Cape May – Deep River, CT: Of Whales and Castles

Past the anchorage, rounding to the inlet ,looking back in

As we left the anchorage I turned back and took this shot.

We headed out very early Wednesday, greeted by a most benign Mother Ocean. I got goose bumps knowing home turf was within our grasp… and we weren’t out of food! My celery had rotted though. (inside joke).

Others had left on their own pre-determined schedule; the faster (than us) yachts get to sleep in.

Looking back as we pass the ends of the jetties

Looking back as we pass the ends of the jetties at the Cape May ocean inlet

You may observe how smooth and calm the water is; imagine our happy, happy faces and thoughts.

Wildwood's famous boardwalk and wow rides

Wildwood’s famous boardwalk and wow rides. We are about one mile off the shore.

Oh look, the delights of Atlantic City.🙂.  Time to play your Trump card, if you have one.

Trump Taj Mahal

Trump Taj Mahal

Somewhere north of Asbury Park, after I’d foolishly put the camera inside, a very noticeable splash occurred near shore off our port side (that would “left” side for you landlubbers).  Maybe my eye saw more than registered but I instantly thought “whale” because the splash was too big for a fish. But I said (don’t laugh), “sewer” to Russ because the chart showed drainage pipes emptying into the water and well, maybe this was a big spurt. Ok, not, but Russ kinda bought it. Of course I kept looking and the undeniable truth was, yes a whale. Slapping his/her tail to make the fishies school only to be gobbled up.

So that explains the whale watching boats we saw in Cape May and along the NJ coast north of Atlantic City. Turns out they are Humpback Whales who come in very close to the beach to feed. Only our second whale sighting ever; the first being a few miles off the New Hampshire coast in Ortolan, summer 2014.

Humpback whale feeds close to shore

Humpback whale feeds close to shore. It was closer to the beach than we were to it.

The New Jersey coast is long, as is its seaside history. So many unusual structures kept us interested.

We’d read that sand was collecting at a rapid rate on Sandy Hook, which meant that the Coasties needed to move the channel buoys so the big ships wouldn’t run aground. But is must be a big deal for the electronic chart guys to show the actual channel correctly between the buoys; just nudge it over a bit guys.  We came in near high tide; the photo below probably would have looked more impressive at low tide.

channel in, buoys moved but not the channel depicted on chart AIS are dredges

Buoys moved but not the channel depicted on chart

Rounding Sandy Hook- beach at the hook growing more each year

Rounding Sandy Hook- beach at the hook growing more each year.

A brisk southerly wind encouraged us to alter our anchoring spot for the night and we headed toward the protection of the Atlantic Highlands rather than hang more exposed by the CG Station.

Thursday morning brought a light shower which ended before we left- ah you know we like to run from up top and pouring rain would mean driving from inside.

Full speed ahead through the Lower & Upper Bays and into NY Harbor, waving to Ms Liberty, gagging at the monstrous cruise ship and hitting Hell Gate before the current got too strong against us. Done with that by 8:30 meant a very quiet trip, in terms of other vessels. Dreary yes, but NYC is always impressive even though we’ve done this ten times. We just aren’t quite as awed and intimidated as the first couple of times.

U G L Y

U G L Y

DSC03814 (800x594)

Dreary yes, but a classic East River scene is a delight

The protected East River can be deceiving once you get into Long Island Sound. If the forecast wasn’t “Light & Variable” it should have been and since it was we decided to go farther than Guilford and tuck in at Duck Island off Westbrook. This would leave us a very short trip to our final destination.

Who's driving the boat?

Who’s driving the boat?

 

Why, the Captain is.

Why, the Captain is.

On the water you are hard pressed to miss the former Castle Inn at Cornfield Point.  This grand, stone manse with a bright orange roof looming over Long Island Sound and the shingled cottages that surround it was originally built as a private summer home and its many lives are generally well-known to area residents.  I found a very recent Hartford Courant article and lifted some good info from it.

The current owners did what many dream of; drive around, spot a beauty, fall in love and buy it. This was in 2006 and the grand building was for sale. But, others had designs on the castle, and there was talk of tearing it down to build waterfront condos. Several million-dollar homes had recently been built close by.

Cornfield Pt- Castle Inn now a private home

Cornfield Pt- Castle Inn now a private home

Luckily for Old Saybrook the new owners wished to preserve the structure and worked for a year and a half, restoring it into a spectacular home that they share with the community, celebrating its storied history.

Designed to look like a Newport, R.I., mansion, the “summer house” was built on open farmland using local stones by insurance millionaire George Jarvis Beach and his wife, Elizabeth, niece of Samuel Colt, the gun manufacturer. Completed in 1908, the estate was named Hartlands, after Gen. William Hart, a relative of Elizabeth’s and former owner of the property.

Maintaining the huge home proved to be a financial burden so Beach leased the building and surrounding property to the military during World War I.

After Beach died, Gilbert Pratt of New York City bought the property and sold much of the surrounding 400 acres to developers, who transformed the area into a neighborhood of beach cottages.

In 1923, Otto Lindbergh, the uncle of aviator Charles Lindbergh, bought the castle and turned the private residence into Ye Castle Inn, an upscale hotel and restaurant that often hosted well-known actors starring in performances at the nearby Ivoryton Playhouse, including Ethel Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Clark Gable and Charlie Chaplin. During Prohibition, the Lindberghs reportedly spearheaded a rum-running business from the shores of Connecticut to Long Island’s Montauk Point.

After the Lindbergh era, the castle became a popular site for weddings, banquets, brunch and dinner, until the early 1990s when it shut down and fell into disrepair.

Of course we know the place, Russ’s sister was married there (before my time), had a baby shower there (during my time) and the Mother’s Day I was pregnant we brought my parents for brunch.

It’s not uncommon for folks to stop by, wedding photo in hand, looking to revisit their special memories. Hey, we could do that.

“How touching is that?” asks the current owner, who regularly invites members of the community into the castle. “We have this philosophy. Just like with the ocean, it doesn’t belong to one person. It kind of belongs to everybody.”

Home, home on our mooring. Projects begin tomorrow! (not my idea)

So true.

The Almost Final Stretch: Tracy’s Landing to Cape May

The Glass House

The Glass House- we unexpectedly see it again after 6 years

After departing Herrington Harbor Marina at Tracy’s Landing, the plan was to transit the C&D Canal, stop for 2-3 nights at Delaware City Marina, then head down the Delaware River to Cape May. All of this would be the farthest north we’d be with Twin Sisters so far. This would be our first time in Cape May by boat via the Cape May canal that leads in off the Delaware’s eastern shore near the mouth of the DE River.

The good thing about protected places is that they ARE protected. The bad thing is you DO NOT know the exact state of conditions outside of that protection, no matter what the weather services say. But we kinda know the Chesapeake and venturing out on the Bay in winds (and therefore waves) that you are moving into will not be pleasant (for us anyhow) with a wind velocity greater than 8mph- ish.  A 5- 10 forecast became 10-15 on departure morning, but fearless cruisers pay no mind and deal with the cards you are dealt. Yeh, maybe for a few hours they do but then they become wiser, very uncomfortable, and bail out!

I looked for a protected anchorage within a reasonable distance off the Bay and found the Magothy River with a few options. Oh and I think we anchored here heading south in 2010, because the Glass House is kinda memorable.

Our spot at the end of the cul-du-sac (you get the idea) was lovely and protected- just what we wanted. Two osprey nests kept the binocs and camera busy. One nest appeared to missing Dad for a very long time, but I am happy to say that he eventually showed up with food.

she calls out

Mama calls out – wondering where her child’s next meal is coming from

And so she waits, and waits

And she waits, and waits……

While in the neighbor's nest....

Meanwhile in the neighbor’s nest Dad has returned multiple times with seafood.

Mom caught her own meal but this was delivered by Dad

Mom caught her own meal but Dad finally delivered.

The nastiness of Friday behind us, we had a longer day Saturday but it was pleasant except for the active power boat zone before the C&D’s western entrance where blessed “No Wake” signs smiled upon us.

St Georges bridges & heron

St Georges bridges over the C&D Canal. That’s a heron in flight

We last visited Delaware City Marina October 2010 where the friendly marina staff made a lasting impression as did the warmth and yummy meals at Crabby Dicks. This time as then the darn Wx*#x*!  misbehaved and we’d be tucked in for three nights before moving on.

Tara, the marina’s office mgr is a twenty-something local who shows city pride with the info folder she assembles and eagerly gives you the low-down on places to eat, etc.  Crabby Dick’s had competition now from Lewinsky’s on Clinton. Isn’t that convenient how the main street down to the water is Clinton Street?

A real blacksmith shop on Clinton St. They made the iron railings for Lewinsky's

A real blacksmith shop on Clinton St. They made the iron railings for Lewinsky’s

A wrought iron gate

This is a large photo of a wrought iron gate. The tree trunk almost conceals the opening.

The marina sits alongside what was the original eastern entrance stretch of the C&D canal. When the canal was widened and deepened in 1927 the entrance was moved two miles south to its present spot at Reedy Point, leaving a narrow and protected stretch for the marina, dock space for the ferry to Pea Patch Island and the city’s fire & rescue boats.

The very long D dock agt DE City marina- note how alone we are

The very long ‘D’ dock at DE City marina- note how alone we are. The boats ahead of us are stored or long-term

Not much room when the weekenders are in the way

Not much room when the week-enders are in the way. The sailboat coming in was encouraged to “use your horn” by the marina’s owner.  The docked boats to the left are slip holders, not transients.

Will they make it under?

Will they make it under? If you can fit under the bridge you will end up on the C&D canal. The bridge used to open, but it’s been welded permanently shut.

Sunday geared up to be quite the windy gusty day as confirmed by the crazy boats out in it; at least 8 arrived to join us. No rain with this front so walking around town and out to the edge of the river was doable. A pretty Trumpy, m/y Aurora IV (68ft built 1955) slid in to her spot like “what wind and current?” We’d seen her around and her sister too, m/y Enticer.

Expert maneuvering- a thruster helps

Expert maneuvering- a thruster helps

 

Orig old lock saved for viewing, 22ft wide!

Orig old lock saved for viewing, 22ft wide!

About the locks and expanding the canal in 1927

We were surprised that the lock was only widened two feet, but was a major undertaking in 1854 for sure.

 

about the orig canal

The original canal was one difficult undertaking, much like the Cape Cod Canal.

The marina wi-fi  doesn’t reach farther than 100ft from the office, but with our Alpha booster antenna we picked it up easily. The Alpha was an early acquisition that has proven a smart choice and an excellent value for what it does. The cord is long enough so you can put it most anywhere, including outside the boat if needed, which we often did on Ortolan.

Bike Fixtation & air pump

Bike Fixtation & air pump. How great is this for bicyclists? Air, tools and a stand for the bike

The marina offers bikes and we took the two best ones for short ride along the Canal Trail. The path is fairly recent, only a few years old with a couple of very new stretches.

The canal bike/walking/partial horse trail is an easy ride

The canal bike/walking/partial horse trail is an easy ride

 

Old meets new C&D Canal- Reedy Pt bridge to left

Old meets new C&D Canal- Reedy Pt bridge to left

We hadn’t brought water so after a while I turned back while Russ kept going for a bit. I returned just in time to see m/y Merlion (like Mermaid I guess) arrive. Why do I mention this you wonder? Let’s just say we don’t know the boat but we do know the guy at the bow.

Well someone aboard has to do the pump out

Fueling up and pumping out!

Tuesday, with low winds and current in our favor we motored (oh right, that’s all we do now) down the Delaware, which for once didn’t look like the Blah Yuck River.

Rainbow bar in clouds but no rain- called Fire Rainbow- ice crystals create color

Rainbow bar in clouds but no rain- called Fire Rainbow- ice crystals create color

Across the river from Cape May is Lewes, Delaware and the large ferries run regularly back and forth. A dredge is working across from the Cape May ferry dock, hopefully making transit better for all boaters, so the smart if not cautious boat waits outside the jetties if a ferry is about to depart or enter. Yes that was us and a couple of others. Boy that ferry terminal is impressive.

Ya you guys go , we'll follow

Good, you guys go, we’ll follow

Sure do make em big here

Sure do make ’em big here- plenty of room for all.

Our hope was to spend a couple of nights anchored by the Coast Guard (training) station and experience some of Cape May- like the lighthouse, beach, seafood dining and pretty Victorian homes. Nope, not gonna happen. We fueled up at Utsch’s Marina, winner of the narrowest fuel docking spots, then dropped the Ultra close but not too close to the CG Station.

Tight squeeze at Utsch's fuel slip

Tight squeeze at Utsch’s fuel slip

Dyad is a very identifiable vessel; you may recall a photo from 5 or 6 years ago, this baby is big and badass unattractive. I was going to say ugly but that’s not nice. Plus she’s a catamaran and well, we are too.  Most cruisers know of Dyad and we knew she was around after we spotted her leaving our hidey hole off the Magothy, and again the day we biked the canal trail.

We thought Dyad might get boarded- darn

We thought Dyad might get boarded- darn. Would keep us entertained for a bit

A bunch of boats anchored there, most probably heading north like us, each with a different ability and plan to get to somewhere north. Those with speeds of at least 9kts can make NYC in the ample daylight available this time of year. Love it. Slower boats need to travel overnight or tuck into another New Jersey inlet (not many safe ones) if night travel isn’t appealing. We considered it, briefly. Nah, just bought diesel, so use it. That was the plan.

If all went according to our hopeful plan we’d zoom up the New Jersey coast to Sandy Hook on Wednesday, then take a day to get as far east through Long Island Sound as possible (within reason of course), ending up the CT River on Friday.

Fun Times at Tracy with Bonny

COuldn't resist this one

Am unable to resist photographing a pretty sunset. At Herrington Harbor North

The trip up to Herrington Harbor North at Tracy’s Landing was a rather short four hours. Along the way we reached the 3,000 nm mark, about 3,450 statute or land miles. The big excitement of the day was retrieving Bonny from her outside winter “home” at Skinners Turn Storage, just a 10 mile uber trip away. She looked good and started right up after Russ re-connected the batteries. A bit musty but hey that will dissipate.

Packages awaited us at the marina office where we confirmed a week’s stay (at least) and got a pool pass (can you believe it went unused?) Haha

Taller new batteries

Our new boat batteries- taller but no heavier. Trojan (deep cycle golf cart)

I’d been waiting with very high expectations for these new babies ever since Russ attended an electrical/solar/battery talk on Volleyball Beach in George Town, Bahamas. These replaced the not-very-old AGM dudes. The Trojans are designed for constant and deep discharging. Since we rely on our batteries to keep two or three fridge/freezers running all night, these new ones can handle discharging down to 12.3 (or lower) and still come back swinging full force. Life on the hook just got a positive boost. Leave it to a Trojan to provide great protection, right?

uh oh- engine trouble ruins the day for these locals

Uh oh- engine trouble ruins the day for these locals

So we are sitting at the salon table, I look up to see a boat about to kiss our exposed starboard side- what the? Turns out they had engine troubles, no power and so we helped them tie up around the corner. Weekend outings are so precious; we remember those times.

About to scoop a crab off the line & into his bucket

About to scoop a crab off the trot line & into his bucket. The harbor must be loaded with crabs!

Time got carved out for a short drive down to Herrington Harbor South where Don on s/v Blue Dancer now had a slip. We’d met him during our stay last Sept/Oct. He headed south but due to circumstances never got farther than Swan Point Marina in NC where we last saw him, preparing to be hauled out then fly home to Hawaii. A genuine, really nice man who loves to sail and I am certain is an excellent sailor. (maybe he and Patti should meet!) A lovely evening and my first Mojito in a long time. (thanks for planting the idea Benj)

The dreaded day arrived. No, not leaving the marina. The day we’d spend 15 hours away from Twins driving Ms Bonny to Connecticut and shelling out $67 in tolls for the pleasure of the shortest (fastest?) route on I95 and the NJ Turnpike. All in all the trip was good. Our EZPass is a life saver. We stopped at Tweed New Haven Airport for the Hertz (best price) car we’d drive back to MD, grabbed a delicious fast lunch at Lobster Landing (you should all be drooling and very jealous now), picked up our mail, dropped off Bonny, and back we went. Oh, I should mention that a HUGE mass of rain and thunder storms was headed east. PA got it bad but location and timing was our friend today and only had some light rain a couple of times on the way back. Whew, I was very glad we dodged that.

Google saved us a 90 minute delay on I95 before the GW, routing us on the Hutchinson and Saw Mill Parkways. The bridge seemed half empty, mostly due to the backup, we figured.

Dinner stop on return from MINI to CT- 15 hour dayFinding a place for dinner is my challenging job. Was easier in pre-smartphone days when you almost had to stop at a service plaza or take a chance on some exit. I used a couple of different methods to find a place not too far off the interstate where we could wait out any commuting traffic slowdowns. Thanks for the help honey.

Texas Roadhouse came out on top and while 6 miles off the interstate, we just knew we’d be pleased. Oh ya babe, sure were. Only our third time ever in a TR; each time the entire experience has been delightful. You know how often the first time can be so great and then the next is so-so. Not so at TR and since this was our first time at this particular one, they lavished extra attention upon us. But not so hovering that we couldn’t stand it.

Insides of sat TV dome

Insides of satellite TV dome

Inside that rounded dome thing that sat forward of the solar panels is a mini 360 degree directional dish that moves to find the station you want- or some such nonsense. You have to subscribe to DIRECTV in order to watch anything. I will spare you the LONG story on this but we tried it for a 3-day trial last Oct, and for a whole bunch of reasons, decided it wasn’t for us.

A few days before arriving at Herrington, Russ placed it on ebay along with the box and wiring, making sure that the darn thing still worked. yes it did. He listed it for pickup only and at the end of the auction- SOLD to a local guy who came when he said he would and took it off our hands. Weight off the boat is a good thing; so too is $$ in our PayPal account.

All week we listened and watched osprey in action. As we passed a nest on our way out I finally got a decent photo… or two

 

Its not much but its home- with a prime address 1R

It’s not much but it’s home- with a prime address in the harbor.

For many days the June 10 forecast promised 5-10, but from the north so we said, OK we need to get moving, we’ll do it; how bad can it be? Saturday looked much better and after a short day we’d be nestled in at Delaware City Marina, hunkered down for 3 nights.

Lots of possibilities here, as we enter the home stretch; Essex/Deep River CT only 375 nm away.

 

Solomons- Amphibiously Fabulous

entering Solomons

Entering Solomons

Calvert Marina occupies what was once the site of our country’s first amphibious training base. Few of the buildings remain but you can see and read about them as you walk around the grounds, which indeed have a military feel.

Here’s the short cliff notes summary:

In the early 1940s the world was at war and a new military base was being built on Dowell Peninsula. At its peak, in 1944, the base had 10,150 men. These hastily trained men shipped out to U.S. fleets in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Training was likely to have been little more than a quick cruise on the Bay watching the school staff chief petty officers handle the boat and perhaps getting in a question or two. Men were often formed into crews in those first frantic months of war in 1942 without ever seeing the type of vessel they’d be called upon to operate. God love ‘em.

Fortunately, as time went on the training expanded and the base turned out well-trained men, proficient in all aspects of operations. But only up until 1945, when the base closed.

We received our own very basic training in docking alongside a floating dock (we like these) without an assistance (we don’t like that). We chose Calvert Marina not only for its easy floating docks and reasonable price but because friends Ann & Mike of m/v Traveling Soul were there. They just weren’t on the boat when we arrived, but we knew that ahead.

The marina offers a loaner car that you can take for up to one hour; not much time, but a decent Food Lion is up the road a few miles and that’s all we needed. Got that done Sunday morning and then dinghied over to the excellent Calvert Museum. We love these well laid out, inside and outside Chesapeake museums.

Calvert Marine Museum

Calvert Marine Museum is located across from the Calvert Marina- a very short dinghy ride

We also didn’t mind qualifying for the Sr Citizen rate- amazingly fair at $7.  This museum isn’t as large as the one in St Michaels but it’s the right size for me.

Megladon

Megladon- almost not terrifying as “skeleton only” but put flesh and skin on, and a monster is revealed

The homey-ness of the lighthouse is amazing and a 360 degree view!

After lunch, keeping an eye on the sky for rain, we got in a quick harbor tour then tied up at a town dock on Solomons Island. We found the usual: a few shops, eateries, pubs, ice cream but also the J.C. Lore Oyster Packing Plant now owned by the Calvert Museum.

For many years this was a major shucking and packing operation - Solomons Island by The Narrows of Back Creek

For many years this was a major shucking and packing operation on Solomons Island, by The Narrows of Back Creek

 

Shucking stations- two different heights for taller or shorter person

Shucking stations- two different heights for a taller or shorter person

 

This man was amazing!

This man was amazing!

 

One half of a display of unusual oysters from around the world

One half of a display of unusual oysters from around the world

And then it did in fact finally rain… but we were back aboard.🙂 Monday was a washout thanks to Tropical Storm Bonny who sent a ton of rain up our way, but most of it passed east of us. We were surprised to see our friends walking down the dock much earlier than expected. But wait, why are those other people with them? Uh oh, car trouble – a tow and a ride from friends!

Russ spent many hours researching and ordering items for our Herrington Harbor project week. Now doesn’t that sound like a fun week? The good part is then we have less to tackle in the summer.

Tuesday brought sunny and warm, as well as another grocery trip, this time with Ann to a Giant (same as Stop&Shop up north) because we blow through certain foods very fast and Giant offers a bigger better selection. We swung by the condo complex where Ann & Mike will be owners soon, living part of the year on land and part on Traveling Soul. I like that plan and that we can see them on land and on the water still. Way to go guys!

Happy Hour aboard Traveling Soul was extra nice. Not only hadn’t we seen these guys and Empress Spot, in 3 months but we also got to meet cruising friends of theirs, Tom & Cristina on m/v Tadhana. Had heard the stories, got the cleanser recipe and now got to meet them.

Sorry Virginia…..

Mama and kids

Mama and kids- nearly every marker houses an osprey family. Lucky shot to see the kids too!

In the blink of a pirate’s good eye we zoomed though Virginia. We did not intend to; rather some force beyond our control inspired Twins to make way toward a Saturday (two days early) arrival at Calvert Marina, Solomons, Maryland. Now what force could that be I wonder? Let’s call it my Voldemort. (get it?)

With Memorial Day weekend fast approaching we wondered if pleasure boats would be out in force or would most, as usual, be safely still tied to their docks.

No sure if it was the time of day, the fact the day was Friday or simply a busy Friday before a long holiday weekend, but the tugs were out in force.

If this is a race we are inthe lead

If this is a race we are in the lead!

A very busy Friday just north of MILE 0

A very busy Friday just north of Mile Zero. Meeting up is much easier & quicker  than passing

The warships were just hanging out and the only one we saw on the move was coming up the long and wide channel into Norfolk after we had already crossed and were heading up the Bay.

ready for Memorial Day

Ready for Memorial Day, or dedication perhaps.

To say that Chesapeake Bay offers innumerable anchorages, is not an exaggeration. We know a very few. I am generally the trip planner for where we’ll stop, mileage and duration (at slow speed 8kts and fast 13kts). When the AICW ends at Mile Zero in the Norfolk/Portsmouth area, the flip chart we use gets stashed away and I bring out the BIG chart kit that covers Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River. Using the big chart I calculate mileage and get some idea for where I should look for an anchorage. Then, I use my handy iPhone app for Garmin BlueCharts which includes all the ActiveCaptain info: anchorages, marinas, hazards, etc.

I am now at the “sit back and put my feet up” point because there will be many little green boxes for all the anchorages that people have used (locals too). You gotta read their words as well as the ratings they give for the 6 categories: Current Protection, Holding, Wind Protection, Wake Protection, Scenery Quality and Shopping Facilities.  I like to see reviews that are more current, not from 3 or more years ago. Sometimes an anchorage is no longer viable and boy you’d like to know that ahead. Even with all that, until you are there, you still can’t get a fully accurate picture in your mind.

When the plan changed to move up to Solomons sooner, I’d already found a spot halfway between Mile 9 (Top Rack Marina- fuel stop) and Solomons.  Looking for another location that fit our new plan, I noticed Claxton Creek circled on the chart; ah yes that was one I’d found for our trip down last October, but guess what- we didn’t use it. Reviews were very good and no mention of pot floats (no guarantee though). Yes it was a couple of miles in, but on the Bay that’s nothing.

The spot was wide, very few pot floats and we dropped anchor in 6.5ft. Nice. The best part showed up about an hour before sunset.

Under the York River sits Claxton Creek and our fun anchorage

What a cool surprise- not mentioned in any review of Claxton Creek.

Watch out for that pot float!

Watch out for that pot float!

Talk about an anchorage with a view!  We didn’t seem to be in the way; plenty of room for us small guys. Surprised to see two people aboard, but it’s permissible if one is the instructor. No flying after sunset.

Two peeps - instructor and student

Two thumbs up from them to us and back!

Saturday we arrived at Calvert Marina in Solomons after a good trip with less wind and waves than Friday and lots more local boats but only one tried to run us down.

 

Sharing the Bay- ship in backgrnd nearly 1,000ft long with 37ft draft

Sharing the Bay- ship in background nearly 1,000ft long with 37ft draft. Three miles away from us.

 

Heel that baby!

Heel that baby! The famous Calvert Cliffs in the background

entering Solomons

Entering Solomons- on a busy Saturday no less. What we do to avoid you-know-what🙂

 

North Carolina 5/15 – 5/26: Chasin’ Donuts and Rainbows

The wide beach at low tide

Carolina Beach: a very wide beach at low tide with oodles of shell pieces and some unbroken ones too!

Have you read any Nicholas Sparks? Message in a Bottle became a movie, starring Robin Wright who you’d swear was the MUCH nicer twin of the Robin Wright in House of Cards. A huge percentage of the books we find in the marina book exchanges have a seashore, nautical or sea adventure theme and Mr Sparks is predictable in his choice of settings; North Carolina shoreline. But other than smiling and thinking, “oh we know that place”, North Carolina is not my favorite state, which is too bad because it consumes 307 of the 1,095 official AICW miles; Florida has the most with 382 but that only takes you into Key Biscayne near Dinner Key Marina, the official end of the AICW.

North Carolina offers cruisers many great stops whether you want a marina or just an anchorage, but the way Cape Hatteras sticks out, beckoning the weather in, well, all I can say is that Fall or Spring we always have some sort of weather issue once or twice in NC.

Let’s set that aside and I will focus only on the good stuff.  THE END.  Kidding.

After Southport, NC I’d hoped we could head across the Cape Fear River to Bald Head Island. But imagine this- the weather was to turn to crap with rain, chilly temps and maybe even a day or two of thunderstorms! So up the Cape Fear River we did go, all of 20nm to Carolina Beach, following along in a line of boats through Snows Cut.

Very much low tide. MY Tapestry two ahead- from OS, CT!

Very much low tide. M/Y Tapestry two ahead- from Old Saybrook, CT!

Felt like old times, all of us creeping along against the current at low tide in the cut, the power boats waiting to pass the sailboats after the turn by Carolina Beach. Not us. We turned right, hot on the donut scent.

At Southport we’d done our weekly good deed and assisted s/v It’s Perfect at SHVM at 8:30pm. We also tipped them off to the mooring field at Carolina Beach (9 balls and more to come?) Guess they liked it; staying almost as long we did.

Cocoa Village, FL was the start of us picking up the donut trail again. We had to pass up Charleston’s offerings in favor of Firefly but no way was I missing Britts on the boardwalk at Carolina Beach. Not gonna happen.

While waiting for weather (did I say that?) and Britts to open at 4pm on Friday we found more reasons to like Carolina Beach. Randy serves as Harbormaster and runs three small marinas including the town mooring field; you can go in to pay your $20 nightly fee but Randy comes out every evening. A nicer man you may not find.

Russ points out a PDQ34 on the T-head of a nearby dock; why yes. This would be the fifth one spotted since Vero Beach. So who’s this guy on the paddle board? Meet Don on m/v Ripple, here for a month with wife Robbin and AussieDoodle Dory.

Oh look a visiting paddle board

Oh look a visiting paddle board

We talked PDQ stuff- seems every single one is unique. I got all excited for a minute when we heard that our boat might have been one of seven to do the PDQ Flotilla from Finland to Holland in 2008. We always wondered why other PDQs didn’t have their anchor light centered (sticking out toward center on an arm from the mast) but instead just located on the mast. Turns out that across the Atlantic, requirements for lights and other boat equipment are very strict and the boats heading for the Baltic needed a centered anchor light. Sadly, Twins was not one of the seven, but several built around the time she was (2006) do have the same set up we do.

A time to plan, a time to rest, a time to eat donuts, a time for the Ripple Effect and for catching up on the blog.

We’ve coined two new terms as a result of meeting m/v Ripple: The Ripple Hour-defined as: when you have happy hour before 5pm. The Ripple Effect is whatever causes an early happy hour, and/or what results from an extended happy hour. :-)  Meeting Don, Robbin and Dory gets a big thumbs up from Twins.

We also found WakeNBake Donuts, but shhh don’t tell Britts. This was unintentional and all because Russ checked TripAdvisor for a phone number for Britts. An easy 20 min walk if you leave the dinghy with your new friends or Randy will find a spot for it somewhere in the marina.

Note the free donut holes to taste

Note the free donut holes to taste while you wait and drool

Wake N Bake

They: Wake N Bake.  We: Wake, Walk and Devour

Saturday, despite the early morning rain, turned out a very good day.

Our turn! Look at em!

Our turn! Look at em!

After a mere 20 minute wait, we ordered a dozen because the price was a MUCH better deal than for six. These delightful donuts aren’t filled or topped with anything more than a delicious, not overly sweet glaze, thus easy to eat more than one!

so old fashioned beachy town

Old fashioned beachy town apts

But we found a more appropriagte place

But we found a more appropriate place🙂

 

Seeing how Saturday was the one sure non-rainy evening we turned to that trusty TripAdvisor app and found the #2 dining spot in Carolina Beach; an easy 4 min walk from the southern dinghy dock. Why not #1 you may ask?  Well, #1 is Kate’s Pancake House and we ate there the day before.

 

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Surf House: Shrimp & Grits, smokey bread, roasted Brussel sprouts with Burata and chopped cashews- compliments of the chef- delish

Shrimp & Grits, smokey bread. The roasted Brussels sprouts topped with burrata, sprinkled with chopped cashews (behind the shrimp dish) were compliments of the chef- delish!

Sunday, the mooring line that had become firmly embedded on our cleat🙂 was cast off and we putzed up to Wrightsville to stage for a coastal jump up to Beaufort, NC. . Would we, could we, should we?

A gift after the rain

Anchored at Wrightsville Beach: A gift after the rain

Ready, set, go! Or was it ready, aim, fire!?? The inlet was calm, the newly repaired jetties standing guard and we wondered (as we always do here) why so few boats were taking the offshore route. For most sailboats and slower trawlers they must contend with several opening bridges that are not on request, several spots of skinny water where you better be in the exact right place, an often crowded Mile Hammock anchorage spot AND the maybe announced, maybe not ICW closure by Camp Lejeune. When possible we have always passed up on all that fun and taken the offshore route. This only takes a day- easier accomplished in spring- whereas taking the ICW means a two-day event.

12 miles offshore WS 16

10 miles offshore Warship 16 kept us coastal route vessels entertained, just keep one mile away

An Osprey of the military sort

Offshore military exercises

WS 55 live fire exercises off Camp Lejeune

Warship 55 live fire exercises off Camp Lejeune. This was likely more fun for the boats on the ICW

Before the rain ever reached us, a huge rainbow appeared. A pleasant evening after a good trip mostly at 8kts with several dolphin sightings, military exercises and no rain underway.

Anchored off Fort Macon, CG station

Anchored off Fort Macon near the Coast Guard station

 

Entering semi protected Belhaven

Entering semi protected Belhaven, NC

Belhaven Waterway Marina is compact for sure. Twins was the only visiting boat this day/night- easy departure.

Belhaven, a pretty town with a gorgeous artsy restaurant named Spoon River clearly the belle of a once vibrant town that is trying hard to stay on the map. Belhaven Waterway Marina is like the new town (inexpensive) dock but with amenities- like a free washer and dryer, spotless shower rooms with shampoo and soap provided and the welcoming on-site owners are former cruisers.

Lunch was good at the Gingerbread Bakery & Cafe. They make homemade potato chips sliced very thin the length of the potato not the usual crosswise. Great prices and fast friendly service make this a popular eatery for locals, including the marina owners!

The star of the day’s show was Spoon River, located in a former antiques shop about a block from our marina.

The start of something great

The start of something great. Closed on Tuesday, we delayed one day and it was SO worth it

Clever and unusual cocktails, many with fresh herbs, couldn’t have been more generously sized or thoughtfully prepared. Kudos to owner Theresa. Gotta love the names. Prices very reasonable.

Tarheel Moonrise and Iron Throne

Tarheel Moonrise and Iron Throne

I could go on and on, but let’s keep it at “we’ll be back”.  Many thanks to our friends Glenn & Linda of Mintaka and Mike and Ann of Traveling Soul, both with excellent taste in dining as well as fabulous cooks themselves, for making sure we knew about Spoon River. Worth noting that most of the ActiveCaptain reviews for the marinas and the anchorage mention Spoon River. The Tavern at Jack’s Neck sits across the street, no doubt with its own following. Maybe next time… if we stay longer.

After leaving Belhaven, we’d transit the 22-mile lonnnngggg mostly straight canal that connects the Pungo and Alligator Rivers. Other than being careful not to wander over to the sides where you will encounter shallow water and possibly ancient tree stumps, and hoping that passing go-fast vessels are courteous, it’s an easy stretch.

The dead head section- beware. See the sailboat up ahead?

The dead head section- beware. See the sailboat up ahead?

After 25 miles in the Alligator River itself, you cross Albemarle Sound ( a mere 15 miles)  and consider yourself lucky if the winds are low and the fog is nil. One year we waited days for strong winds to subside which would allow the Alligator River swing bridge to open. This time, no waiting, no problems. Life is good.

You may have guessed that North Carolina offers a variety of opportunities to see military assets in use. You never know what might be around the bend, coming up fast behind you or flying low overhead.

Alligator River, south ofthe bridge

Alligator River, south of the bridge. I doubt these were pleasure craft out for a joy ride.

After crossing the Sound we pushed on another 13 miles to anchor in a new spot. This meant trusting the reviews, the chart and the Captain’s ability to stay in 5ft or more. Oh and dodging crab pots. No problem mon. The next day sailboat Hafli hailed us wondering if the chart was accurate at 6 ft (ish), yes we told him, sorry.

North River Ext, - our last NC anchorage

North River Ext, – our last NC anchorage

 

Back, back in the USA! Florida thru S. Carolina 4/25-5/15

Where the waters run brown, can’t see the anchor go down. You just gotta believe “it’s better in any Bahamas town”!!

I know you are so curious to get the lowdown on our crossing.  On a scale of 1 to 7 with 7 being SUPER Excellent, I’d rate this one a 4 ½ . The first part across the banks was fine and we moved right along at 12- 13 kts. The plan was to get about 8-15 miles past the banks (into that deep dark Atlantic abyss), then slow down. Had to time our arrival at Ft Pierce inlet for close to 7:30pm slack. Before that, the current would be ebbing out. The ocean currents run across the channel, and if the winds are out of the SE AND an ebb tide, the entrance is rough. Forget that. We departed out of Ft Pierce a couple of years ago in the wrong conditions and that was a lesson learned.

I offer this VHF conversation as proof we were smart to wait. S/v Elan to s/v Sam the Skull: “What’s your ETA? We did the inlet at 5pm and it was horrendous (well yes, they nailed maximum ebb).”  The reply; “ETA is 7:30.”  This guy knows his stuff, he’s also from Glasgow Scotland and the accent is enthralling.  We came in at 7pm with no difficulty. Yes, I prepped for worse; my favorite magic trick.

So now what?  Sunset was 7:50pm with last light 8:15.  Thanks to manatee zone stretches of “Slow, No Wake” we couldn’t know for sure how far we could go with daylight. So we pressed on, checked out a spot on Google Earth and dropped anchor 80 ft off the ICW near a spoil island where the charts indicated 5ft of depth. In this part of the Indian River, the waters shallow quickly once you leave the ICW channel so finding 5ft was perfect for us.  Russ called Custom/Immigration and cleared us in, lowered our Q flag and we dined on Tuna Macaroni Salad (yes I even had the celery), considering ourselves lucky to have such a fine meal with the last of our wine.🙂

The next morning’s pancake breakfast never happened as the one egg I saved ended up being cracked and oozing. I had one bowl of granola left, but Russ was left with protein bars and coffee. Good lord. The anchor windlass remote decided to fail as we began to raise the anchor, but a 15 min repair fixed that and we were on our way to “the land of plenty.”

Our spoil island anchorage when we arrived back to Florida

Our spoil island anchorage  off the ICW channel

Oh look, two PDQ34s!

Oh look, two PDQ34s!  This time, Vero was not very sticky, but we did chat with Jack of m/v Airlia

As has become SOP we stopped at Melbourne Beach, anchoring off the long fishing pier that has two lower side docks for dinghies. Florida is great that way; so much fantastic water access.  A low flying Sheriff chopper got our attention with his continuous swooping down and in maneuvers. What or who was he looking for?  Listening to local radio next morning heard it was a wanted someone.

You can see how very low he is

You can see how very low he is.

And then it happened; I knew the day would come. Extra worrisome in a power boat, but even worse in a power boat with only one engine; we have two. The starboard engine oil pressure gauge showed a very high reading after we’d been underway at 12kts for just a short time. Twin Sisters has two helms, one in the main cabin and one on the flybridge. We like to use the flybridge as it offers great visibility. However, the flybridge helm does not have the oil temp and pressure gauges so my job is to check on them. Uh oh. Russ was surprised that the gauge read high, rather than low which is the typical problem. Keeping the rpms to less than 2400 kept the gauge happy and Russ researched the issue while I ran the boat.

 

Anchored close in for the day

Anchored close in for the day.  I took this photo from the boardwalk.

We stopped to anchor close in at Cocoa Village and while I shopped Russ tried to find the pressure valve, with no luck. The most likely problem was an easy one; the sender busted and sending bad data to the gauge making us THINK the pressure was too high. But two other causes would mean more serious trouble so to be safe we booked a slip at Camachee Cove Marina in St Augustine where they have on site engine mechanics, and kept our speed down to 8kts and 2000 rpms. Boy that seems slow now, when with Ms Ortolan we’d seldom exceed 7kts unless we pushed or were sailing.

took all power to pass this guy who would not slow down- gotta keep to that schedule!

Took mostly port engine power to pass this guy who would not slow down- gotta keep to that schedule!

A few nights at a dock with power, water and all the other marina amenities would be just what we needed. Twins needed a good wash-down, I needed some “no worries” time and with rain and T-storms arriving in a few days, this was perfect timing. Plus, we met PDQ34 Traveller, who’d be heading north for the PDQ Georgian Bay rally.  Competent and friendly marina staff, floating docks with good power, wi-fi, large boaters’ lounge with book exchange (Russ met sv Voyageur– heading up to CT) and newer front-loader washers and dryers. What’s not to like?

We delayed our departure one day for a good reason; to celebrate our May 5 anniversary with dinner out at Collage in downtown St Augustine. Only a $6 uber ride away; we went in early to shop and walk around.

A study in Black and White

A study in Black and White

Next stop- Georgia.  Heading north at this time of year (later than we ever have) we are definitely at the tail end of the snow bird pack. I like it: fewer boats to pass or be passed by and no problems getting a spot at any marina on very short notice. But what we have seen, mostly in South Carolina, is plenty of shrimpers heading back to unload their fresh catch, but also in SC and NC several derelict fishing vessels- more than we’ve ever see along the ICW. What’s up with that?

The local tourist boats are out in force now and only the bravest cruiser dares travel certain ICW stretches on busy weekends- oh wait we did that; more on it later.

Just north of Jekyll we saw twin FV heading in

Just north of Jekyll we saw twin fishing vessels heading in; Miss Lexy didn’t get in the photo

A place we’d read about, but never saw due to it not being right on the waterway, is Dataw Island Marina. It’s near St Helena Island, about 15 miles north of Beaufort, SC and you need to go about 3 miles off the ICW but it’s a marked and easy detour. With a long face dock, they could accommodate a major PDQ rally, not just little ole us and one sailboat.

What’s the attraction? How about: easy docking, excellent restaurant, Sweetgrass, at the head of the docks, loaner bikes so you can explore the tiny island and marvel at the award-winning golf courses (two scattered throughout the entire island), admire the butterfly garden and if given the correct directions, visit the plantation ruins. All doable in less than 3 hours, unless you want to keep biking around.

One of many over 800 homes on Dataw Island-only 3 miles in circumference

One of over 800 homes on Dataw Island-only 3 miles in circumference

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The road signs are Tabby classy

The road signs are Tabby classy

Luxury golfing

Luxury golfing. Everyone we met and spoke with was very friendly- southern charm.

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Biked around Dataw Island

The flat island was easy biking- no gear changing needed. Yep, just my style.

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The kitchen would be separate of course. Darn hot cooking and baking except in winter I guess.

young gator guards the pond

Ponds lay scattered throughout the island, all with gator warnings.  This youngster guards his pond

Dinner, service and ambience at Sweetgrass were so enjoyable that one night wasn’t enough so we returned the next. You can get lunch, coffee and smoothies at The Outpost also at the marina where the same kitchen services both.

Inside Sweetgrass on Dataw Island

Inside Sweetgrass on Dataw Island, South Carolina

 

Sweetgrass at the marina

Sunset view from our table on the screened-in porch

Gourmet shrimp and grits with bacon pieces and mushroom slivers. topped off by a deep fried egg!

Gourmet shrimp and grits with bacon pieces and mushroom slivers. topped off by a deep-fried egg!

We don’t make a habit of marina hopping but right after Dataw Island would be Charleston and how could we pass that up? More to the point how could we pass up Firefly Distillery??   Thinking about it, Firefly may be the first distillery we ever visited (two years ago) and we’ve been finding more ever since.

 

Posing with our distillery purchases

Posing with our distillery purchases. The nice couple we met at the tasting bar took our picture.

Spending time in Charleston is fraught with decisions. Several marinas offer easier and more available docking but aren’t close to downtown. Others are an easy walk or have water taxi access but the current can be challenging and many boats try for slack. Others, like St Johns Yacht Harbor are across the way (not on the peninsula) at all, but they have one thing the others don’t; a short distance from Firefly on Wadmalaw Island and a loaner car to get you there. Two hour time limit and we used every minute of it. In our defense, certain faves, like Southern Lemonade Vodka and a new one, Grapefruit Juice Vodka are only available at the distillery. Due to no preservatives they have a shelf life and need to be kept cool and refrigerated once open. Our motto: consume quickly for maximum enjoyment!

FOr over a year this bridge has been collasped btween the road and the marina

This bridge leads into the marina’s main parking lot. Been like this over a year.

We knew of the collapse. Luckily a long boardwalk leads from the docks all around to a smaller parking lot across from the inaccessible main entrance. Unfortunately the on-site restaurant, the Stono Breeze, closed down when access and parking came to a screeching halt.

 

Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter. Two years ago we anchored nearby and went in for a visit.

 

Charleston Harbor

Charleston Harbor- no idea what operation was taking place here

Shrimp season is OPEN! In shore begins any day now

Shrimp season is OPEN! In shore begins any day now; offshore began weeks ago.

 

the new movable bridge across Minim Creek

The new movable bridge across Minim Creek- fortunately it seldom needs to close.

A one hour stop for seafood

A one hour stop for seafood

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Fresh fish, frozen items, and lots of freshly caught shrimp!

 

We made rice for dinner while anchored in the Waccamaw, next to Pee Dee River

The rice we made for dinner while anchored in the Waccamaw, next to the Pee Dee River- look where it came from.

You can see on the charts and as you go by, the abandoned rice fields of days long gone. Plumfield is the only colonial plantation in the Carolinas to grow rice for commercial sale. We purchased this rice (I’m afraid to say how long ago) keep it in the freezer and it stays just as flavorful and aromatic as the first day.

The night we made Carolina rice from Plumfield Plantation on the Pee Dee

We anchored at the highlighted spot next to the orange dot.

 

Osprey address: #66 Waccamaw River

Osprey address: #66 Waccamaw River. See her head just sticking up? The white is a give-away.

As I was selecting this photo for the blog, I realized it showed something odd. Red ATONs (aids to navigation) are red, not yellow with a red outline. So what’s going on? Testing of a new, more visible color scheme? Change happened once before (late 70s/early 80s); Russ loves to tell me that today’s odd-numbered green ATONs were once black. Can you picture that? Black- who could see them?? Even green is no prize but at least it’s a medium green.

Waccamaw just before Osprey, passing It's Perfect- again

Waccamaw River just before Osprey Marina, passing s/v It’s Perfect– again.  Note the PWC buzzin’ our way

We haven’t had too many weather worries and have easily coordinated marina stops with hiding from rain and T-storms. The forecast for traveling north of Charleston (May 14-22) promised many days, not all consecutive, of rain and/or thunderstorms so we devised several itineraries for getting our donut-desiring selves to Carolina Beach by Friday (Britts only open Fri-Sun until Memorial Day).

Being underway in rainy conditions with poor visibility is not our idea of fun, especially since we like to operate from the flybridge which has the bimini top but no enclosure.  We also wanted fresh shrimp and cheap diesel. Oh and I didn’t want to travel between Myrtle Beach, SC and Southport, NC on a weekend day.  As things worked out we snagged that shrimp (surprised that no other boat was on the daytime-only free dock), made a quick stop for diesel and a pump out and did that stretch I didn’t want to do, on Sunday.

Weekend local boat traffic increases five-fold in spring and so does the need to concentrate and be watchful. I balked at doing 84 miles that would include the narrow Rockpile stretch (North Myrtle Beach) at low water and the problematic Shallotte and Lockwoods Folly inlet crossings in North Carolina on a weekend day where we’d likely have to deal with all the small boats fishing by the inlet. But weather and the likelihood of a good trip up the Cape Fear River the next day prevailed; with our little zoomie boat we could do it. PWC were out in force and the Captain used the horn once to alert a distracted boater, but other than a tiring day (9:30-5:15) where we moved along at 13kts when we could, nothing awful happened. Whew!

The Rockpile stretch at low tide

The Rockpile stretch at low tide. It’s actually better to do it at low, then you can see the rocks to avoid.

 

Wow- ugly or lovely??

Wow- ugly or attractive??

Hoped it wasn't going to scream north past us.

Hoped it wasn’t going to scream north past us, but they went south – didn’t hear any screamin’.

Shortly after Sea Screamer we slowed down to let the casino boat enter the ICW channel from the Little River Inlet

Big M Casino boat returns to her dock

Big M Casino boat returns to her dock

 

Why so many derelict fishing boats. Not gonna be a good Sum Day

This is a close-up of the derelict fishing vessel in the above photo. Not gonna be a good Sum Day.

And there you are- right at the SC / NC state line at Mile Marker 341. We pulled into South Harbor Village Marina (SM311) in Southport, NC ahead of schedule, but we sure gulped fuel and the gauge showed 3/4 after being extra full at Osprey SM373. On our way back from dinner we stopped to talk with the guys delivering a sportfish from FL to NJ. They’d just put over $1,500 worth of diesel in the tanks. I had to ask, “where did you start your day?” Fernandina, FL. Oh wow- gee that’s 400 miles in 10 hours. I still felt good about our 84 miles and even better about our fuel sipping compared to theirs.