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It's Been A Quiet Year Aboard Voyageur

Dear Family and Friends ~

Bob: Well, it was a quiet year aboard Voyageur . . . from late September of 2011 until July 26, 2012. After feeling our way down the fog bound coast of New Jersey that September, we cruised Chesapeake Bay (where we were ambushed by a remarkably effective cruise telemarketer . . . more on that later) and visited the Annapolis Sailboat Show (where we were ambushed by a remarkably effective stainless steel arch salesperson . . . more on that later).

After leaving the Bay, Voyageur and crew worked their way down the Intracoastal Waterway from Norfolk, VA, to Southport, NC, and paused there for shrimp n' grits, worshiped with the town's remarkable Methodist congregation and looked carefully at the weather and sea condition forecast. A day or two later, due to big wind and waves offshore, we decided to stay on the inside and ultimately followed the Intracoastal Waterway all the way to Hilton Head Island.

Jane: ActualIy, I don't mind at all taking the inside route to Hilton Head. The trip from Charleston to Beaufort, SC, is one of my favorites on the Intracoastal because the waterway meanders from creek to creek through the beautiful and timeless South Carolina low country. It is quite remote, with few houses or docks or signs of life and only two bridges along the route, both 65-footers. Golden marsh grasses stretch along both sides with scattered pockets of trees.

Sometimes, when we see shrimp boats or trawlers or sailboat masts over the grass, it looks like they are sailing through a golden sea.

The route is sometimes only five miles from the seacoast and at other times 20 miles inland. There are many good anchorages on side creeks or even in the main rivers out of the traffic channel. Tides are 5-6 feet and currents 1-2 knots, though somewhat stronger in the narrow cuts. We usually transit this 65-mile stretch in three or four leisurely days, moving when the tide is between half and full to have sufficient depth in the narrow land cuts between rivers. A fast motor yacht can do the stretch in a day but its crew will miss some of the joys of taking it slow.

Bob: I suspect they find joy in other things . . . like going by sailboats WAY too fast and WAY too close.

Jane: In this part of South Carolina, any piece of land that is surrounded on four sides by water in any form (river, creek or sound) is called an island. So the coast is a patchwork of islands, often with Indian names. And the names are quite unique to yankees like us.

The Ashley River takes us south out of Charleston harbor and turns west onto Wappoo Creek where there is a drawbridge that opens only at scheduled times. Once through the bridge we motor the short distance to Elliott's cut, a tricky half mile man-made cut with rocks on either shore and swift currents of four knots or more in either direction depending on tide. We've been through Elliott's at slack current, no big deal, and on other occasions going with or against a four knot current . . . challenging in either direction but always a fun ride! The cut takes us to the Stono River where we turn right to go upstream around John's Island. Here we are 18 miles from the sea at Kiawah Island.

Soon we're on Wadmalaw Sound, moving downstream on the Wadmalaw River, past Toogoodoo Creek, a good anchoring spot. The Wadmalaw becomes the North Edisto River which we follow for seven miles to a right, upstream turn onto the Dawho River which leads us to North Creek which leads us to the half-mile long Watts Cut which leads us to the wide South Edisto River. Here we turn downstream seven miles to Fenwick Cut across Fenwick Island, about five miles from Edisto Beach, SC. A right turn takes us upstream on the Ashepoo River toward the Ashepoo Coosaw cutoff across Hutchinson Island to another upstream turn onto Rock Creek to another Ashepoo-Coosaw cutoff to the Coosaw River, only three miles from St. Helena Sound and the coast.

To describe this section of the waterway accurately I'm looking at our charts while I type. But as I study the charts I seem to have a old spiritual song going through my head . . . the Wappoo connected to the Stono; the Stono connected to the Wadmalaw; the Wadmalaw connected to the Edisto; the Edisto connected to the Dawho; the Dawho connected to the Ashepoo; the Ashepoo connected to the Coosaw; now hear the word of the Lord.

Anyway, we follow the Coosaw eleven miles upstream around Coosaw Island, then take Brickyard Creek past a Marine Corps Air Station and on to the Beaufort (Bu'-fert) River that flows between Beaufort and Lady's Island. The Lady's Island drawbridge opens on the hour at 9, 10, 11, 1, 2, 3, and 4 o'clock so punctuality along this stretch of the waterway is important.

We spent a couple of days in Beaufort, enjoyed shrimp'n grits again, made some new friends and greeted some old ones and took Bob to a local clinic for a swollen bursa on his elbow. After they aspirated his elbow and we stuffed him with Cipro for a couple of days (which threw him for a loop) we left for Hilton Head Island and Shelter Cove Marina, a day down the waterway, where we spent some quality time with friend Linda on her Island Packet cutter MoDachaidh (mo-DOCK-ee).

Bob: On the warm afternoon of 20 November, 2011, we left Hilton Head and Daufuskie Islands astern and headed out Tybee Roads Inlet to the open ocean. Alternating three hour watches for the twenty-three hour, twenty-six minute run to St. Augustine Inlet whistle buoy, we both looked forward to a reunion with friends at Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor and Memorial Presbyterian Church. During our life aboard Voyageur, St. Augustine had become our second home.

Thanksgiving 2011 was one to remember. Friends Stu and Dorothy invited us to spend the day with their family enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving Low Country Boil . . . shrimp, sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes and crab legs together with appetizers and desserts of all kinds. . . washed down with a few of their famous "Pain Killers" A few days later, Jane took her tape measure on a tour of north Florida supermarkets and finally found the perfect turkey to roast in Voyageur's modest oven . . . fourteen inches long by seven inches tall and nearly rectangular in shape.

Advent and Christmas followed with all the blessings of the season including the annual bunch of wonderful international college students hosted by members of Memorial Presbyterian Church through a program called Christmas International House. Then we settled in for the winter. Until early February 2012, Voyageur and her crew lay in slip G15 spending quiet afternoons with her crew pouring over books and brochures about cruise ships of all sizes and colors and 2013 cruise itineraries that included the likes of the North Sea and the Baltic, the Mediterranean and Black Sea, and the Atlantic (which we subsequently chose) from Barcelona to New Orleans.

That decision in hand, we began to plan a September / October / November 2013 return trip to the UK including visits to London, Edinburgh and Stone before a three week narrow boat cruise on the midlands' Warwickshire Ring with friends John and Jackie from St. Augustine. Then we'll join twenty-six hundred of our closest friends in Barcelona to begin the Atlantic crossing which will take us to Mallorca and Malaga in Spain, Las Palmas in the Canary Islands and Grand Turk Island in the Bahamas before arriving in New Orleans. We live on a boat so . . . what do we do for vacation? We go boating. But I digress.

It was now early February and our impending return to the Bahamas in April was . . . well . . . impending, with much work to do before Voyageur was ready for the trip. On a cold, blustery winter morning she was gently nudged into a Camachee Cove yard slip at about the same time Jane and I were saying so long but not good bye to dear friend Stephen at Arlington Cemetery.

He and wife Sharon helped us realize our cruising dreams. They introduced us to friends and Island Packet single handers Alan and Linda aboard s/v Whisker and s/v MoDachaidh respectively with whom we visited the Bahamas for the first time in 2009.

Voyageur would have everything removed from her cockpit and stern to make way for installation of the stainless steel arch and solar panels we purchased in Annapolis the previous fall. And, like most projects Bob had ever been associated with, this one took WAY more time, effort and financial resources than was anticipated. The arch (some of our friends with rapier wit and a fondness for cheeseburgers refer to it as "the golden arch") and solar panels, controller and wiring took five weeks to install.

On March 16, with all refitting complete and friends John and Jackie aboard, Voyageur left St. Augustine and headed south.

After dropping John and Jackie in Titusville, we kept moving further south to Lake Worth (West Palm Beach), our jumping off place for the islands. There we met two of Bob's high school classmates, Jay and Brian, and friends Jay and Susan from Litchfield, and made new friends Mark & Meridee aboard m/v Folie a Deux and Bill & Rosie aboard m/v Nexus.

On April 26 in an early morning mist we pulled the hook, left Peanut Island astern and headed east out the Lake Worth Inlet, bound for a sheltering, uninhabited anchorage called Great Sale Cay about eighteen hours away in the northern Bahamas. The passage was a quiet one with little or no wind to help our 50HP Yanmar diesel push us across the Gulf Stream. We dug the anchor into Little Bahama Bank at about 11:00 PM and pulled our down comforter over us for a short sleep, our first under Bahamian stars in two years.

The next morning we hauled the hook at "O Dark 30" and headed out into the Sea of Abaco. There, after breakfast and a couple of leisurely hours under sail headed for Green Turtle Cay, one of us said to the other, "Instead of going back to the states in a month or two, why don't we keep Voyageur in the Bahamas for a year?" After a bit of discussion, we agreed on the idea and for the next three months we cruised the Abacos before leaving Voyageur in Man-O-War Cay and flying to Miami.

And now you know the rest of the story. "The rest of what story?" . . . you may ask.

Well, it's the story of how the Great Sofa Tour of 2012 began.

Bob & Jane Fulton
November 2012

Cocktails and Fog

Dear Friends and Family ~

Cocktails (Bob's Passage Notes): The summer of 2011 is over. Officially, it ended a week ago when we were still in Connecticut. And it was a wonderful summer. But for us, unofficially, the summer ended Tuesday night, September 27, at 11:00 PM. That's when we tied up to Chesapeake City's town dock after a 36 hour passage from Port Washington, NY, which took us down the East River and out New York Harbor with the tide pushing us to speeds we do not often attain, along the darkened, fog bound Jersey coast and up Delaware Bay surfing 3 to 5 foot rollers with a 25 kt following breeze. It was the usual long boring semi-annual passage but it was the first time we bypassed a harbor of refuge called Great Kill.

Like the latch on a diamond necklace, Staten Island's Great Kill Harbor connects two parts of a precious circle for us, the circle that includes our southern and northern cruising grounds. Usually, when headed north or south, we stop there to pick up a mooring for a day or two in order to recover from or to prepare for the passage between Long Island Sound and Chesapeake Bay. And while neither of us particularly enjoys the passage, we must make it twice a year in order to accommodate the seasonal modalities of the way of life we have chosen. The fact that wonderful new cruising experiences await at both ends of the passage is a motivating bonus.

Jane and I, in the company of some of the best friends we'll ever enjoy, have been visiting Chesapeake City, MD, for over twenty years. And we always visit The Tap Room when we're there for a great meal in casual surroundings. This visit was no exception to the Tap Room rule. And to make the occasion even more special we were visiting Chesapeake City aboard Voyageur for the first time. After we made ourselves fast to the darkened, empty town dock, we hauled lines for Centime, a Shearwater 39 with Dennis and Heidi aboard who had joined us half way up Delaware Bay. Shortly thereafter we sank into a long, deep sleep that ended late the next morning.

Today, refreshed by our Tap Room feast and hours of deep, restful slumber we motor-sailed twenty miles down Chesapeake Bay to a peaceful, sheltered Sassafras River anchorage. There we watched the sun set over the bow and enjoyed cocktails while Voyageur's anchor settled back into the mud from which we had raised it four months before. Tomorrow we'll move a short distance up the Sassafras to Georgetown and a berth at the Georgetown Yacht Basin where we'll meet with friends Len, Patti, Ron and Carol over the weekend.

Who knows . . . maybe we'll stay the week to properly celebrate the end of summer as we undertake our ceremonial, seasonal switch from Rockporters to Margaritas.

Care to join us ?

Fog (Jane's Passage Notes): Fog . . . Bob mentioned fog along the New Jersey coast. This was my first "in depth" experience with fog. I know, I know . . . all you New England boaters have lots of experience with fog. But I've never been out in it like we were on this trip.

Coming out of Upper New York Harbor and passing under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at mid-day we decided to press on for Chesapeake City, MD, in spite of patchy fog on the water. We could see Staten Island but Sandy Hook and Coney Island were hidden from view. So with our vision limited, we turned our attention to the radar overlay on our chart plotter which portrays solid objects (and rain) all around Voyageur out to a distance of 36 miles. Beneath the radar image, the GPS chart plotter displays a map, like the one in your car, but with depths, buoys and hazards and such. In addition, it displays all sorts of other things like distances to waypoints (points on the map you put in), temperatures, both sea and air, barometric pressure, depth, speed through the water and speed over the ground, wind speed and direction (true and apparent) and our latitude and longitude. As Voyageur moves along, the small boat shaped icon in the middle of the chart plotter's screen shows us where we are and where we are going. A dotted line strung out behind the boat symbol even shows us where we've been for the last hundred miles or so.

After a short while, I began to gain confidence in our instruments and what I could deduce from them. As it turned out, they provided all the information we would need to safely navigate the entire fog bound Jersey coast, showing boat traffic and navigational aids moving relative to us or into our path as well as other hazards on and below the surface of the sea. Given the thickness of the fog, it was a bit like closing my eyes for 16 hours and listening to a computer whispering in my ear. I just needed to ask the computer the right questions.

In this regard, a helpful sole recommended to me last year that we travel with our radar on in good weather as well as in bad, even in excellent visibility conditions. That way we could learn how objects such as boats and buoys appear and move on radar and practice using that information. We did so on our trip north this spring, off-shore from St. Augustine to Charleston, on the ICW and around New Jersey and in Long Island Sound. It really was an education and it went a long way toward preparing me for the fog off New Jersey.

Now, when I absolutely needed the radar to be my eyes, I was comfortable interpreting what it was displaying. Though we mingled with quite a few other vessels on the trip, some with better radar images than others, our radar "painted" every one and, even if the vessel was ten or more miles away, we were confident that we knew what direction it was going and at what speed.

Throughout the day and night the fog lifted briefly from time to time but then returned. We always stayed at least five miles off the Jersey coast and, during the night, its lights occasionally came into view such as when the first few floors of Atlantic City's towers appeared, the tops of the buildings being hidden in fog. But a few hours later, when we rounded Cape May only a mile or so off shore, we confidently dodged dangerous shoals by following the bottom contours depicted on our chart plotter and confirmed by our depth sounder. Last spring, with perfect visibility, I was VERY uncomfortable being so close to shore for the rounding. But this time, in spite of hearing the invisible surf, I wasn't (very) concerned.

The day and night we spent in the fog off New Jersey was tiring and occasionally a bit tense. But in the future I'll feel confident traveling, as we hope to, through Block Island Sound, Buzzard's Bay and Maine's Casco and Penobscot Bays . . . all known for fog. On the other hand, there were no lobster pots off New Jersey to worry about. Guess we'll have to wait until next summer to experience that maritime magic.

Bob & Jane Fulton
Sep 2011


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

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