Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

Here we are, (5/26/08) safely in our summer slip at Brewer Greenwich Bay North in Warwick, RI, 36 days after we left Melbourne, FL. Considering that we spent 10 days docked in Washington, DC and 5 days on the Potomac River going and coming; not a bad trip at all.

We have learned to take whatever the weather and sea conditions bestow, and this year was not an exception. Coming out of the Potomac and heading north on the Chesapeake we watched the satellite weather system closely for a window of favorable ocean conditions so that we could work our way in the Atlantic Ocean, up the New Jersey coast and avoiding the inside passage. The New Jersey ICW is shallow, narrow and busy with bridges that all need to be opened for us to proceed. Plus, none of the bridge tenders we’ve dealt with have completed the Emily Post School of Etiquette. “Bring Her On Up Captain” they say. One of their favorite tricks, (I swear it’s deliberate) is to command that the boats bunch up at the bridge before it will open. I suppose that allows them to minimize the number of openings but if the current is carrying you toward the bridge and there are already 6-10 boats jockeying for position adding another boat to the mix is a sure fire recipe for disaster. I’ll bet the tenders get together at the end of their shift for a beer and to swap stories about boats trying to avoid collisions. “You shuuda seen this one!” Running outside in the Atlantic is a far better choice.

Atlantic Sunset off Barnegat Inlet, NJ

We hunkered down for two days at Summit North Marina in the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal waiting out a storm. While there it appeared that there was a window developing. Sure enough, Saturday arrived and the forecast for that day and the next were excellent. We departed Summit North at 6:00 a.m., exited the canal, rode the current down the Delaware Bay, around Cape May, New Jersey, into the Atlantic along the New Jersey coast past Atlantic City and then north through New York City Harbor, the East River and into Long Island Sound.

Sunrise NYC entrance

Lady Liberty at dawn

We finally anchored in Westbrook, CT Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. after 36.5 continuous hours of being underway. The night passage was spectacular, highlighted by a great fireworks display at Barnegat, NJ that was easily visible offshore and a nearly full moon which lit up the ocean. We don’t seek out 36 hour passages but when the conditions are right, it is a great way to avoid the shallow New Jersey ICW and to make time.

Nap time!

Connie & I alternated napping with helm duties and were greeted by the daybreak view of the NYC Harbor seen below. While we traveled alone most of the night except for an occasional fishing boat, by morning the entrance channels to the city were teeming with commercial vessels making their way to various locations despite the fact that it was Memorial Day weekend and a Sunday. Those guys work 24/7 including Pilots and Tug Boat crew.

Merchant vessel entering NYC

Connie had plotted the entire 36 hour run correctly and we arrived at the entrance to the East River, (aka Hell’s Gate) just as the tide switched and carried us well above hull speed into the Long Island Sound. The current here is very swift and at 7 knots The Rose will take all the help she can get. Running against the current is NOT suggested!

Norwegian Dawn

NYC at daybreak

We had several options plotted for anchoring either in Long Island or along the Connecticut coast. While we wanted to make as much progress as possible, neither of us was sure of how much energy we’d have after such a lengthy trip. We finally decided to push on to Westbrook, CT where there is an excellent anchorage behind a huge breakwater that fronts the harbor. We dropped the anchor Sunday evening at 6:30 and as you would imagine we collapsed into bed after a very quick meal.

Monday morning we were up at 4 a.m. making ready to get underway at 5:30 for the Brewer Marina in Mystic, CT. Our plan was to spend at least a couple of days there because the winds and waves were predicted to be high along with small craft warnings. Those conditions would prevent us from continuing to RI. We consoled ourselves with the thought that we could tour the Mystic Seaport and the surrounding area while waiting for the weather to improve.

The further we moved up Long Island Sound the more confident we were that the conditions were either delayed in arriving or not as severe as predicted. Ultimately we decided to continue past Mystic and go at least as far as Westerly, RI where we would be exposed to open ocean conditions without the protection of Long Island. In cruiser parlance this is called, “poke your nose out”. Conditions were good and to make the situation even better we were being pushed by a stronger than expected current allowing us to easily exceed our usual speed of 7.2 kts.

By 11 a.m. we made the turn into Narragansett Bay, the last lap to our summer home. The wind was strengthening, (of course) with gusts to 20 kts but fortunately it was on our stern and the current continued to be in our favor until we reached Warwick Cove close to our marina and slip. Enroute we were greeted by our Uncle & Aunt, Bill & Marianne who were waving from shore near the Bay Campus of the University of Rhode Island.

We had called our friends and slip mates Ben & Gail and they rounded up a dozen, (no exaggeration!) fellow cruisers to help grab lines because of the wind. Well, this day everything went as planned and The Rose slid into her slip as though she was as anxious to be here as we were. In no time at all, lines were secure and we greeted by hugs and handshakes all around.

The welcoming crew at Greenwich Bay

That’s it for now……………we have NO travel plans for the immediate future and will spend the next week catching up on rest and family/friends.

Paul & Connie
M/V The Rose, GH37
Slip #13-33
Brewer Greenwich Bay North
Warwick, RI


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tonight we are anchored in Swan Creek near Rock Hall, MD the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. Except for one intense but brief squall, (35kts) it is very quiet and we are the only boat in a large anchorage. To give you an idea of how protected this spot is, we had steady winds of 25kts before we turned the corner into this cove. Now…..well the anchor chain is resting easy on the bottom and the snubber isn’t working at all.

The trip up the Potomac was all that we had hoped for. Enroute to DC we anchored at St. Mary’s, a historical town and dinghied in to the local college sailing club dock where they graciously allowed us to tie up for the day so that we could tour the area.

The anchorage at St. Mary's

The next day we made way to Colonial Yacht Center in Colonial Beach. A great seaside town made even better because it is golf cart friendly. The weather kicked up a bit and we were ahead of schedule so we decided to spend a couple of extra nights. We met a husband and wife on a 46’ Morgan sailboat who shared drinks and dinner with us plus volunteered to take Connie shopping with their car one morning. Ty and Suzanne are both retired Naval Officers and she is a published writer with a couple of books to her credit. They are seasoned cruisers with an Atlantic crossing under their belt along with time in the Med and have cruised north to Newfoundland. Suzanne gave us an autographed copy of her book which Connie & I quickly devoured. More on that at a later time.

In Washington we were at the Capital Yacht Club where we docked from Saturday, (5/10) through Monday, (5/19) evening. While there our plan was to tour the capital for a few days and then fly from Reagan National to Minneapolis, MN so that we could attend a wedding in Wisconsin. Connie has two cousins who live in the DC area, Marjie and Shirley. Despite short notice they came by to see the boat and spent a couple of hours chatting and catching up on family news.

Our cousin Dom is now employed with Internal Revenue here in D.C. and he did a superb job, (on his day off!) of getting us started with directions, guided tours and Metro passes. It wasn’t that long ago he was running for class president and enjoying high school. Now Dom is here in the nation’s capital doing, “the people’s business”.

Dom & I at the Navy Yard

For the next couple of days Connie & I were up and out early in the morning with a plan to visit the various attractions. We enjoyed the monuments and memorials, and I finally made it to the Navy Memorial and Navy Yard/Museum. We were able to see most of the major sites, although I could easily spend another week here. Of all the sights, Arlington Cemetery, the Vietnam Memorial and the Korean War Memorial were very impressive.

Connie at the Korean War Memorial

Kristine; the daughter of our good friends and former business partner Mike & Bobbie Evavold was taking the big step on May 17th and we would not have missed this day. The wedding was held in Holcombe, WI, not far from Chippewa Falls. I know that sounds like a joke and you can laugh, (I did) but we drove the area for a couple of days and fell in love. MN & WI are truly the heartbeat of America, friendly people with mile after mile of farms and lakes. We met Mike the first afternoon we arrived for a reunion of sorts at a Vietnamese restaurant in St. Paul that we have frequented many times over the years we have been doing business there. We were not disappointed!

Later that evening we met Katie & Steve Otto from St. Paul for dinner. They are both lawyers and she was corporate counsel for us. Somehow she managed to keep Mike & me out of trouble when we were involved with the rehabilitation business. We continued as though no time had passed at all with fine dining and a couple of bottles of wine.

The wedding was a family affair in every sense. No words can describe it adequately, except to note that the local church was filled to capacity and the reception was a giant party.

I neglected to mention that Mike decided to surprise his wife and daughters with our arrival well before the wedding. We drove to a nearby town and dropped in on them while they were having the usual pre-nuptial manicure, etc. Once inside Mike announced that he was going to have a pedicure and asked; wasn’t I? Not to be outdone I agreed. The photos will tell the story. I’ll spare you the details, they are better after some wine or beer.

"You got purty feet!"

We had time to kill between all the festivities and took a tour of the Lienenkugel Brewery in Chippewa Fall, WI. Would you believe the 7th oldest in the country? It was a great tour, capped by free samples. At the completion of the tour the guide asked a question related to information she had presented earlier. The correct answer won a t-shirt. Yup, you guessed it, Connie had the right answer. I will never live this down, especially since I very loudly shouted out an incorrect answer.

Very early, (O Dark Hundred) Tuesday morning we departed Washington in a downpour and headed downriver. Fortunately we had read Nobeltec, (navigation system) correctly and had the current with us the whole way which enabled us to reach the mouth of the river and an anchorage before sunset.

All that stands between us and RI is the Delaware Bay, New Jersey coast and the Long Island Sound. As always we’ll watch the weather and take whatever conditions allow.

Paul & Connie

M/V The Rose, GH37

anchored Swan Creek, MD

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Rose and her crew are continuing their trek north. Since our last post we left Grande Dunes Marina in Myrtle Beach and made our way to anchorages in Wrightsville Beach and Cedar Creek.

The anchorage off Cedar Creek

While underway we were hailed on the VHF radioand greeted by Capt. Mark Chest on his boat Dayz Off from the Baltimore area. He came aboard for our maiden voyage in 2004 and trained us while we were underway from Baltimore to the Alligator River Marina in N.C. It was good to hear from him and we promised to connect in Rock Hall, MD where he now keeps his boat.
Our route that day took us across 4 rivers, the Neuse, Bay, Pamlico and Pungo enroute to Dowry Creek in Belhaven, NC. Smooth cruising! We are now traveling with Ted & Terry on Berlie Mae another Great Harbour 37, and had promised them a dinner of Connie’s veal & peppers. Once we were secure at Dowry Creek, Connie took the courtesy car into town for a few groceries and I changed fuel filters, repaired the faucets in the galley sink and replaced a burnt bulb in a running light. I was having a difficult time with the last task since the light is outboard and requires leaning well over the side. Another boater was walking down the dock, saw me struggling and offered her help. Melissa was delivering a boat to upstate New York but is usually employed as the Dockmaster at Golden Isles Marina in Brunswick, GA. I held her by the ankles, (a tough job but one that had to be done) while she replaced the bulb. She agreed to stay on board for a few shots of Limoncello with the four of us and I suspect we will try Golden Isles on our next trip south.

The Admiral at the helm in calm conditions.

We crossed the Albemarle Sound and anticipated, (based on the forecast) decent conditions. Since the Sound is open to the ocean, it is not a place to challenge Mother Nature. Unfortunately the waves and winds were not as hoped and it was uncomfortable. Connie had the helm and did a great job of tacking rather than running a straight course so that we avoided having the waves on our beam.The good news is we were much more comfortable that way.

The bad news? That strategy was time consuming and we missed the 4:30 opening of the Elizabeth City Bridge. I knew from experience that having Connie call the bridge tenders works well, especially in the south. She tried coaxing the bridge tender into delaying the opening for another 10” to no avail. So, we dropped the throttles back to idle and lazily continued on.

The Elizabeth City area is very boater friendly and there are free docks all over. We introduced the Berlie Mae to a long bulkhead behind a commercial-industrial building. It is very protected and north of the bridge, which means we don’t have to time our departure or request an opening in the morning. We always stop in at the warehouse office on arrival to thank them for their courtesy. Terry biked to a local Wal-Mart to pick up a prescription and then we all met at a coffee shop in town for a sandwich and a beer. We were surprised to learn that they had live music which only added to our enjoyment. There is no end to the local surprises waiting to be discovered on the waterway!

On Saturday, 5/3/08 we proceeded through the Great Dismal Swamp a route that is about 51 miles long. While we were in the southern lock, the lockmaster alerted us that there were, “a few kayakers” on the river. We did not give that a thought since it is a no-wake zone and we have to move slowly to time the northern bridge and lock anyway.

A few? Try a flotilla! There had to be at least 300 people on kayaks who had volunteered for this event; Paddle for the Poor. From the looks of things some of these people had no experience on boats and therefore even less knowledge of boating procedure. To further complicate the situation they were being escorted by several power vessels also manned by volunteers such as Coast Guard Auxiliary, (think Barney Fife here). After we were about a third of the way through the kayakers, the escort boat ahead of us hailed us on the radio and gave us an order to stay back and follow the rest of the pack. In theory that sounds fine, except that The Rose weighs 46,000 lbs with a 16’ beam and we’re navigating in a channel that has about 7’ of depth and is 40’ wide. Not very forgiving to say the least. We made our case succinctly and they promptly changed their mind.

Kayakers and escorts on the Dismal Swamp

After the kayakers, we were passed by a pontoon houseboat headed in the same direction. This is unusual, since we all have to wait for a bridge and then a lock to open so there is no advantage to being at the head of the line. In any event he entered the lock ahead of us with the wind blowing briskly on our beam. The lockmaster directed him to a portside tie, except that the wind had other ideas. The boat drifted crossways and then the captain made things worse by putting it in reverse instead of forward, gunned the engine and proceeded to run his stern and outboard motor into the steel lock wall. Ouch! People yelling, boats drifting and I’m working like hell to keep The Rose straight and hovering in one position until called. Finally the pontoon boat is tied up and we’re directed in behind him. Connie is on the stern and quickly passed the line to the dockmaster who drops it onto a bollard and then catches my bow line so that we’re secure. I was ready to ask the meathead ahead of me why he found it necessary to pass on the Dismal, (a no-no) when I realized his wife was reading him the riot act big-time. He didn’t need to hear my whine, and there was justice after all!

We left the serenity of the Dismal Swamp to experience the hustle-bustle of Norfolk Harbor. Talk about culture shock? There are tugs moving huge freighters, armed marine guards protecting naval vessels and the tenders from four bridges all competing for radio time and space in the channel. We threaded our way through, amused at memories of our white knuckled passage the first time south. We are still alert, just a lot less stressed about this area.

Freighter traffic in Norfolk Harbor w/Berlie Mae

Saturday evening we anchored off Norfolk Harbor about 2.5 miles up the Lafayette River where we spent a quiet night. A small powerboat with 3 people aboard circled us right after we set the anchor and then asked, “could you go to Europe in this?” Yes, Connie answered, but not with me aboard. They chuckled and recommended a nearby bar-restaurant that we could reach by dinghy. We thanked them, but both of us are beat after 14 days of running and need an early night in the sack.

Today, (Sunday 5/4/08) we are making way for Deltaville and Norview Marina. Berlie Mae is behind us at this point and will continue up the Chesapeake. Their ultimate destination is Watkins Glen, NY and we wish them a safe passage. We are anticipating the Chesapeake will kick up for the next couple of days and Norview offers us a great deal of protection from the prevailing winds and a chance to take a much needed day off.

Our arrival at Norview was a little off the beaten path. Connie was in the cockpit, at the rear of the boat with a dock line in hand. She swung the cockpit door open to make securing the stern line easier while I maneuvered the boat into position. Unfortunately she forgot to latch the door and as the boat moved the now secured dock line slid under the door lifting it neatly off the hinges and into the water. That is an, “OH SHIT” moment! Our door is floating down the creek and the dockhand tells me that they don’t have a skiff available. Yours truly emptied his pockets, slipped on a pair of fins and dove in. All’s well that ends well and we don’t think that door will ever be open and unlatched again.

We’re resting easy here in Deltaville and one of the resident boaters offered to take Connie into town so that we could buy some cards and deposit them at the local post office. That’s the personality of this area. If you walk from the marina into town, usually a passing motorist will stop and offer to drive you in.

This is the Berlie Mae in Norfolk Harbor. Ted & Terry are cruisers who have been liveaboards for about 8 years.

This is a shot from the Dismal Swamp of an adjoining farm. I believe the yellow means that field was planted with soy bean which is just sprouting. As you can see, the color is spectacular.

A couple of participants from the, "Paddle for the Poor" on the Swamp. Most of the participants seemed to be having an enjoyable experience and were treated to barbecue at the finish.