Saturday, June 23, 2007

June 15

June 15. The weather forecast has us a little alarmed. The wind is from the northeast, the direction we need to travel, at 15 to 20 knots. So this means no sailing but even worse is the thought of bashing into wind driven seas for 60 miles. We decide to play it safe and wait until tomorrow.

Okay, its tomorrow. The wind is supposed to die tonight and turn around from the south for a bit before going west. It won’t be enough wind to sail in but at least the waves won’t be against us. We listen to the weather all day and I talk to a few boats that have entered the harbor after coming south to Cape May.

At around 1600 hours I decide that the wind has already started to abate and so in a few hours the sea swell should be mellowing as well. The weather for tomorrow is now for very high winds from the west in the afternoon. I’m picturing high winds opposing the mellowing swell creating some pretty nasty choppy conditions, so I make a command decision. I ask Christy if we can leave tonight, travel all night and be in Barnegat Bay before 0900 tomorrow. She starts to cry, no not really but she wasn’t all over the idea like I thought she would be. I explained my position and was able to sway her to my point of view. Okay, okay, I had to make concessions; among other things Rumboy has been banished.

If we leave at 2000 hours we’ll be able to leave Cape May at just about slack tide and if we arrive before 0900 tomorrow we will be able to ride the flood tide into Barnegat Inlet tomorrow. This will also be an advantage to us if we run aground in the meandering channel that leads from the inlet to the bay.

So I lay down for a couple of hours to try and get some sleep since we’re now leaving this evening. After my nap we go about the business of raising the anchor and getting underway.

The trip out the inlet was very pleasant in the waning light of day. After clearing the inlet we turned northeast towards Barnegat Inlet. It got dark quickly but it didn’t seem too bad as we were abreast of the boardwalk at Wildwood. The rides and town were so brightly lit that everything on our port side was bathed in the reflected glow of the shore. On our port side we could see as if it was daylight yet on our starboard side it was so dark it seemed as if the world just stopped there. It was more than a little eerie, just blackness with no edge to sea or sky.

As the evening wore on we began using an egg timer to assist us in keeping a proper watch. We’d set it for 15 minutes and when it went off the first order of business was to reset it for another 15. Next was to take the radar off standby so it could start to look around. Third was the actual physical act of standing up and doing a slow 360 degree look outside. Next was a good minute or 2 of staring at the radar screen to see what if anything had changed. Then a quick look at the GPS to check our course and it was back to sitting for another 11 minutes or so.

Once this routine was established Christy went below to try and get a few hours of rest. If there was any chance of me dozing off she was sure the egg timer would wake me. It was interesting just how important the egg timer became. I wasn’t really tired but as we moved north of Wildwood we moved further offshore and away from the lights of society. It was very dark as it was overcast, so no stars and no moon. So I’d be sitting starring straight ahead at the blackness and all of a sudden the egg timer would go off.

To me it felt as if I had just set it yet another quarter of an hour had passed. Without the timer in these conditions it would have been very easy to daydream my way into trouble. In 20 or 30 minutes a boat doing 20 knots can come over the horizon and really change the mood of the evening for the worse.

There was a lot of barge traffic on the ocean. We were mostly between 5 and 7 miles offshore and it seemed that all of the barges were about 7 to 10 miles off the beach. It was completely disorienting looking at the lights on the water at night. A tug and barge would look like they were a mile away but the radar showed them to be 3 and a half miles from our position.

After seeing a few it became easier to eyeball their distance from us. I was badly fooled by a sport fisherman that was only a half mile from us even though judging by his lights he looked to be much further away. He appeared to be the same height as the large ocean going tugs because his smaller boat was just much closer to us. The radar wasn’t fooled though so it all worked out okay.

The lights of Atlantic City were clearly visible from almost 20 miles away. The downside was that it really seemed to make the trip drag as we could see the city for so long: approaching and pulling away. Hours would pass and we’d still be near Atlantic City.

The black of night gave way to the dull grayness of the predawn. The sky behind us was dark and foreboding while the morning sky in front of us seemed to hold the promise of a beautiful day.

The sun broke through the gray and gave us a wonderful show. We turned into the Barnegat Inlet approach at 0715. The Inlet had been given a bad rap as a dangerous inlet and for the most part it was. Then in 1995 the Army Corp of Engineers changed the layout of the jetties and in general the inlet conditions improved greatly. Today was a lot like 1994 however.

We got our ass kicked. We had been heading north through a large slow easterly swell and made great time. It was okay for the trip up here but with a slight wind out of the west and with last of the ebb tide the easterly swells created large breaking seas in the inlet. The word “broach” crossed my mind on more than one occasion as I was forced to take a very active roll at the helm as we transited the outer part of the inlet.

To make matters more interesting there was a large Bluefish tournament starting today so the inlet was crowded with fishermen headed out. There was a lot of discussion about the inlet and dozens of boats elected to turn back and stay inside. One minute our speed was slowed by the ebbing tide and the next second we were flying along in breaking surf. Veranda handled it well and made me look like I know what I’m doing.

After a quick trip across the bay we were back in Forked River and on our way to the Silver Cloud Marina complex. We were tied up in a slip before 0900 and did our best to nap for a few hours before venturing out to see our people.

The afternoon winds did build to almost 20 knots from the west. With the easterly swell the inlet would have been much more dangerous than it was for us this morning. Hindsight being 20 / 20, we did the right thing by traveling in the lightest winds possible even though it was on a moonless night. Sometimes you find “safety first“ where you least expect it.

June 14

June 14. Today was one of our longest scheduled days. It looks to be about 85 miles.

For optimal tidal flow assistance we need to be adjacent to Chesapeake City by 1020. Since we’re about 20 miles away that means that we are going to need to get underway by 0700. We manage to get it together and get underway by 0645.

We get a knot push until we get to the C&D Canal and then it becomes a 2 knot advantage for us. The wind is blowing directly in our face so as we turn south at the far end of the canal we are able to put up all sail. The wind almost immediately dies but after an hour it builds to 10 to 15 knots so we are able to shut down the engine and sail for the better part of the day.

We’re on a beam reach with an assist from the current up until we have 9 miles to go. Then we have to start the engine and motor sail until we reach the Cape May Canal. When we reach the end of the canal we drop sail but are asked to wait outside for a few minutes until the Cape May ferry clears the channel. We’re always happy to cooperate with someone 20 times bigger and 40 times heavier than we are.

Once inside the channel we make good time down the river headed for the anchorage. There are 2 fixed bridges with a height of 55 feet. We only need 52 feet and have passed through these bridges before. We can see that the bridge height boards are currently showing 53 and a half feet. The current is against us and the spans are very narrow and then WHAM! Christy and I look at each other and simultaneously realize that we just hit the small light that hangs below the bridge to mark the center of the span.

There’s a light at either edge of the bridge to mark the center of the span. At night if you line the 2 lights up then you will pass through the center of the highest part of the bridge. The light was hanging down a couple of feet below the bridge and we smacked it perfectly. The light pivots so it swung out of the way after we hit it and it does not appear to have damaged anything on our masthead.

After changing my underwear we proceeded into the harbor to look for someplace to drop the hook. The first space that looked even semi appealing was already crowded so we continued on. The second anchorage was also very crowded and the only other choice involves us opening the Route 9 lift bridge and anchoring up the river behind it.

After looking at the crowded second anchorage we chose it anyway because I didn’t want to add any more time to our long day tomorrow dealing with the bridge in the morning.

We wedged our way in between 2 boats and both Captains were a bit concerned but we used the “Bitch Wing Counter” and then did a nice job of dropping the hook and coming to rest with perfect spacing.

It turned out to be an 83 mile day and it was good to finally get the hook set and sit back for a bit before turning in for the night.

June 13

June 13. We said goodbye to Jim and Deb and headed out for tonight’s anchorage. We’d like to get as close as possible to the western end of the C&D Canal as we can.

We plan to try the Bohemia River but the charts are calling it fairly shallow and the guides all talk of extensive shoaling. On our way down in the fall we had stopped in the Sassafras River which was very protected.

The winds are light and just off the nose so we’re motor sailing against the tidal flow. As the early afternoon wears on the skies are becoming more and more ominus in front of us. We’re listening to NOAA weather radio and their talking about severe thunderstorms and big rain in front of us. Right after that the Coast Guard gets on the VHF and broadcasts a Notice to Mariners about a thunderstorm with 40 to 50 knot winds just to the north of us.

So in our continuing tradition of “safety first” we decide to head up into the Sassafras River. I would have rather continued on to the Bohemia River but I was planning to poke around slowly while looking for a good spot to anchor there. If the weather is going to fall apart I don’t want to be “exploring” when it happens.

We head up the Sassafras, dropping the sail as we go as the winds are steadily building and the sky is becoming quite dark. We pick out a spot that offers the most protection and drop the anchor and 120 feet of chain. Christy feeds the dogs while I lower the dinghy to take the dogs ashore before the storm hits.

Once back on the boat the “storm” hit. All we got was some gusts to 30 knots and a smattering of rain. We’ll have to add the 8 miles that we didn’t cover today to tomorrow’s already long day. I feel a little foolish for dropping the hook so quickly but who knows how it would have turned out in the Bohemia so “safety first”.

June 11

June 11. We were only traveling 15 miles to Annapolis so we hauled anchor at 1000.

Winds were light so it was a 2 hour motor sail. The trip was uneventful through dead calm waters. Once into Annapolis we decided to grab a mooring ball. These moorings are closer together than any we’ve encountered as of yet. All went well but it was weird to be so tightly spaced with everyone else.

Since we were there by noon the mooring field was pretty empty so we had our pick of the field. We took a mooring down near the end of Ego Alley. It made for good boat and people watching as we watched the Ego’s pass by on their way to try and impress the masses.

Ego Alley is a long narrow dead end that runs into the heart of Annapolis. It’s the place for people who want to be seen. Sometimes there’s something special there but mostly it’s the “look what I got crowd”. We were treated to a couple of special examples of boat handling by guys that were in way over their heads. They come to show off and end up looking like the biggest horse’s ass this side of the planet. It’s really special, bring the family.

Jim & Deb on Freedom took a ball a little further from the excitement of Ego Alley. There choice had a really nice view of the United States Naval Academy. Come to find out that for incoming freshmen at the Naval Academy have to spend the summer at the academy being whipped into some kind of shape before the fall semester starts.

We found this out at 0600 the next morning when we were assaulted by the sound of a Drill Instructor putting his young charges through their morning workout. The guy was at least 200 hundred yards from us and I could hear every word he said…..clearly. The Freedom’s were only 60 yards away. 

After the workouts the males plebes were sent out sailing. The Academy has a fleet of 44 foot sailboats called “Navy 44’s”. They’re beautiful to watch, every sailor has a navy polo shirt and tan slacks on these big navy blue boats with spotless, crisp white sails.

The girls seemed to get the short end of the stick, at least today. They were out in 8 man skulls rowing there brains out. Every boat was followed by a small skiff with a couple of instructors bellowing instructions

June 10

June 10. With Freedom behind us we head up to Herring Bay to see our friends the Bedazzles and our buddy Phil who lives on his sailboat at the same marina.

There’s absolutely no room to anchor inside the seawall in north Herring Bay. The wind was very light and was supposed to die completely so we both anchored just outside the seawall. We were both protected from the northeast if anything unpredicted kicked up.

The Bedazzles, Rick & Linda hosted all of us for a barbeque on their boat. Linda even drove Christy and Deb to the supermarket to buy provisions while Jim and I swapped lies with Rick and Phil.

The dinner was perfect, the conversation was all over the map and very funny. Rumboy even made a rare appearance.

June 7

June 7. Today we have the wind behind us for the 40 mile sail to Solomon’s Island, Maryland. The winds were light at about 8 knots straight over the stern.

We sailed out of the Indian Creek and started running across the wind as we started towards the far shore. Once we got to the center of the Chesapeake I decided to give “wing and wing” a try. This involves pulling the mainsail and boom out one side of the boat and tying it there so it can’t swing back unexpectedly. The genoa is then flown out on the other side of the boat allowing you to catch as much wind as possible rather than having the mainsail blanketing the genoa.

With Rover steering, we swing the main out to starboard and tie it off and then fly the genoa out to port. With 8 knots of wind behind us we were doing a little better than 4 knots. For a brief period the wind built to 12 knots and we were pulling along at 6 and a half knots. It wasn’t a record setter as far as speed goes but we were able to sail like this for over 20 miles without touching anything. It was pretty special.

The anchorage in Solomon’s Island is split between 2 small rivers, Back Creek and Mill Creek. As we approached Solomon’s we heard people ahead of us bitching on the VHF that there was no room left in Back Creek. We skipped Back Creek and went directly up Mill Creek and snagged one of the last remaining prime spots. Mill Creek doesn’t really have anything of interest although we did grab some Wifi. Christy and I spent a quiet night on the boat.

The next morning we allowed a little time for people to get it together and start getting underway and then we hauled anchor and moved over to Back Creek. Most of the others had gotten underway and since we were there by 10:00 we had our pick of the best spots. The attraction of Back Creek is that for a dollar you can leave your dinghy tied up at the local Holiday Inn while you go into town. There’s a West Marine, a place to get your propane tanks filled, a small grocery store and loads of places to eat.

So after a night in Mill Creek we stayed in Back Creek for 2 nights which allowed our friends Jim and Deb from the vessel Freedom to catch up with us.

June 6

June 6. At about 0200 this morning a violent nasty squall came through the anchorage. When we had turned in it was dead calm without a hint of breeze. Christy woke up when the wind generator came alive in the 30 knot gusts. We were anchored in between 4 trawlers and one had already dragged in the dead calm of the evening so we were a little nervous.

The storm had all the thunder and lightening you could ever ask for. Molly is completely terrified by thunder so Christy decided it was time to try a new cure. When I sat up in the cockpit to keep an eye on the neighbors I was joined by my little petrified friend Molly.

The lightening flashes lasted for several seconds each time and the thunder claps were lasting 20 or 30 seconds at a time. It was raining huge drops and the squall passed in about a half an hour. All the boats I could see stayed where they were. The only boat I couldn’t see was the trawler that had dragged earlier in the evening but I knew he was downwind so I wasn’t really too concerned.

In the morning Christy turned on the VHF to a conversation between the missing trawler and the Boat US tow boat. It turned out that they had dragged again during the night and were now aground. The problem was that they were insisting to the towboat driver that they were in Fisher’s Bay when they were actually in Jackson Creek, a difference of at least 6 miles. The poor towboat driver is insisting that he’s in the middle of the bay and there’s not a trawler anywhere to be seen. After a while the driver had a hunch and asked the trawler guys to describe the entrance to their anchorage. After they described the winding entrance to the driver he said “You’re in Jackson Creek, I’ll be right there.”

Christy and I had the anchor up and were underway as the towboat driver arrived from his wild goose chase. About an hour later we heard another radio exchange between the 2 boats. It seems that the trawler had been pulled form his grounding and had run aground again 10 minutes later as he tried to follow the towboat out of the anchorage.

Speaking of us being underway, what a difference a day makes. We were supposed to have 10 knots of wind from the north. That means that we’ll be tacking back and forth across the Chesapeake as we make our way north. It won’t be so bad as the tacks will be more than 15 miles long and we should be close reaching at 5 knots or so.

In reality what we got was 15 to 20 knots from the north. With the tide running in and the wind coming down the bay the seas were close set steep waves. On port tack every wave was an explosion of spray as Veranda pounded through the surf. Starboard tack was a little mellower but still no party. After an hour of ridiculous pounding we picked an alternative stopping point for the night. The day ended with us traveling 19 miles in 4 hours just to travel 10 miles north up the bay.

We pulled in to Fleets Bay and turned into Indian Creek. There are several good places to anchor up the Indian Creek. The first few spots we had hoped to get were full of boats hiding from the north wind. We finally wound our way up the river and found an excellent protected spot that has about 10 feet of water.

It ended up being a much shorter day than we had hoped for but tomorrow the wind is supposed to come back around to the southwest which would be excellent.

June 5

June 5. We set off from Old Point Comfort and headed to Deltaville, Va. Low tide was just before 0700 so by leaving then we were able to motor out the 4 miles to the Chesapeake at slack tide and then turn north as the tide started to fill in behind us.

The wind was predicted to be 15 to 20 knots from the west. We got both sails up and killed the engine and as we started our journey north the wind was barely 10 knots but we were content with our 5 knots of boat speed. After only an hour the winds started to build to 17 knots and we were humming along at better than 7 knots. It was to be short lived though.

The wind continued to build and we were now barreling along at close to 8 knots. Woo Hoo. During the day we saw wind speeds of 25 knots and our best boat speed was 9.2 knots. There was a pair of trawlers and a couple of sailboats including a big catamaran trailing us but they were never able to overtake us.

The wind was very gusty and Rover was working very hard so I decided we should hand steer the 40 miles to Deltaville. It was either a very exhilarating, exciting ride or a white knuckle, hold on for dear life sprayfest depending on where you were sitting. Perspective is everything.

We finally had to reduce sail when we were only about 6 miles from our destination. The wind really had us healed over even with the sails eased. 15 to 18 degrees of heal is about optimum for our boat so far as speed and comfort are concerned. Today 15 degrees was our minimum and 20 was the norm and when we started seeing consistent 30 degree heal angles we had to take in half the genoa. We were still doing over 7 knots.  It may have been the best day of sailing for anybody…………..ever.

We’re in Jackson Creek in Deltaville and anchored in the south branch of the river. It’s absolutely beautiful here and very protected. 2 trawlers have come in and anchored upstream from us and 2 more are downstream. Christy and I went in to the town dinghy dock to walk into town to see if some food shopping can be done.

When Christy gets up on the dock she’s looking at the boats in the anchorage and says “isn’t that boat dragging?” I look up and see one of the trawlers cart wheeling and spinning down stream as the tide is ebbing. One of the guys on the trawler is sitting in the cockpit on the phone and completely unaware that he’s dragging down the river. Christy runs out to the end of the dock and yells to him as he passes “excuse me, I think you might be dragging”. He looks up, looks around and says into the phone “I gotta go!” He gets his buddy to start the engine while he hauls in the paperweight, err, anchor and then they head back up to give it another go. They were literally 30 seconds from shore, thank God for them that she noticed.

After that we set out for town. If a stroll to the mailbox is a 1 and the Bataan Death March was a 10 then I gotta call this “walk” at least a 7. Over a mile to a Post Office and after taking care of business there we asked the clerk for directions to the nearest grocery store. She said it’s just down the road, we say “we’re on foot” and she says “Ohhh”. It turns out to be a more than a few miles to the local Food Lion but there’s a convenience store only another mile or so down the road. It ended up being a 5 mile round trip for 24 cans of Diet Coke and a loaf of bread.

I’m not really sure of the mathematical formula but it’s something like number of cans of soda, times distance traveled, times degrees of temperature, plus cube root of the number of Post Anchoring Cocktails Bill consumed before this trek began. All I know is that those 24 colas weighed about 80 pounds by the time we got back to the boat. Oh. and did I mention that it’s hot as hell.

Anyway we’re back at the boat and the anchorage is just beautiful. Things are good. We’re off for Solomon Island tomorrow; we hear there’s a full sized grocery store there and it’s within a mile, do the math. Woo Hoo 

June 3

June 3. Now there was a day. We’ve been hearing about a tropical storm off the west coast of Florida that’s headed this way to drop some rain and blow things about.

We’re heading back down the James River to the well protected anchorage we stayed in on our way up the river. The weather is supposed to be raining with the winds getting progressively worse as the day wears on. If we leave at 0700 we will get the tidal push for at least an hour and can be anchored in about 5 hours. Or we could just sit here for another day and head out tomorrow. There’s nothing else here besides the Jamestown settlement and we could use a day to provision so I’d like to head out.

I wake up at 0615 and it’s raining pretty good so I figure that if we leave now we can get almost an extra hour’s tidal push and be anchored well before noon and the expected horrible weather. The dogs hate going out in the rain so I decide they’d rather wait for the extra few hours than go now.

I wake Christy, tell her plans have changed and to get it together, we’re pulling the anchor. We’re underway before 0630 and motoring at close to 8 knots for the first 2 hours. The wind is dead on the nose and already blowing 15 knots.

As the tide goes slack and turns against us the wind is building to 27 knots, we’re down to 4 and a half knots of boat speed. Oh and its now pouring, I’m mean really pouring. Oh and lets not forget the fog and the barges.

Rover is doing all the steering so we’re free to watch the radar, the chartplotter and keep an eye outside. It’s absolutely miserable as we plod along retracing our path back down the river. We have 2 barges to contend with but we were able to avoid them long before we could actually see them.

When we were a half mile above the James River Bridge I hailed the bridge keeper to advise him that we would not need a lift. The bridge is 60 feet tall while it’s still closed so we can slip through with no problem. Then I asked him if there was any inbound traffic as we were unable to see past the bridge at this time. He replied that he didn’t think so but he really couldn’t see anything either.

As soon as we were done talking a wall of fog reduced visibility to near zero. We could see on the chart plotter where the opening was, we could see the bridge on the radar but we couldn’t see anything at all outside the boat. I considered pulling off to the side above the bridge, anchoring and waiting for conditions to improve. Then I decided that we were doing fine so we would be safe if we continued on. Christy’s view of my decision was a little different though. From her perspective my decision looked more like “F#%k it, lets go, its not like the world is flat or anything”. I don’t think she’s really grasping the complexity of the factors involved in making command decisions.

It ended up taking us until 2 o’clock to drop the hook in the anchorage. The rain immediately stopped, the sun almost came out and the dogs were taken to shore post haste. Christy made dinner and then she took advantage of a special that was running at Mr. William’s House of Hair and Fabulosity. In the evening we took the dogs to shore again and made it back to the boat just before a new round of thunderstorms hit.

The Coast Guard is broadcasting all kinds of Notice to Mariners about the impending bad weather and high winds due to pass through tonight. We’re happily anchored in a well protected anchorage so even though today wasn’t very much fun I still think moving to get here was the right thing to do. Oh and now we get to sleep in tomorrow as we’ll stay here and do some shopping.

Christy still wonders if traveling today was the right thing to do. I’ve reminded her that if we had stayed we’d have sat all day in the rain and probably had a much more miserable time with the winds tonight as the anchorage was not as well protected.

June 2

June 2. Well we’re here in Jamestown, Va. We decided to go over and spend the day touring the Jamestown settlement.

From our boat we could see the replicas of the 3 wooden ships that brought the colonists here to the new world. So we dinghied over to them to see if we could tie up there and enter the settlement. We pulled up along side the Susan Constant and hailed one of the tour guides on board to see about where to tie up. He was very nice but told us we would have to dinghy a couple of miles to a nearby marina and tie up there.

The ride took us through a winding creek that probably looked as it did 300 years ago. The marina can only accommodate small power boats as there is no water and the creek is spanned by a 12 foot fixed bridge. We find the dinghy dock and tie up and then set out on foot for the settlement.

The “settlement” was a thing to behold. It was just a short walk and we were at the beautiful, modern museum that is the gateway to the park. Inside there was room after room of artifacts that had been unearthed at the site of the original settlement. First there was an excellent 20 minute film to brush up on the history of the place.

You could easily spend hours inside the building. Outside the building there is an Indian village as it would have appeared at the time. Not many people realize that the Native Americans actually invented the baby stroller.

While we were walking through the Indian village we came upon a six foot snake just going about his business.

Then there also replicas of the 3 ships that first brought the people here and finally the wooden walled fort itself. Those people were either desperate or crazy as those ships weren’t as big as I though they would be.

Everything outside is a reproduction as everything was made of wood and has long ago rotted away. The fort, Indian village and boats were all staffed by people in period dress. The staffers did demonstrations from carpentry techniques used to black powder weapons being fired.

The place had a lot more to offer than I had expected and was a day well spent.

June 1

June 1. Today was to be a short 35 mile day up the James River to Jamestown. We had a relaxed morning and got underway at 1000 hours. We were supposed to have 10 to 15 knots of breeze off the beam and a knot and a half push all the way up the river.

The warship traffic here is amazing. There’s always something big headed somewhere at all times and its difficult to imagine that they can move so fast. They’re on top of you before you know it.

We got the tidal push but the wind had other ideas. We raised the sails as we left the anchorage and were moving along nicely, for an hour. Then the wind got flukey and finally just died. I lived with it a lot longer than I thought I could, 4 minutes, then we had to furl the genoa and start the engine. That’s pretty much the way the day went, great wind for a great sail and then just nothing.

The United States Navy keeps the reserve fleet anchored in the James River and there had to be 40 or 50 large supply ship stored there. Some were pretty run down but others looked as if they were new. All of them were side tied together and anchored in one big wad.

We were under full sail when we got to Jamestown and a mile from the anchorage the wind disappeared and we were forced to motor again. It was still a great day and we have a very special anchorage with its own beach all to ourselves.

We took the dogs for a little workout on the beach and after dinner back on the boat we had visitors. Mr. & Mrs. Velcomvagon stopped by in their skiff to say hello. The were local sailors and were excited to see a sailboat this far up the river as its so far off the beaten path. They were out for a little after dinner cruise and were very nice and even asked if we wanted a ride to a grocery store or something. They were just another example of the nice people that we’ve met.

May 31

May 31. We were up and underway by 0730. The day would turn out to be a long tedious affair with 9 bridges to open and 1 lock to go through. It ended up taking all day to go 35 miles.

The first few bridges only opened on the hour or the half hour so you had to calculate what speed you needed to maintain in order to make it to the next bridge in time for its scheduled opening. Things were going pretty well for us as we hit the first few bridges just right but we caught up to some boats in front of us at the only lock we had to transit.

There was a tug pushing a barge with us and he was asked by the lock keeper to pull into the empty lock before anyone else. After he was secured to the starboard bulkhead in the lock there was only a 14 foot opening down the port side of the entire lock. That only meant about 6 of the 8 remaining boats would be able to fit in this lock opportunity. Some dipshit in a 60 foot Sea Ray barged into the line of boats to make sure he got in but butchered his approach so badly that that the lock master sent him back out and locked the barge through alone. This meant that we all had to wait for the next lock cycle, so our half hour lock experience lasted for an hour and a half.

The rest of the trip north was pretty uneventful although at one bridge we did end up with 16 boats waiting for the opening. The drivers on the bridge were stuck there for quite a while as we all had to get through.

For the night we anchored in a place called Mill Creek. It’s on the north side of Hampton Roads and was an excellent anchorage. Almost complete protection in every direction from wind and waves; it also had 10 feet of water under you at low tide.

On the way into was part of the Navy’s collection of experimental vessels. There were at least a dozen exotic looking different craft.

After anchoring Christy made dinner for the Bedazzles and ourselves as tonight we are saying goodbye. They are heading north to the Annapolis area and we are heading up the James River to visit Jamestown.

May 30

May 30. We were underway at 0700. We decided to leave a little earlier than usual as we had to cross the Abelmarle Sound first thing this morning. It is only about a 14 mile trip across open fairly shallow water but the wind was predicted to be 15 knots from the direction we wished to travel.

When we went south we went through the Dismal Swamp. On our return trip we’ve decided to take the alternate route through the Virginia Cut. The day went fairly quickly as we made our way north.

We were forced to stop earlier than we would have liked as there are not any places to anchor. We actually had to backtrack about 4 miles because when we got to our chosen anchorage for the evening the water depths were not even close to the charted depths.

We had to retrace our steps until we reached a barely acceptable spot. The spot is good for one boat, okay for 2 but here we sit with 5. We‘re all in the same boat as there’s not another spot to stop for better than 20 miles in spite of what the charts say.

We were treated to some entertainment in the anchorage this evening. Actually another air show, this time by some screwball flying his parawing down low between the boats. First he buzzed the cars on the nearby bridge then he methodically gave every boat a flyby.

May 29

May 29. We entered the Pungo Canal at 0800 for a 20 miles straight morning of motoring. We were only making about 5.8 knots as there was a small current against us. There was a little wind just off our bow so when we got to a wide spot in the canal I decided that we would turn, face the wind and throw up the main.

Christy steered the boat to the extreme starboard side of the channel and then turned hard to port to allow me to pull up the main as we headed up on the wind. Things aren’t always as they seem and it turned out the channel was a lot more narrow than it looked. Even with the transmission in neutral we were across the channel before the main was up so Christy got to show off her boat handling skills as she kept the boat on the wind while I threw up the sail. This maneuver was worth it though as we were now flying along at 6 knots. 

The Pungo (from the Arapahoe word for Godforsaken) Canal is alive with wildlife. These are 2 of the ever so rare North Carolina Jesus deer.

Last night we were warned by some local fishermen to be careful about walking the dogs as this area is the bear capitol of North Carolina. As it turned out this morning when I was walking the dogs we came across the remains of a bear. It seems the “sportsman” who harvested this animal only wanted the head and all 4 paws and left the rest to rot, what a waste.

After we got to the end of the canal we were now in the Alligator River. We were able to throw up all sail and kill the engine. The Alligator River is narrow at the southern end and gets wider as you travel north. The wind was blowing a steady 15 knots right on our nose so we tacked back and forth for close to 4 hours to cover the 15 miles to the Alligator River Bridge. It was wonderful.

During our sail up the river we were treated to a private airshow as we buzzed by some military fighter planes. They would come across the tops of the trees and scream past at about 500 feet. The noise was ridiculous and they went by so quickly you couldn’t move the camera fast enough to keep up with them. I’m pretty sure we were the focal point of the airshow as they passed over the top of our mast from every direction several times.

Once through the bridge it was only a quick 5 mile motor to our chosen anchorage. Once we got there it took about 40 minutes before we could drop the hook as we looked for someplace that would be good for the dogs. Things are good……..

May 28

May 28. Last night we pulled away from Ken and Carol’s dock as the low tide scheduled for this morning might have caused us issues when it was time for us to leave. So we went out into the Neuse River and anchored just off the town wharf.

We got underway at 0800 and were shortly rewarded with one of the best sailing days we’ve had so far. After a couple of hours we were turning into the Bay River and our friends on Bedazzle hailed us and to say that they were going to stay in Pamlico Sound since the wind was so good and cross Brant Shoal and they’ll meet us at tonight’s anchorage.

I had considered going around Brant Shoal but it would add at least 15 miles to our day. The Bedazzles are going to cut across the shoal and only add a few miles to their trip while we play it more conservative and head up the Bay River. Our route will take us back to the Pamlico Sound just above the Pungo River while the Bedazzles approach from the south. I figure it will be close as to who gets there first.

As we reenter the Pamlico I can see a catamaran 4 miles away just making his turn into the Pungo River. We’ve been flirting with 7 knots the entire time and I can’t believe that they’re that far ahead of us. We turn up the Pungo and after 2 miles Bedazzle hails us and tells us that they’re only 4 miles from the Pungo. Turns out I was chasing down the wrong boat and they were over 6 miles behind us. Yesss.

We anchor at the southern end of the Pungo Canal in a small creek. Just as we’re looking for that perfect spot we are stopped for a safety inspection by 2 of North Carolina’s finest. They asked to see the registration and safety equipment such as lifejackets, condoms, fire extinguishers and flares. Evidently we’re very safe as the whole inspection was over in 10 minutes and they were gone.

May 25

May 25. We left the anchorage in Carolina Beach at 0800. After we pulled the anchor we had to head upstream and get a picture of the biggest set of ornamental lawn Flamingos we’ve ever seen. Spectacular.

The trip north was a particularly slow as we are heading north between the mainland and the barrier islands. The problem is that whenever an ambulance heads out onto the barrier island on a call the bridges have to remain closed until the ambulance gets back to the mainland.

It’s never happened to us before but it happened at 2 bridges in a row today. It added at least an hour to our trip today but I guess in the big scheme of things, I’d rather sit and wait for the bridge than be in the back of the ambulance going for the ride.

Our destination for the evening was Swan Point Marina in Sneads Ferry, NC. This is the place we sat for a week while I repaired the broken damper plate on our trip south.

The place is really a no frills kind of place but we stopped in to see our friends, Pat & Eddie who we met there in the fall as they had a mechanical breakdown of their own. They ended up leaving the boat there and driving to their home in Florida for the winter. They were now back putting the finishing touches on the boat so they could resume their trip as well.

After we tied up the boat Christy and the Bedazzles took the courtesy car into town to hit a grocery store while I washed the boat, filled the water tank and did a load of wash in the laundry room/ internet café.

Then the Bedazzles and Pat & Eddie and Christy and I had sundowners on the Veranda. It was a very nice night.

May 26. This morning on the other hand was pretty miserable. There’s some local fishing tournament today so every fisherman in the holler was out to “catch em’ up” as they say. The problem was that the marina has silted in since we were here last, so we were on the outside wall adjacent to the ICW in the deeper water.

At 0430 (4:30am) the first fishing boat went by throwing a huge wake that got us both out of bed. Our fender boards and fenders were holdings us off the wall but getting any more rest was out of the question. It was like a parade as one boat after another came flying past. Finally after I walked the dogs Christy went over to tell the Bedazzles we had to get off the wall so we were going to get underway. We were moving north by 0615.

Our early departure turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We had a long straight run up the Bogue Sound. The Sound is very wide with only a narrow channel up one side of it. Our early start enabled us to ride the tidal push for over 25 miles and with wind on the beam we ran at more than seven knots for over 4 straight hours with no change in course.

Fathers here in North Carolina have found an interesting way of dealing with having their little girls mature into young ladies. You know the time, their bodies start to mature and boys start showing up at the house. Here in NC they drop their daughters off on a sand shallow in the middle of the sound and come back for them after a few years.

We were hoping to get to Beaufort for the night but we got there way to early to stop. So we continued on to Ken and Carol’s house which was only another 20 miles. We were safely tied up behind their house by 1600 hours and were immediately whisked away to a “Pig Pull”. A large portion of the community all brings a dish to share and one of the locals barbecues an entire pig. We just happened by at the right time, holy crap, talk about good eating.

Ken and Carol are leaving soon for a month of cruising with about 30 boats from their local yacht club. It was good to get here in time to see them before they were gone. As usual their hospitality was boundless inspite of their last minute preparations for the big trip.

May 24

May 24. Greetings from North Carolina. We awoke to a beautiful morning with very little apparent wind. We didn’t have any internet connection here so we had to rely on a 2 day old forecast along with NOAA Weather Radio. NOAA tells us that there are small craft warnings until this evening with winds building to 20 knots with 8 foot seas by late afternoon. This coincides with our old internet forecast so up the ICW we go.

Time for a quick rant. On our way north we were traveling a couple of miles behind 2 other sailboats, Starshine and Windfall. They were the most obnoxious, ignorant people we’ve encountered in a long time. They were on the radio all day long critiquing every home on the ICW. “Did you see the mustard colored house with the teal shutters?” “All day long and not a handful of houses I’d even consider owning” Everybody for miles is listening.

At Folly’s Inlet there is usually bad shoaling across the ICW. A guy headed south hailed them on the VHF and forewarned them about a shallow patch he had seen near marker #39. After transiting the area safely the 2 of them discussed the fact that since the good samaritan was a powerboater he probably was out of the channel when he came upon the shallow spot. They were just pompous assholes.

I even listened to them tear apart the “friends” they had just spent the entire winter with in the Bahamas. Everybody for 25 miles heard these 2 boatloads of idiots all day long; they didn’t even have the brains to use low power or their cell phones. End of Rant.

Anyhow, we transited the Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge again. It’s bizarre to just watch the entire center span of the roadway just float away.

When we got into the Cape Fear River we were riding a strong tide up into the river. Unfortunately though we were heading dead into the wind. So what we got was kind of a high speed ass kicking. We were traveling between 7 and 8 knots straight into 20 to 24 knots of wind.

This is our friends on Bedazzle burying both bows. The discomfort only lasted for an hour or so until we were protected by the opposite shore. It was pretty intense while it lasted though.

Friends of ours, Jim & Deb tell the story of going offshore with one of their relatives as crew. During the cousin’s night watch he was confronted by a large bulk carrier and in his panic he woke them with the cry of “Dumpster!”. He was kind of tongue tied in his panic and threw out the name of the biggest all metal thing that came to mind. So now whenever a very large ship becomes an issue we all use the warning “Dumpster”.

Dumpster!!! On our way up the Cape Fear River we managed to squeek past this dumpster as we crossed the channel in front of him. Our buddy boat was 200 yards behind us and had to turn up and go around his stern as he was bearing down on us so quickly. I had opportunity to snap a picture as we were directly in front of him but decided to wait until I was sure we would survive before taking pictures.

We stopped for the night in Carolina Beach, N.C. There is a really nice anchorage behind a barrier island that offers plenty of protection but still allows you to hear the roar of the ocean at night.

May 23

May 23. The anchorage we stayed in last night was as secluded as we’ve ever stayed in. When we left the ICW we turned up a very narrow stream and headed for an area that the charts showed had a paved boat ramp. I wanted to stay near the ramp as this would have meant an easy dog walking for me.

After we motored into this tiny stream for the better part of 3 miles it turned out that the ramp was a figment of some cartographer’s imagination. We were so far out in the sticks that I swore I heard banjo music. So along with Bedazzle we had to backtrack until we found a good spot in the narrow stream to drop the hook. The stream is so narrow that we only have less than a boat length to either shore.

The Bedazzles were a little freaked out because their catamaran is 22 feet wide so to them it looked a little too tight. It was also hot as hell as there was no breeze at all coming down the stream between the towering trees. They opted to move and reanchor 300 yards back upstream in a small pond off to the side of the stream. We followed suit and were rewarded with a small breeze and an anchorage that probably hasn’t changed at all in 200 years.

As night fell we were surrounded with the sounds of nature as our roaring backdrop. The bugs, frogs, animals and even the plants were so noisy it was bizarre. I’m sure there even some Howler Monkeys running around out there at night. Talk about a good nights sleep though, it was really perfect. The crew really needed it as just the other day Molly fell asleep with her head in her water bowl.

We pulled the hook and left at 0830 for our 30 mile day which will take us through the infamous Rockpile. The Rockpile is a stretch of ICW that was blasted out of bedrock. Quality control didn’t strike anyone as being all that important at the time and numerous rock ledges were left jutting out to the very edge of the narrow channel. It makes for an intense trip and passing or being passed is no party. All went well though and we anchored for the night just opposite the Little River Inlet on the South Carolina, North Carolina border.

We’re technically anchored in South Carolina and we dinghied into Calabash, N.C. for dinner. There are 4 seafood restaurants within a half mile stretch of waterfront and they all seemed busy with people who had to drive miles to get here but the food was only so-so. The seafood just doesn’t get any fresher but here in the south they seem to just want to fry the hell out of everything. Hell, I even had a side order of fried dill pickles. I couldn’t even begin to picture them so I just had to order some. They were actually really good.

The place we chose is a nice little spot with a stand of large trees protecting us from winds from the north and east. There was 1 boat already here and then 2 more showed up after we arrived so now there are 5. The inlet is only a mile or so away so we’ll wait and see what the weather brings to decide if we move up the coast on the inside on the ICW or if we head out into the Atlantic. As of now the wind is supposed to blow from the east northeast, exactly where we’d like to go

MAy 22

May 22. Okay, Georgetown. When you pull into the anchorage the first thing to strike you is the huge rusty steel mill at the head of the river. The waterfront is divided between the steel mill and the bustling fishing fleet.

My first impression of the waterfront was that it was a little seedy. I was pleasantly surprised shortly after we tied our dinghy to the town’s free dock. The town itself was picturesque with brick lined sidewalks, a waterfront boardwalk along all the bars and eateries and small green parks every 100 yards.

We stopped in Georgetown to see Christy’s cousin Cindy and her husband Allan. We saw them briefly on our way south so it was nice to spend the better part of the day with them this time. After the nickel tour of the area we went to the beach, played some Bocce Ball and generally enjoyed a beautiful beach day. Cindy and Allan’s house is of new construction but built like one of the old traditional homes of Charleston. It feels as if it were built sideways on its lot with a privacy door that invites or discourages visitors from stepping up onto the porch. Oh and there’s a guest house, I think we’ll be back. Afterwards Cindy put together a great meal while Allan grilled up a perfect steak. After dinner we opened one of the most well traveled boxes in the history of the US Postal Service and argued about who had the best parents. 

After spending Sunday with Cindy and Allan, Christy and I spent the day walking around town on Monday. We found a salon in our travels and Christy decided to get a massage while in town. While Christy was getting her massage I greeted the Bedazzles, Rick & Linda who were pulling into the anchorage. We’ve traveled with the Bedazzles before and we’ll be departing tomorrow together as we both head north.

Bedazzle and Veranda only have a short 30 mile day scheduled tomorrow so we can afford to wait and play the tides. We haul anchor at 1130 and are rewarded with over a knot of push for pretty much the entire day. We were making such good time we decided to take a side trip up Prince Creek. It’s a small creek that leaves the ICW and rejoins it a few miles later. It was a tiny meandering stream with plenty of depth so it was an enjoyable sidetrack. It’s really amazing to me coming from New Jersey that so much of this country is undeveloped and untouched by man.

Just after 1500 hours we drop the hook in a small tributary to the Waccamaw River. We’ve gone as far north as we dare as there is literally no place to stop for the next 35 miles. Tomorrow will be another short day but the stress quotient will be high as we have to negotiate the Rockpile.

Boat Name Of The Day………..Powerboat named……..Water We Thinkin’