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.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Waiting in Beaufort

So, here we are in beautiful Beaufort, SC. We have spent our time here falls generally into five categories: (1) twiddling our thumbs, (2) visiting the hospital, (3) maintaining the boat, (4) visiting local landmarks and historical sites, and (5) watching our technician put in our new inverter. Let me go into detail in some of those categories.

What can I say abut thumb twiddling? I read, played computer games, figured out what little projects we should undertake and important stuff like that. Ann spent most of her time more productively than I did, but even she had plenty of time to keep track of what was happening on Facebook and reading.
Yes, for those of you who kept track on Facebook, you know we spent some time at the hospital. It was me. I have long had a cyst on the back of my neck. The doctors have told me – for just as long – that there was nothing to worry about. Well, as long as it was just a little cyst, that may have been true, but for some reason it started growing. Its size didn’t concern me as much as the fact that at some point it started hurting, especially at night when I was trying to sleep. Eventually, it started hurting a lot. Now, all my life I have been to military doctors and military hospitals. (I know, some people don’t think highly of military medicine. But I do – especially after my Achilles Tendon disaster.) Anyway, in Beaufort, I swallowed hard and went to an Emergency Room at a civilian hospital (Beaufort Memorial). Wow! I was in the ER and seeing a doctor within 20 minutes. Twenty minutes after that, he had lanced the cyst and … (it gets kinda yucky here so let’s just say he did his job.) Although it took longer to finish up the paperwork, I was really impressed with their efficiency AND their effectiveness. I am fine now.

The real question is whether the combination of my TFL (Tricare for Life) and Medicare will pay for the experience. It better J -- or I’ll blame President-Elect Trump (everybody else seems to be blaming him for everything bad that happens anywhere!)
In addition to doing maintenance on our own bodies, we also did maintenance on the boat. First, we varnished almost all of the external woodwork. It was as easy as you would imagine. We bought Cetol (a varnish that works especially well on external Teak). Then we cleaned and varnished the teak on the flybridge, the aft deck and the starboard side of the boat (the starboard side was near the dock; the port side will have to wait until we get into a marina with our port side toward the dock). There were areas where we had to do some sanding, but to be honest, I think the combination of sanded and unsanded areas gives the wood some character and looks great!

Besides the brightwork (that’s what we mariners call woodwork because we keep it so bright (at least some people keep it bright)), we had an anchor light problem. It was kind of basic; the anchor light would not turn on when we hit the switch. When I tapped the bottom of the light with a boat pole, however, voila everything worked. Obviously we had a loose connection somewhere. The problem was that I had to take the housing apart to find the problem, but, on a boat, nothing is easy. The anchor light, by definition, is at the highest part of the boat and try as I might, I couldn’t reach it. I could touch it all right, but I couldn’t see inside or take it apart. As it turns out, though, the marina where we were staying had a step ladder! That allowed me to get up, take apart the light and look inside. I found the place where the connection seemed to be intermittent (where the bulb touched the contact) , but wasn’t quite sure how to fix it. We went to West Marine to buy a new light, but no luck, they didn’t have any.  I seemed to remember, though, that we had an extra bulb among our spare parts. And I was right! I replaced the old bulb with the new one (which wasn’t touching the contact) and fixed the old bulb so we might be able to use it again.
Ann (aka the Dremel Queen) doing her thing with the dremel.
I am going to jump ahead to one other maintenance task we had to undertake. In Brunswick, GA, the marina stop we made after Beaufort, we had a slight run-in with the dock.  Something underneath the dock caught the horizontal piece of wood about one foot from the water on the starboard side. (It may be a strake or a wale, but I doubt it is either. As far as I am concerned, it is the HPOWAOFFTWOTSS (horizontal piece of wood about one foot from the water on the starboard side). Anyway, it took off about six inches of glassed wood, and the metal strip that went around it. Ann and I had to cut off a portion of the wood (so it was roughly even) and the bent portion of the metal strip. Ann is our Dremel Queen, so she cut off the metal strip. Then, between her Dremel and my much-lower-tech handsaw, we got off the rest of the HPOWAOFFTWOTSS.

Now we (meaning me) wanted to fiberglass the end of the HPOWAOFFTWOTSS so water wouldn’t intrude and rot the wood. Well, this was the first time I ever tried to “glass” anything and I learned a lot! For example, did you know that once you mixed the fiberglass goop with the hardening agent that you have only about ten minutes before the goop becomes too hard to apply? Well, I didn’t, so I only got two or three rather sloppy layers of glass over the spot before all my glass goop had hardened. Oh well, I’ll do better next time.
Ok, now back to Beaufort. We got so bored that we checked with Enterprise Car Rental and found that they were running a special where we could get a car from Friday to Monday for 30-some bucks. Needless to say, we grabbed that deal. We went to downtown Beaufort, to our favorite hardware store in South Carolina, to a breakfast-joint so Ann could get her pecan waffles, and to see some historical sites. Actually, we were surprised.

The first landing by Europeans in the area was not in Beaufort per se, but in Port Royal in 1520. (Actually, the marina where we stayed was the Port Royal Landing Marina.) In 1525, the Spanish attempted to build the first fort in North America. Though they succeeded in constructing a fort, most of the inhabitants died during the first winter. Even without a proper fort or settlement, the Spanish continued to use the deep water harbors around Port Royal and tried to make it the center f their North American Empire.

In 1562, however, French Huguenots landed in the area and began construction, on Parris Island (now a Marine Corps Training Center), of Charles Forte in honor of King Charles IX of France. (Though we did not go visit this year, the exact location and remnants of Charles Forts have recently been discovered on Parris Island and are now being excavated.) This attempt at fortress building also failed with most of the French heading back to France. A Spanish squadron was subsequently sent by Philip II to destroy the French colony. One year later, the Spanish returned to the area to establish their own military port. For twenty-one years, St. Elena was the capital of Spanish "Florida".
The Historical marker for Ft. Fremont.
There is a lot more history, but please note that ALL of this took place before the British landed at Jamestown in 1607. Before leaving the subject of history, however, we also need to mention Fort Fremont. Built in 1899 as part of America’s coastal defense, the fort was designed to protect the deep water harbor at Port Royal and, in particular, the naval base that existed at Parris Island. Anyway, the site today is a county-run tourist location with huge concrete gun emplacements; it is almost eerie the way the fort appears out of nowhere and seems, with its sturdy fortifications, impervious to the ravages of time. It is really cool!!

Ft. Fremont. Isn't kind of eerie put in the
middle of St. Helena Island?
Finally, the day came. Our inverter doctor arrived. Sarkis couldn’t come himself, so he sent Arthur. That was okay because Arthur had worked on our boat two years earlier and we knew him. It was ALSO okay because Arthur was a former US Army tanker. Arthur put in the inverter, a battery switch and a new fuze (all of which we apparently should have had after the first installation) with ease. It was only when it came time to start everything up and test it did we have problems; it worked in two of the three circuits (the refrigerator and the forward cabins, but it would not work in the salon. Arthur tried everything but it still wouldn’t work. He started a series of calls to Sarkis – as it started getting later and later – but still nothing. Finally, one or both of them hit on the solution. To be honest, they were well beyond me at this point and since it was so late, they weren’t as interested in explaining everything to me as they were in testing. The problem had something to do with the way in which the neutrals from the salon was connected to the buss. I still don’t quite understand why everything worked with the Xantrex inverter and did not work with the Magnum. Whatever the problem was, they fixed it and since we have been using the inverter for a couple of weeks now, it seems to be holding up to real life testing. (Just a note: This was precisely the reason I did not put in the inverter myself. I kind of figured there would be somethin’ … I’m just sayin’!
 Ann’s Notes:  I know we spent a lot of time at Port Royal Landing Marina, but it is a pretty nice place to be stuck. The T-head dock is not in great shape (after the hurricanes) but it is safe enough and they put us in the inside part of the T-head dock. The currents run very quickly, the location is close to a very big bridge and that structure does weird things to the water when the tide and currents change. The managers are more than nice, they had a car they let us borrow … which we did for the hospital trips. They also have a nice little restaurant/ bar. All and all not a bad place to be. OH…and a Starbucks !!!

We did lots of exploring when we had the rental car. I really like finding new places and learning the history behind them. Beaufort has lots of history. We took a horse drawn carriage ride and saw the antebellum homes in the area. Most of them still have descendents of the original builders living in them.  As we travel in the south and go on different tours we find that so many movies were made on location in the south. Once the tour guide tells you the name of the movie and the scene, it all comes back in your memory. In Beaufort to name a few, Forrest Gump, The Great Santini, The Big Chill, GI Jane, The Prince Of Tides, and The Patriot, there  are a few more but I cannot remember them all.
The ruins of the Chapel of Ease on St. Helena.
Fort Fremont was very interesting. The hospital that was on base is now a private residence. The information signs were well done and really explained what was there at one time and the purpose for the placements of the artillery. The fort is on St. Helena Island, the first family to settle on the island had the last name of Fripp. On the island there is the St. Helena Parish Chapel of Ease…it is a ruin…built in 1740. In case you were wondering what a chapel of ease is, I will explain. A chapel of ease was for parishioners who had difficulty traveling to worship at the main parish church…so it was like a 7-11 for church goers…they could not get to the big grocery store in town. Anyway, back to the Fripp family … they were buried in the family crypt … wait for it … they were in THE FRIPP CRyPT. It was empty by the way.

Traveling Soul…OUT

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Inverter Monster

Last year and the year before, I wrote about how I hate the spacing of certain bridges in North Carolina and how it forces us to move either much more slowly than we otherwise would, or much, much faster than we would prefer. I have gone so far as to suggest that someone with more mathematical acumen than I should create an optimization routine for the bridges. Since I have beaten that particular horse a number of times, I am going to write, instead, about the various inlets in North Carolina. For a boater, there are probably three inlets that are the most problematic: Brown’s Inlet, Lockwood’s Folly and Shalotte Inlet.

The problem with these inlets is that when the ocean sweeps in at high tide, it picks up and moves tons of sand and mud, dropping it elsewhere in the inlet. Then, when the tide changes, the same process takes place in reverse. The challenge to a boater moving from north to south past the inlet is that he can never be quite sure where the tidal shifts left the sand from the day before. Now, add a hurricane or two into the mix and you can begin to see how and why cruisers are so concerned about some of these inlets.

The picture below is a graphical representation of the Corps of Engineers survey of one inlet shortly after Hurricane Matthew. The blue is the deep water and the red is the shallowest water. Imagine a boat coming from your right. Our imaginary boater will keep red marker 44 on his right and move up to and beyond 46. He then enters water that is Color-coded green – and is a little shallower.
Corps of Engineer Survey of Lockwood's Folly post-Matthew
If he continues in a straight line, he will run into yellow, then red – and that can be a very bad thing. Instead, the coast guard-emplaced markers try to nudge him to the right a little, keeping 46A on his right then 47 and 47A on his left. I am not going to go through the whole thing, but I think it is clear that moving from marker 44 on the right through 48 on the left without going aground can be a little tricky even for the best boat captain, especially since the water itself is not color-coded like this chart!!!

The easy way to get through these inlets is to go through when the tide is rising and nearly at high tide. Then, you carefully follow the coast guard day marks through the inlet.  Nature, however, isn’t kind enough to space the inlets so that you can conveniently pass through them all in one day on a rising ride. In our case, we were able to cruise through Brown’s Inlet near high tide and had no problems whatsoever getting through. We then spent two days at Carolina Beach and faced the next two trouble spots nearer low tide. We made it through all of them, but it was a bit of a white-knuckler as we went through. Just to make it especially interesting, at Lockwood’s Folly there was a boat aground, in the process of being pulled off the sand by TowBoat US. Whew! There, but for the Grace of God …
Anyhow, our initial plan was to leave Beaufort, then go see a friend of ours from days long past. Jim Treadwell was my executive officer while I was a company commander in the 82d Airborne Division. He was also a member of Company H3, the same USMA company  of which I was a member – though he was three years behind me. The cold I caught, however, and the remnants of Hurricane Matthew slowed us down and Jim had to get back home. We have agreed to try to meet in Florida in December, or if not, then in NC next spring.

Our first stop after Beaufort – and just beyond Brown’s Inlet – was Mile Hammock Bay, a neat little anchorage located on the Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune. Although they do not allow shore access, the Marines do permit the general public to use Mile Hammock as an anchorage. Thanks, Marine Corps.
Two or three miles down the ICW from Mile Hammock, is a small marina called “New River Marina.” It is easy to get into and out of, but unless you know it is there you might very well miss it. Why is all this important? Because it has what appears to be the lowest price for diesel on the ICW. Are you ready for this? $1.89 per gallon. I know that some of you think I am making too much of the costs of fuel, but when you take on 300 – 400 gallons or more, there is no such thing as “making too much of it.”

One of the very long piers at Carolina Beach
Carolina Beach was next on the itinerary and, rather than going to a marina or to an anchorage, we took a mooring ball for two days.  Our primary purpose was to see of our dinghy was still in good condition and if we would be able to use it in the upcoming season. I wish I could say it started right up – but it did not. However, after some swearing, some cajoling and pulling that damn cord more times than I can count, we got it going. We used it to go ashore, walk down the rather extensive beach and gather sea shells for the first time in a year or more. Then we hopped in the dink, landed at Gibby’s Dock and Dine and had a great club sandwich. We putted around some more, declared victory over the dinghy and put her back up.
 From Carolina Beach we went to Coquina Yacht Club at Myrtle Beach. We had hoped to stay at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club itself, but alas, there was no room at the inn (actually, the marina; I was just trying to be a bit literary). We had also decided that we needed to hit the grocery store, liquor store, hardware store, West Marina and a few other shopping locations. Because of all we had to do we stayed at Coquina for four days and rented a car for two of them. It seemed like we needed a car to get anywhere. Now we may have it all wrong, but from what we could see Myrtle Beach is spread out over several square miles (most of it along Highway 17) and without a car, we would have not had much to do.

It was also at Coquina that we had an epiphany. Ann had noticed that the gap in the seal around the freezer was becoming wider and wider. This wasn’t the first time we had problems with that damn seal. A few years ago a repairman offered to replace the seal for a mere $350. Since we could buy an entire fridge for $1000 (okay, maybe a little bit more), we didn’t think it worth the price and we just lived with the inefficiencies. Now, however, we had developed a serious gap. All I could think of was boat units flitting out the window (in addition to the cost of the fridge, of course, we would have paid someone to help put it in. It wouldn’t fit through a door, so we would probably have to have a window taken out … and put back in. You can see how the costs add up). Hmmm, what to do, what to do. Between Ann and me, we came up with the simple, elegant solution of buying a strip of butyl rubber and filling in the gaps with the stripping. I know, I know, it is hardly Einstein-like. But hey, it was simple, cheap, and most importantly, doable on a boat in the middle of the ICW. It worked like a charm. We have reduced our energy usage by about 30% to 40% with our brilliant invention. When and if you ever need to use our repair technique, we ask only that you label it “The Mike and Ann Brilliant Gap Solution.”
After four days at Coquina, we headed south again. Our stop the first night was in what we call the Waccamaw River Anchorage. It is a nice little anchorage that could easily hold ten boats. Though we were the first there, later that afternoon four more boats joined us. The evening started out kind of average with nothing untoward happening. We were all in the process of enjoying the moon, the stars and the gentle slapping of the water against our hulls. Then, IT happened.

I had just put down my book and was preparing to go to sleep. Ann wanted to read a little, so she turned on her light. Then <flicker> <flicker> nothing. The light would not turn back on. We tried it again and again and again. Nothing. OMG we had been attacked. Somewhere in that deep, dark night we had been attacked, by the huge, ugly, vicious, Inverter-eater.
This is the anchorage where it happened. Can you find
 the Inverter-Eater?
For those of you who may have forgotten, an inverter is an electrical device that converts the DC voltage from batteries, into the AC voltage required by most household appliances – like table lights and refrigerators. In our case, the inverter functions almost unseen. When you turn on an AC device, the inverter draws DC from the batteries and converts it into AC. It is as simple as apple pie. Unless, of course, it doesn’t work.

The inability to use our batteries to keep our food cold would certainly have been a challenge. However, there was one thing that made the situation even worse. All of our power – whether DC from the batteries, AC from the generator or from the marina power outlet – goes through the inverter.  The more electrically-inclined of you are beginning to see the dimensions of the problem. If our only difficulty would have been the inability of the inverter to convert DC into AC, we could have run the generator occasionally to use the AC power to keep the fridge running. But since we couldn’t get any power to the refrigerator, we had a problem.
We had planned on heading to the marina at Georgetown and had already made reservations. When we arrived, we immediately asked if there was a good marine electrician available. The dockmaster told us the guy we wanted was Bubba (ok, that is not his real name, but since I have forgotten it and frankly don’t like this guy, I am using artistic license to call him Bubba). I called Bubba (twice), Ann called Bubba (once) and the dockmaster called him at least once. Bubba, being a real SOB did not answer or return any of the calls.

What to do, what to do. A few years ago we had some electrical problems in Charleston (about 60 miles to the south). Back then, we called the Charleston Boatyard, who in turn had called Sea-Tec Marine, who eventually did the work. They were good, they were fast and, importantly, they were owned and staffed completely by veterans. We didn’t have anything to lose, so I called Sarkis (yes, that’s his name; see what happens, Bubba, then you return people’s calls they use your real name!) Sarkis immediately understood the problem and told me what I needed to do to get the AC system running. It was terribly simple. I had to find the set of three input wires, one each red, green and black, find the set of three output wires of the same color and connect them to each other. Now, I admit to having played (sometimes successfully) with DC circuits in my life, but 110 volt AC circuits can kill you a lot faster, so I have generally hired someone to deal with them. Here, however, it seemed as if I didn’t have a choice. So, with my trusty tool kit and my trusty wife (to call 911, just in case) at my side, I delved into the deep, dark corners of the generator room.  I won’t go into any more details, but suffice to say, I succeeded.
The problem, of course, wasn’t yet solved – just the food emergency. I got Sarkis back on the phone and asked him what kind of inverter he thought I needed to get. (When I first got the inverter 5 years ago, I did a great deal of research on the size and the brand I wanted. To this day, I think I got the right system.) Five years later, however, we found that my previous inverter is no longer made. Moreover, the company that used to make the inverters was sold and has been broken up. Now, don’t get me wrong. I knew a little about the current generation of inverters, just not as much as I would have liked. Well, Sarkis’ suggestion was unequivocal, I needed a Magnum MS2812. When he said that, I remember a conversation I had with some folks a couple of years ago, wherein they all recommended a Magnum. So, that’s what we decided to do.

I know, I know, many of you would have bought the inverter, wired it into the electrical system and been off. Well, I am not that good with 110 volt electrical systems (see above) and determined that I needed Sarkis to install the inverter. He, however, wasn’t available for another 12 days. That meant we had to hang around South Carolina until we could link up with him. At the end of the day, we decided that we would all meet in Beaufort, SC on 14 November. 

One of the many beautiful, old homes in Georgetown.
Since, however, we were in Georgetown, SC, we figured we would look around a bit and see what was going on. We have been here before, but I think the last time was two years ago. Georgetown is really a beautiful small southern town. It has enough shops to keep Ann happy (ask her about her favorite kitchen store), enough waterfront bars and grills to keep me happy and enough history for both of us.  Georgetown is the third oldest city in South Carolina and  occupies a unique place in American history. Some historians believe that American history began here in 1526 with the earliest settlement in North America by Europeans with African slaves. The theory goes that Spaniard, Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon  founded a colony on Waccamaw Neck called San Miguel de Gualdape. The colony failed for multiple reasons, including a fever epidemic and a revolt of the African slaves, who fled to join the Indians in the area. Having failed as farmers, the surviving Spanish built a ship and left the area. A century and-a-half later the English settled Charles Town (Charleston) and established trade in the surrounding area.

Georgetown has a number of museums, including the Rice Museum (you would be surprised at what you can learn from a museum dedicated to rice!). We had already visited the Rice Museum, the South Carolina Maritime Museum and the Georgetown City Museum. Next time we will try to see the Gullah Museum and the Kaminski House Museum. This time we limited ourselves to a tour of the city by a man driving an old time jeep and pulling an open-air trailer.  
The 1000 year old Oak in McClellanville, SC. This tree was
 nearly 500 years old when Columbus discovered America and
over 200 years old hen the Magna Carta was written.
After Georgetown we spent a fairly short day cruising to McClellanville, SC. Now McClellanvlle ain’t much – in fact it is probably less than you think it is. However, it has three things that brought us back: (1) it was a convenient stop between Georgetown and Beaufort. (We had to go to a marina, of course, because we had lost our inverter.) (2) It has a very good restaurant that serves down home, low country food. (3) It has a tree that has been certified by the state as being over 1000 years old – and I am a nut for old trees.
After McClellanville it was on to Beaufort. So, that is where we are now, in beautiful Beaufort, SC, waiting for Sarkis so we can get going on our trip south. Will he be here on the 14th? I think so, hope so and am willing to track him down and kill him if he is not. But, just as I have to wait until the 14th to find out for sure, so do you J.
ANN’S Notes: I really do not have very much to add to this blog … Michael pretty much gave you the highlights. I will say that it is nice to be under way again. I have made the adjustment of cooking in my much smaller galley/ kitchen … I do love that kitchen in the condo.
Spot really likes the cruising lifestyle, she has free roaming privileges on board. So much to see and do, bird watching from the helm window  where she has a huge pillow to lay on. I take her out on the bow to roam around and play when we are at anchor.
Once we get the inverter in and working we will be on our way…
ok...post script...Michael added a few more activities to the blog so I will follow suit.
When we took a tour of Georgetown, it was a local man with a Jeep pulling and open air trolley. We have been to many museums in these parts were rice was the main cash crop along with cotton and indigo. I had been told many times that the white plantation owners would leave their plantations with their families and stay in their summer homes along the ocean front ... away from the fields and swamps that had the deadly malaria mosquitos. I wondered why the slaves did not suffer and die like the white owners. I found out why during our tour.  The slaves that came from the coast of Africa had a natural defense against malaria ... it was because they had sickle cell shapes in their blood. Evolution protecting them against the mosquitoes and deadly malaria. Look it up on Google, it really is fascinating. Of course in this day and age the African-American does not need that protection and the sickle cell has caused other health issue for them.
I do enjoy learning new things while exploring new places and experiencing them.
Thank you for following us...
Traveling Soul...OUT    


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Hampton to Beaufort, NC

This summer was hectic. As you may remember we bought a condo. It is small, only two bedrooms and two baths with just over 1400 square feet. However, compared to our accommodations on the boat for the past five years, it is cavernous. We got our stuff back from Dave and Joan Wolf, the friends who have stored it for the past five years, and, needless to say, we ended up buying quite a bit of new furniture. Spot enjoyed running from one end of the condo to the other and Ann enjoyed playing in her new kitchen. Me? Well, we had this enormous wall just begging for a television. Once we had it, of course, I had to make sure it worked. It is fifty-three inches of Technicolor glory.

Three Intrepid Fishermen at Estes Park, CO
In addition to buying the condo, this summer we traveled to Estes Park, CO for a family reunion of sorts. Let’s see, there was my mother, my sister and her husband, Roger; her daughters, their spouses, and their children (I think that means my nieces, grandnieces and grandnephews). Then, there was our daughter, Lisa, and her youngest son Trent; our son, Tim, his wife Carry and our grandchildren, Caylin and Gavin. The whole purpose of the trip was to go trout fishing, and we did that. Sadly, we only caught four, two for Tim and two for me (mine were MUCH bigger), and enjoyed eating them. 
And then, of course, we prepared for departure. I’m sorry, I just gotta do it.

On the road again
Just can't wait to get on the road again
The life I love is making music with my friends

And I can't wait to get on the road again
On the road again

Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again

And I can't wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way

And our way
Is on the road again
Just can't wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin' music with my friends

And I can't wait to get on the road again

On the road again

There’s more to the song, but I think you get the idea.
Yes, we are off again. Our intent was to leave Solomons, MD o/a 6 October, meander down the Bay (checking out our new and repaired systems along the way) and end up in Hampton, VA, which is located in the southern Chesapeake, on October 12th so I could give a presentation on ICW travel to which I had previously committed. Because of Hurricane Matthew, however, we stayed in the condo until Tuesday 11 October, then we kind of zipped down the Chesapeake to Hampton with only one night on the hook.

In Hampton we attended the Hampton Snowbird Rendezvous (HSR). For boaters, a rendezvous is a gathering with boating-related seminars, cruising-related classes, and always social events! The HSR was no different. This time, however, rather than being just a participant I was also a presenter! In the first session, I gave a presentation on several topics that fall under the rubric of “Managing the ICW.” Tom Hale was in charge and he and Jeff Janacek gave the other 2/3 of the presentation. The second talk was on “ICW Troublespots, Places to Visit and Side Trips in South Carolina and Georgia.” I also led a small seminar for people interested in going to the Bahamas. Overall the event was a lot of fun and we met some interesting people, had a lot of good food and enjoyed the opportunity to learn. We met so many folks that I cannot hope to list them all. I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention Char Clark – the founder, organizer and “godmother” of the Hampton event – for all the work she does on behalf of Hampton, VA and the cruising community. Thanks, Char.
For those of you who don't think life is mostly about food,
think again. Here is our freezer packed with
victuals for our upcoming trip
During the rendezvous, we heard a knock on our door and it turned out to me Teri and Scott Miller, who we had met years ago in the Bahamas and later in Charleston on their boat Miller Time. The Millers have moved to Hampton and were out to dinner on the waterfront when they saw Traveling Soul. Hello again, Teri and Scott!! We hope to see you on our return north!

We took off right after the rendezvous, in part because we wanted to beat the rush out of Hampton. We had made reservations (as we always do) at the Top Rack Marina. Top Rack has the cheapest fuel prices in the area PLUS they offer a free slip if you eat at their restaurant. We think it is an excellent restaurant and really enjoy the food. So, cheap fuel, free dockage and good food; what’s not to love!!

After Top Rack, we locked through the Great Bridge Lock and passed under the Great Bridge Bridge (Don’t worry, I am not going to mention every bridge we pass – I just like writing about the Great Bridge Bridge (and yes, that is its name!)). We spent the night, anchored near a place called Broad Creek. There, we were attacked by thousands upon thousands of bugs. No, they were not noseeums – you could certainly seeum. There were so many hitting the boat that for a while we thought it was raining outside.  We have seen and reported on the Georgian Air Force (biting flies by the hundreds), now we know North Carolina’s response. The North Carolina Air Force consists thousands of seeums! They stayed with us all night and through most of the rest of the day. Apparently the wind we generated when we raced through the water at a scathing 9kts (~10 MPH) didn’t blow then off.
The next night we anchored on the Pungo River. I have discussed this anchorage before and the many reasons I like it, so I won’t talk about it here. What I will talk about is the dinner we had that evening. One of the things that happen when you get a new condo, a COMCAST subscription and a new 53” TV is that you watch television. Now, if you are too cheap to get some of the really cool channels, you end up watching a lot of the Food Channel. A lot. So, I have forgotten whether it was Giada or the Pioneer Woman (see what I mean? I even know the names of their shows!), but one of them made Gorgonzola Burgers. They looked good on TV and were even better on a plate.

Then it was on to Belhaven, NC. Ah, sweet, sweet Belhaven, the home of the Spoon River Artworks and Market. The first time we walked past the place, located in downtown Belhaven, we thought it was some sort of art studio. The next time we walked past, we saw tables arranged differently than any art studio we had ever seen – and different from any market as well. I am not sure when and how we figured out Spoon River was a restaurant, but that evening we had one of the best dinners we have had on the waterway. Every trip up or down the waterway, now, we look forward to re-visiting it. Yuuummmm!
We had planned on anchoring one more night, then meandering slowly into Beaufort (pronounced Bow-fort), NC and staying for a few days. The weather, however, looked like it might be on a different schedule than we were, so we decided to travel from Belhaven to Beaufort in one day. The day started out beautifully, but then, about 10:00 in the morning, the fog rolled in. Luckily we were in a pretty wide expanse of water and all I had to do was slow down a little, put on the running lights and flick on the radar. Then, as we came up to Goose Creek, we heard a tugboat on the radio that was in the creek pushing a barge and said he had zero visibility. HmmmmHHqqqH

 YIKES!, what to do, what to do, what to do. There was quite a bit of water at the mouth of the creek, so we decided to wait there until either the fog lifted or the barge came through. I called on the radio and told the boats behind me what I was doing and they all joined me in the wait. As luck would have it, though, we only had to wait about 20 minutes before the fog began lift and we all moved forward again. About the same time the tug came past and yes, I was right. It might have been kind of messy had we met in the middle of the creek where neither of us could see the other.
We stayed in Beaufort for a couple of days to let the weather pass. The first night we were there the wind whipped up to 40+ knots – over gale force – but we were hunkered down in the Homer Smith Marina. Shhhh, because this is a really nice marina and we don’t want everyone taking it over. It has large slips (since we have a pretty big boat, we really appreciate that), floating docks, a courtesy car that you can borrow to go to the grocery store, a drug store, hardware store, etc. PLUS, since the other half of the business is a shrimp processing plant … and they give you some free shrimp! We got about two pounds, which turned out to be about 60 very large shrimp. We ate the first 20 that night and they were scrumptious.

Oh, before I discuss Beaufort itself, I have to mention our diver. Before we left Solomons, we had a diver clean the bottom of our boat and replace our zincs.

First an explanation of zincs: Any time you have two different metals that are physically or electrically connected and immersed in seawater, they become a battery. Some amount of current flows between the two metals. The electrons that make up that current are supplied by one of the metals giving up bits of itself – in the form of metal ions – to the seawater. This is called “galvanic corrosion” and, left unchecked, it quickly destroys underwater metals. What we in the boating business do is to add a third metal to the mix. It is usually zinc and is called a “sacrificial zinc” because it dissolves before the shaft and other, more important parts of the boat do.
Anyway, our diver in Solomons was … not a very nice person (I was going to use other words, but Ann won’t let me.) He charged us $260 to clean the bottom and replace the zincs. I thought that was a bit high, but his cards were all around and we couldn’t find a card on any other diver.  The problem is that while he cleaned the bottom and put on one set of zincs, he didn’t have the shaft zincs on hand. He promised, therefore, to return and do it later. We went out and bought our own zincs, but you guessed it, we never saw him again.

Shrimp, More shrimp and red snapper from Beaufort, NC.
Now back to the Homer Smith Marina. When we were walking to the office we saw a diver. I talked to him and he agreed to put on our zincs – for $75. In fact, he said that it would be more economical for us if we paid him to clean the bottom AND do the zincs, because he would only charge $90 for that. WHATTT?!?!?! Ninety dollars in Beaufort compared to $260 back home? I don’t think we will ever again be using that diver in Solomons; and neither will any of our friends. Oh, and as we were talking afterwards, he asked if we liked fish. When I responded in the affirmative, he walked away and came back a few minutes later with a beautiful Red Snapper. I gotta tell you Beaufort people are my kind of people.
The marina was only about ½ mile from old town Beaufort, so we walked downtown. Beaufort is the third oldest city in North Carolina behind Bath and Edenton. In the early 1700’s Blackbeard and his ilk were frequent visitors to the city. It was right on the coast, had a wonderful inlet to the sea and had plenty of “diversions” for the pirates. In 1722, Beaufort incorporated and became a major trading center for the state and the country. It survived and thrived through the eighteenth and into the nineteenth centuries. Occupied by Union forces in 1862, the city was relatively unscathed by the Civil War. Over time, the city declined as a major regional trading center, but grew as a commercial fishing town. Today, while Beaufort has some trade and some fishing, it has become a tourist Mecca for North Carolina’s Crystal Coast.

In 1997, Beaufort was highlighted in national and international news as the wreckage of what is presumed to be Blackbeard's flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge, was discovered in 20 feet of water – 2 miles from Beaufort Inlet. Artifact recovery operations were immediately able to identify – and in some cases retrieve – many pieces, including the ship's bronze bell, cannons, and deck guns. Some of these artifacts are on display at the NC Maritime Museum.
In addition to the historical stuff, no tourist town worth its salt would exist without touristy shops – and Beaufort is no different. We dropped a bunch of money at an olive oil shop – OLIVE OIL for goodness sake. Well, I guess if it keeps the boat’s chef – and her sole customer happy – it is worth it.

Also in Beaufort, we met several cruisers. There was John and Pam on Short Vacation, Roger and Lorrie Aon Reality. In addition, our friends Shay and Elizabeth Glass from Escape came over from Morehead City for one of the docktail parties.
Finally, I got a cold. On the one hand that’s great – because I usually only get one cold per year and I have now checked that box. On the other hand, it does kind of slow one down. Oh well, we are on the road again!!!!

JNNNNNNNNNNNN|m n7np[mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmnnnmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm=m –n\-============

ANN’S NOTE’S:  I guess I should explain the above sequence … when Michael leaves his computer open, one of Spot’s favorite places to sit is on is keyboard. She has to adjust herself to get comfortable and when she does, she types. Most often she just turns the screen to some obscure internet place that takes Michael a little while to correct. The solution is to close the lid but that would be no fun for Spot.
I am going to do this blog in what I call The First Mate Log … kinda like a Star Trek thing.

First I want to acknowledge and say Thank You to our son Tim for helping us settle in to our new condo. He took a weekend to help put Ikea furniture together and also got our new massive TV … bought and hung on the wall. He brought the family SUV … that TV was not going to fit in our two-seat Miata.
Another BIG thank you to our wonderful, patient and loving friends Dave and Joan Wolf. They really do make it easy for us to cruise and visit family. Not only did they take care of our belongings for five years, they are always by our side when we need help.  They love Spot and cat-sat for her while we were off on vacation in CO. The door to their home is always open to us and their hands always willing to put furniture together or move boxes.

We are more than Blessed to have such a support system … again thank you all.
Ok …Then…

SOME of our Fantasy Prints above our new sectional in our new condo.
Friday 1 July 2016 Settlement date and final walk through of Condo … spend all morning signing papers … we now own a condo!!!
July 2 and 3   Dave and Joan Visit … fun weekend

July 5    Order new sofa for condo … Clean carpets on boat (not easy to transport carpet machine in a little Miata … convertible top down to get machine in)
July 6   Start moving clothes and such to condo … Shop for Master and Guest room mattress

July 7 Pack for CO trip…Move food out of boat fridge to Condo…
July 8   Spend night at Dave and Joan…Get Spot settled into her new place at D&J’s  house

July 9   Moving company did a pre move inventory … sign contract for move
July 10 -27 VA-AZ-CO-CO-AZ-VA there is a whole other story behind all this travel…but not now.

July 28    Michael back to Maryland to check on Traveling Soul and Condo
July 29   I have Ophthalmology appointment in VA

July 30   Joan birthday, celebrate in Solomons, bring Spot back, bring some art work to condo
July 31   Start to think this may be a very busy summer with a very long to-do list that needs to be check off

Aug 1   Order master and guest room mattress
Aug 2    Order guest room furniture at Ikea … lock car keys in the car…yet another story within a story and again … not now

Aug 3   HSR first meeting on Traveling Soul … I went our shopping with Cristina Sisson…fun day.
Aug 4   Drive to D & J …

Aug 5   Moving day in VA and delivery day in MD … ong ass day to say the least
Aug 6   D & J bring Spot to MD … sofa delivered … mattress delivered … 10 boxes unpacked

And that, my friends, is just the beginning of all that needed to be done. The next few weeks was a blur of unpacking, organizing, trips to Target, to Bed, Bath and Beyond, to ACE hardware and the normal every day stuff like grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry. And the yearly doctors appointments and dental appointments thrown in for good measure.
The bottom line is…I love the condo in Solomons. The minute I walked into the space and told me this is Home, your land base for the summer. We have shared it with a few friends already and that makes me so very happy. We have started to build warm and lasting memories already. To all of our cruising friends, you are all welcome to come visit. Come stay in Solomons, I will cook you a meal from my fabulous kitchen, and I even do laundry while you sip your drink of choice.

I am glad to be cruising again, my heart is now divided between our beautiful Traveling Soul and our wonderful Condo.
Traveling Soul … OUT

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

After the ICW: 2016

After we completed the ICW for the ninth time, we reentered our home waters, the Chesapeake Bay. Sometimes we meander up the Bay visiting various venues along the way. This year, we decided to make only one stop because we wanted to get back to Solomons, MD by 5 June. Our one stop was at Cape Charles, on Virginia’s eastern shore, so we could visit Ann’s cousin, Ralph, and his wife Mary. Our visit was wonderful. We got to see the golf club where Ralph works part time (it was really beautiful) and to have lunch at the club’s restaurant. We also visited Ralph’s home in Machipongo, VA (try saying that three times fast!) All-in-all, it was an enjoyable day.

Ann and her cousin, Ralph
The first and last days of our stay at the Cape Charles marina were also pretty good. The first day the weather was decent, so after docking the boat we walked around the town, the marina and the beach. The middle days – or more precisely the middle nights – were absolutely terrible. When we docked the boat, the dockmasters put us on an outside “T” dock with our bow facing the marina and our stern facing the bay. The first night it was fine, but the second the third nights the wind picked up and slammed wave after wave into our stern and our swim platform. Since our stateroom (fancy nautical name for bedroom) was aft (fancy nautical term for “in the rear of the boat,”) it sounded as if guys with sledgehammers were pounding on the transom all night. Ann slept through it, but it got so bad that I had to go up to the salon to get away from the constant thump, thump, thump so I could get at least a little bit of sleep. If we can avoid it we will never again let dockmasters put us in with our stern facing the bay!

There was one other event that occurred while we were at Cape Charles, and it will shape my life forever. While exploring the quaint little town, we discovered a little place that served, among other things, lox and bagels. Oh my God! Now, I have had bagels before and have certainly had salmon, but all together with capers and cream cheese? Wow!  My life is now complete and I would change my religion if I could have lox and bagels every day.

I mentioned we wanted to get to Solomons by 5 June. The reason is because my West Point Class was holding a Remembrance Ceremony for classmates who had passed away this year. For the first time, my company of 24 men had someone die; in fact we had two deaths, Dallas Britton and Dave Marler. That, plus the fact that I knew know several other classmates who had died, made me really want to attend this year’s event. It also gave those of us who were still alive a chance to get together and meet with the immediate families of those who had passed away.  You know years ago we used to get together for weddings and other affirmations of life. Nowadays, we seldom get gather with family and friends anymore except for deaths and other kinds of tragedies. I was, of course, saddened by Dallas’ and Dave’s passing, but I was glad to see all our classmates and company-mates who could attend:
Facing us from left: Chuck Woodrow and Me.
On the right of the picture, you can see half of
Ron McConnell, the Steve Bothe's back and the
striped shirt of Phil O'Donnell. (The beer bottle seemingly hanging in
 the air is being held by no other than Ann.)
Chuck Kaylor
Mike Thompson
Steve Bothe
Doug Ferguson
Mark Tracy
Ron McConnell
Chuck Woodrow
Phil O’Donnell
Sandy Federico
Dick Atha
And, of course, moi.

Ron came from New York, Dick from North Carolina, Chuck Woodrow from California, Mark Tracy from Charleston, Sandy from New Jersey and Phil from Delaware. The rest of us were from the DC area. Ding Britton was also able to attend from Minnesota as well as Mary Marler and a few members of the Marler clan from Tennessee were also able to attend.

To get back on a more positive note, Ding, Dallas’ wife told me that Dallas used to look forward to getting and reading this blog. So, the good parts in this one are for Dallas. The bad parts are – as always – on me.

Doing the Unthinkable.
After the Remembrance Ceremony, Ann and I did the unthinkable. We bought a condo. If you will recall, five years ago we sold our house and most of our possessions and moved onto Traveling Soul. Our boat has been our home every since. Although we have loved (almost) every minute of it, we never intended to spend the rest of our lives on the boat. Living on the boat was part of a five-year plan. For the past five summers, though, we found ourselves stuck in the Chesapeake, primarily because of my foot operations, but also because – try as I might – I just couldn’t generate much enthusiasm for going north. We finally figured that if we were going to spend most of the summers in one place on the Chesapeake, we might as well spend them in a land-based structure, so we bought a small two-bedroom condo in Solomons, MD, a big boating community (go figure). Our new five year plan is to stay for six or so months in the condo, and six or so months on the boat – either in the Bahamas or on the way there. We have gone from full-time cruisers to snowbirds.

Just because we have bought a condo, however, does not mean that we are not going to go boating in the Chesapeake during the summers. In fact, before we closed on the condo, we decided to take a quick eight-day cruise around the Middle Bay. We headed to San Domingo Creek (behind St. Michaels), for two days, then to Annapolis for the weekend, to Rock Hall for a couple days, then took two days to get back to Solomons.
The trip from Solomons to San Domingo Creek was uneventful. We arrived mid-afternoon and enjoyed the scenery and the quiet. The following morning we were planning to go into the town of St. Michaels early in the morning, but it was raining. It wasn’t pouring, just raining hard enough to make traveling in the dinghy a non-inviting prospect. Luckily, however, about 1100 the weather started to break, the rain stopped and we headed into town.

A rainbow after the rain at St. Michaels
I don’t remember how long it has been since we visited St. Michaels, but the place sure has changed, especially the east side of town. There used to be (and still are) several touristy gift shops. At some point, however, those gift shops changed into restaurants. Previously, there were a few restaurants in the town, but not that many. Now they have a crepe shop, two Irish Pubs, several sandwich shops and others that have specialties of which we are not sure. Anyway, the east side of town is very different than it used to be.
After St. Michaels we cruised over to Annapolis. Again, there were changes for the better. When we first started visiting many years ago, the largest boats that could moor on their mooring balls were 45’. Then they determined that about five balls could hold boats to 55’; now they allow 55’ boats on ALL of their mooring balls. All of that is GREAT – with one possible caveat. I noticed that, while they have increased the stated holding strength of their mooring balls, they have not changed the tackle at all. In fact, the ball we were on employed a 5/8 inch line from the pennant to the ball. To be honest, on Traveling Soul we don’t use a 5/8 inch line for anything important; we use ¾ inch at a minimum. We do that because we don’t think 5/8 inch lines are strong enough to hold a 50’+ boat in place when there is serious weather.  I just hope they don’t find out the hard way that they should have upgraded their line.

Anyway, Annapolis, with the notable exception of the navel academy (no, I didn’t misspell it – that is the way it SHOULD be spelled), is a nice place to visit. We met our friends Dave and Joan Wolf who drove up from northern VA and stayed with us on the boat for a couple of days. Beside the fact that the Annapolis waterfront is definitely a party-place (the first night the boat behind us kept Ann awake until 0400; the next night I happened to wake up to cheers coming from the shore – at 0245) I think we all had a good time.
After Annapolis it was on to Rock Hall, MD. We had visited Rock Hall several years ago, on our former boat, Sans Souci. At the time the town was down on its luck with many of its businesses not doing particularly well. What it did have was a restaurant – a restaurant that we remember even after all these years. Its name was Osprey Point. And “yes,” the restaurant is still there and “yes,” it as good as it ever was. We split two appetizers and one entrĂ©e. It was just the right amount of food and everything was delicious. As Arnold said, oh so many years ago, “I’ll be back.”

We also met Judith and Paul, folks we had met in Jekyll Island last spring. They own a very nice B&B, but took time from their schedule to have a glass of iced-coffee with us. It turns out that they are looking forward to taking their boat back down the ICW and heading to the Bahamas next fall just like we are. We are sure we will meet them somewhere along the way.
After Rock Hall we pointed our bow back towards Solomons, spending the night at the Rhode River Anchorage. There had been some thunderstorm warnings earlier in the afternoon so we cruised pretty far back into the anchorage. No thunderstorms appeared, so we headed home the following day.

Well, next month we are going to close on our condo, buy some furniture and head out to Arizona and Colorado to visit my mom and other relatives and have something of a family reunion. After that, we’ll be back in Solomons to move into the condo and do some bicycling. In October we will be heading south with a quick stop in Hampton, VA to participate in the Hampton Snowbird Rendezvous, where we will be giving presentations on ICW Trouble Spots in Georgia and South Carolina, and on the Bahamas as a wintertime destination.
We’ll keep you posted along the way.

Ann’s Notes: As I recall I ended my part of the blog with a ‘cliff hanger’ about our little cruising cat.
One PO'ed cat after her dip in the drink
On Traveling Soul we have door screens that snap to the door frames from the inside. We have enjoyed them so much for several years, they let the nice breezes in while keeping all the bugs out.  The back sliding door screen is next to the bookcase, Spot can look out the door and window from the top of the bookcase; it is one of her favorite places to hang out on. Michael had gone out the sliding door and had to unsnap the screen to get out. I was at our table in the salon on the computer. All I heard was a very strange splash and a cat cry that I never heard before. Once my brain put all the sounds together, I was on my way down the stern ladder and on to the dock. Our sweet Spot, in all her feline glory had miscalculated the distance from the bookcase to the stern deck. The best we can figure is that she literally jumped off the boat from the bookcase, through the open corner of the screen and into the water. She managed to get out of the water and up on the floating dock, I did see her jump back onto the boat, through the snapped Starboard side screen. The jump was about five plus feet, soaking wet and pissed off. I got back on the boat, wrapped her in a towel and blanket. She was growling but not trying to get away, she was mad, cold and not a happy kitty. I am grateful that it happened where it did. Calvert Marina has no current to speak of and the Chesapeake has very little tide change, if this had happened in GA or Charleston with the fast current, we would have lost her in a blink of an eye. Spot only weighs ten pounds, when wet maybe ten and a quarter. So that is our story of Spots first swimming lesson and a happy ending.

We have been very busy since our arrival back in VA / MD. We also have a lot more to do. The condo is perfect for us and I am excited to have a land base once more.

Traveling Soul….OUT

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Up the ICW, 2016: Part Two

After Darien, we were off to Beaufort, SC. (Remember the “Beau” in Beaufort, SC is the same as the “beau” in beautiful; the “Beau” in Beaufort, NC is the same as “beau” as in somebody’s boyfriend.) Usually, we stay at the Lady’s Island Marina in Beaufort, but this time, we decided to try someplace else for a couple of reasons. First, our friends, Mark and Becky board Sea Angel were not going to be at the marina. Becky was having surgery and they were going to be at the hospital in Savannah at the time we were passing through Beaufort. We wish them well – and wish Becky  a speedy recovery. We hope to see them the next time we pass through Beaufort. The second reason we wanted to try Port Royal was that, to be honest, we did not have a particularly good experience at Lady’s Island last year.  The dockmaster made several promises to repair, or at least take a look at, our malfunctioning radio. None of these promises did he honor. (Eventually, we got the problem fixed, but it was not because of the dockmaster.) Moreover, last year Lady’s Island Marina just expanded the marina. Under normal circumstances that would have been a good thing – we like to see marinas that we enjoy grow their business. However, we got stuck in the “new” area that did not have cable TV (the rest of the marina did), that was well over ¼ mile from the office (so anything you wanted required a hike), that was located away from the other transients visiting the marina (so we couldn’t meet new people), and whose state of repair was generally below par.
The Port Royal Marina was generally nice except for two little problems: (1) The wi-fi was pretty bad, and (2) it was RIGHT next to a major highway bridge – so we heard highway noises all night. That particular problem we solved by closing the windows and turning on the air conditioning, even though it wasn’t that hot. At least the A/C generated white noise that let us sleep!

Actually, there is quite a bit of history associated with the region. European history of the Port Royal region began in 1514 – over 500 years ago – when Spanish Captain Pedro de Salaza explored the area. His was the second expedition that landed on the North American continent, after that of Ponce de Leon who landed a year earlier. Moreover, Port Royal was the home of the first fort in North America; later, nearby St. Helena served as the first capital for Spanish interests in America. Sixteenth Century America is turning out to be a fascinating interplay of Britain, France, Spain and plenty of non-state actors in the form of pirates. Even more interesting is that much of it took place in the Southeastern United States along the coast and the banks of the major river systems – much of which is now the ICW. We may have to spend some more time around Beaufort next year exploring more of its history.
After Beaufort, we headed north. We bypassed Charleston this year and went on to McClellanville, SC. Now, McClellanville has special significance for me. For the five years we have been cruising the ICW (and I am sure for many years before that) the area around the town has been one of the ICW’s “trouble spots,” in that it the water around the town was VERY shallow. The Corps of Engineers (with local assistance) is supposed to keep the waterway at 10’, more or less, all the time. But around McClellanville, it was frequently closer to four or five feet. Virtually all sailboats had to play the tides and even boats like ours had to be very careful. In fact, yes, we did go aground outside of McClellanville one time, and we have touched bottom a couple of others. So, every time we passed the place I had to ask myself, “Why in the name of heaven would anyone want to go to a marina in a town that does not lobby its local and state representatives to dredge the waterway in the region?” And I was serious. I, for one, refused – as a matter of principle – to use the McClellanville marina.

Lo and behold, last year the local government put up some money, which, in turn, pressured the state to put up some money, which, when coupled with cash from the Corps of Engineers, was enough to dredge the waterway!!! Well, that being the case, we did not have any choice other but to dock at McClellanville’s marina. It was a first for us, and quite frankly could well be a last in that it isn’t much of a marina. I will say, however, that there are three things about the area that we really enjoyed. First, the local restaurant was pretty darn good! It wasn’t anything fancy, but served plain old fashioned southern country seafood – and it was down home good! Second, the town has a live oak tree that is estimated to be over 1000 years old. Think about it: the tree was nearly 500 years old when Columbus landed; over 850 at the end of the Civil War.  Wow! And finally, McClellanville  has one of those small local museums that are a treasure trove of information about the area and have really some cool local artifacts. Unfortunately, we were only able to spend an hour before it closed. IF we ever go back to McClellanville it will be to see the museum (and probably to eat at the restaurant) not to survive the local marina.
After McClellanville, it was on to Osprey Marina. We didn’t spend the night there, we only bought fuel. Although it was well under my $2.00 goal, it was 1.81 – still a little high if you ask me. After Osprey, we stopped at Barefoot Landing Marina in Myrtle Beach, SC where we looked at some of the T-shirt shops, etc.

Last year we had intended to stop at Carolina Beach to set up on their mooring balls and check out the area. Unfortunately, we got pre-empted by Tropical Storm Ana and had to go to a marina where we could wait out the storm. This year, we decided, once again, to give the mooring balls a try. The mooring field was quite good and the balls themselves well taken care of, so we downloaded the dinghy and headed into town. On the one hand, the town has definitely seen better days as there were night clubs and bars on the ocean right next to ice cream shops (the ice cream shops were still closed for the season, the bars were all open – regardless of the season). On the other hand, the town was trying to comeback by building a nice little boardwalk near the beach. I am sure it is a lot nicer in the summer when families are enjoying the area and the beaches, but in mid-April, it was kinda dead.
A few miles up the Cape Fear River from Carolina Beach is Wilmington, NC. Last year, at the Annapolis Boat Show, we received an offer of a free three-day stay at xxx Marina. The problem with the marina is that it is across the bridge and about two miles from downtown Wilmington. I now, I know, you are wondering why we didn’t just hop in the car and go downtown – well, of course, we don’t have a car. What we did do was meet with our daughter, Lisa’s, best friend from high school (yes, that was a few years ago). Beky took Ann out to run a few errands and catch up on times past. And yes, Lisa, we now know more about your high school years than you would care for us to know! Overall, Wilmington seemed like a nice town. We did not get to take advantage of its sights as the marina where we stayed was just too far from downtown. If we go again – and we might – we will be staying at the city docks which are right on the local waterfront. 

Every year that we travel the ICW -- whether going up or coming down – we stop at Belhaven, NC. You are probably thinking that it is the birthplace of a famous author, philosopher or scientist to whom we want to pay homage, or that there is some sort of religious significance attached to Belhaven. Nope. It’s food. Spoon River Artworks and Market, believe it or not, is is a restaurant in downtown Belhaven that invariably has one or more extraordinary dishes made of local fare that would contend with some of the high end restaurants at which we have eaten in New York and Washington, DC. This year we started with a Quail Egg Brochette as an appetizer. Ann then had a Cornish game hen with potatoes and something else while I had seafood paella with lobster, scallops and shrimp. Everything was scrumptious!!! Often we anchor out when we go to the restaurant because Belhaven has a very nice anchorage. This year, however, we tried a new marina, the River Forest Marina, which is just out of town. The docks were adequate and we met several people we would not otherwise have met. We’ll have to wait until next year to see if we return to River Forest – but I can guarantee we will visit Spoon River!!
After Belhaven it was on to Elizabeth City. Elizabeth City, NC bills itself as “The Harbor of Hospitality.” Although we have been treated hospitably almost everywhere we have gone, in Elizabeth City they held an event, hosted by the mayor, with free wine and where they gave each of the ladies present a rose from the City. Moreover, the city has about 14 slips that are free to transients and several other locations on the waterfront offer free dockage. In short, Elizabeth City certainly is one of the most hospitable places we have been.

We went to Elizabeth City so see one of my West Point classmates and company-mates, Dick Atha. Dick was the quarterback of the football team back in the days when Army actually beat Navy once in a while. It was great catching up with Dick and getting his perspective on why Army football has been so poor over the past decade or so.
In addition to being the city where Dick Atha lives, Elizabeth City is also the gateway to the Dismal Swamp Canal. As the US Fish and Wildlife Service points out:

Human occupation of the Great Dismal Swamp area dates back some 13,000 years, 4,000 years before the formation of the swamp began. By the time European colonists arrived, the area had acquired its swamp-like character and it was here that they met the Nansemond Indians, who inhabited the western edge of the swamp.

In 1728, William Byrd II, charged with surveying the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina, proposed draining the swamp, selling the timber, and using the land for agricultural purposes. It would be 40 years before several prominent Virginians, including George Washington, founded the Dismal Swamp Land Company in an effort to implement Byrd's plan. The company did not succeed with the agricultural venture, but commercial harvesting of the swamp's resources had begun.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Great Dismal Swamp served as a refuge for African-Americans escaping slavery. Historians believe these people established maroon communities in the swamp and used the swamp as both temporary and long term shelter. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Harriet Beecher Stowe found literary inspiration in the swamp and the slaves hiding there.
We had completed the canal once before. It was fairly shallow back then and remains so to this day. We probably won’t be going on it again as we touched bottom several times and for a short period of time even had something we picked up off the bottom (vine? fishing line? someone’s rope? Give the boat a vibration. I thought we were going to have to find a diver to take it off, but luckily it seemed to work its own way off the prop after a ½ hour or so. The Canal is fun, its kitschy, it’s interesting, but it also isn’t for us.

And that’s how we finished the ICW. On our next iteration, I’ll talk a little about our trip to Cape Charles, to the Solomons, and our projected maintenance – oh yea, and our new condo.
Ann’s Notes: I know Michael wants to get this blog out…I did read it and I think it is good to go.

Just one addition, when we had dinner in Belhaven and having dinner we were with another cruising couple. Kay and Charlie from Plane 2 Sea, we have met them several times at several different locations – and almost all included food. They are a fun couple to spend time with.
We have so much to do… My mind is working in a forward time span right now. Thinking back on the ICW cruise seems like a long time ago, I loved it and had a wonderful time.

Thank you for reading…our adventure continues…
Traveling Soul…OUT

Oh wait…Spot is happy and well… and took her first unauthorized swim. More on that later…