Monarch's Big Year

18 November 2019 | New Bern NC
07 November 2019 | New Bern NC
06 November 2019 | Bear Creek near Messic NC
05 November 2019 | Aligator River, NC
04 November 2019 | Coinjock NC
03 November 2019 | Portsmouth VA
02 November 2019 | Reedville VA
01 November 2019 | Selby Bay, Edgewater, MD
24 September 2019 | Selby Bay, Edgewater, MD
23 September 2019 | Rock Hall MD
22 September 2019 | Rock Hall MD
21 September 2019 | Georgetown MD
20 September 2019 | Georgetown MD
19 September 2019 | Delaware Bay
18 September 2019 | Lewes DE
17 September 2019 | Lewes DE
16 September 2019 | Atlantic City NJ
15 September 2019 | Atlantic Highlands NJ
14 September 2019 | New York City, NY
13 September 2019 | Port Washington NY

NWCreek Marina

18 November 2019 | New Bern NC
Sharon
November 18, 2019 Monday

We have spent some quiet days biking, exploring the local community, participating in a marina potluck, and getting the usual odds and ends done. After rushing to get here because we booked flights from New Bern, through Charlotte, to Seattle we found ourselves with some down time. We didn't have any weather issues during our travels but a few offshore storms since we got here have created conditions we were glad we missed. It is cold enough here that we have wondered if we should have booked flights from further south! But then the weather and deadlines create the need to rush or stress.

So all is well here and we will post more when we get back underway after December 7th or so.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Northwest Creek Marina

07 November 2019 | New Bern NC
Mike
November 7,2019 Thursday

The weather was calm and we had a short day planned. The anchorage was in a remote and beautiful spot with only one house visible along the miles and miles of marshy shoreline. The water was calm with the look of liquid metal gentle undulating. But the weather continued to get cooler and a cold front tonight promised more cold weather to come.

We motored until two-thirty in the afternoon with little to report on. We passed the town of Oriental which is a very popular port town for sailors but we kept on going. We passed a summer camp where our daughter had spent a summer teaching environmental education to children. The land for the camp was forced from the local landowners by a judge that found them guilty of some crime such as bootlegging. As part of the sentence he forced them to donate a large holding of bayside land to a religious not for profit. Mike liked the idea of that kind of justice and hopes the story is true.

A small sailboat race was coming to an end as we approached Northwest Creek with several small boats taking down sails and starting their outboards. We followed the boats into the creek but were confused by the crews. Where we expected children we saw adults. Neither children or adults would be likely to be free from school or work at this time of day but we later found out the community along the creek were mostly retired people and they have a lot of active clubs such as the sailing club. As we turned into the marina, we had to wait for a dozen kayaks to move on and they were also manned by older people likely also retired.

The marina was large with lots of sailboats and a few power boats. The marina was surrounded by condos set back from the water. Unfortunately for us the marina is very remote and the only restaurant was closed due to hurricane damage a year ago and there were no stores nearby. But the price for the slip was very cheap and we need a place to stay for a month so we could fly out to Seattle for Thanksgiving with our son and daughter in-law.

More people showed up to help us dock than we’ve ever seen. It isn’t that the docking was particularly tricky, just that the marina prides itself on helping and everyone around on the docks wanted to help and meet some new people. It is a very friendly marina and we feel pretty comfortable about leaving the boat for a couple of weeks.

Bear Creek

06 November 2019 | Bear Creek near Messic NC
Mike
November 6, 2017 – Wednesday

The strong north wind promised for last night didn’t arrive unit around four in the morning and by the time we pulled anchor it was blowing near twenty knots at six-thirty. The other boats in the anchorage were already underway and headed for the Pungo Canal.

Mike had hoped to use the sails in the canal but the wind was completely blanketed by the tall pines lining the canal so we motored along following the other sailboats as we enjoyed the remoteness of the canal. Only a few homes have been built on the canal, the rest of it is just deep pine forest or wide marsh lands where the slow meandering upper reaches of the Alligator River cross the canal.

After a few hours, the south bound power boaters came along kicking up big wakes. It amazes us that the canal survives the wakes over the years and that the mud banks don’t just collapse and fill in the channel. The wakes can be dangerous to us since the canal is fairly narrow and the boats pass close by but fortunately the captains all did a good job slowing down and we did the same so they could get by quickly. But even at a slow speed some of the power boats wakes gave us a good rocking.

About mid-day we exited the canal and came out into the wide Pungo River and the wind was there to greet us blowing fifteen to twenty. We raised our mainsail with one reef and let out the headsail with two reefs. Headed downwind we could have skipped the reefs but the wind was very gusty and forecasted for thirty knot gusts. We didn’t want to roll Monarch too far over as we didn’t have everything secured like we would off shore.

Mike really enjoyed the great sail which is something he can never get enough of and passing power boats were not an issue in the wide river where they could pass at a distance. The weather was cool but the sun was bright and the plastic cockpit enclosure panels kept the wind off of us.

We passed the turn for the town of Belhaven after deciding that crossing the open Pamlico River wouldn’t be dangerous in the current conditions. We had no problems making the three-mile crossing and soon entered Goose Creek where we kept sailing but with the motor running now to maintain speed. Over the years, houses have been going in along the river even though it is a very remote area. The houses are often built closer to the water level than we would think was safe but others had the living areas up a story. There are no real lunar tides in these sounds but a strong steady wind will push a couple of feet up into these creeks.

Goose Creek eventually turns into a canal for the last section where it runs into the Gale Creek and then the Bay River where it opens up into a large sound. We turned west leaving the ICW and headed for an anchorage at Bear Creek where we hadn’t been before. The entrance was S shaped and in the dark water you had to totally rely on the chart plotter to guide your way since there were no buoys or other navaids. Usually locals will put a few simple floats or poles in the water to act as guides but not here. However, the plotter was accurate and we had no trouble.

We may have dropped the anchor too soon as once we settled, we had a steady chop rocking us from the north-east which we could have avoided further up the creek. But the rocking wasn’t too bad and the breeze ensured the mosquitoes wouldn’t visit us like they had last night in the Alligator River.

Despite the rocking Sharon cooked up a great vegetable pasta and we enjoyed it along with a movie and a bottle of wine.

Alligator River

05 November 2019 | Aligator River, NC
Mike
November 5, 2016 Tuesday

We pulled anchor at first light and wound our way south along the rivers and marshes of the Virginia Cut watching the tall marsh grasses and cypress trees slide past. The sky was full of ash grey clouds rushing by promising a powerful front this evening and lots of scattered showers today. The clouds added to the beauty of the scenery in this remote section of the country where only a few homes and buildings have encroached on the waterway.

Around noon we cruised through the only town for miles around, Coinjock, just a dozen buildings and a seawall to tie up to. There was mini-cruise ship tied to the waterfront surprisingly given the remote location.

The next section was more open marsh and less forest but the channel was still narrow in areas and twisting. I saw a tug and barge approaching on the AIS and called to coordinate our passing. The captain said there was plenty of room and that nothing special was needed such waiting up at a wide spot. Mike still gets nervous about dealing with barges in narrow channels so we pulled out of the channel in time to watch the tug pushing two very large grain barges past.

Eventually we made our way out into the Albemarle Sound where a light breeze from the east came along and we opened the headsail for a little boost in speed. Once on the Sound and for the rest of the afternoon as we made our way up the Alligator River there was little to see as the shores are far off. Unidentified water fowl and a few crab pots are about it so we read books and magazines. Typically, these waters are rough but today we glided along smoothly. Even the Alligator Swing Bridge opened up as we approached and we just went right on through without any delays or drama.

We dropped the hook just as the Alligator River makes a turn to the west where five other boats were already anchored. Sharon had cooked pork chops, potatoes and sauerkraut in the crockpot all afternoon providing a welcomed hot meal after another sixty-mile day.

Down the Virginia Cut

04 November 2019 | Coinjock NC
Mike
November 4, 2019 Monday

Leaving Portsmouth and headed south we started out making good progress with the first two railroad bridges we came to being in the up position. It is confusing what the names of the railroad bridges are, the guide book says "Norfolk-Portsmouth Belt Line RR Bridge and Norfolk-Western RR Bridge" and then the locals use different names when communicating on the marine radio.

As the morning progressed, we were joined by more and more boats headed south, mostly sail boats but some big power boats as well. Our little convoy made a fine sight until it turned into a jumbled-up mess when we came to the Gilmerton RR Bridge which was closed. The pleasure boats started circling as they tried to maintain position and not hit each other. With us was a large barge that was held in the current by two large tug boats. From the chatter on the radios it was clear no one knew for sure when the railroad bridge would open, but after thirty minutes or so the RR Bridge finally started to swing up and open ever so slowly.

Once the railroad bridge was open the adjacent interstate 64 Bridge opened up and we rushed under both bridges. As we continued on our way, we could hear the bridge tender telling the smaller sailboats that had stood back to get a move on or she would close the bridge and they could wait for the next opening. Kind of funny then but later in the day it would be our turn.

Monarch turned west and headed toward the Dismal Swamp Canal. We called the lock keeper, Robert, on the radio for a status and he warned us that other boats were having overheating issues in the canal due to a profusion of duckweed. We thanked him and said we would redirect to the Virginia Cut and would see him in the spring. When we turned around the two boats following us continued on confident that they could deal with the weed. But at least they had been warned as they overheard my radio transmission.

We re-joined the long row of a dozen pleasure boats on the alternative route called the Virginia Cut. The first stop was to wait at the Great Bridge Lock for the opening at quarter past ten. After twenty minutes of waiting the lock gate swung open and we moved in. It took a little time to get the dozen or so boats secured. We spent the time holding the dock lines and talking to our neighbor boaters. Once everyone was secure to the south wall, they lowered us down. Since it was slack tide, we only dropped a couple of inches.

The lock gate opened and everyone motored out of the lock except for us. Mike wanted to wait for the nearby Great Bridge Bridge (not a typo) to start to open before we headed out to minimize the time we had to mill around with the other boats.

At five to ten we pushed off the wall and joined the others. The lock keeper warned us all to get up close to the bridge so to minimize the bridge opening time and the impact on the rush hour traffic. Due to a large amount of development in the Tide Water area of Virginia, the once under used bridges over the waterways are now handling huge amounts of traffic and the impact caused by bridges openings is becoming a real problem. Fortunately, many of the bridges are slowly being replaced with high-rise bridges that don't need to open.

After the Great Bridge Bridge the power boats raced south with their big wakes while Monarch pushed along at 6.5 knots hoping to make the eleven o'clock opening of the North Landing Bridge. We turned the last corner and could see the bridge was just opening and the power boats were headed through. We called the bridge tender and asked if he could hold it open for us so we could cross the last quarter mile. He told us to come on faster and he would wait but we told him to go ahead and close, we were going as fast as we could and didn't want to hold up traffic. He thanked us for understanding and closed the bridge while we circled around waiting for the next opening in thirty minutes. A lot of boaters would have given the tender a hard time but we just told him if we were in a hurry, we wouldn't have bought a sailboat and he agreed with that.

We circled around for the next thirty minutes, only running aground once for a moment in a spot were the chart said there was plenty of water. Just as we broke free, the bridge tender came on the radio to warn us about the shallow area, we thanked him and told him we just found the bottom ourselves.

After the bridge we had to make a decision on how far to push it today. We called the marina at Coinjock but they were full. There are few anchorages along this route so we picked a spot out of the channel north of the Pungo Ferry Bridge. We had only made twenty-six miles but we knew it would be real dark before we could get to the anchorages on the far side of Coinjock and we were not familiar with the area. Monarch had never had to go on the Virginia Cut.
The anchorage was surrounded by miles and miles of wet lands and cedar forest where we were soon joined by two more sailboats. We were concerned with power boater wakes but only two went by after we anchored and one of them actually slowed down so as to not disturb us too much reminding me that not all power boaters are clueless.

We spent the afternoon with Sharon baking bread and Mike studying the weather charts online. The weather was going to turn nasty as a couple of different fronts moved through this week and it takes careful planning to make sure we reach safe locations to ride out the winds. Crossing the sounds in North Carolina can be dangerous in certain conditions especially if the wind blows strong from one direction and then swings around. Steep square waves will build in the shallow waters. Mike laid out a tentative plan on how to proceed for the next three days.

South to Portsmouth Virginia

03 November 2019 | Portsmouth VA
Mike
November 3, 2019 Sunday

The brisk cold air that greeted us in the morning made it only more imperative we make distance south rather than enjoying the beauty of the southern bay. Helped by strong winds from the northwest we did another twelve-hour day. This day motor sailing with both the main and jib up.

Being a beautiful fall day there were lots of sailboats on the water, some enjoying a relaxing pleasure sail, but many were fellow snowbirds headed south with us. We slowly overtook a dozen of the other sailboats as we rode the 15-20 knot wind and building waves coming from behind us. Not that we were a fast boat, we just flew more sail than the others.

The autopilot doesn’t like a following sea so Mike did a lot of hand steering while Sharon started dinner in the crockpot and got caught up on some missed sleep. The air was still crisp all day but the sun was bright and helped warm the cockpit some.

We rounded the light house at Old Point Comfort and entered the river at Hampton late in the afternoon. There was much less traffic on the river than in previous visits but we still had a few container ships, tankers and cargo ships we needed to avoid along with the tour boats. It seemed a cool day to go out on a tour boat but they were out here to see an amazing sight of the massive naval shipyard with row after row of grey ships with fancy names like 69 or 728 painted on their sides.

A very quick stop in at the Tidewater Marina got us 25 gallons of diesel to replenish what we burned rushing south.

Next, we had a little trouble getting a comfortable place to anchor off Hospital Point, the breeze and current coming from different directions the other boats anchored were swinging in a variety of different directions. We didn’t like our first spot so we pulled up the anchor and reset it just as the sunlight faded and just like Goldilocks said “it was just right”.

The strong northwest winds of the day had weakened as we had headed up the Elizabeth River and the evening was calm with the exception of the coming and going of the ships on the river. There was a giant cruise ship, Caribbean Princess, across the river from us guarded by a single police boat. Somehow it slipped out to sea during the night without us even noticing it going.
Vessel Name: Monarch
Vessel Make/Model: Hunter Legend 40 1988
Hailing Port: Mayo Maryland
Crew: Mike & Sharon Crothers
About: We left our jobs and have headed out to explore, starting with the East Coast of the US in our sailboat.
Extra: We are looking forward to exploring towns we have never been to or seeing familiar places in new ways, having conversations with strangers and making new friends, seeing natural and man-made beauty, history, and life.
Monarch's Photos - Main
20 Photos
Created 15 January 2015
Coast of Maine, Islands, Towns, Acadia, Bar Harbor
No Photos
Created 27 August 2014
20 Photos
Created 1 May 2014
Leaving, Galesville, Wye River, St. Michaels, Solomons Island, Reedville, VA, Put-In Creek off Mobjack, Norfolk, Dismal Swamp
14 Photos
Created 1 May 2014

Monarch's Big Year

Who: Mike & Sharon Crothers
Port: Mayo Maryland