Posts Tagged ‘skies’

In 2011, our first year cruising, we got what we thought at the time was a late start moving south; we left North Carolina in early November and putzed our way south, making it just south of Charleston SC by the beginning of December.  The following year we were delayed leaving the Chesapeake Bay when my father passed away rather unexpectedly, but still managed to make north Florida by December 1st, as we did for the three years that followed.  This year would be a different story.

Friday, December 2nd — We were still on the hard, but the Red Queen and Cheshire were finally reunited.  The reinstall went smoothly, or so we thought at the time.

Saturday, December 3-4th — Cheshire hung in the slings of the travel lift for the weekend while we touched up the bottom paint on the spots where she’d been blocked.

Monday, December 5th — After a bit more than 6 weeks, Cheshire was back in the water.  While we were in the well with a cherry picker accessible, Cheshire also got a couple of new spreader boots, had her screecher halyard re-rigged and her wind instrument tightened up.  The rest of Monday and Tuesday were spent getting things put back together, the dinghy back on the davits, the sails back up, essentially undoing all of the hurricane prep we’d done pre-Matthew.  In anticipation of some cold days on the water, we also put our eisenglass cockpit enclosure up, which we almost never use but are thankful to have when when it gets cold.  After topping off water tanks and some final provisioning, we bid farewell to our friends in Oriental and were ready to go.

Wednesday, December 7th we finally got off the dock.  The 16 days/15 nights that followed would prove to be some of the coldest we’ve experienced since moving aboard 5 1/2 years ago.

Our first few days out were cold, but uneventful.  We were up before first light most mornings, and underway before sunrise.  With the engine running, we’d have engine-driven heat, and with the sun shining, our full cockpit enclosure behaved a bit like a sun room.  Don’t get me wrong… we were still wearing layers, wool socks, hats and gloves, even inside, but it was manageable.  We’d stay on the water as long as we dared and still manage to have the anchor down before dark.  The latter was easier than we thought, as we didn’t have much competition for anchorages this late in the migration season.  Our evening routine was to cook a hot meal, then huddle under fleece blankets reading until bedtime.  The following morning, we’d get up and do it again.

Instead of hoping offshore, we opted to stay inside (in the ICW) at least to start with, partly due to the cold, but mostly because we wanted to give the engine a good solid test.  It ran well, the weather was cooperative, we had anchorages to ourselves and the bridge tenders were most pleasant (translate: it’s their slow season).  We opted to pause in Holden Beach at their new “courtesy dock” which, contrary to the info we had, was not free.  It did have power however, and after three days on the boat, provided a nice chance to walk a bit.  And of course, the Captain found chicken wings.  And we had heat overnight.

The couple of days that followed took us into South Carolina, along the beautiful-even-in-December Waccamaw River.  We made a stop at Osprey Marina, a favorite of ours, where we scored another jar of their yummy hot pepper jelly and again warded off some freezing overnight temps.


Then things got interesting.  As we started to close in on the end of day 5, we were deep in the marshes of coastal South Carolina, surrounded by lands designated as national wildlife refuge  and national forest lands, translate: beautiful and the middle of nowhere.  Looking ahead, the following day would put us in the Charleston area, and we talked of maybe taking a lay day.  It was just after 4pm, daylight was fading quickly, and we were headed for a familiar-to-us anchorage, having calculated we’d just make it before dark.  Mike was at the helm when he noticed that the engine temperature gauge was not right… like reading that the engine was not hot, which is better than too hot, but still…  I took the helm while he popped open the engine compartment in the back of the cockpit, only to find engine coolant spewing.  Not good.  After a few minutes, he figured out that the bracket that holds the coolant hose onto the engine block was missing a bolt, and in its loosened state, had been too close to the alternator belt which had chafed a hole in the hose.  In the middle of nowhere…  With dark fast approaching…

While I stayed on the helm, “steering” our Cheshire without power in a wicked tail current down a creek lined with marsh grass, punctuated with the occasional wooden dock, Mike managed to jury-rig a fix, first with so-called Rescue tape (which didn’t work on a messy hose), then with heavy-duty duct tape (my Dad would be pleased).  He then sat on the cockpit floor for the next 35 minutes, which seemed more like 35 hours, with a fiberglass pole jammed into the engine compartment to hold the hose off the alternator belt, while we fired the engine, held our breathes and motored into the nearest anchorage.  We were anchor down right at dark and on the phone with TowBoat US before the night was out.

For those who are not familiar, TowBoat US is like AAA, except for boats.  There are a couple of companies that provide the service, but in 5+ years, we’ve never had to use it.  Until now. It saved our butts, and is worth every penny.  I don’t even want to think about what the tow would have cost without it.

We made arrangements for them to collect us from the anchorage the next morning.  Jason, our towboat operator couldn’t have been nicer.  He showed up even earlier than expected and towed Cheshire and her crew without incident to Tolers Cove Marina, another familiar-to-us spot near Mt Pleasant SC.   Tolers Cove is mostly a sportfish marina with not a lot of room for transients beyond a day or two, but they were kind enough to let us hang out on the backside of their fuel dock for a few days.  Three hours under tow, including some skinny water and a restricted bridge, and we were safely tied to a dock mail ordering parts.  At least it was a Monday.

Mike found a replacement bolt at a local hardware store, but the funky shaped hose had to be mail-ordered.  We opted for expedited shipping, but weather in Michigan and a “mechanical problem” with a cargo plane delayed things a bit.  Our parts finally arrived mid-morning Thursday.  The hose replacement actually went fairly smoothly.  Then we decided to go ahead and do that earlier-than-usual oil change our mechanic in Oriental had recommended.

Mike started the engine up to let it warm up… except the engine didn’t warm up.  Apparently the low temp reading on the gauge wasn’t entirely about the coolant hose leak, rather a weird coincidence of timing.  Mike decided to pull the thermostat and take a look. (See photo below which in my humble opinion doesn’t resemble any thermostat I’ve ever seen).  Apparently it’s a pretty simple open or closed devise that got stuck in the open position by a tiny piece of debris. At least we were fortunate that it didn’t get stuck closed, which could have resulted in the engine overheating!  In any event,  Mike was able to dislodge the rock, reinstall the thermostat and all was well.  Given the late hour, we opted to skip our planned grocery run and instead walked down to Sullivans Island for a splurge meal at the Obstinate Daughter where the martinis were most delicious.

Another 2 1/2 days on the water brought us to the Savannah area where we’d arranged to meet up with cruising friends Dawn and Paul who were road-tripping up to New England for the holidays.  They gets bonus points for flexibility, messaging back and forth regarding timing, location options, etc.  We were tied up at the dock at Bahia Bleu Marina before noon, allowing for some much needed laundry.  Mother Nature even sent us a freaky warm day so I was able to wash our few, much worn cold weather clothes.  We had a great albeit short visit, including a much needed/much appreciated grocery run.

Our final push, 3 1/2 days, brought the cold weather back, along with some damp rain and occasional fog.  The Captain resorted to taking a pair of scissors to a perfectly good pair of gloves, cutting out the thumb and index finger of the right glove, enabling him to use the iPad we keep at the helm for additional navigation assistance.  We wound our way through the marshes and across the sounds of coastal Georgia, and were disappointed that the sun remained hidden even as we crossed into the Sunshine State.  A bit south of Jacksonville it finally cleared, and our last morning at anchor for this stretch was lovely.

The numbers:

This run from Oriental NC to St Augustine FL was approximately 600 statute miles or about 522 nautical miles, and took us 16 days.

Of those 16 days, we were underway for 12, plus 1 under tow.  We had only 3 lay days where we stayed put, but for repairs, none for weather, the latter of which is remarkable given the season.

Of our 15 nights out, we spent 8 of them at anchor, and 7 at a dock… which is more dock time than our usual, but we splurged a couple of times for dock power on the particularly cold nights (dock power = heat overnight), spent 4 nights on the dock for the engine repair (which included a couple of cold nights as well), and another to hook up with friends for an afternoon/evening.

In a nutshell:

It wasn’t our most pleasant cruise; the engine issue was particularly challenging, but not as bad as it might have been.  I was reminded once again how much I appreciate that Mike is scary smart and able to fix so many things.  We managed to survive the cold, but were reminded that we really are fair weather cruisers. We so missed our usual slower, more relaxed, stop and explore along the way pace.

In the end, we made it to north Florida/St Augustine in time to grab a rental car and spend Christmas with my Mom in the Florida panhandle.  Now we’ll hang here for a few weeks, appreciate the relative warmth and sunshine, catch up with some friends,  and regroup/plan for what comes next… which hopefully isn’t another boat project.

As always, stay tuned.



Read Full Post »

Today is November 30, the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season… whoo hoo!  It also marks the end of our second month in Oriental, the stay that we’d anticipated would be one month maximum.  And we haven’t left yet…  Assuming we actually do get on the water and moving at some point in the not too distant future, it will officially be our latest start south to date.  We’re also anticipating some of our coldest days on the water, but I’m trying not to freak out about that just yet.  Last but not least, the reason for our still being here, today also marks a solid month since we sent the Red Queen off to the diesel hospital.

In all honesty, autumn in eastern North Carolina has been lovely.  For the most part it’s been cool, clear and sunny.  Occasionally overnight temps dip into the 30’s, and occasionally it rains… like today, but mostly it’s been beautiful.  The cooler temps wouldn’t even be so bad if we were in the water and could use our reverse cycle air-conditioner/heater.  On the hard however, we have only our little ceramic disc space heater, which on our uninsulated boat takes the edge off at best.  We move it back and forth from the main cabin/salon by day to our forward cabin overnight.  Between the space heater and two fleece blankets, we’re pretty toasty overnight.  Some evenings we find a way to be off the boat soaking up the heat of one of the several restaurants in the area.  Other nights we layer up, cover up and read.  Mornings are generally the more challenging.  Often times we’ll take a walk or go out for breakfast while the sun warms things up a bit.  Climbing up and down the ladder umpteen times a day also keeps the blood moving.

Another challenging aspect of living on the hard is that we don’t use the sinks, particularly when we’re doing hull work.  Normally, our grey water discharge drains through a thru hull into the water, which on the yard would make for puddles around the boat, after running down the sides of the boat.  We opt instead for using minimal water (translate: washing hands, rinsing dishes) into a stainless bowl about the size of our sink that I dump and clean out each evening, but actually washing the dishes is done off the boat utilizing a bucket and a hose.  Not so bad actually, until you realize that we’ve been doing this for pushing 6 weeks now.  Needless to say, we’ve been keeping meals simple… one pot if possible.

Yet another challenge is operating w/o a freezer, or more specifically with a freezer that freezes only intermittently.  We’ve learned that our fancy new fridge, the one we installed just last winter, works like a charm, except when the ambient temperature is really cold.  Overnight lows where the cabin temps dip into the 50’s count for cold.  Not unlike dorm fridges, the shoebox-sized freezer box is not really separately insulated.  The problem is that when it’s cold, the fridge doesn’t run as often, which means the freezer doesn’t stay frozen.  Except when it’s a bit warmer, then it’s fine.  Our alternative is to dial the Engel (our secondary fridge used mostly for beverages) back to freezer mode, which we may do at least temporarily when we head south and don’t have the option of grocery shopping a day at a time.

OK, enough about the challenges.  There has been plenty to be grateful for as well.   As always, we’ve enjoyed being back in Oriental and catching up with friends who are based here.  We joined in a new-to-us Oriental tradition, a Thanksgiving morning bicycle ride; rumor has is there were about 90 of us pedaling that morning.  After our simple meals on the boat, a complete Thanksgiving dinner at our friend Mike’s was a real treat, as was the opportunity to “housesit” for our friend Laurie while she was away for a few days over the holiday.  We were reminded of how much we enjoyed a gas fireplace when we last lived on dirt.  In addition to our favorite haunts, there are a couple of new restaurants in town since our last visit, including a Mediterranean place called Layla’s.  Here’s hoping they make it… the location has not been kind to previous restauranteurs.  I’ve also found a local yoga studio, which has been an especially nice counterbalance to some of our boat projects.

At this point, our big yard projects are done.  We’ve replaced a faulty thru hull, completed some routine maintenance on the drive leg, buffed and waxed the hull and put a couple of coats of bottom paint on.  More recently Mike has replaced a couple of fans that died painful rattly deaths, and transformed 200 feet of 5/8″ 3-strand nylon into 6 fancy new dock lines (including splicing the eyes… most impressive to watch I might add).  Meanwhile I’ve been on a cleaning spree, trying to keep the mildew and mold at bay in these damp conditions.

At the risk of jinxing us, I believe the end may be in sight.  The good news is that the Red Queen wasn’t terminal, but did need some professional TLC.  Her transmission spent a stretch in Marblehead, MA in the care of a Westerbeke transmission specialist.  It’s now back in Pamlico County where our mechanic Darrell is putting her back together with some new bits, including a new engine main seal that was backordered for what seemed like forever.  The plan, as of today, is for the Red Queen to be returned to us this Friday.  We’ll spend the week-end in the lift doing the last touch-up of bottom paint on the spots where we’ve been blocked.  If all goes according to plan, we’ll go back in the water on Monday.  We’ll spend a couple more days getting things put back together, undoing our hurricane prep.  The dinghy, stored on a rack at the marina for the last couple of months will go back on the davits.  The sails and cockpit enclosure will get dug out and put back together.  We’ll do some final laundry and provisioning and then, as soon as weather permits, we’ll be on our way.

That’s our plan… in the sand… at low tide.  Here’s hoping…

Read Full Post »

hurricane_matthew_cumulative_wind_historyMany apologies to our readers… it’s been a solid month since my last post, and a busy month at that.  Those who also follow us on social media know by now that we survived Hurricane Matthew without damage.  Mike stayed in Oriental and tended to Cheshire while I spent two weeks doing my annual triangle trip (Cheshire > IN > FL> Cheshire) helping Mom with her move down to Florida for the winter.  It was a stressful stretch, binge-watching the Weather Channel as Matthew barreled its way up through the islands, up the coast of FL and beyond, leaving an incredible amount of destruction in his path.  Our beloved St Augustine, FL was hit particularly hard; this piece from the local newspaper has some details and photos, as does this blog post by a fellow cruiser currently based in St Augustine.  There were boats washed up into the marshes, at least one marina destroyed and hundreds of homes lost.  This NPR piece has some before/after aerial photos of the shorelines just north and south of the city.  Needless to say, they are still very much in recovery mode and will be for some time.  Had this storm hit last year at this time, Cheshire and her crew would also have been in town and might not have fared so well.

Further north, Oriental saw only a bit of high water, but no more than a strong nor-easter might bring.  The winds were a bit stronger than in previous storms we’ve weathered here,  though Mike says our anemometer (wind instrument) was being wacky, so we don’t know exactly  how strong.  A bit further inland in eastern North Carolina though, there was some significant flooding.  All in all, we consider ourselves lucky, having dodged another one.

Up and down the eastern US coast, the recovery continues.  In addition to the damage done to boats, marine facilities, and homes along the waterways, the coastlines themselves have been rearranged, with inlets where there didn’t used to be, shallow spots where the bottom of the waterway has shifted around, and many channel markers blown off station if not blown away all together.  The Great Dismal Swamp Canal is still closed.  Many bridges were affected and we’ve heard of numerous cruising boats with taller masts than ours having to wait for water levels to recede before they can pass beneath some of the tall bridges along the ICW.  As anxious as we are to get moving south before the weather turns cold, we’re also OK with allowing some of the dust to settle, so to speak.

Meanwhile, in Oriental, we’ve been staying busy.  Within 48 hours of my return to Mike and our Cheshire, we were hauled out and onto the boatyard for yet another round of projects.  Living aboard on a boatyard is no fun, but I have to say, it’s way more comfortable in North Carolina in October than in north Florida in August.  We had a bit of rain this morning (hence my finally pulling the laptop out for some blogging), but otherwise its been clear and dry, perfect for getting some projects done.  (Rollover the photos below for captions.)

The primary reason for this haul is to have some engine work done.  Our 27-horse Westerbeke diesel has been hemorrhaging various fluids for a few of months now… a bit of coolant, a bit more engine oil and a scary amount of transmission fluid. We watched closely/topped off frequently, hoped to avoid a catastrophic failure further north, Plan A being to pause in Oriental and have her tended to.  Thankfully the Red Queen was on board with Plan A.  (For those familiar with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, the Red Queen moniker is a reference to the movie character…  small, loud and demanding of much attention.)  Unfortunately, it took 10 days after our haul for the planets to line up for having the engine pulled… which won’t be a huge deal unless we’re still in North Carolina for Christmas.  Mike made good use of the delay and saved us a bundle in labor costs by doing much of the engine disassembly in advance.  In any event, the actual engine pull was no small task, involving the travel lift’s crane, and several hands; I mostly tried to stay out of the way and take photos.

As I type, our Red Queen lies in the diesel hospital.  We know she’s got a bad seal… not such a big deal/expense to replace.  We’re awaiting word from a specialist about the condition of the transmission… potentially a much bigger deal.  For now we wait…

In the meantime, there are other as-long-as-we’re-hauled-anyway projects to keep us busy.  Mike’s tending to the messy ones… replacing a defective thru-hull and performing some routine maintenance on the drive leg.  I on the other hand have been distracting myself with cleaning.  After hearing some horror stories lately regarding rigging failures, we decided to dismantle/inspect and reassemble the headstay hardware… the bits that hold the jib (forward sail) and mast up.  Thankfully they were in fine shape, just needed a bit of polishing.  I’ve also been polishing and waxing the hull… always forgetting how much surface area there is on our cat until she’s out of the water.  It’s a big job, but kind of a zen thing for me, wax on, wax off…  I’ve also found a local yoga studio; my body is appreciating the occasional class to help balance all of the more strenuous work.

Other projects on the list… we’ll definitely scuff and apply a couple coats of bottom paint.  Depending on what happens with the engine, Mike’s also wanting to replace the shift and throttle cables, but that’s on hold for now.

And sometimes we play… We’ve gotten to catch up with some old cruising friends, as well as meet some new folks as they come and go with the cruiser migration.  The annual Chili Cook-off was a great success, raising big bucks for the local theatre’s badly needed roof replacement.

Especially being on the hard where cooking/dishes are more challenging, we’ve been supporting some of our favorite local eating establishments and checking out a couple of new ones.  I can also personally vouch for the Pumpkin Spice Latte ice cream currently being dipped at the Bean down on the waterfront.  We love Oriental, and it’s nice to be back for a stretch, but the temperatures are starting to drop.  Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for our Red Queen.

Read Full Post »

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.


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.


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.


Read Full Post »

We had planned for our stop in Port Washington to be a brief one.  We would visit check out one more Gold Coast mansion, get our much used/abused bikes tuned up, top off provisions, do some laundry, and plan our way through the East River and on south.  That, however, was before Hermine decided to stop by for a visit.

On the way here though, of course there were more lighthouses.   The sinister sounding Execution Rocks Light and the Sands Point Light mark the point we rounded to enter Manhasset Bay. Execution Rocks is now privately owned and apparently being renovated but is available for overnight stays for $300/night, double occupancy… think air mattresses, port-a-potties and camp stoves, bring your own bedding food and ice.  Check it out here.  Sands Point has had a couple of private owners, including William Hearst for a time, until it was sold to a realtor who subdivided it for a 1 acre/lot residential development.

A cruising friend of ours recently described Port Washington as the cruisers Gateway to Long Island.  It’s proven to be just that.  Unlike some of our previous stops, Port Washington is welcoming of visiting/transient cruisers.  They have transient designated mooring balls that are available for free for the first 48 hrs, and after that, only cost $25/night.  Even better, the $25 mooring fee also included unlimited rides on the local shuttle/water taxi, which we’ve taken advantage of.

We arrived last Wednesday, just before the Labor Day weekend in hopes of beating the crowds.  Who knew that Hermine, who would make landfall on the Florida Gulf Coast the next day as a Cat 1 hurricane,, would also be such a big factor for us.  By Friday, we knew we’d be here for a bit longer than planned.

After dropping our bikes off for much needed tune-ups, we hiked on up to Sands Point Preserve.  This is a massive place, very much open to the public.  The grounds are extensive and include 3 mansions.  One, Castle Gould, is not open for tours, though part of the facility serves as a visitors’ center, others used for public events, and some private ones; in fact they were setting up for a wedding at our visit.  This 1904 100,000 sq ft limestone mansion was built by Howard Gould, however his actress wife Katherine Clemmons decided she didn’t like it, so it served instead as a stable, carriage house and servants’ quarters.  Nearby Hempstead House was built instead and would be their main residence.  Gould and Clemmons later divorced, and the estate was eventually bought by Daniel and Florence Guggenheim. Hempstead House was not open for tours at our visit, but we did opt to tour Falaise.

Our tour ended up being a private one, just Mike, myself and our tour guide who was most informative.  Falaise was built by Harry Guggenheim, son of Daniel and Florence, and his wife Caroline, on estate property gifted to him by his parents.  Designed in the style of a 13th century Norman manor house, it is beautifully furnished with items they collected in their travels about Europe.  Harry sounds to have been an interesting guy, for a time served as US Ambassador to Cuba, flew in WWI and WWII, and was a close friend of Charles Lindbergh among other things.    He also had a curious relationship with Bill Moyers whom I’m a big fan of.  Details in this Wikipedia piece for those who may be interested.  Again, no inside photography allowed,


Come Saturday, we did a bit of provisioning, picked up our tuned-up bikes and did some storm prep of Cheshire.  Given the forecast, we opted not to strip all of the canvas/sails off… a big deal, but did secure them, including some extra lashing of the mainsail.  We put out some extra lines to our mooring ball; the extra cleats Mike installed some time ago came in very handy. (For previous storms of significance, we’ve either been hauled, or at a dock; this would be our first “named storm” on a mooring.) We also secured the dinghy as we do for offshore passages, that is removed the outboard engine and cinched in in tight to the davits to minimize sway/motion.  This also takes a bit of doing, so we’d use the shuttle/water taxi service for the duration of our stay.  Finally, we did some extra lashing of the solar panels; good thing Mike is so handy with line/rope/knots.

Then, we waited.  And walked about town.  As we’ve gotten closer to New York City, there’s more of an ethnic presence.  We had some great Mediterranean take out from Ayan’s Marketplace/Cafe ,  BBQ from Harbor Q our afternoon exploring Sands Point,  a great splurge Italian meal one night at Toscanini Ristorante, and some most delicious cheese blintzes (Lori) at Port Washington Diner for breakfast one morning.

And we’ve waited some more.  I’ve done some laundry.  We’ve been frequent visitors of the local public library (free wifi) except when they were closed over the holiday week-end.  They have a great view from their balcony though; photo below.  We’ve read a lot.  We’ve checked in regularly with other cruising friends up and down the coast.  Meanwhile Hermine, who went from Hurricane to Tropical Storm to post-Tropical Storm, has continued to meander (really, apparently now a new weather word) all over the Mid-Atlantic coast.  Monday night the long forecasted winds arrived.  There’s now a bit of rain in the forecast, but the forecast seems to change by the day.  A couple of days ago, she was headed offshore; this morning, she’d taken a more westerly track.  This afternoon, we’re down dealing with what the NWS calls a small craft advisory.  Often we’re treated to a pretty sunset at day’s end.

In any event, we’ll stay put, for a couple more days anyway.  We’ll choose our window carefully though when we finally do depart, as we’re headed through the East River, including the potentially exciting Hell Gate, past NYC and down the Jersey coast.

As always, stay tuned.

Read Full Post »

… of Shelter Island that is.  It was a busy run.  Here are the highlights.

We based in Coecles Harbor for a few days, and even sprang for a mooring ball for a few of them.  This gave us dinghy dock access, a place to keep the bikes ashore for a couple of days, and an opportunity to do some much needed laundry and an even more needed haircut.  Shore side showers were also a welcome perk.

Mike and I spent an afternoon hiking about Mashomack Preserve.  We would return a week or so later when we rendezvoused with our cruising friends Dawn and Paul aboard s/v BuBu3. (Credit to Dawn for the rare-these-days photo of Mike and I together.)  After hiking our legs off, we pedaled into town to Shelter Island Craft Brewery (OK, but not our favorite craft brewery), accompanied by some not-so-great nachos from Maria’s Kitchen next door.

We’d decided that Greenport, a town over on the northern neck of Long Island, was worth at least a day of exploring, but the Captain wasn’t happy with any of the anchorage options nearby.  Solution: the cheap and frequent ferry that runs between the north end of Shelter Island and Greenport.  For a $5 each round trip fare, we could take our bikes along as well.  No brainer.

Buzz Lightyear kept us safe as we departed the ferry dock.  We locked the bikes up at the museum (not yet open at our arrival), and walked about town.   Greenport Fire was a great find, thanks to a tip from our friend Tina.  I’m certain I’ve never seen more bottles of hot sauce in one place in my life, a couple of which scored new homes aboard Cheshire.  We also found Greenport Brewing Co’s original location, which I believe was retrofit into an old fire station. I love their whale graphic representation of Long Island and their location in the north fork of the tail.  Alas, we were way early for tasting room hours.  After a quick lunch/snack from the local IGA, we wandered back to check out the small but nicely done East End Seaport Museum.  The nearby fireboat Fire Fighter is also managed by the museum, but alas not open for tours on the day of our visit.  Active from 1938-2010, she’s a tired looking vessel right now, but has an impressive service history, including a role in fighting fires resulting from the 9/11 terrorist attack.  A Wikipedia article here has more of her story and some good photos.

The North Fork area of Long Island a big wine growing region in recent years, so of course we’d do some exploring.  We pedaled to  Kontokosta Winery just on the outskirts of Greenport and enjoyed a lovely tasting and a walk about the grounds.  The wine was quite good as was the view of Long Island Sound from the property.  Back in Greenport, we grabbed a bite at Lucharito’s, very tasty duck nachos, and tacos.

A couple of days later, we moved around to an anchorage known as Hog Neck Bay, a nice spot with access to a few more wineries.  We beached the dinghy for walk to Croteaux Rosé Vineyards for a sampling of sparklings , Mattebella Vineyards for some tasty reds and bites, then on to Greenport Harbor Brewing Company‘s Peconic location, the latter on a tip from a sommelier at Kontokosta Winery a few days earlier.  Not only does Greenport offer tastings at this location, they also have a food truck on site.  We enjoyed GHBC’s beers much more than those of Shelter Island Craft Brewery.


The next day we moved around to Town Creek where we picked up a mooring courtesy of cruising friends we’d met on Block Island earlier this season, Rick & Lynne aboard s/v Acacia. We shuttled  bikes ashore, and enjoyed a late breakfast at Jeni’s Main Street Grill That’s about when the heavens opened up.  We waited out the worst of it, and had only occasional sprinkles over the rest of the day. We pedaled out  Horton’s Point Lighthouse thinking we’d only be able to see the grounds, but were pleased to learn that they’d just reopened after being closed for several weeks.


Our afternoon was spent checking out a couple more wineries.  One Woman Wines and Vineyards is a smallish operation, the owner/grower/winemaker an Italian woman from Calabria, Italy.  The Old Field Vineyards was a favorite… a comfortable, laid-back kind of place complete with ducks and chickens running around… and some tasty wines.

Back in town, we attempted  a visit to the Southold Historical Society’s Museum Complex… admission included with a multi-site ticket we’d purchased at the lighthouse earlier in the day…  however found all the buildings padlocked, except for the privy that is, despite a sign advertising hours indicating that they should be open.  A bit shy on volunteer help I guess.  We made a grocery run, pumped a few gallons of water from dinghy and headed back to the mothership.

LS_20160821_080412 Long Beach Bar Light, aka %22Bug Light%22

Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, aka “Bug Light”

We completed our circumnavigation with a return to Coecles Harbor where we planned to meet up with cruising friends Dawn and Paul of BuBu3.  On our way, we passed Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, aka “Bug Light”.  The original structure, long since decommissioned,  was burned by arsonists in 1963.  So loved was this lighthouse that funds were raised and a replicate built in 60 days and installed in just one more.  The one day installation was apparently a bit confusing for a fisherman who apparently saw the empty foundation as he headed out one morning, and a working lighthouse in place at day’s end.

We spent a couple of days/nights catching up with the crew of Bubu3, including a great jazz night at nearby Ram’s Head Inn, exploring  Taylor’s Island and another walk about Mashomack Preserve.  Taylor’s Island is another spot with some history, currently undergoing a bit of restoration.  It wasn’t open at our visit… apparently rarely is, but I was captivated by the doors.


For our last night together, we’d planned for dinner aboard BuBu3.  There was a bit of wind and wave action, but Mike and I were undeterred.  We donned our rain gear and motored over.  We’d just finished drinks and snacks and were sitting down to dinner when we heard someone shouting nearby.  We headed up to the cockpit to see what the commotion was about.  I should mention that the previous night, during a heavy downpour, there was some drama with a couple of rafted boats dragging anchor, resulting in a near-miss collision with BuBu3, so someone in the anchorage shouting loudly not 24 hours later got our attention.  It turns out our dinghy decided to untie its painter and go for a drift by itself. Paul and Mike were in Paul/Dawn’s dinghy in the blink of an eye and off to rescue our poor Pudgy which was having quite a ride on the waves as it washed towards the rocks on the far shore.  I wasn’t quick enough to grab a shot of its solo adventure, but Dawn caught this one shortly after its rescue.  Mike was moving so fast, he even forgot to grab his hat and sunglasses.  Thankfully this was a daylight rescue and not a nighttime search and rescue.

28691931644_f653f6ae66_kDG_20160822 04


Oh, the adventures we have…



Read Full Post »

aka The Hamptons, or most of the Hamptons anyway.  Forks, counties, towns, villages, hamlets… it’s all very confusing up here.  I like the image though of Long Island as a fish swimming towards the west, with a forked tail.

We decided to tuck into Three Mile Harbor (spacious, no anchoring restrictions and reasonable shore access) to rest, visit with a cruising friend who’s living/working here for the season, and to plan for our next stretch.  As it turns out, this spot kept us busy exploring as well.

One day we ferried the bikes ashore with a plan to pedal out to Cedar Point County Park.  It wasn’t a bad ride… nice scenery, decent roads, not a lot of traffic, but we found ourselves wishing for our old road bikes at one point, or at least something with a few gears.  Nevertheless, we made it.  We pedaled through the park until the road ended, then walked along the beach out to Cedar Point Light.  The first Cedar Point Light built in the 1830’s and the current structure dating from a few decades later were both built on what was then Cedar Island, but the 1938 hurricane apparently rearranged the shoreline and today a narrow spit of sand connects the lighthouse to what was the mainland. A few families enjoyed the beach, but we were alone in our venturing out to the light.

Unlike many of the lighthouses we’ve seen in recent months, the Cedar Point Light is still very much in need of some TLC.  The Cedar Island Restoration Project is apparently well underway, but you wouldn’t know it to look at the structure… except for the big banner hung from one side advertising the project.  A few years ago, the beacon was removed from the top and moved by barge to a boatyard in Sag Harbor where it’s reportedly been restored and will wait for further building restoration to be completed.  I’ve read that a roof replacement is in the works for next year.  The interior was badly burned in a fire in the mid 1970’s.  There’s a lot of work to be done.  Word is it’ll serve as a bed & breakfast when it’s finally complete.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to post “after” photos.

Much of the beach along this spit of land is closed seasonally for nesting birds.  On our walk back, I spent a bit of time taking photos of rocks at the shore line instead of the shorebirds who are fast little buggers.  I did managed a few with the bird in the frame.

As long as we had bikes ashore, we decided to pedal down to LongHouse Reserve.  LongHouse is a 16-acre reserve and sculpture garden, a project of famed textile designer/art collector/author Jack Lenor Larsen. He also built a Japanese-inspired home on the grounds that alas is not open to the public, but sounds like quite a place.  I would have loved a sneak peak.  Larsen is nearly 90 at this point, and still spends a lot of time on the grounds here. He generously  opens the grounds to the public though, for a small fee,  at least for a few hours a day, only a few days a week.  Our timing was fortunate.

The Gateway Bell sets the tone for a peaceful walk through the garden.  Here’s a sampling of what I found most intriguing.

I couldn’t help but notice several pieces that used materials familiar to those of us who live on boats… Sunbrella fabric and stainless steel rigging bits to name a few…

This piece offered some interesting photo ops…

Mike was drawn to the vast array of art upon which one could rest…


LS_20160813_184048 dinghy parking, Three Mile Harbor

dinghy parking, Three Mile Harbor

Damarks Deli was today’s food highlight.  We had a bite of breakfast here in the morning, and stopped again to pick up some carry-out things for a light dinner back aboard.  We were lucky to make it back aboard however.  We arrived back at the dinghy dock to find it chained and padlocked, the dinghy equivalent of having one’s tire booted.  Turns out we’d inadvertently tied up to a marina dock instead of the in-retrospect-very-obvious public dinghy dock… not that there are signs or anything.  Thankfully we arrived while there were still marina/boatyard staff around;  $10 later (Mike talked them down from $30), we were free and on our way.  (Photo from a later day, tied to the correct dock, the illegal/$10 dock in the background).

The next day we were up and out early to meet Tina, who we’d first met in the Bahamas a couple of years ago.  She’s now RVing, and is working up here for the summer.  We had a lovely wander through the Elizabeth Morton National Wildlife Refuge (alas, no camera), though it was pretty quiet this morning anyway.  We did see dozens of signs though, not forbidding feeding the birds (they’ve apparently given up on that), but rather discouraging folks from leaving piles of seed behind as it attracts rats.  Even the signs/pictures of rats eating shorebird eggs were ineffective though, as we saw at least one pile of seeds someone had left behind on a railing, though a squirrel was making quick work of it.

Lunch at LTBurger in Sag Harbor was most delicious (Smoke Gouda Waffle Fries, jus sayin’), was followed by stops at a farm market and a grocery.  Bless her heart, a provisioning run was the first thing Tina offered when we arrived… she still gets it.  The following morning she introduced us to the Saturday  Sag Harbor Farmers Market; we could have gotten into some serious food geeking trouble here were we not planning to be out for the day with no access to refrigeration.  As it was, we did some power sampling and held purchases to a breakfast pastry and a bottle of hot sauce.  After a visit to the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum, we said our good-byes.  Mike and I did a bit more exploring around Sag Harbor,  an old whaling village with a number of historic homes.  We also visited an honest-to-goodness 5-&-dime, and a good old fashioned hardware store… gotta love tourist towns that have something besides t-shirt shops.

We’d planned to take the bus back to save Tina yet another drive, particularly on a Saturday and especially since she’s working evenings.   What a bust!  We found a bus system that pales in comparison to the one we experienced on Martha’s Vineyard a few weeks back.  The bus stops aren’t marked, and they run no where close to on schedule.  We managed to catch one from Sag Harbor to East Hampton.  We planned to walk around there a bit,  but found it mostly a place full of high end clothing shops we weren’t remotely interested in.  We did find a place to eat that wasn’t stupid expensive (Rowdy Hall) and had a bite to eat… good food and a few decent beers on tap.  Later, we decided to walk the 3 miles back to Three Mile Harbor. Amazingly, there was a sidewalk the whole way.

A couple of days of rest and hiding out from the heat, and we’re ready to explore some more.  Stay tuned.






Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: