Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Proof of the Canadian weather-control
experiments. Frost on our fenders in Beaufort.
As many of you will recall, two years ago I published a blog entry about the imminent Canadian invasion of the Bahamas. There were -- and continue to be -- a disproportionate number of sailboats, in particular, along the ICW on their way to the Bahamas. You probably don't realize how indebted to me the intelligence community really is. While I may not have prevented the invasion, my reporting appears to have delayed it (why else would they not have invaded yet?)
There has been, however, a major development. You may or may not know that during the Cold War both the United States and the Soviet Union researched the possibility of weather-control as a strategic weapon. Neither side, of course, was able to make any real progress. But it appears that the Canadians might kept working and might -- just might -- have figured out how to control the weather. Everyone believes there have just been a couple of cold snaps here in the south. But once in a while one of the meteorologists (probably Canadian) slips and reports on a "Canadian Low" sweeping across the US (and presumably, though they are far less clear about this, the Bahamas). Why would the Canadians have done this? They have unleashed cold weather on me, your intrepid intelligence analyst, in the hope of making me stay inside and not seeing all the preparations those "polite" Canadians are making.
The Canadians with their parkas and mukluks haven't scared me. I have actually worn long pants on occasion just to be able to continue reporting. And, God forgive me, I have worn socks with my sandals. I know, I know, this is an unforgiveable fashion faux pas, but I will do it to keep those far-northerners on the edge. This is quite literally (are you ready for it ... ready) a Cold War that I am fighting. Weather  -- and Canadians -- notwithstanding, we have had a pretty good time meandering south. In this entry we talk about our journey through southern South Carolina: Myrtle Beach, SC, Cha'l'ston, SC and Beaufort. Don't worry. (There is code buried deeply within that only intelligence analysts will understand.)
Myrtle Beach, NC
Until recently, you could dock at the long (1000’) pier in Myrtle Beach for free! It was free because it was assumed that you would spend your time shopping at the retail establishments right next door and eating at one of several restaurants at the mall. Guess what … we would have done exactly that!!! In fact, we had heard that the area was kind of a shopping Mecca and that there were outlet stores galore. The advertising calls it, “a factory outlet mall with over 100 brand name outlets.” Now I am no shopper, but there were some things I really wanted, like a pair of warm gloves. Ann just likes shopping – and she wanted some sheets. Well the dock is no longer free, they now charge $1.50 per foot – not that much, but certainly not free. Every time we cruised past Ann would sigh wistfully the shopping opportunities she was missing.

Since nothing is too good for my wife, this year we stopped at Myrtle Beach, made sure we had money to spend, and went ashore. I gotta tell you that the folks who called this a shopping “Mecca” have been cruising too long. Although it was organized sort of like an outlet mall, the goods they sold, for the most part, were more akin to those you would find on the boardwalk at Virginia Beach and Atlantic City than an outlet mall. There were T-shirts, sweat shirts, shot glasses, superhero dolls, ‘gator jerky, ice cream, baseball caps, key chains, coffee mugs – I think you get the picture. Moreover, there were very, very few “brand named” outlets. The “outlets” were world renowned chains like (I kid you not):

·         “Bombay Bomba”
·         “Bargain Beachwear”
·         “Broadway at the Beach”
·         “The Character Store”
·         “Surf and Sand Beach Shop”
·         “Tiki Jim’s”
·         “Mole Hole”
·         “Just Horse’n Around”
·         And that old favorite, right next to Macy's at your local mall -- “Alligator’s Adventure Outpost!”

(Ok. There were a few legitimate brand name stores like Van Heusen, Sunglass Hut, etc. But there were certainly NOT “over a hundred” of them … maybe ten?)

Old Folks at Home (first verse with a couple of mods)

Stephen Foster, 1851

Way down upon the Swanee River,
Far, far away,
There's where my heart is turning ever,
There's where the old folks stay.
All up and down the whole creation
Sadly I roam,
Still longing for the old plantation,
And for the old folks at home.

All the world am sad and dreary,
Everywhere I roam;
Oh, brothers, how my heart grows weary,
Far from the old folks at home!

After the disappointment of Myrtle Beach, however, came one of my favorite parts of the ICW – the meandering rivers of South Carolina – the Swanee (the subject of the song) the Great Pee Dee and the Waccamaw, among others.  They are difficult to describe in that they truly meander sometimes forming an almost complete loop, by flowing back on themselves. In other instances a river will flow north, then east, then south, making an almost perfect horseshoe. All of these magnificent streams have dozens of oxbows making perfect little anchorages with small islands in the middle. “S” shapes are the order of the day and straight line courses never seen. All the while these rivers are connected with one another as they join together then flow apart. The banks are almost as surprising as they are covered with cypress trees that seem to grow straight out of the river.  AND the rivers are deep. Not ten or twenty feet deep, but sometimes they are 50 feet or more – as are the smaller tributaries that flow into them. Anyway, as you can tell, I kind of like this part of South Carolina.
South Carolina cotton fields.
There are still acres upon acres.
After Georgetown, however, all that changes. We go from the magnificent meandering rivers of the low country of South Carolina to the shoaling creeks and canals north of Charleston. This time through we only saw one grounded sailboat and only touched the bottom once ourselves, but this stretch of the ICW is terrible. We work to avoid the worst of it by timing our departure to take advantage of high tide. But it is difficult because the stretch is so long. In our case, because current s can be very strong in Charleston Harbor, we wanted to get to our marina at slack tide (roughly low or high tide). Since the time between a low tide and high tide in this neck of the woods is roughly six hours – about the amount of time it takes us to traverse the distance – that meant we were going to see low tide somewhere.


We did not, however, go aground, and we successfully arrived in Cha’l’ston (aka Charleston) at slack tide. This year we decided to stay at the Charleston Maritime Center. The bad thing about this marina is that it is very rolly. Whenever a big ship goes by (often) or something else happened, every boat in the marina rolled a little a lot. The good thing about the marina is that it was within walking distance of downtown and all the eating and shopping opportunities that Charleston represents.

Anyway, then we arrived in at the marina on 5 November and two days later our friends, Dave and Joan Wolf, arrived to take advantage of the long Veterans Day Holiday. We had all been to Charleston before so we tried to visit some out of the way places and do some out of the way things. We had already been to Fort Sumter so this time we visited Fort Moultrie.

Fort Moultrie is a series of citadels on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, built to protect the city of Charleston. The first fort was instrumental in one of the first Colonial victories over the British. On June 28, 1776 Admiral Sir Peter Parker (yes, Spiderman fans, that was really his name) attacked the still unnamed and only partially built fort with nine British warships. The fort had been constructed primarily of palmetto logs, which did not crack under bombardment but rather absorbed the shot; cannonballs reportedly even bounced off the walls of the structure. William Moultrie, commander of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment, and his four hundred men fought a day-long battle that ended with the heavily damaged British ships being driven from the area. This victory galvanized the Patriots' cause for independence. inspired the flag and nickname of South Carolina, "The Palmetto State". It is named for the commander in the Battle of Sullivan's Island, General William Moultrie.

A top-down view of Fort Moultrie
It was Fort Moultrie’s defenders who manned parts of Fort Sumter during the bombardment that began the Civil War and Confederate artillerists who manned Fort Sumter during its subsequent bombardment by Union forces. After the War the fort was part of the United States’ Coastal Defenses. Indeed, during WWII it provided a headquarters for the management of all shipping coming into and exiting Charleston Harbor.

Today, the fort is managed by the National Park Service as a National Monument. It is unique in that it celebrates the fort as a mainstay of the nation’s coastal defenses from 1776 through 1947.There are exhibits of each of the major periods of Fort Moultrie’s life, including the command and control bunker that was used during WWII. All in all, a very interesting site.

We also went shopping – several different places. First, of course, we had to go to the downtown mall that has a Fresh Produce Store. No, for those of you of the male persuasion, Fresh Produce is not something you eat, it is a line of clothing. Apparently the women on our boat are produced-deprived, and in all of Virginia, Maryland and DC they have no Fresh Produce stores as we had to go to one in downtown Charleston. We also went shopping at the City Market. If you haven’t been there, it is s trip. You should go. But if you really want a treat, go to the Farmer’s Market at Marion Square.  It is held every Saturday and has all sorts of cool stuff.

We also ate well. We went to a small Italian restaurant downtown called Bocci’s. We had been there before with our friends Andy and Sharon aboard Finally Fun and of course we had to go to a restaurant in a chain called Bubba Gump’s.  You see, Bubba Gump’s gives away a glass if you have one of their special drinks and Ann likes the glasses. (I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true) so obviously we had to go to Bubba’s. )

We did some other things, too. We visited some antique stores, primarily for Dave and Joan. We visited the Boone Hall Plantation and, of course, we used  Dave and Joan’s car to go to Harris Teeter’s (a very good grocery store) to re-provision. We also had some electrical work done and got the battery for our generator replaced.

Beaufort, SC

We spent Saturday night on the hook at the South Edisto River. From there, it was on to Lady’s Island Marina in beautiful Beaufort, SC. (In case you didn’t know, the South Carolina “Beaufort” is pronounced “Byoufort” as in beautiful while the North Carolina “Beaufort” is pronounced “Bofort” as in bow and arrow. ) Our initial intention was only to spend a couple of days, but once again the cold weather pinned us in Beaufort for two extra days.

We didn’t mind, though. In the first place we had some extra time before we needed to be in Brunswick, GA and in the second place, Lady’s Island Marina has what are probably the friendliest folks we have met in a marina. When we arrived at the marina, there were three men ready to catch our lines: TJ, the official dock master; Steve, formerly of the Capital Yacht Club in DC (whose boat name we never got), and Steve, of Steve and Nancy (whose boat name we also never got). Anyway, in addition to those folks who were very friendly and a great deal of fun, we also met Captain Mark and Brenda Covington of the 46’ Jefferson, Sea Angel. We got a look at Sea Angel and it is a wonderful boat being very well cared for by Mark and Brenda.

In addition to eating, drinking and making merry with our new friends, we also borrowed TJ’s car to go to the grocery store, walked Ann’s bike to a near-by bicycle shop, ate out at a Mexican restaurant, and took a ride in and around Lady’s Island. In a weird coincidence, Joan Conover, a friend of ours from the Hampton, VA area (boat name: Growltiger – to understand, you have to read the poem, “Growltiger’s Last Stand” by T.S. Eliot) sent us a house listing from one of her friends. I had just ridden by that house the day before.

Ann also got to see her friend Elaine. Elaine and Ann had been friends for almost twenty years. They met in northern VA when they were both travel agents. Elaine later moved to Beaufort, SC to be nearer her mother. Sadly, two days after Ann saw her very sick friend Elaine passed away from cancer.  She will be remembered and missed. Every time we pass through Beaufort, we’ll say a prayer.

After Beaufort, it was on to Brunswick. But for that, you have to wait (with baited breath, I hope) until the next blog entry.

Ann’s Notes:  I must admit that the weather has been mostly on the chilly side. Normally that would be ok with me except when I am pulling up Big Bertha (our anchor) and my fingers are numb. Plus I need to hose the mud off of her before securing her to the bow sprit. The usual sailing gloves I use have open fingers with all the padding to protect the palm of the hand. Great gloves for the Bahamas…not so much in the cold, wind and rain. When we arrived in Beaufort we went to the hardware store and bought a pair of utility rubber gloves and they seem to help. Once I add a glove liner it will be perfect. I think by the time I get my perfect cold weather glove settled, we will be back in warm waters and the sailing glover will be in order.
The driveway at Boone Hall Plantation.
 Classic plantation view

Michael and I did have a wonderful visit with Dave and Joan. Having a car makes all the difference when exploring the area. The Boone Hall Plantation was very interesting. They have an avenue of 200 year old Live Oak trees that is just breath taking. They also had some slave quarters still standing, the slaves that lived in these quarters were the house slaves and had a much different life than the slaves that worked the cotton and rice fields. Nevertheless it was one of the best displays and commentary of slavery in the south. On the plantation during the winter months they had a large brick-making operation. Most of the bricks that made Fort Sumter came from Boone Hall. You can still see the hand prints in some of the bricks.

Our stay in Beaufort SC was bittersweet for me. I knew before hand that Elaine was very sick. Since she told me all the places the cancer had attacked I knew she did not have much time. However she wanted to fight it and made all the plans to do so. She just ran out of breath and time. I was blessed that her mom brought her to the marina so we could see each other. We sat in her car, as she could not walk far and be away from her oxygen supply. We shared pictures, laughed a lot and had a great conversation. Elaine was a wonderful spirit, a joy to be around. She just ran out of breath and time. I will miss her earthly presence but know she is watching over me always. I will stay in contact with her mom. She also is a friend.

Now for the much awaited Wild life count…

Wednesday 5 Nov 2014
·         5 Single Dolphins
·         1 Single very playful dolphin
·         1 Very Big Boy playing in our bow wake
·         3 Pods of 2 dolphins

Friday 14 Nov 2014
·         4 single dolphins
·         1 pod of 2 dolphins
·         1 single playing in our wake
·         1 pod of 2 very big boys playing in our wake

Saturday 15 Nov 2014
·         1 dolphin playing on the side of the boat
·         1 pod of 2 dolphins
·         1 single dolphin playing in our bow wake
·         1 pod of 3 dolphins

Monday 17 Nov 2014
·         2  Single dolphins playing in the marina fareway…checking out boats

Thursday 20 Nov 2014

·         2 Single dolphins
·         2 pods of 2 dolphins
·         2 very playful dolphins in our bow wake
·         And one very special Mom and her baby playing in the bow wake

Thanks for following us…

Traveling Soul…OUT


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Portsmouth, Edenton and More

Ok, Ok. I didn’t want to write about our Portsmouth (VA) mis-adventure, but Ann says I have to. If I don’t tell the story my way, I am afraid she will tell it her way. So, okay, I am going to tell it, but first, the back story.

After the Hampton Snowbird Rendezvous we decided to visit Portsmouth, VA. It is the first place along the Intracoastal (mile marker zero) that we had never visited, so we made a reservation at the Tidewater Marina and as soon as the Rendezvous was over, we headed for Portsmouth. The marina was nothing to write home about, but it was okay. Interestingly, though, my top-notch Wi-Fi antenna wouldn’t work. I could pick up Wi-Fi through my computer itself, but not through the antenna. After experimenting with various fixes, I called the company’s service department and asked what was up. The consumer rep (who is also the owner) said, “Are you by chance in Virginia?”

“Uh, yea,” I replied in my most technically sophisticated voice.
“ … At the Tidewater Marina?”

“Right again,” I answered.
Apparently, between the Navy’s facilities in Norfolk, Newport News and Portsmouth, there are a lot of electronic signals floating in the ether. It doesn’t seem to interfere with low powered Wi-Fi receivers, but it does with the hi-powered antennas that we have – I guess it has something to do with the gain on the antenna or something like that. Anyway, as soon as we left Portsmouth, the antenna started working as well as before.

While in Portsmouth we also visited “Old Town Portsmouth.” There are certainly a number of old houses, most from the late 19th century. They would have been more interesting if it has been possible to go in and looked around, but since most are privately owned, that wasn’t possible. I gotta say that after seeing a dozen or so houses built in 1890, they begin to look a little bit alike, so after that first day we decided that there was probably more to see in Norfolk than Portsmouth – and we were right.  We spent the next day or two visiting Norfolk, which is right across the river. We saw the Battleship Wisconsin and parts of the Nauticus – a major maritime museum that Norfolk sponsors. There was more to see in Norfolk so we will probably go back.
After that we hunkered down for a day or two because it was c-c-c-cold AND the wind was blowing at maybe 20 – 25 MPH. It was so old, in fact, that (are ready for this?) I even put on jeans and socks!! Finally, though, on the fourth day, I decided it was time to go. In case you were wondering, THAT was a bad decision.

The Incident (To be sung to terrible, terrible dramatic music like “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows the sorrow …”)
On that terrible day it was cold though a little less windy than it had been. We were in the slip, bow-in. All we needed to do was back out of the slip and pivot the boat by running one engine (starboard) forward and one (port) in reverse, which would, in turn, swing the bow to the left and the stern to the right. If everything had worked correctly, we would then have been facing down the fairway and ready to leave the marina. Moreover, since I know that our boat has a lot of windage aft, I was counting on the wind pushing our stern even more to the right. In other words, I thought the wind would help us turn.

Well, things didn’t happen the way they were supposed to.  For some reason – and I still don’t know why – I could not get the bow wouldn’t turn to port. We basically were sitting between the two rows of boats at about a 30 degree angle with the wind was pushing us down the fairway, away from the direction we wanted to go. We would come close to the boats in front and I would rev the engines in reverse, then we would come close to boats in the rear and I would rev the engines forward. This continued for an eternity or two until the ladder connecting our aft deck and swim platform got caught in another boat’s anchor. At that point all movement ceased (thank God!). While Ann and another gentleman worked to free the ladder from the anchor, I tried to get control of the boat. We both succeeded. I was then able to turn the boat around and leave the marina.
Ann thought that we might have bent one of the flukes on the anchor we snagged, so we called and offered to recompense the boat owner. As for Traveling Soul, we lost the top step of the ladder on the aft deck, which I think will be about a $30 repair. Overall, it was a fairly inexpensive finish to what could have been a much more catastrophic operation. At any rate, this was not an auspicious beginning to 2014’s journey down the ICW.

Shhhh! We have discovered one of the best kept secrets in North Carolina – Edenton, North Carolina, a town on the northern bank of the Albemarle Sound. For cruisers, it has everything, several restaurants, a nice hardware store, a great deal of history, ice cream places and (are you ready for this?) a FREE DOCK! That’s right. Downtown Edenton has a marina with about eleven slips that are absolutely free for up to two full days. Moreover, they have one slip that is big enough to handle Traveling Soul.

The Chowan Country Courthouse (ca. 1767) in Edenton.
The oldest government building in continuous use in NC
Edenton has quite a history. In 1658 adventurers from the Jamestown area, drifted south from Virginia, eventually settling on a natural harbor on the northern bank of the Albemarle Sound and founding the first permanent settlement in what is now the state of North Carolina. Officially recognized as a town – and as the first capital of North Carolina – in 1712, its first name was the Towne on Queen Anne's Creek. It later became Ye Towne on Mattercommack. In 1722 the location was incorporated and renamed “Edenton” in honor of Governor Charles Eden. Edenton’s claim to fame (other than having several native sons as signers of the Declaration of Independence) was when, in 1774, fifty-one Edenton women, led by one Penelope Barker, signed a petition agreeing to boycott English tea and other products, in what became known, decades later, as the “Edenton Tea Party.” According to Wikipedia, “The Edenton Tea Party is the first known political action by women in the British American colonies. In fact it so shocked London that newspapers published an etching depicting the woman as uncontrollable.”
 Downtown Edenton has a bunch of 17th and 18th Century homes, many of which have a story associated with them. We took a trolley tour where Ann swears it took the li’l ol’ lady wiiittthhh a reeaaalll south’n drraawwlll a full minute or more to get each word out. On the tour they told us all we ever wanted to know – and a whole lot we didn’t – about the houses in Edenton. Although we complain a little, it is wonderful to see a small town on the water succeeding where so many others have failed. Today Edenton is a thriving town of about 5,000 people in a county with a population of 15,000.

One of the many historic homes in Edenton
Ok, Ann says I gotta tell you my bike riding story, too. North Carolina publishes as handout entitled, “Biking the Albemarle,” which sounds like something I would love. It has various routes around the northern Albemarle and distances associated with each. One route was labeled a 22 mile ride in and around Edenton. Sounds good, right? Well, apparently the states and the locals do not coordinate the names of the roads and streets around the county. I swear to you (with Ann as my witness) I was supposed to get onto Yeopim Street, go a couple of miles then turn onto Indian Trails Road. Well the town did not have a Yeopim Street, but as I traced the highway connections, it appeared as if Church Street was the local name for Yeopim. So, I took off down Church Street. I zigged and I zagged, I looked for the other roads I was supposed to find. I zigged some more and I zagged some more, and after about 15 miles I took a road saying Edenton was 2 miles away. Then, about three miles down the road, I took another road saying Edenton was two miles away. Then another. Finally, I found a street named Yeopim that was probably 10 miles away from where the state map proclaimed it to be. Just so you know, I had left Edenton long ago. I was in the North Carolina countryside riding alongside cotton fields. I finally did make it back, but it had nothing to do with that darn map. In short, my 22 mile ride turned into a 30.33 mile ride, part of which was on Highway 17 – a major highway that I generally like to avoid.
Even after all that, I still like Edenton.

Alligator River, Morehead City and More
Sunset at our anchorage in the Alligator River, North Carolina
After we left Edenton, we anchored out one night just south of Albemarle Sound in the Alligator River. The following night we anchored just off the Pungo River inside the seawall that surrounds Belhaven, NC. I really didn’t want to take my bike ashore in the dinghy so I decided to take the dinghy ashore and jog a little. Well, I learned something. Being able to bike a few miles does NOT translate into the ability to jog a few miles – at least when you are sixty-something years old. I did it, I jogged a couple of miles, stopping more times than I care to admit, but I am no longer a jogger. I am a bicyclist.

After Belhaven we traveled to Morehead City, NC where we had hoped to meet friends of ours, Shay and Elizabeth Glass on their boat Escape. Unfortunately we forgot to tell Shay and Elizabeth that we were coming. They had already left Morehead City and were on their way to Florida. So instead of visiting with them, we stayed one night at Morehead City (where I got in one short bike ride), refueled and headed further south.
When we set out the morning of October 30th, we heard that some bad weather was coming, so our plan was to anchor for one night at Mile Hammock Bay, then get to Southport, NC before the front arrived. Before we got anywhere, though, we had to pass under the Onslow Beach Bridge. It really shouldn’t have been a problem. The bridge opened on the hour and half-hour and we were there at 25 past the hour. Of all the days, of all the times, of all the organizations, someone decided that the bridge should be inspected by some contracted Navy Engineers. Most of you know that I really don’t have time for Navy anything, but Navy Engineers? Who even knew the Navy had engineers (other than Seabees)? If the Navy has engineers, why is it that the Army Corps of Engineers runs the ICW, the major ports, etc. Now that I know the Navy has engineers, I gotta ask who would give them anything important to do?  But Noo-oo! At the Onslow Beach Bridge, some genius of a navy “engineer” decided to inspect the bridge when no fewer than a dozen boats were waiting for it to open so we could all pass under. AARRGGHH!!!

But that wasn’t all. The anchorage at Mile Hammock Bay, where we had planned on spending the night, is part of the Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune and is really a wonderful anchorage. In fact, we have stayed there every time we have traversed the ICW – sometimes in pretty bad weather and fairly high winds. Well, we had heard that this year there were some military training exercises taking place and that this particular stretch of the ICW might be problematic. We watched all the notices that the Marines are required to publish and picked dates when we shouldn’t have had any problems.  Just to make sure, though, we called range control who told us that “yes’” the ICW was open but Mile Hammock Bay itself was closed to anchoring.  Now this was a problem.
There are really no good anchorages that we know about within fifteen or twenty miles of Mile Hammock. Neither were there many marinas within a reasonable distance. Making matters worse is the fact that we weren’t the only ones who were surprised by the closing of Mile Hammock, there were several other boats looking for a place to stay. What to do, what to do. We got out our cruising books and found a small marina that was designed to serve a specific community, but that would be happy to provide space for transients – for a price. Ok, so the price wasn’t exorbitant, it was still higher than we wanted to pay and certainly higher than we had planned on paying! We stayed the night and were up and gone early the next morning.

The only good thing about the closing of Mile Hammock was that it put us closer to our intermediate destination in Southport. The front that was on the way was forecast to be a strong one with very cold weather – possibly even with that four letter word that begins with “s” – and gale force winds. They were even telling people to get their porch and patio furniture inside so it didn’t blow away. We decided we’d hunker down in a marina that we know and at which we have spent some time before, St. James Plantation Marina just outside of Southport.

In the event, it was certainly cold and windy, but we did not see any gale force winds, any furniture flying off porches or patios, nor did we see any frozen precipitation. In short, it was pretty much a non-event. Meanwhile, I took advantage of the opportunity to ride a couple of times. St. James Plantation is a very large, very nice housing development built around a couple of golf courses and a marina. It is also just a bridge away from the North Carolina beaches. AND it has some very nice biking paths and since most of them are kind of “loops” that stay within the development you CANNOT GET LOST!
We still have to cover a couple of more places before we are completely caught up, but we know you have other things to do than read our blog.  We thought it we kept it a little shorter, you might actually get to read most of it.

The first (of what I am sure will be many) of
this year's dolphin pictures
ANN’S NOTES: I will have to admit this trip down the ICW has been on the chilly side. Most of the time that would not be a problem for me, as I like cold weather. The down side of living on a boat and in charge of most things outside in or around the deck is the wind. Wind, cold air and water do not mix well first thing in the morning when I have to bring up Big Bertha (the anchor) and give her a shower. I am getting rather good, and fast, at bringing up the anchor.
When we are doing these chores we need to stay in contact with each other. Michael is at the helm with a large window between him and me when I am at the bow of the boat. In the past, we have used headsets to talk to each other. They worked well, but they didn’t last long because they were on the cheap side. We had already gone through sets of the less expensive ones. The solution was to do some research talk to few other cruisers and ask what kind of headsets they use . Now we have a new pair of headset that are much lighter, have a longer battery life, and makes me look like a rock star at the bow of the boat. That all works for me. Rock on Traveling Soul… a good title for a song I think.

I won’t say anything more about getting out of the slip in Portsmouth..I was on the aft deck. I call it the back porch…Michael just shakes his head when I call it that. I think Michael did a great job trying to get out of that slip. I just made the best decisions I could in a bad situation and kept our boat from doing any more damage to other boats.
Our visit to Edenton was interesting. The town has that Mayberry-feel. I was waiting to see Opie and Aunt Bee with Sheriff Andy walking down the street. The town has lots of old live oak trees, Spanish moss and slave stories. I would go back just to see a few more places we missed this time around. And that tour guide really did talk southern...aaaaaaaaaaaaannnnd tttttttttttttooooooooooo y’alls leeeeft …(hand pointing left)…you get the picture…correct???

So now Ladies and Gentlemen…it is time for the Wildlife count.
Now that we are back on the ICW all my dolphin friends are back and playing with us and wanting to be counted…so here we go…

Thursday 30 October 2014
·         1 single dolphin
·         1 pod of 3 dolphins
·         1 pod of 4 dolphins playing in our wake
·         2 pods of 5 dolphins playing in our wake

Friday 31 October 2014
·         1 single very playful dolphin in our bow wake
·         2 pods of 2 dolphins
·         Thanks for reading
·         Traveling Soul

Traveling Soul … OUT

Thursday, November 6, 2014

2014: The Journey Begins

On October 6, 2014, we set off down the Chesapeake to see, explore, discover … and get out of the damn cold that seemed to have come a little early this year! We had intended to spend the month of October touring some of the nooks and crannies of North Carolina, but we got an invitation to attend a Rendezvous, the Hampton Snowbird Rendezvous, to be exact. A rendezvous is kind of like a cruiser’s conference that has interesting presentations, time to meet and greet people, and great food (at least this one did). I will discuss it more below, but once we decided to go to the rendezvous we figured we would have to forego our explorations of North Carolina and spend some our time meandering down the Chesapeake towards Hampton, VA.

Our first stop after leaving Kent Island was St. Michael’s, MD. We had been here many times before and, in fact, had anchored in almost exactly the same spot before.  Now, imagine sitting on the aft deck with a cocktail just enjoying the hell out of the wonderful weather and calm seas. What could be better than this? I’ll tell you what … sitting on the aft deck with a cocktail and a baited hook in the water just waiting for a decent-sized spot or even a croaker. Now THAT is heaven.

The day after I enjoyed a little o this heavenly bliss, we decided we would go into St. Michaels to see what was new. We deployed the dinghy, pulled the cord to start the outboard and … nothing. Nothing. The $%#% thing wouldn’t start. As high as I had been the day before while fishing off the aft deck, I was now just as low sitting in the non-functional dinghy. I know what was wrong, of course. The brilliant legislators who mandated the use of ethanol in our gasoline either did not know – or did not care – that it would have a tremendously negative impact on marine outboards. AAARGH!!!

 Since we couldn’t get to shore, we called around and found a marina/boatyard in Oxford, MD that could take us and repair our dinghy expeditiously. Campbell’s was not only fast (they had us ready to go by 3:30 that afternoon), they were also relatively inexpensive. (We paid for one hour of a mechanics time, $85.) We went ahead and spent the night at the marina, then anchored the following night at our favorite anchoring spot in Oxford, Flatty Cove. Since we were there, we deployed our dinghy (this time it worked!) and went into town. Some of you may remember that Ann and I have a love affair with the Robert Morris Inn as it has some of the best food – and perhaps the best crab cakes – on the Bay. Well, this time we didn’t go for dinner, but we did go for lunch. Ann had a Reuben AND she actually ate cold slaw with APPLES in it. (Some of you will understand the significance of Ann eating a salad with fruit in it. If not, take my word for it; this is an event!) As for me, I have my specialty: beer and French fries with rosemary and parmesan. MMMMMMMM!!

We had decided to go to some new places on the Chesapeake this year, so after Oxford we headed for Crisfield Maryland. Crisfield is on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. According to Wikipedia:

The site of today's Crisfield was initially a small fishing village called Annemessex Neck. During European colonization, it was renamed Somer's Cove after Benjamin Summers. When the business potential for seafood was discovered, John W. Crisfield decided to bring the Pennsylvania Railroad to Crisfield, and the quiet fishing town grew. Crisfield is now known as the "Seafood Capital of the World.” The city's success was so great that the train soot and oyster shells prompted the extension of the city's land into the marshes. City residents often claim that the downtown area is literally built atop oyster shells.
But the key to Wikipedia’s discussion is in subsequent paragraphs.

·         “Crisfield began to slip into decline along with the declining health of the Chesapeake Bay …”

·       By 1904, Crisfield was the second largest city in Maryland, after Baltimore, with the population topping off at about 25,000 at that time. In 2010, the population was a little over 2,000.

Whether you are an environmentalist, a seafood lover or simply a lover of the Eastern Shore and what it represents, it is sad to realize that Crisfield (and many other cities in both Maryland and Virginia) destroyed themselves by overfishing. First, they overfished oysters and now they are destroying the crab fishery. The numbers of the blue crab catch has decreased by 70% since the 1990s. Downtown Crisfield is now a shadow of its former self. I have seen a repurposing of buildings before, but when a large community bank building (you know, one of those that looks like it is made of granite?) has been made into a curtain shop and when hardware stores have been converted to churches, you know that things are not going well for the town.

Okay, so you get the idea that Crisfield is not what it once was. We, moreover, got there on a cold, wet, windy day. So, while there wouldn’t have been much to do anyway, the weather put a real damper on things. Not to despair, however, because the next day the marina sponsored what they called an “Outdoor Expo” for the community; Ann preferred to call it an “All Things Duck” day. Yes, they had duck decoys for sale, duck calls, duck hats, duck this and duck that. They even had – wait for it – one of the personalities from the TV show “Duck Dynasty!!!” We are so very, very sorry though, we did not get his autograph.

We did partake, and enjoy, two parts of the “All Things Duck” Fest. They had a demonstration of dogs retrieving the duck that their masters shot. Imagine this: the dog and his hunter on the platform, the officials would make a sound like a shotgun firing and then send one or two targets in to the water. On command, the dog would take a flying leap into the water towards the targets, swim out, pick  up the decoy  and bring them back to the hunter. The water was c-c-c-cold and those dogs were amazingly well trained.  The second part of the event that we especially enjoyed was lunch. We had a meal consisting of crawdads, gator and frog’s legs. Man those frog legs were good! I have had better gator as this was a little tough (look at me – a gator connoisseur) and the crawdads, well, they were really small. We only had one where you could get a mouthful of meat and it was good. But fighting the shell for that little bite made the ‘dad my least favorite. The organizers also had a “muskrat platter,” but we decided to forego that one.

We also met some new cruisers at Crisfield. Waterford and My Dreams are two Kady Krogens (a very nice kind  of trawler) that had just been to the Krogen rendezvous at Solomons, MD. We asked them over for drinks and made some new friends. That and a couple of 15 mile bike rides kind if rounded out our Crisfield adventure.

Our initial plan was to go from Crisfield to Onancock (pronounced O- NAN- cock), anchor out and check out the little town and its environs. We heard, however, that the weather, which had improved a little since we had arrived in Crisfield, was going to deteriorate again, so we decided to head across the bay to Deltaville for a few days to get set for our trip to Hampton. We have been in Deltaville a lot so we knew to use the marina’s courtesy car to go to the grocery, the fresh fish store, the cute little sandwich shop and to West Marine. I got in one bike ride, then  the weather, as predicted, got yucky. As a result, Ann organized a pizza party on the marina’s front porch. We invited all the cruisers who were there, which included the crew of the two Krogens we had met in Crisfield AND a boat that we originally met two years ago in March Harbor in the Bahamas and have subsequently run into (figuratively, not literally) at Kilkenny Marina in Georgia and at Ashley Marina in Charleston. The name of the boat: Azure Skies. The captain and sole crew member’s name: Bob (sorry, I don’t know Captain Bob’s last name).

Then we took off for Hampton for the great Hampton Snowbird Rendezvous. It turned out that we had done the right thing by crossing from Crisfield when we had the weather window. We ended up going south from Deltaville to Hampton while some friends of ours got caught crossing the Chesapeake, going kind of east to west, during quite a little bit of rough weather.  I think we have determined there are three reasons to attend a rendezvous:

·         Meet new people and renew old acquaintances

·         Explore a new location (Hampton)

·         Go to classes and attend seminars

We met several new people in Hampton. Just as importantly, we saw our good friends Tom and Christina from their boat Tadhana. Tom has been involved in the marine industry for years  , he has a degree from Brown, has designed boats, managed boatyards, and edited the Waterway Guide. While Tom and Christina have cruised  the Chesapeake extensively, they have not spent much time on the ICW. THAT is one thing about which we actually know a little more than they do! We also met Mark and Dianne Doyle, authors of a different waterway guide – one that Ann likes a lot. Although Mark is very knowledgeable about some things, we know more than he does about some things, too (though he would never admit it – yes, he is one of those kinds of guys.)

Oh! And before I forget, Ann’s cousins Sally Koch, Ralph Butler (and his wife, Mary) and Sandy Fisher came to visit. Ralph has a summer house in Machipongo, VA (on Virginia’s eastern shore) where the cousins congregated. It turns out Ralph is a dedicated fisherman! We may have to go see him next year on our way up the Chesapeake J

We really didn’t take as much advantage of Hampton as we probably should have. I was a bit too intimidated by the traffic and weird road system to go bicycling, and everything we needed (like restaurants) were close by. The Event offered a few trips to various attractions, we passed on most of them.

We went several different lectures. Some were good and some were … okay.
·         ICW 202: Beyond the Basics (I could have missed it.)
·         Medicine Aboard (I did miss it, but Ann says it was really good.)
·         Perfect Placed to Plunk It: 50 Frugal Favorites (Yawn)
·         Five Things to Know About  How Boats Are Built (Actually, much better than I thought it was going to be!)
·         Caring For your Canvas (Pretty good, though I missed some of it)
·         ICW Trouble Spots (I took notes, but I am not sure I agree with everything the speaker said.)
·         What Really Sinks your Boat (Really very good – and scary)
·         The Bahamas- Cuba Loop (Hello, Cuba is still off limits to Americans)
·         Smartphones and Tablets Aboard (Pretty good, but some people have made an avocation of using the phone and tablet on board.)

ANN’S Notes: Well….since Michael has pretty much  explain what we have been doing and did a mighty fine job…I don’t have much to add.

Since the general election was just a few days ago, the one statement the candidates make at the end of the add..I will modify for my use.

This blog has been approved and edited by Ann R. Brown

Fist mate on the motor vessel Traveling Soul

Traveling Soul…Out