11/29/2011, Vero Beach
So we pushed out of St Augustine with full tanks and full larders heading further south. Its just incredible how much nicer the weather is compared to last year. Great temps and gorgeous skys. Saw a few Manatee and lots of dolphins.
St Augustine to Daytonna is a good run, and we lucked in with a following current so made good time for most of it. Anchored in Daytonna just across from Halifax Harbor Marina and had a wonderful night. Great location with good protection, but a tricky shoal running N-S that can bite you. Need to enter from either the north or south and then creap into the anchorage. Interestingly some people ignore this anchorage because of the tidal range. The read the chartplotter and see a 3' tide. In reality Halifax River portion only has about 14", with the 3' tides refering to the Daytonna Beach station on the ocean vice the ICW.
Next day pushed off and had a short day running from Daytonna to Melbourne, about 30 miles. Dropped the hook in behind the Melbourne bridge just as a squall line pushed through. Most of it missed us and we had a very calm night. Next am early start and we were in Vero by noon. Topped up our tanks and grabbed a ball and were set for the week.
We rented a car and left Seahawk for a visit and to celebrate US Thanksgiving with our good friends Bob and Rusty, who have bought this gorgeous condo in Fort Myers. A great 5 days with time on the beach and checking out Naples and Fort Myers. Spent a great morning looking at the sand sculpture compitition, quite amazing. Spent the infamous Black Friday at a nature sanctuary where we came across 5 alligators. After seeing the news the next day I think we were safer than most Walmart shoppers! So after five days of too much food we drove back to Vero, sans Maggie, who is having an extended holiday with Bob and Rusty while we fly north next month.
Heading to Miami on Thursday, plan is for about 4 days. Hoping for a mooring ball with the sailing club there, which is much closer and more protected than the city mooring field, but will have to wait for a couple of days to confirm.
Should get some pics up tommorow, failing that next week lol.
11/18/2011, St Augustine
So we launched from Oriental and headed across the Meuse River. Nice sunny day with a bit of mist on the water and a few patchy bits of fog. First thing was to complete the sea trial of the new autopilot, and everything worked like a charm. Love it when a plan comes together. Was a very quick run down to Morehead City and then SW to Snead's Ferry where we tied up for the night and had Carol pick us up for an evening of wine and pizza with another cruiser couple Jeff and Izzy (nice folks for power boaters lol). That night was wet, rainy and miserable, which continued into the morning so we decided to hang out for another day. Wendy visited with Carol for the day while Burry did boat projects (Paul was still in Oriental trying to get Odysseus launched).
Next day skies were blue and winds calmer so we pushed on to Carolina Beach. The three bridges between Snead's Ferry and Carolina beach are a pain. They are restricted openings with two only opening on the hour so making the middle bridge on the ½ hour is important. Well we pushed hard and got there just before the Figure Eight bridge opened, unfortunately strong cross breeze, a pushing current and an uncharted shoal ended up with us hard aground as the bridge opened....and then closed. We were stuck good in black ooze, to the point we called Boat US. Fortunately a small rise in the tide couple with some crafty throttle work got us unstuck and then through the bridge. We then had a very slow run to the Wrightsville Beach Bridge. Even with this we had a good run and anchored again in Carolina Beach. Next few days are a blur, where we averaged 50-60 mile days with early starts and late afternoon stops. Barefoot Landing was a great coup as we arrived just as they were having their annual oyster roast with cheap beer and a great band (Carolina Breakers) playing. Made for a wonderful evening. Had some excitement in Beaufort (pronounced Beeuford) SC where coming through the bridge our shaft decoupled from the transmission leaving us with no power to the prop! Fortunately current was with us and we rode it to the anchorage where we dropped the hook and then started repairs. A quick dingy ride to the hardware store and a couple of hours of elbow grease we were back in service. Beaufort is a quaint town with some neat shops and eateries, think we will visit for the day next time this way. This run ended at Savanna, Ga at the Isle of Hope Marina, one of our favorite spots. We held up here for a couple of days to recharge ourselves for the push to Florida.
Stretch from Savanna to St Augustine went by quick. Again averaging 55+ miles with good weather helped. Anchored most of the time and were extremely fortunate with tides, hitting shallow areas during high tide and getting good pushes from tidal currents as well. Best run was the 66 miles we did from Cumberland Island to St Augustine in just over 9 hours. So we are now in St Augustine, another one of our favorite spots. Along this stretch we linked up again with Dutchess and Merlin, so an added treat reconnecting with old friends. Wendy also saw an Alligator, Burry saw a Manatee and we both saw lots of dolphins and some wild horses on Cumberland.
After three days here in St Augustine, with restocking of wine and chocolate complete, we are set to head out again, next stop Vero Beach.
The Great Dismal Swamp Canal is an alternative route south to the Virginia Cut canal (through Coinjock). It is more scenic, slower (so no big motor yachts) but also narrow and a lot less depth. Quick check with Corps of Engineers indicated that water levels were good this year so we made the call to try it (controlling depth is 6' and we draw 6' so this is not a light decision for us).
We pulled of the ICW just past Norfolk and headed south to the first lock. The lockmaster here is so friendly and was really quite helpful to all of us. Once locked through and past the lift bridge we cautiously pushed down the canal. We didn't hit bottom, but we did hit some submerged logs, probably kicked up from one of the boats in front of us. It is somewhat stressful initially to be chugging along with only 6-12" below the keel! But after hour after hour of this you begin to adjust to it. Since we entered the canal mid afternoon we would have to stop mid way; rafting up with a bunch of other boats at the welcome center. Great experience and a chance to meet so many other cruisers as well as partake in the hospitality of the local staff. Great area for hiking, biking and kayaking. Next morning a late start given lock timings, so had a nice walk with Maggie and enjoyed seeing the mist rise off the canal. Later that day a successful lock through and a great run down the river to Elizabeth City.
Elizabeth City was very busy but we lucked in with a free dock and with the help of the locals got Seahawk tied up. Great town to visit with friendly folks and a bit of history. Regrettably we arrived on a Saturday, stayed the Sunday so missed the reception the town puts on for cruisers each weeknight. If you are going to dock at Elizabeth City try and time it Mon-Fri. Provisioning is easy here as the grocery store actually picks you up and brings you back, can't beat that!
So Monday we pushed away early and headed down the River to Albemarle Sound. We dread this stretch as the previous two times it's been pretty rough, but this time we had sun and a broad reach all the way to the Alligator river, averaging 6.5kts all the way. We certainly weren't alone, about 15 boats left with us, and then another 12+ joined us coming from Coinjock, the result a lot of boats pushing down the Alligator River. We pushed down and a quick time check said we had enough time to get through the Pongo Canal, so we did, anchoring about 45 min before sunset on the south end. Next am we got away at first light and with more favourable winds found ourselves in Oriental by 1600! Quick tie up, and off to Silo's for the Tuesday Pizza special!
Oriental was a work week for us on Seahawk. We did some clean up, installed new autopilot, and painted the mast during the day and socialized with the many other cruisers we met then and before, plus spent some quality time with the crew of Odysseus who were unfortunately still on the hard. Have to say Oriental is a great place, we really enjoy it there. We ate too much, drank too much wine and thoroughly enjoyed life. Great week, but with projects done and weather looking great we pushed off and continued south.
10/25/2011, Norfolk, Va
After a busy and exciting summer we have relaunched Seahawk and began the second year of cruising, what we are calling Chapter Two in the cruising adventures of the Vanderveers. This chapter will be without our missed beagle Bartley.
Initial plans were to head south early Oct, but we delayed to allow our son visit us during Thanksgiving. We departed Annapolis October 12 following a great visit with Michael and, some time at the boat show as well. The morning began with a brrr....as our friend Julie Adamczak would call a 5:30 am start in the fall. We experienced some showers however as the day went on we had some sun and fair winds for our run down the bay to Solomons.
The day started off with an interesting sight at the fuel dock. A boat from Fairbanks, Alaska was travelling with two ferrets! (see photo) We have seen cats, dogs, birds and sometimes kids but have never seen a cruiser with ferrets. They had a large cage strapped just aft of the cockpit on their davit mounts.
We arrived in Solomon's around 4 pm set anchor and then relaxed.
It rained the time we were in Solomons so I took the opportunity to lay back and we both read and embraced PBS. In the morning we were on the search for bananas, unfortunately the local grocer near the Holiday Inn Dingy dock is no longer, so it was a little challenging but Maggie was ok with that as it meant a nice long walk.
Next day we pulled anchor and headed for Deltaville, or so we hoped. With some nasty weather we only went about 15 miles. Not the weather we were expecting with winds on the nose and a nasty chop. My perception it was miserable, Burry said it was invigorating, but even he had enough so we headed up the Potomac to Jutland Creek just north of Point Lookout. Beautiful anchorage, little windy but turned sunny late afternoon. Had a late lunch at a little restaurant called the Spinnakers? Not much to say about his anchorage except it was a great spot for an overnight in foul weather.
The next morning we headed out to Deltaville but weather was still nasty so we decided that if we had to duck in Reedville (just around the point) but the weather was going to get worse and we needed to be somewhere where we could stay for a couple of days if necessary. Well Mother Nature made a decision for us and we decided to go further up the Potomac into St. Mary's River. Maryland did not want us to leave. Here we were able to enjoy several walks around the campus at St. Mary's College and the Historical City of St. Mary's. Several times throughout our stay we were able to watch the students challenge themselves on the water, racing dingys and wind surfing. This particular weekend there were civil war reenactors and camp displays (http://www.stmaryscity.org/). The fall colors were also providing us with some visual entertainment. During our evening stroll with Maggie we were invited to join a group of individuals who were enjoying the sounds of a 19th century orchestra that was playing music and showing dress from that period, very enjoyable! I do have to add that the most beautiful sound is that of the campus bells.
So once again we will head out and try to get to Deltaville. The weather was nice as Burry would say 2 degrees short of a perfect day. Busy waterway with everyone busy going somewhere. Had a great broad reach down the Potomac and beam reach for part of the run to Deltaville when the winds clocked and once again on the nose. Arrived in Deltaville around 3:30 pm and stayed the night, and an eventful night it was. After showers and walking Maggie and doing some baking we noticed that the boat had dragged; not a good thing. It had become very windy and the anchorage we were at was very muddy. We decided to cross the bay and anchor on the other side where other boats seemed to be holding. Once again we dragged until we set second hook and it held. Even so to feel safe we adopted hourly anchor checks. Next morning we finally fully awoke (after multiple coffees) to find we had swung and the winds had decreased substantially. Time to push on to Norfolk.
A bit of a late start but we left Fishing Bay and headed south to Norfolk, a pretty boring stretch, with nothing except Wolf Trap Light and the distant shore to see. Winds were quite light so no sailing, but even so there were patches of lumpy seas with 4-5 foot waves. Probably remnants from last night's blow and turbulence of the tide change. Run into Norfolk harbour was slow (ebb tide) but we finally reached Hospital Point and dropped the hook. A quick Maggie walk and then back to Seahawk for a light dinner and watch the sun set. As dusk approached the wind died and the city scape lit up making it a glorious evening for us to enjoy. After the previous sleepless night and a long day on the water we crashed pretty early that night.
Next day had rain and wind in the forecast so we decided to hold off going south, especially where we had decided to do the Dismal Swamp route. Our hope was for sun and nice conditions for this very picturesque route. That night we awoke to 20 kt gusting to 30 kt winds which continued into the next day. Anchor was holding good so Burry called it early and we stayed snuggled aboard for another day, looking for better weather. During this time had a great opportunity to tour Portsmouth, Va; a wonderful place to walk around and learn some history and enjoy some great period houses. Also allowed us to meet Robert from the Mile 0 chandlery, a very helpful super friendly man. Next morning we awoke to clear skies and a promising forecast so at first light the anchor was coaxed aboard and we head off to the Great Dismal Swamp Canal.
So here we are back in Annapolis. Decision is to keep Seahawk here, do some work on her, then put her on the hard for most of August while we visit the kids/friends up in Kingston and miss the oppressive humidity of August on the Bay. Been a busy time here between boat work and socializing. A couple days after arrival Tara and Chris came down for a visit; bring with them our car so we now have wheels! They spent five days with us, great visit with too much eating out and doing tourist things. Partook in the Summer Garden Theater production of "The Wonderettes" which was fun. More exciting is that Chris proposed to Tara and so now our daughter is engaged and Wendy is into wedding planner mode! During the five days we managed to get into DC, did some museums and a visit to the embassy.
A bit of a segway here, but it is interesting to see the reaction of various people on our cruising lifestyle. An old friend at the embassy was quite amazed on our cruising and thought it was exciting, but something he could see doing. One of the many questions we get asked, especially when they learn we sail the islands, is the proverbial "what about pirates and thieves?". Since our arrival here at Annapolis we regularly watch the morning Baltimore news. The average to date has been one murder per day in Baltimore alone, and something as mundane as the bank robbery we passed two days ago didn't even make the news. Probably why we feel relatively safe in the islands.
With our boat guests gone we now are into boat fixing, at a slow pace since the heat and humidity has been intense. Biggest challenge is the new refrigeration, not a simple task. Old reefer is a converted icebox with a homemade divider with refrigeration on one side and traditional icebox on the other. In fact it makes a narrow deep fridge and a uncooled narrow/deep storage area on the other. No real freezer capability and the compressor is under the sink subject to moisture. New one will have larger evaporator giving us some decent freezer capacity and with no divider about a 6.5 CF fridge. Compressor/condenser unit is now behind the settee, much dryer place, albeit at the loss of storage. Other projects include new instruments, replace vhf, haul and new bottom paint, and repair the propane sensor.
The month + in Kingston was a nice visit with kids, family and friends. Got out on the lake with John and had many nice walks along the waterfront in substantially less humidity than Maryland. As well we managed to miss Hurricane Irene (boat fared well on the hard). Had many big meals and lots of good ale as a result Burry is feeling like a stuffed pig so definitely time to get back on the water and to a healthier lifestyle! Tara/Chris had their engagement party which was a roaring success, with many guests and way too much good food (Wendy guestimates!) and libations. The simple party became a bit bigger than planned/envisioned but was nice to get the two families together. Lots of friends lots of fun. Many thanks to our son Michael and Chris' best man Jay.
Back on the boat for Sep we are slowly getting back into cruising mode, provisioning and finishing off various projects. Fridge is running great, new instruments up and running, only down side is wet weather is upon us. Needed to spend some time on tune up for both outboard and generator as they did not appreciate the month+ down time. Have had some great times reconnecting with old friends from when we lived here. Discovered that the McNairs from MRSA days have retired and will be heading south as well joining the cruising gang.
Plan is to head down the bay last week of Sep and then south on the ICW to Oriental first week of Oct. This might be delayed if our son decides to visit us in Norfolk during Canadian Thanksgiving, but essential our hope is to not repeat the chilly run south we experienced last fall.
So our plans to leave Oriental on Saturday were squashed by the south winds which left us with not enough water to leave Whittaker Creek. So Sunday we left, pushing north towards Pungo Canal. Not much wind, but we did manage to get the jib out for a while to help us along and made excellent time up to the entrance to the Canal where we anchored for the night. Great anchorage, even in a bit of a blow. Next morning we left at first light, hoping to get across the Albemarle Sound and into Coinjock by nightfall. Long straight canal was scenic, but got a bit boring as we pushed along it. Winds were light and fickle all day, even as we entered the Albemarle Sound; but dark clouds on the horizon said they probably won't stay light. Clear the sound and pushing up the creek to Coinjock the squall line hit us, with winds, lighting and lots of rain. Visibility was less than a ¼ mile and the horizontal rain stung the face as we pushed on up the creek into the canal. To add to the excitement a huge motor yacht decided to pass us, tossing us around in his wake. Aside from that Seahawk handled beautifully as we motored through the squall. Just before arriving at Coinjock the line pushed past us, lifting like a curtain where at one point the cockpit was rain free while our bow sprit was still being soaked. We pulled into the Coinjock Marina, topped up with fuel/water and then had a quick shower and enjoyed their prime rib dinner, taking a quick break between main course and dessert to transfer the laundry to the dryer.
After a night of more lightening we pushed on into the Virginia Cut Canal, trying to time our journey to match the bridge restrictions. At the Great Bridge Lock we decided that because of the extended bridge restrictions just east of Norfolk we would hold up in Great Bridge for the night. The USMC league has a small park between the bascule bridge and lock, which has a free docking along the wall (no power or water, but picnic tables and easy walk to services and a great place to walk Maggie). Next morning we caught the 0800 lock opening, locked through and headed to Norfolk. This short run took a bit of time because of the bridge restrictions so anyone doing this route make sure to add extra time to your estimate. We arrived in Norfolk and dropped the hook off Hospital Point at Portsmouth, across the river from Norfolk.
Norfolk has a nice downtown Marina with some shops nearby. They are quite receptive to cruisers and have dingy dock for $6.00 per day. Other option is to go into Portsmouth with a free dingy dock and take the $6 water taxi over. We spent a few days here, enjoying some nice weather (along with the occasional T Storm) and played tourist. Old town Norfolk is nice with some great restaurants and the Battleship Wisconsin Museum, but we really preferred Portsmouth. This town was less touristy and the old city was very clean and has some exceptional architecture. Just a grand place to walk around and sight see. Meanwhile in the anchorage a huge dredging operation was underway which caused us to move twice, now this third time we decided time to leave so we pulled up the hook and headed past Battleship row and out into the Chesapeake.
Last time in the Bay we were pushing south hard, so this time we decided to do some exploring. First stop was around the corner at Yorktown. Great spot with a nice city marina and some mooring balls as well. Once tied up to a mooring we checked in and decided to stay a few days and enjoy the 4th of July activities, including ringside seats from our mooring for the fireworks. Yorktown has very limited provisioning, but does have a couple of nice eateries and some quaint boutiques. As well there is a State Park Museum which includes a "living museum" with period actors describing what life was like during the revolution (or was it a rebellion??). There is also a National Park for the Battlefield with a tours and museum, as this was where Cornwallis was besieged by the colonial forces and forced into surrender which really marked the end of the war. Yorktown has a free trolley which takes you around the various sites and also connects to a larger trolley loop which connects you to Jamestown Museum and Williamsburg. During the summer Yorktown has a daily schedule of activities each week such as a farmers market, open music festival, and craft shows. So after a few wonderful days, including an expensive cab ride to Wal-Mart for provisioning, we decided to head out on the 5th. The 4th proved to be oppressively hot, with the air being a heavy blanket which coated you in sticky sweat. As nightfall approached the promoters were trumped by Mother Nature who washed out the man made fireworks and provided her own tremendous light show with a spattering of rain and a brief stint of strong winds.
Next morning we pushed on, heading for Deltaville. This place is famous amongst the cruiser fraternity as it's a key stop on the mad rush south in the fall. We anchored in Fishing bay, good holding and lots of room with good protection for all directions except due south. The marina here is very accommodating, even for the anchored boats. Good wifi, and two dingy dock plans. Dingy only for $5 per day and Dingy + for $8/person/day which gives you showers, laundry, bike loan and pool access. Deltaville is unlike most other small communities in the area as it is spread out over a few miles which made having the bike access very handy. Some great little shops and a wonderful little diner/restaurant in town. They also have a small maritime museum which was a treat, complete with a nature trail and wildflower garden.
After three days in Deltaville we were trying to decide where too next. One option was Crisfield, but then we heard someone talking about Urbanna so decided to head up the Rappahannock River to that village. We anchored across from the town marina behind a spit, good holding and protection but not a lot of room. Dingy dock (free) is good, adjacent to the boat ramp. Great little town, bit of history, laid back, nice folks. Down side no internet on board so it's up to the local coffee shop to surf the net. After a couple of days time to push on and head north. As we entered the bay some great winds and got the sails up. Initially we hoped to make for a nice anchorage on the Little Choptank, but with Solomon's Island on the beam the weather picked up so we turned to port and went into the Solomon's, anchoring in almost the same spot as last year. T Storms for the next two days kept us at anchor, and then we finally found a window and pushed out to Annapolis. Pretty good day, but winds were again fickle and we were always watching the sky as scattered T Storms were in the forecast. The weather gods cooperated and we made it into Back Creek and grabbed a city Mooring Ball (pricey but we don't trust the holding in Back Creek). It felt like we were back home!