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Retirement to Bahamas
Mike and Judy have been sailing for some 25 years. We have dreamed for years about retiring and sailing to the Bahamas and Caribbean. We are living our dream!
Rocks and Docks and Skinny Water

A cold front came through last night (they always blame the cold front on us - they call them the Canadian Cold Front - as if we somehow wreak vengeance on our neighbours by sending down miserable weather) but we were well tied up and had a very pleasant night. Underway at 8:00 am. It is very difficult to play the tides and currents here as you're going to get as much in your favour as against. Anyway, we had a challenging but interesting day today including the transit of three of the areas in the ICW which bring chills to the hearts of long time cruisers: Lockwood's Folly, Shallote's Channel and the Rockpile.

The first two are difficult because the channel shifts so quickly with the incessant and determined change of water flow where an inlet connects to the ICW. There has not been as much money committed to dredging of the ICW as it takes to keep up with the silting and shifting so certain points prone to skinny water. We leave early but as stated above, cannot really plan very well for the tides. Unfortunately, we it the first and most formidable of the challenges Lockwood's Folly at near low tide. We inch our way around this inlet, trying to bring together the information we've sifted from discussions with others and our own instincts given the particular conditions of the day - falling tide and strong winds from the west. A large (55 footish powerboat) comes up on our stern and I ask him to hold off while we attempt the transit of the worst part. He agrees, and in fact, is pleased as we are both the same depth and he says he'll use me as a sounder. I get around and through by "crabbing up" into the wind and current; he aims his bow towards where he thinks he wants to go. Sailors will know the result - we made it through with no less than 8 feet - he ran hard aground. A sailboat behind him also runs aground. We call to offer assistance but with our meagre 37 horsepower engine and likely running aground ourselves we're more a liability than good so we forge on. Another ten miles and we get to the next and similar skinny passage - Shallotte's inlet. Again, we inch our way through at dead low tide and strong cross winds. A lobster boat from Maine asks to pass us and we agree - he's along side of us and runs aground. We continue on and make it without incident.

So much for the skinny water for now....... Now for Docks. This part of North Carolina and South Carolina (we crossed the border today) is fully populated with large, expensive homes on either side of the ICW, virtually each of which has it's own very substantial and complex dock with mechanism that allows their boat to be lifted from the water after their days' activity. Even the most modest of these would rival the most gracious house in Fredericton and there are thousands of them. We think that many are seasonal 'cause there's little activity. Now we know how the other half lives.......

Penultimately, rocks. At the end of our day we enter a formidable piece of the waterway called appropriately, "Rockpile". It is a three or so mile cut through rocks with a very narrow channel. You cannot get off the centre or you'll hit rocks - not good! So like good, responsible sailors, we announce on our radio that we're coming southbound through Rockpile and any interested traffic coming the other way should let us know. Nothing heard, we proceed. Of course, half way through and at one of the narrowest parts, we come up to some sort of barge. While he obviously does not have his radio on, he is courteous and moves slightly east of channel to let us by.

So, to skinny water again...... We pass through what was probably the eighth bridge today, including a one-of-a-kind pontoon bridge and head for the marina we have chosen for the night - Barrefoot Landing Marina. We ready our lines and fenders and make a slow approach. Crunch, we run aground and as much forward and reverse as we put on our engine, we're stuck. So, I get in our dinghy (a ten foot inflatable boat with an 8 hp outboard) and take a line from our bow and pull us into the centre channel with Judy at the helm giving it steerage and power. While it's a bit frustrating, no harm's done and we dock alongside. This is a factor outlet of gargantuan proportions - I hope to keep Judy away from them. It is a lovely but somewhat chilly evening - not chilly like NB. Nice day today, even for two old retirees!

11/25/2008 | Dave
Have sent emails - are you getting them?
Please respond
11/26/2008 | Janet
Sounds tricky & complicated. You wouldn't "fall asleep at the wheel" on that stretch of water.
11/26/2008 | Jerry B. Wakeham
...and He guided them to their desired haven.
Psalm 107:30b
Three Days in One

We're remiss in keeping the blog up-to-date but here goes.

The weather cleared and we left Bock Marine north of Morehead City early on Saturday. The tidal range varies along the east coast from our 26 feet in Saint John (actually up to 40 feet in the upper reaches of the Chignecto Bay) to a miniscule foot or so in many places like the Chesapeake. In North Carolina, in places it is three feet and a bit more. In any event, when began backing out of the slip Sea Sharp had been in for three weeks, we couldn't move. It was only going to get worse, so we put the power on hard and inched out way out of the muck into the channel. It was time to go.

The first hour was very sad for us as we retraced our steps to the place where we found out about the tragedy home. After that, we lightened a bit. Our destination was a place called Mile Hammock Bay. It is a man made basin carved out of the side of the intercostals waterway built originally for the purposes of training military landing craft and other marine manoeuvres. Actually, we passed through a military base called Camp LeJeune (I don't think any relation to the folks from Jacquet River). It's a bit freaky 'cause this is an active firing range and if there is live artillery fire boats are prohibited from going through. Fortunately there was none today and we proceeded. We did see, however, the carcasses of various old military vehicles used in target practice.

We arrived at Mile Hammock along with about 12 other boats, all making the trek south. We had a very quiet night.

Up very early and underway around 7:00 - destination Wrightsville Beach. We had to transit various bridges which do not open on demand but on specified schedules. We got a bit screwed up and ended up losing about an hour because we did not time the speed to maximize the bridge characteristics. Not to worry, we got to Wrightsville Beach shortly after 2:00. We anchored in a very nice place smack, dab in the middle of a highly developed beach area. Judy and I go to shore to explore. We walk the Atlantic beach then back along the road. We drop into a couple of places and note three things of minor significance to us:
a) There are many young people (as in teens/early twenties)
b) They all smoke
c) They all have big dogs. Yeah, labs, rotweillers, boxers, etc. And they take their pets into the bars and shops.

We found out that the adjacent town, Wilmington, has a university which explains the young folks. We also realized that Virginia and the Carolinas is where tobacco is harvested, hence the lax by-laws about non-smoking. We don't know the deal on the dogs.

We head out today for a short hop to Southport. In order to get here, we have to come down the famous Cape Fear River; yes the one of movie fame. It was pretty tame today, fortunately and we had a great current helping us along the way. We had to do some very tricky channels where the buoyage system changes three times and we had to transit some very narrow ranges. But, with Judy and the helm and me giving her course adjustments, we did fine.

We got into Southport early, shortly after noon and tie up to the end of the municipal dock in a very small yacht basin. It is a little clunky but the price is right (free) and the downtown is very attractive. We take a couple of long walks in this very pretty town. It is milder than it has been (65 degrees) and the foliage is lush and beginning to look somewhat tropical.

Judy takes me out to supper at a restaurant with the improbable name Fishy Fishy. It is casual but the fare is great. We eat well and roam around the very quite downtown for an hour or so. I feel guilty for not having updated the blog so this is what I do while Judy takes the dog (sorry, I mean cat) for a walk.

While I don't make much fuss about birthdays, least of all mine, today was a milestone. I turned 55 today and am now retired. Don't feel much different but think I'm gonna feel a lot poorer.

11/25/2008 | Bill T
As I read your blog I can follow along in my head, having spent a great deal of my youth in the VA and NC area. As luck would have it we share a birthday. I too turned 55 on the 24th. Happy Birthday, and good luck to the both of you.
11/25/2008 | Jerry B. Wakeham
miss you both. god sailing
11/25/2008 | Suzanne, Geneviève et Alexandre
Mike and Judy
Thank you for so eloquently sharing your voyage! Happy birthday Mike! Safe sailing.
11/29/2008 | Simple123
Happy Birthday! Being an ex-smoker from Virginia who has owned several Labrador Retrievers, even I can't explain it all. You are correct - Virginia and the Carolinas are very lax in re: smoking laws. I think big dogs are popular as we are all good 'ol boys who like to pat (thump) you on the back to show friendship. You can't 'thump' a little dog, so you need a Lab or a Chessie to be your friend.

Back in the Saddle

We're provisioned, organized and keen to resume our cruise tomorrow morning. A short filling in of blanks to bring you back to this point. And, as promised in the last blog, I will not be maudlin......

We left Core Creek, nine miles north of Beaufort/Morehead City three weeks ago today, That Halloween morning, we were happily dozing in our bunk on Sea Sharp tied up to Sanitary Restaurant (strange name; would you think anyone would ever claim to be the Unsanitary Restaurant?). Cell phone range around 6:00 and knowing instinctively it could bode no good, didn't get up. Did get up and got message from Carol indicating our niece had been assaulted and that my brother John had not been found. I called my other brother Kevin who told me that John was dead.

We both completely lost it but fortunately Helen and Ray, our new but dear friends on a neighbouring boat were their to console us but, as importantly, help us make arrangements to return home. Within an amazingly short period of time, we had booked flights home and found a place to leave our boat for what we considered then to be an indeterminable period of time. That day was a blur; I had to motor some nine miles back up river through complicated waterways while Judy readied the boat for our indefinite departure; we both like automatons; dealing with the immediate and practical but otherwise completely overwrought!

Short version of story..... Left Sea Sharp at Bock Marina and implored them to take good care of her, were driven to the airport and commenced a challenging day to return to New Brunswick. We could do a whole other blog about this but suffice it to say that poor Chopin, a reluctant companion on this trip, does not like to fly! We got to Bangor, Bob and Carolyn were there to pick us up. They brought us to Fredericton, we dropped them off at their house and we continued on to the hospital where our family were congregated to support Laura, our niece. On our way from Bob and Carolyn's we passed by our house. Talk about shocking; two police cars in our driveway, our house encircled with yellow, crime-scene tape.

So, fast forward to our departure nearly three weeks later - this blog is not about our family matters. We decide to resume our cruise. We figure a one-way car rental will:
a) be less expensive than plane tickets
b) allow us to spend a day with Judy's family en route, and
c) most importantly, spare poor Chopin the trauma of airline travel.
So, we rent a car in Bangor and Harold and Ann offer to get us there. We could not have been in better hands. Harold and Ann know us so well that they can judge the best balance of grief and levity; talk and silence; consolation and distraction; to see us on our difficult journey.

Now to the exciting part. We get to the border between Canada and US at Houlton. Harold and I are in the front seat; Judy and Ann and Chopin in the back. They ask the perfunctory questions including for our passports. Once they read mine, the whole scene changes - they order Harold to put his hands on the wheel. Incredulously (and 'cause he can't hear well), Harold) asks them to repeat. Their next recitation does not miss the mark and he complies. They order me to put my hands on the dash, then they order me out of the car. Instantly, the car is surrounded by armed Homeland Security Agents - Harold tells me at least two had guns drawn! I realize what's happening but they are not in a talking mood. They frisk me, take away my cell phone and escort me briskly to a safe room. They remove my hat coat, etc and lock me in. Very shortly they realize that the alert has long-since been obviated so they swiftly shift to an apologetic mode. What this was about is that, when John's son-in-law and Laura's husband Nick, the perpetrator, was fleeing and before he was found killed by his own hand, it was felt that he would flee to the US and under my identity. So an alert had been placed under my name that I was a potential fugitive. Their actions were swift and effective if not scary. Judy was so distraught, she collapsed in on of those burly agents' embrace, wailing that I was not a killer but that their swift and effective action, had it been on Nick's entry to Canada, three weeks earlier, might have prevented this tragedy.

Anyway, Harold and Ann took it in stride and delivered us to Bangor where we picked up our car - a Chev HHT???? This is something like the old fashioned panel truck but with modern accoutrements. Bright red and campy, Chopin loved it! Judy and I did not talk much on the long trip to New Jersey where we spent a great day with Judy's family; nor did we talk much yesterday on the trek from south Jersey to our boat. Chopin filled in some of the dead air space with his semi-regular meowing to let us know that he exists and commands our attention.

We arrived at Sea Sharp last night around 6:00, tired and emotionally drained (sorry to be maudlin but won't for much longer). Sea Sharp was fine but I don't' think either Judy nor I found the solace we thought we'd find; we'd left Fredericton under less than ideal conditions.

It was bitterly cold (there were wisps of snow in Deleware!).

This morning, we got up early with stuff to do. The stove would not work last night so I had to figure out what was wrong. Very complicated but the short version is that our stove is fuelled by propane which is heavier than air. So, if there is a leak, the fuel amasses at the lowest part of the boat, the bilge. The slightest spark and, poof, the whole shebang goes up in smoke. So there is a complicated, fail-safe system (which I installed) which comprises an air-tight- tank container, a solenoid which shuts the fuel off if there is a leak and a sniffer which will only allow the fuel to flow if there is no leak detected. Anyway, this is not stuff you want to mess around with. Had to tear apart both cockpit lockers to get at the wires but gave up last night - no hot coffee for Judy or Earl Grey tea for me this morning. Finally figured out the problem today and all's well with the stove.

Got underway early to return the rental, re-provision (we had to dispose of all our perishables when we left the boat three weeks earlier) and ready the boat for the continuance of our journey. Went to super-WalMart for provisions and Joe and Judy picked us up at the airport where we returned our little Chev HHT. We got sorted out this afternoon and the boat is now ready to resume our journey.

We feel we are behind the crowd of boaters but there is a near-constant parade of boats passing the marina we are tied up to so I don't figure we'll be lonely for long. Bob and Carolyn will, hopefully join us in Savannah in about ten days so we won't be bereft of company for long!

11/21/2008 | Jerry and Cheryl
Ahoy!! So glad to see you both last Tuesday. We love you and think of you often. So glad your able to resume your dream. You both deserve it now more than ever. Enjoy that warmth coming your way or should I say you going its way. Please stay safe !!!
11/22/2008 | Dad and mom Jerry and Eileen
Sitting here with Jerry B while are he types. Cheryl cooked a lovely surprise birthday dinner. thinking of you, love you, with fondest thoughts. enjoy your sailing. Mom says had a grand b day miss you.
11/22/2008 | Mike & Peggy
Welcome back, Hope to see you soon, if everything goes well as we hope, we should see you in the Bahamas. God Bless you both. Mike & Peg
11/22/2008 | Herb & Helen
Glad you made it safely back to Sea Sharp and about to resume your trip south. Captain Morgan (Ann & Harold's dog) spent a good day with us and we learned of your exciting border crossing from Harold. Harold charged us not to relate the event, but now that you have related the event on your blog, we feel fre to discuss it, (Smile) Great sailing and motoring.
11/23/2008 | Mary B. and the boys
Happy Birthday Mike. Enjoy the rest of your cruise and we'll see you when you return. BTW 30 cms of snow this weekend!
11/23/2008 | charlie mckendy
My best wishes on your birthday Mike.
11/24/2008 | Jerry B. Wakeham
Captain mike went out to sea,
which made him feel so free !
He called out to the 1st mate,
How about a quick date,
now that filled him with giddy and glee.
Good vs Evil

We are back on board Sea Sharp and I'm quite reflective tonight. While I know you do not read our blog to consider my take on life, I feel entitled to one note where I can dig a bit deeper than how many bridges we transited or how much fuel we burned. I promise not to be maudlin in subsequent blogs.

I'm reminded of the old morality plays which were based on the struggles humankind has between good and evil (yes I did pay attention to my English classes as STFX). Unfortunately we experienced an evil situation involving the death of my brother and assault on my dear niece. However, I am buoyed (slipped in a nautical term to keep you boaters interested) by the outpouring of sympathy and concern.

The past three weeks have been a blur of emotions. We still, and expect to for a while, to find ourselves crying unexpectedly. Judy, in particular, is prone to this but I'm certainly not immune. What kept us going is the love of family and friends but what can only be described in relation to those who helped us but did not really know us, GOOD!

We had dozens of phone calls; many reluctant to call but feeling compelled. Some of whom we did not have a chance to respond to (Al from Angelus., Ray and Ray Ray from Whisper, you are among those). All were brief but heartfelt and understood our grief but wanted to share a few quick words.

We had an amazing amount of food delivered to our house. I never thought I'd see the day when I didn't want to see another ham and scallop potatoes cross our threshold but it came close. Actually it was fortuitous 'cause we had a lot of friends and relatives in and out and we ate every bit! We had many folks who offered to help in any way they could; I called on several and they delivered without expectation of recognition or reward. To mention a few; Ray and Helen our new boating friends were there for us when we found out about the tragedy; Bob and Carolyn who picked us up in Bangor, offered us their house and generally performed the role of proxy brother and sister; Bernie and Charline turned over their house to us immediately to provide a place for a police briefing to our family; Tom and Charlotte who not only facilitated the recordings for the funeral but Charlotte dyed Judy's hair the night before the funeral; Tony who, unprompted, looked into some matters for us; Tom, Tony and Bernie (aforementioned) who went for a long walk with me and talked about anything but the tragedy I was dealing with; Herb and Helen who opened their house to us for the overflow of relatives; Mike and Bonnie who shared their experiences and encouragement; Clare and Fedo, our dear friends who came to support us; Harold and Ann who drove us to Bangor (and also are like our older brother and sister in so many ways); Randy who fixed John's car so Laura could drive it; Mary and Bob who gave us their car for almost two weeks (our second car had been stolen remember); Liz and Gary who invited us to dinner just when we needed a quiet and sensitive evening; Harry and Henny who spent a couple of very important hours with us during a particularly bad time; Peter who helped me with pics for John's obit; Norm and Sarah who travelled from Halifax to hug us; Julian who in his ever-sensitive way, drew me through some difficult thoughts; John J. who sensitively and determinedly navigated the shoals (another boating term) of interfaith incongruity to oversee two amazing church services for John, Bob W, my brother-in-law who was the beacon (one more) of strength and logic as we dealt with the public aspects of this situation and, certainly not least, Janet and Arden who endured our melodrama and deep grief and knew just how to react. Finally to the more than 1400 persons who attended John's funeral, most of whom we were unable to connect directly with, thank you for your anonymous support. So many others offered and we know that we could have called on you and you would have delivered.

So now for some folks we don't really know but who recognized our grief and in keeping with the GOOD aspects of this real life morality play, gave of themselves unselfishly. Judy ad Joe from New Bern, spent the day today with us helping us provision, get the rental back and coach us on the next parts of the ICW. The Homeland Security Manger, Chris Collins in Houlton, who firmly at first but extremely sensitively later handled our dramatic border crossing (more in our next blog). The folks at Bock Marine where we left Sea Sharp and understood our distraction and took good care of our boat. Nancy at my bank who helped me through difficult unwinding of fraudulent transactions; Erin my insurance agent who did the same; Allyson, running buddy and banker friend who also helped sort stuff out.

So Dear Readers, what I'm trying to illustrate here is that there's a whole bunch more good in the world than evil. Many of you have advised us to resume our cruise; it has been heart wrenching to leave our family; in particular Carol, Colleen and Laura. But we need to get on with life. We will not abandon our grieving but will embrace our new adventures. John would loath the attention his death has attracted and would not want our lives to be disrupted on his account. We'll try to comply!

The picture associated with this blog is of Judy and I along with Laura and John, on Sea Sharp the summer before last.

12/09/2008 | Miki O'Kane
Hi Mike and Judy. Sorry this has taken so long to connect - took me a while to get your email/blog through Jackie Saulnier-Firlotte. It's been a long time since grade 7 but I still want to offer sincere condolances for the loss of your brother - along with encouragement for your determination to "sail on" with life. That only seems right. I do have to chuckle reading your blog re "cold weather" - I live in Inuvik and its been in the minus 30's for the past week!! Anyway I wish you safe and wonderful sailing journeys.
Back on Board

Judy and I (and Chopin) are back on board Sea Sharp in Beaufort NC. We will do a more detailed update in a day or so.

11/19/2008 | Janet Trenholm
Glad you made it safe and sound!
11/19/2008 | Josee
Safe sailing you three.
Our Brother's Death

It appears that our blog has a fair number of readers from the messages we have received since my brother John's death. Those of you from the Fredericton area will be aware of the circumstances; other readers from away will not be. I owe you an explanation.

First let me say how much it helps to hear from you in this very difficult time.

Last Thursday, while in Morehead City (tied up in front of the Sanitary Restaurant) at about 6:00 a.m. we received a phone message from Judy's sister Carol to tell us that there was a tragedy and that we needed to come home. I contacted my brother Kevin and he informed me that he understood that our Brother John had been killed and that our niece was in hospital.

With the help of fellow boaters Helen and Ray on Rigamarole, we were able to book flights and make arrangements to bring our boat to a nearby marina for indefinite storage. Helen and Ray rented a car and picked us up at this marina and brought us to the New Bern airport where we commenced our travels home. With poor little Chopin in a cage (but with us on the plane) we flew to Charleston, Philadelphia then Bangor, where our great friends Bob and Carolyn were there to meet us and drive us the three hours home to Fredericton. We went immediately to the hospital where members of my family were assembled with Laura, our niece, who was injured.

I will not go into a lot of details about the incident; he was killed at his home on Roby Street in Douglas just outside of Fredericton. His daughter, our niece Laura was also injured in this incident. The police have informed us that their attacker, Nicholas Baker, Laura's husband was subsequently found dead, apparently at his own hands.

We are devastated by John's death. John was an intelligent, sensitive and spiritual man, committed to his family, his work and his quest for a more peaceful world. He exemplified the good in this world. His obituary can be found at

Laura is an extremely strong young woman, and is recovering from this attack. We anticipate a full and expedient recovery.

Our house was considered to be part of the crime scene and was locked down but we were able to return the day before yesterday. The funeral service will be tomorrow (Wednesday).

I have a large, loving family and we are doing well under the circumstances.

We are unsure of our medium term plans but will let you know by blog when we resume our trip.

Thanks again for your wishes and prayers.

11/04/2008 | Aline Ouellet
I will pray, think, and feel very close to you today. It is always sad to loose a family member, I know, I have lost many parents since my youth. Time is the only thing that helps, somehow, lower the sorrow. I hope time will help you and your family. The Universe is so small, everything is so connected. Today, my husband will be at the boy’s funeral; today I learned the professor was your brother...unbelievable. Moments like this make one realize how things connect, although sometimes in weird ways.
May peace find its way to your heart... Aline.
11/04/2008 | Caroline
I know it's not much but I am offering you and your family my deepest sympathy. My thoughts are with you in these really difficult times. ..Caroline
11/04/2008 | Margie (MacIntyre) Pace
Mike & Judy:
It is today that I am realizing that this was your brother John . Our sincerest sympathy goes to you both and to your families .
11/05/2008 | Jerry
Sorry to hear about Johns tragic death. Karen and I will be remembering you both and your families in our prayers.
11/05/2008 | Dawn & Laurie Corbett
My heart goes out to you two along with Carol, Laura and Colleen. Having taught both of these special gals when they were in grade 2 at Douglas Elementary and working with Carol as a volunteer parent, I am thinking of them and you daily in these difficult times. Dawn
11/05/2008 | jean depelteau Po Chang
Mike and July,
My deepest sympathy. I will have a thought for you and your family

11/06/2008 | Elaine Jones
Mike and Judy, I simply cannot find the words to express my sympathies at your loss. I did not know John, but know several people who did. May you and your family take peace in knowing how many lives he touched and that as he planned, he did make a difference in this world. God Bless You All

I think of you often
11/14/2008 | John and Phyllis Raymond
Mike and Judy
We are so sorry to hear about your loss. We have been watching the story unfold in disbelief. Our thoughts are with you and want you to know that there are many thinking of you at this time.
11/19/2008 | Gerard and Denyse Belliveau
Mike and Judy, We were shocked to hear the news of your brother's death. Rest assured that our thoughts and prayers are with you both as well as your family on this tragic situation. MacLean's magazine did an outstanding job highlighting your brother's contribution ti humanity. While I did not know him personaly, the outpouring of love and sentiment for him is certainly a testament to his love of individuals. Please accept our most heartfelt condolences and we will pray for your safety on this trip as for your brother and neice. If you require any assistance, etc. in southeastern NB, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Gerard and Denyse Belliveau
12/14/2008 | JoAnne
I know the story of your sorrow.

I am Carolyns cousin.

I know they are with you now as she gave me your blog site

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Preparing for Retirement Trip
Who: Mike, Judy and Chopin (the boat cat)
Port: Douglas Harbour, NB, Canada
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