Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Every Picture Tells a Story Mile Marker 285

Today grew cloudy in anticipation of a cold front due by dinner time. We experienced lots of iffy, skinny water all day as we crossed small sounds and creeks with unmarked shoaling. 
We had to time three swing bridges carefully, and we clinked on a highway bridge at 64 feet. Otherwise, it was a straightforward day with lots of diversions.

The view from our stern before dawn at Dudley's Marina.

The birth of a new inlet compliments of Sandy.

Efforts to dredge the ICW and patch that dune/inlet above.

Gypsies in the Palace?

The pelican rookery next door.

Sometimes they close the ICW
for target practice at Camp Lejeune, but thankfully,
not today!

Someone had a really bad day.

Nothing says "Buy my house." like a giraffe on the lawn.

Does the giraffe come with the house?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Mile Marker 200

The view from the cockpit on the Nuse River

The Club House at River Dunes.
The home on the corner of Grace Harbor at River Dunes,
guest house on the right.

Our traveling companion, Black Night,
through our enclosure windows.
Like everyone else in America, Rick and I have much to be thankful for. We were in a safe marina, albeit with winds rocking us out of the north for a week, and the crowd, new and familiar, were all interesting sailors. We have kids who keep in touch with us and each other, and friends and family who follow us. We have a safe vessel, great prospects for adventure and memories. AND we are grateful for our enclosure this fall!

On Tuesday, November 20, we drove to Washington, DC, for dinner at Micah and Leslie's house. It gave us a great memory of family and a nice break off the boat (aka a city fix I need now and then.)  It was bittersweet to turn around and drive back to North Carolina but we left at dawn on Friday- no shopping for us. A bonus to this car trip were several sightings of whistling swans in farm ponds as we got closer to the coast through cotton and tobacco fields.. We provisioned along the way and prepared for an early departure in the morning.

Our trip included bumpy trip across the Nuse River off the Pamlico Sound and a one night stay in River Dunes at Oriental, NC. We made a leisurely trip back in the ICW to Beaufort, NC,  and were greeted by our first dolphin sighting as we approached town. It has been very cold so we were disappointed not to see the wild ponies across from the marina. Bird sightings were limited to Pelicans and Green Night Herons at the dock. It was another one night stay in Beaufort  Today we make a short run of 25 miles, minding two bridges for tides and current. Coupled with the inlet here in Beaufort, that's enough. We are officially on the Crystal Coast, testimony to the sparkle on the water, white sandy beaches and the beginning of the Palmetto tree parade.

Beaufort Town Docks
A cute town, a handful of restaurants,
and a chance to walk on land!

I know some of you wonder about our perseveration with the wind. After all, we are a sailboat, right? The issues are speed and direction. Winds on the nose slow us down considerably and if they are strong, make our ride unpleasant. Winds behind us are great, but not when they reach 30 knots and there are 2-5 foot following seas. You can enjoy a bump in speed, ride down some waves, but some waves will just hammer you, all requiring hand steerage by the helmsman. Wind off our quarters are great. Unfortunately, the last full month has been high winds over our sailing limit so our days with more than a stay sail (for stability) have been few. Fortunately, it is easy to run that sail in and out with our in-mast furling system, no going up on deck in a blow. The worst would be no wind, for then sailing is not an option and the days are really long. Rain is predicted Tuesday, maybe into Wednesday, but the winds seem to be far off shore so we are thinking we'll just keep moving on. We hope to make Charleston in a week if this good weather holds.

And yes, David, my air card helped me get this post out today while I sailed past Moorehead City. Thanks for always keeping track of me.

Give us this day our daily dolphins.
just past the Beaufort inlet, Bogue Sound, into the ICW.
I think they are enjoying the sunshine, too.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mile Marker 1 to 132: Windy Days . . . and How to Make Things Comfortable

We were so excited to leave Norfolk, or to get underway on the ICW ,that we could barely sleep. Day one began with the infamous Gilmerton Bridge. Twenty boats circled for an hour but the bridge opened on time at 9:30, half peeled off on the Dismal Swamp route, the rest traveled with us to the Great Bridge Lock. Taking the Virginia Cut took a full day and one lock off of our trip. We connected with some of these new travel friends at Coinjock Marina for traditional Prime Rib dinners and a good night's sleep. The cool temps and strong northerly winds left us exhausted. Before we could feel sorry for ourselves, it was morning; clear sunny skies spelled even colder temps and stronger winds as we crossed Albamarle Sound and the Alligator River, all with following seas and 25 knot gusts.

One night at the Alligator River Marina was enough, we were off again at daybreak. The Alligator River runs to the Pungo River Canal where we had an experience of a lifetime. It's too cold for alligators but Miss Wanda at the Marina said it was bear season- and she was correct. In the middle of the canal Rick spotted a log, no wait, a young black bear cub swimming across the bow to safety on the other shore. By the time I came up to see the excitement, the momma black bear was following the cub to the northern shore, scrambling up the banks and into the woods. Each bear glanced back over a shoulder to glare, or at least confirm we were not chasing them!  

There was little time left to wonder about the bears, it was time to prepare to clear the infamous Wilkerson Bridge, an oops by the Army Corp: the bridge is only 64 feet and we have a 63'10" mast. So what does one do to prepare? Run down the fuel (tank on the starboard side,) keep the starboard holding tank empty, move the sewing machine forward to port, then take long hot showers while underway to empty the starboard water tank. Last, we both sat on the port side and held our breath. In our estimation, we made it by just two or three inches, but that's enough!

It was a really nice day, until we crossed the Pungo River heading into Bell Haven and the Dowrey Creek Marina. Skies darkened, winds and waves kicked up and we began to dread docking. We have NEVER been this challenged, six tries to get in the slip from either approach! The staff here is great but they cannot change the winds.

We were in our slip by 2PM, more than ready to get off the boat and enjoy happy hour. Consensus is this blow will last until Tuesday and everyone changed plans. We spent all of Sunday watching football with other sailors, a good excuse to get land legs back and get off the rocking boat. It looked like our plan to reach River Dunes in Oriental and our rental car for the holiday was in jeopardy so Rick set us up to stay here for a week and moved our car reservation to this area. Thanksgiving guaranteed, we can relax. After the holiday it doesn't matter when we get anywhere else.

The world is really small, or we know too many people :). Returning from a day in Washington and Bath, NC, we came down the dock to find Braveheart and our friends Cynthia and Steve with their children on their way south! We will have a chance catch them again in Charleston.

High seas, strong winds and cold temps were not our favorite details about the trip. But before you "feel" for us, we remind you we chose this adventure, and except for the holiday, we don't put ourselves in discomfort and we never put ourselves at risk. But how do we stay comfortable, you ask. Start with heat on the boat and aim for marinas when weather is snotty. Wear your favorite pearl earrings and get a little help from your friends: Bobbie Brown, Jo Malone, Henri Lloyd and Sperry Topsiders. Above all, travel with a great captain who makes good decisions and enjoys creature comforts, too. This should be fun, and it is for us.

The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

You Know You Are in Norfolk When . . .

Saturday the 10th dawned very fall like, cool, sunny, and colorful. We topped off at Spring Cove and motored out to the bay. Our winds were dead on the nose, hence a change of plans not to push to Norfolk but stop for one night at Dosiers in Deltaville. On Sunday we had another south wind with rolling seas and bright sun. We motored to York River Yacht Haven in Gloucester, VA, and just relaxed for the evening off the boat. It had been a day of sun glare and pounding by that south wind. In case you remembered, like my friend Anita did, this is where we first met snapping shrimp. Good news, they are much quieter right now. It appears it is winter for shrimp, too.

Monday was a more interesting day. Don't misread us, uneventful is always good. But today we had company on the Bay as well as coming up to Hampton Roads and the Elizabeth River to Norfolk. We pulled into Waterside Marina by 2:30; would you believe we have a bit of a sunburn from three days in the cockpit? Where did we lose that sunscreen when it got down to 36 degrees?

We love Norfolk. So much to do, the art options are plenty, notable restaurants,  we can walk to a full mall with theaters . . . and the town is very accommodating. Tuesday morning brought forcasted rain and winds so we went to Harris Teeter with two other sailing couples. That makes groceries fun and provides a chance for us to swap plans, local knowledge and maybe be a guide this year, as we are on our second voyage south. We will be here until Thursday because NOAA calls for strong winds another day.

You know you are in Norfolk when . . .

Wolf Trap Light

and the neighbors who live there.

Favorite fishing spot: Thimble Shoal Light 

The Navy Fleet in Norfolk, VA

Watching out for traffic

And the real workhorses of the waterway,

McAllister tugs!

Friday, November 9, 2012

We ARE Sailors

When you have spent the season at the dock you begin to doubt yourself. Are we still sailors? The answer is a happy YES!

It was light out but still rough when Rick announced today was our departure day. I had time for a first cup of tea, hasty oatmeal and then it was foul weather gear, complete with gloves and scarf. I took my place on the deck and began to untie lines. The wind blew 17 knots as Promise left her slip and we raced to beat low tide. Departure time, 7:15 AM. Bright skies, strong winds, an empty bay. We were riding the outgoing tide and the seas got a boost from the waters released at the Conowingo Dam at the northern end of the Bay. At one point we made 9.6 knots, and we never fell below hull speed all day.

They call the "dodger" the dodger for a reason. We took water over the boat and the dodger all the way to Annapolis. Once we passed the Bay Bridge and Annapolis, things calmed down considerably. We were able to sail most of the way to Solomons Island. A handful of boats joined us in the afternoon and followed us into Spring Cove Marina. We were tied up and washing the boat down by 3 PM, and we are ready to eat dinner out.

It felt so good to feel the boat beneath us. Every splash, every seagull and fish trap felt familiar and comforting. The boat handled beautifully, and we didn't do so bad either! It just felt good to sail for a change.

Tomorrow, Deltaville, VA, followed by Norfolk on Sunday.

A view of the Annapolis Bay Bridge through our salty dodger window.

We shot down the Bay with a NW wind behind us, which took us back to Thomas Point Light, 
an old favorite of many, a reminder of times past.
It is the only surviving screwpile lighthouse left on the Bay.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Still Waiting

We thank all our friends and family who worried about us with back to back storms, the second nor'easter due Wednesday with snow and freezing temps.Yesterday, minutes before we donned our foulies, we realized a first day on the bay being beaten by strong winds and sea and then staying in a marina for two or three days made no sense. It was a mutual decision to say here until the end of the week. The good news is that meant one more dinner in Annappolis with sailing friends, a couple of local adventures in Maryland, then warm temps and pleasant winds blow in by Friday and Saturday. We will attempt a push down the bay then. Stay tuned to the weather!