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Archive for the ‘Virginia’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

 

 

 

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Our inside run from Norfolk, VA down to our official home port of Oriental, NC was uneventful… not a bad thing.  We took a week, which included catching up with cruising friends Alex and Lisa aboard s/v Tiki Trek, first at the Great Bridge Free Dock and again at Coinjock.  We also made a stop at Belhaven, one of NC’s many little water front communities.  Belhaven itself, albeit tiny, was quite nice.  The free dock there is also quite nice, solidly built, a short walk from town… but unfortunately doesn’t get enough traffic to keep the birds at bay.  We were the only boat there the night we stayed, and it was absolutely thick with bird shit.  Serious nastiness.  We did find a nice hardware store, and had a great meal at Spoon River, a fun and funky farm-to-fork place in Belhaven.  The icing on the cake so to speak was free dessert, compliments of another cruising couple who we’d met at Coinjock who arrived for dinner shortly after us.  For those who might follow: skip the free dock and go for either the less-expensive town dock or the nearby marina.  The Belhaven Memorial Museum, while on the National Register of Historic Places, in our opinions was just downright creepy.

Finally, last Saturday, Cheshire arrived home… at least to one of our homes, at least to the place where this mostly grand adventure started.  As always, Henry found a spot for us at the dock at SailCraft where we spent our first 5 months aboard back in 2011 and have returned to countless times since.  Our timing was perfect, just a few hours ahead of a potluck complete with entertainment where we got to catch up with some of our old friends.

Mostly the news of late though is Hurricane Matthew.  I joke with friends that these storms find us, that on the so-called spaghetti models that one of the lines always goes straight to our Cheshire.  But it’s not funny.  It seems they particularly find us in North Carolina.  In our first few months aboard we were visited by Hurricane Irene in September of 2011 who  brought with her a wicked 9.5′ storm surge.  (See previous posts 1st, 2nd and 3rd re Irene). A few years later, Hurricane Arthur’s claim to fame was being the only hurricane to make landfall in the US that year. He was kind to us though; more on that one here.    Matthew looks like he’s going to be mean and nasty.

As before, I’m more than a bit nervous, but there are two things that make this time around even more worrisome.  The first is that I won’t be here.  Yep, I’ll be miles and miles inland for an already postponed once trip/family obligation, leaving Mike to tend to Cheshire by himself.  To be honest, I have some mixed feelings about it.  We’d briefly considered maybe changing my plans again, however Mike insists that that’s not necessary.  We’ve spent the better part of the last couple of days doing some storm prep, definitely easier with two people.  Sails/canvas are down and stashed, the dinghy is off the boat and stored ashore, and misc. other little things.  Mike has spent the morning building a spider web of lines securing our Cheshire to the dock, but given that its a fixed dock and some storm surge is likely, all adjustable from the boat.  This morning I gave him lessons on how to use our Delorme InReach tracker so that if/when he loses phone service, we can still text updates back and forth.

Matthew’s track seems to change almost daily.  As of this afternoon, it appears he might make landfall near the SC/NC border and track west of us.  That’s a mixed bag actually… with that scenario we might get less storm surge as the wind blows the water north into the Pamlico Sound, but potentially more wind. That said, the storm track has been changing a bit almost with every update.  It’ll be Friday or so before we have a better sense of what to expect here in North Carolina.  Needless to say, my obsessive weather checking will continue.

The second thing that makes this time around more worrisome is that after cruising for 5+ years, we now know dozens and dozens of other cruisers, currently scattered up and down the US east coast, into the FL Keys, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.  That’s a whole lot of friends potentially in harm’s way.  As fed up as I get with social media sometimes, especially during the current political season, this week I’m very thankful to have this tool for checking in with others along Matthew’s path.

I’ll update my Facebook page (tagging Mike of course) periodically  as I hear from him and will follow up with another blog post when there’s more to tell.  In the meantime, we’re sending good wishes to all who stand (or float) in the path of this storm, hoping for minimal damage and destruction.  I really do need to think about a blog tag, something to the effect of “it’s not all sunsets and rum drinks”.  As always, stay tuned.

 

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When I was a kid, we used to play a game in the neighborhood called Red Light, Green Light.  If you’re not familiar with it, check the Wikihow description here.  After spending about 2.5 weeks getting from Long Island to Norfolk, I’ve come to the conclusion that cruising the Mid-Atlantic coast is a bit like playing a game of Red Light, Green Light with Mother Nature.  Mostly she played fair and everyone won.

From the Atlantic Highlands area of New Jersey, the only way back south is to go offshore.  Unlike the southeastern coast of the US where the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) offers the option of an inside/protected route from Norfolk/Portsmouth, VA all the way to Miami and into the Florida Keys, there is no such route along the Jersey/Delaware/Maryland/Virginia shore.  Yes, there are short inside stretches, but they are restricted by the occasional low fixed bridge.  To get south, you simply have to make some outside/offshore runs.  Our Cheshire however, is not a heavy weather boat. Consequently she and her crew are very cautious about weather, especially when heading offshore and particularly during hurricane season where conditions can change with little notice.

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Lori’s offshore survival stash

Everyday aboard starts with coffee and weather checks.  Not just the what’s-the-temperature-going-to-be and is-it-going-to-rain kind of weather.  Like all cruisers, we have multiple weather sites bookmarked on our various electronic devices.  We’re interested in wind velocity, wind direction, precipitation, sea states, storms, storm tracks, etc.  Then there are currents and tides, very important if coming/going from inlets where things can get dicey in unfavorable conditions.  For planning an offshore run, we’re interested in all of these things, but for multiple locations along our planned route, and not just for today, but for several days into the future.  When the planets line up and a weather window looks good, we go.

From the Atlantic Highlands/Sandy Hook area, we made a 25+ hour/125 nautical mile overnight run to Breakwater Harbor near Lewes, DE where we’d pause to await the next window.  It turned out to be a long pause.  We were in a protected anchorage, but with not much for easy shore access.  There’s a beautiful beach nearby, Cape Henlopen State Park, but apparently the powers that be have gotten cranky about folks arriving via water, so landing one’s dinghy on the beach is apparently now a no-no.  In any event, we spent 4 days anchored here without setting foot off the boat.  Needless to say, we did a lot of reading.  At least we had a nice view of nearby Breakwater Light.  I was amused to watch the sight-seeing tour boats come and go.

We’d hoped our next jump would take us all of the way to Norfolk, but Mother Nature was having none of that.  One morning we finally had a small weather window (which I’ve come to refer to as a weather porthole) and decided to make a day run to Ocean City, MD.  Six hours and 32 nautical miles later we’d successfully navigated the inlet and were anchor down behind Assateague Island.  Shore access here for anchored boats is also limited, so we opted to move to a nearby dock the next morning for the couple of nights we anticipated we’d have to wait for our next window.  Unlike our last stop, we took full advantage of being attached to a dock (for the first time in nearly 3 months).  We did laundry, we did some provisioning, both much easier from the dock vs by dinghy.  We supported a number of local drinking/dining establishments.  Decatur Diner was a favorite, in fact we went twice.  Don’t miss the Pipeline for breakfast; we shared a half order.  Harborside Bar and Grill was good for beers and apps.  They’re famous for a drink called an Orange Crush; I (Lori) had the grapefruit version which was quite tasty.  At Martin Fish Company, a seafood market/take-out/eat-in spot, we had some good draft beers and shared a fried clam dinner.

One afternoon, we pedaled over to check out the and Life-Saving Station Museum and the Ocean City Boardwalk.  The Life-Saving Station was a mid 1970’s rescue/rehab effort and has been transformed into a nice maritime museum.  The Boardwalk dates from 1902 and was quite a trip.  The arcade was like none I’ve seen.  Tourist-trappy restaurants also looked to be plentiful but we limited ourselves to a bag of carmel corn as we strolled.  The small craft advisory level winds made for some impressive kite flying displays.

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Maryland’s Indian, artist Peter Toth

As we made our way back to our bikes, we stumbled upon an interesting sculpture.  Maryland’s Indian is one installment in a collection known as the Trail of the Whispering Giants.  Hungarian-born sculptor  Peter Wolf Toth set out to place at least one carving in each of the 50 states, a goal he completed in 1988.  His sculptures are a tribute of sorts to native peoples around the country.  See the website linked above for more of his story and some photos.

After three nights total in Ocean City, a window opened.  Alas, the tides and currents of the inlet dictated that we’d best plan for a late afternoon departure.  Cheshire got a much needed bubble bath which was promptly undone when we were waked by a ginormous sport-fisher before we’d even got out of the inlet.  But we did get out and had a beautiful run, albeit motoring, down the coast.  As the 37 mile length of Assateague Island is state park and national seashore land, it was mostly dark.  Little ambient light made for an impressive sky full of stars, and in the early morning hours, a pretty crescent moon.  See photo below, my weak attempt to capture the sunrise.  We caught a couple more lighthouses on this run, or three actually if you count Assateague Light on the southern end of the barrier island of the same name, but I saw only the flashing light during a night watch; sorry no photo.   Cape Charles Light was very distant in the early morning light, and Thimble Shoals Light  greeted us as we approached Hampton Roads inlet.  A morning weather check advised of a small craft advisory in the lower end of the bay (not previously forecast), so our entry was a bit bumpy.  Twenty-four hours and 115 or so nautical miles later, we were anchor down at Hospital Point, mile-marker 0, the northern most point of the AICW.  

We’d heard even before leaving Ocean City though, that there had been much rain and consequent flooding in the area, so much so that both the Virginia Cut and the alternate Dismal Swamp Canal sections of the AICW were closed.  Opening/closing bridges and locks alike don’t behave well in flood conditions.  Although we had hoped to do the Dismal again (find posts about our last trips here and here), it remained closed after the Virginia Cut route opened.  So we’re off, down the Virginia Cut.  Hopefully we’ll make Oriental, NC in a week or so.

As always, thanks for following along.  Stay tuned.

 

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From the Portsmouth/Norfolk area, a two day jump put us near Reedville, VA.  A bit of research told us that this spot would offer some protection from the snotty weather in the forecast, in addition to having a small museum, an ice cream shop and a few seafood restaurants if in fact we were able to get off the boat and do some exploring.

The smallish but well done Reedville Fishermen’s Museum exceeded expectations, and earned bonus points for having a dinghy dock.  Actually, they have a number of restored boats in their collection, so we shared the dock space with some beauties.  They’ve also got some interesting educational displays, primarily about the history of Reedville, which is really about the history of commercial fishing, and not just any fish, rather specifically the Atlantic Menhaden.  But more about that in a minute.

In addition to the historic boats on the dock, a couple of which are on the National Historic Register, there is the “Spirit of 1608”, a replica of the boat that John Smith sailed during his exploration of the Chesapeake.  During our visit, a couple of guys in period garb were telling their tales to a boy scout troop who were visiting.  Out of the water for a couple of years now on a not-so-carefully-disguised trailer, this boat has had some adventures if the volunteers stories were true.  The museum also includes a quite extensive boat shop where volunteers gather at their leisure to build and/or restore boats.  Yet another building boasts a huge model train display, featuring not only a diorama of Reedville, but of some of the surrounding towns as well.  It’s apparently quite the big deal when it’s dressed up during the holiday season.  One gets the impression that more than a few retired folks  spend more than a few hours here.

Also on the property is the Walker House.  Reputed to be the oldest building in Reedville, it has been refurbished and stands as an example of a typical waterman’s home of years ago. This is in comparison to the larger more elaborate homes along so-called Millionaire Row, built in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s by prosperous fishing boat captains and factory owners who apparently did quite well in the fish processing business.  Years ago, these operations were quite numerous.  Today, only one remains, but it’s a big one, and a big deal for this area, and the subject of much controversy.  Omega Protein.

So, Atlantic Menhaden… who knew that this relatively small fish could cause such a stir.  Historians suspect that it was this fish that the Native Americans taught the pilgrims to plant along with their corn crops to fertilize them.  Fast forward to the late 1800’s, Cap’t Elijah Reed arrives from Maine and brings with him a process that’s come to be known as the menhaden reduction.  Not much for eating, these oily, bony fish are processed, or reduced to yield fish oil and fish meal for nutritional supplements, fertilizer and animal feed.  Today, about 80% of Atlantic menhaden are “reduced”; the remaining 20% go for bait for both commercial and recreational fishing.  Apparently there are a lot of bigger fish in the sea (and Bay) that like/depend on menhaden, along with many birds… egrets, osprey, heron and others.   There is also quite a bit written, some of it controversial, about other environmental benefits of a healthy menhaden population; for example, they are filter feeders, and are said to help improve water quality in areas where they are plentiful.

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Menhaden fishing boat, Reedville

The catch process is also a bit unusual.  We watched a short educational piece at the museum, not surprisingly sponsored by Omega Protein, that gave an overview.  Not intended as such, we actually found it a bit disturbing.  Small spotter planes fly about, locating schools of these fish that travel in large, dense slow-moving schools and do quite a bit of splashing about at the water’s surface, apparently easily visible from the air.  The spotters communicate with waiting vessels that include a mother ship (many converted from old military ships) which then launches two smaller vessels.  These smaller vessels then cast  huge purse seine nets to gather them up, at which point the mothership comes aside and literally vacuums them up.  The little buggers don’t stand a chance.  I’m sure I don’t even want to know the rest of the story… what the “reduction” process entails.  Really, truth be told, I should probably be vegan or something.

In past years, menhaden have been plentiful and reduction facilities dotted the Atlantic coast.  Today many believe that menhaden are being overfished, and only one reduction facility remains, Omega Protein in Reedville.  In fact all Atlantic States with the singular exception of Virginia have banned menhaden fishing in their waters.  Another interesting bit… menhaden is the only fish that is not regulated by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, translate: some scientists are involved.   Rather the Virginia General Assembly calls the shots… translate: politicians, who might be influenced by industry-paid lobbyists.  Hmm…

I could go on, but I won’t.  More here for those who might be interested…

National Geographic – “The Good and the Bad for Atlantic Menhaden”

Surf & Adventure – “The Menhaden Controversy” for a bit about recent legislative efforts .

Mondovacilando.com – “Something’s Fishy in Reedville” for another cruiser’s perspective from a couple of years ago… with some most interesting back-and-forth comments.

Conservation Magazine – “The Oiliest Catch” for a long, but very interesting and informative overview.

I will say that we encountered some of the slime and dead fish byproduct of menhaden fishing on our way into Reedville.  Even the seagulls weren’t interested.  And on our way out with the winds having shifted, we experienced the stench that some refer to.  Thank goodness that the winds were favorable during our time anchored in Reedville, because I can promise you would have hauled anchor and left regardless of the weather rather than tolerate the stench.  Seriously.  Several popular ICW spots are near paper/pulp mills, and I’ll tell you, they don’t even compare to the stench that comes off the Omega Protein plant.

The skies cleared before the sea state settled down, so we spent our last day in Reedville doing a bit of dinghy exploring.  We saw plenty of non-menhaden fishing boats, including stacks of crab traps, and some unusually low-to-the water osprey nesting platforms, which made for some nice photo ops.  Lots of chicks this time of year.  Lunch at Cockrell ‘s Seafood and Deli was a bit of a disappointment, but hey, you got to try.

Meanwhile, we continue on up the Bay.

 

 

 

 

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Guilty again, our “couple of days” pause in Oriental, NC turned into a week.  We spent a couple of days on the free Town Dock before moving up the creek to SailCraft Marina where we started our grand adventure nearly 5 years ago now.  It was great to catch up with  friends, visit some of our favorite haunts, get some laundry done, and pick up a new grill (our old one having self-destructed a couple of weeks back).  Big thanks to cruising friends Joe & Cheri for letting us tag along on a grocery run as Oriental, at least for a few more weeks, is without a grocery store.

Leaving Oriental, we were in new-to-us territory, opting to take a more easterly route up the Pamlico Sound.  With weather brewing, we tucked into an anchorage near the Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge… translate: in the middle of nowhere, to hide out from what was eventually named Tropical Storm Colin.  He wreaked some havoc elsewhere, but in our neck of the woods, we saw plenty of rain (enough to top off our water tanks and then some) and not much wind.  Another couple of easy days up the sound took us to Manteo, on Roanoke Island, tucked in behind the more famous Outer Banks region.  A view of the Bodie Island Lighthouse enroute was a treat.

 

Cheshire and her crew spent one night on the Manteo Waterfront Free Dock (24-hour limit), with a great view of the Roanoke Marshes Light, which worked out great when a former coworker of mine and her family came to visit.  The following day we made another grocery run.   For the record, a grocery named Food-A-Rama ordinarily would not be my first choice, but it turned out to be a great locally owned and operated find.  Way better than the nearby Piggly Wiggly we’d scouted the previous day.  Really though, think about a new name.

LS_20160610_124400 Pea Island Life-Saving Station, ManteoWe’d hoped to be able to rent a car and visit a couple of the lighthouses on the barrier islands, but alas, no rental car was to be had this day.  Instead, we left bikes ashore, moved the mothership out to the anchorage and went back ashore for some further exploring of Roanoke Island.  Our first stop, the much-advertised Pea Island Life-Saving Station was a bust.  This  historic structure, formerly a cookhouse for the station, is now a museum highlighting the contributions of African-Americans in the U.S. Life-Saving  Service (the precursor to the current day U.S. Coast Guard).  Pea Island was the first life-saving station in the country to have an all-black crew, as well as the first to have a black man, Richard Etheridge, as commanding officer.  The bust was that the museum is only open for a few hours a week, mid-day on Wednesdays; our visit was on Friday.  For those interested, read a bit of the history here.

We pedaled  on up to the north end of the island, thankful for the very nice bike path, and stopped into the Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges Visitors Center.  It’s a new facility since our road trip/visit here most of 10 years ago, a LEED-certified building with some impressive educational displays.  This center covers 12 refuges in eastern NC and VA, a massive area. Perhaps on a future visit, we’ll rent a car and check out the surrounding refuges, along with the couple of lighthouses not-so-accessible to us otherwise.

On our way back into town, Mike spotted an interesting old brick building, now home to the Outer Banks Distilling.  As luck would have it, we arrived just in time to catch one of their twice daily tour/tastings.  Wow!  A fairly new operation, it was started by four guys, two of them brewers, two of them bartenders, who decided to make a go of small batch distilling.  Matt, one of the owners and our tour guide for the day, was one of those folks I speak of sometimes who is just really passionate about what he’s doing.  They’ve done a nice job of renovating the old building, repurposing much of what was torn out… love that.  There are two rums currently available, a white rum and a pecan-honey rum, and while we’re not usually fans of flavored or spiced rum, the pecan-honey version has earned a spot in our space-limited liquor cabinet.  Read a bit more about how this place came together here.

Later in the evening, we sampled some local brews at Lost Colony Brewery before moving on to Ortega’z for dinner.  The pulled pork nachos and crab mac and cheese were both delicious.

 

All in all, we enjoyed our return to Manteo, this time by boat, and will likely be back.  For now though, we need to continue to make tracks north.  We picked our weather and headed out for a sail across the Albemarle Sound and up what’s known on the ICW as the Virginia Cut.

At this point on the ICW, there are two routes up to the Portsmouth/Norfolk area, the northern terminus of the Atlantic ICW.  We’ve done the Dismal Swamp route a couple of times now (catch up here and here), so this time opted to check out the Virginia Cut route.  It was a bit more wide open, so we could sail at least part of it.  It’s also a bit longer, but quicker due to the locks and limited schedules of same on the Dismal route.  We finally hooked up with cruising friends Alex and Lisa aboard Tiki Trek when we both stopped at Coinjock Marina.  The onsite restaurant is known for their prime rib, though I was more impressed with their mussels.

Tiki Trek beat feet the following day while Cheshire opted for a more leisurely day, though full of much dodging of tugs pushing barges (particularly fun when you meet at a bridge), crab pots being actively worked and small boats pulling/dropping water-skiers all over the place.  A bit different than the solitude of the Dismal Swamp route.  On the other hand, there were many osprey nests occupied by mothers and their chicks, and a bald eagle sighting.

After a blistering hot day, Cheshire and crew tied up to yet another free dock at Great Bridge, adjacent to a nicely done little waterfront park that appears to have been taken over by a flotilla of geese and their chicks…  at least at our visit, they outnumbered the humans.  A short walk to a nearby shopping center made for some easy provisioning at a very nice new-to-us grocery called Farm Fresh. Thankfully a front blew through later, and while we didn’t get rain, we did get a dramatic drop in temperature overnight.

We caught up with Tiki Trek again at Hospital Point in Portsmouth, VA and shared a late afternoon walkabout in Olde Towne Portsmouth, followed by beverages and dinner at a the Bier Garden.  We’d hoped to return the following day to check out the Portsmouth Virgina Naval Shipyard Museum and the nearby Lightship Portsmouth, but the main museum is closed for renovations and the lightship is in the meantime only open Friday-Sunday and we won’t be sticking around that long.  Seems there’s always something to put on the list for a subsequent visit.

 

 

From here, we’d hoped to make another couple of offshore jumps on our way to the Long Island area.  Alas, Mother Nature has some other ideas.  With the offshore forecast looking a bit sketchy and some significant north winds coming mid to late week, rather than sit and wait, we’re now contemplating a run up the Chesapeake Bay, vowing not to get too distracted other than the necessary pauses to wait out some weather.

The plan changes frequently, but you can always find us via our InReach Tracker… linked here,  or in the lower right hand column of the blog at “Keep Track of Us”.

Thanks for following along.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A couple of weeks back our friend Cap’n Laurie did a delivery (moving a boat from point A to point B, usually for money) from here in Oriental down to Southport NC, two long days by herself down the ICW. She had left us her car and we picked her up in Southport, had dinner (go to Loco Jo’s if you’re there), and drove back to Oriental.
She also mentioned she might also soon be delivering a boat from around Oriental up to somewhere in Long Island, exactly when and where yet unknown. The owner would be going but did I want to crew, since some overnights offshore would be necessary, three shifts are better than two, and the owner was an unknown. “Sure, just let me know the details,” says I.

Saturday evening (20 September), Laurie calls and says it’s a go for tomorrow morning from Matthew’s Point Marina across the Neuse River from Oriental; she’s already been provisioning (what sailors call grocery shopping) with Vinnie, she’ll come by Sailcraft in the morning, my Lori can drop us off at Matthew’s Point and keep her car while we’re gone. Plans made.

Sunday morning we meet Vinnie, the proud owner of a new-to-him 30-foot Hunter 306 sailboat. It doesn’t have a name but he’s naming it Cheers. He’s a nice guy, in good shape, lots of little boat experience and a couple of ASA sailing certifications in pocket; a fine person with whom to spend a week on a boat.

Turns out we’re going to Lindenhurst, NY on the south shore of Long Island, back in behind Jones Beach and Fire Island. Route would be up the ICW Virginia Cut route, into the Atlantic at Norfolk VA and offshore to Fire Island Inlet.

Get underway mid morning Sunday. We have decent southerly winds (but also some rain) and sail or at least motor-sail in all the open water from Oriental up to the north end of the Pungo River. Laurie wants to get through Norfolk and offshore by tomorrow evening, so we don’t anchor until dark. Vinnie grills some good burgers but we don’t have any beer since we thought we’d get some before we got underway but it was Sunday morning in the south. It’s quite warm in the boat and cool and breezy topside so I sleep in the cockpit – and no bugs in the middle of the marshes!

Monday we up-anchor at daybreak and motor the twenty miles through the Pungo River Alligator River canal (which connects the Pungo River with the Alligator River, go figure – the Army Corps of Engineers, who built the Intracoastal Waterway, had such vivid imaginations), motor up the very wide Alligator river (no alligators but we did see four bald eagles in the canal) then sail across Albemarle Sound and up the North River, getting wet a couple of times. Sails down to wind our way through the creek and canal to Coinjock Marina, got there a bit before dark – about an 80-mile day; the Captain is a slave driver (and Vinnie is paying by the day). Dinner at the marina restaurant, the finest in the area.

Bridge and lock day. After another early start from Coinjock and a couple hours motoring with a couple of high bridges, there are two swing bridge that open every half hour and the Great Bridge Bridge (honest; Great Bridge is a place and that’s what the bridge there is called) that opens hourly, followed by the Great Bridge Lock that opens hourly synchronized with the bridge. Timing required. We made the noon Great Bridge opening but tied up to a seawall between the bridge and lock and went shopping. Vinnie had no engine oil or coolant or transmission fluid aboard, and they seemed advisable on an offshore run. We got oil and coolant at a Shell station, but they had no transmission oil – how often do you need transmission oil? Popped into a Dairy Queen for baby Blizzards for the walk back to the boat, and pushed off to make the 13:00 (1pm for landlubbers) lock opening.

A tug and big barge came through the bridge as we were waiting for the lock to open and the lock master tells us to wait until he has them secure before we enter, then says to squeeze past the barge to the front of the lock. Vinnie’s driving, and the barge seems about as wide as the lock, and he does admirably.
There are two ICW routes south from Norfolk – the Great Dismal Swamp (named by the slaves that had to dig it) with two locks, and the Virginia Cut (named by a girl who does believe in Santa Claus) with just one. Lori and I have transited the Dismal Swamp route twice and those locks raise or lower you about eight feet. Being the salty sailor I am and wanting to impart my expertise, I make sure Vinnie had long dock lines to handle the rise or fall, knows the lock procedure, is ready to fend off the lock walls, etc. Well, the rear gates close and the front gates open and if we rose or fell at all I couldn’t tell.

A few more mlles and the two ICW routes merge and we were in the Portsmouth / Norfolk shipyard and naval base mess – two more bridges we needed openings for and hours of trying to stay clear of ships and tugs and work boats and Navy patrol boats (a wrong turn into a restricted area gets you demerits) and finally the opening in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The CBBT is mostly a long low highway bridge with a couple of high bridges and a couple of tunnels. The tunnels are a bit freaky – the low bridge ends in a big pile of rock, the cars disappear into it and pop out another pile of rock a couple hundred yards away where the bridge resumes. Anyway, we passed over the southernmost tunnel and into the open Atlantic at about 18:00 Monday evening.

I char a pork roast on the propane grill for dinner. We skirt the DelMarVa peninsula all night, motor sail some with a light south breeze, stand 3 hour watches overnight, we are off the VA / MD line come Tuesday morning. Breeze picks up some and we motor sail much of the day. Some bad weather passes south of us off Ocean City MD in the afternoon and stiff north winds are expected tomorrow. We are trying to make it to Atlantic Beach NJ by 2300 or midnight to get fuel and spend tomorrow in port.

Diesel engine compartments don’t required blowers to vent them before starting, but this boat has a switch marked “Blower” that we haven’t touched so far. We figure it’s to pump some of the heat out of the engine compartment, which is right under the companionway stairs. Vinnie looks and, sure enough, in the top of the engine compartment is a four inch fan connected to a white plastic vent hose (with a spring-steel spiral wire in it like dryer vent hose) leading aft under the rear berth. He flips the switch and we wait for a cooler salon. Well, half an hour later I smell burning, open the engine hatch and see smoke but no flames. We shut down the engine and check it out. It seems there was no hose clamp or even plastic zip tie holding the (expletives deleted) vent hose to the blower. The vent hose had fallen on the rotating shaft between the transmission and stuffing box (where the shaft leaves the boat so the prop can be on the outside in the water) and wrapped about forty feet of (more expletives deleted) wire around it, also pulling the fuel filter / water separator (the Racor) off the engine room bulkhead. It’s about 19:00 by now, and not wanting to restart the engine without knowing more, and being about seven miles straight off Cape May, and knowing weather was coming later tonight, we call TowBoatUS and Laurie raises the sails and heads towards Cape May as TowBoatUS came out for us.

It takes a couple hours to get towed in, there is a horrible ebb-current eddy at the entrance jetties (the tow boat was all sideways, glad we weren’t coming in under our own mighty 18 horsepower), we’re dropped off at Utsch’s Marina after dark, a guy on a 60-foot go-fast style power boat gives us a bathroom key so we can take showers. I go out walking searching for beer but no luck, Laurie makes scavenger pasta from leftover pork roast and veggies, not bad at all (but still no beer 😦

Thursday is cold and windy – we would have had to be in port anyway so no time lost. The marina mechanic declared the transmission seal shot and says call a diesel mechanic. Laurie and I go across the parking lot to Lobster House for breakfast (only the counter is open in the morning, crowded, breakfast was great) while Vinnie calls around and finds a mechanic in the area. The mechanic changes the engine and transmission oil, jury-rigs the Racor up out of the way, puts out extra mooring lines, and starts the engine and tests the transmission under load at the dock. There’s a vibration at 1400 rpm that he thinks (or his boss thinks, he keeps calling him for advice) is just cavitation from not moving, so we cast off and run up and down the marina a couple of times, no vibration and no transmission oil leak, life is good and Vinnie doesn’t have to leave his boat in Cape May for two or three weeks and shell out $4,000 to have a transmission seal replaced.

We walk across the street to Lucky Bones; it’s supposed to have good pizza and bar food, it’s nice but crowded and noisy, Vinnie shoves money at Laurie and goes back to the boat – turns out he’s not much for crowds; lives on Long Island but never goes into NYC. We have a couple excellent drafts, good pizzas indeed and a split a salad.

Friday is windy in the morning (the super speedboat went out and came back) so we hang another day in Cape May, rent bikes, go grocery shopping. Laurie drills Vinnie on ASA course material from midmorning to early afternoon then gives him a test, after which several gin ‘n’ tonics, chips, salsa and hummus are consumed. Towards evening Laurie and I bike into the beach part of town (essentially two parts – harbor and beach) then meet Vinnie at a Mexican restaurant near the marina, pretty good but no alcohol; BYOB is OK but we didn’t know and which was OK following the afternoon drinks and the early start tomorrow.

Saturday we are up and out before 0600 so we could catch slack tide at the jetties-of-death and to be sure of making Fire Island Inlet with time to spare tomorrow morning. A couple of hours out Vinnie discovers the transmission is leaking at the seal, but by topping off and catching what dripped out we figured it was only leaking down to the bottom of the seal and that left enough to run on safely, so on we went. There is a very slight southerly breeze, we mess with the jib some but mostly it’s not worth the bother. We crossed the New York shipping lanes (three pairs of wide ones) in the middle of a Sunday night so nearly no traffic. Arrived at Fire Island Inlet way before dawn Sunday morning but in time for a slack tide, so went on in. Fire Island is a “local knowledge” inlet – the tide and current shifts the bottom around all the time so the channel buoys are moved all the time so the chart can’t show where they are and things are tricky in the dark (the third or fourth “red lighted buoy” we saw on the way in was actually car tail lights on the beach – didn’t go there) but we get in fine and under the high bridge over the inlet (minor panic – it doesn’t look so high in the dark 😉 and anchore just north of the Fire Island lighthouse.

We get a few hours sleep and head to the drawbridge to make its Sunday 9:00 a.m. opening – Active Captain says it only opens every three hours on summer weekends and holidays. Get there, no answer to our calls on radio or to the phone number on the bridge, call the Coast Guard who say they’ll try to contact the bridge tender but no luck, so what now? Well, duh, one just takes the main channel a half mile east and under the high bridge which we could have done already had we just opened up the chart another page and seen that route. Oh the joys of always being in new water.

So anyway, late morning at low tide we get to the entrance of the canals into the back yards of Lindenhurst, anchor there until it comes up a bit so we’re sure to have enough water getting to Vinnie’s, and he motors Cheers home. What with boats on both sides of narrow canals, squeezing past the barge in the lock at Coinjock was good practice – Vinnie does great again.

We get tied up, showered, have a couple of drinks, Vinnie has very good Thai food delivered, Laurie and I sleep on Vinnie’s floor, we have breakfast Monday morning at a local deli, pick up a rental car and drive back to New Bern. My Lori picks us up (in Laurie’s car that she’s had all week and that she just went to Harris Teeter’s in before picking us up) and drives us back to Sailcraft. We all have wine and cheese and sausage and and wine and fruit and bread and wine on Cheshire then Laurie goes home.

The End

Oh, yeah, Lori says no blog entries without pictures so here’s one of me on Cheers, sunrise over DelMarVa, and one of Vinnie in front Cheers in his back yard.

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We’re still floating.  It appears we’ve officially survived our 2nd hurricane in less than two years aboard.  Yesterday was thankfully fairly uneventful.  Our high water came with the morning’s high tide (see photos in previous post), after which we made some minor line adjustments periodically through the day to allow for the rising/falling water and shifting winds.  We had rain and wind pretty much all day.  No damage to Cheshire, though a neighbor boat sustained some damage to a jib that wasn’t properly secured.  We did however discover a couple of minor leaks… will have to chase those down for repair later.

We had only two issues of concern.  The first, during one of the heavier downpours, was when our carbon monoxide detector started misbehaving.  Really?  Like now would be a good time to evacuate?  Turns out it wasn’t a carbon monoxide issue at all, but rather a crankiness with high voltage spikes from the wind generator that was whirring in hurricane-strength winds.  Sigh of relief…

The other excitement was when a 4 foot long bit of log/piling managed to float under the dock, under our bow and lodge itself between Cheshire’s hulls, captured by the low bridge deck amidships.  We spent the afternoon listening to it gently banging the bottom, pretty much right under the salon table, checking tide/current schedules hoping we could snag it on a reversing tide.  Turns out the wind and currents weren’t going to cooperate with that plan.  Just before dark, when we were resigning ourselves to a fretful night of banging and worrying, my brilliant husband had a brain-storm.   We started the engine, put it in reverse throttle which churned enough water to push the offending log out the front.  I then coaxed it back along our port side with a boat hook where Mike waited on the transom to lasso it.  I then took it for a walk down the dock (sorry, no photo) and secured it where it would hopefully stay put… way too heavy for me to haul out of the water by my lonesome.

Sandy came ashore last evening, well north of us.  We had rain and wind continue through the evening and into the night.  Colder temps followed overnight, and this morning, but thankfully, no snow and no frost.  This morning we reconnected to shore power, so we now have heat… which is much more comfortable and helping to dry things out a bit.  For those who are not boaters, cold weather on a boat is less than comfortable.  Cheshire has no insulation, so there’s not much difference between the outside temps and inside temps, (about 5 degrees in our experience) and the dampness makes if feel colder.  I’m certain I’ll be chasing mildew for weeks.

With no TV (first time I’ve really missed it) we’ve been following the news mostly via smart phone.  Thankfully Verizon provided uninterrupted coverage, and my “lifeproof” phone case proved itself to be indeed waterproof, at least in the rain.  I was saddened yesterday to learn of the sinking of the tall ship HMS Bounty.  She went down about 90 miles off Cape Hatteras; 14 rescued, 1 life lost, and the captain still missing.  Very sad.  And the story of Sandy continues to unfold.  Not so far north of here, this morning’s light illuminated much devastation.  Good thoughts to those affected, including my brother-in-law and nieces in New Jersey who are without power while my sister remains in Indiana with Mom.

So, we’ll take a day or two to dry out, get organized, do some checking on conditions on the ICW south of here and hopefully be on our way again on Thursday.  Here’s hoping for some fair winds, following seas and some sunshine.  Thanks for all of your good thoughts and concerns.  And as always, stay tuned…

 

 

 

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