Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The End to a Wonderful Trip

Blue Heaven Rendezvous #37

After leaving Tidewater Marina in Portsmouth with 20 knot winds we motored to Old Point Comfort where Fort Munroe is located. We wanted to be closer to the bay so we would not have an extra long day the next day. After anchoring, we took the dinghy into the dinghy dock at the marina and were able to walk around. The fort was very interesting with a moat all around it and a town within it. There was also an excellent museum which gave all the history about the fort. We got some great views of the town within the walls and of how rough the bay was from the top of the fort. We were very glad we stopped.

The next day we were able to sail about three hours until the wind came around on our nose. We then motored into Jackson Creek on the Piankatank River. Old sailing association friends, Marge and Bill Goettle, were working on their boat at the Deltaville marina right off of where we anchored. Later we enjoyed sharing stories about past cruises and of course, cocktails and hors’doeurves on Blue Heaven. Present were Dave and Toni on Sequence and Bob and Chesley on Cygnet who also knew the Goettles from cruising the Bahamas.

The following day we were in the Solomons and spent the early evening with the Luke and Jeannie McLaughlin on Grianphort and the Mershons once again. Everyone seemed anxious to be getting home and even though we all were heading up the bay the next day, we each were headed for different locations at the end of the day.

It was an unexpected day of decent south wind of about 10-12 knots that sent Blue Heaven up the bay with an unexpected treat. The Blue Angels flew over a few times. Later we found out that the Naval Academy had their graduation and thus was the reason for the air display. We were able to sail all the way to Mill Creek off of Whitehall Bay. Our long time sailing group, Bay Region Mariners Sailing Association (BRMSA) was having a rendezvous there to start the Memorial Day cruise. We had five boats and it was just so nice to see former friends again. We spent the entire holiday weekend with our group of about fifteen different boats, sailing up the Severn River to Little Round Bay for Saturday and then to Rock Creek off the Patapsco River on Sunday. We shared Happy Hours, dinners and a breakfast, all planned by our cruise captains, Fritz and Bronnie Becker who did a wonderful job. What a great way to end our seven months on the water; with good friends and sharing our experiences of the last seven months with them. Our association motto, “Good winds, good food, good friends” sums up the weekend and the entire trip perfectly!

(We arrived back to Spring Cove marina in Swan Creek near Rock hall Maryland after 221 days and 2948 miles. )

(Credit goes to Ann Miller for her photos she took to document our return.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Unexpected Stay in Portsmouth, VA

Blue Heaven Rendezvous #36

The next day we motored the entire 60 miles to Pungo River and met up with the Mershons in a pretty anchorage before entering the Alligator Pungo Canal. We shared a dinner and had a wonderful evening catching up on what we each did this winter and who we met that they had known from their other trips down the waterway and to the Bahamas.

We motored through the 20 mile canal but were able to sail up the Alligator River and across Albemarle Sound. We wanted to come up the Virginia Cut route, but the winds in Albemarle Sound were pretty close to being right on the nose so we cracked off a bit and sailed up the Pasquotank River to Elizabeth City, NC. where we stopped for 2 days. This town is where the "Rose Buddies" give all the visiting wives a rose and have a small wine & cheese party if there are more than 5 boats at the free city docks. We didn't see any roses or parties, but the town was nice and worth the stop. The docks are not really very good so we tied up to a nice bulkhead that was protected from the wind as directed by the local drawbridge tender. I told him the signage at the bulkhead said "NO DOCKING, FOR TRAILERED BOATS ONLY" since it was next to a launch ramp area. He said no problem. The next day a guy from Parks & Rec. came by and wanted to know if "I could read the signs". I told him why I was there and that I was leaving the next morning. He said enjoy Elizabeth City and that everything was fine. I think it was only fine because the weather & fishing was not that good so very few fishermen were using the launch ramps! We toured the new 15 million dollar museum which can be seen from the water about the area and its history. We left on a Friday and that Saturday was the Big Annual Potato Festival- "free French fries as long as they last"! Better pencil that one in on your must visit list for next year.

The Dismal Swamp was fine again with no water depth problems and the lock tender at Deep Creek was first rate and very friendly. We saw loads of turtles and a Canadian goose standing on an osprey nest in a tree. Arleen wished she had been closer to get a photo because it certainly looked odd!

As we motored past Portsmouth Arleen thought she smelled diesel fuel. I thought it might be the local industries. A quick check in the engine room confirmed we had diesel fuel leaking from a cracked fuel line, with about 1 1/2 gallons of diesel in the bilge. Not too nice! Very fortunately we were right in front of Hospital Point anchorage and Tidewater marina. We anchored and cleaned up the bilge, but it was pushing noon on Saturday so I couldn't look for parts. I called my friend Dave and he said I should try to solder the cracked brazed fitting. I did that, but on re-start the fitting began leaking again after we hauled anchor and the crack telegraphed through my soldered joint. We anchored for the night and I cleaned the fitting again and applied GOOP and left that dry over night and then wrapped a layer of Recue Tape over the GOOP. Since bad winds (20 to 28 knots) were forecast for Monday I thought it would be good to get in to Tidewater marina and tied to the dock. So we motored in here Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. and the patch held. Tomorrow I'll be out looking for the replacement part which should be within 4 miles of Portsmouth.
Friends, Chick and Dorothy, whom we met in Stuart, FL. live here in Norfolk and we partied over at their house today with another couple from our sailing club who also stayed in Florida and are also traveling back to Annapolis.
So the bottom line is my boat engine is broken, the partying is pretty good here in Norfolk, we are having fun with friends along the way, and Chick is loaning me his truck to chase down boat parts. And I already told you I broke down in front of a marina and anchorage.
It just doesn't get any better than that! Maybe that's why this rainbow came out after the rains Sunday over Norfolk.

Arleen”s Note: Engine’s One, a diesel company, bent over backwards to find something that would work for us so that we would get moving again. We were able to get the boat fixed by using parts from an old engine because the store did not have the new part that we needed in stock. Al put it all together and it still weeped fuel just a little. He could not figure out why, and so we called in a mechanic from Full Throttle who told him he over tightened the bolt. With new copper washers put in and tightened by a mechanic, it WORKS and we are underway again! We are moving out to Old Point Comfort which is at the mouth of the James River. The winds are too much to go into the Chesapeake today, so we will head out tomorrow with probably hundreds of other boats.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

North Carolina-Some New Places, Some Revisited

Blue Heaven Rendezvous #35

From mosquitoes to no-see-ums to flies that is what we dealt with in Thoroughfare Creek, NC. The creek was lovely, although not as lovely as in the fall, when the weekend boaters were not there and neither were the flies. It was so bad that these black flies drove us below at 4 o’clock just so we could read instead of swatting them. A local saw us swatting them and said they would be gone in two weeks. Well, we were not staying around to find out!

Basically we have been motoring or motor-sailing when possible as we head home. We stayed in Calabash Creek, Bald Head Island Marina (which is where the sunset picture was taken) and Wrightsville Beach. All places we had stopped on the way south. We actually stayed in Wrightsville Beach for three days. There was to be some unsettled weather the one day, so we stayed put. We were glad we did because a storm cane through in the morning as predicted with some heavy rain and we heard that where we were going to go, a tornado was sighted. You can see the interesting sky after one of these showers. Later in the afternoon we took our dinghy over to Bridge Tender Marina (just south of the bridge) and got some fuel for it. They allowed us to leave the dinghy there while we walked to a Harris Teeter grocery store for some needed items. There was also a West Marine there, but luckily we did not need anything from them. We talked to our long time friends the Mershons, on Sequence who were behind us by a day or two and so we stayed put the third day so they might catch up which they did. I also got to enjoy the beach in the afternoons while there, which is not Al’s thing, so he stayed back and tinkered on the boat.

We had a rather nice sail up to Mile Hammock anchorage which is where the military base, Camp Lejeune, is located. We were glad we got in early because about eight more boats came in to anchor there as well. Two of which were friends of Sequence from the Bahamas. So Sequence hosted cocktail hour on their boat. We got to meet them all, Bill and Sue on Nice ‘n Easy and Chesley and Bob on Cygnet. They all talked about the “Georgetown Experience” and made us excited about going there on our next trip south probably in 2010-2011.

The next day we went into Morehead City Marina because I needed to get a prescription filled. Morehead City is located near Beaufort. We had not been here by boat so it was something new. The marina was very nice as written up in the guidebook. Nice floating docks, nice bathroom facilities, beautiful cruiser’s lounge, cable TV hook-up, pump-out, fuel and a courtesy car. They charged $10 for 2 hrs. of use of the car, but you do not have to fill it up. The cost was reasonable at $1.80ft. with the discount from Boat U.S. membership.

Since it was Mother’s Day Al took me out to dinner. The dockhand recommended Floyd’s 1821 which could be seen from our dock. It was a very nice place with linen table cloths, delicious food, and excellent service and not overly priced. With phone calls from our two sons my Mother’s Day was complete.

The next day rain and high winds were predicted. We motored twenty miles to Cedar Creek off of Adams Creek and got in just as the rain came down hard and the winds picked up. It felt like the temperature dropped a good fifteen degrees as we donned long pants and socks for the first time since January! It was a lazy day reading, scrapbooking and a little TV. You have to expect these kinds of days every once in a while. I am sure they will be more frequent the further north we get. We are still in North Carolina but plan to be in Virgina by the end of the week if all goes as planned.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Georgia to South Carolina

Blue Heaven Rendezvous #34
Coming up the ICW through Georgia we saw this boat aground. No this shrimp boat wasn’t blown ashore during a hurricane or other storm as you might think. According to Al they purposely beached it to work on the bottom. This is called careening. If you take notice on the right side, you will see a small skiff and men underneath working on the bottom. The tides are extremely high in Georgia being eight foot, so they can work on the boat at low tide. This is an interesting way to work on it without having to pay for a haul out. But think about how many days it must take to get the job done, because at high tide this boat would be floating again.

We spent another night in no-see-um territory in Bull Creek, South Carolina, by passing Savannah. We decided to be able to get to Charleston by a set date to visit friends, we needed to keep moving. We would save that wonderful city for our next trip south. We also motored past Beaufort, SC the next day but had visited there in the fall. Once across St. Catharine’s Sound it became more scenic. We anchored in the Edisto River with one other sailboat there. It was Dawn Treader, the owners whom we met at a friend’s party last summer and whom we saw in Oriental on the way south. It was after 5PM when we arrived and were just too tired to put the dinghy all together to go for a visit, so we just talked on the VHF with them, hoping to catch up with them another time in the future.

The next morning it was extremely foggy, so we took our time and had a good breakfast. You can see how foggy it is in the picture. By about 9am we were able to get motoring. We made the first bridge south of Charleston and were glad to get out of the canal because it was Sunday, and all sorts of boaters were out for a good time. We were going north of Charleston to Dewees Creek which would be close to Isle of Palm for the next day where we were to visit friends. We had to go through a swing bridge but unfortunately on the weekend it opens only on the hour, so we had to idle for 50 minutes. Finally the traffic stops, the bridge opens for us, and only us, and the engine would not power up. We decided it was too dangerous and too slow to go through at idle speed so we had to turn around and abort. I can’t imagine what all the passengers and drivers in those cars thought and said when they saw us turn around and go back down the ICW. Luckily, the wind was in the perfect direction for us to pull out the genoa and sail back to Charleston Harbor. We anchored off a sandy beach where one other boat was anchored. With sailing in and dropping the hook, I told Al I did not want to be where a lot of other boats were anchored. Al started diagnosing the problem and after changing all the filters on the fuel tank and engine, he discovered that we had let the fuel tank get to low and sucked in all the “gunk” from the bottom of the tank. He finally got it started and we headed for the bridge again for the 6PM opening. This time we made it through, although the engine still did not seem quite right. We made it to Dewees Creek with the dolphin leading us in. Once again we had a magnificent sunset in the marsh with dolphins surfacing, mesmerized by the beauty of it all.

The next day we got in very early to the Isle of Palm Marina, because they had no one in the slip. Our engine still did not seem quite right so Al worked on it some more while I cleaned up the boat for our friends, Patty and Harold Smith, to come and see us. We eventually went to their lovely home and biked Sullivan Island and came back most of the way by the beach. We had a great dinner and made plans for them to go sailing the next day. We went down to Charleston Harbor and out into the ocean for a sail going through the bridge both times with no problems which made Al feel more confident about his motor job. That evening we went to a terrific Greek restaurant in Mt. Pleasant called Samos Taverna. It did not look like much from the outside, the d├ęcor inside was more American than Greek, but the food was as authentic as we have found in the states and delicious.

We were on our own the next day with the use of one of the Smith’s cars. We got our groceries purchased and returned to the boat. Afterwards we drove to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Unfortunately, we were about two weeks late for the blooming azaleas that abound on the property and too early for the magnolias to be blooming. Nonetheless, it was beautiful with other flowers in the gardens, the Audubon swamp garden, marsh and pastures where horses grazed. We got to see 10 inch baby alligators and larger ones, as well as wild turkeys walking across our path.

The next day we left the marina and motored the entire day. We saw several alligators along the way, always just floating in the water with their beady eyes just out of the water. We arrived in the middle of no where and anchored in Minim Creek. As usual sipping wine and watching another sunset ended our day.

The next day we were able to sail almost the entire way to Georgetown, SC. The guidebooks say this town has pluses and minuses. The minuses are a steel mill and paper mill. Both which can be unpleasant when the wind blows in the wrong direction in the anchorage. The other minus is the holding isn’t very good and there is not a lot of space to anchor among the moorings. Our first attempt at anchoring failed and so I flagged a gentleman in his dinghy who just came off one of the moored boats. We asked if the moorings were for transients but he said no, they were private. However, he knew the guy on the mooring next to him was gone for awhile so to just tie up to it, which is what we did for two days.

Al and I walked around to see some of the lovely old homes and came across this huge lovely old oak tree which is said to be over 550 years old with a circumference of 23 feet. There were some small museums, shops and various restaurants along the harbor like most small sea side towns. But one of the pluses is a wonderful seafood store down at the docks where the seafood is brought in. It could not get any fresher! I am certainly getting my fill of shrimp on this trip which is my favorite. Instead of a great sunset with dinner, we had a great rainbow which came out after a brief shower.