People of the Salt Water

22 February 2017 | Sydney, Australia
12 February 2017 | Australia
23 August 2016 | Virginia, USA
26 July 2016 | Deltaville, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia USA
13 July 2016 | Norfolk, Virginia
13 June 2016 | Charleston S. Carolina
22 May 2016 | Vero Beach, Florida
06 May 2016 | Varadero, Cuba
02 May 2016 | Marina Gaviota, Varedero, Cuba
27 April 2016 | Boot Key Harbour, Florida Keys
10 March 2016 | Green Cove Springs, Florida
28 December 2015
22 June 2015 | Toronto, Canada
07 June 2015 | Green Cove Springs Marina, near Jacksonville, Florida
01 June 2015 | Exchange Island, Jacksonville, Florida
30 May 2015 | Sailing up the Florida Straits
29 May 2015 | Sailing up the Florida Straits
26 May 2015

Sydney and the Blue Mountains

22 February 2017 | Sydney, Australia
Belinda and Kit
Picture shows us having pre-opera drinks at the Opera House Bar

More pics can be seen in Google Pics;

...or in the Gallery; Just click on 'Gallery' above then the album 'Sydney and the Blue Mountains'

Next on the agenda was Sydney; the train took 11 hours from Melbourne and was very expensive, so we opted to fly - 1.5 hours and half of the train fare!
Friends Alison and Geoff (SY Saraoni) happened to be in Sydney for a few days and picked us up from the airport in their rental car. It was really great to see them again, we'd first met in Finike, Turkey and last met up when Quilcene and Saraoni were in the Caribbean so lots to catch up on!

The Saraonis took us for a coastal drive around the Sydney area, seeing Bondi Beach, Watson Bay, Botany Bay and the nearby Royal National Park, before leaving us to set off another epic trip - this time cycling from Sydney to Melbourne. They have travelled widely and already sailed right around the world. Here's a link to their amazing adventures - it makes impressive reading!

Alone again we set about exploring Sydney, we stayed in an 'Air BnB' apartment in the Potts Point area, close to Kings Cross station and within walking distance of the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Sydney Opera House. Unfortunately we were there in the middle of a heatwave so on the hottest day (44C) we took the ferry from Circular Quay over to Manly Beach for a few hours where it was nice and breezy. I'd forgotten my swimmers but that was just as well; loudspeaker announcements warned of 'bluebottle' stingers coming in on the tide - Portuguese Man 'o War to us! Suddenly a swim didn't seem like such a good idea!

One of the highlights of our stay in Sydney was a visit to the Opera House; we'd booked for an early evening performance of 'best of..' arias from famous operas. It was wonderful to be inside the famous Opera House, and we treated ourselves to a glass of champagne during the interval. Afterward we walked back toward our apartment through the Botanic Gardens and stopped for pie 'n peas at Harry's famous pie stand in Woolomoolo Bay - a classy establishment!

One wet morning we took shelter in the Museum of Contemporary Arts and had an interesting time looking at Aboriginal Artworks. Later the ferry to Darling Harbour landed us right outside the National Maritime Museum so we spent the afternoon in another museum!

After all that culture we managed to find Sydney's Hard Rock Café just in time for Happy Hour!

Despite the heatwave we really enjoyed our week in Sydney, there was lots to see and do and the ferries were a great way to see the sights. It took a bit of getting used to seeing Ibis walking around on the city pavements - locals say they're a nuisance and treat them like we treat pigeons and seagulls in England. They shush them away and we take pics!!!

Soon it was time to head up into the Blue Mountains - named for the blue haze that is airborne droplets of eucalyptus oil combined with dust particles and water vapour, refracting rays of mainly blue light - or so I'm told!

It wasn't a lot cooler up there but it was very pretty! ...and the views across the escarpments were stunning! The heat prevented us from setting off on adventurous bushwalks, but we did hike along some of the shorter trails and loved hearing the exotic birdsong!

Katoomba where we stayed had some really interesting Art Deco style buildings, including the Carrington Hotel - where we didn't stay but would have loved to! Instead we settled for a sundowner on the terrace.

Melbourne and the Great Ocean Highway

12 February 2017 | Australia
Belinda and Kit
Picture shows London Bridge - which really did fall down!

More pics can be seen in Google Pics;

...or in the Gallery; Just click on 'Gallery' above then the album 'Melbourne and the Great Ocean Highway'

Having decided not to sail to the Antipodes we opted instead to fly there. We landed in Melbourne after a 28 hour flight (included a long wait in Abu Dhabi), and recovered in a central hotel. Two nights didn't give us time to see much of the city, especially as it 28C was a 'heat shock' after the cool of an English winter. We met up with David and Kay, friends of friends, who took us on a walking tour around the central river area before sharing an enjoyable supper swapping travel stories.

We picked up a hire car and set off along the Great Ocean Road. I guess the pictures say it all; stunning coastal vistas, cool Eucalyptus forests, lots of wildlife, as well as sun, sand and surf.
London Bridge, in the pic above was once a double arched rock platform linked to the mainland, but it fell down in 1990, leaving two terrified tourists marooned on the outer arch. Happily they were rescued by helicopter!

The Iconic Grand Pacific Hotel - we stayed one night

Highlights included a one-night stay at the Grand Pacific Hotel which harks back to 1875, now restored with modern décor and serving delicious seafood.

The Twelve Apostles - although there are actually only seven

..and of course we spotted many of the famous Aussie wildlife species; koalas, cockatoos, parrots, kangaroos en route.

Koala in a Eucalyptus tree

A trip through the mountains

23 August 2016 | Virginia, USA
Belinda and Kit
Picture shows - the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains!

More pics can be seen in the Gallery; Just click on 'Gallery' above then the album 'Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia'

Driving west from Deltaville our route took us inland to Charlotteville and up to join the Blue Ridge Parkway at Roanoke. From there we continued north to the end of the Parkway and onto Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah National Park. We'd booked hotels, B&B's and mountain lodges along the route, planning it so that we didn't have to drive great distances in a day and we had plenty of time for a walking and sightseeing. We even managed to fit in a morning's paddle in kayaks on the St James River. It was cooler in the mountains - not a lot but at least we had air-con in the car!

Early morning paddle on the St James River

The Parkway itself is quite a narrow two-way road with a 40mph speed limit. As the name suggests it winds along the top of the Blue Mountain ridge. The whole area is a National Park and completely undeveloped; accommodation is limited to a couple of mountain lodges on the Ridge or driving down off the ridge to stay in one of the small towns in the foothills.

The scenery is breathtaking and there are numerous lay-bys to pull over and enjoy the views. At one such lay-by we were fortunate enough to see a Black Bear happily crashing about in the undergrowth and feeding on wild berries just below the Parkway verge.

Black Bear

Skyline Drive continues north from the end of the Parkway and is even more winding. There is a small charge for entering this National Park - This stretch has a 30mph speed limit which is great because it gave us time to really appreciate the fantastic scenery.

Skyline Drive

Eventually we descended into the Shenandoah Valley, it had been a great trip with beautiful vistas, lots of wildlife and some great country music.

We drove to Washington and flew to Toronto for a week-long stay with Kit's brother Peter and sister-in-law Pat. So good to be able to see them for the second year running!

Finally home to the UK and the last of the English summer.

..and we have liftout!

26 July 2016 | Deltaville, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia USA
Belinda and Kit
Picture shows our early morning liftout

An album of more pics can be seen in the Gallery; 'From Norfolk to liftout in Deltaville'. Just click on 'Gallery' above

We enjoyed Norfolk; with four universities and numerous colleges it has large student population and a vibrant feel. There was no shortage of places to enjoy a sundowner either - numerous local breweries and craft beer pubs kept Kit happy! ..and I thought that Americans dismissed beer (as opposed to lager) as weak and lifeless!

The Chrysler Museum of Art was our favourite place; ..and it has free admission! As the name suggests it was established by the son of the Chrysler Auto family and the permanent exhibitions are largely made up of his personal extensive art collection. The specialty of the museum is glass in its multitude of forms; crystal, Tiffany, Frank Lloyd Wright, etc. and across the street is a glass works studio where there are daily glass blowing and sculpting demonstrations.

Amongst the interesting exhibitions that were on whilst we were there was 'Women and the Civil Rights Movement' and included many black and white prints taken during the Civil Rights struggle. A powerful and harsh reminder of inequality and inhumanity that we would like to think was history. Unfortunately the very day we visited was the day of a 'Black Lives Matter' demonstration in Downtown Norfolk, leaving one to wonder how much attitudes have really changed?

Entering Norfolk on the Elizabeth River we had passed starboard buoy no. 36 which marks 'Mile 0' and is the official beginning of the Intra-coastal waterway. We had come all the way up from the Florida Keys (Mile 1080), mostly sailing outside on the ocean up to Charleston (Mile 469), but inside on the waterway since then.

Norfolk and Hampton Roads is a large natural harbour. As well as being a large commercial port it is home to the world's largest naval base and the North American Headquarters for NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Leaving Norfolk to head up into Chesapeake Bay we passed the fleet of US naval vessels, they looked very intimidating, as we motored past - at one point we were told to move away by a navy RIB as we'd strayed a little too close for their liking!

Norfolk US Navy Base

What a great feeling to hoist the sails and switch off the engine as we emerged from Hampton Roads into Chesapeake Bay. With favourable wind and tide we scudded northwards for a few hours before reluctantly dropping the sails and heading into a secluded anchorage to the west of the bay. The place was so peaceful that we stayed for 2 nights just enjoying the isolation and watching the Osprey swoop down to catch fish around us.

Finally on to Fishing Bay on the Rappahannock River just a bit farther north, where we dropped anchor for the last time this year. This will be home to Quilcene for the coming winter and was a pleasant surprise. We'd expected the shores of the Bay to look a little industrial as there are several marinas and boatyards here, but it was very low-key and blended in well with the natural shore line.

Fishing Bay, Deltaville

Next day our friends Don and Glenys arrived and anchored nearby. They have finished sailing and are now proud owners of a lovely trawler named 'Pearl'. Don't be misled by the 'term' trawler - it's a luxury motor cruiser equipped with the sort of mod cons we could get a little envious of! It was great to see them again and we all enjoyed getting together for sundowners, BBQ, swims in the marina pool, and dinner and lunch outings - all in between hot sticky days spent getting Quilcene ready to haul out and leave.

Cooling off in the pool with Don and Glenys

Finally haul out day arrived and with midday temperatures close to 40C we were happy that our slot was an early morning one.

All went well and with Quilcene safely installed in the boatyard we finished preparing her for a potentially cold winter - anti-freeze in all the water tanks (potable anti-freeze), holding tank, toilet pipes and engine. A last check to ensure we'd removed all canvas (in case of high winds) and emptied all perishable foodstuffs and with a sigh of relief we climbed down and went to spend our last night with Don and Glenys in cool comfort on 'Pearl' - in this heat their air conditioning is one of the things we could envy!!!

Next day we set off for the Blue Mountains...

North on the Waterway

13 July 2016 | Norfolk, Virginia
Belinda & Kit, Hot and sticky!
Picture shows yacht Impressionist waiting for an ICW Swing Bridge to open

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We stayed over a week in Charleston, South Carolina. OCC Port Officers Emmett and Mecca were so helpful and welcoming, giving us a guided tour and some back ground info about the city and surrounding area and inviting us into the Yacht Club for sundowners, and their home for dinner.

We spent several days wandering about Charleston, enjoying its Southern Charm; cobbled streets, horse-drawn carriages and pastel pre-Civil-War-era houses.

We had been hoping to sail out and up to Morehead, just south of Cape Hatteras but the winds always seemed to be against us. Jim & Ann on ‘Impressionist’ were also waiting there and we eventually decided to give up and go ‘inside’ on the ICW.

This turned out to be a great plan as many stretches of the Atlantic ICW have been along natural rivers, the Waccamaw and Pungo Rivers for instance; so beautiful, wild and scenic. We've seen bald eagles, a golden eagle, osprey, dolphins, snakes, deer, turtles/terrapins, and even a black bear!

We’ve followed long stretches, up to 21 miles, of dead straight man-made land cuts, mostly cut through mud and clay substrata but occasionally blasted out of the bedrock. The 1088 mile Atlantic ICW certainly is an incredible feat of engineering. There are many anchorages along the way and also docks and marinas we can pull into when we need a land ‘fix’.

We travelled a couple of days with Impressionist then left them to continue north as we headed up the Cape Fear River to Wilmington, North Carolina. Wilmington is a University town that is now home to Alison, an ex-MBA researcher who I’d promised to look up if ever we passed this way. That was back in 2007 so she was a bit surprised to hear from me! It was nice to catch up over drinks and Alison and Sheila offered to drive us to a big supermarket to stock up our fridge and stores.

This is really helpful as supermarkets always seem to be on the edge of town in the US and with no land transport it’s a challenge to keep the cupboards full!

We also stopped for a few days at Oriental, a charming little town (population 900) that was holding its annual 'Croaker' Festival - the BIG event of their year. It seems to be an alternative to July 4th Celebrations, as it was held 1-3rd July. They had a (very funny) parade (see Picasa pics), and the southern country music and seafood was excellent! We watched the brilliant Saturday night firework display from the comfort of Quilcene out on the anchor.

We left on July 3rd and rather than head to another town for July 4th Celebrations we spent a very quiet night in a remote anchorage - perfect peace!

It’s been VERY hot here recently, up to 38C so our cabin is often like an oven. There have been one or two spectacular thunderstorms triggered by all this heat; winds that whip up to 40 knots out of nowhere and incredible lightshows across the skies. They are great to watch but can also be quite frightening when we are anchored all alone in the middle of an out-of-the-way bay.

We are now in Norfolk, Virginia tied up on a slip courtesy of the local OCC Port Officer, Gary. It’s in the historic Freemason area, a lovely part of town with cobbled, shady streets. Again we have been made very welcome and Gary drove us to a large supermarket – really helpful!

Due to the excessive heat we have a new plan - plan 'D' is to leave the boat in Deltaville a little earlier than anticipated - around 25th July. Then hire a car and drive to the Blue Mountains to cool down for a few days before flying up to Canada on 2nd August to see Kits brother Peter en route to the UK.

So we’ll be back in the UK in early August.

Only a short distance to go into Chesapeake Bay until we get to Deltaville so we'll explore Chesapeake in the spring when it's a bit cooler!!

Third Time Lucky!

13 June 2016 | Charleston S. Carolina
Belinda & Kit
Picture shows a Brunswick Live Oak (and Kit of course!)

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Charleston, South Carolina - we finally got here on our third attempt! The first time we'd set off from Cuba in early May to sail direct to Charleston but pulled into West Palm Beach because the fridge wasn't working and we were running out of gas for the cooker. No hot or cold drinks - not to mention melted butter!

The gas problem was easily sorted with a refill but the earliest a refrigeration engineer could come was to be 2 weeks. We phoned ahead to Vero Beach and found someone who would come in a couple of days so we sailed up the coast to Fort Pierce inlet just a day sail, away and entered the ICW there.

We headed north up the 'ditch' getting a soaking from a nasty squall, but arrived at Vero Beach where we picked up a mooring. Jim and Anne on 'Impressionist' were also moored there; we'd last seen them 2 years ago so it was great to catch up and also help celebrate Jim's birthday. Vero Beach is a great place for yachties to stop as there is a free bus to the shopping mall and also the beach if you want to go. This is very handy as we sometimes have to walk miles or pay for a taxi to get the shopping.

The fridge man came as promised and topped up the refrigerant but diagnosed a 'difficult to trace gas leak and a rusty compressor' - in other words we needed a new fridge! ..but at least it was working for now.

With a reasonable forecast we left Vero Beach and headed back down the ICW to Fort Pierce where waves were crashing into the inlet! We battened down the hatches and headed out to sea, with considerable lurching and crashing into the rough seas. However things calmed down once we moved away from the inlet - guess we'd got the tide wrong! Some of these east coast inlets are narrow so if wind is opposed to tidal current the result can feel like being in a washing machine (I imagine!).

So - we were having a great time out there enjoying the sailing and were again looking forward to arriving in Charleston. On second day the weather forecast warned us of Tropical Storm 'Bonnie' which was heading for S. Carolina.

In the Caribbean and southern US, weather problems start with the first warning termed a 'low', or 'depression'. This is reported and tracked in case it deepens; it can then turn into a 'Tropical Low' which, if conditions are conducive, may upgrade into a 'Tropical Storm' with winds of 39 - 73 Mph. If conditions deteriorate further the next step would be 'Hurricane' with winds of over 74 Mph, and we wouldn't want to be out at sea if that happens!

A quick look at the charts showed that we could make St Simons Inlet and go to Brunswick, Georgia by dawn next morning so we changed course. The coast is shallow for a long way offshore here, and the St Simons light marking the start of the approach channel is 11 miles offshore! Our approach seemed to last forever but was interesting as we saw the local Shrimp Boats dredging along the channel edges. Our mouths watered at the thought of all those fresh shrimp - shrimp here = 4" prawns!

We finally tied up in Brunswick Landing marina. As we now had a delivery address Kit immediately ordered a new fridge and some charts for further north.

It seems we struck lucky because although we had to pay for a berth in the marina, the marina Yacht Club offered free beer every day and free wine three nights a week! Other perks were free bicycle rental, free laundry and free wifi - also there was a Memorial Day party with no charge for drinks or food - not a bad deal!

We enjoyed some great evenings chatting to other boaters over sundowners. Most people travelled up and down the ICW on the east coast, although there were a couple of other visiting foreign yachts. Everyone was very helpful and friendly, also interested to hear tales of our travels and Atlantic crossing.

The fresh shrimp proved to be as good as anticipated, and there was a weekly fresh vegetable market where a stall sold delicious crab cakes. Another plus was a weekly music group so I got to play my clarinet to the accompaniment of guitars and a keyboard!

We doubled up on our mooring lines but Storm Bonnie passed nearby with only a windy day to show for it where we were moored. We heard that Charleston was pelted with torrential rain and strong winds so we'd made the right decision. Making the most of the facilities we cycled around the town and along a nearby inlet. We cycled to the supermarket almost every day to stock up our cupboards, and washed everything including cushion covers.

Brunswick is a sprawling town but has nice old area with fine old timber houses. There are a number of huge Live Oak trees around the town (see above pic). These are not the oaks we are used to in the UK; the leaves are shiny and a different shape and they are an evergreen variety - hence the name 'live'. The hanging 'stuff' is called Spanish Moss; it's a type of Bromeliad that seems to drape on trees all over the South US apparently causing no damage to them as it's not a parasitic species.

The fridge arrived and Kit spent a day fitting it; this involved mounting a cold plate in the fridge and a compressor in a separate compartment. It was hot work so the free cold beer afterwards was a pleasant reward!

At last we were ready to go but now another tropical storm threatened, Storm 'Colin', and Brunswick was right in its path! Again we checked all the lines and took down our large sunshade ready for storm force winds. Luckily Colin veered away from us a little but we did have torrential rain all day and a brief spell of 35 knot winds. The weather gods must be looking after us!

Eventually things settled down and we set sail once again for Charleston. We could have headed north on the Intra Coastal Waterway but in Georgia and S Carolina it is notoriously windy with a lot of shoaling, and it would mean motoring all the way. As it turned out we did have to motor a lot as we lost the wind during the night. Nonetheless it was a good passage with dolphins accompanying us on and off and a beautifully starry night with flat calm seas. We arrived at Charleston approach in the morning just in time to catch the last of the flood tide and here we are!

More about Charleston once we've had time to explore!
Vessel Name: Quilcene
Vessel Make/Model: Bowman 40
Hailing Port: Plymouth, UK
Crew: Kit and Belinda
In our previous lives, Belinda worked as a marine biologist at the MBA Plymouth and Kit was a surveyor for a marine civil engineering company. Over the years we had sailed the south west of England and northern France. [...]
Extra: Quilcene, a Bowman 40, is a masthead cutter designed by Chuck Paine and built in 1991. The name is an American Indian word meaning 'People of the Salt Water', which we feel suits us very well. Quilcene is also a town on the West coast of the USA near Seattle.
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