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We left Onset Bay with full fuel tanks and thanks to a day of intermittent rain, full water tanks.  Up and out early, timing the tides for a favorable current through the Cape Cod Canal, we were also in the company of a bit of fog.  We’d best get used to this as we hear it’s quite prevalent during the summer months in Maine.  We managed to not hit any bridges, nor did we collide with any of the sizable vessels that also transit this canal.  Seven miles later we popped out the other end into Cape Cod Bay after a brisk run.  Not only did we make good time in the canal, but we saved a lot of time by not making the trip around the hook of Massachusetts.

Since we were making such good time, we opted to continue on to Boston.  Along the way we caught a few lighthouses.  One was Plymouth Light, although at some distance so not a great photo.  We got a closer look at Minot’s Ledge Light a couple of miles off Cohasett MA; although the water was dead calm at our arrival, I couldn’t help but wonder what climbing the ladder from a boat to gain access to the tower would be like in less favorable conditions.

On our way in to the Boston area, we had some decent views of the infamous Boston Harbor Light.

We passed on visiting the city this time, but enjoyed a lovely evening on the hook in Portuguese Cove off of Peddocks Island.  We had no idea that there were so many little island in Bostons’s outer harbor, thirteen in fact, but only six of them are accessible/open to the public.   The sunset over the city skyline did not disappoint.

P1060604 sunset over Boston

sunset over Boston

The real highlight of our time in Massachusetts though was catching up with cruising friends Tara and Brian, usually of s/v Scout.  For a couple of months though, they’re volunteering as lighthouse keepers on Baker’s Island MA.  Baker’s Island is very private…  and much to the dismay of the local HOA, the Essex National Heritage Commission who currently own Baker’s Island Lighthouse finally won a their court battle a few years back and the lighthouse is now open to the public for tours.  The Assistant Keepers Cottage is also available for rent.  We were thrilled though that Tara and Brian invited us to stay over with them in the Keepers Cottage.  We had a fabulous time with them touring the island, and just generally catching up.  Bonus points for Tara for taking us ashore to Manchester-by-the-Sea for a provisioning run before we took off.

Our timing also had us on island to see some baby seagulls; the Herring Gull chicks were about 3 weeks old, the Great Black-backed chicks a bit older.  Hopefully they survive the neighboring black lab that apparently terrorizes them.

 

Another day of motoring took us past several more lighthouses (named in the captions).  Our last night in Massachusetts waters found us anchored off of Rockport MA.  This morning we crossed into Maine.  I’m still more than a bit surprised that we’ve actually made it.

Wrapping this up at the York Public Library as phone service/wifi in the mooring field is essentially non-existent.  Off to do some exploring…

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Sailing Sounds

Long Island Sound, Block Island Sound, Rhode Island Sound and into Buzzards Bay… we’ve covered some distance this week, but also paused for several days for our very first Gam.  More on this in a bit.  From Port Washington, after a brief pause in Port Jefferson, we headed across Long Island Sound to Connecticut… where we’ve visited by land but never by boat.  From here on out, its new territory for us.

Our first impression was less than positive when we were waked hard by a ginormous sport fisher as we passed through the breakwater entering the Connecticut River.  It rocked us so badly that a Brita pitcher of water (that ordinarily lives quite safely on a silicone mat on the galley counter) got tossed, crashing to the sole (floor).  Our sole is teak and holly laminate insets screwed into the fiberglass mold beneath… with gaps all around the insets (not a great design) where the contents of said pitcher promptly found its way.  While our Cheshire was still rocking I mopped up what I could, but after getting the anchor down a bit later it was time to unscrew the floorboards and do a deeper cleaning.  We don’t do this often so as not to strip out the fiberglass screw holes and in fact had never done these two pieces… the galley and sole in the forward cabin.  Major yuck, but all clean now.  Filed under “it’s not all sunsets and rum drinks”…

Just prior to being waked and a few days later on our way back out, I managed to get some shots of the couple of lighthouses that mark this entrance to the Connecticut River. Looking at the photos later, I was intrigued by the differing perspective, inbound vs outbound.

Inbound, with Saybrook Breakwater Light in the foreground…

P1060477 Saybrook Breakwater and Lynde Point Lights CT

inbound, Saybrook Breakwater and Lynde Point Lights CT

… and outbound with Lynde Point Light on the right.

P1060488 Saybrook Breakwater and Lynde Point Lights CT

outbound, Saybrook Breakwater and Lynde Point Lights CT

I have to remind myself sometimes when photographing these caisson style lights (Saybrook Breakwater Light is one) that in years past, lighthouse keepers and their families actually lived in these structures.  This one is at least within sight of land; many are not.  A bit of research led me to a New York Post article from last year detailing plans for this one to be converted to a clubhouse for its current owner’s grandchildren.  Lynde Point Light on the other hand, belongs to the Coast Guard and is not open to the public.

Not far from these lights, we tucked into North Cove near Old Saybrook CT where we picked up a mooring ball (provided by the town, overseen by the nearby yacht club and free for 72 hours).  After cleaning up our mess (see above), we went ashore and had a lovely walk about town complete with a pause at Penny Lane Pub to celebrate our 7 year anniversary of moving aboard our Cheshire.  The following morning we ferried bikes ashore and enjoyed a nice pedal around the area, and visits to the local hardware store, a grocery and Denali, a nice outdoor store with locations around CT and RI.

From Old Saybrook, it was only a short run up the Connecticut River to Essex for the SSCA Gam.  What is a gam you might ask? From Merriam-Webster…

But what is a gam? You might wear out your index-finger running up and down the columns of dictionaries, and never find the word. So says the narrator, who calls himself Ishmael, of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. These days you will indeed find “gam” entered in dictionaries; Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the noun “gam” as “a visit or friendly conversation at sea or ashore especially between whalers.” (It can also mean “a school of whales.”) Melville’s narrator explains that when whaling ships met far out at sea, they would hail one another and the crews would exchange visits and news. English speakers have been using the word gam to refer to these and similar social exchanges since the mid-19th century.

I thought the reference to whaling was appropriate as we’re on our way to Maine.  In any event, this gathering was one of a number of annual events put on by the Seven Seas Cruising Association, in addition to a scattering of weekly/monthly breakfasts/lunches that some local groups host.  We caught a few of the lunches while in Marathon a few years back, and joined a breakfast in Punta Gorda last winter.  The Essex Gam though was our first.

This gam was a fun combination of informal potluck gatherings, a dinner with a keynote speaker (Paul Farrell, author of “Tugboats Illustrated”), and two days of talks on everything from cruising destinations (the Great Loop, the Northwest Passage and the Windward Islands),  to weather (finally got to meet the infamous Chris Parker in person), to boat bling and maintenance (canvas work, sails, rigging, etc.).  We skipped out on a session on how to choose and maintain an inflatable dinghy… irrelevant for us with our indestructible Portland Pudgy.  Instead we met cruising friends Dawn & Paul of s/v Bubu3 who were in the area by car for an awesome Sunday brunch at the infamous Griswold Inn, said to be the oldest continuously operating tavern in the USA.

IMG_5437 brunch at the Griswold Inn, Essex CT

brunch at the Griswold Inn

There was supposed to have been a US Coast Guard Search and Rescue Helicopter demo, but it got weathered out due to a low cloud ceiling; apparently they’re pickier about weather for training exercises than for actual rescues.  We did get to poke around a smaller CG vessel though, which was a bit different (more high tech and more armed…)  than when Mike was doing small boat stations on the south shore of Long Island many moons ago.  The weekend wrapped up with an after hours potluck at the nicely done Connecticut River Museum.

Following our several day pause, we were anxious to get moving again.  There’s certainly much more to explore along these coasts of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and we hope to be back at some point, but for this season we’re on a mission to Maine.  We had a lively sail to Point Judith RI, a harbor of refuge along this coast.  Along the way though, we skirted New York waters again on the north shore of Fishers Island and got a shot of Latimer Reef Light, another of the so-called Coffee Pot or Spark Plug” style lights.

P1060500 Latimer Reef Light NY

Latimer Reef Light NY

Point Judith has an interesting history.  In the early 1900’s the state dredged the breachway and the Army Corps of Engineers built a 3-mile long stone breakwater on the outside.  Those who are interested will find a bit of history here.  The Google Maps screenshot below captures it well.  We were a small boat amongst much larger commercial traffic and ferries upon our entry, but found a nice anchorage on the pond.  Point Judith Light is an active Coast Guard Station, so there’s no access by land, but I did get some photos on our way out the following morning.

From Point Judith RI we made our way east and northeast into Buzzards Bay headed for an overnight in Hadley Harbor in the Elizabeth Island chain of Massachusetts, where we shared an anchorage with a most interesting vessel, the SSV Tabor Boy.   A ninety-two foot, gaff-rigged, two-masted schooner, it belongs to Tabor Academy, a boarding school in the area.  Beautiful boat, but they presented more than a little bit of a challenge as they sailed in repeating triangles around the entrance to the harbor as we approached.

P1060534 SSV Tabor Boy

SVV Tabor Boy

The following day we made a short run up to Onset Bay, along the way passing a most unusual Art Deco looking lighthouse, the Cleveland Ledge Light.  It was the last commissioned lighthouse in New England and the only one built in the so-called Art Moderne architectural style.  As of 2012 it’s now privately owned with plans for renovation as a vacation cottage, though it doesn’t appear as if much renovation is underway.  On the other hand, the nearby and more traditional Wings Neck Light is privately owned and apparently available for weekly rentals.

We arrived in Onset Bay, once again meeting up with cruising friends Bob and Sandra who we’d seen just a week ago in Port Washington.  Last night they treated us to an evening of dinner and games aboard s/v Carpe Diem.  Today we wait out some weather and plot our adventures to come.  As always, thanks for coming along and stay tuned.

 

 

Picking Up the Pace

After a week long wait in the Norfolk area, our patience was finally rewarded with a decent weather window for an outside run from Hampton VA to Long Island Sound. We headed out bright an early on a favorable tide, passing Thimble Shoal Light as we were leaving the Bay.  We also passed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, always a bit weird to know that you’re floating over a stream of land-based traffic.  Seas were calm, but unfortunately so were the winds, so we motored.  Sunday morning/Father’s Day brought another pretty sunrise.

After a weather check Sunday morning, tweaked our plans a bit.  The lack of wind dictated that we make a fuel stop, and a snotty forecast for the southern shore of Long Island the following morning had us deciding to pass on heading for Fire Island Inlet… we’ve done it before, but it’s best in more settled conditions.  Plan B, we’d stop in Atlantic City NJ to fuel up, then head up towards Sandy Hook and plan for a run up the East River to Long Island Sound.

After about 30 hours offshore, Sunday afternoon in Atlantic City NJ was more than a bit crazy. We opted for a stop at Kammerman’s Marina, a family owned and operated place, passing on a property formerly owned by Trump.  I also got some shots of  Absecon Lighthouse on our way into the inlet of the same name.  I’m guessing it was a more effective aid to navigation before Atlantic City was developed.  Still, nice that it’s still standing.

Mike did some calculations and decided that if we wanted to transit the East River through NYC on a favorable tide, we needed to slow our roll.  We were effective in doing so by spending the rest of the afternoon and through the night sailing in very very light winds.  At first light, we finally dropped the sails and fired up the Red Queen.  Romer Shoal Light (NJ) welcomed us to Lower New York Harbor.

We’ve been through the Harbor and East River once before, but in the opposite direction and much later in the day.  This time around we enjoyed a morning run, better light for catching some good photos and thanks to the Captain, our timing at the infamous Hell Gate was perfect.  As on our previous run, I was captivated by the bridges (works of art actually), the varied architecture, and an occasional lighthouse. Lady Liberty and the United Nations building stood as proud as before, but I couldn’t help but think about how much our political climate has changed (and not for the better imho) in the not quite two years since we last saw them.

By shortly after 1300, 55 hours or so after we hauled anchor in Hampton VA, we were on a mooring ball in Port Washington NY on the south shore of Long Island Sound.  This was a familiar spot for us as we spent several days here on our last trip, waiting out Hurricane Hermine which didn’t amount to much up here except to delay us a bit.  It’s quite a cruiser-friendly place with great access to town via two different dinghy docks.  In the day that followed we did laundry, topped off provisions and water, and revisited the yummy Ayhan’s Mediterranean Marketplace.  Arriving literally minutes behind us were Bob and Sandra aboard s/v Carpe Diem who we’d met several years ago in the Florida Keys.  Turns out they’ve done a lot of  sailing in Maine, so it was great to have them share their wisdom over dinner one night.

Next stop: Connecticut, new waters for us.  Stay tuned.

 

Portsmouth/Norfolk

From Oriental NC we made our way north, boat-camping our way up.  Although we love the Dismal Swamp Canal, for this run we opted for the more time-efficient Virginia Cut route.  We paused for an afternoon on the Great Bridge Free Dock so that we could make a provisioning run. (We’d provisioned up before leaving Oriental, but the grocery there is a small one, and we missed some things.)  In Chesapeake, we were disappointed to find that the very nice Farm Fresh grocery that was walking distance from the dock is no more; renovations are underway for a Kroger to open in its place.  I do hate to see the Mom & Pop and even regional chains get squeezed out.  Speaking of squeezed, we had some company on the dock, though only one of the boats pictured (the one forward of our Cheshire) actually spent the night.  It’s a bit unusual to see vessels of this size ($$$) on a free dock forgoing power and water.

20180608 Cheshire on the dock, Great Bridge, VA

Cheshire sandwich, Great Bridge Free Dock

We’d hoped to pass through the Portsmouth/Norfolk VA area and head offshore without much delay, but Mother Nature wasn’t having it.  The local weather was lovely, but further north we’d have run into some snotty stuff.  We opted to wait for a better window.  Turns out we had plenty to entertain us while we waited; it was Norfolk HarborFest week-end.  We’d missed the Parade of Sail the previous day, but what a treat to watch a great fireworks show while relaxing on our bow.  Of course we had plenty of company.  Hospital Point is a popular anchorage for cruisers moving north and south, but for this occasion it was jammed with all variety of floating stock.  Mike counted 150 boats. (There were exactly 6 one week later/this afternoon when we departed.)  It was a calm evening or some of these floating messes could have been hazardous in such tight quarters.

Our few days of waiting for weather spilled into a few more days of waiting for mail.  These days we receive very little via snail mail, but when our credit union unexpectedly issued new debit/chip cards, we decided to wait long enough to collect them. Fortunately there is plenty to keep us occupied in the area.  The Portsmouth/Norfolk area has plenty of ginormous vessels… tugs, barges, cargo ships, military vessels, a couple of which are now museums.  We decided to check them out.

We’d seen the Lightship Portsmouth a couple of years back, but with very limited open hours, we didn’t get an opportunity to tour the inside.  This time our timing was better.  Built in 1915, this vessel is over 100 years old, and the docent who gave us our tour isn’t far behind.   Find a bit more history here on the Lighthouse Friends page for this light.

IMG_5355 Lightship Portsmouth

Lightship Portsmouth

 

Elsewhere in Portsmouth, we had a great meal and some interesting local beers at Gosport Tavern, followed by a leisurely stroll around the historic district, very quiet on the Sunday evening we visited.  We were less impressed a few days later with Legend Depot Brewing.  This is a second location for a craft brewer who started in Richmond VA.  To be honest though, the food and beers weren’t bad; our bartender just couldn’t be bothered.

IMG_5358 I've Been Kissed, Portsmouth VA

I’ve Been Kissed!

The real highlight of our stop in the area though was our visit to the USS Wisconsin, a Navy battleship affectionately known as Wisky.  It’s always impressive to cruise through Norfolk, home of the Norfolk Naval Ship Yard where the Navy’s largest vessels are born/built, remodeled and repaired.  How appropriate then that the Wisconsin, said to be one of the largest and last battleships built by the US Navy, came to rest here to serve out the remainder of its life as a museum ship.

It’s been relatively recently that the ship came to be part of Nauticus, a science center and maritime museum.  It’s one of the more accessible military vessels we’ve toured, yet there are huge sections that they haven’t even opened yet to the public.  We enjoyed wandering about on our own, but also sprung for one of the behind the scenes tours, the guided Command and Control tour which just sounded more interesting to us than touring the recently opened Engine Room.  This mighty vessel served during WW2, the Korean War as well as Desert Storm.  (Option to click on the photos below for a larger view.)

IMG_5362 Battleship Wisconsin

big guns, Battleship Wisconsin

After hours aboard the ship, we pedaled about the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk for some exercise and errands.   Mr Shawarma was a yummy casual Mediteranean place where we grabbed some lunch.  We were also successful in getting Mike’s phone fixed, picked up our mail and wrapped up afternoon sampling some more local brews at O’Connor Brewing Company.  A quick stop at Harris Teater (awsome grocery store we don’t find often enough) and we were back aboard Cheshire.

Today we took care of some chores, including our first attempt at rebuilding a winch.  I’m pleased to say that no parts escaped overboard during this process.  We moved up to the Hampton area where we topped off fuel and made ready for an offshore run we’ll make starting tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Beekeeping 101

Although we spent most of our pause in Oriental this time through working on boat projects, we did manage to carve out some play time as well.  One of the highlights was a Sunday afternoon spent with land-based friends Mark and Linda who live locally.  We met them a few years back through some mutual cruising friends and later learned that they’re also beekeepers.  It just so happened that the timing of our stop in Oriental coincided with an extraction, and they were kind enough to invite us to help out.  Being the honey fiends that we are, we of course jumped at the opportunity.  One of our habits as we cruise is to seek out local honey, often found at farmers’ markets, but this would be our first experience with seeing the process up close.

When we arrived, cardboard had already been spread over the floor of their breakfast nook and a couple of stacks of boxes from the hives stood ready and waiting on the table.  I’ll apologize in advance for the fact that I probably won’t remember all of the correct terminology.  Although I’m guessing that beekeeping in general can be quite complicated, I was impressed with the simplicity of the extraction process.

Each of the boxes (white in the photos below) contain a dozen or so wooden frames that hang vertically inside each box.  The frame is where the bees make a comb that then houses the honey.  Frames allow combs to be removed for either inspection or extraction without destroying the colony, and once the honey is extracted, the combs are clear and ready for another go round.

We had a slight delay at first when it was discovered that a ball bearing, a critical piece of the cylindrical spinner thing/extractor, was missing.  Fortunately Mike keeps all kinds of spare bits, including in this case the ball bearings from our old auto helm wheel unit. A quick run back to our Cheshire and we were good to go plus had spares, a small price to pay for a sneak peak at the process.

With that sorted out, we got started.  Mark took a serrated knife and a smaller tool to each frame to remove the cappings, the waxy coverings over the comb, to give access to the honey, reserving the cappings/beeswax for another use.

The frames are then dropped two at a time into the extractor.  A crank handle on the top starts the spinning and centrifugal force takes over.  Mike was on crank duty for much of the afternoon.  I took a few turns, but the honey extraction process and photographing same are kind of mutually exclusive activities as you might imagine.

Eventually the honey gets deep enough in the bottom of the tank that it needs drained.  Here it’s double-filtered through stainless steel screens into special 5 gallon buckets with taps near the bottom.  This filtering screens out the miscellaneous bits of wax.

Eventually the honey is tapped into jars… liquid gold.  All told, we extracted about 12 – 13 gallons of honey in just this afternoon.  Of course we had to sample tastes of honey and bits of beeswax throughout the process.  Linda also made some delicious air-fried chicken wings to sustain us through the afternoon, complete with a killer homemade honey-sriracha sauce.  Unfortunately we ate them before I could get a photo.

Although we’d missed the original collection of the boxes, we did get to see Mark suit up to return the frames and boxes to the hives.

 

Many thanks to Mark and Linda for their hospitality, the Beekeeping 101 lesson and a quart jar of really yummy honey.  I now have a source in Oriental.

IMG_5306 Lori & Mark

 

 

As I sit down to compose this long overdue blog post, I’m having flashbacks to the confessions of my Catholic school days…

Dear Readers, it’s been 5 months since my last blog post…

In fact the stats page of this blog tells me that I’ve only written four posts in the past 12 months, which to be honest is a wee bit embarrassing.  We’re still out here and still loving our life on the water.  I guess I just haven’t been as inspired to write about it. More truthfully, my laptop/camera/i-Phone aren’t playing well together these days when it comes to photo download/editing. My onboard tech support guy tells me its a terminal problem, something to do with the ancient photo-editing software I’ve been using that’s apparently no longer compatible with the electronics I’m using. Last week I decided to break up with it, though I’m still getting struggling a bit with my new process. In any event, dealing with photos has been a PITA, and consequently writing a blog post with photos has become more frustrating than fun.

That said, I do want to fill in the gaps.  This post will bring us up to current times, and in the days/weeks to come, I’ll fill in the gaps, back-dating posts to maintain some chronology. My apologies in advance for the confusion this will likely create. Or maybe I’ll just chuck the whole mess into a creek somewhere.

My last post found us on the west-central coast of Florida during a winter cold spell.  As I type, we’re back on the east coast and making our way to New England in hopes of finding some relief from the heat, humidity and hurricanes that dominated our summer of 2017 spent in Florida.  In between we spent a very relaxing few months exploring the barrier islands of the Florida West Coast, followed by another stretch back in Vero Beach while Mike sorted out a foot injury, followed by an extended birthday celebration (mine) with friends in St Augustine FL.  Details on these adventures and misadventures to follow.

For now though, we’re back in Oriental, NC… our hailing port and one of our favorite towns along the Atlantic ICW. As we’re contemplating some time in Maine this summer, we’d been moving relatively quickly, at least quickly for us. In order to maintain some momentum, I’d resigned myself to a certain-to-be-too-brief stop in Oriental, that is until about 2 days out when the Captain announced he had a few projects in mind. Did I mention that it’s also a great place for boat projects? Plan B would have us here for a week, maybe two, which in the end turned into three. The projects had their challenges, but went relatively well, though the weather was less than cooperative with almost daily rain/thundershowers. No worries though; it just left us more time to catch up with friends here which is never a bad thing.

IMG_5291 bling in boxesPart of what makes these projects take so long is that we do much of the work ourselves. Thankfully the Captain is scary smart and willing to try just about anything, in fact prefers to do his own work as then he knows what he’s dealing with down the road… or stream as the case may be. This time around we’ve upgraded our radar, chart plotter and vhf radio (the latter of which now features AIS), and added a loud hailer. Mike had parts ordered within a couple of hours of our tying up at the dock and a few days later we had a pile of boxes of new electronics… we were committed.

 

For the next several days, the entire interior of the boat was torn up as we had to open up six different access panels to be able to pull old wires out and snake new ones in their place with a couple of new runs as well. Best we can tell these Geminis are assembled with no allowance for someone someday maybe wanting to do some upgrades; we ran into a couple of snags (pun intended) that stumped us for awhile, including a not-visible-to-us run through the salon and galley ceiling; we decided to sleep on it. Apparently that strategy was effective as Mike had a brainstorm in the night; when I woke to make coffee the following morning, I found him clad in only his headlamp, reading glasses and slippers poking around in the ceiling with a bit of wire. The photos will mean more to those who work on boats, especially Geminis, but you get the idea. Sorry, no photos of naked Mike.

Next up was tearing out the old equipment. Taking the old radar down required a couple of trips up the mast, specifically my hauling Mike up. The first trip was mostly to determine that the radar and mounting bracket would have to come down separately, and that the latter was going to take some work to get free. The second trip was to get the deed done. Unfortunately our mast light was a casualty of the process as well; Mike accidentally put a foot on it and sent it crashing down to the deck and with one bounce, it was over the side into the creek. Oops. Add that to the list.

IMG_5323 freshly painted mounting bracketWe decided that the mounting bracket was reusable, though needed a good cleaning up, an extra bit welded on to mount the new loud hailer, and of course some primer and paint. Fortunately there’s a very good welder onsite at the adjacent yard who was able to do some sandblasting and weld the new bit for us. A couple of days of priming and painting later, we had a good-as-new bracket. Mike’s good, but so far he’s not learned welding. This is the only part of the project we didn’t DIY.

Another long morning up the mast finished the exterior/up the mast part of the installation, Mike working in the bosuns chair and me sending pieces, parts and additional tools and pre-assembled tef-gelled bits of nuts/bolts/washers up to him. I’ll be honest, it was stressful, not only having Mike hanging 20 feet up in the air dangling by a couple of halyards, but also hoisting some fairly pricey pieces of electronics up off of the deck as well. I don’t imagine Mike was exactly comfortable doing assembly and electrical work in mid-air either. Throw in the pop-up thundershowers we’ve been having all week… well, it’s been quite interesting.

First up, the bracket, followed by the radar dome itself. The latter was more than a bit awkward, but we got it done using a couple of nylon straps off some storage containers we have aboard (Mike’s idea) and a few bits of sticky shelf liner to keep the straps from slipping (my contribution), which worked nicely combined with Mike’s expert knot-tying skills. Last but not least, the loud hailer was mounted, tucked neatly up under the radar dome and requiring no extra holes to be drilled in the mast.

In the cockpit, the new chart plotter install was something Mike had anticipated when we replaced the auto-helm a few years back. Instead of a large cumbersome thing that hung from a bracket in mid-air in an annoying view-blocking location, the new one is on the reconfigured helm panel with the rest of the instruments… and is a huge improvement over the 16-year old technology of its predecessor. Mike is excited; I am as well, but am not looking forward to the learning curve.  Electronics, you know…

The new vhf radio puts a real handset at the helm vs the separate, not-as-powerful handheld radio that we’d used previously, as the handset for the previous primary radio wouldn’t reach the helm. Now we have a handset in the cockpit, another in the main cabin, and the “old” handheld has been reassigned for use in the dinghy. The safety officer (yours truly) is also thrilled that this new arrangement now lets us receive AIS information, which should make night watches at the helm a bit more comfortable.

We had a few smaller projects we knocked out in between raindrops. The aforementioned mast light was replaced which required a couple more trips up the mast. We did some routine maintenance including cleaning out fuel tanks and an oil/filter change for the diesel engine, fondly referred to as the Red Queen. We also replaced most  of the running rigging… all three halyards and the mainsheet, along with both reefing lines. All in all, I think Cheshire’s pretty happy with her new bling. I know her crew are.

We’ve been working hard, but also playing hard. It’s been a blast catching up with old and new friends, along with some that happened to have passed through while we’re here. Pat at Inland Waterway Provision Co as usual has been enormously helpful in getting us get bits and pieces for our projects, and gets bonus points for scoring me a copy of a new cruising guide for the Maine Coast. We spent a lovely afternoon exploring some of the area creeks aboard a friend’s newly refurbished pontoon boat, the Starship Enterprise.  The weekly Open Mic night at Silos, a favorite local restaurant, has not disappointed and we finally caught their annual all-day SilosPalooza Music Festival this month which was quite fun, particularly given that we count as friends several of the musicians who played the festival. A new-since-our-last-visit craft brew pub, the New Village Brewery, has also warranted several visits. They’re ramping up with their own brews, but also host weekly tap takeovers for other craft brewers around the state.

Another stroke of fortunate timing had us invited to the home of some land-based friends who are beekeepers to help out with an extraction of honey from some of their hives. We’re big fans of seeking out local honeys in our travels, so seeing the process up close was a real treat. (Separate blog post to follow.)

P1060389 Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

As for wildlife watching, not much new to report except for the nightly calls of a Chuck- Will’s-Widow near our marina. We’ve not seen it and likely won’t, but look forward to the whistling calls each night. Find more info, photos and a sound clip here if you’re so inclined. I’ve also been amused by a Red-bellied Woodpecker who is quite fond of the aluminum gutters on the nearby condos.
So as usual Oriental has been a fun and productive stop, but new cruising waters are calling and we’re excited to see what adventures they bring. Stay tuned for a bit of catching up on where we’ve been as well as some more timely accounts of what’s coming. And thanks for your patience.

LS_20180516_085600

Retracing our Steps

Having decided to head back to the Florida East Coast, we were once again in familiar waters. We opted for a pause in Bimini Basin/Cape Coral for a few days before ducking back into the Okeechobee Waterway. Fortunate timing let us catch the Cape Coral Farmers Market again; we also hit Publix and a nice little new-to-us Italian grocery, Paesano’s, for some re-provisioning, along with less fun but necessary chores… a trip to the laundromat and an oil change for the Red Queen. Of course we also had to visit a just opened craft brewery we discovered just down from the laundromat.  Big Storm Brewing Co., which was quite good, is apparently also run by folks with a sense of humor… always appreciated.

Our final day in the area was for play; Ohio friends David and Joyce who were spending a month in Naples came up to visit. We had lunch, followed by dessert… my second visit to Ice Screamin  , which is dangerously close to our anchorage.  This little ice cream spot is  another Working Cow distributor… a family-owned company in St Petersburg, FL that make the most amazing handmade ice cream.  I “discovered” them earlier this winter at a little place on the north end of Boca Grande.  Good stuff, but you can only get it in Florida.

 

Saying farewell to Florida’s West Coast, we ducked back into the Okeechobee Canal to once again make our way across the peninsula.  It was a leisurely trip, including a pretty but buggy night on the hook near Moore Haven where the little critters were apparently quite taken by our solar Luci light (photo below); ordinarily over night we only show our top-of-the-mast anchor light, but in creeks frequented by smaller faster boats who aren’t always looking high, we’ll sometimes show an additional low light, in this case our Lucie light.  We also took a layover day at Port St Lucie Lock Marina where we were fortunate to catch the occasional Saturday tour of the lock system.  It’s one of five locks operated by the Army Corps of Engineers along the Okeechobee Waterway.  One more day on the water found us back near Fort Pierce where we were reminded what color water is supposed to be.  The difference between the lake and the cleaner water near Ft Pierce inlet was striking.  I’ve blogged a bit before about the politics of Florida’s water, so I’ll not climb on that soapbox again, though the issue is very much ongoing.

Back on the East Coast, we again took a mooring at Vero Beach, pausing for almost exactly a month this time.  We did a few small boat projects… replaced the carbon monoxide detector, repaired our (secondary) Engel fridge that had gotten a wild hair and decided to stay in freezer mode all of the time, and replace yet another fan that had died.  The primary goal for this stop was to get Mike’s re-injured foot sorted out.  We was able to get an appointment with very good podiatrist who, after an X-ray and exam, declared it to be a “poorly healed fracture”.  Apparently a corrective surgery would have been potentially more damaging than helpful, so she referred him to a pedorthist (there you go, your new word for today) who fit him with a custom orthopedic that fits in a real pair of shoes.  They are a perfectly normal-looking pair of New Balance tennis shoes, but… shoes… not flip-flops or Keens; Mike has taken to referring to them as his Frankenstein shoes.

To take the edge off of all of the above, we also made a visit to another new-to-us craft brewery, Walking Tree Brewery.  It’s off the beaten path in Vero, but not so far from where we were pedaling for these appointments.  Their beers were quite good, but I was particularly captivated by their logo.  Florida mangroves are nicknamed “walking trees”, thriving at waters edge, one foot on land, one foot in the water.  I was also quite taken by a piece of original artwork at the brewery, depicting a terrestrial and watery yin/yang.

LS_20180426_074949 Fort MatanzasHaving resolved Mike’s foot issue to the extent that it can be resolved, we pushed on to St Augustine. It’s been our habit to pause here for a bit on both our southbound and our northbound runs, but it’s always especially a treat to spend the week of my birthday in this beautiful old city. This year was no different. Actually I share my birthday week with several of our St Augustine friends, so it was a bit of a rolling celebration.  Before arriving in St Augustine though, we paused for a night at one of our favorite nearby anchorages, complete with a view of Fort Matanzas.

It was a jam-packed week, catching up with cruising friends locally, crossing paths with friends from elsewhere who just happened to be passing through while we were here, and meeting some new folks who we hope to cross paths with again later this summer. We revisited all four local craft breweries and are happy to report that all are going strong; in fact one has recently added a rotation of food trucks. There were several visits to the Hyppo for gourmet popsicles, including my free birthday pop; Blood Orange Cheesecake has officially made my list of favorites. A new find this stop was a recently opened bakery, Bakersville Bread Company. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but worth seeking out. Here’s hoping they make a go of it.

One of the best parts of being in town for my birthday week is the opportunity to attend the annual Gamble Rogers Music Festival, now it its 23rd year. The festival runs all weekend and features a wide array of regional and local performers. As usual, we caught a few of our favorites and were introduced to some new stuff.

DG 2018 05 Gamble Rogers Festival

crew of BuBu3, LaLuna and Cheshire, Gamble Rogers Festival, 2018

As much as we love St Augustine, we have our sights set on getting a bit further north this coming season. It’s been about 18 months since Cheshire and her crew have been north of the Florida/Georgia line, so we’re looking forward to getting into some higher latitudes. We’ll head north, hope for some cooperative weather for an outside run or two. Next pause: Oriental, NC. Destinations beyond that tbd.

JB 2018 0507 Cheshire departing St Augustine

Cheshire departing St Augustine, photo credit: Jennifer Barringer

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