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Dear Friends and Family ~

Just a few days ago, our summer aboard Voyageur was going according to plan. Then we were reminded yet again that planning and cruising don't always coincide.

Our intention this year was to spend a few late summer weeks in Maine's Penobscot Bay before beginning the return trip to Florida and the Bahamas. After leaving St. Augustine on the 18th of April, the day after Jane's birthday, we arrived in Norfolk the afternoon of May 1st and decided to continue on to Solmons, MD, without stopping for the night, one hundred miles further north. We arrived at dawn the next morning after an "interesting" night-time navigation exercise involving a very large ship.

For the next seven weeks, Voyageur crisscrossed Chesapeake Bay. We visited family in Severna Park, took two weeks off the boat to visit friends in Dallas and cruised the Eastern Shore, exploring the Chester, Corsica, Wye and Sassafras Rivers. Then, two hours before dawn on Saturday, June 25th, we won our anchor from the muddy bottom of the Sassafras and headed out the dark channel for the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. It would connect us with Delaware Bay and the coast of New Jersey, our semi-annual thirty-two hour trip to and from Staten Island's Great Kill Harbor, the link between our southern and northern cruising grounds . . . Penobscot Bay this year.

From Great Kill, we motor sailed through Upper New York Harbor and the East River to Long Island Sound. Then, after stops in Port Washington, Oyster Bay (for 4th of July fireworks), Huntington Harbor and Port Jefferson, Voyageur eased into a berth in Deep River Marina on the Connecticut River, eight miles up stream from the Sound. There she would stay while we took day trips to visit friends and family in Litchfield and replaced the weathered varnish on her exterior teak.

After six weeks of visiting and varnishing, grilling chicken, bratwurst and steaks, making new marina friends, going to movies and spending quiet nights at a dock, we noticed that a tropical depression in mid-Atlantic was threatening to become a hurricane.

As we stripped, sanded and varnished, Irene strengthened and passed over the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas as a Category 2-3 hurricane. When her track was projected to cross the Outer Banks, we began to pay more attention to forecasts and to look for an alternative spot to wait out the storm should she eventually come our way. Hamburg Cove, about two miles downriver, was a likely candidate . . . a good hurricane hole sheltered from wind by surrounding hills and trees and opened by a narrow channel off the Connecticut River.

Thursday, two days before Irene arrived, we were still in Deep River Marina and still varnishing, hoping that the fumes might somehow displace the huge storm from its projected path. Friday, the day before she arrived, it was sunny and warm and, as we unbent our genoa and staysail and laid them below, we finally decided to move Voyageur to Hamburg Cove. I had Voyageur off the dock in fifteen minutes and headed downriver while Jane drove our old Honda to an elevated parking area at the north end of the cove. (To see the cove, click on CURRENT POSITION to the right of this blog entry.)

After picking up a mooring, I rowed our dingy (our Yamaha outboard had died yet again) about a mile to gather Jane and row back to the boat to continue to prepare for the storm. We doubled Voyageur's mooring bridle and put chafe protection in place, made halyards and other lines fast, wrapped a sturdy line around the mainsail cover and pulled the drain plug on the dingy so it couldn't fill up with rain water. Then . . . finally . . . we celebrated our twenty-eighth anniversary as the first rain pelted down and the wind began to rise.

It is now 1:30 pm on Sunday. As I write this, Voyageur's barometer shows 29.2 inches or 992 millibars. The center of the storm passed over New York City, almost 90 miles west of us, an hour ago. She probably went straight up 5th avenue. Here in Hamburg Cove the rain has stopped and the wind, occasionally gusting to 20 knots, will diminish through the afternoon and evening. Tomorrow, Hurricane Irene will be well to the north and east of us and each of the last three days will be fading memories.

Memories of Maine, however, will have to wait 'til next year.

Bob & Jane Fulton
Aug 2011

Live-Aboards Look At Commuting

Dear Friends and Family ~

Even retired live-aboards like us have to commute. We don't go to and from the office any more, but we do go to and from the seasons, some days getting up early to avoid traffic, slowing down at construction and bridges, throttling down to increase fuel efficiency, taking turns at the wheel when the "drive" turns into a long one and coming home to anchor after dark.

And this year is no exception. We have really been puttin' miles and mud under the keel on the way north like never before . . . a 75+ mile day Swansboro to Oriental, then an 80 mile day to the Alligator River followed by 50+ mile day up the Alligator River and across Albermarle and Currituck Sounds to Blackwater Creek, a nice little anchorage.

Yesterday we enjoyed the longest day of all . . . 25 miles from Blackwater Creek to Norfolk and 100 miles (4:20 PM in the afternoon to 6:30 AM the next morning) up the Bay to Solomons, MD, a beautiful sail with a very scary and very close encounter with a very big freighter that flipped us off with a very big air horn ! Today and tomorrow will be days of rest . . . ZERO / ZIP / NADA miles and cocktails on the fantail.

All in all, it's been our best, quickest and prettiest commute north so far . . . only two weeks from St. Augustine to Intracoastal Waterway Mile Zero in Norfolk, even though we added three days to the trip when we turned left, sixty miles off shore and half way to Southport, NC, into Charleston harbor. However, that detour allowed us to meet two gentlemen on the beautiful Waccamaw River who were paddling their way from Key West to Maine (

Talk about a commute !

Bob & Jane Fulton
May 2011

Locks and Lochs

Dear Friends and Family ~

In late February Jane and I left Voyageur in St. Augustine and drove up to her family home in Connecticut. On February 28, we rode Metro North down to Grand Central and, five hours later, took off from New York's JFK airport for a six hour overnight flight to London Heathrow. There we met friends Bobby and Starr and set off on a four week narrowboat cruise of the Four Counties Ring and the River Soar.

Afterwards, we drove up to Scotland to relieve the stresses of the cruise (just kidding) and explore the Scottish shires of Fife, Perth and the Scottish Borders.

We tried to capture some of the high points of the trip in pictures and videos and then edited them into two YouTube videos titled Narrowboat to Sawley Marina and Pitlochry Drive. So turn on your speakers, salt the popcorn, get comfortable, then click on the video titles above to join us as we explore the locks and lochs of the United Kingdom.

Bob & Jane Fulton
Apr 2011

Christmas Reflections

Dear Friends & Family ~

Jane and I enjoyed lunch at a Chinese buffet today, pausing in the middle of taking down Voyageur's Christmas decorations. Our marina friends who traveled home for the holidays are starting to re-appear and the Korean, Japanese and Chinese students who stayed with us and other Memorial Presbyterian Church host families have returned to their respective campuses across the country to begin a new semester.

When we opened the fortune cookies that arrived with our bill, they read as follows:

(Jane) A mile walked with a friend contains only one hundred steps.

(Bob) 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.

We both thought the simultaneous arrival of these two cellophane and cookie wrapped assertions an interesting coincidence and agreed that when considered together they suggested, with subtle cynicism, that neither statistics nor friendships are quite what they're cracked up to be. In other words, to quote Charles Dickens, "Bah Humbug".

Living on a boat as we do and moving from place to place, harmonizing with or perhaps escaping from the changing seasons, we sometimes find ourselves feeling a bit "apart and away from home". This is ironic in view of the fact that our travels continuously bring us into relationship with wonderful new friends that we would have otherwise not had the opportunity to meet and enjoy. Still, the feeling arises from time to time, especially over the holidays.

Because of this and perhaps because we could identify with their situation over the holidays (dorms and dining halls closed and thousands of miles away from their homes and families) we responded positively and enthusiastically to the opportunity to welcome foreign students aboard with us for Christmas and New Year last year and this. They came to us through Christmas International House, a peacemaking program built on the premise that there is and will continue to be room at the inn. Since 1965, thirty thousand international students have been hosted by CIH families in fifty communities throughout the United States. The hospitality of these families offered through their various churches and civic groups reinforces the notion that, behind our diverse manners of dress, religious affiliations and political ideologies, we all share the same round blue home as members of one human family. Jane and I have been blessed to host a student from China each of the past two years.

Over the coming weeks and months the mystery of memory will sift through our images of Christmas in St. Augustine and will store away moments to recall for the rest of our lives. . . . memories, though both causal and comforting, that will be sustaining in the times when we feel a bit "apart and away from home".

As we take down our bow wreath, clove and ribbon covered oranges and our tiny Christmas tree, Jane and I are once again looking forward wistfully to next summer's visits with family and friends to the north. But we are also warmed, in the moment, by thoughts of our new CIH friends. It is true that we were in relationship with them long before they visited St. Augustine. After all, we have shared the planet with them for some time. But when they chose to come to St. Augustine, our friends Jing and Yizhou changed the world in ways the coming years will tell and, in the process, changed Jane and me.

Blessings friends, one and all. Happy New Year !

Bob & Jane Fulton
Jan 2011

Corner of Scott and Bay

Dear Friends & Family ~

Two years ago in a restaurant called Blackstone's Cafe, not far from the intersection of Scott and Bay streets in Beaufort, SC, I had my first bowl of Shrimp 'n Grits. It smelled real good and tasted even better. Three days ago, back in Beaufort (pronounced "BEW-fert"), we visited Blackstone's for another Shrimp 'n Grits lunch. The next morning we set off from the town's Downtown Marina on an ebbing tide for Port Royal Sound Inlet where we would begin a twenty-four hour off-shore run to St. Augustine, FL, sharing a three on / three off watch schedule through the day and night.

A gentleman, first name of Roger, welcomes luncheon guests and tends Blackstone's cash register over the noon hours. Roger attended and was graduated from Hotchkiss, a prep school located in the northwest corner of Connecticut. He happened to be a member of the class of '60 and, like many of us who chose to attend prep school prior to our respective colleges or universities, Roger looks back upon those years with much fondness.

It is said that our memories emanate from smells more readily than from any other sense. And in this regard the cheesy smell of Blackstone's Shrimp 'n Grits evokes many memories . . . of the Beaufort waterfront, beautifully restored to a people-friendly waterside promenade . . . of the friends and acquaintances we've discovered there . . . and of the many prep school banners, including that of Blair Academy where I studied for three years, that proudly hang above the diners enjoying Blackstone's unforgettable low country fare.

Bob & Jane Fulton
Nov 2010

In The Beginning

Dear Friends and Family ~

Jane and I began sailing together aboard our first s/v Voyageur back in 1994. We sailed her on Lake Texoma, about 75 miles north of Dallas, for five years, missing very few weekends regardless of temperature or precipitation.

However, our first shared boating experience took place on a ferry ride from Swan Quarter, NC, to the outer banks island of Ocracoke some ten years earlier on a hot, windless September afternoon.

We stayed at the Ocracoke Inn, a two story wood frame motel with an attached restaurant . . . casual, almost diner like . . . with formica topped tables and paper place mats. Each white place mat was featureless save for lacey, embossed edges and a saying of one sort or another printed in the lower right hand corner. On mine was printed, "It doesn't matter if you're rich or broke, you're always welcome at Ocracoke."

When we offered a Master Charge card (remember those?) to the waitress to pay our lunch bill, she informed us that credit cards were not accepted in the restaurant. So I walked over to the cash register, place mat in hand, and asked if it was true that "it doesn't matter if you're rich or broke, you're always welcome in Ocracoke." The lady at the register said that "no, it wasn't literally true" and, since we had almost no cash between us at that point, Jane and I hopped on the bikes we had with us and peddled twelve miles up to the Hatteras Inlet, ferried across and rode to the only ATM in town at the time. When we got back to the Ocracoke Inn, flush with crisp $20 bills, it was supper time and the last ferry back had already departed. Realizing that our trip had thus been extended by a day, we booked our room for another night, payed for lunch, sipped a couple of beers and enjoyed a delicious, deep fried Fisherman's Sampler dinner as the sun set over Ocracoke harbor.

Tonight we'll be docked at River Dunes Marina near Oriental, NC, just a few miles from where we caught the Ocracoke ferry over twenty-six years ago. And to this day, the quiet little community of Swan Quarter remains an integral part of our first . . . and one of our fondest . . . shared boating memories.

Bob & Jane Fulton
Oct 2010

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