We had exceptionally warm weather while in Annapolis, close to 80 degrees on several days, but the Thursday morning of our departure it was pouring rain with a forecast of very cold temperatures around the corner. Initially we wanted to cruise the Eastern Shore and hang out in St. Michael’s and Oxford, but the pending forecast led us to charge south.
We motor sailed the entire day in the rain and arrived at the Solomon Islands just after sunset. I was a bit discouraged when we discovered that our auto pilot was not working. I had become quite dependent on this little piece of gear, especially during those long watches. Our GPS down below that interfaces with all the B&G electronics had stopped working a few weeks ago and we thought maybe the two problems were related.
Friday November 7th, 2003
Technology Is Good, But Have A Backup!
We woke up early and were happy to note the cold front hadn’t arrived yet. We had a good breeze out of the northwest and wanted to sail about 35 miles to Peter Kane’s river house on the Great Wicomico River. Peter and Susan’s house is right on the water and just west of Sandy Point. There is a good protected anchorage with lots of room and decent holding ground just north of their house.
Pierre and I were both relieved when our auto pilot started working again. Earlier we had looked for possible causes of its failure but had found none. We called Garmin to find out about getting the GPS repaired and were told they don’t repair the 210 model anymore. It’s only five or six years old so we couldn’t believe they couldn’t fix it. The man said they don’t have parts for that model anymore. Well, at least we still have our hand-held GPS.
We had a great day sailing and arrived just before sunset. We got the dingy in the water and motored over to Peter’s house for a grilled chicken and shrimp dinner and nice hot showers. We would have loved to spend the night in the house but Pierre didn’t want to leave our boat unattended, especially since 25 knot winds were forecast after midnight.
Saturday November 8th, 2003
Lunar Eclipse At Sandy Point
After a nice dinner with Peter we loaded up in the dinghy for a cold, windy and wet ride back to our boat. Patrick cried most of the way. He did not want to leave the nice, warm house. It was a clear night and we had an exceptional view of the total lunar eclipse from our boat.
The wind was howling and it was much colder when we went back to Peter’s house the next morning. It was fun to just hang out, do laundry, surf the net and just relax.
Hurricane Isabel hit this area pretty hard and there are still remnants of downed trees, damaged docks and blue tarps over several roofs.
Sunday November 9th, 2003
A Chill In The Air? No, Just Freezing!
The temperature dropped into the high 20’s during the night. Our boat cabin was in the mid 40’s when we woke up; surprisingly warm considering we don’t have heat.
The next day the boys and I ventured out with Peter in his 17-foot homemade, wooden dead-rise skiff to fish his crab pots.
The boys were excited as Peter pulled the first trap on board which was loaded with blue crab.
They counted the crabs as each trap came on board and loaded the bait for Peter.
We collected about 90 blue crab from twenty traps. This was a great catch considering Peter does this for a hobby.
His real profession is as a real estate broker in Northern Virginia and the Northern Neck.
After a delicious crab feast, we headed back into the cold and motored back to our boat. The plan is to get an early start and try to make it all the way down to Norfolk, about 60 miles down the bay. We’re going to miss the comfort of a nice warm house and the fun times we had with Peter.
Monday November 10th, 2003
Give The Navy A Wide Clearance!
It was 5:30 a.m. when we hauled up the anchor and departed Sandy Point. We were not alone as there was a small fleet of commercial fishing boats coming out the Reedville channel. Their bright lights lit up the dark sky.
We were dressed in many layers as it was another cold and windy day. We had a nice westerly breeze blowing about 10-15 knots which enabled us to sail almost the entire 12 hours.
An enormous aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, was making its way into Norfolk harbor as we arrived. It had several Coast Guard vessels and a helicopter as its escort. A small Coast Guard boat raced along side our boat and advised us to stay out of the channel while the aircraft carrier passed. A large power boat obviously did not get this message as it came within 100 yards of the carrier. Immediately the helicopter swooped down and hovered over the power boat like a mother bird protecting its young. It was so low that it caused water to spray up all around the boat and then a Coast Guard vessel appeared and directed the boat out of the channel and detained the boat and captain for a few minutes. I’m sure the captain learned his lesson and will never get that close to a Navy vessel again.
As we motor sailed past battle ship row, we saw our friend Karl’s ship, the USS Gonzalez. It appeared to be getting ready to leave the dock as two tugs were at its side and a full crew waited on deck. We had talked with Karl a few days ago and he said they were going to be heading out Monday and would return Wednesday. We had made plans to have dinner with Karl, Beth and their children on Wednesday night. I wanted to try and contact Karl somehow and let him know we were sailing by. I tried his cell phone but there was no answer. Pierre reminded me that leaving a dock is a very busy time for a captain so it would be best not to disturb him. I still thought it would have been fun to blow an air horn and stand on the deck and wave.
We reached the Hospital Point anchorage, located on the Elizabeth River between Portsmouth and Norfolk, at sunset. We had good memories here as this is where we spent the Fourth of July.
Tuesday November 11th, 2003
Need More Warm Clothes.
We had time in the morning to sleep in and relax as our next destination was Great Bridge which is only a 2 ½-3 hour trek down the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW). It was a sunny, warm day as we strolled along downtown Norfolk. We made it to the mall to get the boys more warm clothes. Another cold front is on its way and I didn’t bring many warm clothes for them as I didn’t expect to be this far north in November.
I was amazed at all the boats heading our direction as we continued south down the ICW. There were six boats with us in the Great Bridge Lock. Just past the lock is a long dock which is well known as a “free” dock. We were lucky to get a space at the end of the dock and within minutes of our arrival the dock was full. There are no facilities here but it is an easy walk to stores, restaurants and the library.
It was in the low 70’s and sunny when we arrived but that wasn’t going to last for long. Gale force winds preceding another cold front were forecasted for Thursday. This section of the ICW is only about 80 feet wide. I was in awe when a tug passed by pushing a barge that was almost as wide as the canal. This was a great boat watching spot as every vessel heading north or south on the ICW passes by here. Many were luxury motor yachts and sailboats heading south like the migration of birds. Several flew Canadian flags.
The people on the sailboat in front of us were a middle-aged couple, Tony and Peggy, from Monterey , CA who have been cruising for 1 ½ years. They spent the summer working in Annapolis and were now Key West bound. The trawler in front of them was owned by an elderly couple, Ed and Audrey. They have been together since they were 19 years old and have been boating for most of their lives. Unfortunately, Ed’s health is deteriorating and they are going to have to sell the boat. They were moving the boat south, to Little River, SC. Audrey took to Thomas and Patrick immediately and within a couple hours she had them on her boat eating Goldfish and drinking O. J.
Wednesday November 12th, 2003
Boy Overboard; Thomas This Time.
We took advantage of the nice weather and decided to get another coat of varnish on our rails. When hadn’t put anymore varnish on since we left Deltaville over four months ago. We had applied three coats then thinking we would have time to add more coats as we sailed north. It’s best if you can apply at least seven or more coats. We could already see areas on the rails where the varnish had deteriorated. It took us several hours to sand the rails and apply a coat of varnish.
Thomas and Patrick entertained themselves along the rocky bank while we worked on the boat. Thomas was balancing on a log that extended down to the water while Patrick watched. Soon after I had warned them not to do that, I heard a hysterical scream. Patrick was on shore crying and screaming “Thomas, Thomas.” When Pierre arrived, Thomas was pulling himself onto the rocks from the water. He emerged drenched and with a smirk on his face and didn’t appear the least bit rattled. Once again those life jackets came in handy.
After working on the boat all afternoon, we took showers for the first time in several days. After all, we were having dinner with Karl and Beth tonight, a good reason to freshen up.
We walked to a nearby Italian restaurant where Beth was waiting with her five children. She said Karl was still at the ship and might not make it to dinner. She was a little worried since the kids outnumbered the adults but we all survived and Karl made it after all. I told him about passing by his ship on Monday and he said we could have hailed them on Channel 13 or 16. He is busy getting ready for his ship’s six month deployment to the Mediterranean. I’m not sure whose going to have the tougher job, Karl on a ship with 300 crewmen or Beth at home alone with five children.
Thursday November 13th, 2003
A Quiet Refuge From The Winds.
There are signs on the dock that say there is a 24 hour limit but so far no one has moved since we arrived two days ago. Now, the winds are gusting to 35-40 mph so we won’t be moving anytime soon.
We took a walk to the library with the boys. The City of Chesapeake has a wonderful library. I received an email from the Norwegian sailboat Hermine. They were in Beaufort, NC and planned to head offshore for the US Virgin Islands in a couple days. The library was a great place to take refuge and wait for the nasty weather to pass. We spent four hours there. There was a lot of police activity in the area as the Lee Malvo trial was taking place across the street from the library.
Friday November 14th, 2003
The Winds Keep On Knocking.
We wanted to depart today but once again gale force winds kept us at the dock.
Saturday November 15th, 2003
Deep Point, Alligator River
We got up early and were the first to leave the dock at 5:30 a.m. We planned to cover about 80 miles today and anchor south of the Alligator River.
By mid-morning we stopped to top off our fuel and get a newspaper in Coinjock , NC. We wanted to make it a quick stop but were delayed when we saw Ed and Audrey pull up in their trawler Alcor. The boys ran over to their boat as it approached the dock and we spent a few minutes chatting before heading out.
Thomas and Patrick do surprisingly well on these long days. While Pierre and I are in the cockpit, they are usually down below playing with their trains and cars, coloring or doing puzzles. They will stay below for hours and then eventually come on deck and hang from the halyard lines or bounce on the dinghy or fenders like a trampoline. By the end of the day the cabin looks like a tornado hit it but at least they are entertained.
We made good time sailing across Albemarle Sound making 7 to 7 ½ knots on a 10-15 knot westerly wind. We arrived at our anchorage off Deep Point at the southern end of the Alligator River by 8 p.m. There were several other boats anchored here.
The Chunky’s Beef Stew we ate for dinner tasted surprisingly good given the late hour and our fatigued state.
Sunday November 16th, 2003
Adam's Creek, Oriental, N.C.
It was just before dawn when we raised the anchor and made our way towards the entrance of the Alligator River-Pungo River canal. We reached the canal entrance just as the sun rose covering the port sky in a pretty pink. The destruction of Hurricane Isabel was clearly evident down this narrow 23-mile canal. The banks were covered with fallen trees for miles. Proceeding west on the canal, it wasn’t long before we could see four or five sailboats approaching us from behind. The terrain may be rural but the canal was active with many pleasure boats making their way south.
My ability to navigate the waterway has improved greatly compared to my initial outing in June. With so many shoals and shallow areas on the waterway, it is crucial to follow the marks carefully and not deviate from the channel. There are many instances where the channel is narrow and the current may force the boat out of the channel so it is important to look ahead, as well as behind when at the helm. There is no relaxing at the helm here as you always need to be looking for the next mark, watching the depth sounder and looking out for traffic.
We had another 80 mile, 13 hour day when we dropped anchor after dark in Adam’s Creek, across the Neuse River from Oriental, NC.
Monday November 17th, 2003
Pardon The Intrusion.
We arrived at the Morehead City Yacht Basin by late morning. We topped off on fuel and walked up to the Sanctuary Seafood market and purchased fresh flounder to cook for dinner.
We dropped the hook in Swansboro, NC by late afternoon. There were two other sailboats anchored here and within an hour of our arrival we became intimate with one of them. We were surprised when we came on deck and saw our bow sprit within a couple feet from our neighboring boat’s stern. A man appeared on deck and casually said “Pleased to make your acquaintance.” We apologized, picked up our anchor and reset it.
We thought we had set our anchor well and were amazed it had dragged over 100 feet.
Tuesday November 18th, 2003
Wrightsville Beach, N.C.
It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day as we cruised along the ICW on our way to Wrightsville Beach, NC. This section of the waterway is gorgeous with its deep green water and miles of salt marsh. We were entertained by several groups of dolphins playfully swimming off our port.
A cold front with gale force winds is forecasted for tomorrow so we want to tie up to a dock. We were surprised when we got on the radio to find that all the marinas in Wrightsville Beach were full when we arrived at 4:30 p.m. Obviously, because of the bad weather forecast. We eventually ended up on the fuel dock at the Dockside Marina and Restaurant.
In the evening we got together with Pierre’s cousin Cay and her husband Peter. They have lived in Wrightsville Beach for over 25 years. We were treated to a nice seafood dinner and gave them the nickel tour of the boat.
Wednesday November 19th, 2003
A Rainy Day. Laundry And Errands.
It was windy and rainy most of the day so we were grateful when Cay and Peter invited us to come over to the house for the day. I did several loads of laundry and worked on the journal while Pierre ran errands with Peter.
Weather permitting, we plan to leave in the morning. Our route will take us down the Cape Fear River and then possibly offshore to Charleston or Savannah.
Thursday November 20th, 2003
Time With Myself
It was a mild and sunny morning when we left the dock in Wrightsville Beach and motored south along the ICW. We reached the entrance of the Cape Fear River, south of Wilmington, in about four hours and headed offshore. The day couldn’t have been better for sailing. We were on a broad reach with 10-15 knot winds, making about seven knots. At this rate, we should reach our destination of Charleston, S.C. in about 21 hours.
Our overnight, offshore trips remind me of competing in a triathlon or some other endurance race. I feel the need to mentally psych myself for the long night ahead, especially when it is cold and wavy.
I try and get an hour or two of sleep before starting my first three hour night shift. It’s tough now because the sun goes down early, making the night that much longer. With the autopilot maintaining our course, I try and pass the time alone in the cockpit listening to news/talk or music stations on our XM satellite radio. The satellite radio has been a wonderful source of entertainment for us and has crystal clear reception even far offshore. Keeping an eye out for ships and other traffic, plotting our course hourly and daydreaming help pass the time. I find myself staring at the stars often, wishing my astronomy acumen was such that I could recognize more than the Big and Little Dipper. I vow to get a book and start learning the constellations.
Friday November 21st, 2003
Tell Me A Story
Its 5 a.m. when I wake Pierre out of a sound sleep for his second shift. He tries to persuade me to stay up and watch the sunrise with him. All I want to do is to crawl into my warm, cozy bunk and fall asleep, knowing in a few hours I’ll be back in the cockpit again. It would be nice to be able to sleep the next day but with young children on board that never happens. They are a fulltime job.
I feel a warm body and realize Thomas has snuggled against me. It’s 7 a.m. A few minutes later, Patrick appears. They want me to tell them a story. My mind is foggy but I try and think of something interesting to tell them. They aren’t picky so I tell them things that happened to me as a child, like the time I got a rowboat for Christmas or when I jumped off a boat and tried to swim with dolphins but they swam away. I want to go back to sleep but now they want breakfast. And so the day starts again. No time for sleep now.
When we reach the entrance into Charleston harbor at mid-morning, I feel like I have just finished a triathlon. My body is fatigued but the trip was worth it, knowing that what we accomplished would have taken us almost three days if we had stayed on the waterway.
We went back and forth, trying to decide whether to stay in Charleston or continue on. Having been in Charleston many times, we elect to continue on. We cover about 20 miles on the ICW before anchoring in Church Creek, late in the afternoon. This will enable us to make it to Beaufort, S.C. by tomorrow afternoon.
Saturday November 22nd, 2003
Another Milestone, A Continuing Adventure
We left our quite anchorage just after sunrise for our 50 mile trek to Beaufort. My morning ritual usually consists of fixing the boys a simple breakfast such as oatmeal or cereal, brushing their teeth and getting them dressed. Pierre is at the helm, coffee in hand, listening to CNN on the radio. This morning the news is focused on the 40th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death. It’s hard to forget my birthday when it falls on JFK’s anniversary. I can’t believe I’m 40 today.
While motoring along the ICW a passing boat yelled “You’ve got dolphins.” I looked forward to see two dolphins surfing off our bow. The boys and I stood on the bow sprit and watched them frolic in our wake for close to 10 minutes. What a great birthday present!
We took advantage of the clear sunny day by sanding the teak rails on our deck and applying a coat of varnish while underway. We never seem to have time to get it done while at a port so this was a great opportunity to make some headway.
It was late afternoon when we dropped anchor south of the Lady’s Island Bridge off downtown Beaufort. The anchorage was picturesque with views of Bay Street and its stout moss-filled oaks and historic plantation homes.
We celebrated my birthday that evening with our friends Sue and Ron and their children, Owen and Rachel. It was a fun night that included bottle rockets and a sparkler display thanks to Ron and the kids.
I’m glad I was able to celebrate my momentous leap into middle age with good friends.
November 23-24th, 2003
Another Mail Call
Thomas and Patrick spent the night at Sue and Ron’s house which gave Pierre and me the morning to clean up the boat and go through our mail. We usually get our mail every three or four weeks. We’ve been using St. Brendan Isle’s mail service and for a small fee every month, they collect our mail, sort out the junk and send it on demand. The cost of shipping can be expensive, especially because of our magazines, but it is a convenient way to deal with the mail and they can ship it to us in a couple days. We usually try and ship it to a friend’s house but many marina’s will hold your mail if they are notified.
Sue, Ron and family came out to the dock to meet us for a tour of the boat. While on the dock, we heard a man cussing loudly from his sailboat which was anchored a few feet away. We learned that he had an outboard engine on a bracket which had just broken, dumping the engine into the drink. I guess his explicatives were justified.
We had plans to leave Beaufort the next morning but a quick trip to the library took longer than expected and before we knew it, it was afternoon. We ended up back at Sue’s, watching movies into the night.
Tuesday November 25th, 2003
Ralph Gets No Privacy.
|We couldn’t leave the Beaufort area without visiting Port Royal Landing Marina, just two miles south of town. This is where our trip commenced five months ago. It’s amazing that almost a half-year has gone by. It was nice to see the friendly marina crew again; Donna Butler, Larry Hines and the owner, Tom Wilson.
This marina is an exceptional place to keep a boat and they really made us feel at home. They have first-class facilities, a well-stocked marine store, restaurant and a courtesy car.
We reached the sea buoy at Port Royal Sound around 3 p.m. and plotted a course for our offshore trip to Fernandina Beach. We expect to arrive by early morning.
The light wind was directly behind us, making for a rocky night. I tried to fight off the seasickness but once again it came. When I was leaning over the rail, about to get sick, I glanced back to see Pierre and the boys staring intently at me. A person can’t even get sick in private. I have a few different over-the-counter and prescription seasickness remedies but don’t use them because I don’t like the drowsiness side effect. Luckily, once I get sick I feel a little better.
Wednesday November 26th, 2003
There were several dolphins swimming around us when came into St. Mary’s Inlet, just north of Fernandina Beach. Cumberland Island was just off our starboard bow. It was early morning when we arrived at the fuel dock at Fernandina, a colorful historic town. We took on about 40 gallons of diesel, topped off our water and ate a quick breakfast in town before continuing on. I would have loved to have spent some time on Cumberland Island but we needed to press on as we were trying to get to Jacksonville Beach by Thanksgiving morning. We wanted to leave the boat at a marina there and drive over to Brooksville, FL to spend Thanksgiving with my family.
||We left the ICW at Fort George River with plans to anchor off the Kingsley Plantation, a Timucuan Preserve under the National Park Service. There was a free dock that was part of the preserve that allowed vessels to tie up for an hour. It was early afternoon so we thought we could tie up and get another coat of varnish on our rails. After applying the varnish, I walked up to the Plantation house which dates to 1798. There were ruins of twenty-three slave cabins which were made of an oyster shell concrete. I couldn’t believe families actually lived there. The plantation was impressive but the slave cabins were a real eye-opener for me.
After getting permission from a park ranger, we decided to spend the night on the dock so we could make a quick exit in the morning and dash the twelve miles down to Beach Marine. Thanks to my Uncle John and Cousin Johnny, our van would be waiting for us so we could make it to Brooksville for Thanksgiving. Our goal was to leave the marina by 10 a.m.
Thursday November 27th, 2003
Thanksgiving Day With Family
We were up by 6:30 a.m. , ready to shove off the dock, only to discover that we were fogged in. So much for our precise planning. We thought we had everything covered in order to make it to Thanksgiving on time. Getting fogged in never even crossed our mind. It was frustrating knowing there was nothing we could do. We waited three hours before the fog cleared enough for us to make it safely to Beach Marine. We hadn’t showered in a few days so the boys and I were able to take a quick shower while underway. Pierre wasn’t as fortunate. We arrived at the marina by early afternoon, threw our bags in the van and made it to my sister’s house just as they were carving the turkey.
It’s been eight months since we’ve seen my family so the boys were extremely excited to see their grandparents, aunt and uncle and cousins. In addition to a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, I was surprised with a birthday cake and gifts. It seems to be a tradition now that I receive a thrill-seeker gift when I hit a major milestone. For my 30th birthday, my gift was a tandem skydiving jump; now, for my 40th, it’s a day at a race car driving school. I love speed and thrill-seeking activities which is why I sometimes question what I’m doing on a sailboat that travels six knots. I’ve had to program my brain to accept this slow-paced life, which at times, hasn’t been easy. I’ve met many people who wonder if they could be a long term cruiser. Having an easy-going, flexible and low maintenance personality is beneficial for this lifestyle. Living in close quarters day in and day out can be tough for some people. Pierre and I do great together which I attribute to giving each other sufficient space when the opportunity arises. He may take the boys to shore with him for a couple hours or I might send him off to shore on his own to explore. It’s crucial to have some time alone when possible. Having crew that mesh is important as Pierre learned from his days as a delivery skipper. All it takes is one slightly uptight person to take the harmony and cadence out of a passage.
Being a nomad also takes getting used to. This east coast trip has been a whirlwind for us. We covered a lot of ground and usually moved every couple days, rarely spending a week in one place. Sometimes it feels like a vacation that never ends. We’ve discussed this and feel that things might be easier once we can spend a month or more in one place. There are times where I miss the routine of living in a home, such as barbequing in the backyard or visiting with the neighbors, but our existence now affords us things that can’t be attained from the traditional lifestyle. Experiencing new places, meeting people from all walks of life and dealing with the elements that nature dishes out gives living a new meaning.
November 28-30th, 2003
Time Ashore Catching Up With Family And Friends
Spending the weekend with my family gave us a nice break from our boating life. Eating lots of good food, having the boys entertained by their cousin Forrest and seeing old-time family friends made for a very enjoyable visit.
I would have loved to have spent more time with my family but we needed to get back to Victoria, who was sitting at a slip at Beach Marine. At $55 a day, we wanted to try and shove off by Sunday afternoon but by the time we got back to the boat, it was too late to make it to an anchorage so we decided to spend one more night. For me, staying in a marina is nice because of the amenities that come with it, such as showers, laundry facilities and internet access. As fulltime cruisers, marina’s are a luxury and a place we rarely spend time. Purchasing a new dinghy and outboard at the start of our journey was money well spent. Since we anchor out most of the time, we needed something reliable to get us into shore. The 10-foot hard bottom dinghy and 8 hp Nissan engine was an excellent choice for us. We use it as frequently as one uses their car. It makes us feel good knowing we can anchor for free and be within a short dinghy ride to interesting places.