Sunday, December 19, 2010

Update (finally)

Where have we been?? Where are we now?

Well, if you are watching the iBoatTrack on the Blog (, you know that we are at least half way across the Grand Bahama Bank. Essentially a 20 foot table that runs a good 90 miles from Bimini to Chubb Cay. How did we get here?

The last Blog entry was apparently way back on our Thanksgiving Cruise with the Schoonmakers. Charleston to Savannah with two overnight anchorages in the creeks flowing into the Intrascoastal Waterway. Great time in Savannah. A city that is, in my view at least, nicer than Charleston for its historic streets, squares and Southern gentleness. We were taken on several tours of the famous Savannah Squares by Jill and Bill and able to access great restaurants from the convenience of our city-side berth at the Hyatt Hotel. The surprising thing about the Savanna\h River is that it is the fifth busiest container ship port in the United States. But unlike Los Angeles, or New York or Baltimore, there is no expansive harbor. These huge ships enter the Savannah River at Tybee Roads and head 15 miles up river into the heart of the city. They then go under a 135 foot fixed bridge to access the working port at the river’s edge. As a result, our pre-bridge location often had us wondering why it got so dark all of a sudden. Looking up, a way of container ship would pass.

Highlights of Savannah, apart from the delightful company of the Schoonmakers, included those wonderful walks, the architectural, colonial and confederate history, and great food. B Matthews (the oldest tavern in Savannah), Molly McPherson’s (Scots, not Irish!!), and a progressive dinner which started at Vics for cocktails and appetizers, and ended at Rocks on the River for dinner and nightcaps on the roof.

On Tuesday, November 30, Bill and I began to get the boat ready for its offshore passage, and by Noon, Jill and Bill were off to the airport and George arrived to act as passage crew to Ft. Lauderdale. A passing front kept us at dockside on Tuesday and pushed our start date for Ft. Lauderdale off until Wednesday. Keen weather sense was at work here. As well as a heads up phone call from Captain Tim who was on a Southbound delivery and pulled in to St. Mary’s, just South of us, to wait out the coming storm.

Wednesday, December 1, we were off the dock by 0715 and headed the 15 miles to Tybee Roads and our meeting with the great big ocean. She was there, alright. Jumping up and down to see us!! Like really high up and down. The passing gale had decided ton stay awhile and we ran offshore to get in the deeper water, but still faced 12 to 15 foot waves and a pounding sea. No fun. And, having literally not sailed the ocean since our Fall 2009 transit from Portland to Baltimore (most of which, with Tim and Dennis, we motored in a glassy dead calm), it was like learning to sail all over again. Like learning, because we didn’t learn so well for a while.

We reached a point about 12 miles offshore from St. Mary’s about midnight and things began to settle down quite comfortably once we hit the Florida State line. Moving in closer to shore the wind had clocked around and we had wind and waves astern the rest of the way to South Florida. Though the first 254 hours went from desperate to horrible, the balance of trip was “worth it after all”. Florida sunshine, cavorting porpoises, and literally flocks of flying fish skimming the crystal blue waters. This is why we headed South, right?

Having sailed some good following breezes, we were only 30 minutes after sunset when we turned right into the channel for Port Everglades and Ft. Lauderdale. No worries, I thought. It’s a big city and there will be plenty of ambient light to make our way up the channel to Hall of Fame Marina. We made the 6:00 opening of the 17th Street Bridge. Good timing. On the other side of the bridge, the lights went out. I mean out. Really dark. It’s not a city, a suburb on the water. And it looked like everyone had closed their shades and gone to bed. A very tense and very slow daymark to daymark (emphasis on “day”) trail was followed to Hall of Fame. They closed at 6:00, but we knew to look for Slip 216 on the South dock just after the sportfisherman “Marlin Madness”. Which we passed. Bow out. And ended up in slip 210, putting us stern-to to a 125 foot motoryacht “Cariad” on the face dock of Bahia Mar Marina. Not happy with that layout, we spent the next 90 minutes maneuvering the boat kitty-corner in our double loaded slip and backing out at angle so as not to puncture a hole in the side of Cariad. That put us bow in to Slip 216 and, for next time, stern-to an open slipway at Bahia Mar. Savannah to Ft. Lauderdale in 59 hours. Exhausted, we headed to Coconuts for dinner.

On Dec 4, 2010, at 5:44, Tess Marts wrote: We arrived last evening. It was a rough road the first 24 hours, but how quickly that can be forgotten with beautiful, warm blue water, friendly seas, schools of little flying fish skipping across from wave to wave! (they look like tiny bluebirds, or tinkerbells of the sea). Apparently they fly to avoid being eaten by toothsome sea-creatures, but they are so Cute in their flight of terror!

Saturday, December 4 was a wash down and clean up day. Followed by a bit of catching up with South Florida relatives and a (mostly liquid) siblings dinner at the Bahia Mar Lobby Bar. Sailing and relatives require copious amounts of alcohol.

By Monday, I was on a plane to Manchester and Tess was left with boat work and family visiting. A blur until my return on Wednesday, December 8.

The following week was a flurry of activity as we attempted to ready ourselves and our boat for crossing the Gulf Stream and living in the Bahamas.

More on that to come. As well as pictures and further updates. The hour of wifi I have on Frasier’s Hog Cay has ended, so I must get this posted. Stay in touch…

Tomorrow, we sail South!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thursday 11/25/10
Welcome to Bill & Jill Schoonmaker. Arriving in Charleston to share our Thanksgiving. Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving Holiday with family, friends and loved ones.
Thanksgiving Day travel via United, no problem from Manchester to Dulles. Dulles to Charleston just OK following two hour delay and multiple gate adjustments. However, temperature adjustment from NH – 26 degrees – to Charleston – 80 degrees – not too tough to take. Rendezvous with Tess and Tony at Charleston City Marina and the MegaDock, truly awesome. Particularly the 120’ mega-ship complete with two deep fried turkeys and, apparently, just enough beer.
Endurance crew enjoyed a fabulous Thanksgiving-in-a-box complete with all the usual fixin’s including a delicious bird fully cooked in a cute brown wrapper. Tess provided a wonderful Pea-pple (half peach, half apple) pie; Tony provided copious amounts of wine and post-feast rum! A splendid walk around the myriad docks including a critical check of a 38’ Island Packet and back to Endurance for some shut-eye in preparation for tomorrow’s push off.
Friday 11/26/10

Despite a bit of wind and slapping rigging on the main mast, a great night’s sleep for all. Following a hardy breakfast of eggs, cheese, veggies, bacon, fried shrimp and grits, Endurance pushes off at slack tide, 10:50. First trial is clearing the Wappo Creek Bridge followed by the Limehouse Bridge with Jill on her first bridge watch. Very nervous; no problem. Cleared by three feet! Weather turns nasty as Tess insists that Bill take the wheel. Rain, wind gusts [to 39 knots!!], obscured windshield, an amazing effort for his virgin turn. Meanwhile, Tony, feigning nonchalance; doesn’t leave Bill’s side while Jill and Tess whup up amazing turkey salad sandwiches (turkey, celery, grapes, tarragon with a soupcon of mayo packed into pita bread with crisp Romaine. Fabulous. Pressing on, Tony and Tess carry the tough navigational chores while Jill checks to see who has contributed to her several “Words with Friends” challenges and Bill talks to daughter Emily about her Thanksgiving, which sounded fabulous! Three cuts and several narrow channels later, the veteran sea-people bring us into Rock Creek (SM 506), Tess while clearing of the windshield for the hundredth time, prior to taking the wheel, calls our attention to a mother and baby dolphin parallel us as we head to our anchorage. An amazing conclusion to a wonderful day, despite the weather, looking forward to a cheddar cheese biscuit turkey pie and the PERFECT sized salad for dinner and terrific fellowship on Endurance!

Finally some sun... 
First anchorage.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Photos from Charleston

Megadock at Charleston.  We are a quarter mile from the showers.  Almost a half mile to land.

One of the two haircuts they give at the Broad Street Barber Shop.  Luckily, I received the "Bad" one, because the other one is "Worse".  She puts a set of clippers on your head and (this is true) spins the chair!!  And then over the top before you can say "What!?#@??!" 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hightailed it the 53 miles to Charleston hoping to get a jump on approaching Holiday.  The ICW has been great, but it feels like we have seen it already.  Exciting to cross the harbor at Charleston.  Fort Sumter.  The Charleston City Marina Megadock.  So much history.

Eagle on watch.


Early morning start.

Fixer uppers in SC.

Is this bridge in Charleston, SC or Charlestown, MA??

Managed to approach the Megadock at slack tide.  Changed all fuel and oil filters.  Fueled up.  Pump out. And by day's end, ready to go to sea.  But we expect plenty of additional chores and maybe some Charleston touring before then.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Anchored in the Calabash River at Indian River (Statute Mile 342) having a 59 mile ICW day on Saturday.  Took in a great view of the Atlantic Ocean as we passed Carolina Beach Inlet yesterday morning.  Sunday had two outstanding South Carolina features.  Birds and Golf Courses.  Tess wanted me to take a picture of one of these golf courses.  Unfortunately, there are so many, every photo frame had more than one golf course in it.  Wonder what they do down here?

Our Sunday night anchorage was classic.  Minim Creek.  Deep with a swif current.  No other boats.  Eagles, pelicans, terns, geese and frogs abounded.  Cocktails on the foredeck to watch the sun fade.  Beautiful end to a 74 mile day.

Great Speed!

Great sunset!!

Great night!!!
Tomorrow we gead South....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A few pictures...

A different kind of Osprey.  Buzzed several times by a live Marine Corp. firing drill.  I thought the dinghy had exploded when I heard the first "ka-blam"!!

s Cut fishermen.  The banks of the ICW at low tide in southern North Carolina were filled with folks digging oysters.  Plenty of crabbers as well (luckily, none on board). 
Our first South Carolina anchorage.  It's almost like being in the South. Beautiful spot.

Today, we are heading South....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Moving South again!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An excruciating day on US Air puddle jumpers (MHT to LGA to CLT to EWN) with a flat out run through the Charlotte terminal to catch the last leg to New Bern. No fun, but arrived intact and aboard by 4:30. Like starting from scratch in terms of what to do next, but started making and then attacking our various lists. Boy, does it get dark fast this time of year! Walked to Captain Ratty's in the dark (recommended by a budding Optometrist from Indiana) and back the same way.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010.

Electronics guy arrived with a new Multiplexer (Back to the Future, Part 4 - The Electronics War) and spent a full eight hours aboard as frustrated as all of us. Having always been frustrated by electronics installations, I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. Well, never mind.

Met Jack and Diane (remind you of a song) Myles from Portsmouth. They have been coming to New Bern for years to visit her mom. Now aboard their trawler. Were round the worlders in the 1980s. Had a great dinner with then at a Harris Mansion. They are planning a Summer cruise to Newfoundland, so I may have found a temporary home for my Newfoundland charts.

Tomorrow we head South….

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Out of the slip and at the fuel dock by 0800. Heading down the Neuse River by 0900. The hard part is getting started and that part is now done. Our goal for the day is Morehead City, but on arrival we decide that the anchorage is too exposed and crowded with fishermen for an early end to the day. We press on. In 25 miles we should be at the Swansboro Bridge anchorage. That’s 25 miles into tomorrow’s 40 mile day. Putting us a half day ahead of schedule. We watch the beautiful sunset at 1700 (that’s 5:00 p.m. to you and me – kind of early for sunset, isn’t it?). Then the light begins to fade.

The logbook says we stopped and were at anchor at 5:30. What I know is that I could not see the anchor chain as it went down. Tess had to look into the anchor locker to confirm how much chain we had down. What I also learned is how those idiots lose fingers on their boats. They anchor in the dark. Their fingers get jammed somewhere between a moving anchor chain and a stationary piece of the boat. What idiots! Can’t they see? Not in the dark, apparently. I noticed a bit of red on the windlass in the moon light. I then noticed that I couldn’t feel the middle finger of my left hand. Lucky this idiot will lose a finger nail and not the finger.

All was made well by Johnny Walker, a fine red wine and Chicken Cacciatore. Food is what sailing (or at least being on a sailboat) is all about.

Tomorrow we head South….

Friday, November 19, 2010

We seemed to be underway at a reasonable hour, though the anchorage was thinned out considerably. As it turned out, being a 45 foot vessel among sailboats and trawlers closer to 40 feet, we have a speed advantage. WE passed the crowd (about five boats), but found that this meant that we would wait an extra 15 minutes at each bridge opening until they caught up to us. We were able to skip our Friday plan and move straight on to Wrightsville Beach. Now a full day ahead of schedule. As we turned left off the ICW into Mott’s Channel, we were followed by those five boats. All anchored in a great big anchorage at the end of a skinny and winding little channel. A great day. And now, a full day ahead of schedule.

Best of all? Friday is Cribbage Night!

Tomorrow we head South….

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The last time we were first to leave an anchorage was in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. We proceeded to almost run through a Salmon Farm in the fog and then reversed course for 90 minutes to avoid a big, black thunderstorm. This time, no such problems. On our way at 0700 (sunrise was not until 0647!!). A big 60 mile day was planned (that’s statute miles – 15% less than the nautical miles we are used to).

The ICW is a bit of a snore if you’re expecting the spine-tingling thrill of a sail. For me, it’s quite peaceful if pedestrian, sort of like driving 5&20 through New York to get to Buffalo instead of the Thruway. However, today’s meanderings brought us some beautiful glimpses of the real ocean. Little cut-throughs in 3-4 places show that magical edge between the vast Atlantic and the protected canal through which we motor. Shorebirds feeding atop this fertile strip, fishermen braving the precipitous edge in waders or shallow bottom boats, couples strolling the sands in the furthest away place they can find …just glimpses of magic of the day to day, but truly lovely. We’ve had idyllic weather. Cold, “oh my God cold” in the mornings outside the toasty covers; by mid-day we’re down to a light overshirt, as the sun begins to set we close up to save the final bits of heat. The skies are bright with that swelling moon. No clouds by day, no rain, no need for wind and no need to curse too much of it. So, no complaints from the First Mate, and a lot of delight in the little things.

Little things like two new, uncharted fixed bridges. Including one which replaces the last “pontoon” bridge on the ICW.

A beautiful day through the last 56 miles of North Carolina. But, we are glad to be done with this long state. We are now really in the South. South Carolina.

Tomorrow we head South….

And perhaps we'll have pictures!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Further updates from whence we left off...

Thursday, October 21, 2010
Well, Oriental was kind of a bust for us. The famous Oriental Marine Consignment Store was closed on Wednesday (October 20), so we’ll have to find another some day in the future. Went by Clancy’s Marina (Tim & Paula’s old haunt), had a Mocha Joe at The Bean (and used their free wi-fi) and spoke Outward Bound (Chris), a Nonsuch out of Barnstable, Massachusetts headed for the Abacos (we had met earlier in Elizabeth City). Wednesday was an intended lay day in anticipation of a front coming through. It did, about 6:30 pm. By then, the dinghy was up and we were prepared to leave. Thoughts of bigger fish to fry in New Bern were on our mind. Tess got a bunch of work done instead. Just a lay about afternoon.

Woke to fog today (Thursday), so wasn’t going anywhere soon. Worked on the Xantrex Battery Monitor (no good progress) and the Macerator (no good progress). Left about 1000 as soon as the fog cleared and motored into a SW wind of 16 to 27 toward New Bern.
Wow!! New Bern! One of our newest favorite places. The brand new Galley Store Marina is right on the Neuse River in historic downtown New Bern. The owner, Mark, spent about an hour with us tying up, plugging in, pump out, and talking up the Town. When we headed in to register, we got another 30 minute introduction to the Town and then given courtesy bikes to take an initial tour (Mark asked that I wait until morning before taking his truck to West Marine, because he had an appointment that afternoon).
And what a tour it is. Historic, gorgeous and well kept homes dating back to the early 1700s. A beautiful river-walk. Revolutionary and Civil War sites, signage and history. New Bern was North Carolina’s original capitol. It moved after the Revolution. They have rebuilt Tryon Palace and its gardens (the colonial era governor’s mansion – we are taking the tour tomorrow). And are opening on Friday a new $60 Million History Museum. Can’t wait. Glad we put off West Marine.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Spent the morning with Mark's truck.  Laundromat, West Marine, Home Depot.  Then spent the afternoon replacing the macerator pump.  Most of that time was spent wrangling the hose which runs from the holding tank to the pump off the pump housing.  Now I know why they call it black water.  But its done. 

Met with an electronics guy on board to get the AIS installed.  He suggested a half dozen other jobs.  Quickly signed him up for all tasks.  We'll see how it goes once we are back.

Too exhausted to take the Tyron Palace Tour.  Even after a very long, hot shower.  Great dinner in town and preparations for our return home (thanks to Uncle Ed, who - you will recall - has imposed a November 15 Hurricane Watch on us).

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tess' planned leisurely two hour drive to a 3:00 pm Southwest flight out of Raleigh was replaced by a Bright Idea.  Mine, I'm afraid.  Instead of driving to Raleigh, why don't we leave from New Bern.  The reasons: (1) an early morning flight, (2) US Air, (3) easily twice as expensive, (4) paying for checked baggage, (5) flying  through Charlotte, (6) and then Reagan, (7) that's three different planes, (8) we are now carrying all of our luggage, and (9) the wrath of ....  Bad idea.

The paln is for a week back to New Hampshire and then a flight next Saturday to Orlando for a week on Cocoa Beach to see the Shuttle launch.  (What Shuttle launch?  No Shuttle launch.  But that's a different blog.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gearing up for a Tuesday return to New Bern.  Thanksgiving in Charleston or en route to Savannah, is the plan.  The big risk is the US Air return trip to New Bern.  Can it go worse this time?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sorry to leave Ocracoke Island this morning, but must head South. Weather from the West today and tomorrow, but likely to get Thunderstorms on Wednesday so we headed out of Silver Lake about 8:00 a.m. Eased our way out Big Foot Slough Channel and back into Pamlico Sound.

As we were making our way toward the end of the Channel, it looked like we had to cross a brown median strip. What we saw was literally a mile long strip of birds; mostly Brown Pelicans and Cormorants, but with a smattering of larger American White Pelicans. Some sitting idly, but great flocks flying South just inches above the water. As we sailed past, I was almost certain that one would fly into the cockpit enclosure on the Starboard side and (hopefully) exit on the Port side.

With the wind on our nose all day, we trudged through the Sound toward Oriental, the Sailing Capital of North Carolina. As we approached marker “NR” for the Neuse River, we spotted a long line of boats heading South. We had intersected again with the great ICW migration. Surprising (and likely because it was still early afternoon), most seemed to bypass Oriental and head toward the Adams Creek anchorages or even as far as Beaufort. Since we are near to the end of this part of our trip (Uncle Ed won’t let us go much further before November 15), we chose to see Oriental. It’s our last stop before New Bern from whence we head home pending our release date.

I was certainly surprised that the anchorage in Oriental is not as large as I expected. Having heard so much about the town, I expected a huge mooring field or anchorage; like Camden or Rockland, Maine. The reality is a somewhat narrow fairway behind the breakwater with a line of boats anchored (pretty much cheek-by-jowl) in the center (about eight or ten in all) and not much room to swing or maneuver. We drove through the harbor, confirmed that the two Town Dock slips were taken (one by Whispurr from the NC Visitor Center and Elizabeth City), and then anchored out by the Robert Scott Bridge off the bulkhead of the Oriental Harbor Marina. For those of you have been here, we are just off the marker that says “Hazardous Area”. What could they mean by that? As we finally decided we were secure another three or four boats anchored in front of us, closer to the Bridge and the channel under it (it has 45 feet of fixed clearance).

After chores (me at my office and Tess applying a second coat of Cetol to the “eyebrow”), we dinghied into the Town Dock for a stroll. Quite a pretty little place, with well kept (and some enormous) homes and everyone seemingly selling the abutting lot. Tomorrow we check out the Marine Consignment Store. After that, …

we head South.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

We slept soundly in the Basin, and started the work week with Tony in the office and Tess back on deck doing some touch up sanding, and then proceeding on to the first coat of Cetol. Weather doesn’t look promising to get another coat on Tuesday, but well-begun is half done.

We put together a picnic lunch, stowed the bikes into the dinghy, and headed for shore. First stop, Ocracoke Lighthouse. We’ve listened to the constant call of the Cape Hatteras foghorn last night, and now see up close the Ocracoke Light – sadly no one is allowed up, so we jumped back on the bikes and headed to the Springer’s Point Preserve…a (mosquito-y) wooded pathway leading down to the shore where only pelicans and nesting birds are to be found. Scrub pine, live oak, black nettle, sea grass line the walkway. But for the Very Hungry Mosquitoes, a little bit of seaside paradise. Back on the bikes…

Past the Navy Beach Jumpers Memorial to the beach access road behind the airstrip. A short hop off the main drag, we ride up and over the dunes to see miles and miles of beautiful beach, and SUVs! Just outside the surf line…as if tailgating for a football game, beach chairs and umbrellas are set up beside the open hatchback of Ford Rangers and F150s with PVC rod holders dug into the sand beside them. The “guy in the green hat” brought in a 27-inch drum; others were catching blues, flounder, whitings and who knows what. Sand pipers and plovers ran along the beach, in and out of the surf and the tire tracks; cormorants rolled in the surf eating buckets to tiny bait fish swimming in the water ankle deep. The dunes ran for ever, with reddish shell-filled sand and beautiful white silica-singing sand in patchworks. We ate our picnic, walked a long while, then back to the bikes to try to find some cell coverage.

Nope. We did get Coffee House wi-fi and were able to Skype calls to Ali and Katie (voice mail only). Good to confirm that we have yet another way to connect if needed.

Back on bikes to the local museum, where we toured the ubiquitous local’s historical museum with old spice cans, some WWII uniforms, and some colorful local lore. The boy scouts here in Troop 290 all have their own pony, captured and broken from the wild ponies of the shipwreck from the 1600s….

We closed the bike trip with a short jaunt back to the dingy, stowed the bikes, and Tony went “back to the office”…. A great way to spend an October afternoon!

In short, a great day.

Tomorrow, we go South…

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oh what a glorious morning! The sun rose to gently re-toast the nippy air, the wind gusts of Saturday had blown away, the fish were jumping beside us and birds calling and diving all around. We had a quick breakfast and hauled anchor to start our way across to Pamlico Sound.

As we turned toward our first mark, there was a virtual conga-line of boats leaving Belhaven Marina and running like ducks in a row toward Pungo River. My captain promised me a “surprise” Saturday evening, and that was a charted course not to follow the ICW but to ‘bear eastward’ toward the Outer Banks and Ocracoke Inlet, specifically to Silver Lake Basin. We came to the mouth of the Pungo, and one boat turned left (that would be us), every other boat followed the line to continue on toward Oriental through another very protected passage.

We were in heaven for solitude and radio silence. The seas were flat (an easy motor, no sails); the air was perfect. We had an easy 7 hours ahead, and a few chores to do. After Capt repaired the companionway slide and the shower sump, First mate taped and sanded the ‘eyebrow’ to complete the outer woodwork spiff-up. After a quick lunch of steak fajitas, we were approaching Ocracoke and the traffic of Sunday afternoon. Fishing boats of all sizes, ferries (maybe 4?) and a few transiting sailboats moving in and out along the ‘skinny water’ channel. This was a GREAT thing to do on a perfectly clear, calm day. I would not want our first time here to be under duress of weather or urgency.

We entered the bulkheaded opening to Silver Lake Basin to find a large, welcoming protected anchorage waiting us. We dropped the dinghy and strolled along the main drag to our first visit to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park. Too cool for school!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Left Alligator River Marina by 8:30 after running engine for 20 minutes to be sure we were running as we needed to be.  Windy and choppy on the Alligator River with winds from the west at 20 plus and gusting to 39.  It was supposed to be a calm day.  The wind direction was fairly constant on our aft quarter to starboard beam, and for the first time in history, First Mate pleaded for sails, but last evening's fuel gunk forced engine running throughout today for safety's sake later...I'm just saying, it would have been some AWESOME sailing...............

Reached the flatness of the Pungo Canal and throttled back from 2700 to 2200 RPMs, but still making 6.5 to 7.0 knots.  While the Canal was broad and flat (galley wench made some delicious chicken quesedillas), the winds kept coming.  This is supposed to be a treacherous place with plenty of debris, but even with recent rains it looked benign. (That is, if you stay in the middle of the channel, and don't hit any of the MANY stumps, snags trunk-size branches, and as long as no active barge traffic is coming, which today it was not)   Reached the end of the Canal and the anchorage at the top of the Pungo River by 2:00, but the West wind and tree-less terrain, made spending a night there look like a bad idea. (First mate used stronger language) As a result, we continued another 9 miles down the Pungo to  Bellhaven (apparently an ICW Cruiser hot spot).  We skipped the town and marina facilities, and elected to anchor in Pungo Creek just in front of Vale Creek.  Looks like a great spot.  Wind stopped as soon as the anchor was down and its now bright and sunny. (And readable, as in, "it's so pleasant here I believe I can read without getting seasick"; which was, indeed, wonderful)

Charted a course "off the beaten path" of the ICW for tomorrow.  Hope to head to Ocracoke Island which is part of the Outer Banks.  There appears to be a great anchorage and a bit of Nantucket there.  It's where Blackbeard was finally captured and hanged.  Or shot.  We'll find out and let you know.

Tomorrow, we head South....  

...and Three Little Kittens.

Dead Mouse ...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010.

Great start to the day. When we poked our heads out of Endurance at 0730, the entire fleet in Elizabeth City had departed, except for Whispurr, Dave and the Boys from Epsom. Had a leisurely breakfast at The Colonial where the booths seem to be reserved for an ever changing mix of locals whose conversation never skips a beat as one person leaves and another arrives. A lot of “stay out of trouble” and “be good today” departures among this set. Had our first Southern grits (is there any other kind) and had a chance to catch up with Dave and Linda.

Pushed back from Mariner’s Wharf at 1000 and headed down the Pasquotank River toward Albemarle Sound. A nice ride with a light following wind, we motored in order to charge batteries after two days without power. Hit the Albemarle and it lived up to its reputation for treachery! West wind of 20 to 26 kicked up 3 plus foot swells in the 12 feet of water they call the Sound. We soldiered on, delaying lunch until we made it through the Alligator River Bridge and the calmer waters of the Alligator.

Thought we hit a crab pot before the Bridge as we lost RPMs for a second. Captain’s response: Stop. Back up. Forward. Back to normal so we motored through the Swing Bridge without incident. Two hundred yards later, engine stops. Yikes! Went below and quickly determined through the Capitol Island – installed vacuum gauge on the fuel line that no fuel was getting to the engine. Within two minutes I plopped in a clean filter, trying to ignore the strands of goo inside the glass bowl of the Racor. Engine started and we are on are way again. For two more minutes. Yikes, again!. Dropped the bottom of the Racor (and its two cups of fuel) into a bucket to clean the bowl, but then couldn’t get the bowl to re-fill with fuel. Triple Yikes!!. Called Alligator River Marina (on the other side of the Bridge), but no tows or mechanics available. Called Sea Tow and given a 2+ hours ETA; but also given the phone number of a mechanic at Twin River Marine.

Now that mechanic was sainted. Started with “Oh, yeah. That’s what happens.” Then walked me through the procedure to disassemble the Racor to clean “the silver ball”, but warned, if that gasket comes out when you take off the bowl, it might not go back in today. The gasket stayed. Pulled what looked like a dead mouse and three little kittens from the hole the fuel was supposed to go in (pictures will be posted once we get a better cell signal – yuck!). Finally got the electric pump to re-prime the Racor and the Primary filter and we started up again.

Back North through the Alligator River Bridge and tied up at the Alligator River Marina (really just a back water behind the Shell station). But we were a good hour plus delayed and would have had to scramble to get to an anchorage otherwise. Called Sea Tow to cancel them only when I knew I would make the Marina. Called the mechanic to cancel his Saturday visit only when Will from Antares came over with his tool kit, looked things over and gave me an “atta boy”. We likely knocked all the algae in the fuel tank off the walls in the steeps of Albemarle. We’ll try to get the tank thoroughly cleaned while in New Bern (already have a mechanic’s name from Antares), but for now can just watch that fuel pressure (and know how to clean the Racor).

As for the intrepid First Mate, let it be said I didn’t complain, I didn’t puke, I didn’t panic. I hereby admit my Captain has done great work today, including the decision to call Sea Tow FIRST, and then, even when we were solidly operational again, deciding we would return to the nearest safe harbor…I’m willing to trust my life in his hands again, still, as ever…….

Tomorrow, we go South ….

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 – North Carolina Visitor Center to Elizabeth City, North Carolina

The eager power boat guys rafted to us were up and ready to cast off at 7:00 am….we expected it, but I never welcome that time of day. We of course met them two hours later waiting for the bridge and lock to open to let us all on our way. We were now a group of three sailboats from the Visitor Center to the lock: Endurance; Whispurr V from Canada, and Dave, single-handing a small boat from Gloucester, Virginia. Not only did we meet Peachy-Keen, our rafting companions, but the rest of yesterday’s flotilla less Two for the Road, who made it through the lock the previous day. The others ended up missing the lock yesterday and tied up along the wall to await the morning opening.

Dropping down 8 feet in the lock was a lovely, easy ride (we went up the same 8 feet with Robert in the first lock) and we were out of the gates, in single-file, moving at a slow, gentle pace. A few boats moved to the head of the pack in anticipation of getting to Elizabeth City and getting settled in on the free town docks. Peachy-Keen stole ahead, and was hoping to make it to Oriental tonight. We were greeted by gentlemen on the docks grabbing lines and tucking us in, and told “the cocktail party in our honor would be “starting at 4 or 4:30, not sure yet, but under the tent right over there”.

Captain Tony headed back below to tend to the business of business; First Mate and Galley Wench headed out to see Elizabeth City. We plan to hunker in here until the expected front passes through, then out into Albemarle Sound to perhaps finally put up some sails and hear the rush of wind and wave without a motor.

Boxed wine and Bud Light was served at our welcome party. Free, though. And that’s what we learned about Elizabeth City from Admiral Dave and ex-Mayor Steve. The history of Elizabeth City is only surpassed by its hospitality and the free things they have to offer. Free docking. Water. Museum. Internet. Library. Shuttles. Let everyone know that they need to stop in Elizabeth City. And we will.

Dinner with travel mates at Thumpers Bar & Grill. They have just been too nice to us in this town, to not go out to dinner.

Tomorrow, we go South ….

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 Portsmouth, VA to North Carolina aka Starting the ICW [a/k/a The Real Columbus Day; remember October 12, 1492]

The ICW technically runs from Miami to Boston, but is conventionally thought of as Miami to Norfolk, VA. As we left our slip (with an all female shove off from Judy of P. in P. above, and Pat from Two for the Road) we were hailed almost immediately by a sailboat ahead of us asking our destination and course. Roger from “ReBoot” confirmed he was leading the way to THE DISMAL SWAMP and he’d be happy to have us just tuck in line behind the boat H2OBO in between us. And so, our easy-peasy adventure began like little ducks in a row. We made the Gilmerton Bridge in easy time, and slowed our pace once through to delay our arrival at the first of the two locks. At Gilmerton Bridge we met up with Two for the Road travelling with Antares, and by the time we made it to the lock we had another IP, Freedom from New Orleans [who we actually met at the Jackson Creek anchorage in Deltaville] in the lineup. Quite a fleet we were.

The Deep Creek Lock is the first “lift” on the Dismal. Manned by “Robbie” who has twice been named “best lockmaster on the ICW” by Sail magazine. Robbie has a wonderful and friendly manner that assures everyone that we are in safe hands and are in for a good time. As we lifted, he played a couple of “tunes” on a Bahamian conch shell. One of many in his extensive collection, displayed under palm trees in front of the Lockmaster’s station. Robbie implored his Southbound charges to bring back a conch for his collection. In any event, he is likely to be one of this trip’s best remembered characters.

THE DISMAL SWAMP is anything but dismal. An economic boon project funded by George Washington, this 50 mile “ditch” (canal) was hand dug by slaves from neighboring plantations. The original intent was to drain it and use the acreage for agriculture, but as that proved unprofitable, the ditch was used as a transportation highway for lumbering operations and white cedar shingles to be shipped up to Norfolk and from thence, everywhere. Washington sounded a bit like Cheney in the first analysis, but the passage way is in fact, a beautiful, wooded wetland making the Cape Cod Canal seem banal in comparison. It is wide enough in concept for a barge to pass through; we were able to have northbound boats pass us with reasonable ease, but the canal is literally about as wide as Gorham Pond Road, and hence, we drive in the middle. We ran through a live oak overhanging branch only once, spraying the deck and cockpit with leaves and acorns, but we had a few “bumps in the bottom” from who-knows-what under the dark-tea colored water. We tied up for the night alongside the Visitors Station on Highway 7, saying adieu to our travelling team, and meeting new friends and travelling companions for the next day.

Tony went straight down to work in “the office”; I set off to explore the nature trail and information center explaining THE DISMAL SWAMP. We settled in later with cocktails and a delicious dinner, had one power boat rafted up beside us on a run from NYC to Miami (why they chose the inside path rather than the Virginia Canal we never asked, but I’m guessing that boat’s name – Peachy Keen - will be changed within a week!), and listened to the birds and the night animals, the passing cars on the highway, and the gentle trickle of the canal water as we drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow brings another tightly timed bridge and lock schedule (they only open 3-4 times a day and there’s no anchoring or “opting out” once in).

Tomorrow, we go South ….

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010 - Deltaville to Portsmouth, VA

Happy Columbus Day! We showered and readied the boat for departure from Deltaville, VA. After a little hiccup with the raw water wash down forcing the Capt to “bucket-brigade” the rich delta mud from the chain and anchor, we set our noses southward and headed for the great drinkable waters of Norfolk and Portsmouth, VA. Our trip down was uneventful, motoring into the minimal wind alongside sandy shoals. We braced ourselves for the promised bustle and hubbub of Norfolk harbor, but found it fairly quiet but for a wonderfully welcoming pod of dolphins diving and circling for fish on the opposing tide. We’ve missed our water companions during our time in the Bay, so this felt especially auspicious.

With little fanfare, Capt put Endurance squarely into our slip at Tidewater Marina in Portsmouth. We were greeted warmly before lines were tied by the captain/owner on the opposite dock, Harry from Two for the Roads, Smithfield VA. Another happy and proud IP owner. Beside us, was a boat we shared space with on C Dock in Baltimore….staples to the 4:00 cocktail gang of mid-dock, Partners in Paradise Judy and Richard. We shared a little B’more gossip and updates of our C Dock mates, and went our ways to priority #1: filling our water tanks.

Water tanks filled, we moved next to our bellies, and our berth aiming for a gentle but early start to THE DISMAL SWAMP!

Tomorrow, we go South….