A Swell Day

Day 269: Friday, May 31, 2013

Port to Port:  Manasquan to New York City, New York

Underway: 5:35 am      Motor Off: 1:24 pm      Miles Traveled: 46      Stayed At: Anchor

Mile 1 (NJIWW) to Mile 154 (Hudson River): After lots of planning and just as much worry, we headed out into the Atlantic Ocean at 5:30 am in the morning. The morning light was glowing off in the east. A couple fishing boats were waiting for the RR bridge to open to head out. We cast off our lines, motored against the outgoing current for a few minutes to get some maneuvering room and followed a sailboat out the Manasquan Inlet toward Europe (well, just for a little while). The inlet was moving pretty fast and some big rollers were set up just as the outlet where the ocean met the river. Aurora and Boris did amazing. Boris only left the water once – whining loudly but we never got waves breaking over the boat and we were soon out in lumpy but much calmer water. Whew. Is it too early for a drink?

  The ocean was beautiful. A very light breeze greeted us as we turned north for NYC. The ocean swells took a little getting used to – they kept trying to skew us off course – but we soon got into a rhythm and were making steady progress to our destination. There were some fishing boats here and there and Freya passed us later in the morning saying hi as they cruised by. It’s nice to know you have friends nearby.

We made really good progress in the hot sun and calm seas. We were riding the tide north and were averaging 6 mph. No crab pots to hit. The water was more than 50 feet deep. We were usually a mile or more away from any nearby boat. And the wind was so light, we had to take the jib down because it was just flopping back and forth. What a gift.

We were 2/3 of the way to NYC and we were hailed on the radio by Bill on Lady Sarah. He happened to have been at the same marina as we were last night but he came in from offshore and was at the east docks on the other side of the RR bridge. We never knew. He was about an hour behind us and we made plans to maybe get together tonight.

We soon saw Coney Island and then glimpsed the Freedom Tower in Manhattan through the haze. And then we saw her – the Statue of Liberty gleaming in the distance. What an amazing experience (again) to travel to her in our own boat. A rare treat.

New York Harbor is huge and busy but we were able to go straight towards the Statue of Liberty. We turned just in front of her and turned down a channel and a few minutes later were safely anchored and ecstatic to be back again. The surrounding area has changed some (Donald Trump has built a beautiful new gold resort right next door) but we can still see the top of Lady Liberty (and the new Freedom Tower) from the cockpit of our boat. Can life get any better?

Well, yes it can. We ended the day enjoying docktails (including a special bottle of champagne from Fort Myers Beach – thanks John) on Lady Sarah with Bill (thanks for everything Bill) and watched the setting sun glint off Lady Liberties torch and the gold reflections off the windows across the harbor in Brooklyn. What an amazing end to a wonderful day.

Stress Test

Day 268: Thursday, May 30, 2013

Port to Port: Surf City to Manasquan, New Jersey

Underway: 6:08 am      Motor Off: 1:55 pm      Miles Traveled: 38/35      Stayed At: Marina

Mile 36 to Mile 1: Our journey up the remainder of the New Jersey Intracoastal was mostly uneventful. It was a beautiful travel day – light breeze, warm and sunny. The boat traffic was very light (until we got to the Marina) and we had a favorable current for most of the day. The depth finder only woke us up a couple of times when we got a little off course. Our only white-knuckle excitement was traveling the 1.8 miles up the Pleasant Point Canal from the Intracoastal into Manasquan. No matter which way the current is going this run can be tricky. We randomly hit it with the current against us. We were only going between 2.0 and 3.5 mph in a very narrow choppy channel. Plus there was a lot of boat traffic. Add in two lift bridges that need to open. All in less than two miles and you can imagine our stress. (Plus all the other uncertainties like: Will Boris keep going?, Did I put in enough gas?; Will a huge power boat try to pass? Etc…). We made it and were extremely relieved when we popped out of the channel and passed through yet another bridge before getting securely tied up at Hoffman’s marina (right next to another railroad bridge that we will have to go through tomorrow morning).

No sooner than we got tied up         by someone on a boat at the end of the next dock over yelling, “Mike, Mike, we’re glad you made it.” We were pleasantly surprised to find it was Ozel and Maryann from Freya whom we met in Delaware City. Well, it wasn’t long before plans were set to have docktails on their boat later in the afternoon and maybe go out to dinner. That didn’t take long.

One of the reasons we decided to stop at a marina was to get some boat projects done before we go to NYC and spend a week on a mooring ball. We scrubbed the boat, plotted our course for tomorrow, stocked up on ice and water and organized the main cabin. We also took much needed showers. What a treat that was. You never know what you are going to get for your $1, $2, or $3 at foot. Thankfully, this marina is brand new and has amazing bathrooms (it’s the simple things in life). Their shower will definitely win the award for “Best Shower on the Great Loop”. It was a large tastefully tiled room with two shelves (yes, shelves) and hooks to hang stuff. It was brand new clean. And, best of all, the shower head was about 1 foot in diameter and mounted on the ceiling so you could imagine standing under a waterfall – a nice warm waterfall. Nothing low-flow about this one. We didn’t want to leave. What a nice way to end our journey up the New Jersey Intracoastal and get ready for our last leg to NYC.

We had a blast spending time with Ozel and Maryann. They kept our wine glasses full and we enjoyed crackers, cheese and grapes for a pre-dinner snack. They are old sailors and they miss their old boat. Freya is a power boat – a much more practical boat for the Great Loop. We wandered over to a nearby restaurant for more conversation and storytelling. The food was nothing to write home about but the company was wonderful. (Thanks guys – lets do it again soon – see you in NYC).

When we got back to the marina, the current was calm so we used the opportunity to spin Aurora around to face the outgoing current early tomorrow morning. With all the bridges, docks, boats and other obstacles, I was afraid I couldn’t get off the dock in reverse against the full ebb tide without hitting something. One less worry to dream about tonight.

Thread The Needle

Day 267: Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Port to Port: Ventnor City to Surf City, New Jersey

Underway: 7:20 am      Motor Off: 2:55 pm      Miles Traveled: 36/36     Stayed At: Anchor

Mile 72 to Mile 36: We lucked out again today. Not only was it sunny (perfect for drying all our wet gear) but we rode a favorable current for most of the day. Plus, the waterways were mostly quiet and peaceful with even less fishing boats than yesterday. Most of the day was routine but we started the day having to pass through 3 basqual bridges and one railroad swing bridge in less than an hour – all with the current behind us making it a challenge to wait in one place while they were opened. At least today, the operators opened the bridges fully into of making us squeeze through a small opening. Thankfully they were all on demand bridges and not restricted to some impossible-to-plan-for time schedule.

We passed by Atlantic City early in the morning – it seems so out of place compared to the surrounding scenery. Even though this area is heavily populated, we spend most of our time motoring though low areas called thorofares only a few feet above high tide. They are basically large flat plateaus covered with grass and teeming with nesting waterbirds. When we are near civilization, the shoreline is packed with large houses packed tightly together (and sometimes extending out over the water) with not trees or greenery of any kind. Not too enticing to me. Although many areas we have passed by were hit hard by Sandy, a lot of repairs have been made. Many marinas are back in business and we didn’t notice as many damaged houses as we thought we would. I suspect the ocean side got hit the hardest.

We stopped for gas at a marina (still being worked on) and I made a quick run into town for a few groceries. It looked like a nice place to stay and explore but the weather might be changing in a few days so we want to keep moving north.

In Passing: Mankiller Bay, Big Fish Thorofare, Middle Thorofare, Cedar Bonnet, Flat Island, High Island, Johnny Sedge, Hither Island, Little Beach

Beep, Beep, Beep…

Day 266: Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Port to Port: Sunset Lake to Ventnor City, New Jersey

Underway: 7:04 am      Motor Off: 5:20 pm      Miles Traveled: 42/38      Stayed At: Anchor

Mile 110 to Mile 72: Today was a rare day. We have been incredibly lucky this whole trip (for lots of reasons) – up until today we had had only two other days where we had to wear our foul weather gear while traveling – both times on the Mississippi. Well, today was number three. The radar looked hopeful this morning. The green and yellow blobs looked like they would slide by us to the north. They decided to grow in our direction instead. Late morning, it started sprinkling intermittently, then more often, then it started really raining steady. We decided to pull over for a little while to wait for the clouds to pass – visibility was getting a little challenging. At least the blustery weather kept the boat traffic to a minimum – only a handful of fishing boats and one other cruiser were out enjoying the day. This was one less source of stress on an already challenging day.

The biggest challenge today was finding deep water. The depth finder spent a lot of time beeping everytime the water was less than 5 feet deep. The New Jersey Intracoastal has been crappy for years – there is never any money to dredge the channel to a consistent depth and since it is mainly a recreational channel, it is a very low priority for the federal government. On top of that, Hurricane Sandy dumped huge amounts of wreckage and silt from the storm surge into the channel. The place we anchored last night was only 3 feet deep at low tide – it was marked at 8 feet on the chart. The whole bay had been silted in.

Although we found most of the channel today navigable, there were a number of places where the water was only 5 feet deep (or less) or it was difficult to find the actual deeper channel. The shoals continuously shift and make marking them a full time job. We never hit bottom but there were a few times the depth finder was reading 3 feet deep before I turned the right way into a little deeper water. Luckily, the bottom is very soft mud so if you don’t hit going full speed you should be able to back up and try to find a better route or wait until the tide is rising.

By the time we got anchored in a very well protected cove, we were hungry, tired and cold. But we are 40+ miles closer to New York City and our reunion with the kids. It is all worth it.

Patience Is A Virtue

Day 265: Monday, May 27, 2013

Port to Port: Delaware City to Sunset Lake, New Jersey

Underway: 4:40 am      Motor Off: 4:15 pm      Miles Traveled: 65/68      Stayed At: Anchor

First Things First: Happy Memorial Day Everyone

Mile 60  to Mile 0 (Delaware Bay) Mile 118 to Mile 110 (NJICW): Finally the wind and waves cooperated. We left very early with the stars and full moon to guide us out. Tim, the marina manager was there to help us get off the dock at 4:30 am. The bay was calm, the faint glow of the sunrise soon made it’s way over the horizon and we were traveling at an average of 8.0 mph (max of 9.1 for a while) for almost 4 hours before the tide switched and we gradually slowed to about 4.5 mph. A half dozen other boats heading north from the marina also left this morning and they all passed us before 8 am.

The Bay stayed calm all day. We just kept chugging along watching out for fishing boats and a few crab pots. A few ocean-going ship passed by going north and south but we were well outside the channel so they didn’t concern us. We saw more dolphin – it’s been a while since the last sighting.

The only nerve wracking part was getting into and through the Cape May channel to our anchorage. The current was flowing so fast past the channel entrance that I had to steer the boat at a 45˚ angle to barely get it to go where I wanted it to go. Plus, since it’s Memorial Day and the only really nice day of the weekend, there were boats everywhere. And everyone ignored the suggested 5 knot speed limit in the channel. Aurora takes the wakes very well but it is stressful. Just as we finally entered the channel, a huge car ferry backed out of it’s slip blocking almost the whole channel before turning to go out into the bay. Yikes!

We didn’t need anything so we passed by the marinas in Cape May and anchored in Sunset Bay. It’s lucky we only need 2.5 feet of water – the area marked as a good anchorage is supposed to have 10 feet at high tide but we saw less than 4 feet. A cruiser had come in before us and hit bottom and gotten stuck. This entire area of the Jersey coast was pounded by Hurricane Sandy and the charts are very outdated. We will have to go slow and pay attention to all the new channel markers.

We were really lucky we did our crossing of Delaware Bay today – originally the weather report looked like it was going to be really nice for several days – light winds and sunshine. Now it looks like the wind is going to roaring and more rain is expected especially overnight all week. Lots of boats are going to go crazy waiting for good weather again – a lot of them can’t (or won’t) go the inside route because of the shoaling. Offshore this week looks really tricky. We are counting down the days to when the girls come to visit.

New Friends, Old Friends

Day 264: Sunday, May 26, 2013

Port to Port: Delaware City, Delaware

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

Mile 0 to Mile 0: We spent a few hours in the morning getting ready for our trip down Delaware Bay, plotted our possible courses over the next several days up the New Jersey Intracoastal, wrote yesterdays blog while waiting for a load of laundry to finish and chatted with all the new boaters here.

We had an unexpected reunion too. Some friends –Larry and Lenore on Champ 3 – that we first met way back in Carabelle Florida before our Gulf Crossing in November ended up at the marina. What a pleasant surprise. They had a wonderful crossing of the Gulf a week after us – they have a planning powerboat which can go 20+ so it only took them 8 hours. Lucky.

The marina is going to have a full house tonight so Tim and his crew spent some time repositioning boats so they can fit in all the footage that they expect to arrive this afternoon. We ended up moving all the way down to the other end of the dock right by the main ramp. All we will have to do in the morning is push the bow out, catch the current and head out into Delaware Bay.

One of the boat couples we met here are Ron and Terry on Golden Echo – a steel hulled sloop. They have been trying to get their boat projects done over the last year but their list doesn’t seem to get shorter. Ron had to get some parts for the boat (surprise, surprise) at West Marine and Home Depot so he offered to drop us off at the Flea Market/Farmers Market in New Castle about 20 minutes away. This was the best farmers market we have been too. We bought about 30 pounds of produce for less than 20 dollars. We wandered around the other booths and bought a few things for the boat, found some mini-donuts and shared part of a turkey leg for a late lunch.

Since most of the transient boaters at the dock were leaving on Memorial Day, we decided to celebrate early with docktails at 5:00 pm on the deck by overlooking the channel. Boaters from 6 or 7 other boats showed up with drinks and snacks and we had a blast. We all chatted for a couple of hours and got to know each other a little better. You can imagine how many stories there are in a group like this. We now have a lot more fellow cruisers to hopefully cross paths with in the future.

We ended the day taking a tour of Golden Echo and chatting with Ron and Terry. They are almost ready to start their adventure and we wish them luck and fair winds.

Just Chillin’

Day 263: Saturday, May 25, 2013

Port to Port: Delaware City, Delaware

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Marina

Mile 0 to Mile 0: The wind was roaring today – even on land and in the protection of the marina channel. I can’t imagine what the waves were like on the Bay. A lot of sunshine, though, made for a very nice day to wander around, visit other boaters and just relax waiting for our weather window.

There were a couple of reminders yesterday of why you have to be careful and do your homework when traveling on unknown waters. A sailboat was trying to get into a marina farther back on the C&D Canal when it ran aground hard on a shoal just in the entrance of the marina. It was probably just mud but they needed to be towed off. Wind, tides, current and shifting sand and mud make navigation a combination of luck and skill.

The other accident could have been a disaster. A smaller powerboat was out on Delaware Bay towards evening (why they were out there in big wind and waves is a mystery) and ran into a miles long rock jetty that, at high tide, is mostly invisible and only marked intermittently. (We checked our charts and it is even hard to find when you know what you are looking for). This was around 8:00 pm in the evening – almost dark. They called for help and the Coast Guard tried to respond from a station on the opposite shore of the Bay but ran into 8+’ waves on the beam and turned back. The Delaware City fireboat had to go out the channel and into the bay to rescue the boaters and try to tow the boat back to the marina – the people were okay but the boat flipped and had to be cut loose. They towed it in yesterday and it is a total loss. What was supposed to be a fun adventure on the water almost turned into another sad story of loss of life on the water.

Thankfully, our day was pretty calm. We watched the whitecaps out on the Bay (thankful we were warm, dry and safe on land), poked around some of the shops in town and stopped at the visitor’s center for the Fort. We spent probably an hour chatting with Paul, the ferry captain, who drove us out to the Fort yesterday. He was a wonderful source of local knowledge that will help us decide how to safely get from here to Cape May. We also met   at the local blacksmiths shop (yes, there is a blacksmith in town). He has a ketch-rigged sailboat at the marina he is trying to fix up to use on future adventures. He also had a Minnesota connection – he has gone up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area camping and fishing and loved it. Walking into his shop takes you back a hundred years – he doesn’t make too many horseshoes now but makes his living as an iron artist.

We also had time to tour Lady Sarah, Bill’s Island Packet sailboat and Carol and Russ’s 36’ Beneteau sailboat. Both were very comfortable boats and we added to our list of potential future floating homes.

We enjoyed a nice dinner at a local restaurant with Carol and Russ. We didn’t know this beforehand, but we would have needed to make reservations if we had wanted to have crab for dinner. They had a $20 all you can eat special on blue crab which many people in the restaurant were taking advantage of . The waitress kept passing us by with large trays stacked with crab and there were piles of wreckage all over. Maybe next time.

You Never Know

Day 262: Friday, May 24, 2013

Port to Port: Chesapeake City to Delaware City, Delaware

Underway: 6:00 am      Motor Off: 8:30 pm      Miles Traveled: 18      Stayed At: Marina

First Things First: First time in Delaware.

Mile 0 to Mile 0:  Today was a short day – we wanted to get up the C&D Canal to position ourselves at the head of Delaware Bay for our run down to Cape May, New Jersey. The weather forecast for today was really crappy – winds 15-20 knots with gusts to 30 (almost gale force), rain and temperatures in the 50’s (after 88 yesterday and the day before) – so much for spring. The bad stuff wasn’t supposed to kick in until late morning so we decided to follow David up the C&D and catch the tidal current all the way to Delaware City. We timed it perfectly. Not only was it just a little overcast in the morning, but we averaged over 8 mph all the way to the marina – 8 mph! Our normal hull speed is around 5.5 mph so we were flying. It took us less than 2 1/2 hours to go 18 miles. If we had the current against us in the Canal, it could have taken us 5+ hours – well worth getting up at 5:30 am. David kept going toward Cape May – we hope made it safely to New Jersey – he won’t be comfortable but he knows what he is doing.

A couple people had said there wasn’t anything between Chesapeake City and Cape May but they were wrong. Delaware City is small but wonderful place to stop and relax on the Great Loop. The Delaware City Marina is a great marina – easy to dock, completely protected, extremely helpful and professional staff, well stocked marine store, free coffee, courtesy bikes, reasonable prices and lots of opportunities to meet other boaters. They do it right. The town is small but has a nice mix of shops and restaurants and old historic buildings. And Fort Delaware is only a short ferry ride away on nearby Pea Patch Island. What more could you ask for?

After gassing up and checking in at the marina, we decided to hop on the ferry going over to the Fort. The winds are supposed to be gale force tomorrow (40+ mph gusts) and they may not run (on Memorial Day weekend) so you have to jump at the opportunities that come up. We lucked out – most of the other transient boaters here at the marina decided to do the same thing and we joined a large group of school kids on a field trip and had a blast. (We all decided our decision to stay off Delaware Bay was a good one since it took the ferry Captain 5 tries to dock at the Fort – the wind and tides kept pushing him away).

Willis was one of the highlights of our trip to Fort Delaware. He was one of the re-enactors and runs the blacksmith shop. He told great stories to the kids and when some of us stopped by later to see his shop, he gave Ozel and Maryann a wrought iron hook and us a hand forged nail  (the perfect keepsake for our little boat). He is a great storyteller. He spent 42 years in the military and ended up apprenticing at the Fort after he retired and now gives back to the community by giving kids a taste of life in 1846. After thanking him and saying goodbye we thought we would never meet him again but we were wrong. Everyone was freezing and hungry after our tour (the temps had dropped to 52˚ and it was raining and blowing when we left the Fort) so we headed to Crabby Dicks as soon as we stepped off the ferry for some hot soup and libations. Well, about an hour later, who walks in but Willis – he had tracked us down to give Cindy and I a hand forged wrought iron hook too.

After an amazing lunch sharing stories and learning about our dockmates and Will’s lives and adventures, we wanted to curl up under the covers and take naps but we were disciplined and decided to get our critical boat project  – showers and laundry – done just in case some other great adventures present themselves tonight or tomorrow.

If we had decided to skip Delaware City, we wouldn’t have met Ozel and Maryann on Freya, Pierre and Lise on Aquitain, Bill on Lady Sarah, Carol and Russ on Ziveli (we met them first in Annapolis), Tara and the staff at the Marina and Willis and the other volunteers at the Fort. This has been one of the best stops of our trip and we have only been here one day. You never know.

Hot Stuff

Day 261: Thursday, May 23, 2013

Port to Port: Chesapeake City, Maryland

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Free Dock

Mile 0 to Mile 0: It was supposed to rain and storm today plus be windy – so far, only the wind part has come true. It is definitely the calm before the storm though. It was almost 90˚ and humid today. Tomorrow, the high is supposed to be in the 50˚’s and rainy. We have to keep reminding ourselves that patience is a virtue.

We are planning to leave tomorrow for the relatively short trip to Delaware City for a couple of days before heading down Delaware Bay for Cape May – a 50 mile trip on big water. Sunday looks like a good travel day. We’ll wait and see.

We spent 4 hours at the library working on computer projects, charging electronics and reading. We are ready for the next leg of our trip as soon as mother-nature lets us go. There are several other boats hanging out here waiting for good weather too, so at least we have company.

Our new solar panel is working out pretty good so far. It was partly sunny yesterday and our batteries were full by the end of the day. It is really nice to have an alternative energy source to augment the alternator on Boris. Redundancy is a good thing on a boat.

We got to talk with Dave on Motley Crew a lot more – he knows this area well so we enjoyed chatting numerous times throughout the day. He plans to head out early tomorrow and head straight for Cape May. We will probably follow him up the canal but turn north towards Delaware City to spend a couple days until better weather arrives.

Boaters are interesting people. We have always been surprised at how helpful everyone is (even though we understand the desire to help others out whenever possible). Our tiller has a small wiggle in it that is annoying and I figured if I could pinch the aluminum bracket holding it a little it would tighten it. A C-clamp would work perfect but we don’t have one with. So I asked Dave. He didn’t have one. So I walked over to a powerboat down the dock and asked if they (sorry, I forgot to write down your names) had one. They didn’t have one either. Well, I put that project on the back burner and forgot about it. Well, a couple hours later they stopped by the boat and he had a big 10” C-clamp in his hand just perfect for my 3-minute project. He had gone home and returned to the boat and brought it back with him. What a wonderful and helpful surprise. I clamped that on the bracket and less than 2 minutes later our tiller was wiggle-free (I like those kind of projects). Thank you for your help.

And the day wasn’t done yet. We were heating up some left over mashed potatoes and roast beef and got to talking to some new neighbors, Mike and Vikki on Toy Yot (can you guess their last name?), a small powerboat. They noticed we were from Minnesota and learned we were doing the Loop on a small boat and 2 hours later, we finally finished heating up and eating our dinner. Vikki is from Wisconsin and they are planning to do the Loop on their boat in 5 years or so. They were very excited to hear about our experiences and we shared some laughs about people from Minnesota and Wisconsin. (Good luck on your future adventures). Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Watching and Waiting

Day 260: Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Port to Port: Chesapeake City, Maryland

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Free Dock

Mile 0 to Mile 0: Chesapeake City is another old town with an interesting history. The C&D (Chesapeake & Delaware) Canal, which passes right through the center of the town, was key to the town’s early success. It used to have several locks along the waterway which provided employment and customers for town businesses. Ferries were also busy transporting travelers across the canal. The city thrived during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and many old building and homes survive from this period. Then the canal was modified to eliminate the locks – it is now a sea level canal – so ships can traverse it without stopping. Surprisingly, the C&D Canal was the third busiest canal in the world in the 1960’s. Ocean going ships from around the world still pass through on a daily basis. A major bridge was built to replace the ferries and now Chesapeake City has had to reinvent itself as a small, quaint tourist town on the waterfront of the historic C&D canal. It’s not big but they have tried very hard to make the most of what they have. We are glad we stopped to smell the roses.

Today was the first really hot and humid day we have had in a long time. We went to the Chesapeake Inn and Marina and shared a BBQ chicken pizza and smoothie for lunch. I spent some time at the library a little over a mile from downtown – partly for the AC and partly to get some projects done. By the time I left the temps had moderated and a nice breeze kept me cool. Cindy stayed on the boat to read and fix the bug screen for the forward hatch.

We lazed around the rest of the afternoon, had crackers and cheese for dinner and started watching a movie on Netflix. After a while we heard a noise and found out we had a new neighbor, David on Motley Crew – a 24’ O’day we had first met in Baltimore but hadn’t gotten to talk to for very long. He has traveled this area of the east coast extensively. We chatted across boats until the mosquitos drove us inside. Hopefully, he won’t leave tomorrow and we will be able to share some more stories.

Weather To Go Or Not

Day 259: Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Port to Port: Still Pond Anchorage to Chesapeake City, Maryland

Underway: 7:53 am      Motor Off: 1:10 pm      Miles Traveled: 25/21      Stayed At: Free Dock

Mile 21 to Mile 0: Weather is going to be a deciding factor for us over the next few days. Currently, today and tomorrow look okay although the wind is supposed to pick up from the south 10-15 with gusts to 20. Not good weather to get across the Delaware so we are going to take it slow and spend a day and a half in Chesapeake City and a day (hopefully) in Delaware City at the north end of the Delaware waiting for a better weather forecast. Right now, Friday looks good with winds out of the northwest 5-10. We’ll see tomorrow.

As such, today was a relatively short day. Last nights anchorage was beautiful – scenic, easy to anchor, completely protected and quiet. We were all alone on the water. There are advantages to getting going a little early in the spring. We had an uneventful cruise up the last section of the Chesapeake – it’s a relief to be done but there is so much more to see we’ll have to come back some day. A couple boats passed us going north and a couple towboats pulling large ships passed us going south. Towing one of these ships done a narrow canal has to be a nerve wracking challenge. I hope we don’t meet one later this week.

We arrived in Chesapeake City in the early afternoon and found the free docks empty – you never know what you are going to find but we got lucky again. This weekend these will probably be packed with partiers – there is a bar restaurant just kitty-korner from us. We are on a nice floating dock and large clean public restrooms are a few hundred feet away. They charge $15 for electricity and $10 for water but we need neither so this is a wonderful place to hang out for a day or two.

The sun came out a little while after we docked and it got hot – a rare event so far this spring. For some odd reason, I decided to scrub the dinghy – it had gotten dirty in Baltimore and it looked like a derelict. That project went so well that I decided to clean the hull on Aurora too. She has an orange eyebrow two feet up on the bow and a foot up from the waterline all the way around. It will get dirty again – especially on the Hudson but it annoys me to look at it all the time. A couple hours of the right chemicals and a little scrubbing and she looks almost like new. Cindy plotted our course to Delaware City and Cape May, New Jersey at the south end of the Delaware so we can mostly relax tomorrow and poke around this little town to see what surprises we can find.

Happy Birthday Jessica

Day 258: Monday, May 20, 2013

Port to Port: Baltimore, Maryland to Still Pond Creek

Underway: 8:00 am      Motor Off: 2:30 pm      Miles Traveled: 32/17      Stayed At: Anchor

Mile 38 to Mile 21: It was hard to leave but Cindy is all bent about getting through the Delaware – our next big body of water which requires a good weather window – so we can be in New York City before the second weekend in June when Jess, Sarah and Jake are coming to visit. We have more that two weeks to cover about a weeks worth of travel. Knock on wood, but we should be okay. We’ll just be able to take our time and wait for good weather (and maybe have time for some naps).

We left at 8:00 am but we had already gone out for one more breakfast, gotten ice and texted a birthday message to Jess (she is 24 in case anyone is wondering) just in case the phone didn’t work later (which it doesn’t). The morning was overcast but comfortable and the winds were light so it was a good day to work our way up toward the north end of the Chesapeake. The channel was surprisingly quiet with almost no boats moving anywhere. The only one that was interesting was a large ocean going liquid hauling ship backing out of a pier by the bridge just as we passed by. He took forever to slowly back out (with the help of a couple of tugs) but he soon passed us and headed south on the Chesapeake.

We had a nice steady south breeze so we were able to motorsail almost the entire 32 miles we traveled today. The rollers built from behind a little in the late morning but they were mostly pushing us along and we soon turned into our chosen anchorage and found 8’ of water in a completely protected mostly wooded cove to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening. I cleaned the boat a little – the bumpers had black marks all over from our stay in Baltimore and Cindy plotted our course for tomorrow. Our batteries are fully charged. It will be interesting to see how well the solar panel works in keeping the batteries charged even on our shorter travel days. We like to be as self–sufficient as possible.

As I write this blog, the clouds have cleared out completely and the forecast thunderstorms look less likely than before. A cool breeze in flowing through the boat and we are done with our projects for the day – time for nap.


Total Mile To Date: 3,415

Random Discoveries #213, 214, 215…

Day 257: Sunday, May 19, 2013

Port to Port: Baltimore, Maryland

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Free Dock

Mile 38 to Mile 38: We didn’t feel like doing more museums today so we just started walking. There was a large green rectangle on the little map we had that said “Patterson Park” so we headed that way. The park was huge. Although the grass was a little overgrown, it was quiet and peaceful and surrounded by beautiful old row houses and a few old cathedral like churches. We walked for a while and heard a voice off in the distance coming from a loudspeaker. So we followed the voice to our first discovery of the day – Baltimore Bike Jam. Bike riders of all ages were taking part in races all day. There were a few food vendors and some information booths and a few seconds of excitement as the groups of racers passed by the announcer’s booth. Our next random discovery was the Dangerous Pies booth – they had probably 12 different kinds of pies for sale by the slice from apple to lemon to chicken pot pie pie. We chose the later and it made a very filling lunch.

After watching the racing for a while (and thankfully not seeing an almost inevitable crash), we wandered to a far corner of the park and found our next random discovery – the Patterson Park Pagoda. It was a 4 story tower on top of a hill with probably the best view of the city – it was supposed to be open but the volunteer must have overslept or was late so we didn’t get the full tour. Worth a visit though.

Our next discovery was the Frederick Douglas/Isaac Myers Maritime Museum just a few blocks from our home base. The museum honors the accomplishments of two men of color who overcame enormous odds and obstacles to become successful business people in the community and nationally know advocates for equal rights. Isaac Myers started and owned (with over black community leaders) the first black owned marine railway and shipbuilding operation in the US. The challenges these men had to endure to just live a decent life make our challenges pale in comparison.

We had an appointment to meet Mary (from Heinsite) around 3:00 pm at our boat to go to her marina and use their showers. That’s way to important to miss. We were ready to go when she arrived and we walked back to her marina but not before making an unplanned stop at an interesting visitors center that we had missed just a couple blocks from our boat. She introduced us a guy in the front of the store working on a half hull ships model. We talked for a little while and he mentioned that he had built a scale replica of the Pride of Baltimore II that we had toured in Annapolis. Well, we were soon comparing photos on our comparative cameras to see how accurate his model was compared to my pictures of the actual ship. Suffice it to say, his model was faithful to the actual ship down to the bent handle on the chain cap.

We finally got away to our much anticipated showers. You really learn to appreciate the simple things in life when they aren’t easily available everyday. Hot showers with unlimited hot water is one of life’s simple pleasures. We decided to ride along with Mary while she did a little shopping but before we left we got a tour of their home away from home, Heinsite – a 43’ LeFever trawler. They got a good deal on her and put in a lot of sweat equity to get her into the beautiful condition she is in today. We decided we would not have any problem living on a boat like this. Add another name to the list for future consideration.

Our next random discovery was the Aldy Grocery store. We’ve seen the ads but never had the chance to visit one. We didn’t really “need” anything but the prices here were so cheap we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stock up on a few things – just don’t visit while hungry or you may regret it later.

Our day of discovery wasn’t over yet either. Mary dropped us off at Aurora and told us we should hop on the water taxi that Dick drives to take a little tour which sounded like a great idea. We finally got to meet Dick. The route he was driving today was very slow so it was just us and him for one round trip and then Mary joined us for another round trip. What a fun time. They have led a very interesting and exciting life – ocean and coastal cruising, flying their own airplanes and even doing the Loop. Hopefully our paths will cross again someday. (Thanks for everything Mary and Dick).

We finished our day with a water taxi ride to the Inner Harbor to see the sights and explore. During busy times, street performers put on shows on the wharf and this evening a woman with some unique skills on a unicycle was performing and a concert featuring ZZ Top and Journey was playing at an open air tent along the water. We enjoyed a few minutes of their concert as we slowly cruised by on the water taxi as we returned to Fells Point after dark. What a day of discovery on the Great Loop.

Click Here: Night Lights


Let It Shine, Let It Shine

Day 256: Saturday, May 18, 2013

Port to Port: Baltimore, Maryland

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Free Dock

Mile 38 to Mile 38: With no specific plans for today, boat projects ended up taking up a good chunk of the morning. While Cindy got her beauty sleep, I wandered around the neighborhood stopping to get a coffee and fill a couple bottles with water – one really hot – and came back, washed up, shaved and washed my hair in the cockpit while the world was still sleeping. The only activity was the vendors setting up their booths for the farmer’s market 20 steps from our back door (the closest yet – talk about being where the action is) and a few early morning runners jogging by. After being sure Cindy was still alive, I took a long walk over to the Canton neighborhood a mile and a half away to stop at the West Marine and Radio Shack. I also discovered a Safeway so I ended up hauling 6 bags of groceries home too along with a few parts I needed to install our new solar panel. Cindy was up and moving when I got back.

Since Slow Churn decided to leave us behind, we don’t have a mobile power unit available when we are at anchor or at free docks so adding a solar panel seemed like a useful idea. I decided to mount it at the stern on the back of the arch. Although this is a relatively simple project, it still takes longer to get everything hooked up than you think. About 3 hours later, I plugged in the main disconnect and voila, we have batteries being charged while we are just sitting here – and it’s not even sunny out. I can’t wait to see how well it charges in full sun. Hopefully we can continue to avoid paying $5-$8/day for electricity like a lot of these marinas try to tax charge. (Not if I can help it).

While working on the solar panel project, a woman on a bike stopped by to chat. We learned her name was Mary and her husband Dick drives one of the water taxis – he loves it so much he would do it for free but they pay him anyways. They retired early and are living on a nice trawler at a nearby marina at the moment. They have traveled extensively by boat over the years, up and down the coast, to South America, the Carribean, the West Coast and lots of places in between. We chatted for probably an hour and hope to get together later to learn more about their adventures.

Even though it was misting out in the afternoon, we decided to walk around the Fells Point neighborhood to take pictures and explore. The architecture here is amazing. Nearly every building has a history and you can see it in the beautiful exteriors. There are block after block of 100+ year old buildings all being used as businesses or residences. This is an old but very healthy community. We found dozens more restaurants, interesting shops and a bread factory outlet store that will be getting some of our money on Monday after we eat our way through some of the bread we already have. We couldn’t help but stand outside the vents by the sidewalk savoring the smell of fresh baked bread. I think we gained 5 pounds just standing there.

After a productive and relaxing day, we made BBQ sandwiches for dinner, worked on our route planning and blog and enjoyed the peace and quiet of a cool, overcast Saturday evening before crashing to ready ourselves for another day on the Great Loop.

City Life

Day 255: Friday, May 17, 2013

Port to Port: Baltimore, Maryland

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Free Dock

Mile 38 to Mile 38: Since yesterday worked out so well, we decided to start the today the same way with breakfast at Vikki’s. Today we were going to head south on a different circulator route so we made our way downtown and hopped on the Blue Route which took us to our first destination – The American Visionary Art Museum. This was highly recommended and it didn’t disappoint. Although a little pricey, we thoroughly enjoyed the 3 floors of mostly modern art of many different types – paintings, needlework, screenpaintings, folk art, sculpture and drawings. The most thought provoking art exhibit was a collection large hand stitched needlework panels by a Jewish woman from Poland telling the story of World War II and the Hallocost. She lost almost her entire family to the concentration camps and only barely escaped through ingenuity and luck – at the age of 16. That story will live with us forever.

We wandered around the Federal Hill neighborhood for a little while admiring the architecture and scenery overlooking the harbor before hopping another bus down to the nearest Walmart to get a few things for the boat and restock. On the way home we stopped to pick up a solar panel I ordered at Federal Express. They had the panel but Amazon had sent the other parts by USPS and the FedEx office had rejected these so I spent a couple hours tracking the mail down and was helped by a couple postal workers who found the package on the delivery truck when it returned and held the package. (Thank you – you went above and beyond the call).

We relaxed in the evening talking to several people wandering by along the boardwalk while we ate left-over spaghetti and worked on other projects. It is a lot busier tonight – Friday night – the local bars and restaurants are hopping on this beautiful evening and the water taxis are full of tourists. You would have to live here for years to try out all the restaurants – in a short walk a block and half up and down, I found dozens of choices – Bertha’s Cafe, The Green Turtle, Alexander’s Tavern, Lil Phil’s Tavern, The Blarney Stone, The Irish Pub, Todd Commer’s, Sal’s Fresh Seafood, Shuckers, Sophia’s Place, Hot Tomatoes, Dog Watch Tavern, Rodos Bar, Motown Lounge, Moby’s and the Admirals Cup – how do you decide?

As I sit here writing this post on the boat, I can hear some piano music from a local restaurant, some bagpipes are playing at the end of the boardwalk, people are laughing and talking and the low rumble of an idling water taxi is adding background noise. This city is alive and we are enjoying being part of it.

Dream Boat

Day 254: Thursday, May 16, 2013

Port to Port: Baltimore, Maryland

Underway: 0:00 am      Motor Off: 0:00 pm      Miles Traveled: 0      Stayed At: Free Dock

Mile 38 to Mile 38: After a mini-introduction to Baltimore yesterday, today we headed out for some serious exploration. We started the day with breakfast at Vikki’s Fells Point Deli just a few minutes from our dock. Finally, a great breakfast place – two eggs over medium perfectly done, a pile of crisp bacon and two better than average (but not as good as Al’s) pancakes for a little over $5. Quick service too. Before we left we were chatting with the waitress and Vikki about where we were from and a Baltimore police officer sitting by us heard we were from Minnesota and he proudly showed us the Vikings pendant around his neck – he is a die-hard fan . He even travels to Minnesota several times a year to go to “home” games. He even had a picture of himself with Cris Carter on his phone. That’s dedication. It was fun talking with him. We’ll be back – I just have to decide what to have for breakfast tomorrow.

Baltimore has an amazing network of free circulator buses that allow you to travel all over the city for free. What an amazing concept – make it easy for people to get around and spend money in the city. We were going to start our day making a loop on the Orange Bus just to get an idea of some of the different neighborhoods. We made it about half way before we hopped of to wander a little. You never know what you are going to discover. We hit a CVS pharmacy, the FedEx office and the Washington Monument in the Mount Vernon neighborhood. We walked by a beautiful old building that looked interesting so we went in and discovered a small museum with an exhibit on Stephen Crane, the award winning author of the Red Badge of Courage and many other articles and books, a war correspondent, a poet and a journalist. He died at 29 years old. The building also housed a classic old library – The Peabody Library – what a treasure. You can’t smell a digital book. And the best was yet to come.

A couple blocks from the Peabody was the William T. Walters Museum. What an amazing discovery. We spent almost 5 hours wandering through time from the ancient world to the medieval world (complete with knights armor) to Greek and Roman sculpture to Renaissance art to a whole building of oriental art and everything in between. What an astounding collection and a little overwhelming. It is amazing to see how human creativity has evolved over the years – we would have a hard time reproducing some of the art from 1,000 years ago. And all of it was free (we left a donation).

We were exhausted but our day was going to get even better. When we finally got back to the boat, we had a neighbor. A sailboat had pulled in front of us – the Mimi Rose. She is not any ordinary sailboat, but a modern wood sailboat –- with classic details making her a work of art. We have found the new standard to aim for in our search for a new boat. We also met her owners – Anne and Collin – who are working onboard while traveling the eastern seaboard. This year they got as far south as Georgia where they spent the winter exploring the many rivers that branch off from the Intracoastal Waterway. They are heading home to Maine to explore this summer. Within minutes of meeting them, they invited us onboard and we sat in the cockpit chatting, laughing and sharing stories until almost 10 pm (thanks guys for the hospitality). Have I mentioned that life is good lately?