(Headline thanks to Tom Petty, whose song is now stuck in my head...)
The last leg of our 2 1/2 year long liveaboard sailing journey has brought Thalia full circle, geographically speaking, to the same Annapolis boatyard where we purchased her in October 2013. After 10,609 nautical miles, we're finally docked and our girl is officially listed for sale at Yachtworld
. Needless to say, we have mixed emotions about this, wondering if we will regret having moved back onto land, and yet starting to get excited about where we might end up.
A freshly painted Thalia, ready to be relaunched, takes a ride in a travel lift sling at Wayfarer's Cove, NC.
Sunset at River Dunes Marina in Oriental, NC.
Those last 367 miles, from North Carolina's Neuse River to Annapolis, took about ten days. Prior to leaving Wayfarer's Cove, where Thalia's hull was repainted, we did a very thorough deep cleaning, inside and out, and then took a series of photos for Yacht World. The listing went live a few days later, when we were anchored out in the Alligator River waiting out some nasty weather. Underway the next day, we got a call from our broker asking us to meet a prospective buyer at the Coinjock Marina, which is on the ICW and the Inner Banks of North Carolina, a parallel route to the Great Dismal Swamp, just a few miles south of the Virginia border.
Captain Enzo at the helm with his morning coffee.
I confess I didn't mind stopping there in any event, as that marina has some of the best fried chicken we've had in the South, second only to that at The Glass Onion in Charleston. Our prospective buyer met us there just moments after we docked around 4:30 pm after a very long, windy, and choppy sail across the Albemarle Sound. He spent about three hours visiting with us and checking Thalia out from stem to stern. We were hungry and tired, but obviously interested in the idea of being able to sell our boat so quickly.
An offer did come in a few days later, but unfortunately fell through after we countered it. We still don't know what the reason was; the broker only said his client (who has been looking at many boats over a long period of time) got cold feet. In a way, we were relieved - the thought of being homeless quite that quickly was somewhat intimidating. Still, it was disappointing; we couldn't help but get our hopes up for a relatively painless process - and we really liked the prospective buyer. He is an engineer and would likely have taken great care of Thalia.
Norfolk and Portsmouth
That last leg of the southern Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), from Coinjock up to Norfolk, is a notoriously long and difficult day, with 43 miles to cover and literally nowhere to stop until Norfolk. Although the ICW shoaling in that area is relatively minor, the bridges are quite a challenge. All told, we navigated through 11 bridges that day. Three of them were navigational, meaning we could motor right under them because the vertical clearance was at least 64 feet. Eight were either bascule, swing, or lift bridges. Each of these has its own set of rules as to when it will open. Just a few are on demand. Some are on the hour only, some on the hour and half hour, and several won't open at all during morning or afternoon commute hours. Oh, and there's also a lock in the middle of all of this, which you have to hit on the hour along with up to a dozen other boats.
So we left at 0600, doing our best to carefully time each bridge to make sure we didn't have significantly long delays during what would already be a very long day. This was our third or fourth trip on this stretch of the ICW, so we knew what to expect and made good time until mid-afternoon. At that point, we were north of all the bridges we had to clear before the rush hour closures, so we thought we were home free.
A doe and fawn watch us pass by in the ICW as we head north from Coinjock.
What we didn't know is that both railroad bridges north of us were closed. They're both very tall lift bridges (more than 100 feet vertical clearance) that are normally in the open position, unless a train is coming or work is being done, both of which we encountered that day. The train at the Norfolk Southern #7 Railroad Bridge took about half an hour to clear, during which we turned our boat back south and just idled in the current to wait it out. The last bridge before Norfolk, the Belt Line RR Lift Bridge, was closed and covered with construction vehicles (nothing on the VHF radio about this). We hailed the bridge tender, and were told to wait about 45 minutes until a scheduled opening for a southbound tanker. So of course we did, taking turns to hold Thalia as best we could in the strong current and cross wind. Eventually the bridge opened for the massive tanker upstream, and we darted through before he got there, squeezing by and then making our way to the anchorage at Hospital Point in Portsmouth, right across from the downtown Norfolk waterfront.
A 1,000 foot tanker and the Belt Line RR Bridge, as seen from our stern as we continued north.
We spent three nights there, arriving Thursday and departing Sunday morning, so we could rest up, check off a few more projects from our very long list, and do some shopping at the Saturday farmers market in Portsmouth. Happily - and unbeknownst to us prior to arriving - the 27th annual waterfront Bayou Boogaloo Festival was on in Norfolk that entire weekend, with back-to-back New Orleans music concerts. We were perfectly situated to hear the concerts, without having to fight the crowds or even buy tickets. Who knew?!? That's the kind of perk we will no doubt miss in the future.
The Bayou Boogaloo Festival entertained us our entire stay in Norfolk.
Underway again Sunday morning, we sailed north over the next week in a series of short hops up the western shore of the Chesapeake. We especially love the bay for its myriad and picturesque inlets, coves, and creeks, affording hundreds of opportunities to anchor out. In one particularly lovely anchorage near Matthew, MD, a pair of kayakers paddled up, calling out, "You're a long way from home," the typical comment we get when people see Portland, OR painted on our stern. They pointed out a lovely piece of waterfront property nearby with an old grist mill, telling us that John Lennon and Yoko Ono were in the process of buying it to turn the mill into a recording studio when Lennon was assassinated. A surprising bit of more recent trivia to add to the Civil War, Revolutionary War, and even earlier history we see everywhere in this part of the country.
We arrived at long last in Annapolis on July 1. For a while we (naively) thought we might just anchor out on Back Creek, as we have several times in the past. But then we realized the logistics of anyone coming to see our boat would be daunting, so we ended up right back where we found Thalia in the first place, in the Bert Jabin Yacht Yard. It's expensive - everything is in Annapolis - but worth it to be docked in such a nice setting, with an air conditioned lounge, bath house, and laundry facility just steps from our berth.
Thalia's lovely teak salon, above, and the Pullman berth in the master cabin, below.
I also located a great physical therapist here in town, and went in yesterday to start a series of sessions to help treat a rotator cuff issue that has been causing me considerable pain in recent months. This is the first time we've actually been able to plan ahead for something like this, knowing we'll likely be in town at least a few more months. That has been a big frustration while living the peripatetic life of a sailor, never knowing when we'd be somewhere, and not being able to schedule even something as simple as a haircut, let along a series of doctor visits.
That's the good news... the bad news is that it has been very, very hot and humid here, with occasional thunderstorms but mostly just heat. Wednesday the heat index was 105º. Yesterday was a bit less humid, but still very hot, as today promises to be. Thalia, like many old sailboats, has no air conditioning. We've gotten pretty used to heat, but it's definitely worse when you're up a creek, so to speak, and at a marina rather than out in open water with cool breezes.
And then there's the emotional challenge of being in limbo right now. We don't know how long we'll be here - it could be weeks, or even months. The boat may sell very quickly, or she may not. As with a house, we have to keep her spotlessly clean so she's at her best, which is difficult to do when living in such a very small space to begin with. Any project on a boat creates a very big mess, typically.
I've always struggled with being in limbo. I know it's all part of what I'm meant to learn from this entire experience: to slow down, let go of schedules and time-bound expectations, and to learn to enjoy the moment rather than be thinking ahead and planning so much. But it's not an easy lesson to learn, and this particular one feels like a midterm exam.
In any event, Annapolis is a very lovely city. We've already figured out dinghy, biking, and walking routes to downtown, the farmers markets, and a few good cafés. We've also learned some of the bus routes and are finding our way to more far-flung places that way (bonus: the buses are air conditioned!). We're near our kids, several of whom have already visited for a dinner onboard, and we're in one of the best places on the East Coast to buy or sell a yacht. So there is much to explore, enjoy, and be thankful for. And once we get a few more items checked off that to-do list, we'll start renting cars every few weeks to explore nearby states and consider where we'll be moving next. Stay tuned!