01/15/2011, Lynyard Cay, Abacos, Bahamas.
Well, we finally got back on Thursday after a great trip home, first to PEI for Christmas, then to BC for Christmas (again) and a week of skiing in Whistler with all the family, including grand-children! It was exciting to see 3 year old Ben take to the slopes for the first time, and see the broad grin on his face. After a few runs, he realized there was more to the mountain than his small hill, so he quickly moved to the gondola and ascended Whistler! Back in Vancouver, we packed away winter and broke out our light clothes as we boarded the plane for the Bahamas. An uneventful trip with all flights on time, as we slid south behind yet another storm pounding the north-east. Back aboard Estelle, all was well, having lived on a mooring in Eastern Harbour in Man-O-War Cay. Friday we settled up with the boat yard, and all at very reasonable prices, and headed across to Marsh Harbour to stock up. Here in Maxwell's Supermarket we found all the things we brought back because they wouldn't be available in the Bahamas... parmesian cheese, pesto, smoked salmon, etc. By today (Saturday) noon we were fully stocked and off to the southern end of the Sea of Abaco. We checked with Chris Parker on the SSB and the forecast looks good, perhaps a bit light, but things could be worse. The forecast is ENE@10-15 with wind chop 2' and swell from the NE of 8'@9" (seconds). The period is as important as the height, as 8' at 4" would be very bad, but at 9" it won't be noticeable... at least that's the theory. We'll leave from here tomorrow for the 60 mile crossing to Eleuthera and work our way south from there. We have been speaking with Seabird on the SSB. They are in the Exumas, and plan to cross to Eleuthera where we will meet next week. Then on south to warmer climes!
12/02/2010, Man-O-War Cay, Abacos, Bahamas
Small sailboat built on Man-O-War Cay
We crossed the Little Bahamas Bank on Saturday (Nov 27th) from Mangrove Cay to Spanish Cay. The day was a beautiful day with warm winds blowing us eastward towards the Abacos. During the crossing we had taken lots of spray aboard meaning that in the sun, it had been reduced to a heavy layer of salt everywhere. We had forgotten just how salty things get here in the tropics, so we were glad to see a squall heading our way. Twice we slowed down to ensure a good rinsing. By days end we were just a few miles off Spanish Cay where we decided to call in to its marina. Tied up, we stretched our legs for the first time in three days. We were tied up with three other sailboats that had crossed with us. Next morning we checked in with Bahamas Customs, all done in the marina's bar. No question of her coming down and climbing down on to that little boat! With our Bahamas courtesy flag flying, we headed out in the fresh easterly breeze, down past Powell Cay, Manjack Cay and finally past Green Turtle Cay. We sailed out into Whale Channel, sometimes impassible for days when strong onshore winds build the swells into a "rage" with seas breaking completely across the channel. But today's light winds meant only a 3' swell and 2' wind waves, very comfortable. Back in Loggerhead Channel and we were into the Sea of Abaco, a large protected body of water created by cays and the offshore reef and the island of Great Abaco. In the shallow water, the clean sand reflected through the bright turquoise water, so clear that we watched the anchor settle into the sand 20' below us in Fishers Bay off Great Guana Cay. Ashore we walked across the cay and strolled the empty beach. Next morning we rented bikes from Dive Guana and toured the cay from south to north. In the north we found a new development under construction. With a huge marina dug out of the middle of the cay and buildings under construction everywhere, we wondered about how long it would last. The Bahamas are littered with failed mega-projects like this, leaving a great scar on the land as the ruins crumble slowly. Next morning we were off to Treasure Cay, across the Sea of Abaco. In the light easterlies, we drifted across the water, trying to stay in the shade. Anchored in the basin, we went ashore to explore. Although not too busy, it is a large development on what is claimed to be one of the ten best beaches in the world. Although I can't be called an expert, I can't argue with the claim with 10 miles of white sand beach forming a gentle arc on the warm and calm waters of the Sea of Abaco. We had lunch (cracked conch and grouper sandwich) on the beach, then wandered up the shore, wading in the warm waters. We're exploring where to leave the boat here for heading home for Christmas. We got a reasonable quote from Treasure Cay, and headed in to Marsh Harbor's Conch Inn. We fueled up, having missed fueling in Florida before we left, taking on 57 gallons of diesel, and got a quote, about the same as Treasure Cay. Leaving Marsh Harbour, we set sail for Man-O-War, just a short three miles across the Sea of Abaco. Here we picked up a mooring and went ashore. We settled our plans. We'll leave the boat on a mooring with Edwin's Boatyard II (not to be confused with Edwin's Boatyard I). They were just re-launching a 60' motor yacht, and preparing to take out a 50' Hinckley, so they appear to be a reputable yard. Now we can arrange flights. But in the mean time, we'll cruise the area for another week or so.
I have added a couple of albums to the photo gallery.
11/27/2010, Little Bahamas Bank, Abacos, Bahamas
Queens Highway, Man-O-War Cay
We spent two busy days in North Palm Beach. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon with just time to settle in. Wednesday was a full day. We are finally seeing more familiar boats. In the anchorage was Sapphire, who we last spoke with in Charleston. Also Blessed Spirit, who we have been looking out for came in. We have mutual friends and hoped to meet them. We met Tita and Corning Townsend Thursday morning at the dinghy landing. But we were in for a busy day.
With American Thanksgiving on Thursday, all the stores would be closed, meaning we had one day for final provisioning. First up was a trip to West Marine for some last minute essentials. A stop at the liquor store, back to the boat. Lunch at an excellent cafe. Then a trip to FedEx to mail off some Christmas parcels. Back to the grocery store for a final provisioning, back to the boat to pack everything away (space is getting limited). Back to the grocery store for the forgotten items, and the day was done. And all on foot! We weighed ourselves in the grocery store and were not surprised to see that we are not gaining weight in spite of our eating.
Thursday I called Chris Parker who repeated his forecast for a good crossing window, so time to fuel up. But not a single marina fuel dock was open on Thanksgiving. So back ashore with a gas can borrowed from Blessed Spirit and a walk to a nearby gas station for gas for the dinghy. We would have liked to fill up with diesel, but that was impossible, and we still had plenty aboard to see us into the Bahamas.
In mid-afternoon we lifted anchor and headed five miles south to anchor just inside the cut. Here we anchored amidst about two dozen boats all looking for a crossing window. The wind had slowly clocked from east to south east, and our plan was to leave when it made south.
Crossing the Gulf Stream has two challenges associated with its northerly current. First the wind must not have a northerly component to it. If it does, the seas can quickly build to dangerous sizes. And second, you must allow for the strong current. From Lake Worth to the Little Bahamas Bank is a distance of about 50 nautical miles. And across that distance the current averages 2 knots. For planning purposes we estimated our crossing speed to be six knots, meaning we would be in the stream for about 8.3 hours. During that time we would be swept about 17 miles northward. So to offset it, we have to steer for a point 17 miles south of our desired destination. To do that with our destination due east of Lake Worth, we would have to steer south-east, so we needed the wind to be at least south or south-west. The forecast was for it to clock from south-east through south during the night, then to south west the next night.
We woke at 3:00 am and found the wind had behaved and had moved south. A quick check showed we weren't the only ones up and about. Lights were showing on a dozen boats. With everything stowed, we crept down the channel into a turning basin where we hoisted our sails then headed out the cut.
In the fresh breeze we had a few merry moments in the large standing waves in the cut, but as we got out of its reach, we set out for a spectacular night of sailing. The southerly breeze was 15-20 knots, and with our course of SSE, we were soon reaching in reefed sails at seven to eight knots. By dawn we could just see a few of the tallest buildings of Palm Beach, and by mid-morning, just a few sails on the horizon.
Just after noon the depth sounder came back on showing us in 600' of water. Two minutes later it showed 20', then it settled out at 8'-10' as the color changed from deep blue to the bright turquoise of the banks. The seas fell away, the wind lightened and we had a glorious afternoon, anchoring at Mangrove Cay at 4:30pm.
By evening we had been joined by another six boats, four from Canada. Dinner of medium-rare tenderloin, cole slaw and potato salad with a nice full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, and French tarte with whipped cream, all served in the warm breezes blowing through the cockpit. It truly is Better in the Bahamas!!!
11/22/2010, Fort Pierce, Fla
Bridge of Lions, St Augustine, Fla
We watched through the cloud and drizzle as the Titan rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center. We had gotten the wrong info on the location of the launch pad, so were further away than we would have liked, but saw the huge ignition flash then the glow of the rocket as it rose skyward. Then came the sound, a deep rumbling that reverberated through Estelle's hull as it disappeared into the clouds.
We finally left Fernandina on Thursday, Nov 18th. Pleasant, but not the most exciting week we have had. We were hoping to run down the shore to avoid the ICW, coming back in at St. Augustine, but no luck with the weather. So we headed on down the ICW. Actually that section is mostly in a nature preserve, so very nice. Crossing the St John River, we dodged the busy traffic heading up and down the river to Jacksonville, and back again into the ICW. By evening we were anchoring behind Pine Island in company with just one other boat. But by sunset the small anchorage was crowded with six others.
Friday we arrived at St Augustine in mid-morning, picked up a mooring ball and went ashore for a walk and to see some more of this beautiful city. We wandered the old streets (St Augustine is the oldest city in North America, founded by the Spanish). We walked through the lobby of the former Flagler Hotel, now a residence for Flagler College. It's ornate architecture is truly spectacular, and it has been restored to its original. Then a couple of bakery shop stops, back aboard and off again. By nightfall we were tying up at the Palm Coast Marina. Pleasantly surprised by the price, we took a walk but there is little to see but condos everywhere, with few seeming to be occupied.
Saturday morning I called Chris Parker about the potential for a crossing from Lake Worth to the Abacos. He said late this week (Thursday or Friday) was possible, so that sent us scurrying on down the ICW. We would like to have at least one full day in Lake Worth to finish provisioning and some final jobs. The boat is currently full of Christmas wrapping paper as Jeannie prepares a package for the B.C. Leas. So finding a post office is one of the chores.
From Palm Coast we chugged down to New Smyrna Beach, a place of little note where we anchored for the night. From there threough the Mosquito Lagoon (actually some beautiful sailing) through the Haul-over Canal into Indian River, and to Cape Canaveral, where we anchored for the night and watched the Titan launch.
Today (Monday) to Ft. Pierce. I called Chris again this morning and he still thinks Thursday and Friday look good, so from here we'll run down the coast (finally some sailing) to Lake Worth. And from there, hopefully, The Bahamas late in the week!
11/16/2010, Fernandina Beach, Florida
Dungeness Ruins, Cumberland Island
Somehow I haven`t found time to update the blog regularly, even though we have been here for three days. I don`t know where the time goes. I did have time to upload some pics in the photo gallery, though.
We left Charleston Tuesday (Nov 9th) morning for an overnight hop down the coast.
We headed out Charleston harbor, a slow trip against the incoming tide, but clear of the jetties, we bore off to the south-east for Florida. We had three possible destinations; St Augustine, St John`s River (Jacksonville) or Fernandina (just on the Georgia border) depending on wind. Without wind we could only reach Fernandina before dark the next night. And there was little wind. Through the day we read and enjoyed the warm weather and the respite from traffic on the ICW. As night fell, we chatted with one of the five other boats that left with us, learning that they had exactly the same plan as us. And it was obvious that Plan C, Fernandina was the right choice, so we altered course and motor-sailed through the night.
At dawn we were about 10 miles from the entrance to St Mary`s River, and one of the heaviest fogs we have ever encountered set in. So with furled sails, we edged in, running from buoy to buoy at dead slow and periodically announcing our presence with a `Securitay`announcement on the VHF. A few boats ghosted in and out of our sight in our 100`world. With radar and electronic navigation, we were safely in the harbor and decided to head up to Cumberland Island for the night. Just as the anchor went down, about noon, the fog lifted to reveal a bright sunny day.
The dinghy was launched and we had a great walk stretching our legs for the first time in two days. We landed and walked down to the ruins of Dungeness, the mansion built by Thomas and Lucy Carnegie. Then down to the beach and back aboard for a beautiful evening.
In the morning we called Seabird on the SSB only to learn that they had just come in from an overnight sail from Beaufort (pronounced Bew-fort) South Carolina. So we agreed to meet in St Marys, a small village on the Georgia side of the river, about five miles away. Anchored in the river, we spent the day exploring the pretty village.
Friday morning we raised the anchor and sailed another five miles to Fernandina, Fla. We anchored and went ashore for a walk and arranged for a rental car for the weekend. Its time to do some major provisioning for the Bahamas, so we decided to tyake advantage of the convenience of the good grocery (read wine) stores here. Friday night we re-connected with friends, Jim Bissle and Beth Lusby from Halifax (Madcap, a Bayfield 35) and Steve Swanson and Sandy Eberle (Princess, a Hinckley Bermuda 40), and Bruce and Nancy Montgomery (Seabird, Bristol 35.5). It was great to catch up, learn everyone`s cruising plans, and have a great meal (pulled pork) for dinner. Saturday was grocery shopping and touring. Sunday we went to church at a local Presbyterian church then more shopping.
On Monday our plans changed as Jeannie felt a tooth bothering her. So we got a dentist recommendation and had a visit. The good news was that they could attend to it, but not until today. But its now done, and while she was having that attended to, I finally completed the stereo replacemen, a project that started two years ago with the purchase of a new one, installation started last month, and finally completed today! My job list has one thing left... replace port screens with no-see-um proof screening. Soon...
I have begun listening to Chris Parker for weather. He broadcasts on the SSB radio and gives weather forecasts for the Bahamas and Caribbean. It sounds like we may have a good weather window next week to cross to the northern Bahamas. We will leave from Lake Worth, so tomorrow we`ll start south again. We have gotten stopped here, having been in the area for five days, so time to move on. But Fernandina is a beautiful small town and we have enjoyed it.
11/07/2010, Charleston City Marina, Charleston S.C.
After two days in Bald Head Island, it was time to move on. Its a great spot, but winter can close in even here, and its reminding us.
On Thursday (Nov 4th) we left for a short sail down the coast to Little River Inlet. Winds were light but it was good to be sailing again and it is only a 30 mile hop. Bald Head Island is at the very mouth of the Cape Fear River, so minutes out of the marina we were setting our course for Little River. In the cold northern air (from Canada, as NOAA Radio puts it), we were bundled up like the Michelin Man.
We met Seabird just outside the river mouth and set sail on a course due west. We have cruised with them on and off every year we have been cruising, and today was our first meeting of the year. They left Maine later than us and we finally met up.
After a quiet day sailing, we were approaching the inlet when a squall hit us... blinding rain and winds of 30 knots. Seabird was wise enough to have furled their sails before it hit, but not me. We wanted to continue sailing as long as possible, so now I struggled to get things under control in a blinding rainstorm. But all was well and we motored in the inlet in mid-afternoon to anchor in nearby Calabash Creek.
Getting in to the creek was a bit of a chore as it was dead low tide. After two failed attempts, sliding onto the mud and backing off, we were safely in. Arriving in mid-afternoon there was only one other boat there, so finding room was not a problem. But the plan to go by dinghy up the creek to the village of Calabash was canceled in the still pouring rain.
By evening it had stopped, so Bruce and Nancy came aboard for a long-awaited reunion. We spent a great evening reminiscing and planning this year's trip. By late evening the anchorage was so full that I was on deck asking someone not to anchor so close to us.
Next morning we were off down the ICW through Myrtle Beach, a boring stretch, but for which you are rewarded with sailing down the beautiful Waccamaw River. Here we motor-sailed down the quiet river, running through Prince Creek, an offshoot where we saw turtles sunning themselves on logs and an alligator slowly swimming along the bank. He just stopped and stared at us as we slid past.
After a long day we slid into the quiet waters of Jericho Creek, one of our favorite anchorages. In the dusk, out of the breeze we enjoyed the quiet of the evening in the cockpit until the cold night air chased us below. Next morning we woke to the coldest morning yet. In the boat it was 44F or about 7C! For some reason, I always get elected as the one to get out and turn on the heater. But the boat was soon toasty warm and a breakfast of burritos coffee and fruit made all well.
We sailed down to the mouth of the River, Winyah Bay and into the village of Georgetown. We anchored and went ashore for a short walk to stretch our legs and find some supplies, fresh grouper and yet more shrimp, then off to the Kudzu Bakery. If you ever find yourself near Georgetown South Carolina, don't pass it by. The Kudzu Bakery is one of our favorite stops along the coast! And unlike poor Bellhaven, Georgetown seems to be prospering, with its front street full of shops all looking prosperous.
Back aboard, we took advantage of the still falling tide to sweep us out Winyah Bay, back into the ICW and through the marshes of the Cape Romaine Wildlife Refuge. At dusk we motored in the still cold north wind into Awenda Creek, rounded up and dropped the anchor with nothing but marshes to be seen for miles.
Next morning was another chilly morning, but the strong north wind was dying, so by the time we were tying up our lines in Charleston, we were beginning to remove some of our layers. We'll stay here two days. I have some projects... my favorite, an oil change, re-commission the watermaker (we don't use it in coastal cruising, but I want to check it out before we head offshore), and some sight-seeing, and dinner out. Charleston is a beautiful city with restaurants to match! From here, we plan to head off down the coast directly to Florida somewhere, depending on the wind.
11/03/2010, Bald Head Island, North Carolina
Roadway on Bald Head Island
"How else can I say it??? We're on the bottom!!" The woman's voice came over the VHF with more than a note of frustration and a slight french accent. They were a few miles behind us on a particularly shallow section of the ICW.
We left Norfolk Oct 24th, mile zero of the ICW and headed up the Elizabeth River. After 20 minutes we were waiting for our first bridge to open. A few minutes of shuffling in the current and we were through. Turning into Deep Creek, we headed for the lock that would lift us 10' up to the Dismal Swamp Canal. At the lock, Robert the entertaining lockmaster got all the boats in and properly tethered. Of the eight boats that came through the lock in mid-afternoon, only two of us carried on into the canal. We were headed for a small dock only a few miles into the canal. There we would spend the night and then explore the feeder canal and Lake that supply the water for the canal. Tied up in late afternoon, we took a short walk along the canal bank, then back aboard.
In the morning we were disappointed to be met by a dredge at the mouth of the feeder canal, preventing us from exploring. So we were off down the canal, watching the wildlife, deer, turtles, geese and ducks and a water snake as the leaves slowly drifted down on to the water.
We can see a change in the vegetation. Gone are the maples and oaks, replaced with southern species like cyprus and live oak draped with Spanish Moss.
At the southern end of the canal, we tied up and walked through the few buildings that constitute South Mills. Back aboard, we passed into the lock and dropped 10' into the head waters of the Piankatank River. In spite of the winds blowing 20 knots above us, the water surface was calm, protected by the trees. We motored down to a small cove just north of Elizabeth City where we anchored in complete protection from the rising winds. By the time we were settled the rain had started, then the thunder and lightning flashing and crashing all around us. It lasted through most of the night, so that we got up to a very clean boat in the morning.
Catching the 8:30 am opening of the Elizabeth City Bridge, we sailed down the Piankatank past Elizabeth City's free docks, filled with cruisers. We were the lone boat heading down, and by noon the rain had stopped and we were now beating into a headwind up the 25 miles of the Alligator River. It is wide but not deep, so that we never had more than two feet beneath the keel, and for much of the time, less. But the chart soundings seemed accurate. By nightfall we were ready to anchor and made the head of the river where the Pungo-Alligator Canal starts.
After a good sleep we were off again, but looking at a shorter day. It was a good day to do the canal, 25 miles with only one 20 degree bend at mid-point. It was another windy day, blowing 25 knots, but in the canal the waters were calm. Out into the Pungo River, we rolled out the jib and fllew down the river to Bellhaven.
Bellhaven has fallen on hard times, perhaps a magnification of the economic woes across the country. The streets were practically empth, and two out of every three shops were closed. Although we tried, we couldn't find anything to spend even one cent. The only signs of life were in the library where we were able to check email. Back aboard, we spent a bumpy night in the harbor, poorly protected from easterly winds. But the temperature has changed. It is now in the mid-80's (mid 20's C) and humid! So its back to shorts and t-shirts!
In the morning we sailed out the Pungo and across PamlicoSound. The river was filled with boats, many of whom have been hiding out in the creeks and marinas for a few days. So we joined the parade and worked our way south to the Neuse River. We pulled in to Broad Creek where we anchored in the lee of the land for protection for yet more winds in the night. Off in the dinghy to explore the creek, we ran across a couple in a 50' Hinckley yawl who we met two years ago. We pulled alongside and had a chat. Their boat is celebrating its 50th year, and they have been working restoring it. It looks beautiful!
The morning saw us heading out into the Neuse in, yet again, 25 knot winds, but this time behind us. During the night the temperature plunged, so we are now bundled up again. Odd for such a big drop not to have thunder storms with it, but all was quiet. Windy but quiet. We had a cool but merry sail up the Neuse into Adams Creek and the canal. So with furled sails we headed into Beaufort. We tied up at the Beaufort Town Docks for two nights. Its time yet again to re-stock, and we are in no hurry, hoping for a weather window to head offshore. In Beaufort we got our first taste of local fgresh shrimp, so we had an excellent shrimp and grits.
Here's the recipe:
1 lb shrimp
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Add all but the shrimp to a pan, sautee for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, sautee 5-7 min until opaque. Don't over-cook.
Cook grits according to package instructions.
Serve shrimp over grits.
We were planning to head out to Cape Lookout and head off directly to Charleston, but the weather won't cooperate, so on Halloween we headed off down the ICW again. By evening we were tied up to Casper's Marina in Swansboro. A nice quiet small town, we walked the streets, decorated for the evening celebrations. Then back to the boat for dinner of spicy sausage with pasta:
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large sprig rosemary
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
1.5 lbs ripe plum tomatos, diced (sub 14 oz canned tomatoes)
1/4 cup green pitted olives, sliced
1/2 lb pennee whole wheat pasta
Warm the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the sausage and rosemary. Break up the sausage while cooking until browned and cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and stirr occasionally, cooking until they have broken down and turned into a sauce., 10-15 minutes. Stir in the olives and cook five more minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Add in cooked pasta, season with salt & pepper to taste, toss and serve.
Tuesday (Nov1st) was a long and boring day, as we knew it would be. It was a day of running from one bridge to another, each opening only on a schedule. So as soon as we passed through one, we would be busy calculating the speed we had to maintain to make the next opening. And we missed one, only opening once an hour, by ten minutes. So it was six pm when we passed through the last one and pulled in to the Wrightsville anchorasge. We were accompanied in by two other boats. One was Scrimshaw, from Hamilton Ontario. It was Scrimshaw that had run aground earlier in the day. They got themselves off, and caught up to us and passed us, only to run hard aground again. They called us on the VHF to tell us which side of the channel to take. Again they got off. As we headed to the last bridge, they asked if we would lead the way in to the mooring as there is another shallow spot in Motts Channel, leading to the anchorage. But we all got safely through and anchored, ready for another windy night.
Tuesday saw us up and off again, headed for one of our favorite stops on the ICW, Bald Head Island. Again the wind was blowing, 20-25 knots, but again at our backs. We motor-sailed down the ICW until out into the wide Cape Fear River, where we finally sailed down, running at 9 knots in its strong tidal currents.
In the marina we're settled in for two nights, hoping the wind will cooperate for a run overnight to Charleston. Right now its iffy until later in the week. We'll see. In the mean time we can explore this beautiful spot.
10/23/2010, Tidewater Marina, Portsmouth Va.
Steamed Blue Crabs
Sunday morning we dropped our mooring and headed out Spa Creek. In line with three others, we passed through the bascule bridge and out into the Severn River and out into the Bay. In a S-W 10-15 knot breeze we set sail for Knapps Narrows.
Just out of Annapolis, we sailed into the middle of a racing fleet as they rounded the windward mark. I know how it annoyed me when I was racing to have someone not racing to sail through the fleet, so we luffed up into the wind to allow the racing fleet to pass. Safely cleared, we headed down on a close reach in warm sunny skies, for our first waypoint off Knapps Narrows, 16 miles away.
Arriving off the narrows we dropped our sails and motored through, waiting only minutes for a bridge opening. Then we were off into the Choptank River with all sails set in flat water and 15 knots on the beam. Rounding Nelson Point, we headed north, dead downwind, up Broad Creek and in the dying breeze, into San Domingo Creek where we rounded up and dropped our sails and set the anchor in the dying breeze.
After tidying up, we headed in to the village of St Michaels. Although late in the day, we wanted to be sure to get to Big Al's Seafood, where we found all the crab we needed. Back aboard, we had steamed Chesapeake Blues, not an easy dinner to eat gracefully. For a tablecloth, we spread newspaper over the cockpit table and an hour later a dozen crabs (and cole slaw and potato salad) were reduced to a messy pile of crab shells.
Monday, we headed back in to town in the morning, Sarah for a run and Jeannie and I, as usual, finding groceries (and wine). Back aboard, we motored out of the creek into the Choptank and out into the Bay and headed across for Solomons Island. With no wind, it was our only day of motoring.
Arriving in late afternoon, we took a dinghy tour of the area, three creeks jammed with marinas, yacht clubs and boat yards. And we counted 40 cruisers heading south like us. Back aboard, we returned to the aroma of roast chicken with all the vegetables and a quiet night.
Tuesday we headed south and across the bay again, this time aiming for Tangier Island. Just outside Solomons, we met our first pelicans, in exactly the same spot to the mile as we have seen them in previous years! Arriving at Tangier Island, we called to Parks "Marina" (just a wooden dock with some piles to tie to) and were met by 80 year old Milton Parks, prop.
He had us secured in no time and began to talk. Eventually Jeannie and Sarah went for a walk, leaving me to Milton. But I had my revenge. He announced he would be back to take us on a tour of the Island in his golf cart, the only form of transportation on the island. So when they returned, I went for a walk, timing it to be well out of sight when the tour began. They saw everything from the church to the town dump. When he learned Sarah was a doctor, he wanted her to tour the medical center, but it was closed.
Tangier Island is an odd place, with about 500 people living there with Crab fishing as the main source of income, followed distantly by tourism. Milton says that if the fishery continues to drop, the island will be uninhabited in 10 years. That would be too bad, as the Islanders are unique. By the way, in Chesapeake Bay, they are not called fishermen... they are watermen. Tangier Island has only about three family names in the whole island. They settled the island in the eighteenth century, and lived such an isolated existence that today they still have an accent distinct from the surrounding area.
Back on the boat it was crab #2 for dinner, this time sautéed soft-shelled crabs. They are crabs that have been harvested and put on ice immediately after molting. A few parts (lungs, eyes and something else) are removed, and the rest is lightly dusted with flour and sautéed in butter. Sarah was dubious, but declared them delicious!
Next morning saw us heading out in a downwind sail of 20 knots, again crossing the bay. Our destination was Sarah Creek on the York River, but dead downwind was too uncomfortable, so we modified our course and arrived in Deltaville, Va. in the late afternoon. All day we had had rain showers, so we put on our wet gear and headed ashore... just in time for the heavens to open up. After a mile's walk, we found no real downtown, just a quiet highway with the odd business. Waiting out the rain, we found an interesting hardware store, but that's it.
Back aboard, we had grilled pork chops. Thursday dawned with fresh south-westerlies, forecast to clock west at noon. With our course for Norfolk due south, we headed out into the 15-20 knot winds. We saw only a few other sails, but by the time we had all sails set with two reefs in the main and jib, we were able to just lay our course. By noon, the wind had moderated and clocked as forecast, so with the reefs shaken out, we romped down to the bottom of the bay in a beautiful warm sunny day.
By late afternoon, we were motoring past the US Navy's East Coast Headquarters, lined with aircraft carriers, guided missile cruisers, and some ships whose purpose we couldn't even guess at. A call to Tidewater Marina confirmed our berth for the night, and as the wind dropped completely, we slid into our berth, our Chesapeake Bay cruise over. But not our crab dinners! For dinner we had lump crab cake to finish Sarah's introduction to Chesapeake Bay crab.
Friday, we rented a car and drove up to Williamsburg Historic Village, where we spent the day. For Sarah's last evening, we headed to Fusion 440, a restaurant we had visited on previous trips, but unfortunately, things had changed. The meal was mediocre, but the company was fantastic... Sarah's friend frpm RCS-N School, Heather MacLean lives in North Carolina's Outer Banks and came in for dinner... saving the evening.
Saturday was a sad day... we were up early and off to Norfolk International Airport for Sarah's flight back to Victoria BC. After seeing her off, we returned to the marina for the mundane tasks of laundry, cleaning the boat, etc. In the afternoon we went grocery shopping in Virginia Beach, taking a couple on a catamaran next to us.
From here its down into the Dismal Swamp Canal and into North Carolina. Contrary to its name it is beautiful, and we plan to spend some time exploring the area. Then, pushing on south!