11/19/2012, Jekyll Island, Georgia
The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth. - Points to ponder.
You think you are in the deep south, when you see palm trees and moss growing on oak trees and all indications are that it is going to be warm. However the temperatures are not relevant to the scenery. It has been cool recently but reports are it will be warming up.
The hospitality is warm though and the history is thicker. The pelicans have long faces (maybe the weather?) and they begin to look different as we come south. What started out was an all gray bird but now they have white head with a yellow hood. Very interesting.
We have made it to the city of Beaufort, (pronounced Bew-fort as opposed to Bo-fort in North Carolina) South Carolina's second largest city and most southern to Georgia. It is home to plantations and changing fauna. Gone are the maples and spruce of the north which have given way to great oaks, gum and cypress trees. The core of the city is surrounded by plantation and antebellum style buildings with wrap around double storey verandas.
A few of us were fortunate enough to get a personal tour of one of the last remaining orginal "dependancy". A dependency was where the servants of the main house lived, cooked, did the laundry, and featured a stable and a blacksmiths work area. It is being restored and some parts we could look at but not enter the room. One was the "four holer" toilet built in an angle of the building. The open shuttered windows were at the very top of the wall instead of the normal height so the "hoodoos" couldn't get in. Hoodoos are evil African spirits so it indicates the origin of the residents who lived and worked here. The Masters house was at the front of the property and housed the family of four people. The dependancy at the back of the property was 1/5 th of the size and housed 20 people as well as all the wortking areas.
There are still massive flocks of boats heading south drive by determined snowbirds like ourselves. We had heard stories of the migration but never realized the numbers. Some locals want to know if there are any folks left in Canada !
We are able to get a coutersey car at the marina to go to the shopping areas that lie on the out-skirts of every town and city, to get groceries at Piggly Wiggly, marine supplise at West Marine and a CVS pharmacy. All other services are in the downtown area complete with an abundance of resturants and bars.
The biggest change from the more northern Intracoastal is the tide range. It varies from six to nine feet. The current coming in (or going out) through the cuts to the Atlantic Ocean, can surprise you as you pass them. Sometimes the route can be a bit boring, or attention diverted, then all of a sudden the boat takes a sideways lurch. Now that we have experienced it enough, we look forward on the chartplotter to know when to expect them.
We have made our way into Georgia and again the landscape is changing. It seems as though we are on an historical quest as well, as most of the anchorages we stop at are either a historical or national preserved site. There are a large number of those as we are motor sailing down the Atlantic coast where the action took place in developing America.
We anchored outside Fort Frederica, Georgia a colony the English were trying to establish in the Spanish area of "Florida" which at that time included the major portion of the south. The village was well laid out with a fort surrounding, but very little of it remains today. It is a worthwhile read, to go on-line to look it up. The site has the layout of the fortifcation but precious little of the structures left. The park surrounding where the colony and fort were is well woth the visit. Where the ramparts and moat that surrounded the village is still visible as is the crypt in the graveyard. A beautiful setting. I have posted some pictures in the gallery section.
However, from where I am writing this at Jekyll Island is an another matter. This is the island where the super rich of the late 1800's had cottages to escape to in the winter. The "clubhouse" for the 53 members is now a hotel, but is elegance in it's upper form. Around the clubhouse are individual "cottages" which again represent the wealth of America's elite. The island was purchased by the exclusive group such as the Vanderbuilts, J.P. Morgan, Crane (the plumbing supply family) Rockefellers, Astors, Goodyear, etc. You can read about it on-line at http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/geo-flor/15.htm, but the flavor of the place has to be felt. It appears the whole island is manicured with the plant life and quality of structures. Well worth the trip just to get a feeling of how money can be translated in such luxury. One interesting point was that only the hired help were allowed on the island and they were allowed only because they understood the exclusivity of the place. They were terminated immediately if they broke that trust.
JP Morgan, the businessman extraordinaire, arrived as others, by private yacht. Only his could not be docked at the Jekyll Wharf because it was 305 feet long and thirty feet wide. Also it had a draft of 17 feet !
We are pressing on today for the Cruiser's Thanksgiving potluck dinner in St. Mary's Georgia. Will report on that next.
We are happy and we know it !!
It is Monday morning, November 12, 2012.
It is Veteran's day in America which is a holiday as November 11th fell on a Sunday.
We are sitting at the Harborage on Ashley marina dock in Charleston, South Carolina preparing to leave on the out-going tide at noon. At 9:00 AM it is already very warm, predicted to be a high of 80 F today. I have completed a Skype call to my father-in-law in Woodstock New Brunswick. He warned me he couldn't talk for very long, as he had an important appointment; to get his snow tires installed in a half hour. He told me I may not want to think of snow being where we are. I told him when I do, I just sit quietly and watch the pelicans for a few minutes, and the thought goes away.
This morning is one of those you feel when you are on your last day of your vacation someplace warm in February. You know in a few hours you are going to be flying home and when you step outside of the airport in Toronto you want to keep this feeling with you. Three days ago, when we arrived in Charleston it was like we had felt so many times before when they opened the plane door and you got that first blast of winter relaxation and joy that was going to last for a week or ten days.
Except this time, we were not getting on the plane to go home. We were taking our lines aboard at noon, and heading further south to Beaufort NC and Savannah Georgia in a few days.
For the last two weeks since Hurricane Sandy passed, we had been getting dressed in layers. It was hard to weigh anchor at 7:30 AM, with the temperatures in the low forties Fahrenheit, excepting the primoral urge to get someplace warmer.
It seemed when we crossed the border into South Carolina a few things changed. The sky became perfectly clear without a cloud all day for five days in a row, the wildlife increased; porpoises, pelicans and yahoos with fishing boats, burning more gas than fishing. As well, the vegetation changed. We see a lot of marshland, the waterway being very coastal, cypress tress with large growths of moss hanging from them, and best of all, wild palm trees. Yes, palm trees! A sure sign the temperature is changing.
The creeks and rivers are joined by short land cuts and other creeks, winding their way through the acres and acres; miles and miles of tall, golden marsh grass, all with the resemblance to wheat or corn fields. This ribbon of inter-connecting waters is what allows us a path south on the Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW), a marvel of engineering in itself. We pass under fixed, as well as bascule bridges, that either lift or swing open on request, or on the half hour. The bridge tenders always reply in their very best southern accent "You all have a good day, captain" after we radio that Chances has cleared the bridge.
We anchor at nights in such places as Wappoo Creek, or in Rock Creek above the entrance to Ashepoo Coosaw Cutoff. One we had to make just before sunset, was Coogoodoo Creek from which I have posted a picture of a beautiful sunrise after a sleep in the quietest water in the Carolinas. Most of these places are far from the beaten path where at night we get to see an uncommon sight for us city folks; billons of stars overhead including the Milky Way, something I remember as a kid growing up but haven't seen much in the last thirty years.
Charleston, originally named Charles Towne after Charles II, the king of England, is as charming as a southern city can be. It is known to be America's friendliest city and in 2011 it was claimed to be America's Sexiest City. Filled with history, as most settlements in this area are, the "low country "with the battles between the French and English empires, the expansive plantations made rich by the cotton and rice cropped by slave labour. It figured largely in the American Revolution as well as the civil war, however again, as we have been seeing on our journey south the structures have been preserved, whether they are plantation or antebellum homes, businesses banks or parks. It is really satisfying to be able to walk physically into history rather than just see the pictures in a museum. The downtown area has sidewalk constructed with slabs of stone, no doubt ballast left behind by ships returning to Europe, similar to the stone in Annapolis. We were fortunate to be in the city on "Second Sunday" when they close a huge section of King Street to vehicle traffic for the afternoon and the whole street becomes a market for half the day. The shops and restaurants are all open but wares and tables are set up outside for shoppers to browse or eat and drink in the middle of day in the middle of the street. The whole scene takes on a festive atmosphere especially with the bright sunshine and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. In front of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville store, an impromptu symphony of the band struck up with each one of the brass instruments walking out to the street from a different store doorway. They played a couple of classics and finished off with one Christmas carol to remind everyone what was just around the corner. It was a special day for dogs. Among all others who their brought to the market, were homeless dogs being walked by policemen (!) each wearing a special "Adopt Me" cloak. It just seemed the right thing to be going on.
The marina at which we stayed (yes, we paid so that we could explore one of the treasured cities of the trip) revealed the accumulated wealth which has been partly invested in floating fibreglass. Here they not only own boats, but some can be easily classed as small ships. Some are from ports in other parts of the world but even they are intermingled with locally owned or at least registered Charleston yachts. It is a port city and boats from all over the world converge.
There is an unique sound that that been happening under our boat ever since we left the Cape Fear area that sounds like rice krispies in a bowl of milk. If you lay awake at night, you can hear these popping sounds, not to loud but enough to make me wonder what was going on. After asking, I looked it up on-line and it turns out to be little critters chewing away at the garden growing on the hull. This is part of what I found; "The shrimp, is a tiny one inch crustacean that exists in shallow waters. It has two claws', one larger than the other, which it uses to stun its quarry, such as tiny crabs, by snapping the largest claw close." So along with the other marine life, which are becoming commonplace we have added entertainment. Thank goodness it is not loud enough to keep us awake.
Down the way in the next few days, we will put our T-shirts and shorts away, for pullovers and jeans. The cold isn't cold enough to make us fret as we expected some of this from those who have travelled this route before us, and we have an enclosure with a propane heater. There are many boats who do not even have a bimini so it does make us look like weenies from the frozen north if we even mention the cold. So we don't say much and only talk among ourselves. We have lost Groovin' for the last week but they will be catching up to us soon after some repairs they had to do as well as a friend they were meeting in Wilmington.
We are happy, with lots to eat and no problems with Chances other than the alternator back a while ago. We have met all kinds of people who I am sure will become lifetime friends enjoying the same escapade as we. For those of you wondering, I have done three oil changes, two with new filters, have burned approximately $750.00 in diesel fuel. There has been very little use of sails but we use the jib to get some lift on days we can to at least counter the tide, - if we have to run against it for a short distance. The tide range along the South Carolina coast runs an average of 9 feet and current is a big factor along the inlets from the ocean. The cross currents can be nasty with small standing waves and whirlpools. The guide books; Intracoastal Waterway Guide and Skipper Bob's handbook have been extremely useful as of course Google Earth. Our WiFi antenna has worked very well although out in the wilderness, it is completely electronic free. There is no reasonable FM radio to listen to, all of it being Christian evangelistic radio with the same theme; Send us money and you will be saved! Even all the music, on every station is deep-south gospel music. I knew about the Bible belt of America but this area is the off-putting , restraining Bridle Belt. Each to their own, I guess. If you don't like it don't listen.
Until next time, take care.
11/08/2012, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
At this point we just crossed the border into South Carolina and are well over halfway to Miami from home. We saw our first palm trees this afternoon so the anticipation is building!
We wake up in the morning with the intent of moving at least 50 miles south. That intent has relied on wind, tide and needs of the boat and of us. The best part of all of this is that we are free to decide what and when we should do it. So far it has not been any less labour than it has been all our lives but it is being done mostly when we want to do it. We still get up at 7:00 am, we get our coffee and breakfast the same as always and get to work. Work means that everything is in order to move the boat forward for that day. Fenders and lines are stowed, radio, chart plotter and depth sounder are turned on, binoculars and passage-way guides are put in the cockpit to give us directions that correspond with the charts.
The boat for the most part does not drive itself. It can steer itself when a position is put into it and can be adjusted by degrees, port and starboard. The sails have to be raised and adjusted and there is a constant watch for other boats and for weather conditions and for shallows and snags.
Immediately after hurricane Sandy there has been a steady stream of all manner of craft from 75 ft luxury liners, being delivered for their owners, to regular 45 ft trawlers and power boats. Mainly though, it is the constant stream of sail boats in the average range of 40 feet more or less working their way south at our speed. When we were crossing the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds last week, there would be no less that 20 of us at one time. If we stop for a day we see a constant stream passing by. At any bridge opening, which usually is about every half hour, there are usually 6 or 7 waiting, as we are to go through.
The Good. There are so many good things; we wish them to happen all the time. Seeing the magnificent American eagles spaced out a mile or so apart from each other along the Adams Creek Canal sitting on tall dead trees warming themselves in the early sun. There are porpoises swimming towards the boat in pods of 3 to 5, but a number of pods swimming shortly after each other so that it looks like they are all together. They may come twenty at a time all minding their own business but surfacing just 1 - 15 feet away from the boat. Today we saw a mother, with her calf hugging her side, surface just three feet away from the boat in a perfect arc. We were wondering when we would see our 1st pelican and we did just as we entered the Adams River Canal. Now they are almost commonplace flying inches above the waves as well as inches in front of the boat.
Then there are those beautiful anchorages out in the wilderness, or plunked in the middle of a creek with luxury homes all around. The sunsets we have seen cannot be captured by camera or words, all framed with landscapes natural or manmade, that are varied enough to make us continue to think this must be the very best ever. As we sit and admire these gifts we admire each other, that we are part of this. It is exactly where we ought to be right now and we are blessed.
I can go on about the people we meet, both on other boats and those who welcome us to their town or village. Boaters are a breed of their own, as I have said before, who understand the perils and joys we all share. There are those though, who wander the along the docks maybe walking their dog (never their cat) who will see our Canadian flag, and want to know where we are from, and where we are going. We have been asked so many times what it is we might require, so that they can help us with or can they drive us somewhere or do something; anything for us. Then sometimes you meet a couple who because of their age, want you to know that one day they lived their dream and are re-living it when they see us.
The Bad. The ying and yang of life, the counterbalance to keep us on our toes and teach us, hence we can learn from our mistakes. From recent past blogs you probably can read the frustration of having to replace our alternator, not once but twice in the frame of one week. Both times they had to be ordered in from "somewhere else", and different mechanics had to be lined up and paid. All of this, and the agony of mainly using a Trac-phone which costs .40 cents a minute. Even while you are on hold, while they fetch Billy Bob Jr. who at the time is chewing the fishing fat with his buddy that he hasn't seen for at least a day. This was a time when I wished we were close to our electrical genius, Mike Wheatstone. The mechanics were all were so impressed with Mike's schematics he drew while rewiring Chance's house bank and starter battery system.
We also have spent a small fortune on cell phone calls tracking the shipment on our order for our computer and have become disgusted with the unreliability of its battery. Yes, you know we had to wait a week also after they ordered it from "somewhere else" but I bet you didn't guess now that it has been installed in the computer that the #@&*^! thing won't detect the new battery. I phoned the supplier and they said I could mail it back to them and they would refund our money. Because why?? - It is defective!!!!
Missing a bridge by minutes and having to wait another 30 minutes and having to wait in a narrow space while other boats are milling around doing the same thing, can be bad. But the worst thing we have faced so far is the change in the North Carolina weather since hurricane Sandy. It went from a balmy high 70 deg F to the low 80 deg. F all the down to a high today of 46 deg F. Tonight it is expected to be in the mid 30's and on a boat with a minimum of heat it can get a little goose bumpy. Leroy, no fool, crawls under a blanket and sleeps all day, and at night comes into bed to cuddle with Chrissie. I am left on my side of the bed to avoid frostbite.
The Ugly. There is no real need for any of the ugly to happen, but Murphy's Law applies more to objects on the water than anywhere else. The number of things that can go wrong are in direct proportion to the difficult forces of nature. We kind of expect some of that when we are aboard 8 tons of fibreglass, loaded with groceries, water and fuel. Add to that we are being propelled by square yards of nylon and a 35 hp diesel on an unstable platform of water driven by wind; usually twice as much as forecast.
The Albemarle Sound is a large body of shallow water which is known to kick up a stink in a matter of hours. All of us know this the night before leaving, so we agree on an early morning departure and the conditions were right. I'm thinking these NOAA forecast guys are related to our Environment Canada forecasters or at the very least they all went to the same school somewhere on an island in the doldrums. About a third of the way out the swell, the wind and the waves all turn to Murphy to check the law. To pull in the jib on the furler, it wound so tight that we could only get 70% of it in because we ran out of pull-in line and the 10 knot predicted wind was blowing a gale. We had to leave out the remaining portion until we could get a quiet place to reroll. It flapped so much the leach line on the outer edge ripped a seam about 7 feet long. Some first-timers on other boats were sea sick, and on one boat the crew shed some tears. Chrissie again was at her bravest; her knuckles the whitest, but I gave her an A+ for tenacity. The fear shows in her face, but she grits her teeth and gets the job done.
On the Sunday morning after the time changed we picked up a snag (net or line) and had to get a diver to come out after we spent an hour trying to get it off ourselves. Although it happened in the channel we got blown to the side of the narrow passage in cold Atlantic water with the boat thumping up and down making it feel like the keel was coming through the bottom. The water was too cold to dive myself but we finally did get underway without any damage. They call the water along the Carolina coast "skinny" as its depth is really low and the current in the inlets from the ocean bring sand which causes the shallows. I'll wrap up this paragraph with the conclusion; some things can be just plain ugly.
All and all though, we are fortunate because we are in a good solid boat with all the necessities. We have a head and a shower, a stove with an oven, a full enclosure, a really good bed to sleep in, good heavy anchors with lots of chain, and yes let's not forget we are one of the few boats with a cat! We have lots of fresh water heated by the motor, a sewing machine to fix the sails and a generator that when started can charge up the batteries if required, run the microwave and dry Chrissie's hair. So far this has been a wonderful experience even with the good, the bad and the ugly. I am fortunate I have the very best mate who keeps everything shipshape, and who can still plan and cook the best dinners ever. We seem to continue to dine, at times in luxury by candlelight. And we have all of you sending us your best wishes, updates on happenings at home, and comments of encouragement.
Even with all that has happened to us, every day we have something that is good and better. Mainly we are on our way south.
We are looking to be in Charleston on Saturday, Nov 10th. It is due to get warmer and we can start shedding layers. Just in time.
10/31/2012, Elizabeth City NC
There is a reason the city has the slogan it does.
We reached Elizabeth City last Tuesday (Oct. 23rd) after a scenic travel through the Dismal Canal and the Pasquotank River, but with the same alternator problem. After we cleared the lift bridge we settled in at the town docks. It used to be a wall, but now they have pylons going out from the wall so they can accommodate more boats in a Mediterranean fashion. Elizabeth City is called the Harbor of Hospitality for a reason. The people are so welcoming and helpful it makes you want to stay in their city for awhile.
We were not lost on the fact they like you so much, that your wallet becomes transparent. They point out every service required to be known to a wandering cruiser. There are stores and restaurants galore, hardware and auto supply, cleaners and Laundromats, and even a grocery store that will pick you up at your boat and deliver you and the groceries after you have spent one hundred dollars. They make four runs a day and sailors require a lot of food in one fell swoop and these people have caught onto that. They take five at a time in the van so you can do the math. Like us, most spend twice that, as we are never sure where we will get the next required basket of prunes!
On arrival and we were hardly tied up when along came the dock master to tell us the welcoming rose ceremony was at 4:30 PM. This was started many years ago by a long departed "rose buddy", that on arrival he would give a rose from his garden, to every lady on a boat who arrived as part of the annual migration. Wouldn't you know, the municipality picked up on this after his death and in order to continue his tradition, and pick up the commerce they transplanted Fred's rose garden in a dedicated park along the dock. They now use a great white tent to do the ceremony with a very knowledgeable elderly gentleman who knows the tradition and history. There are tables and chairs where all the cruisers meet to have a complimentary glass of wine, cheese and crackers, and of course brochures of the local businesses that support this event. The welcome centre points out all the aforementioned services and each lady is given a rose. We were given an added bonus; the following night the Arts Council was putting on a theatre production of The Sound of Music this fall, and we all were invited to fill seats for their preview performance. (We did take in the event and it was simply outstanding). There were approximately 20 boats that came in that day and most were staying the 48 hours allowable.
Just so you know these people talk a little different that we do. There is a "you all" factor applied rather than the "eh?" we normally use. "What can I get for you all?" even though you are standing alone ordering a burger. It makes you want to turn around and see who followed you in. They know Canadians well because we don't have the high note at the end of every sentence. I also found it strange when the marine shop telephone was answered by a British immigrant with a Carolina accent. However, I did get my alternator replaced and a new starter battery at no small cost.
Something they are very proud of is that this is home to the nation's largest coast guard station and every hot air dirigible with the exception of Goodyear is made here. They are also famous for their history. They have one of the finest museums most of us have ever been in.
Because of the Dismal Swamp canal, through which products were shipped both ways, Elizabeth City was on the receiving end of the commerce. During the civil war when the it was to be bombarded the local pastor surrendered the town to the Unionist army to allow for the preservation of the buildings, most all of whom still stand today. Because cotton and tobacco were the main exports in the 18th century it grew to an important port and was extremely important to British trade. Some of the houses here are plantation homes still owned by someone of the same lineage. Some of the buildings along Main have been transformed into restaurants and shops but still retain their original structure. One of those is the hotel where Wilbur and Orville Wright spent one night en-route to Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks, where they were the first in flight, as noted on every North Carolina licence plate.
The city is also one of the "stations" on the "Underground Railroad" where African American slaves headed north seeking freedom. They would be headed upriver towards Canada making use of the Dismal Swamp.
The reason for the coast guard being here is those Outer Banks stick out into the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Hatteras. This station was put into use in the last week for the rescue of survivors of the Bounty disaster. Some of the survivors were flown to the local hospital here. This makes a good segway into telling you that we survived our first (only?) hurricane by leaving the city here and scrambling back up the Pasquotank approx. 5miles to Goat Island to hide behind as it is locally known as a good "hurricane hole". It turned out that we anchored on the back side of the island, between it and the mainland, where we escaped the worst of it due to the topography of the land. It was scary enough even though the wind was never much more than 25kts but the gusts would tear at the boat so as to lift 80 ft of anchor chain straining to a taut position. We had taken off any canvas including the enclosure and the jib, which might give us any windage. It probably helped but the nerves get frayed after the second night with the screaming of the demons in the wind and the boat jerking from one anchor over to the other.
Yesterday we came back to the municipal docks to put ourselves back together. The alternator has been re-installed and life is returning to normal. We have a 40 mile day tomorrow crossing the Albemarle Sound to the Little Alligator River. The weather looks good so we are hoping to get some water past our hull in the next two weeks. The weather which had been in the mid to high eighties has changed with the hurricane passing. It was 46 F this morning with a high of only 58F today. We go from T-shirts and shorts to layering sweaters and jackets. In short the nights are cool to downright cold but then by noon it is so hot that the birds are picking up worms with BBQ tongs! Our blood is turning soft so we Canucks can't take the cold weather anymore. Everyone, - and now there are a lot of boats backed up here- is talking about how long it takes to the Florida border! Leroy has had to grow some extra fur in the last few days. He is getting brave now, even jumping off the boat in the evening and crossing the dock to the grass. There are cats on other boats, and it is likely he wants to introduce himself, so they get to know the bad Leroy Brown.
We will post the pictures corresponding to this blog when I can dig through the tangle of cords to download them from the camera.
All is well. Excelsior.
10/21/2012, Dismal Swamp Canal North Carolina
I've had a dream too.
For the last seven years I would check out the entrance to the Dismal Swamp Canal on Google Earth, the canal connecting Virginia to North Carolina. I would review the turn after the bridge, which takes boaters into the canal on the site and sail it a few dozen times. Now while writing this, I am sitting in that dream at the Deep Creek Lock anchorage in one of the most beautiful spots on earth, (picture included in Gallery) sitting on a mirror glass of water, surrounded by the outstanding scenery, while the sun sets and darkness folds around us.
The only selfish thought I have, is how fortunate I am to be living so contently in my illusion. I wonder to myself how so many can be marginally satisfied accepting what comes inadvertently to them, rather than with a just a little more effort, we all can extend ourselves outward to the unlimited beauty of our Creator.
A few hundred years ago any swampy ground was called a "Dismal". This particular water is the safest water in the world as it contains no bacteria. The reason for that is the tanin in the water will not allow bacteria to live. In days past when there was no chlorine to add to the water, this water filled barrels that was put aboard sailing ships. The color is enough to put me off but I guess if I were thirsty enough....This whole area though was surveyed by a young George Washington, who later became president.
Since leaving St Michaels in Maryland, a number of small adventures have come our way. As though that place wasn't perfect in itself, we sailed over to Solomon's and spent the few days in port eating crabs and learning how to catch them. When leaving there, we discovered we had an alternator problem. Problem I said? No, the alternator had completely exhausted itself and given up on this trip. We took off from there regardless, following a throng of sailboats, hoping to make Reedsville Va., where we understood from the Chesapeake Guide book, they had a good marina for engine repairs. Not so fast. When we arrived, the mechanic on duty had no idea about electronics or electrical marine device, other than to tell me we had no amperage coming from the alternator, and we should be taking it someplace else; for example further down the Chesapeake to the Deltaville Marina. The next day we pushed on and made the difficult approach to Deltaville. I confirmed that it was the alternator that had to be replaced but it was such a small job to them they were hoping that I could find someone else, however if we could not then they would help. They usually are booked four weeks in advance and their specialty is over one million dollar yachts from distant shores. They suggested and I ordered the alternator from the Deltaville West Marine store, who had to have it shipped from Balmar in California.
Two days. This gave me time to buy my crab traps as everyone was busy catching crabs. It worked! I caught four blue crabs in the first hour after setting two traps. You can read about Maryland blue crabs on-line yourself, but as sure as they are bragging about them, they are the sweetest in the world. Steamed in beer and Old Bay spice they are the only thing that I liked better than lobster.
Anyway. The alternator arrives at West Marine and the club manager at Fishing Bay Yacht Club gets me a mobile marine service guy to install it on a Friday afternoon; it being the same afternoon he promises his wife and family that he would take them to the mountains in North Virginia. He lost interest in this application after three hours of trying to make it fit. He drove me to the auto parts place with my bicycle in the back of his pickup to get two new belts. He headed for the mountains and I headed back to the boat. I put on a belt that Groovin' had as an extra, and after some time of fine tuning started the engine. Everything appeared to work! I get everything in place to leave the next morning, eat the crabs, have a toddy before bedtime, and get a good night's sleep.
Early the next morning four boats planned to leave together, but only three were able to leave. After backing out of the slip, the tachometer on Chances, was determined it would show the regulator who is boss on the weekends! It being Saturday, there was no one who wanted to give up their weekend to work on my bullgine for me to pursue my enjoyment. By 11:30 AM, I decided as every man decides to do when / after everything else fails; I will get out the instructions to see if I can study this and possibly do it myself. After carefully reading the instructions, line after line, paragraph after paragraph, I tested and sanded and rewired every terminal the manual pointed out. I re-inserted the fuse and started the engine. For goodness sake. Everything worked as the manual assumed it should. Another lesson I learned all over again!
With a certain sense of accomplishment and a good deal of smugness, we took off south immediately to Poquoson River and Chisman Creek to catch up with the other three boats; Groovin', Glory Days and Heritage. We arrived just as the sun was setting. After a quick meal and a one episode of the pirated TV show "The Good Wife" we fell asleep, at anchor. I dreamed of the anchorage at the Dismal Swamp Canal lock.
We left early this morning for a sloppy ride down to Norfolk VA, the home of the USA Naval Base and some of the largest naval ships known to man. They are based out of here; ships, aircraft carriers, and submarines, all in a row, side by side, waiting their turn to enforce their ideology on the world. It is a massive military industry, not believable until you see it firsthand. Each of these freedom enforcers are themselves protected by an escort, which sits daily twenty-four hours, off their bow. They in turn ensure that plastic craft like ours, cannot destroy the tons and tons of armor, bought and paid for by ordinary hardworking, taxpaying American citizens, floating off our port side. It is a massive display of armory which I was unable to get part of into one picture. As well, we are unable to wrap our minds around this whole picture.
In turn though we have ventured past and came another 7.2 miles down the canal to find this kind of peace,..... without asking for it or having it imposed on us.
God bless the world, not just America.
We are living our dream.
Really, we are living our dream!
Update; We are now sitting at the Dismal Swamp Canal Visitor Centre just after crossing into North Carolina.
10/13/2012, St Michaels & Solomons MD
"Sometimes I wake up crabby...and sometimes I let her sleep"
While in Annapolis, where we had stayed too long, we heard about this amazing little town called St. Michaels where the locals go to do things, yet get away from it all. Someone joked if anyone bought a new boat in Annapolis, the very next thing after he did was load his family aboard and head to St Michaels. There was the promise of quaint little shops, all with easy walking distance of where we anchored, a real working maritime museum, great restaurants, grocery store and library etc. It is south east of Annapolis on the opposite side of the Chesapeake and there is a north and south access. We chose the south as it would make for a shorter run to the Solomons when we were ready to leave.
There is a lot of red and green cans and nuns to get into St Michaels, as it is a bay with a lot of shoaling which is perfect for their main industry aside from tourism. The bay is full of floating small buoys marking the location of crab pots. These aren't just your ordinary crabs, but are the prized Maryland blue crabs. Everyone here boasts they are the best in the world because of the right mix of fresh water from the creeks mixing with the salt water coming up the bay from the Atlantic. There are thousands of markers on the Chesapeake but there are areas where it is a constant watch to get through the fields of them. Not only is it wise to avoid someone's livelihood but get one of these caught around your prop shaft and you are invited to a swim with the crabs to get the line cut free, which is a chore in itself. Not that I would know because up until now (knock on wood) both Chrissie and I keep a careful look out for the pots and the lines hanging below them.
The crabbers set their traps usually in a row in fairly shallow water 7-15 feet after baiting them. When they get to the end of their trap line they turn around and start lifting them, taking out the critters, re-baiting them and repeating down the line. Most know where the best places are as the generations before them have done it in the same place, excepting they would have done it under sail in a boat locally known and prized craft called a skipjack. The larger of these boats were mainly used for dragging for oysters. Can you imagine getting the right wind to drag for oysters? Couldn't be too little or it wouldn't haul the drags, or too much as the drags would just bounce along the bottom. These guys were real sailors and doing it for a living. I am loading some pictures of skipjacks under renovation and some that are still licensed to fish. They carried a mighty amount of sail when full and of course they were reefed to keep the boat at a reasonable speed.
The reason for telling you all of this is that it is also a sport to do some crabbing and there are different ways. We had a number of sailors from our anchorage recently for "sundowners" and Ian from Knot Yet already had crab two pots with him that he, his wife Kerrie and their eight year daughter set whenever they anchored and were catching blue crabs. Without the pots you need a string and the same bait; chicken necks that he was using. Apparently if you tie a chicken neck to a string and lower it to the bottom there are enough crabs crawling under your boat that it won't be long before you can feel one trying to hustle away with 'dinner' If you have a scoop net in the water already you lift the string gently to the surface and by the time the crab finds out who the real dinner is you have him in your net and into a bucket. Or so they say. Ian who is from Wiarton ON and didn't know much about Chesapeake crabbing has become somewhat of an expert; so much so that Dan from Glory Days and Chris from Groovin' have made the commitment by buying traps and bait. I want to know their success rate before I lay down $10.00 American!! Dan has had success recently so I've been on the lookout for foldable pots.
Which brings me to the best part of cruising, besides the eating of crabs, is the people that you meet. They are all the same as we are. They got up one morning with the intention of sailing south to get away from the same winter we used to enjoy. And somewhere along the way we have met up with dozens of boats which we run into every once in a while. And sometimes we get together. Last Sunday afternoon after eating these famous blue crabs at an outdoor picnic table benefit the little town was putting on in memory of a little boy who had died last year, we invited a number of cruisers back to Chances; the crew from Knot Yet, Steve and Alex from Banyan (they have sailed from Halifax) Chris and Elizabeth from Groovin' and Dan and Laurie from Michigan on Glory Days. What a great afternoon and evening spending time with people who know exactly what you are doing and why we're doing it! After leaving Annapolis we now see a constant stream of sailboats heading 180 degrees on the compass. There are times it looks like a flotilla; 15 or so ahead then the same coming from behind. How many passed by yesterday or will be coming by tomorrow is unknown but we all know somebody who left yesterday or won't be leaving until tomorrow.
I said that I would keep track of when we paid for a mooring or a dock. We didn't pay until we reached Castleton where we put our mast up. It cost us a whopping $5.00 a night for four nights. We paid 15.00 for a mooring ball for the night in Huntington NY as we were closing in on the Big Apple and running out of light. Then it cost us 30.00 a night for four nights in NYC. (You can't get a hotel room for one night for $120.00). Before that and since we mostly have anchored but there have been a number of occasions where a yacht club has given us a mooring ball for free. (Rarely if ever, a slip.) Most all the anchorages have been a treat in themselves. They have beautiful scenery; mill pond smooth, great holding and so quiet you can hear watch ticking. Also the billion stars are so bright I can see some that I haven't seen in a long time, and especially the Milky Way. The main thing is we have happened on or taken advice from others to places we would never have thought of visiting. The only criteria are they are accessible by water and have a protected anchorage. Everything has that Maryland and Chesapeake flavor and what makes it better is we are where fall is just around the corner but hasn't yet arrived to these parts south. Still T-shirts and shorts.