Thursday, October 31, 2013

New Friends Along the ICW

     Cruising sailors are a motley crew of individuals, a veritable stew of personalities and avocations. The sailing migration south tends to be somewhat isolating unless cruisers set off in pairs from their places of origin. Joe and I prefer to take an individualistic approach to traveling because it gives us more opportunities to meet and connect with new people. Recently, while transiting the Camp LeJeune area of the ICW a passing boater hailed us on VHF channel 16. SV Moonraker hailing port Annapolis, MD remarked that they'd spotted Simple Life a couple of weeks ago entering the channel into Solomon's Island. We remembered Moonraker as well. They asked our destination and we were both headed to the Mile Hammock Bay anchorage for the night.
Donna and Bill of SV Moonraker
     After negotiating some tricky and stressful, shallow areas in the Camp Le Jeune section of the ICW I think we all looked forward to bit of rest and relaxation and hoped for enough room in the anchorage when we all arrived that afternoon. The Onslow Beach Bridge (a scheduled opening bridge) was the last bridge for the day and Mile Hammock Bay was only a short distance away. At final approach I counted over twenty boats already in the anchorage! Joe decided that we should drop our hook as soon as we cleared the channel marker. He said, "This is as good as anywhere else," and I heard the anchor chain ratcheting out of the windlass. Moonraker was directly in front of us and had just dropped their anchor, too. I suppose we were all feeling anxious about securing our spots for the night especially while monitoring VHF16 and listening to a couple of other boats who were hard aground awaiting assistance from Boat US Towing in the Camp LeJeune shallows. We felt lucky to have made it beyond that tricky area.

Pierre and Jessy from SV LOL
     Within a short time after settling into the anchorage the crew fromMoonraker had deployed their dinghy and were making the rounds of the anchorage stopping at a few boats including ours. They thought it would be fun to have a sundowner party aboard Moonraker. They'd invited a charming couple Pierre and Jessy from SV LOL who had sailed their boat from France, a young couple Riley and Allison aboard a 30 foot C&C and us for a 5:00 PM party!
First time cruisers Allison and Rielly from Roanoake, VA

     Everyone was genuinely appreciative of their efforts and kind hospitality. We'd all been traveling for a number of days, anchoring in remote areas and stressed from the anticipation of numerous shallow areas along the ICW. Sometimes it's days before having an opportunity to get off the boat and take a walk onshore. The party was just what we all needed at that particular point in the trip. We shared stories of our individual journeys, frustrations, anxieties and most of all everyone had the opportunity to...LOL!
Michele and Joe enjoying the company of new friends.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Beaufort, North Carolina

Inviting porch on Ann Street in Beaufort
 One of our favorite southern towns along our eastern seaboard journey is Beaufort, North Carolina. The only problem with Beaufort is that there always seems to be a forecast of gale force winds. That was what prevented us from stopping last year when we anchored overnight but, chose to get out of Beaufort prior to the gale's arrival. This year weather patterns have been relatively benign and it was apparent that a two night stay was possible.
It's always windy in Beaufort, NC


    Beaufort is a good stop to provision and do laundry and it had been ten days since our last stop at our friends Bob and Pat's house. I called the Town Creek Marina in Beaufort for reservations because it was within dinghying distance to town and one of the more reasonably priced marinas. One slip was available but, its location and approach into the slip were less than desirable for a full keeled boat like Simple Life. She has limited maneuverability and no bow thrusters. I asked the person with whom I was speaking if a couple of dock hands could assist us upon arrival and she assured me that she'd make a note of my request. When we arrived at Town Creek the next morning we hailed the marina on the VHF radio for instructions to our slip. A young woman was positioned on the dock waving us in toward an inside slip. When you're already stressed trying to plan the approach into tight quarters with pilings that need stern lines secured and the only available dock hand is texting! Needless to say I used my daily allotment of swears and curses that began with the letter F. Somehow Simple Life was secured by Joe who was running around deck like a monkey in a room full of typewriters. The dock hand did manage to hold onto one bow line while messaging with the other.

Pumpkins for sale
     Even though it was a lovely and fall like our arrival day was spent doing mounds of laundry. Two washers and one dryer were functioning the other dryer was malfunctioning. I had laundry duty while Joe gaveSimple Life a good scrubbing. The marina courtesy car for grocery shopping was reserved by other cruisers for the remainder of the day so we put our grocery list aside and added our name on the list for the next morning. By the next day, with chores completed by 11:00 AM the crew of Simple Life were granted shore leave and were free to explore this gem of southern history and enjoy a much deserved delectable lunch of crab cakes ashore. Our restaurant of choice for lunch and refreshments was The Spouter Inn and Bakery on Front Street conveniently located at one of the town dinghy docks. This restaurant came highly recommended by Claiborne Young who maintains a website for cruisers who travel the southern intracoastal waterway. We were escorted to the sunny, waterside deck overlooking the anchorage in Taylor's Creek and Carrot Island which is part of the Rachel Carson Reserve. Rachel Carson a marine biologist, early environmentalist and author of Silent Spring and The Sea Around Us spent a summer during the 1940's conducting research on the islands that comprise the reserve.

Volunteers building sailing skiff at the Maritime Museum

     The North Carolina Maritime Museum was our fist stop after lunch. It was fascinating to watch a group of volunteers collectively participate in the construction of a wooden lap strake boat. It was essentially a live exhibit. Another volunteer explained the finer points of ship in a bottle model building. Now there's a man with admirable patience.
Ship in a bottle builder at the Maritime Museum


Touring the Old Burying Ground

     Another of my favorite things to do in Beaufort is visiting the Old Burying Ground (established in 1709) on Ann St. To some this may sound a bit macabre but, it's such a peaceful way to spend an afternoon. Apparently, others appreciate its charms, too. Large live oak trees, strangled by overgrown wisteria vines and large elms emitted dappled sunlit areas of this historic site. Sounds of whispering wind in the trees and leaves crunched underfoot as we meandered through the natural pathways leading from one gravesite to another. The visitor center offered maps for self guided tours and we found it a relaxing way to top off an afternoon in Beaufort.
Gravestone design inspired by the gate to heaven

    After enjoying a special day we returned to the boat for our own "happy hour special" and hoisted the dingy onto davits for departure the next morning and before the sun set. Even with the less than ideal docking experience the previous day, Beaufort remains on my list of best historic towns on the Atlantic seaboard. There's a vibe that's not easily explained but, one that must be experienced to understand. We'll definitely make this a stop during our northern migration but, maybe we'll anchor out next time.

Sunrise in Beaufort, North Carolina

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Finally, a Weather Break!

     Ominous grey skies, small craft warnings, 20 knot winds and four foot seas were the forecast (that was the new and improved forecast) as we headed south from Solomon's Island, Maryland to visit friends Bob and Pat at their home on Tipers Creek, Virginia. Boats that had been holed up at Solomon's for more than a week filed out of the channel as though a parade had been organized. I think we were all "chomping on the bit like a pack of race horses in starting gate." In our case the starting gun was a favorable weather window for heading south. The previous morning we'd received an email invitation to visit friends Bob and Pat of SV Chanticleer whom we'd cruised with last winter in the Florida Keys. They have a lovely home not far from Solomon's Island along the Chesapeake's north south route on the Great Wicomico River in Tipers Creek.
Tipers Creek, Great Wicomico River, Virginia
by Joe Boulay
 I couldn't wait to see them. It had been a long nine days aboard a boat and I looked forward to having dinner and chatting with friends. When we arrived in the creek, Bob hailed us on the VHF to ask if we needed to go to town for supplies. They've cruised extensively from Maine to the Bahamas and understand that live aboard cruisers always need to replenish food, propane and of course John Barleycorn. I had a few items on a grocery list and we had one empty propane tank that needed refilling. Of course whenever we find a grocery store, I tend to shop as though the apocalypse is coming. The few items ended up being a weeks' worth of shopping. That was actually a good thing because we will be anchoring in remote areas along the ICW away from civilization for a number of days during the remainder of this week and into next until we reach Beaufort, NC.

     Bob and Pat prepared a special dinner for us with the best dry rubbed ribs we've ever had. We also enjoyed baked potatoes that we haven't had in ages. The microwave onboard Simple Life was removed to make room for more storage since we're rarely at a dock with electricity. I'd forgotten how much I'd missed baked potatoes.

Container ship barreling down on Simple Life to starboard
     We'd planned to leave early the following morning with Jackson Creek, Deltaville our destination. The evening weather forecast for the upcoming day was favorable and it appeared we could head south before another cold front approached. By morning, big surprise! Small craft warnings were once again posted with three to four foot seas. In the ocean these sea conditions would be considered mild but, in the lower Chesapeake Bay wind and current produce short wave periods that result in a hobby horse effect on the boat. After weighing our options the decision was made to go since the wind was out of the north and our course was southward. Conditions were not as bad as expected. Joe hand steered surfing down waves throughout the day as though he was at the helm of a Hobie Cat and Simple Life gave us a good ride.

Navy Hospital Ship Comfort at Norfolk, VA
     Now that our experiences in the Chesapeake this fall are a distant memory we hope to be able to make up some distance every day. Our goals and objectives for the next few weeks are to move south with fewer stops along the way for touring since we have fallen behind due to weather conditions. So far we've anchored at Norfolk, VA stayed one night at the free dock at Great Bridge, VA, anchored in the North River, NC and at Deep Point, on the Alligator River in North Carolina.
The free dock at Great Bridge, Virginia

Our anchorage off Norfolk at Hospital Point
 My main concern is to keep moving to avoid cold temperatures as the season progresses. So far so good. Weather has been mild with days in the 70's and nights in the 50's. Belhaven, NC will be an overnight stop today with plans to travel to Beaufort, NC early this week. Beaufort is one of our favorite towns that's steeped in history. It also has a few fine restaurants along the waterfront and I'm looking forward to an evening out on the town, being waited on and enjoying someone else's cooking for a change.

Sailors on the ICW near the
Virginia-North Carolina border.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Soggy Solomon's Island, Maryland

Baba 40 in the anchorage with a family of six living aboard
     There's nothing simple about the Simple Life in soggy Solomon's Island. Wherever we end up in any given anchorage inevitably someone comes by and comments on the name of our boat, "Love the name! Is it really a simple life?" I always say that we aspire toward a simple life but, most often it's not even close. Actually, if anyone living aboard tells me that life is simple when living on a boat they need to be castigated. It's a lot of work. Nothing about living on a sailboat is remotely simple.

     This week we have been holed up on anchor  at Solomon's Island, Maryland while the remnants of former Tropical Storm Karen have been stalled over the Mid-Atlantic region of Chesapeake Bay. Winds in excess of 25 knots with gusts to 30 have been blowing for days. Seas on Chesapeake Bay have been higher than normal with short wave periods making travel less than desirable. The Mid-Atlantic has been inundated with buckets of rain, drizzle, heavy wind and fog and 100% humidity for days. Areas south of us along the ICW have had their share of travel related issues, as well. The Great Bridge Lock on the Virginia ICW has been closed with no scheduled openings restricting boater traffic due to excessively high water. The Alligator Swing Bridge on the Alligator River on the North Carolina ICW wouldn't open due to winds in excess of 25 mph. All of this weather has kept boaters along this section stranded. The Cruiseheimer's SSB net at 8:30 AM on 8152 megahertz has kept us abreast of conditions south of us.

     All week we've listened to NOAA broadcasts over the VHF radio and it all sounds "like a broken record." Rain, fog, high winds, seas, and lets not forget the dampness that goes along with all this weather and humidity. Right now I feel as though we'll never move again and we'll be spending the winter in Maryland!
All the foul weather gear, wet towels etc.
One thing that I thank God for nearly every day is our full enclosure in the cockpit. Whatever we spent on that little gem was worth it. The enclosure gives us the opportunity to escape the confines of the inside of the boat and at least be outdoors watching the rain and drizzle. It also kept wind from penetrating the main salon. The best way to describe the enclosure for those of you who aren't accustomed to boater lingo is to compare it to a "Florida room" or a mud room in a house. It's a great place to leave wet foulies, shoes and other wet things unwelcomed below.
     Yesterday, We donned full foulies and biked to a nearby CVS for a few items and later returned to the waterfront to enjoy lunch at Stony's Restaurant on the Pawtuxent River in Solomon's Island. I savored my first crab cake of the trip while the rain pelted the docks outside.

     This morning we motored into Spring Cove Marina where we got a pump out. Unfortunately, the pump malfunctioned during the process, Joe managed to spray s&@/t on a small section of boat and on himself. We also fueled up and filled the water tanks. Tonight I will wash the "afflicted" items from Joe's chores at the nearby marina. All in a day's work. As I said, it's not a simple life but, for one reason or another we keep trying.
Joe after a shower at the marina, nice and clean...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Annapolis, Maryland

The Chapel Naval Academy Yard
     To a large extent a good deal of our time during this past week in Annapolis has revolved around numerous dental appointments due to my need for a root canal. However, that didn't stop us from enjoying ourselves in town.

     Annapolis is such an interesting, historic place that offers so much to see and do. Because of our extended visit, we began feeling like locals and Annapolis started to feel like home. The peaceful tree lined streets with undulating brick sidewalks that encircle oak and chestnut trees are perfect for a leisurely walk into town. In spite of the abnormally warm temperatures, Fall was definitely evident with hints of red and golden leaves and the sound of acorns and leaves crunching under foot. A stroll down any street in the historic old town district is an outing back in time. There are so many interesting taverns with excellent happy hour food and drink offerings. One of our favorites is Middleton's Tavern near "Ego Alley" at the town dock. The tavern dates back to the 1750's. My favorite is steamed shrimp served hot with plenty of Old Bay sprinkled on top. The side entrance to the bar is a warm, welcoming place where locals and transient cruisers' tend to congregate at happy hour swapping information with their latest "war" stories. We also enjoyed the Boatyard Bar and Grille in Eastport.

Annapolis home on Maryland Ave.


     We've anchored in a few locations in Annapolis but, our favorite anchorage by far is in Spa Creek. It's well protected from all wind directions and peaceful with minimal boat traffic. According to the harbor master, the holding isn't good in a blow but, the weather was calm during the two weeks we were there. The other nice feature about Annapolis is the abundance of dinghy docks. Dinghys can be tied at any street in Annapolis or Eastport that ends at the water. Several streets have a dinghy dock and all have ladders. Annapolis is definitely a boater friendly town.

The anchorage in Spa Creek at sunset



Galway Bay Irish Pub

     Spa Creek's location was central to all of Annapolis' historic attractions and it was a twenty minute walk to Graul's Grocery. Even laundry duty can seem like less of a chore when the laundromat in town is located across from the Galway Bay Irish Pub! Ah, nothing goes with laundry tasks better than a cold pint.

Joe enjoying a pint 

Crossing Celtic performing at the Maryland Fall Festival

      The Maryland Avenue Fall Festival was held on Sunday September 29th. Crossing Celtic performed live Irish music and the street was closed to traffic for al fresco dining and numerous street vendors stalls.


Midshipmen gathering at Memorial Hall for the noon meal formation.
      No visit to Annapolis is complete without strolling through the Naval Academy grounds and witnessing the daily march as midshipmen assemble at Memorial Hall for the noon meal formation.  While on the grounds we also visited the Naval Academy's cemetery where we found Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell's future grave site. That's right, he's still very much alive but, he's already marked his spot for eternity.
Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell's future resting site, Naval Academy Cemetery.

     Let's regress to my dental woes. I was fortunate to find a wonderful dentist while we were in town who advised me on treatment for my cracked tooth. Dr. Todd Patton of Patton Smiles modern, immaculate office was located within walking distance from the dinghy dock. It was less than a 45 minute walk and since we didn't have ground transportation that's an important feature for wayfarers. He also referred me to an endodontist who performed the root canal and whose office was also nearby. The entire process from initial evaluation to the final crown was completed in 4 dental visits. Other than my anxiety about the procedures it was relatively painless and I would highly recommend Dr. Patton's expertise in dental care and his compassionate staff. I felt confident in my choice of dentists and very welcomed. How many people can say they've had a hug from their dentist? With all systems go we're once again heading south. We'd planned to be much farther along by now but, as we've learned from experience, the best made plans are cast in Jello.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The C&D Canal and the Root Canal, Annapolis, Maryland

Spa Creek anchorage Annapolis, Maryland
   The Chesapeake & Delaware Canal was quick and painless. The impending root canal...not so much. Simple Life has been anchored in Spa Creek, Annapolis for over a week now since we've been temporarily sidelined due to a fractured tooth. Dentists refer to this ailment as fractured tooth syndrome. I'm not sure why it's referred to as a syndrome, I crunched on a twig in my cereal and the tooth cracked. Everyday things still happen to those of us who live aboard just like everyone living ashore. But, when unforeseen events happen out here we have to find a solution straightaway and locally. Our dentist is the local dentist not our dentist back in Rhode Island and it's crucial to find someone trust worthy.

Old Barney the Baregat Lighthouse
     Getting back to how these events transpired...Recently, after motoring out of New York Harbor, we had a good day sailing down the New Jersey coastline. By four PM it was time to call it a day at the Barnegat Inlet. Winds and seas were in our favor at the inlet and "Old Barney" the Barnegat Lighthouse was a welcomed sight as we negotiated the inlet with breaking seas in sight. Joe and I hoped for a peaceful anchorage in the bay that night. Our destination the following day would be Cape May, New Jersey which was a 60 mile motor-sailing trip from Barnegat Bay. Everything went as planned and Cape May was within reach before sunset. I'm not a morning person and after a restful nights' sleep in Cape May Captain Joe had us up and underway at dawn. The forecast of favorable winds and currents up the Delaware River to the C&D Canal to overnight at anchor in the basin at Chesapeake City, Maryland was in our favor. We were making tracks, occasionally at nine knots!

Dawn on Delaware Bay with moon set
   Along the way while eating breakfast on the Delaware, I bit into one of those "healthy" cereals with the twig like particles in it. A sharp twinge in one of my back teeth caught my attention. Not a good sign. At the time I didn't mention the issue to Joe but I Googled a dentist in the Annapolis area since it's more populated than Chesapeake City with hopes of procuring an appointment within a couple of days.

The Hole in the Wall Tavern
     While in Chesapeake City, Joe and I anchored in the basin one night and in the morning noticed that the free dock was available. We weighed anchor in order to secure our spot at the dock where water was available to refill our tanks and the town was more accessible. It was enjoyable to tour Chesapeake City for the day and visit several of the local antique shops. Chesapeake City's historical importance revolves around the dredging of the C&D Canal in the 1800's. Many of the homes were constructed from the dunnage from barges that never made it through the canal to the Delaware River. There are numerous interesting antique shops that are ripe for exploration, a few popular restaurants as well as the historic Hole in the Wall Tavern on the Canal.
Joe reading one of the numerous plaques throughout the town

Early the next morning the amicable dock master, Buddy Shepard offered to take us grocery shopping at the Redner's Wholesale Market a short distance from the town dock. We provisioned in anticipation of our upcoming week of "dental extravaganza in Annapolis" and I received an appointment confirmation online from Patton Smiles in Annapolis. I felt hopeful and actually looked forward to meeting my new dentist.