head out of Norfolk and get on the Chesapeake early the next day.

Sunset at Fishing Bay Yacht Club
Friday we head for Deltaville and Fishing Bay Yacht Club, where we stayed for a couple days when we were heading south. I contacted, members, George and Lyons Burke, whom we made friends with on our travels south in the Chesapeake last fall. They also have a Catalina 36. We decide to stay an extra day since the winds on Saturday will be blowing hard out of the north. George gives us a ride into Deltaville and drops us off for lunch. We walk back visiting a number of stores including a West Marine. I get a deal on a $120 pair of foul weather pants for $30, could not pass that up. We get pizza delivered to the Yacht club for dinner.

Sunday we do a long day to Solomons, MD, but anchor out in the bay since we are leaving early the next day for Annapolis.

Monday afternoon we go through the Spa Creek Draw bridge, in Annapolis, at 3:00PM. By mid-afternoon the wind had picked up enough we were moving by sail alone and the waves were starting to build up. It was a nice contrast to be in the placid waters of Spa Creek. Our afternoon goal was to head to the Rams Head with Dan and Dawn for Happy Hour. We spent many evenings at the Rams Head last fall for their Happy Hour. Tonight was taco night, one draft beer $2.75, gets you two tickets for two Tacos. Two beers and you have had dinner, but we stop at one beer and Linda and I split a dinner, as do Dan and Dawn.
Dawn, Dan & Linda, Rams Head

Another Happy Hour at Rams Head
Dan and Dawn leave early on Tuesday, while we stay another day waiting for Linda's prescription to get filled at CVS. They were out of the medicine she needed the previous day. In the morning we get our propane tank filled, but don't get back to the boat until mid-afternoon, because of the long walk. After a short rain shower we head into CVS to pick up her prescription and of course head to Rams Head for Happy Hour. Tonight is raw oysters and steamed mussels. For one beer each, we get 16 oysters and 4 small plates of mussels. Linda eats most of the mussels and I eat most of the oysters. We split a prime rib dinner. We went back to the boat very satisfied.

Wednesday we are up early and catch the 7:00 AM opening of the Spa Creek bridge. We were aiming to get to Baltimore shortly after noontime. We fueled up and pump out just before getting into the inner harbor and the East Harbor Marina where we plan to stay for two nights. Since it is early in the season we did not need reservations, the marina was more than half empty. I would hate to be here in the middle of summer.

Ships anchored off Annapolis waiting to go to Baltimore Harbor
Paid up our docking bill and went for a walk. We toured a couple of ships, USS Constellation a Civil War man-o-war, Torsk a WWII submarine and a Chesapeake light ship. The submarine was quite interesting. Since they were replacing some decking on the stern we could not exit from that end, so once we reached the aft torpedo room we had to walk back through to the forward torpedo room where we first entered. With all the hatches between the compartments it was slow going. You would have to be a midget hurdler track star to get through the sub with any kind of speed.

Baltimore, Fort McHenry in foreground

USS Constellation

 National Aquarium
The manager at the marina recommended Fleming's Happy Hour. Fleming is a very expensive restaurant, but their happy hour is not. It was quite good.

Thursday morning we head for the National Aquarium. We spend most of the day there, it was quite impressive. Late in the afternoon we walk to an eclectic art museum that again was recommended by the marina manager. Very interesting, very strange. Long walk back, we are too tired to think about dinner so we go back to the Fleming. Tables in the bar were full so we sit at the bar. Our waiter remembers us and me by name, I guess we are now regulars. Again left very satisfied.

Friday morning we leave for a two day trip to Cape May.