Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ya know what? I Should Buy A Boat needs to be better.

After reading I Should Buy A Boat 15 times I thought it was pretty good. But when I sat down to read it the 16th time I decided it wasn't good enough.

I'm going to make it better, more worthy of our experience.

I have unpublished it from Amazon. It will republish it when I am convinced it meets the standards that I have for these kinds of things.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Several notes that are noteworthy...

The pile of dirt that has been on our driveway is gone. Yay. Now just some small carpentry and painting to go. Moving several tons of dirt by hand one shovel at a time has not been very fun. All things considered, taking care of Why Knot is a heck of a lot easier. Plus it has been very cold here, We both have permanent cases of the sniffles and we are going through boxes of Kleenex like crazy.

I have re-purposed and relaunched. It's a site that I have had for a while but it kind of languished. Actually I ignored it. will be about boating lifestyle stuff that I will post. You can contribute too, if you like. will be about our exploits. You will see that both have been redesigned and updated. Much clearer.

And finally, as you look at the sites, you will see a new ad link on the left. I have published a book about our Great Loop adventure titled I Should Buy A BoatClick here to go to Amazon or just search the title. It is not a rehash of the blog either. It's about 80% new material. Now, at the moment, it is only available as a soft cover version. It will be available as an ebook very soon, (Kindle to be specific. Free Kindle readers are available for every tech setup, Android, PC, Apple) which is obviously preferable for those of you out on the water unable to reliably receive mail. I enjoyed working on it a lot, and I think it turned out well. I am interested what y'all will have to say about it. And please, if you hate it please be kind in your online review. Remember that I have a very fragile ego.

Anyway, we are getting ready for Christmas around here. It will be pretty low key.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

You - "So, how's your shore leave going, Darrell?"

Glad you asked. Things are going swimingly. Well, "swimingly" might not be the best word to use to describe it. But it's going well. We still have a half a dump truck load of high quality dirt in our driveway that is slowly, but surely being distributed around the foundation of our house. The drywall repairs in the basement are still a work in progress. The needed landscaping on the west, north and south sides of the house are done. All that we have left to do is to distribute the rest of the aforementioned dirt all around our yard so that we can get our cars into the garage, and, when the drywall guy finishes his work, paint the basement. Ah, manual labor! Nothing like it. All of this work on the house is making me remember all of the maintenance on the boat and, all things considered, I would rather be doing that.

We have had some jollies along the way. The big event so far was being a part of the worldwide broadcast of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special on November, 23rd. I've spoken about us being fans of this British science fiction TV show before. This special event was very much a special event. We had sons Bryan and Kevin over for the broadcast and Lisa and I got into a little cosplay for it.
Amy Pond and the Doctor
Lisa died her hair red to resemble Amy Pond, one of the Doctor's companions. I dressed up with a leather jacket, tennis shoes, suspenders, a bow tie and a stalk of celery pined to my jacket lapel. In one swoop I channeled the 5th, 9th, 10th and 11th Doctors. The broadcast was outstanding, we had a lot of fun and Lisa looks hotter than hell as a redhead.

The other event that has occupied my time is that I have written a book about our Great Loop adventure. It's not a travelogue but a memoir. I first tried re-purposing this blog but I didn't like that way that was shaping up. So instead, it contains about 85% original material about some of the more notable aspects of the trip. I think it's different than the other books out there about the subject. I'm pretty pleased with it. Some of the chapters are about how we bought Why Knot, our experiences at the AGLCA rendesvous, wildlife and a few chapters about specific places on the route. It even contains a chapter about how I would market a marina, drawing on my experience in the area. I'm in the final stages of editing at this time, concentrating on punctuation, continuity and the like. It will be an ebook on Amazon. I think you all will need to buy at least seven copies of it.

We've been keeping in touch with our friends out on the loop and cruising up and down the coast. It sounds like that conditions haven't been too good. It's been rainy and windy. That's too bad. But, again all things considered, we'd rather be on Why Knot somewhere in Florida than in St. Louis. The forecast for Thursday in the gateway city is for snow. Yikes.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why I Write This Blog and Talk About Things You Probably Don't Care About But Are Kind Enough To Read About and Comment On

I think that there are three different kinds of blogs that are published by loopers and cruisers. The first is basically a travelogue that has a lot of pictures with comments. Those are great and enjoy them myself very much. The second is a log, with comments, of most of the details of an excursion. They tend to be technical. Again, I enjoy those too. The third kind, of which I believe this is, is a record of the experiences of the excursion; of not only photos and details but also the impressions and emotions that are created along the way. For me I have to write down how I feel about what has happened so that I, quite frankly, can't forget them. For me our cruising excursions are more about the emotional impact that they have had on me, even if it is about the mundane things that happen on shore leave.

And so I keep writing and publishing. Thank you for taking your valuable time to read them.

We miss our chosen lifestyle very much. At this writing the boat is still out of the water at Grand Harbor Marina. The cleaning and sanding of the bottom revealed about fifty nickel-sized blisters that had to be repaired. That work is complete. All that is left is the application of two coats of paint and then she'll be splashed and returned to Barefoot Marina where we have a slip waiting for her.

I must admit though that it is fun to be back in St. Louis for a period of time. For the last two years we have spent probably less than three weeks here. It had always been our first place to return to from the boat and to leave from to get back to her. But we would only spend a few days here before we would jet off to Denver. But this time we are here for a few months. At least we have actually unpacked our clothes instead of living out of our suitcases. We have been busy with a mutltitude of projects that have been deferred since we left for Florida in November of 2011. I have hung pictures. We have actually gone through a lot of the boxes that had yet been untouched since we moved in here.

These are exciting times in St. Louis. The Cardinals are marching to the World Series. At this writing they hold a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the LCS. People everywhere are wearing red clothing, most with the bird-on-the-bat graphic or the STL logo. The Blues are off to hot start also. The weather has been spectacular and we are enjoying the energy that is permeating every corner of town. (But then we always enjoy ourselves. The vibe of the city is a bonus.)

But, alas, the reason for us canceling our winter cruising season is still out there. If you remember we discovered a mold infestation in the drywall of one of our rooms in our finished basement. We got a wall guy in here and it was discovered that there was more than just mold. The flooring was shot and it too needs to be replaced. Also the source of the moisture has been discovered. We have a large covered front porch.

The ground under the porch settled considerably since the house was remodeled by the people that we bought it from. Water has been able to pool there and has caused moisture to seep down to the bottom of the foundation. All of that needs to be fixed before a new floor or walls can be put in.

We decided that instead of having a bunch of home remodeling salesmen tell us what needed to be done we would invest in hiring a structural engineer as an unbiased expert. And we're glad we did. The overall news was not as bad as we feared. The main thing is that the moisture getting to the walls in the basement was of a hydrostatic nature intead of being caused by a crack in the foundation itself. While this is still a challenge to be overcome it is not a big fat hairy deal and can be fixed with some new landscaping around the house to direct rain water away from the foundation more aggressively, having a dehumidifier permanently working in the area and installing ceramic tiles flooring with a looser more breathable grout so that moisture is whisked away more easily. The landscaping is mainly manual labor. He gave us good instructions as to what to do and Lisa and I have decided that we would do the work ourselves. It will be hard work but we're up for it. Frankly the hardest part is that we will have to buy a full thirteen cubic yards of dirt, an entire dumptruck's worth, that needs to be dumped in our driveway (off of the city street) and will have be carried around the house to the front where most of it will go. So be it.

The engineer was also concerned that a sump pump installed in an exterior stair well was not working.
The bilge pump
That needed to be checked. For some reason I couldn't get my mind wrapped around that. Would we have to call a plumber in at beau-coup bucks to fix it? Was this a big project?. Fortunately Lisa was able to settle my mind by saying, "Darrell, its a bilge pump." The engineer who was also a boater agreed. Well, snap and snap. My mind clicked into boat-mode. I opened the cover, pulled up the float switch and PRESTO! The bilge pump, er, the sump pump worked just fine. Check that off the list.

So the bottom line of all this work is, in boat-speak, a bottom job, checking the bilge pump and on board moisture control. The vessel in question is already on the hard.

Yes, our boat-minds are still in gear. Just this morning Lisa saw a spider building a web in the corner of the room. She immediately went to get a toilet cleaning brush, our tool of choice for this task on the boat, to clear the web out.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Our Shore Leave is Going to be Longer Than We Thought...But That's Okay.

When we set off on our Great Loop adventure back in November of 2011 we basically dropped everything. While we were certainly glad that we did, as our twenty-one months on Why Knot, as our home, was and is wonderful. But this current shore leave has presented us with a few new challenges and some wonderful opportunities.

On the down side...we just moved into our house shortly before we left for Florida and in our haste to get things put someplace we stacked some plastic bags filled with all kinds of things on the floor of our finished basement against a finished wall next to an outside wall. Unfortunately as Lisa was moving things around a few days ago she discovered that the plastic bags created some kind of moisture barrier that allowed a pretty substantial amount of mold to grow. It is a major repair and we really can't leave until that is fixed. Then we have to really finish moving in. That will take some time. Furthermore we have a lot of unfinished tasks that need to get done. I guess the best way to say it is that we have a bunch of things to be done that we have deferred in favor of our cruising. It is time to get them done.

As far as opportunities go there are a lot of them too. I am converting the blog of our Great Loop adventure into a memoir that will be available for purchase on Amazon (hint hint). I think it will be entertaining and interesting for boaters and lubbers alike. Lisa has a lot of really cool things to do too, that will make our cruising life a lot better.

So the bottom line is we are canceling our winter cruising season. The boat is safely at Barefoot Marina which has been terrific in being flexible to accommodate us. We are looking forward to being back out on the water starting in April 2013 where we plan on heading north on up to New England and the Down East Loop.

Besides the Cardinals are in the playoffs and Blues hockey is underway. We can't just pick-up and leave now!

Go Cards.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Our Gateway City Get-Away

Ah, St. Louis: the Gateway to the West, Mound City, home of the St. Louis Cardinals, the St. Louis Blues, (Notice I did not include the St. Louis Rams. We don't like them right now.) gooey butter cake, Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard, St. Louis style pizza, Ray's Donuts, and our home in the beautiful suburb of Brentwood. It is good to be back.

Our drive from North Myrtle Beach was an interesting one. We picked up our one-way Enterprise rental car from the new international airport in Myrtle Beach, driven there by Dale of Sweet Pea during a very busy day for her and Jim. They are transplanted Massachusettsans having just recently bought a house a short distance from Barefoot Marina. As a matter of fact they are still living on the boat as they are having work done to their new home.

The car was bigger than usual one for us. Normally we would rent a compact car or crossover but the last couple of time that we've rented a car like that we have been dissappointed by how uncomfortable they have been. We are not youngsters anymore and our backs would usually scream bloody murder pretty quickly. I pleaded the case for renting something a bit more large in the hopes it would be a bit more comfortable. When we went to the lot to pick up our car the lot attendant asked us if we wanted free upgrade to a larger SUV, a GMC Acadia with all the bells and whistles, a leather interior with bigger seats. It looked nice and we made the switch. The comfort was only marginally better. My situation wasn't as bad as usual. Lisa was still pretty uncomfortable. We were both looking forward to our own cars, mine being an old Ford Focus station wagon beater, hers a Dodge pick up truck. We also have a Mazda RX-8 for kicks.

We were warned that driving to or from the Myrtle Beach area was a classic example of the "you can't get there from here" adage. Interstate 95 runs north-south past the area but is out west of the Grand Strand a good bit. Interstate 26, the first of several interstate highways that we would be on terminates at I-95 so there were quite a few smaller state highways to navigate. It seemed like it took forever to finally get onto a decent highway. But we did and that initial delay, plus rain much of the way, made for a slow first day. We finally pulled into a hotel in Clarksville, Tennessee for the night. The second day's travel was on familiar turf with beautiful blue skies after an initial bout of fog. The highways from Myrtle Beach made their way to Nashville from which we would travel on a familiar set of interstate highways on into St. Louis. They were familiar to us from our drives to and from Florida. But we had a very enjoyable stop to make first.

One of the interstate highway legs is on I-25 which runs from Nashville to the middle of southern Illinois. It runs past Kentucky and Barkley Lake on its way to Paducah, as well as Green Turtle Bay Marina, the oasis stop-over for loopers who have just finished the run down the Mississippi River from north of St. Louis. We knew that our friends Rick and Margi of Journey, along with the boats that have been looping with, were probably in the area somewhere. While we were about twenty miles east of the area we dropped them a quick text message asking them where they were. The response was almost immediate and it was the answer we wanted to see. They were at Green Turtle Bay. We soon found ourselves pulling into the marina parking lot reveling in seeing our friends once again. They filled us in on their adventure on the Mississippi which actually sounded somewhat mundane. Running up the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers sounded a bit more challenging but they were very happy with their progress and circumstances. As it was still pretty early we all went to breakfast together catching up with them and all their adventures. It was so good to see them again. We also met the crews of the other two boats they were travelling with.

Seeing them with their looping flotilla companions made us remember that we were utterly alone on the entire leg from St. Charles, Missouri all the way down to Dog River Marina at Mobile, Alabama. The only other loopers we came in contact with were Steve and John of Memsahib while we were at Kingfisher Marina at Demopolis, Alabama and that was only for a day as we were ready to move on and they were staying there for a while with engine problems. We did a lot of our loop by ourselves. The only real exceptions was through the first half of the Erie Canal, the first half of the Trent-Severn Waterway, a bit of Lake Michigan, the Illinois River, the panhandle of Florida and the crossing. We would have liked to have had the comraderie that comes with boating with others. But we always put the best face on things, and frankly, Lisa is a wonderful companion in every way and we always have fun together. We did just fine.

Soon our reunion had to give way to the reality that we had to move on. We left Green Turtle Bay back onto the interstate highways that took us to our home in St. Louis. Everything is as we left it. We will be here for a week before we head off to Denver for a few weeks. We will then fly back to St. Louis for a tad before getting back into another one-way rental car to head back to North Myrtle Beach.

One more thing...Go Cards!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Reach To Myrtle Beach

As I said we like Whitaker Pointe a lot. And this time our stay there was enhanced by making some new friends. Rex and Dixie of the cat sailboat Wonderland were tied up to the facing dock next to our slip and we had fun getting to know them. Their boat is wiiiiiiiide, like twenty-four feet wide. Its a beautiful boat and they are experienced cruisers. After a fun evening of docktails they left the same time as us on a clear but breezy Sunday morning. They headed to the anchorage at Beaufort, NC as we pulled into Morehead City Yacht Basin. They were looking to head on further south going outside with freshening winds from the north and northeast. We were looking to stay at the marina for a day or two for the same reason.

I have often written about the consternation I feel when weather forecasts are on the borderline. I hate that feeling of indecisiveness when the forecast sits smack dab on top of the upper limits of our mission rules. Sometimes we lose a perfectly good cruising day. Other times all hell breaks loose or at least things turn out to be unpleasant. This was one of those times. Monday would have been a perfect day with calm winds and sunny skies. But the next forty-eight hours after that didn't  look too good. Pre-sunrise on Monday I was hemming and hawing terribly about whether to go or not. The problem was that the next two nights we would be anchoring out, at Mile Hammock and Wrightsville Beach and I wasn't liking what I was seeing for those two days and nights. But a good day is a good day. Lisa, in her infinite wisdom, saw my conflict and she finally said the word that I needed to hear, "NO!" That was it. Our rule is that one NO vote always wins. We didn't go. I was content. Oh, and by the way...a surprise thunderstorm ripped through the area Monday afternoon. Ah, sweet vindication. And the winds grew extremely strong overnight into Tuesday morning and persisted the entire day.

Wednesday was a different story, sort of. The overall forecast for Wednesday through Saturday presented a perfect window to make the four day reach to Myrtle Beach, our stopping point for us to make our shore leave back to St. Louis. But the problem early on was that the winds were from the west-northwest which pinned us to the long facing dock we were tied up to. There was another trawler close on our bow and we could not see a way off. That was a bummer! Were we to lose another decent day? Nope. About 10:30 am the winds shifted over to the northeast. We scrambled to disconnect from the dock and the winds gently pushed us straight off the dock and off we went.

We pulled into Mile Hammock, a deserted man-made bay off of the ICW at the southern edge of Camp Lejeune, the giant US Marine base that occupies a big chunk of the real estate in that area. During our trip there we saw crazy looking tilt-wing aircraft flying just to the north of us (Our direction was generally to the west.) and dropping paratroopers out. That was different. And after sundown after we anchored we were pretty much constantly being buzzed by Marine helicopters on night maneuvers. Of course we were already in bed trying to go to sleep. Damn noisy neighbors. Mile Hammock is a very popular anchorage for the boats making their way north in the spring and south in the fall as it is big, well protected and with room for a lot of boats. But we are ahead of the southbound set so there was only one other boat on the hook there.

In the morning we pulled the anchor up and headed out at the same time as the other boat, September Song with Bob and Stephanie on board. We ended up buddy boating with them all the way to their destination, Wrightsville Beach. This was to be our destination also but early in the morning I had an epiphany. That was that if we went another twelve miles further to Carolina Beach, to a mooring field in Myrtle Cove to be exact, we could make it to Barefoot Landing at North Myrtle Beach from there in one long-ish day on Friday. September Song seemed like a nice couple of people. The captain had a pretty good sense of humor and it was an enjoyable day with them. Their final destination for the winter is Fisherman's Village Yacht Basin in Punta Gorda, Florida. We will try to find them when we pass that way on our way to Tarpon Springs. So on Friday, September 9, we untied from the mooring ball in Myrtle Cove and started on our sixty mile reach down to Myrtle Beach. All was well. The conditions were good and the boating very uneventful and we are now at Barefoot Marina. It is from here that we will start our fall shore leave back to St. Louis and Denver.

We have been to Barefoot Landing marina before and we feel very secure about leaving the boat there. One thing that will be different about it this time is that after we leave to head back to St. Louis the boat will be getting a new bottom job. For you lubbers that is a new paint job. The boat hasn't been hauled out of the water in a year and there hasn't been an inspection of the bottom since then. We did hire a diver in Annapolis to give the bottom a quick cleaning and he told us that everything looked fine except the anti-fouling paint had warn off and needed to be redone. (Again, for the lubber readers...anti-fouling paint prevents algae and other critters from growing on the hull.) We have contracted with a local boat maintenance guy that Barefoot Marina recommended and instead of us driving the boat to the boatyard to be hauled out he is going to have a captain come and get the boat from the marina, take it to the yard and return it after the work is done. This fits into our plans better. While we are here we get to get together with Jim and Dale of Sweet Pea again, always a delight.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Washington, NC and Back Again to Whitaker Pointe

After anchoring in Pungo Creek which is near Belhaven, North Carolina, we went on down the Pungo River and turned west heading up the Pamlico River thirty miles to Washington, North Carolina. This side trip was my idea as I read some interesting comments about it as a boating destination. It was a good idea.

Washington is a town that dates back to near the revolutionary war. It was considered of strategic importance to the British because the area is surrounded by tall pine trees that were needed for ship's masts. Tar could also easily be extracted from the environs which was also important to naval vessels. The location of the city is interesting in that it's location is kind of a crossroads of sorts. Down river from the town is the wide and easily navigable Pamlico River, but up river it becomes the narrower and less navigable Tar River. But enough history.

Washington seems like a great town and a very worthy destination for cruising boaters that are looking for someplace to tie up some lines for a bit. Again, it being thirty miles up river you basically have to plan on a day's cruise both ways. The course through the main part of the river is wide with plenty of water. Up closer the well-marked channel gets a bit more shallow but its not a big deal. There is a railroad swing bridge near the town that only is operated from 7:30 am to 10:30 am. Otherwise it is open. The town's basin is very deep and the town's municipal marina has mostly long tee head docks for transient boaters. (There are slips but they are only big enough for day boats.) And you have a choice whether you stay at a dock with power for $1.25 per foot (electrical included) or at free tee docks for zip for forty-eight hours. (First come first serve. $.75 per foot after that. No electricity.) The town is well equipped to and eager to cater to boater's needs. There is a West Marine about five blocks from the marina and there are shopping centers, including a Walmart Supercenter, about a mile away.

Downtown is interesting. While it does have some vacant properties it is by no means tired or rundown. We somewhat jokingly said as we approached the town, "Hey! Look! People! Cars! Activity!" Yep, there was a buzz about the place. The shoreline has a very long, well-lit and new-ish grand sidewalk where people were actually congregating and milling around. There are quite a few very nice restaurants both downtown and down at the south end of the shoreline. There is an interesting museum called the North Carolina Estuarium. There are things to see and do. It presented itself very well.

The only problem for us is that we did not get to enjoy it for very long. Unfortunately we spent only one full day there as the weather was due for a change shortly and we felt we had to get going. And more unfortunately, the day we were there we had to do some hefty maintenance. During our anchorage on Pungo Creek the evening before making the trip to Washington, we discovered that some gucky mud from another previous anchorage got into the workings of our windlass which froze the wildcat clutch plates. This meant that the anchor could not be lowered by the normal method of releasing the clutch and letting the anchor drop. I had to let the chain out by hand. On top of that the mud in Pungo Creek was so gooey that it caused the chain to actually slip out of the wildcat's teeth making for a difficult time getting the chain and anchor to rise. I had to let out all of the anchor, tear the windlass apart, clean and re-raise all of the chain cleaning it as it came back up.

Even with this workload we did get to walk around the town and see that good things are happening in Washington. We did go out to eat a couple of times and the food was good. We ate at an Italian restaurant called La Bella's and had a tasty calzone that was the size of a small car. We also had dinner at a restaurant called Grub's. Grub's was a surprisingly upscale eatery with a very interesting menu that would, if we stayed there longer, justify a second or even third trip. And as I said there were several other interesting looking eateries mostly on the southern end of the walkway. There were also several shops (jewelry, crafts, artwork) that Lisa did get to hop around to.

We would like to return to Washington someday. When looking at the city's website it is obvious that the height of the season is Memorial Day to Labor Day. They have concerts and fairs and they're obviously making an effort to be attractive to boaters and lubbers alike. In summation I guess I would say that we definitely had our whistles whetted. We would like to see more.

As already mentioned Washington is off the beaten path. Our cruise leaving Washington was very long. It was sixty-four miles to Whitaker Pointe Marina near Oriental. But that was ok with us. If you have kept up with this blog from the beginning you would have already read about our fondness for this marina. It is, in our opinion, the very nicest marina on the entire coast. The docks are fantastic with big roomy slips, wide fairways, a wonderful world class clubhouse, a pool and a loaner car to get into Oriental. Oh, and the rates are low. We love it here. Lisa joked that it's too bad this marina isn't another two or three-hundred miles further south because we could easily call it home. I agree. And darn the luck! The winds picked up for a few days so we just have to stay here for a bit. What a coincidence.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Southward Bound

After leaving Yorktown we made our way once again to Hampton Public Pier Marina in Hampton. You know how you when you are moving on the water or road and you are in the vicinity of someone that maybe "we'll pass you somewhere?" Well we did. Rick and Betsy of Rick and Roll were leaving that same marina as we were approaching it. We literally passed them somewhere, that being there. The main purpose of stopping at Hampton was to do laundry and to jig the head to make it flush more readily. Mission accomplished on both counts.

In heading south out of Norfolk we had this bold plan to high-tail it all the way down to Coinjock Marina, about sixty miles south. We left technically before sunrise and as we entered the Elizabeth River, aka Norfolk Harbor, we could see most of the familiar landmarks of this area: Norfolk's skyline, the distant shore, and the seemingly endless line of US Navy warships at the Navy base. And it is hard to not miss them, too. There were four aircraft carriers sitting there as well as frigates, hospital ships, destroyers and various other battle monsters. But the distant horizon was hazy. The landmarks started to dissappear. Norfolk's skyline just vanished as a thick blanket of fog started to roll in from the west and south. Soon the monsterous aircraft carriers that were big as day and not too far from us vanished too. The western end of the harbor became non-existent to our eyes. We could see the wall of the fog approaching us. We decided the safe thing to do would be to head back to Hampton marina and wait an hour or two for the fog to burn off. So much for our bold plan to get to Coinjock. On top of that the trip down through Norfolk was dreadfully slow. For the first time that we've transited the harbor we had to wait for two of the lift railroad bridges. Time was getting eaten up. Then as if a punctuation mark on everything one of the last drawbridges that had to be transited, The Dominion or "Steel" Bridge, was slow on opening because of heavy traffic on the roadway backed up by the construction of it's replacement fixed bridge. We limped into Atlantic Yacht Basin in Great Bridge around 2:00 in the afternoon. So, including going back to the marina because of the fog it took us eight hours to cover twenty miles. That just plain sucked.

After Great Bridge we went to a few of the usual stops along the way, Coinjock (Yes, I had the prime rib.) and Alligator River Marina. Crossing Albemarle Sound was a bit roll-y but very manageable. After leaving Alligator River Marina, cruising down the Alligator River and a very long canal that connects it with the Pungo River our anchorage for the night was at a very accommodating anchorage on Pungo Creek, near Belhaven. Lots of room, plenty of depth and decent protection from the sort-of stiff southeastern winds that came up in the late afternoon and early evening. Very nice place to stop.

Next stop...Washington, North Carolina.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Summer 2013 - It Was Very Good Indeed

We spent last summer, the summer of 2012, in Canada as we were en-route on our Great Loop adventure. Cruising through Canada (and the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, I might add) was an experience that was unparalleled in either of our lives. It was magical. Beautiful landscapes, waterways and towns, all mixed together with the wonderful people of our special sovereign friend to the north made it a time of wonder and happiness. Plus, to make it even better, we spent much of that time with our friends, all cruising through the Trent-Severn, Georgian Bay, the North Channel and Lake Michigan. Wow. It was great.

But we completed our Great Loop and we had to pick new destinations and new horizons to cruise to. What was that going to be like? A big motivation for us was that we wanted to change our modus operandi from a busy boat on a mission to a more laid-back crew looking for nice places to drop a hook or to tie up to a piling and settle back and enjoy the downtime. We wanted to be more recreational. But there was a slight concern. Would this new way of boating going to be boring in comparison to the majesty of last year? Would this more pedestrian lifestyle pale in comparison to the constant onward momentum of looping over the top of the loop? Would the summer of 2013 be as awesome as the summer of 2012?

Well, certainly it was. But it was different.

Let me recap.

Memorial Day, the beginning of summer, saw us in Charleston, South Carolina, and we both fell in love with this town. We got to do a lot of sight-seeing and the charms of this place are numerous and glowing.

Myrtle Beach - We just kind of hung out at Barefoot Marina with our friends Jim and Dale of Sweet Pea. Relaxation molecules (They do exist, you know!) permeated our flesh as we enjoyed the company of these fun people.

Bald Head Island - A special destination for a special event, Lisa's birthday. Laura of The Zone turned us on to it. Why this place is not a regular stop for every crew and boat from every state in America is beyond me, besides the fact it is, you know, on the eastern seaboard and getting there could be a pain for a boat from, let's say, California, Oregon, Washington or Wyoming. It is a must-see. Go there. GO THERE!

The Outer Banks, Ocracoke and Manteo - Ok, admit it. You would like to boat there but you're afraid of the big, bad Pamlico Sound. Well, so were we. But we sucked it up, threw away our calendar and nit-picked the weather forecasts to get us up the sound stopping at Ocracoke and Manteo without breaking a sweat...sort of. It is worth the effort.

Hampton, at Hampton Roads Public Pier - Sometimes ya' gotta dig for those little hidden gems. Great place.

Fort Monroe, Hampton – Ya say ya want a house with a strong security? How about a home in a fort with a mote? They are available at Fort Monroe. Best. Houses. Ever.

A month in Annapolis - Ok, now I'm getting all misty eyed here. We spent a month at Annapolis Landing Marina and it was terrific! Annapolis was already one of our favorite places and getting to spend mid-July to mid-August there was great. Plus we got to hang with our friends Ross and Laura. Son#2 Kevin came and spent a week with us. We went on several day cruises, did the whole tourist stuff and we even went sailing. Kevin now gets to brag that he actually sailed a boat on Chesapeake Bay. Of special note were the early mornings that we would all hang out on the sundeck. How did Kevin like it? Near the time that he went home he told me, "Dad, this is a pretty good way to live." Yes it is, Kevin. Yes it is.

The eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay - Remembering what I said in a recent post, there were definitely some disappointments on the east shore. But the positives outweigh the negatives by a long shot. The anchorage at San Domingo Creek, otherwise known as the back door to St. Michaels is, we think, our favorite anchorage of all, or least in the top three. St. Michaels was very good. Go the the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Onancock was cool. Tangier Island was fun. Special props to Capt. Mark Crockett of the Joyce Marie II.

Spending part of the day with Brooke and Susan in Deltaville.

Yorktown - Labor Day weekend. With a way-cool waterfront and overflowing with history, this great place did not disappoint.

And, actually, we have to say that being part of the flotilla with Sareanna, Good Karma and One September before Memorial Day was a helluva lot fun, too.

Oh, and by the way, the weather was very comfortable and the bugs were seemingly all on duty somewhere other than where we were.

So, according to the unofficial American calendar of seasons, with the advent of Labor Day summer is over. Now we all know that this is only a technicality. We boaters can be in summer conditions all of the time if we want. And we do. September will see us heading south towards warmer climes.

Perpetual summer. What a concept!

It was a great summer. A great summer.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Yorktown - Damn Colonials!

From Onancock we went to Deltaville for two nights, staying at Dozier's Regatta Pointe Marina. This is one of the regular stops for an awful lot of cruisers for a couple of good reasons. First, this first class marina is stratigically located on the route pretty much inbetween Norfolk and The Solomons, and in our case about equi-distant from Onancock and Yorktown, where we would be spending Labor Day. The second is that Deltaville, while not a vibrant swingin' burg is a good stop for provisioning and equiping. Those are a couple of activities we needed to get involved in. Regatta Pointe has some loaner cars to use to head into to town to make the stops at auto parts stores, a hardware store, grocery store and a West Marine. But we had a better idea.

Waaaay back in our initial ascent of the east coast last year, waaaay back in Georgetown, South Carolina we met Brooke and Susan of Liquid Therapy. The are a lovely couple and they are from Deltaville. They are regular readers of this blog and stayed in contact with us so that when we were in town this time around we got together for lunch, and they kindly acted as our chauffers to the grocery store, hardware store and auto parts store. The restuarant that we went to was not too far from the marina as the crow flies, just further up the Rappahancok River on the other side of the highway bridge that crosses it, but a bit of a drive by car. The road leaving Deltaville does not directly intersect with the highway crossing the bridge so we got to see a bit of the countryside. After a pleasant time with them we hunkered down for the night.

The weather for our cruise to Yorktown was ideal. Seriously. I mean that. It really was. The National Weather Service called for almost calm winds and the subdued seas that go along with it. And that is what we got. There was only a hint of a swell the entire way. The marina for our stay is called Riverwalk Landing Marina right on the waterfront of Yorktown. Susan, the dockmaster, along with some the help of some York county workers got us in and tied up very nicely. The current on the York River is very fast and we fortunately got to the marina a tad bit after low tide so the current was slack. The docks are humongous floating concrete piers. Susan is a former Coastie and she certainly knew what the hell she was doing.

Our initial impressions of Yorktown were positive. The little downtown area is very new with lots of restaurants and shops. There is a public beach right there and there were a lot of people milling about, having lunch or swimming. Our hopes were high. Were we going to be disappointed, falling victim to such a nice initial impression and expectation? Nay, we were not disappointed with Yorktown. Yorktown is a winner to us.

While there are things to do and see in downtown Yorktown the main attraction is the Yorktown battlefield operated by the National Park Service. A free trolley encircles all of Yorktown and the battlefield and all you have to do is jump on at one of the many stops along the route. (They are well marked.) After being dropped off at the battlefield visistors center you can instantly see where most of the battle emplacements are. But the best thing to do is to go inside and pay the $7 per person fee and take a forty-five minute guided tour of the place after watching a short video about the battle. Park Ranger Dan was our guide and he was not only informative and engaging but funny as hell. Lets just say he gave an interesting slant on not only the battle but how history has framed this battle. For instance, shortly before the battle Lord Cornwallis withdrew British troops from forward redoubts leaving them to be walked into by Continental and French forces helping them gain a protected forward position and a decided advantage. Why did he do that? No where in history does Cornwallis ever disclose why he did that. This was just one of several huge blunders made by Cornwallis ever since he set foot on colonial soil. Ranger Dan connected those dots brilliantly. He also showed that the good guy's success at Yorktown was helped by an unusual mix of luck and happinstance. The good guys brought big, long range artillery. The British had mostly lightweight short range field guns. The colonials correctly surmised that the Battle of Yorktown would be an artillery battle and rained thousands upon thousands of rounds of big, fat ol' cannonballs on the British position. The British basically had pop-guns. Also, Cornwallis had given the command to evacuate his troops over the York River a short distances to Gloucester Point. This was a failure. First, most of his flotilla of ships were either destroyed in the battle, scuttled or otherwise unusable. All the British had were rowboats. So an order to evacuate using rowboats was issued. Good plan except for the freak storm that flared up and sank most of the rowboats. After nine days Cornwallis surrendered.

Anyway, I don't mean to get all history-ish on you here. But this is an area very steeped in history.

The only downside, and I mean the only thing, is that the current can be a bit tricky if you arrive by boat. Call the dockmaster before hand to see when the best time to arrive might be on the day you want to get there.

We liked Yorktown. So will you.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Smith Island, Onancock and Tangier

BTW, Pictures. Yes, I have been taking pictures along the way but we have not had decent bandwidth over here on the east side of the bay at all. I have every intention of getting the pics link back up and running but have not been able to do so. When I do I will let you know.

Smith Island is one of the fabled east bay islands on the Chesapeake. The other is Tangier Island just south of Smith Island. Tangier Island's claim to fame is that it has been isolated and insolated for a great part of its existence to the point where the natives speak with a decidedly British accent. Smith Island, though just a few miles north of Tangier does not have that same inclination. But it is isolated. It's flat with normal vegetation around and it is pretty shoaly. The village of Ewell is the only really occupied area and while it tries to bill itself as a boater's holiday paradise of some kind it really isn't. But they are trying hard to make ends meet. From what we can tell from Ewell's little harbor it used to be a commercial fishing port but like much of that business on Chesapeake Bay it is, at best, struggling. I'm guessing that the townfolks try to make their living on the tour boats that come from Crisfield, Onancock or other mainland towns. We also learned that the State of Maryland has been trying to close the town and relocate the inhabitants as the cost of providing services is too much.

The town is small to say the least. We arrived at 11:30 am on Sunday and very shortly after we tied up one of the excursion boats pulled into the harbor. All of a sudden the two restaurants opened up for business. In addition to a meal visitors could rent bicycles and golf carts to explore the island. The boat's captain announced that they had two and half hours to do so and that they would be leaving at 2:30 pm. Well apparently two and half hours is more than enough time to check things out. Most of the visitors were back way before then, just milling around the harbor front. But God bless the Ewellians (Ewellites?). They are trying to make the best of their situation. We give them our best wishes. (For you boaters out there...The entrance channel is a bit shoaly/scary but not so bad. The current through the harbor is very pronounced. Sailboats need to avoid this place. As we entered there was a sailboat shoaled waiting for the tide to rise. It did and he got out. And if you do come here its a one night stop; no more than that.)

Our next stop was Onancock, Virginia. It is a fair sized town near the end of Onancock Creek on the eastern mainland across Tangier Sound from Tangier Island. The marina is small but they are working hard to make it a nice place. They are building what will be a small but high end marina office and washrooms building. There are slips but some are narrow with very short finger docks - stern in only. There are about eight or so much wider slips. But there are two very nice sizable facing piers right down in front that can easily accomadate three good sized boats. The wall that we were at is maybe eighty feet long with good power and plenty of strong new pilings to tie up to. There is another wall just behind that in front of the new office. The two are separated by a boat ramp. All in all very nice. The town of Onancock is typical. Nice but not too nice, with a few stores and restaurants and some offices, all very clean and nicely kept up. As is also typical for most cities this size the major shopping has moved to the outskirts of the town. Getting back to the marina, there is a waterside restaurant named Mallard's which was quite good. This would be a great place for several buddy boaters to pick as a destination to hang out for a few days and take the convenient ferry to Tangier Island for a day. And that is exactly what we did.

Tangier Island was a bit of an enigma to me. I remember in the early days of our cruising life hearing that this was an island lost in time, isolated and insulated from modernity, and that by visiting there you would be seeing life how it was, and, most oddly, that there was some kind of British brogue still spoken because of the prolonged isolation from the American speaking world. We boarded a deadrise ferry boat (Google "deadrise boat") for the sixty minute ride to Tangier. Upon learning that we were boaters Captain Mark Crockett had us sit in the pilot house with him. We were surprised that this style of fishing boat actually got up on plane and we made sixteen knots for the bumpy and rolly trip. Entering Tangier's harbor you are surrounded by crabbing docks and shacks used by the local fishermen. There were a lot of them but many of them had become broken down as the number of fishermen working out of Tangier has died down over the last couple of decades. As we disembarked at a long pier our group of tourists walked smack dab into the enigma, but with a twist. I am not sure what I was expecting (maybe some suspicious glares from suspicious locals) but what we got was a surprise. There was a small troop of smiling, happy locals handing out leaflets promoting their own particular restaurant, or store, or golf cart rental facility. We were, for all intents and purposes, ushered down the small and narrow main street that was all open for business waiting for patronage. The town itself is small but there were a few retail opportunities to be had. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We came away from the experience with a degree of respect for the people of Tangier. They are very happy people that we believe are proud of their town and their way of life and are working hard to adapt to the changes thrust upon them by the loss of their fishing livelihoods. And they are doing a fine job of it. The town is clean with a full assortment of houses in differnt conditions. We were surprised that there was so much home construction and remodeling being done. All of the new homes were very modest things much in keeping with the flavor of the island, but new it is.

Now, about the British broque thing. Nope, didn't hear any of it. What we did hear was a sort of a confused southern accent. Remember this is in Virginia. No doubt there is an accent but it didn't sound like British English to us.

Here is our take on visiting Tangier Island. First of all don't take you own boat there. The current is very strong and would make it tricky to get into and out of the marinas, which didn't look to hot to us. Instead go to Onancock or Crisfield, park your boat there and take a ferry over. To be frank it would be an incorrect assumption to think that Tangier Island is a multi-day destination. It is not - a few hours max. Seriously. But we enjoyed our daytrip there and highly recommend it to everyone.

Onancock is the last stop of our excursion on the east side of Chesapeake Bay. Here is the score of the hits and misses:

Hits -
San Domingo Creek as the back door to St. Michaels. Awesome.
St. Michaels
Chesapeake Bay museum in St. Michaels. Top notch.
Cambridge free wall (harbor watching at its finest)
Snappers Restaurant in Cambridge, MD
Tangier via ferry

Misses -
Cambridge, MD itself.
Smith Island

So, all in all, a good score and a very good adventure. We are sure we have missed some good places, like Crisfield, so we'll hit them the next time we head up the bay.

Next stop, back over to the west side to Deltaville for one night, then to Yorktown for the Labor Day weekend. After that to Hampton and then we begin the trek back down the ICW.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cambridge MD and Mill Creek (aka, The Solomons)

We left San Domingo Creek for an early twenty-two mile trip to Cambridge, Maryland. Its bigger than St. Michaels and is not as "quaint". The inner harbor is spacious and well protected with the town being built up to the water's edge. There are also quite a few commercial fisheries along the shore. There is a very sizable municipal marina out in the Choptank River right at the entrance to the harbor but that was not our destination. Smack dab in the harbor itself is a free wall! Now you non-boaters may not understand the signifigance of that but a free wall is a wonderful thing to a cruising boater. You get all the security of a marina (with varying degrees of amenities) and the freedom and FREE price of an anchorage. When we arrived the three-hundred-plus foot wall was empty. We easily pulled up and tied up. As to the varying degree of amenities this wall unfortunately scores very low. There are no bathrooms, no water, no electricity, just some good cleats every ten feet and a small grassy area along side. There is plenty of water depth and it is a good secure location. In this lifestyle anything that is free is a good thing! (Boaters - see my comments in ActiveCaptain for some details on how to stay at this location. Helpful hints galore.)

We stayed three nights as there was a incessant rain most of the time. The winds were not high but it was wet. The rain kept us from exploring the town at all until our last day there. Unfortunately the gloomy conditions that we had for weather reflected in the little downtown area. There is one main street and it was actually a bit depressing. Probably less than half of the storefronts had any kind of business in it. The street was empty of pedestrians. To make matters worse this town has had a rash of arson fires and some of the building fronts were burned out and empty. Some of them had just the outer shells standing. We could peek in the windows and see that the guts of some of the buildings were totally gone. It was sad. Our tour of downtown Cambridge lasted only about thirty minutes. There was nothing to see.

There are though some pluses to Cambridge. The harbor is kind of kick to watch. There was a good amount of boat traffic and a drawbridge just on the southside of the main harbor pool that opened on request so it was opening and closing pretty frequently. Also Snapper's Restaurant is pretty darn good! I have to tell you about one menu item. Now I love French Toast in the St. Louis style, that is with a milk, egg and cinnamon batter griled nice and gooey. Then throw about a pound of butter on each slice and heap on some powdered sugar. Mmmmmmmm! Snapper's take of French toast is to use a milk and butter batter, dunk the bread then cover it with a layer of crush Captain Crunch cereal. I have to admit I was kind of psyched about this so on our second day we went for breakfast and I ordered up a batch. Well, it tasted...different. Not bad, not great but different. I think I will stick to St. Louis style french toast.

We got an awesome day to depart Cambridge. Now, this is for all the boaters. If you can believe this the conditions on Chesapeake Bay getting from Cambridge to Mill Creek at The Solomons were PERFECT!!!!! And I am not exaggerating!!!!! There was zero wind and zero seas. It was like glass. The only waves we felt at all was the wake from a cruiser that passed us about a quarter mile on our starboard side. And the temperature was only in the upper sixties. It was magnificent. Because the conditions were so calm Why Knot perked along very happily at nine miles per hour the entire way. We arrived at our anchorage on Mill Creek two hours sooner than I estimated.

Speaking of The Solomons, reaching here was a bit of a milestone. It is the first destination that we have arrived at three times.

After anchoring out one night on Mill Creek we decided to pull around to Calvert Marina for a few nights. The weather was not cooperating. There was a bit of instability in the air that drives me nuts! Friday's weather predictions were of that ambiguous nature that I really couldn't decide whether it would be a good or not so good day to go out there. Wave heights were forecast to be two feet which I really hate. Technically they could be nothing or could be as high as four feet. If the forecasts for less than two feet or one to two feet, or for more than two feet it would be easier to decide to go or not go. But the National Weather Service saying wave heights would be two feet is like them saying, "We really don't any idea what it will be like." So we stayed. For Saturday the forecasts were clear - wave heights would be three feet...that's an easy one...we stay. Sunday looks good with a stormy front passing on Saturday the forecasts are for almost calm conditions and low seas. So I will take care of all of the maintenance issues here that I was planning on doing in Deltaville so we can keep on track after going to Smith Island and Onancock.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

So This Is What "Recreational" Boating Is Like!

First, a few new pictures from Annapolis
Parents Week at the USNA

Darrell and Lisa (Why Knot), Ross and Laura (The Zone), Chris and Susan (Forever Friday)

The Glass House, the namesake of Glass House Anchorage, Magothy River

Us all again at Pusser's in Annapolis, on Ego Alley
We departed Annapolis on August 15 and it was kind of bittersweet. While we certainly were looking forward to getting underway on our southbound leg with an exploration of the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay and new stops on the ICW, it did mean that we would be leaving our friends Ross and Laura of The Zone. They would be staying on at Annapolis Landing Marina for ten more days, then move a tad bit further north to Rock Hall, Maryland for a month. We are not sure when we would see them again but hopefully our paths will cross soon.

And speaking of Annapolis Landing Marina we enjoyed our stay there very much. Evie and Jack Collard are the dockmasters there and they have a pretty cool way of living. They spent the summer at ALM working and running the marina along with two guys named Dusty and Shawn. They live on their boat at the marina and certainly seem to love the life there. Then in the fall they will cast off their lines and head south to Florida or the Caribean for the winter. Then in the spring they head back up to Annapolis. That's pretty cool. They're lovely people.

Our first stop on the way south is at St. Michaels, Maryland. Well, not exactly St. Michaels but an achorage below it. This takes a little explaining. St. Michaels is a very popular spot. It is on a penisula of sorts that comes out from the eastern mainland that is very convuluted creating many different streams and creeks. This penisula separates two bodies of water, Eastern Bay on the north and the Choptank River to the south. St. Michaels is inside of Eastern Bay on the Mills River. So from Annapolis you would enter Eastern Bay on the north and make your way to St. Michaels. Now, as I said St. Michaels is very popular and with that popularity comes high docking fees...a bit too much for our tastes. Lisa got turned onto an alternative that is anchoring just south of St. Michaels on a large creek called San Domingo Creek, which is approached from the south side of the peninsula from the Choptank River. It is then a short dinghy ride up to the top of the creek which is in, TA DA!, St. Michaels. So from San Domingo Creek there are two ways to get to St. Michaels. By boat it is forty miles. By foot after a very short dinghy ride it is three blocks.
Sunset at San Domingo Creek

Sunset on Lisa
San Domingo Creek is nice and large with plenty of water. 

We never saw less than seven feet of water under our keel.

Morning. If there are sailboats there, you can get there too.

San Domingo Creek is spectacular. It is wide and deep enough with beautiful forests lining the shore with what would have to be called mansions tucked into the woods. The weather was perfect. There was very little wind and the high temperature during the days was only about 73 degrees which made for lovely and relaxing evenings and nights. It was great! As a matter of fact it has shot up the list of our favorite anchorages. It really is worth the trip.

WTH? Who is peering out of that window?
As for St. Michaels it is a very cute town with a nice little downtown, a very nice waterfront...and that's about it. We both enjoyed our day there but in the end we were kind of baffled about all the positive hubbub about the place. It's very nice but because of all the "wow" kind of talk we got we expected more. And like I said previously with the pricey marina fees we don't see the value. Now, there is one really nice feature that is worth spending your time and $13.00 per person on. That's the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. It is very nice, very well put together, has lots of cool things to see and it is very well maintained. It is also a working museum with several restoration projects of classic Bay boats going on on the grounds. They are some very good static and floating examples of the unique boats, both pleasure and working, that have been prowling the Bay for generations. If you do visit St. Michaels the museum is worth the trip.

As we sat on the sun deck in the evening we reflected that our attitudes were a little bit different now. We are not in such a hurry. The routes I have planned are not as long nor aggressive. We will be cruising at lower speeds. Sure, we do have it in our heads to be in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina by mid to late September, but that should be an easy task barring any weather or mechanical problems. And we want to take our time exploring the eastern side of Chesapeake Bay. What we have already seen of it is very beautiful with plenty of interesting places to go to.

There is a running joke amongst many cruising boaters. That is asking, "when do we get to the "recreational" part of "recreational boating?" Well, we have decided that it started in Annapolis, will continue on down the Bay and will be a part of boating lives from now on. Sure, we still have plans like doing the Down East Loop or maybe even go to Texas. But we are on a slower track now. We don't have to and we won't crunch day after day of routes to be able to get to some position to either take advantage of or avoid some seasonal or navigational necessity. The best place for us to be will be where we are. We are going to see some new places that are a bit out of the way and we are not going to stop at all of the same old marinas. We are also going to take more daytrips to interesting locales and stop at a few more restaurants that have a dock. Before spending our wonderful month in Annapolis there was a motivation to hussle, hussle, hussle with daily routes of forty, fifty and sixty-plus mile days. Now, hey, if our next stop is fifteen miles away that just leaves more time for relaxing and enjoying what we are doing even more. Why it will even be "recreational"!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Float Plan

There are some loopers and cruisers that like to leave their float plans as fluid (no pun intended) things, not knowing what there destinations are until they get someplace. That is perfectly AOK, but that is not our style. I am a planner. I love going over all of the details and figuring everything out. ActiveCaptain is one of my very favorite things in life as I get to get into the minutae of all of the possibilities. There are times that I am at my happiest when I have my computer on, chartbooks out and a calculator buzzing away. Lisa likes to joke that the only thing missing from my bliss is a large dry-erase board or at least a large paper notepad on an easel to draw everything out first. And frankly the only reason we don't have these things on board is that they would cover the windows in the salon and obscure the view. And yes, we do have these things at our home. (Doesn't everybody?)

Here is the detailed float plan to get us to our Fall shore-leave back to STL and DEN.

Annapolis to St. Michaels
St. Michaels to Cambridge
Cambridge to Mill Creek
Mill Creek to Tangier Island
Tangier to Onancock
Onancock to Deltaville
Deltaville to Yorktown
Yorktown to Hampton
Hampton to Dismal Free Dock
Dismal to Coinjock
Coinjock to Alligator
Alligator to Pungo River anch
Pungo River anch to Washington NC
Washington to Hobucken
Hobucken to Morehead
Morehead to Lejuene
Lejeune to Wrightsville
Wrightsville to Southport
Southport to Barefoot

We have also figured out what our float plan for the winter is.

Arr Barefoot 9/15
Transit Barefoot to STL 9/21-22
In STL 9/22-29
Transit STL - DEN 9/29
In DEN 9/29-10/27
Transit DEN - STL 10/27
In STL 10/27-10/31
Transit STL - Barefoot 10/31-11/1
In Barefoot 11/1-11/7
Transit Barefoot to Vero 11/7 - 12/1
Transit Vero to Gulf Coast 12/1 - 12/15
In Gulf Coast 12/15 - 1/15 Our winter home will be Turtle Cove Marina in Tarpon Springs. We are hoping to run into some loopers as they finish the Crossing.
Transit Gulf Coast to Vero 1/15 -1/31
Begin shoreleave from Vero 2/1 -3/31

There are three things that could put a big monkey wrench in the works and that is there are some major service repairs to be done. Getting new canvas on the top decks is a must as the current canvas is brittle and we are finding more and more little tears. Also while we have gotten recent reports from divers that the bottom paint is ok, its not great. We'll need a new bottom job. Why Knot had an extremely heavy duty bottom job done on her a few years ago that has worn well up to now. We would be interested in investing in this same heavy duty type of coating again. Also, the generator is suspect, while it runs well now there are signs of weakness and replacing it within the next year is imminent. We would rather swap it out before it craps out, while we have control over the situation.

From Vero in the spring we will head north again hopefully to New England and Canada. It will be a busy summer.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hanging out in Annapolis

Well, Annapolis, one of our favorite ports, never disappoints. We're nearing the end of our month long stay here and we have enjoyed every minute of it.

Annapolis Landing Marina is a very enjoyable place with a great staff and facilities. We have had to move twice though. That's kind of a pain but its not unusual as I am guessing that most if not all of the slips are leased out to seasonal or year long boaters. Any transient slips available are those where the slip holder has their boat out. We were first at a tee head dock that backed right out onto Back Creek for only one night before the owner of that slip returned. Our next dock assignment was on a very large tee head inside the marina where an eighty foot antique luxury yacht, the SS Sophie usually tied up. It left to go to Rhode Island to pick up its owner and would be gone for several months. Supposedly that would be where we would stay. However when the yacht arrived in Rhode Island the owner apparently decided that it was too hot and sent the Sophie back to Annapolis. That meant that we had to move again to an outside slip vacated by its owner who left to do some cruising. Apparently that slip holder is returning one or two days before our scheduled departure date so we're not sure whether we will be moved to another location or just go ahead and leave.

Sunday, August 28, was a special day. Son#2 Kevin flew up to Baltimore from St. Louis to spend a week with us. Our original plans were for us to cruise up to the inner harbor of Baltimore and he would meet us there. We would spend Sunday night in downtown Baltimore and then cruise to Annapolis on Monday. Unfortunately the weather for Sunday started to look too uncertain so he took a shuttle directly to the marina from the airport in Baltimore. This was a big event for us as both son#1 Bryan and Kevin had only seen Why Knot once while we were in St. Louis in the fall of 2012 while we were on shore leave. Also it is the first time we had an overnight guest on the boat. Kevin is a great guy and a lot of fun to be with and we did all of the touristy stuff such as eating at Chick and Ruth's Delly and tour the Naval Academy.  Other than that we spent much of the time just hanging out and relaxing. We did go on several day cruises to give Kevin some time behind the wheel and let him experience cruising on water that is a bit more, shall we say, active compared to his only other time underway with us on the Illinois River. His quote about that was, "This is a lot bigger than a river, dad." We even went sailing for a day where he spent some time at the helm. So now he can say he sailed across Chesapeake Bay. Ross and Laura also came over for a genuine docktails get-together.
Laura and Kevin. Insert inane caption here...Long and short of it, Mutt and Jeff,  whatever. 

The weather here started out very hot and humid so we spent just about every afternoon at the marina's pool. Lisa really rocks a swimsuit so I enjoyed that! But about half way through Kevin's visit it turned cooler and more likely to rain a bit each afternoon, so we spent more time just hanging out on the boat or running into town on errands.

There was an incident of near calamitous proportions on the evening of August 9. Directly off of our bow there is a sizable anchorage on Back Creek with maybe about a half a dozen sailboats on the hook. One of these sailboats was called Auspicious and it was directly behind us. As everyone at the marinas were settling in for a nice evening a micro-burst storm swooped in from the west directly over our heads producing very heavy winds and a lot of rain. We were in the rear cabin sopping up some water leaking in through one of our windows when we actually looked out of that window and saw that Auspicious was being pulled off of her anchor and towards us or one of the other boats along our dock depending on which way she would swing. And she was swinging. We radioed the marina office to tell them but they had problems of their own. An anchored catamaran came off her anchor too and was heading for the fuel dock. Fortunately for them the crew was on the cat and after finally realizing their plight started the engine and just kind of kept it in a position off of the dock until the storm subsided. Not so for us. Auspicious was crew-less and we ended up scrambling onto the deck in the storm fending her off our stern with boat hooks. It got to within about four feet of us. Then the winds changed direction a bit and swung the sailboat away from us towards the empty slip next to us. This was our opportunity. We jumped off of Why Knot onto the dock and scurried over to the other slip and with the help of another boater, Chris from Forever Friday and Evie, one of the dock-masters whose boat Eldridge C was another target of the wayward sailboat, we were able to muscle Auspicious into the slip about half of her boat length and get her secured. We were drenched but we got the job done. And of course within a minute or two after getting the lines set the storm disappeared just as fast as she cropped up and it cleared into a beautiful evening. It was pretty intense.

Our last day here is August 14 and on the 15th we will be scooting off to head down south a bit. We know that this is an early departure to head south but our objective is to get to Barefoot Marina in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina by September 15 and head back to St. Louis and Denver for our early fall shore leave. We are going to make an effort to visit some different places than the normal stops on the way down. We haven't been on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay at all so our first stop will be an anchorage at St. Michaels, and then down to Cambridge, Maryland where there is a free wall to tie up to. From there we will cut back across to an anchorage on Mill Creek in The Solomons for one night. From there we will go back across the bay to Tangier Island, then to the town of Onancock, then back over again to Deltaville, then to Yorktown, and then back to Hampton Roads Public Pier. Heading back down the eastern seaboard from Norfolk we will be stopping at some new locales also. Stopovers include a one night stay at Hobucken, North Carolina and a couple of days in Washington, North Carolina. We're also going to throw in a few more anchorages instead of the usual marina stops. All in all we will be in Myrtle Beach by September 15 and head back home then. That shouldn't be a problem. The only hang-up is that according to Old Farmer's Almanac, which has been pretty reliable, there is suppose to be a pretty sizable tropical storm flaring up some time shortly after Labor Day so we will want to be within an easy hop to someplace secure during that time.

We also figured out what our cruising strategy will be for the winter. It's fairly convoluted but we think it will work. After we return to Myrtle Beach we will head south somewhat aggressively to make it to Vero Beach by December 1st. That is kind of fixed point in time as we will judge just about everything else by that. From there we have decided to head over to Florida's Gulf coast and find a place to hang out for a month, lets say until mid January. We would then retrace our steps and get back up to Vero Beach once again where we will leave the boat for our two month spring shore leave. We return to the boat there on April 1 and move up quickly to go to New England and maybe even the Down East Loop. That's exciting! We have also left the door open to doing something completely different by not going back to the Atlantic coast at all but instead going back up to Panama City, Florida, and maybe even further on the Gulf ICW to Texas. Ya' never know.

Friday, July 19, 2013

7 Things They Didn't Tell You About Cruising The Great Loop That You Wish They Would Have

We have been on Why Knot for eighteen months now and it has been a great experience. And as we have finished our loop and become laze-bag coastal cruisers this has provided lots of time to consider it all through the safety goggles of hindsight. Early on there has been plenty of opportunities to meet with more experienced boaters from whom we have learned a lot about the ups and downs; ins and outs; and the dos and don'ts of the adventure. But there have been some things that we had to learn for ourselves – things that were not covered at the rendezvous or during chance meetings with others. So in the fashion of many websites here is my list of 7 things that we had to learn on our own.

1 Radios are not used by everyone
Big power boats use them. Commercial boats use them. Many larger sailboats use them...and that's about it. No one would expect someone on a jet ski to use one but why don't more of the smaller boats have at least a hand held radio on board? Maybe its too much to expect but, boy, wouldn't it be great if they did? At least it would give us a chance to yell at them for being so inconsiderate and oblivious to the general safety and well being of the entire boating community. And what about Canada? It's such a great country. I'm sure they've discovered radio waves by now, haven't they?

2 Middle aged men are ugly
Ok, I'm 58 years old so I have to take my medicine like the rest. But guys, come on! The last thing anyone needs to see is us without our shirts on. Now if we all had six pack abs that would be a different story, but we don't. Even someone like Harrison Ford (a five star stud, at least according to some of our admirals) looks like a bum in a bathing suit.

3 Paddleboarders are stupid
Oh, where do I start? First of all the idea of paddling a surf board while standing on it does not make sense from a physics point of view. There is no leverage and the center of gravity is up around the paddler's ears. If they are hit by even the tiniest of waves or wake, lets say from the ripple from some fish jumping, down they go. Not smart. Second, since they have little control they end up in the middle of the channel right in front of you. Again, not too smart. Last year when we were transiting a drawbridge on the ICW some poor paddler ended up right in the middle of the bridge when it opened. We, along with four other big boats, had to wait, wait, and wait some more before she got out of the way.

4 The best fishing is apparently smack dab in the middle of a busy channel
I must admit that this is a pet peeve of mine. If I had a nickel for every tiny fishing boat that plopped their anchor down and dropped their lines right in the middle of the channel I would have, well, a bunch of nickels. To make matters worse this fishing sweet spot usually is on a blind curve in the channel. I know that as loopers we are all very courteous and conscientiousness boaters....but once, just once...

5 Marina courtesy cars are...special
One of the best features for any marina to promote is that they have a courtesy car for provisioning, errands or sightseeing. But be warned, these cars are not showroom fresh! Most of them are not even used car lot fresh. Most of them are odd beasts that groan, shudder, squeal, heat up, slow down, rumble and otherwise make driving them an adventure all their own. Recently a group of us was taking a loaner mini-van out for dinner and the sliding side door (the one that supposedly worked) was stuck. To get it open I had to apply a little muscle to it. The handle broke off in my hand. Some of them are huge land yachts with a ride that reminds you what it's like to be in three to four foot seas. Some smaller cars have rides that will knock the fillings out of your teeth. Don't get me wrong. Having access to any car is a good thing. But a word to the wise is enough.

6 Have lots of quarters with you
One of the land lubber activities that carries over to your cruising life is doing laundry. In our experience there was only one marina that had free laundry facilities. (St. Joseph Municipal Marina, St. Joseph, MI) Otherwise they are all pay machines that must get fed a steady diet of quarters. For us every time we do laundry we have to shell out about $10.00, all in quarters. So have a special quarter bowl or jar to accumulate the quarters you get in your spare change. Most marinas will be able to provide a roll to you but not all of them. So have a roll or two available. (Gosh, this tip is actually a handy one!)

7 Boat cleaning supplies will comprise 75% of your boating budget
Ok, so maybe not 75% of your budget, but it sure will feel like it. We all want our boats to look sharp and the market is drowning in different products to get the job done. To make matters worse we get deluged in emotional wording in the online product descriptions. They use words like “super-easy”, “like new” and “effortless”. Baloney! But we all fall for it, don't we. A few stops ago I cleaned out all of the supply tubs in our engine compartment and I discovered a heretofore undiscovered stash of cleaning products that the previous owner had bought, tried, then put aside. I have told Lisa that we are not going to buy anymore such things. I don't care if they turn the boat purple we are going to use them!

Hope this helps. I'm your pal.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Annapolis! Finally!

We made it to Annapolis right on time. But for awhile it seemed like we never would. The weather has just been disgustingly difficult. A pattern of being able to get out and cruise on one day and then sit in a marina for four days had become the norm. But things finally opened up and we made the jump to Annapolis Landing Marina on July 15th, the day that our month long reservation started.

We finally got out of Deltaville on Saturday, July 13th and made it up to Solomons, Maryland where we were reunited with Ross and Laura of The Zone and, as an extra added bonus, Rick and Betsy of Rick and Roll. The last time either of us had seen them (Rick and Betsy) was when I attended the AGLCA Fall Rendesvous in Alabama. It was fun catching up with both crews over dinner on Saturday night and a barbecue on Sunday. But getting to Annapolis was the goal.

On Monday the 15th Lisa and I departed Solomons early, about 7:30 am. Ross and Laura still had a few chores to do and left about 8:45 am. We thought it best to get scooting as it was expected that the lower portion of the trip might get a bit rolly if we lingered much later than we did. The Zone, being a bit faster boat, would be able to catch up with us. It was a very hot and muggy day with a heat wave settling in over the entire northeast. This was made worse by almost calm winds which is great for boating conditions but made for a pretty drippy and uncomfortable afternoon.

We just kept plugging along at what felt like a slower speed than what I thought we should be cruising at. I have been suspicious that we may have dinged the propeller or something like that, or at least we need to get a good bottom cleaning. We are also still carrying a lot of fuel and that can be holding us down too. We'll hire a diver to go down and clean the hull and check things out below.

Anyway we are in Annapolis! We are going to settle back and enjoy this great city for a month. Annapolis Landing Marina appears to be a very nice marina with all the amenities that we like. And for the price tag it better have. The monthly rate is a full $1000.00 which is pretty steep for out tastes but we are taking this being a very special situation, kind of our reward for all the cruising we have done in the last eighteen months: just shy of 7000 miles. Also son#2 Kevin is going to spend a week with us which ought to be an absolute hoot. Both son#1 Bryan and son#2 Kevin are great young men and fun to be with. But Kevin is just a bit more...I don't quite know how to say this...hysterical, energetic, effervescent?!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More Pleasant Things

or Be Gone, Oh Specter of Discontent!

The last time I posted I said that I was taking a break from posting. I was in a rut. I was in a funk. It seemed that all I was doing was complaining. I said I was not going to blog until I had more pleasant things to say. (Lisa said with her eyes and roll of her head, “Yeah, right.”)

Well....I have more pleasant things to say! 

We are at Hampton Roads, Virginia during the week of the Fourth of July. It is a pleasant place to be and the specter of uncertainty is disappearing. Our goal of reaching Annapolis for an extended holiday is within reach.

We finally pulled out of Great Bridge very, very early on July 1. When I say early I mean like-before-the-sun-was-up early. The reason for this is that our next leg to Hampton Roads was a short one, only twenty-four miles, and there would be a weather window open to us from before sunrise to only about 10:00 am. We pulled away from the dock at 5:00 am to the fuel dock for a pump out, then request an opening of Great Bridge bridge and go through the lock. Then we would slowly motor to Steele Bridge for their 7:00 opening. This was critical as this was a weekday and Steele bridge does not open at 8:00 am. Missing the 7:00 am opening would force us to either go back, go to an alternate dockage (the free dock at Dismal Swamp channel) or face the possibility of getting pushed around pretty hard heading out of the Elizabeth and James river to Hampton Roads which is right at the mouth entering Chesapeake Bay. But we made the opening at 7:00am.
Great Bridge bridge from the lock

lock watching

Big and small make their way through the lock

After Steele Bridge the coast was clear to head directly to the greater harbor. We motored up through Portsmith and Norfolk pretty aggressively. The water conditions were ok-ish but we could tell that it was beginning to chop up with the winds freshening from the southeast. There was one very odd thing that happened. The NWS warned that there could be patches of what could be called flash fog that would almost instantly appear as thick as soup then disappear just as quickly. This did happen. When we made that big right turn from the Elizabeth River onto the James River (right before the navy base) we had almost unlimited visibility. Then all of a sudden we were socked in. We could not see a thing! I went to radar. Then no more than five minutes later it was gone! It was so weird.

The cruise out to Hampton Roads was also made interesting by the company we kept. We had to negotiate two freighters, a myriad of tugs, security patrol boats, fishing boats, a Coast Guard cutter and two Navy warships. 

We pulled into the Hampton Roads Public Pier at 9:30 am. Jake, the very able dockmaster, helped us get tied up. Then at 10:00 am, just like the NWS predicted, the winds picked up a bunch, the clouds opened up and it rained. A little later while talking to Jake in the office he checked conditions out in the harbor and the winds were blowing at around twenty to twenty-five knots with two to three foot seas. Our strategy for the short day worked.

On the Fourth of July Lisa and I made some big decisions about our cruising future, both short and long term. Short term it's about getting to Annapolis. From Hampton Roads its only three or four more days. We have a months reservation at a marina there that starts on July 15th, but that is flexible. We did want to get up to The Solomons in a bit of a hurry to see Ross and Laura but they head to New York City for a few days. Dockage rates at the marinas north of Hampton Roads like in Deltaville and The Solomons are more expensive, especially the short term transient rates. (Our monthly rate in Annapolis is very much beyond our normal tastes and budget but we are making this a special situation as son#2 Kevin is joining us for his summer vacation.) The weather is just stuck in pattern of a good day here followed by three or four stinkers. What we have decided to do is to stay put here in Hampton Roads until at least July 8th (even though it pains us to miss some good cruising days). The dockage rates here are much more affordable and it seems to be a nice place. I have two different plans for making the way north from here: a plan with more short hops mostly with anchorages, or two longish legs stopping at Deltaville and Solomons. These two plans are completely modifiable so that legs are not so long that they can't be combined are even skipped altogether to fit within the conditions presented. We'll meet up with Ross and Laura at The Solomons a day or two before we need to run the final leg up to Annapolis.

Our long term thinking is a bit more complicated, but we are happy with what we have come up with.

There are several factors that affected our decisions. First, we do have to take two shore leaves of about six to eight weeks each, one in the fall and the other in the spring. Second, we do have some destinations we want to make, such as the Bahamas, the Florida Keys, New England and even the entire Gulf Coast ICW (Texas by boat. What a concept.). Third, we do have some investments in the boat we would like to (or have to) make which could preclude us from doing the other things. Lastly, I find that at least for myself, I like to keep on the move. The investments in the boat are divided into two categories: things we would like to do (petty cash expense) such as new flooring, upgrading some of our salon furniture and adding satellite tv, and things we might have to do (capital expense) such as getting a new bottom job with the same heavy duty covering that we have on now, new top canvas of which there is a lot of, and maybe even having to get a new generator. Our current genset was evaluated back in Savannah with the diagnosis that its probably got a year left on it, which to us is totally believable. 

So here's the plan. (all dates are flexible)

We know we will be in Annapolis until August 15th. From there we will then explore the east side of Chesapeake Bay through the end of August. During the month of September we will start heading south with ending up at Myrtle Beach as our goal. We will leave the boat there for our shore leave during the month of October. We will then return on November 1-ish to continue on south to Florida someplace to jump over to the Bahamas for the month of January, 2014. We will then go back to Florida to either Vero Beach or Titusville to leave the boat for shore leave from February 1st-ish to the end of March. We will then start the trek back up north perhaps for New England.

Of course this is all predicated that we do not have any major repairs such as the generator crapping out on us and needing to be replaced. Or that as we have the boat pulled out at some point for a bottom inspection and we are confronted with having to get a complete bottom job done. Or when we consult with a marine canvass company (most likely in Myrtle Beach. The canvas does need to be replaced. We probably won't be able to avoid that expense.) and it costs a zillion dollars. If any of these things occur, especially the generator needing to be replaced, our cruising plans are pretty much going to get scrapped in favor of the repair. That's life. That's boating.

Anyway, we are very comfortable with our thought process. We are also comfortable with our plan. We have met quite a few boaters that never have a plan from one day to the next even so much as to where they are going to spend a night and that's fine. Lisa and I can be very spontaneous but we pretty much are planners. We have a motto: We are very flexible so anything is feasible. So we start with a plan and modify, modify and modify to fit what new challenges confront us. 

Anyway, back to Hampton

Our stay at Hampton Roads Public Pier was very nice and comfortable. Jake and Maxwell, the dock masters, are superb. The docks are in terrific condition and the facilities are very good. As we discovered in our extended stay in Norfolk last year there is a ton of cool stuff to do in the area. But unlike last year when we depended on public transportation to get around we rented a car this time.
There are two major points of interest that we visited.

We made the drive up to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia to get a glimpse into the past. It is however a rather odd place. To me it was straddling the line between being a living museum with all of its shops and docents, and a modern attraction of some sort. It was better at the former than the latter. But it was very interesting and educational. There were hourly reenactments of the town folk (docents in period costumes putting on little plays about revolutionary incidents), a parade with two different fife and drum corps, and docents
Stinkin' Redcoats!
walking around helping visitors learn as much about the times as possible. We were extremely impressed with the level of expertise that these people had. When we visited the millinery shop (dressmaker) there were three young ladies sitting around actually sewing pieces of garment. Never being one to pass up an opportunity to learn a thing or two more about something I asked her some pretty detailed questions about cloth importing during the war. She was quickly able to make a full explanation about how it all worked – about how the colonialists had lots of time to place and receive large quantities of fabric from England before the imposed embargoes when into affect. We also visited the print shop. As both Lisa and I have a background in the printing industry we were eager to see this. The craftsman there was very knowledgeable about the subject. One interesting aside from our meetings with the craftsmen and merchants was their use of the phrase of the “art and mysteries” of their professions, as if this was the way the people of that time period would describe the assimilation of their knowledge about their chosen craft. 

We highly recommend that when you cruise into the Hampton/Newport News/ Norfolk area that you rent a car and make the trip to Colonial Williamsburg.

The other attraction of note is really not an attraction per se but the quasi-historical Fort Monroe that guards the entrance of the Norfolk harbor on the north side of the entrance. I say quasi-historical because it is certainly historical being one of and the largest of the many shore protection forts that line the east coast from Maine to Florida, but it was also up until September of 2011 a fully commissioned and operating US Army base. It is now run by the National Park Service. Driving to the fort from Hampton takes only ten minutes.
A Moat!!!
The very first thing you notice are the beautiful homes that border the the outer road. These were the homes for the top brass on the base. There is also a very formidable main street where the main buildings used for the commands at the base were located. But the main attraction of the area is the old fort itself. The walls are massive with only a few narrow bridges and wall openings in which to enter... and of course it is surrounded by a massive moat. Yes, a moat...just like a castle. Inside the fort walls there is the Casemate Museum. A casemate is the fortified artillery placement within the walls of the fort. It is a foreboding place with low ceilings with heavy stone construction. (One piece of history fact – during the Civil War it was always under Union control.) Also inside the walls of the fort are more homes and condos that are for lease. Imagine, living in a fort with a moat. I like it! It is a very cool place. 
Yes you too can lease a home inside a fort, inside a moat!

The Casemate

"Honey, I'm going to cut the lawn and change  the water in the moat!"

We finally left Hampton on Monday July 8. It was a bit rolly but otherwise a good cruising day. We are at
Dozier's Regatta Point Marina in Deltaville. Of course the weather is being a bit problematic. There is a stark dividing line at the Potomac River which is just north of here. South of the Potomac the conditions are ideal. North of the Potomac and up past The Solomons, our next destination, it is not so hot. Friday looks like the next good day to go. So here we will wait.

Anyway, like I said at the top, I had more pleasant things to say.