Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Becharmed in Charleston

Joe checking the iPad for a
second opinion
With all the effort required getting from one anchorage to another aboard a sailboat having a few days of shore leave comes as a welcomed diversion. For a change, instead of being concerned with weather, currents and tides we're able to focus our attention toward what's happening musically, and gastronomically in our new port of call.

A typical anchorage in a South Carolina marsh
near Charleston, SC

An eagle eyes us as we travel the marsh

Waiting for a table at Hominy Grille, Charleston, SC
     Charleston is one of our favorite stops and it is one of the east coast's most beautiful and historic ports. Offshore cruising vessels use its wide inlet seeking respite from long offshore passages and southbound cruisers traveling the ICW route often enjoy a stop here, too.


Another favorite restaurant is Pearlz
(photo at the bar by Joe Boulay)
     Now that we've entered shrimp country I've changed my food of choice from crab to this local delicacy. Charleston's southern cuisine is one of several reasons we stop here each year. This town has overwhelmingly succeeded in putting shrimp and grits on the mainstream map. I've managed to sample this dish in almost every well known restaurant in the city. My favorite culinary preparation of this low country favorite is featured at Amen Street. I ordered the shrimp and grits at Hominy Grille during our recent visit and it was good, but it didn't have the savory spiciness of Amen Street's version.


Young artist discussing his work
at the farmer's market 

Jazz musicians having a blast at the farmer's market!

Choosing the best veggies is hard work
    There's always a multitude of events happening on any given day in Charleston. The farmers market held each Saturday in Marion Square is a delight for the eyes, ears and appetite. I look forward to buying veggies that are local and in season. It's fun to have a chat with the growers too. Local vendors offer food samples of their unique products which range from organic pickles and cheeses to pecans and pastries. Last Saturday a fantastic, young jazz ensemble performed from 8:00-2:00 PM. It was nice to sit and enjoy a few tunes after all that shopping.

     Even though it has been unusually warm this season cooler weather is certainly on its way. Because of this we try to keep on the move south taking a couple of days off after five or six days of travel. It's a slow progression but one that gives us the opportunity to visit interesting port cities like Charleston year after year. It sometimes seems we're getting so familiar with them that they're beginning to feel more and more like home!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Friends Along the Way

    Since the "flooding incident" aboard Simple Life I've wanted to work a blog into the lineup that had been a rough draft format before "The Shite Hits the Fan" blog was posted.
     I've said it before and I'll say it once again, our cruising community always restores my faith in humanity! At one time, Joe and I had real jobs. We did the nine to five rat race and barely got the chance to know our land based neighbors. Life was hectic and everyone was busy. Things have changed since we've chosen to lead a new life, albeit a simple life. We still have best friends back in New England who remain close to our hearts. Nothing replaces time honoured friendships.

Rachel anchored at Sandy Point, Great Wicomico River, VA
Photo by Joe Boulay
     Friendships we've forged in the cruising community due to similar affinities have been rewarding. While transiting Chesapeake Bay this fall friends Mark and Julie aboard SV Rachel whom we met last season in the Exumas phoned us hoping to reconnect as we traveled south. We were heading to the Great Wicomico River to catch up with friends Bob and Pat from Chanticleer. Mark and Rachel were sailing north toward the Great Wicomico!
     The chosen anchorage for the evening was Sandy Point in the Great Wicomico River where Mark and Julie joined us for dinner aboard. Sadly, they will not be joining the migration heading south this winter. Shoreside responsibilities require attention and they've planned a new tack; exploring the States in an RV for awhile! They're veteran cruisers who have been living aboard and sailing full time for seven years. Their travels have taken them to the Bahamas, the western Caribbean, down to Panama and back to the States.
Pat and neighbor Julie from SV Quest preparing pizza
Photo by Joe Boulay
       Early the next morning we left Sandy Point bound for Tiper's Creek where we looked forward to visiting with friends Bob and Pat whom we met during hurricane Sandy while holed up in Dowry Creek, NC. That shared experience cemented our friendship for life. Since then we have visited them at their lovely home in Virginia and they have visited us in New England. This summer while cruising to Maine they sailed their boat Chanticleer to Narragansett Bay where we rendezvoused at Dutch Harbor in Jamestown. We sailed along with Chanticleer to Cuttyhunk Island where we spent a few days exploring the island and getting together. Chanticleer continued north to Maine for the remainder of the summer returning home to Virginia in the fall.
Bob applying the finishing touches
Photo by Joe Boulay

     In September as Simple Life sailed south on Chesapeake Bay, Bob and Pat invited us to spend a couple of days at their dock. Stopping at their home has always been a highlight of our trips up and down the Bay. Pat is a superb cook. She has a well appointed chef's kitchen and knows how to use it. Whenever we visit they often invite neighbors to join us and share her wonderful meals. What a treat! Good friends and good food! Life is good.
Pat and Michele
Photo by Robert Sikora

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When the Shite Hits the Fan

       We have a saying in the boating world and that is "Don't ask if something will go wrong while you're out cruising, ask when it will go wrong." Well...that something happened to us this morning as we upped anchor in Slade Creek, North Carolina. With a considerable amount of mud on the chain and anchor Joe was having a good ole time with his new wash down pump squirting all the gooey mud away as each link dropped into the anchor locker. Within a few moments he realized it was time to check in on SSB Cruiseheimer's Net. He went below with most of the chain already in the locker to call into the short time and underway segment from Slade Creek to Broad Creek, Oriental, NC. When he returned to the bow and attempted to resume squirting...nothing. Not even a dribble. Assuming he blown a fuse he once again went below to check. The bilge pump light was on indicating it was running. Hmm...Joe thought, "Why is the bilge pump running?" Then he stepped in a puddle on the floor! Lockers were flung opened. Hoses checked, seacocks closed. "Where the hell did all this water come from?" He opened the anchor locker. I heard a yell. "SHIT!" Actually, his response was another four letter word. Use your imagination. The hose clamp on the wash down pump in the anchor locker had disconnected. The wash down pump was running, pumping seawater into the boat! Where was I during the event? Stationed at the helm where I usually am when we're lifting the anchor with the engine running. That's why neither of us were able to hear the wash down pump nor the bilge pump running. After settling down I went below to help out and survey the damage.

Joe checking for leaks at the
wash down pump connection.
     The cushions in the V berth were soaked! Not a good sign. Fortunately, my guitar, Bodhran (Irish drum) and computer appeared dry. When I lifted the cushions where under normal circumstances "water tight" lockers lie underneath I discovered about two feet of water sloshing about where clothing and blankets were stored. This was our Sunday morning "entertainment" so to speak. Needless to say, there would be no sausage, eggs and bagels served this morning. At this point we both could have benefitted from a snifter of rum!

     In order to get underway lockers needed to be pumped out, wet clothes needed to be packed into plastic trash bags, musical instruments needed to be moved and secured along with other miscellaneous items stored in the V berth. We both reasoned that these things happen to people who live in houses, too! Plumbing disasters happen all the time. That made us feel a bit better about our situation and we realized that it could have been worse. There's a reason Joe closes all the seacocks and drains whenever we leave the boat. It's because they are holes in the boat that allow sea water in. I'd never realized how quickly sea water could infiltrate until this little lesson.

     Even with our dilemma we managed to make some headway south today. This evening we're anchored in Broad Creek, Oriental, NC. Our wet stuff has been placed on deck to dry. Tomorrow we plan to reward ourselves with a marina stay at River Dunes in Oriental. This is a long overdue treat since we haven't stayed at a marina since leaving Rhode Island. As always, things could be worse. At least no one was hurt and nothing was broken! We are still learning...

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Monday, October 6, 2014

The other Spa...aah Creek

Morning in Spa…aah Creek with Elle & I 
     Whenever the possibility arises that allows spending any length of time in one location we're happy to stop and enjoy the opportunity. This season has been relatively mild with only one weather front that kept Simple Life in Atlantic Highlands, NJ for over a week. As a result this enabled us to spend 10 days in Spa..."aah" Creek, Annapolis.


Evening visitors in Spa Creek's anchorage

      Historic homes, taverns and of course the Naval Academy draw us back year after year. It's especially pleasant during early Fall when the leaves are just beginning to change color and temperatures are still in the mid seventies. During the week Spa Creek is peaceful actually, beyond peaceful. Kayakers and SUP's (stand up paddle boarders) along with numerous south bound cruisers are the most popular water sport enthusiasts enjoying the creek.


Elaine with Marin (photo from May 2014) 
     Spa Creek is a great place to catch up with other like minded friends who also happen to be traveling the same route. While anchored there we caught up with friends Elaine and Lawrence from Elle and I whom we met during our first year of cruising. Both are enthusiastic sailors who have been living aboard for three years. Lawrence has been making quite a name for himself among the cruising fleet as a master mixologist of Irish Coffees. He actually coats the rims with sugar, flamb├ęs, and tops with freshly whipped cream made by his "lovely wife" Elaine. The anticipation is almost as enjoyable as the drink! Especially when the weather is cool and damp.
Lawrence making Irish Coffee

Joe on the Washington Mall
      This season Joe and I planned a side trip to Washington, DC. We'd taken a similar trip two years ago and visited the entire Washington Mall. This year we planned to visit the Holocaust Museum and the Air and Space Museum. Both were relatively easy to negotiate from Annapolis by hopping on a shuttle from Annapolis to the Metro at Carrolton Station and getting off at the Smithsonian stop at the Mall. Round trip fares for two cost a reasonable $50.00. Since the museums were free it was a fairly inexpensive and thought provoking excursion.

The Spirit of St. Louis

Early Space Capsule

      The Air and Space Museum was spectacular. Both Joe and I grew up during the early space launch era. Black and white and early color TV's couldn't capture the true size perspective of these tiny space capsules. Seeing the cramped space and the capsule's smallness up close was a fascinating experience. Upon further inspection, probably not a suitable career choice for a person like me prone to claustrophobia. I also enjoyed examining the structural component of the capsule design. It seemed to be borrowed from a bee hive! Sort of a metal scaled down chicken wire pattern embedded with an ablative material designed to shed upon atmospheric entry.

One of the Saturn 5 Rockets

Noon formation is very formal

     No trip to Annapolis is complete without a visit to the US Naval Academy. Each weekday the Brigade of Midshipmen gather for noon formation in front of Bancroft Hall. For Midshipmen it's an everyday occurrence. For us, a visual treat!
Navy midshipmen not so formal!


      As lovely as Spa Creek was, early mornings were beginning to have a nip in the air. Autumn was on her way. Our last day in Annapolis was bittersweet. Once again a feeling of leaving home and a tinge of wistfulness. It was time to move on. Joe suggested the need to mark our time spent here, sort of putting the period at the end of the sentence. The solution? Dinghying to Davis Pub on the Eastport side of Spa Creek for what else? Lunch and Chesapeake Bay's delectable crab cakes! A perfect ending to an enjoyable stay.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Spa Creek, Annapolis

Spa Creek, Annapolis anchorage
     When planning our stops along the north south route, Spa Creek, Annapolis ranks number one on our list. It offers excellent wind protection and it's peaceful in spite of its proximity to this well known bustling seaside, sailing mecca.

Joe contemplating his carburetor cleaning task
The carburetor 
 Annapolis seemed like a good place to stop, rest and work on a few boat projects after our push down the NJ and Delaware coastline. The top boat project requiring immediate attention was our 15 hp Yamaha dinghy engine. It began acting up after leaving RI. Sometimes it started on the first pull and sometimes it started after several. Eventually, it didn't start at all. I imagined a messy job in store. While in Annapolis Joe sought the advice of the local Yamaha dealer who prescribed a fuel cleaner. The diagnosis? A clogged carburetor. He said his shop was filled with problem carburetors due to the addition of ethanol in gasoline. The mechanic offered to do the job for a couple of hundred dollars! Joe decided to learn to dismantle and clean the carburetor himself. He took photos of every step to make sure he'd be able to reassemble everything in the proper order. The engine is now running like a top! Knock on wood to chase those Irish fairies away...


Irish band at Galway Bay Irish Pub Autumn Festival
   Sunday mornings in Annapolis are usually quiet and a good day to get laundry chores done. Did I mention Annapolis was usually quiet on Sunday mornings? Unbeknownst to us, local business owners along Maryland Avenue (where the laundromat's located) were hosting their annual Autumn street faire! An Irish band was performing street side at Galway Bay Irish Pub directly across from the laundromat! Local patrons dined al fresco while enjoying the band and the pub's eclectic menu. For once I actually enjoyed doing laundry while being entertained by an authentic Irish band from Donegal, Ireland.

Lunch at Galway Bay Irish Pub
     Our day got even better when cruising friends Bill and Sandy from SV Whiswind sent us a text that they'd just picked up a mooring in Annapolis Harbor and wondered if we were free for lunch? Since we were already across from Galway Bay and the band was so enjoyable we suggested the pub for lunch. We'd met Bill and Sandy while cruising in the Bahamas eleven years ago and we try to reconnect whenever Simple Life transits Chesapeake Bay. Spontaneous get togethers are what makes the cruising life so enjoyable. I think we're becoming spontaneity junkies.

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