Day 18

We made it!!! We left Solomons a little before 10 this morning and arrived at Podickory Yacht Club, the place where we’re keeping the boat, around 12:40 this afternoon.  The Bay and winds were calm when we left and we would have had a completely boring and uneventful run had it not been for the number of other boats in the water today.  Leaving Solomons there were not that many.  But we passed by several fishing areas with many pleasure boaters, both sail and power, either anchored or under way.  Even though we had a charted course we were following, we couldn’t stick to it a lot of the time because we had to veer off course to avoid colliding with, or coming too close to other boats.

We passed some type of tall ship with three masts and a bowsprit.  Her sails were furled and there were no oars out, so she had be fitted with a diesel engine. Too bad.  We would have loved to have seen her under sail.

As we approached Annapolis we also encountered four large tankers.  They loomed out of the haze.  After our experience with the freighter in the Cape Fear River, we wanted to give these tankers as much room as possible.  That would have been easy had there been no other boats around.  But there were lots of other boats in the vicinity.  So we were weaving and dodging our way up the Bay.  As it turned out, all of the tankers were anchored, so we didn’t have to contend with their large wakes. That was a very good thing.

As we approached the Bay Bridge, the traffic congestion got pretty intense and the waves picked up too.  So we had a pretty choppy ride moving this way and that to avoid all the boats going every which way.  Podickory Point is just north of the Bay Bridge.  All we had to do was get on the other side of the bridge, pass through a few buoys and make a left turn and we were home. We got through the bridge and then had minor heart failure because Jim had marked the location of the Podickory Yacht Club on the electronic screen, but forgot to highlight it on the paper map.  We weren’t quite sure until we made our left turn that we were in fact heading for the right place.  But we were.  Jim had no trouble bringing Sea BLyS into the marina, turning her, and backing her into the slip.  I managed to get the lines tied without too many mistakes (handling the lines has been my perennial weakness), and we were home.

It’s hard to believe the trip is actually over.  I am writing this entry from my home computer, rather than my iPad. We washed the boat thoroughly, took Katherine to her apartment in Baltimore and then headed home. It’s good to be home and I will definitely enjoy sleeping in our own bed tonight!

Days 16 and 17

On day 16 (Saturday) we got an early start, leaving the Alligator River Marina at around 6:50 in the morning. The winds had died down, but we knew that as we got farther into the day they would pick up again. We had to finish our leg up the Alligator River and cross Albemarle Sound, both subject to windy conditions even on the best of days. We made it through most of the Alligator River without incident. But we had to make a turn to get into Albemarle Sound. The turn was marked, but we were having a hard time picking the markers out because the water was so choppy. We spotted them and started heading toward them but missed a temporary marker that wasn’t on the chart. The temporary mark indicated shallow water, which we had strayed into. Our depth find said we were in 2 feet of water. We have a 2 foot offset which meant were actually in 4 feet of water. Our draft is 42 inches, so we had 6 inches to spare!!! That was more excitement than we wanted for a morning.

Aft that we had no additional difficulties. We crossed Albemarle Sound and entered a series of waterways that led out of North Carolina and into Virginia. Our destination was the Norfolk Yacht Club. Jim grew up in Norfolk and spent his youth sailing at the Yacht Club. His sister is still a member, so we were able to tie up there for the night and have lunch and dinner there.

We thought the approach to Norfolk was going to be difficult because there are several bridges that were too low for us to pass under, and these bridges had scheduled openings. We were able to get through them with very little waiting. There was also a lock we needed to get through, but there were people at the lock helping all the boats tie up, so that was pretty easy too. After that we entered the beginning of the Norfolk harbor, which was wide and very deep. We passed by several Navy ships in dry dock and lots of commercial vessels. No close encounters this time. We pulled into the Yacht Club around 2 pm under calm winds, virtually no current and clear skies. Later around 4 pm, while we were washing the boat (we had another attack of some kind of bug while at Alligator River Marina–not of love bug proportions, but enough to require a thorough cleaning), the skies opened up and it poured for about 10 minutes while a thunderstorm passed by. I was very happy we were tied up and not out in Albemarle Sound when it hit!

We left Norfolk around 7:30 this morning heading for Solomon’s Island in the Chesapeake Bay. Before we got to the Bay, we passed by the Naval Base. There were relatively few ships there. A few support ships, one sub and one aircraft carrier at that we could see. Apparently a strike force left last week. Nevertheless it was impressive to see these huge vessels.

Our trip up to Solomon’s Island gave us a chance to us our electronic chart plotter to put in waypoints and choose specific headings to get to those waypoints. Up until today we really didn’t have tondo that because the ICW, for the most part is not open water. It’s creeks, dredge canals and land cuts, all of which are relatively narrow and well marked with red and green markers. You just follow the markers. In the Bay, however, there are buoys that are spaced really far apart; you just can’t see them. So you have no way of knowing where to go. Fortunately the paper charts come with a number of pre-plotted routes with suggested waypoints. All we had to do was figure out which routes, or parts of routes would get us to Solomon’s Island. Obviously it worked pretty well because we got here without any difficulty at about 1 in the afternoon.

We had an easy wash down of the boat and walked into town. None of us had been to Solomon’s Island before. Great waterfront and a bunch of funky shops on the main drag. It’s a warm day here with partly cloudy skies and no hint of an afternoon thunderstorm.

Tomorrow will be a short hop up to Annapolis where we will be keeping the boat, so we will leave at a later hour. Yeah!!!! Hard to believe our trip is almost over.

P.S. I forgot to mention that Katherine flew down to Norfolk on Saturday morning and met us at the Yacht Club with Lois Gail, Jim’s sister. Katherine then joined us for our trip up to Solomon’s and Annapolis. It’s great having her aboard!

Day 15 Continued Again

We left the RIver Forest Marina and made it to the Alligator River Marina on – not surprisingly -the Alligator River in NC by about 1:40pm. Our Original destination for today was Coinjock. We probably would have made it in another 2 hours but that would have meant getting in around 4 if we were lucky. The winds would have been whipping and and we would have had a rough ride across Albemarle Sound. We’ll get an early start tomorrow and hope to get into Norfolk in the early afternoon.

Our run into this marina was uneventful (a good thing) until we passed under the Alligator River Bridge and encountered 4 trawlers heading to the same marina. So we had to follow them in. It wasn’t far but trawlers move at a snail’s pace. Meanwhile the seas were kicking up with the wind and the waves were hitting us broadside. We were really rocking and rolling but there was nothing we could do. Finally we made it inside the jetty and life was good again.

Now it is off to wash the boat, do some laundry and get cleaned up!

Day 15 Continued

Our service guy showed up just after nine, pumped out the old oil and sent someone else to get more oil. Well that proved to be more than a simple thing. We have been waiting for about an hour for the oil and it just arrived. You would think that a shipyard would have plenty of engine oil on hand, but apparently not. The engine is being filled again as I write. That oil will be pumped out to get rid of any remnants of the coolant. It will be filled again and then we will be ready to go. We hope to leave by 10:30. Meanwhile the wind continues to pick up. We called the bridge and as of about 9:30 they didn’t expect any difficulty opening later this afternoon.

Yesterday I finally got a Mr. clean Magic Eraser and scrubbed the remaining love bug stains out of the seats. It works great, thank goodness. This morning when I got up I noticed more bugs all over the rear outdoor seats. These were like small Mosquitos only I don’t think they were Mosquitos. More cleaning and bugs guts, although not nearly in the same league as the love bugs. Again the Magic Eraser did the trick.

The oil is in and the engines are running. Just checking. To make sure it is flowing and that there are no leaks. We might make a 10:30 departure.

Will update when we stop for the night.

Day 15

It is 20 minutes to 8 in the morning and we should have left around 7 am. However, Jim had a major brain cramp and put engine coolant in the engine oil reservoir on the port engine. This is a major problem. We can’t go anywhere until we can get the oil changed. We don’t have enough oil with us so we have to wait until about 8 when the shipyard opens. If we’re lucky the work might be done by 9. But we may not be able to leave because we have a low bridge coming up that needs to be opened for us to pass. The bridge won’t open in high winds. We had 30 mph winds again last night. It’s calm right now, but the winds will pick up as the day goes on. We may not make the bridge until the early afternoon, and if it’s not going to open, we will have to come all the way back to Belhaven because there are no other marinas between Belhaven and the bridge.

To be continued…..

Days 13 and 14

We left the Barefoot Marine around 7:30 Wednesday morning And entered the “Rock Pile,” a couple of miles of water that has a rocky bottom and sides. Many boats have had unpleasant experiences in the rock pile, and we did not want to be one of them. We took it slow and stayed to the center and made it through without incident. After that section we encountered many areas where the ICW was lined with houses with piers and marinas. In these areas it’s hard to go above 10 mph because of posted “no wake” zones or common courtesy (a big boat’s wake can do a lot of damage to floating docks and tied up boats if the big boat is throwing a large wake). So for miles on end it was life in the slow lane. Jim was ready to strangle someone.

A little after noon we entered the Cape Fear River. Finally we were able to get Sea BLyS up on plane and up to about 25 mph. The only problem was we were in the Cape Fear River, which has a major shipping channel. We were running in the channel when we noticed a big freighter off to our left heading toward the channel. Jim was driving, and for some reason thought the freighter was going to continue straight across our course rather turn toward us and enter the channel. So he pulled us to the left. The freighter started to turn into the channel. Now the freighter was heading right for us. We had to continue approaching it to the left. This took us out of the channel and put us in line with the freighter’s huge wake. We re able to avoid the worst of the wake and to turn into it so it didn’t hit us on the side. Nevertheless it was a few nail biting moments.

We left the Cape Fear River and finally hit some areas where we could get her up on plane and not worry about “no wake” zones, floating docks or oncoming freighters. We were hoping to make it to Morehead City, but we were coming on 4 pm and still had about 30 miles to go. If we hit another long stretch of “no wake” zones that could take several hours. So we decided to dock at Swansboro for the night. The only problem with Swansboro was that the wind was whipping at 30 mph when we hit the marina. Jim got us to the fuel dock without any trouble. But when he asked the dock master for advice on how to get into the slip, the dock master decided to dock the boat himself. Well he didn’t do such a great job. He swung the boat around so that we could back in, but he didn’t control the bow, which hit one of the pilings at the left entrance to the slip. There was no damage because the boat has a bumper railing designed for just that purpose. But we got her in and tied up.

Swansboro is a small southern fishing village with a mish mash of clapboard houses. So we didn’t expect much when we went to the Riverside Steak and Seafood Restaurant for dinner. But it ended up being one of the best meals we’ve had this trip. Jim ordered lobster ravioli with shrimp and scallops in a tomato and basil cream sauce. I had blackened grouper with homemade guacamole and black bean salsa. Both dishes were fabulous. In addition they served the entrees with little sweet potato muffins which were out of this world. They were so full of flavor and the texture was soft and almost creamy. I asked for the recipe, but they wouldn’t give it to me. They just told me that they were made with a lot of butter. They said we could buy 6 to take with us and we did. We figured dinner was going to be steamed shrimp and burgers. We were not prepared for expertly made lobster ravioli and blackened grouper.

The next day (today – Thursday) we left around 7:30 again Heading for Belhaven, NC. The winds had died down in the morning and we had lots of runs across larger bodies of water like the Nuese River and Bogue Sound, so we were able to make great time. We arrived in Belhaven just before 1 pm. I happy to say that we had no close encounters with any freighters today.

We’re staying at the River Forest Marina. This Used to be a prosperous marina with a lArge antebellum house that functioned as an inn with a restaurant. Well the restaurant is closed and business at the marina looks pretty slow, although there are about five other boats tied up here with us. The marina does have a courtesy golf cart for marina guests who want to go into town for supplies of food. We did want to pick up a few things at the grocery store, so after we checked in we asked for the golf cart. What we got was a cart that had been around quite a few golf courses. It go forward and in reverse, do about 10 mph, offered no seat belts and had no breaks. You had to put in reverse to stop it. So we set out in this thing for the grocery store which was about 3 or 4 miles away. The marina guy assured us we could take the cart onto a real road without getting run over.

So we’re tooling along veering all over place because of course the cart has virtually no steering. Fortunately Belhaven has seen better days because there weren’t too many cars on the road in the center of town. As we passed the center we picked up more traffic. Cars were passing us right and left. What could we do? Nothing. We just kept tooling along. I was never so happy to see aFood Lion in my life! We got our groceries and made it back to the marina in one piece.

Meanwhile the wind has really picked up. It’s hitting the boat a bit sideways, so we’re just rocking and rolling. It’s going to be an interesting night. We’re off to dinner soon. We plan to go to Coinjock, NC tomorrow, which is about 90 miles away. Saturday we hope to be in Norfolk.

A few parting comments before I end for the day. First, I cannot remember having so many bruises, except maybe when. Went whitewater rafting down the Snake River. I came back from that trip pretty black and blue because I was floating down the river(with Katherine) in a lifejacket and got bounced around some rocks. This trip is going to rival or exceed that experience. Second, I think I’ve broken every fingernail on my hands. I am in serious need of a manicure. And third, some of the country we have traveled through has been gorgeous, especially the low country of Georgia and South Carolina. We’d be driving along, not another boat in sight and be surrounded by pelicans diving into the water for fish, dolphins, lots of other birds and fish leaping out of the water

Day 12

We left Charleston Harbor around 9AM. The harbor was almost smooth and there was little wind. We left late in order to have a rising tide south of McClellanville. We hoped to be there around 10AM. We had not counted on the endless no-wake zones. As a consequence, we did not reach McClellanville until nearly noon. The countryside was gorgeous, but the endless no wake zones were monotonous and boring. We finally reached the Waccamaw River around 1 and could let the boat run. It was a beautiful river. Unfortunately, it was short lived. The dreaded no wake zones returned. Our plan was to stay at Barefoot Landing Marina in Myrtle Beach. The guy running the marina, however, was leaving at 5PM, and we were not sure we were going to make it. We thought we would be there by 3PM but the slow speed was going to make getting there by 5PM iffy. Fortunately, we pulled into the marina at 4:45PM, quickly refueled and tied up. At 4:59PM, the harbormaster left, lunch box in hand. We thought it very strange that the harbormaster was leaving so early, and soon found out why. The marina which is a beautiful large resort was in bankruptcy and virtually empty. The only restaurant on the grounds was closed and the Barefoot Landing shopping area that we thought was next to the marina was on the other side of the ICW. After wandering about a bit, we found one person working at an nearly deserted spa who told us all the restaurants were on the other side. Fortunately there was a swing bridge we could cross over. After about a mile walk, we were at the House of Blues, complete with a beat-up police cruiser sitting in front. We were appropriately attired because I had forgot my regular glasses and had sun glasses on and A had forgotten her reading glasses and kept her sunglasses on as well. Sitting in the dark restaurant with our sun glasses, it was clear that we were on a mission from God. Dinner was great and it was back to the boat. The boat beside us was a gorgeous 54ft Sea Ray only 4 months old. The owner, who was from Charleston, had several guests on board and invited us over. Ade went over while I washed off the boat and then I joined. Ade and I are amazed at how consistently friendly the boating community is. After spending about 45 minutes on the Sea Ray, it was off to study the charts and go to bed. Tomorrow, North Carolina awaits.