Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fall Comes to the Chesapeake

September 3, 2013
A couple of weeks ago I was awakened by a small flock of geese honking noisily as they circled “The Haven” in Swan Creek just west of our marina.  While the temperatures continue to hover near the 90’s in the afternoons the telltale signs of fall are approaching. Last week we anchored for a couple of nights in a protected cove of the Magothy River. Each morning a building flock of Tree Swallows flitted between our mast and spreaders and those of another boat anchored nearby. By the second morning they literally covered our superstructure and fought for landing rights.

The realization of fall’s approach hit home yesterday afternoon.  As we walked down the docks another couple on a boat nearby asked if we’d seen the Bald Eagles circle over the pool this afternoon.  I said we’d missed them, responding with a question, “Are the Ospreys gone?”  Our eagles typically hide in the woods all summer until the Osprey’s head south.  Sure enough, their familiar cry was missing at dawn this morning as I sat in the cockpit with my first cup of coffee waiting for sun to appear.

The cloud cover remains this morning and a north wind precedes the approaching cold front that is predicted to arrive tomorrow from the upper Midwest. I don’t know how the Ospreys choose their departure.  In previous years I’ve watched parents encouraging fledglings circle higher and higher in the towering thermals of the late summer afternoons just before they disappeared.  This year I missed the signs but remember the ritual. 
A few hours later we took a drive into Chestertown and leaves from the Remington woods swirled in our truck back draft. Temperatures are in the sixties at night now, high temps are a moderating and the breeze is picking up. Sad to see summer end, we look forward to fall sailing.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

You Can Never Have Enough Light Houses: Up the Bay to Rock Hall, June 21, 2013

Our trip home was sped up, blown along if you will, by a change in the weather and a string of strong storm threats. Sadly, we abandoned our plan to explore the Outer Banks and headed for home- one tropical storm brought us to our senses. Besides, we missed our families.

Sailing Pamlico, Albemarle and behind Curritick sounds were classic: choppy, shallow water, strong winds and grey skies. We chose the Virgina Cut, complete with a Prime Rib dinner with sailing friends at Coinjock. Then it was a long day to Norfolk but weather improved and we looked forward to a few days of rest and great restaurants, provisioning and more exploring of this area. Mile zero was behinds us!

But, an eye on all of our weather apps warned us winds were picking up in time for docking in Norfolk, not exactly our best experience as winds howled inside the marina. By the time we settled in for the night it was apparent the best day in the next week was the next one, so with regrets we cancelled our slip commitment, left the dock at seven in the morning and made way to Deltaville. We made great time, riding the tide, and we were able to sail, our goal for the Chesapeake leg of this trip. However, making Deltaville meant hunkering down for three rough days of strong winds and rain. Once the initial storm blew out we still had two more days to wait for favorable tides and winds for the leg to Solomons Island which includes the mouth of the Potomac River, notorious for a mind of its own. One night in Solomon's and we were off for home port. Seas on the Bay ran three to five feet which simply meant we were tired when we reached home but we did manage to sail most of the Bay. June 21, 2013, seems like ages ago.

It didn't take long for us to need a road trip (or three.) We have visited grandkids and spent a few days in Lewes, DE. Sadly, the winds here have only been sailable on days we have made other commitments. The dog days of summer have set in but I'm sure we will find ways to take Promise out, especially with her new coat of wax and her Intercoastal mustache gone!  In the meantime, enjoy these scenes that welcomed us home to the Chesapeake and Rock Hall, Maryland.

Our Baltimre Light just north of the Bay Bridge.

Green Seven, we are getting close.

The infamous mustache from traveling the Intercoastal Waterway

Captains Log Recap: The great trip to home port, Miami to Rock Hall June 21, 2013

We know of several people following our blog  who are planning their own trip south in the near future, so I kept better notes on our trip home this spring to share. We left Dinner Key Marina at Coconut Grove, Miami, FL on May 8th, and arrived back at our “home port” of Rock Hall, MD on June 21.  We’d waited several days after our land trip up to Washington, DC for a good weather window, and when it finally came we headed up the coast with plans to stop in Ft. Lauderdale or continue to Lake Worth Inlet if the weather allowed. As it was we picked up the Gulf Stream and even though there was not enough wind to fill our sails, we passed Lauderdale by lunch and were through Lake Worth in time to head to North Lake Worth for an anchorage, our only night on the hook for the trip. 

Most of you know that we are creatures of comfort; we’ve become marina hoppers so that we can plug in the AC and rest assured that if it blows or storms we’re safe and sound.

Well, here’s some details that some of you may be interested in:

Travel days total:                    44

Days we moved the boat        24

Statute miles covered (approx)          1245

Speed (avg.)                           7 mph/6.4 knots

Engine hours                           177

Diesel fuel (Gal)                                  227

Fuel Costs                               $870

Fuel consumption (gal/hr)       1.3

Marina fees ($1.50-2.50)        $4,000

Was it a great trip? Yes! But it’s good to be “home” too. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Peace, Love, and Fishy, Fishy. Southport, NC. Mile Marker 309

For every tropical storm, there is safe port and a new set of friends with whom we can weather watch. For Andrea, we holed up at Barefoot Landing Marina (Myrtle Beach, SC) for three uneventful days. Winds were modest, though the swing bridges did not open because winds surpassed twenty five miles per hour. The storm headed inland more than expected so we were spared strong conditions, and while we do not favor Barefoot Landing as a destination, the buildings blocked much of the winds.

Today we cast off at 6:30 am to run two swing and seven fixed bridges, the “rocks” and “ledges,” and New River, Shallotte, Lockwood’s Folly Inlets.  Mission accomplished, winds calm at 6-8 knots, and the sun after the storm was welcome. However, five minutes from our stop in Southport, NC, the winds kicked up to 15-18 knots because the marina sits across from an inlet and river entrance. The marina said they had 45 mile an hour sustained winds all day yesterday and today was nothing. They made docking a breeze though we are a tad exposed on the face dock.

Southport is an absolutely perfect-for-movie-making kind of town, and that’s why we wanted to stop here. There are several restaurants, a cute viable town, a waterfront and tourist stops where movies have been shot, all on a picturesque walk from the marina.  Every house is cuter than the last, with live oaks and hydrangeas, gingerbread and picket fences. The most recent movie filmed here was Safe Haven in 2012. We played tourist and loved it, starting with lunch at Fishy, Fishy, a fish dive recommended by Coastal Living. This is one stop I would highly recommend. A super marina experience made the day complete.
View of the harbor

The movie company built this Ryan's Port Market at
the harbor, then burned it in the film.

The roads all lead down to the water.

Alex's cottage in Safe Haven.

This bar served as Katie's place of employment in Safe Haven.
The mural was painted for the movie.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Charleston to Tropical Storm Andrea, Mile Marker 354

There is no place like Charleston, to visit that is. We have never been to Charleston this late in the year so the heat and humidity were a shock to us. It turned out this was the first week of an annual celebration of all the arts, Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto. The later is a series of events and venues open to the public without big ticket prices, the goal being something for everyone. Because we did not know of the seventeen day festival soon enough, we were unable to secure tickets to music events which appealed to us.We did however enjoy an amazing performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream performed by the the Bristol Old Vic and Handspring Puppet Company, the group who brought you War Horse on Broadway! The play was one of many performances in the recently restored Dock Street Theater, an establishment as old as the city itself. It was magical, as were the free events we took in. The city was crowded with destination Spoleto guests but everyone's spirits were great, awestruck and happy.

Fortunately we had made restaurant reservations well in advance, and even then we had to settle for second choices or odd times. This trip we ate at Husk (getting too uppity because of their reputation: watch out Sean Brock and staff!,) High Cotton, Magnolias, and the Palmetto Cafe, which was our favorite. Palmetto is in Charleston Place Hotel, owned by the Orient group who coincidentally owns the Inn at Perry's Cabin in St. Michael's near our home port. They were even gracious enough to give us recipes. We found the tempting cuisine and the heat a poor combination, but we were grateful to have this opportunity.

We had a different quest this visit to Charleston, to seek out examples of art by Jonathan Greene, and we were very successful. We are huge fans of his Gullah interpretations in vibrant colors and low country themes. Charleston Place was decorated with his work, there were tile murals in the City Market Place, the Gibbs Gallery has just completed a showing of his work, and we found the gallery owner who represents him. If you keep your eyes peeled you will see his work in unusual places. Unfortunately we had poor luck with our own photography during this visit because of the crowds, the light always being wrong, the French Quarter being of narrow streets, etc., until we just gave up and enjoyed the views. Sometimes, its a good thing to do.

We cast off on Sunday, June 2, at first light and mid-tide which we needed to get past Isle of Palms. This was so tricky it made the Georgia stretch look deep! But, we successfully arrived in Georgetown that afternoon for a three day stay based on inaccurate weather forecasts for the next few days. While in Georgetown we rented a car to visit Pauly's Island and spent a day at Brookgreen Gardens. The 900 acre gardens were established by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington (1931) in the footprints of four former rice plantations, one of which was the home of Vice President Aaron Burr's daughter and her plantation owner husband. Anna needed a warmer climate as she had tuberculosis, and she was a sculpture of high regard. Hence, the gardens showcased her work and that of prominent sculptures, some quite recent. There are two indoor galleries as well as ponds, outdoor installations, a zoo, and more. Be careful where you walk, native species of all kinds roam free, including venomous snakes, alligators and bear. We enjoyed a trekker trip to a plantation homestead and the Alston cemetery, but we did little walking about!

Across the modern highway is a South Carolina State Park with beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean. Here the Huntingtons built a less than attractive structure (called the Castle?) which survives hurricanes despite being mere yards to the Atlantic's door.  In Moorish architecture, the hose was built without a plan, and the owners employed only local labor is its construction. Atalaya means watchtower, and the structure had one, not for protection but to hold the water supply.

By Wednesday we were anxious to move and to be secure before weather set in. After passing through the "rocks" or ledges we tied up at a face dock at Barefoot Landing. No amenities but several loud restaurants, and other boaters to keep company, waiting out tropical storm Andrea. The forecast is ever changing but our captain says being here until Saturday mid-tide again will get us favorable water for the upcoming inlets.  Good time to read, catch up on writing, plan the rest of the trip. We are now competing with fishing tournaments as well as seasonal boaters for out slips and space on the waterway. Arrrrg!

We will be safe though a little rocky if the storm ever gets here. Do not worry :). 

When we say low water,
we mean low water.

In Charleston Place.

Fish dive in Murrels Inlet.

Reading the Paper in Detroit
Brookgreen Garden

Original plantation wall and gate
in Brookgreen Garden

Cemetery Gate

Resurrection fern, resurrects itself with rain.

She especially loved horses,
and a big scale.

Anna designed the iron work at Atalaya.

Look how close Atalaya is to the beach!

Jonathan Greene at the market.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Charleston Mile Marker 470

We made Dataw Island by noon on Thursday the 28th of May. Our experience crossing Port Royal Sound was a smooth one, so different than last year. While on the sound we heard a transmission from friends we've been trying to catch up with as they docked in Port Royal following a 22 hour run.  It was bitter sweet to move through Port Royal to Dataw without that stop but we knew they were too tired for company. We expected them later in the day but I think the weather was perfect for an ocean run. Glad you are home, Jeff And Marjorie, we'll miss you. Once again, it was a "we should have done the outside!" moment.

But we slogged on to Dataw, arriving at noon. Docking was ok though swift current is the norm here. We took advantage of our early arrival to wash down Promise as the salt crust was building up. Time to rest, then a pleasant surprise.

The marina itself is older but has floating docks. The Sweetgrass Bistro restaurant above the marina feels newer. What a delight. We are fans of everything low country, especially the food. The food here by a local chef was amazing and the setting serene, porch rockers, screened porch for dining and live oak surroundings. We enjoyed "Pluff Mud Cake" for dessert- the locals didn't know why we didn't recognize this milk chocolate pan cake with pecan chocolate ganache frosting. Well, that's because we didn't know that thick muddy soil that we curse on the waterway in South Carolina is the fertile, rich soil that once grew Carolina rice during the 1700 and 1800s and it is known as pluff mud. Hence, the rich chocolate cake name.

We knew we had to have that recipe, it was google to the rescue. Not only did we find the recipe by the Sweetgrass chef and the history of this dessert but we found a link to a new cookbook, Shrimp, Collards, and Grits by Pat Branning. It's a coffee table book of recipes, stories and art from the low country originally published to celebrate a centennial in Beaufort. A quick call to the restaurant before closing, a second hike up the dock at low tide, and this book was in our collection. Watch out friends and family, we are practicing our "ya'll" and planning low country menues to keep this genteel feeling alive.

The palm trees have been replaced by miles of sweetgrass and live oaks draped with Spanish moss. The colors in the low country are sky blue, and every shade of green. It is restful to be here, even if challenging to move between towns because the runs are so long.

There is no rest for the homesick so we cast off at daybreak, 6:20 or so. The herons, egrets, and osprey in the air, the crabs in the pluff mud were the only ones up as we left today. We played with dolphins on and off and only saw a handful of boats all day. Our biggest challenge was the entrance to the Ashepoo Coosaw River Cut which we found to be barely five foot. We knew tide was low but this was scary. We had to make the McKinley Bridge at low tide, and we did. With a tide of 6 to 8 feet, we can safely say that this bridge was never 65 foot because three hours before high tide it read 64, and this is the fourth time we have had this experience. The great news is that we had 67 feet at both the Limehouse and James Island Expressway  bridges later in the day. We lost thirty minutes waiting for the Wapoo Bridge opening, but Charleston welcomed us at 2:15 this afternoon, just off the high tide. Two passes to get in our slip and tying up never felt so good. We are tired, need provisions and a good dose of art, history and, yes, low country food so we will stay a few days.

End of the day
Dataw Island, SC.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Into South Carolina MM 557

Coastal Living Magazine includes Sunbury Crab Company in this year's list of the 22 best seafood dives in the country, and the only listing in Georgia. While it is accessible by car, the restaurant is on the hill above the marina by the same name. Now, if we rated Lang's Marina a two out of ten, this marina is a one as there are no real shower facilities. Water depths of 24 feet dockside were offset by swift current, even four miles up the wide and pleasant Medway River. Would we reoccommend Sunbury? It certainly was easier and safer than Kilkenny Creek anchorage we stayed in in the fall, and you can plug in- a bonus in the Georgia heat and green fly season.  The large crowds here for fresh catch and the band are testament to good food- by seafood dive standards. By the way, Timotti's in Fernandina, FL, and J&J Seafood in Rock Hall, MA,  make the same list. This was the best of the three.

Today was another seven am departure to facilitate our passage of Hell Gate at high tide. Mission accomplished. Then we had to slow down considerably as we feared the tide would be too high for the under-construction-high-rise bridge at Thunderbolt. No bridge boards :(. We have passed mile marker 600, half way through the ICW and only 900 miles from home port! 

High tide or low, you can't have it both ways. At the end of ten and a half hours we pulled up to the gas dock at Hilton Head Harbor Marina. The description of  twenty feet of water at the docks was misleading. There is twenty feet at the gas dock, but only two feet in the marina at low tide. The gas dock it is! It's only one night, right? So what if the restaurant is closed on Mondays, we know fifty ways to make pasta after a long run like today. 

It will be an early night because its an early morning tomorrow. We are off to Dataw Island, then on to Charleston for a rest and great food. We feel fortunate to have this great weather so we are making the most of it. Dolphins swan with us all day today and swam under the boat  after we docked, spouting to get our attention. The sunset here in South Carolina was gorgeous. At the end of the day those two things make up for any flaws in our travels. We know how lucky we are. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Images of Fernandina Beach, FL and Cumberland Island, GA

What would have been your entrance to Dungeness,
The Carnegie Home on Cumberland Island.

The beauty is in the remaining details.

Like there wasn't beauty all around, this pergola was built
to walk through to appreciate the grounds.

One is prohibited from walking inside Dungeness since it burned in 1959.
Knowing it is home to snakes and larger animals like bear and bob cat
is also a deterrent.

Wild horses roam the ruins and the beaches
where they beg from visitors.


We can't ignore the happy fisherman!
It was Rick's last day to use his
Florida License. His guide put him
onto Red Fish, though he had to
put his fly rod away to land a few.

Fernandina Light
from Fort Cinch State Park.

The Coast Guard has turned the Light over
to the town of Fernandina.
It sits in the center of a housing development
and appears unappreciated,
though well maintained,
because it is not accessible to anyone.