Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mill Creek and Karissa's Graduation

After waiting for a ferocious thunderstorm to finish its business with Norfolk, we hauled anchor and nine hours later pulled into Mill Creek by the Great Wicomico River, where we will build our home starting in the Spring of 2011. We spent a few days visiting our property and checking out the construction of our friends’ home on the lot next to us, and their resident nesting eagles.
Fortunately, our feathered friends have been removed from the Endangered Species list, and the Wildlife officials deemed our pair acclimated to human presence. As a result, there was no delay in the Tillman’s progress.

After living on a 44 foot boat for three years we realized that the previously developed design plans for our future home needed to be thrown out the window. We met with our architect, Bill Prillaman, at his new abode and kicked around our current vision. Plans by August. (I would be completely happy if Bill just duplicated his home on our property. It is a gem.)

Then, off to Jimmy and Kathie’s to get ready for Karissa’s college graduation requiring a long drive to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York (about 12 hours with stops). Following the ceremony where Karissa received her BS in Management Cum Laude, we feasted at Terrapin near Rhinebeck, another long drive but a gastronomic event, as usual when hosted by my brother, the wino-extraordinaire.

We stopped in NJ on the ride back for a few days and caught up with our Inn-keepers, the Lands, great friends and hosts. An appointment with my rheumatologist resulted in his determination that I am in remission, cessation of the prednisone after months of tapering, and a discussion that I might be able to drop the methotrexate if all continues well. Ah, I can savor the expanded cocktail hour already.
Peter met with his hand doc and we are set for minor surgery to correct a trigger finger some time in June.

It was great catching up with family and we are back at Mill Creek. We have been enjoying straightening First Edition out for summer cruising while we await the weekend arrival of the Tillmans on their boat. Then, we plan a week of 'vacation" with them before we finish off the month of June cruising the Chesapeake.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Alligator River to Coinjock to Hospital Point, Norfolk

We left the G39 anchorage at 0640 and arrived at Coinjock Marina at 1415. We have made a ritual out of stopping here to fill the water and fuel tanks and wash down First Edition. It is an easy side-tie, and there is a restaurant at the marina serving copious portions of typically fried seafood, or cowboy sized portions of inedible prime rib. This is clearly just our opinion, because cruisers rave about the chunk of meat.

Next day we took off at 0730 for the most excruiatingly painful ICW segment, 5 bridges requiring opening (two on the hour only, even on the weekend) and one lock. Bridge tenders did not disappoint us and continued to display their ill-humor, seeming to take delight in holding everybody up and shouting their mantra over the airways "heh, you last sailboat there, better pull it up close or I'm not opening the bridge". The Great Bridge bridge tender shut the bridge on us with less than 5 minutes on our approach, so we tied up along the free dock which fortunately was open to wait for the next hour.

While here we had a visit from Paul and Claire from Our Turn, docked at Atlantic Yacht Basin nearby, and they got to witness the failure of the Great Bridge Lock to shut after we were all tied up alongside. Four sailboats and eight power vessels sat for an hour and a half while the lock folk tried clearing debris that apparently was jamming up the works. Finally upon exiting, we learned that the next bridge, right around the corner, would not open for 45 minutes so we did the bumper car thing once again.

We had hoped to catch up with Troubadour at the Old Point Comfort anchorage, but at 1730, pulled into Hospital Point with room to spare, too exhausted to try for another 10 miles. If you read the guidebooks you will be discouraged from using this anchorage, but we have found good holding and by the time you arrive, and if you leave the next morning, you won't be experiencing the wakes they talk about. But you are right smack dab in the middle of the Norfolk waterway.

Tomorrow, onward to our property on Mill Creek...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mostly I've Got Friends

There is a song by Eileen Quinn, a former cruiser and musician, that really sums up the cruising life: "I've got seashells, I've got souvenirs, but mostly I've got friends". We have been so blessed with all of our new friendships with each port giving a new opportunity to make acquaintances. Some are fleeting, some you know you will keep a lifetime. Some are very special, and you know it within moments of meeting. This is the best part of sailing.

We met Maj-Lis and Don from Toronto on Blue Blazer two years ago, and our paths have crossed for short visits many times. We shared two Thanksgivings, formed the Royal Hog Cay Yacht Club together, organized the very best pot luck and drinkfest during our passage of the Dismal Swamp, mastered the game of Pig with Briar Patch, huddled around Blue Bay during the Obama inauguration, and we unexpectedly ran into them at Cedar Island by Adams Creek, NC a few days ago. We then travelled with them and new friends, Erik and Judy on Bravo, to the G39 anchorage past Deep Point by the Pungo River. And then we had to say a final goodbye, as Blue Blazer plans to "swallow the anchor" and become land lubbers once again.

This is the hard part about sailing. I have seashells. I have souvenirs. But mostly, I've got friends.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Not Every Day is a Holiday

Left Wrightsville at 0630, this is really getting sorry getting up so early without time for breakfast. But today we have one of the dreaded days where we need to open four bridges as our mast is too tall to clear them. This stretch has currents running faster than Mario Andretti, lots of shallow spots, and distances between the bridges that are impossible to time. So, you go like a bat out of hell, run into a bad current, and then realize you will not make the bridge that only opens on the hour. So, you waste time drifting, hopefully avoiding skinny water and the other boats with the same predicament.

This gets really interesting when your engine starts sputtering. Like today. For some reason, our new engine will not tolerate fuel that is even a little bit dirty. We bought this very cool gauge that is supposed to tell us when we are about to have a problem, but the thing does not work. Didn't when doing the night crossing into Nassau, and isn't now.

We get through one of the bridges, pull over, and anchor. Captain changes the Racor filter and we are good to go. Until we need to ramp up the RPM and the cough, cough returns. A ha! This has happened before. Need to change the engine filter, which we then agree to do once we reach port. This requires us to run very slowly, and an adverse current does not help our situation.

While waiting for the final bridge, we need to put the engine in neutral and we both feel and hear loud "clank clank clank" from below. And it is very loud, and very scary sounding. Solution: stay out of neutral until we reach port in a few miles.

Upon arrival, Peter discovers a loose bolt on the engine mount, tightens it, and hopefully has taken care of Mooch doing the shimmy. Engine filter replaced. We'll see how we run tomorrow.

Peter decides to change the oil while he is at it, and then run the used oil into Casper's dock that we are anchored off of (needless to say, cocktails are delayed this evening). Mack the Merc outboard won't start.

This sailing life isn't always fun.

But it is interesting. During this trip, we heard this load roar and looked behind us. A fleet of Navy inflatables hell bent for election were coming upon us, and slowed slightly as they came abeam. It was so cute to see some of the sailors trying not to smile as we were giving them thumbs up, while others (the ones manning the mounted rifles) didn't seem quite so stiff and enjoyed our greetings.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Butler Island to Little River to Wrightsville

We left Butler Island at 0730 and had an uneventful day motoring until 1700, after stopping for fuel at Cricket Cove, fueling right on the waterway. We had hoped to see one of the gondolas overhead carting golfers from one green to the next at Myrtle Beach, but saw only water slides and Golden Arches, not a common sight on the bucolic Carolina ICW.

The Little River anchorage is very small, there were about 5 boats there and at that, it was crowded. Based on what I saw, depth at low tide at the entrance would be around 4 feet, with better water inside. I would not come here again unless it was very early in the day to be assured of a spot, and I would only do it near high tide.

For that reason we left at 0620 the next day for our trip through the Rock Pile and the most notoriously shallow spots in all of the ICW, Lockwoods Folly and Shallotte Inlets. I ran an internet search before leaving and hit upon a cruisers site that had a posting that both had been dredged in April, relieving most of the anxiety. And the dreaded Rock Pile, a 3 mile stretch of narrow waterway lined with threatening rocks just beckoning your bottom, turned out to be a big nothing too. But, there was little traffic on this day and I most certainly would not want to be facing a barge coming through here.

We took the Shinn Channel into Wrightsville which is a piece of cake compared to the Mott entrance.(As a matter of fact, when leaving through the Mott the next morning less than one hour after high tide, I saw 7 feet of water, with a range of 3.4 feet to drop at low.) As usual, by 1500 there was no anchoring room in the preferred anchorage, but plenty of space closer to the Shinn Channel if you don't mind picking your way through crab pots and moorings.

Happy Mother's Day!

Got a great Mothers Day present with a call from my "best little friend", Amy, daughter of my friend Vickie. Amy gave great greetings and let us know she just graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Georgia. Amy will be doing a summer program with NOAA and then graduate school at UVA. Amy has always called me her "other mother" because my dear friend is good at sharing (and Amy and I look sooooo much alike :)!

Congrats Amy! We love you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Settled at Butler Island on the Waccamaw River, SC

We departed Brunswick Landing Marina at 0730 with Paul from Our Turn handling our lines. Only good friends get up at this time of the morning when they have no intention of leaving the dock. We originally planned to transit to Charleston, but along the way decided to extend the trip to Winyah Bay, South Carolina, and possibly even further to Wrightsville Beach in NC. When it looked like the winds preceding the expected cold front would pipe up to 25 gusting 30, I convinced the Captain to opt for Winyah. While he agreed, he was not happy. As a result,I developed a world class migraine.

We are rushing now to get to our dock in Virginia to meet up with Jimmy and Kathie for my niece's college graduation, so Peter is anxious. One of the things you are never supposed to have aboard a boat is a schedule. Sometimes, there is no way around it.

We arrived at Winyah inlet, South Carolina, at 14:30 the following day (31 hours later). Fortunately, the current was flooding so we rode the favorable current for two hours up to the Lafayette Bridge. We had hoped to put some more miles behind us once in the Waccamaw River, but we were both beat and This is a very good spot because you can arrive late and find plenty of room.

Anchor was down at 1705, and we shared the spot with only two other boats.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Brunswick, Georgia

We left St. Augustine for a trip on the outside, leaving at 8:15 and arriving at 4:30that afternoon at Cumberland Island, Georgia after bucking a strong current at the St. Mary's inlet. We had planned to see the wild horses and shell the next day, but after listening to the weather, and watching the ice drip in the frig, decided to head to Brunswick up the ICW. Here, we hoped we would find some one to look after our failed refrigeration, and spend some time with Claire and Paul on Our Turn.

Fortunately we were near high tide for most of the trip up the ICW. We saw deep water the whole way until we got to Jekyll Creek, where we saw 5 1/2 feet, at G19. Peter thinks he may have failed to follow the range with that buoy, but beware, we were one hour after high tide. I don't think we'll do this stretch again.

Six hours later we arrived at Brunswick. No shrimp this trip, at the season has been delayed due to the cold winter weather. Usually the docks have a few shrimpers alongside, but this time, accommodations were full up.

In the Fall we had stayed at the Brunswick Landing Marina, and we took a slip here again. Our Turn had arranged to have Lester Forbes (912-638-6536) install their SSB, so we asked that Lester give us a recommendation for a refrigeration guy. The first day that guy was sick, the next day it was so hot that they needed to take care of their contract customers, and then the next day Lester himself decided to take a peak. On board 15 minutes, he diagnosed the problem, just in time for the $130 per service call plus time and materials guy to show. Anyhow, it was an expensive stop, but we are back in business and have room for food instead of ice in the frig. Incidentally, this was not a Frigoboat problem, but a shoddy installation.

To celebrate, we had dinner with Claire and Paul at Cargo, a top-notch restaurant within walking distance of the marina. But our chariot awaited us, in the form of Lester's borrowed Red Neck Mobile.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Touring St. Augustine

When we were here in the Fall we had little time to do justice to the history of St. Augustine, so this trip we became tourists, paying $18.99 each for a trolley tour. This excursion allowed us to get on and off the “train” at the various stops, and we spent all day seeing the city.

As Peter is a fort freak, we began at Castillo de San Marcos, in front of which First Edition was anchored both this time and last, constantly beckoning our visit. This fort, one of several I have lovingly toured with my husband, was built in 1672 by the Spanish. It looked like every other fort we have seen, regardless of who built it.

Lunch was followed by a brief stop at the Fountain of Youth, and then we sat out the tour to experience the architecture of the city.

Incidentally, ignoring the broken refrigeration did not work. It is still on the fritz, and we are going to have to do something about it sooner or later.