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.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

2018 Down trhe ICW!!

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year. We are once again preparing to head into the deep blue seas to explore the coastlines of America and visit the waters of the Bahamas. This year the plan is generally to head south along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, take periodic excursions along the way, then leave the boat in Palm Beach, Florida for about  a month while we go back up to Virginia/Maryland to visit our family and friends over Christmas. After the New Year, we will link back up with Traveling Soul and head to the Bahamas for another winter. Exactly where we will go in da’ islands and what we will do when we get there we are not yet sure. We are determined, however, to do something a little bit different than we did last year. Lobstering is a definite possibility and so is visiting more of the out islands. You will just have to wait until we get there to learn more (and so will we).

More of you than I care to mention ask more questions about 
Spot than the rest of us combined. And she knows it.
Traveling Soul spent a relatively uneventful summer at her slip in Solomons, MD. I know some of you really enjoy counting the boat units we spend to make her seaworthy, but this year we deliberately kept expenditures to a minimum because we bought a new car and didn’t have any money left over. (I don’t know how landlubbers can spend sooo much on automobiles – and sometimes even buy more than one of them! Gimme a good ol’ dinghy any old day).  The other reason we didn’t spend masses of BU’s is because we have, over the past several years, repaired just about everything at least once, so very little is left to break down (knock on wood). Moreover, we have made most of the modifications we want to make. Yes, it is true we replaced an air conditioner this year at the cost of about four BU’s and an air conditioner pump that cost another two.  Beyond that, however, most of the repairs were small and we did them ourselves.

 While Traveling Soul didn’t have much work done, I certainly did. In July I had outpatient back surgery to fix problems that had been brewing for decades and had been practically debilitating for the past couple of years. It took a couple of weeks for the operation to have its full effect, but I am now repaired! It’s not perfect in that there is still some pain, but at least I can walk for more than ten minutes at a time. Now, all I have to do is recondition my “walking muscles” – kind of a weird problem for a former US Army infantryman! Ann has been healthy all summer and has done yeoman service getting me to all the doctor’s appointments and hospital visits. Moreover, when recovering from back surgery one is not supposed to lift any more than 10 pounds, so Ann has had to do all the heavy lifting in the family. And Spot? Well, Spot is Spot. She is as spoiled as ever, has slept more than any cat deserves to sleep, and has run, jumped and climbed like a kitten. I can tell, though, that she is as ready to head south as Ann and I are.
I have already told Dave and Joan the motto of Traveling Soul

This year, for part of the journey, our friends Dave and Joan Wolf have signed on as crew. We have owned two boats with Dave and Joan and they have become some of our best friends. They will be with us from or start in Solomons, MD until we reach Saint Augustine, FL.  I have already told them the motto of Traveling Soul. 

Solomons to Fishing Bay
Our journey actually began several weeks before 17 October as we had to load the boat with everything we had taken off her earlier in the year. That meant not only clothing and kitchen gadgetry (what would Traveling Soul be if not the boat with the best equipped galley on the ICW?), it also meant food, medicines (which is turning into a major chore in and of itself),  Since I couldn’t lift much, a lot of the responsibility fell on Ann.  When everything was loaded, we were ready to go.

We were just about ready to start our journey. The plan was to spend Monday night on the boat in the marina. On Tuesday we were going to start her up, move a mile or so into the harbor, and spend the night at anchor just to make sure all the systems were working – especially the batteries and the rest of the electrical system.  Monday night went fine, but as soon as we awoke on Tuesday, Dave (of Dave and Joan) received a message that someone had broken into their house. Now we were all pretty sure it was a false alarm, but there was no reason to have them spend the next several weeks on the boat wondering whether their house had been burgled. Dave and Joan rented a car, drove to Virginia and found no indications of anyone being in the house. They then returned to Solomons. The next morning, they returned the car and were ready, once again to begin our journey.

Our friends Dave and Joan. You can tell that it is still a bit 
chilly by their dress. Note, however, that Dave is in 
appropriate attire: shorts and a sweat shirt.
Okay, on Wednesday morning we were determined to leave. I started the starboard engine VROOOM, VROOM. I then started the port engine. Again, VROOM, VROOM. Finally we were ready to go. I then put both engines into ge … into ge … the starboard engine would not go in to gear. Damn! I knew exactly what to do. I ran to the dockmaster’s office and asked for mechanical help. The office called Wayne (about whom, more later) who showed up at the boat went down into the engine room and immediately diagnosed the problem. Basically, while we had started the engines and exercised other systems of the boat during the summer, we had never really put her into gear, so the gears had frozen in place. With a healthy dose of “liquid wrench” and a big hammer, he loosened everything and we were – once again – ready to begin. This time we made it away from the dock and were off.

The first night we made it all the way to the anchorage at Fishing Bay, just south of Deltaville. Unfortunately, the following day was forecast to be very windy and, on the Chesapeake, very choppy, so we decided to sit out the weather at anchor. Fishing Bay was just about the perfect anchorage. It is well protected from all directions and most especially from the north and west – the directions from which the winds were coming. While the winds did get up to 30+ knots, the day and evening were pretty uneventful and – dare I say it – boring.

Fishing Bay to Top Rack

After Fishing Bay, we were off to Top Rack Marina in Chesapeake, VA. We have been to Top Rack a number of times over the years and have always loved it. In the past, they had the cheapest fuel in the region and offered free dockage if you ate at their restaurant, the Amber Lantern. More recently, because so many of our fellow cruisers cheated the system by taking advantage of the free docking without eating in the restaurant, the marina began charging a flat rate of $35 for an overnight stay. This is still a great deal, especially when you realize the Amber Lantern is one of the best restaurants along the Waterway and would be competitive with some of the best in the DC area. This year I had Canadian duck. Now I have been known to give our Canadian brothers and sisters a hard time once in a while. But I’ll tell you what, they sure know how to make ducks up there!
Red 36. The first buoy on the Intracoastal. 
Mile Marker Zero

Okay, after having bragged about Top Tack, you would think we had a great experience with them. We did not. Slips with electricity are supposed to be first come first served. Just as we arrived, a large 65’ boat named Maverick whipped around us and with the acquiescence of the dockmaster took the last slip with power – he basically cut the line. Needless to say, I was a bit miffed and explained my concerns to the dockmaster. He apologized profusely and promised a free slip with power for the next two times we stay. We’ll see. 

It was also at Top Rack that we made a discovery. Our bilge pump had been going off a little more often than I thought it should, and it seemed to be "sticking" somewhat. I decided that I needed to take a look and see what was going on.  When I got down there, I saw oil; lots of oil. When our mechanic, Wayne (remember him?), changed our oil he said something about spilling some and cleaning it up. Well, he apparently cleaned up the oil in the engine room without realizing that some (a great deal?) of it leaked into the bilge. So, we had to get as much as we could out of there before we pumped more into the Bay and had to get some absorbent pads that would get the rest. Hey, Wayne … thanks!  

The Dismal Swamp

A sign at Deep Creek Lock -- the entrance to the
 Dismal Swamp Canal
After Top Rack we took the Dismal Swamp Canal route through the ICW. (After Norfolk, the ICW divides into two routes, the Dismal Swamp route and the Virginia Cut. They both end up at the same location in the Albemarle Sound, it is just that the Dismal Swamp route is a bit more scenic and has more history. Here is a little bit about the canal from Wikipedia.

In the Colonial period, water transportation was the lifeblood of the North Carolina Sounds region and the Tidewater areas of Virginia. The landlocked sounds were entirely dependent upon poor overland tracks or shipment along the treacherous Carolina coast to reach further markets through Norfolk, Virginia. In May 1763, George Washington made his first visit to the Great Dismal Swamp and suggested draining it and digging a north-south canal through it to connect the waters of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. As the first president, Washington agreed with Virginia Governor Patrick Henry that canals were the easiest answer for an efficient means of internal transportation and urged their creation and improvement.

Work on the canal was started in 1793. It was dug completely by hand; most of the labor was done by slaves hired from nearby landowners. It took approximately 12 years of back-breaking construction under highly unfavorable conditions to complete the 22-mile long waterway, which opened in 1805.
Even more interestingly from the same source,

At about the time the canal opened, the Dismal Swamp Hotel was built astride the state line on the west bank. It was a popular spot for lover's trysts as well as duels; the winner was rarely arrested as the dead man, as well as the crime, were in another state. As the state line split the main salon, the hotel was quite popular with gamblers who would simply move the game to the opposite side of the room with the arrival of the sheriff from the other jurisdiction. No trace of the hotel can be found today.
The view off our bow as we traversed the 
Dismal Swamp Canal
We did not see the hotel. Instead, what we saw was a canal, about 100’ across at the widest point, straight as an arrow for about 20 miles. It was supposed to be maintained at a 6’ depth, but since our 4.5’ draft boat bumped the bottom several times, I have to guess that it isn’t 6’ everywhere.  Moreover, the day we traversed it, the weather was cold, wet, rainy and dreary making the swamp even more dismal than normal.  I am thinking this may be the last time we take the Dismal Swamp route.

Elizabeth City

We knew that weather – in the form of gale force winds – was coming into the area the day after we completed the Canal, so we decided to head for Elizabeth City and catch one the free slips the city offers. THAT was a mistake. When weather is coming, every boat in the area is going to be looking for safe harbor. Moreover since the Elizabeth City slips are free, everyone will be heading for Elizabeth City as their harbor of preference. Since we had to proceed slowly through the Dismal Swamp, we arrived at the city much later that we had planned. As a result, there were no free slips left that were big enough for Traveling Soul. We could have anchored, and since we have anchored in MUCH worse weather than was predicted, I was fully prepared to do so. However, there was also a commercial marina in the area, the Pelican Marina. When we found out that it charged a flat rate of $35 per night, including electric and water, we decided that the cost was worth it. While the city slips are free, you see, they do not offer electricity or water.

While in Elizabeth City, we saw our friends Jeff and Sally on Adirondack. We met them several years ago in Bimini and gave presentations together three years ago at the now-defunct Hampton Snowbird Rendezvous. We also saw Glory Days, though, try as we might, we could not seem to link up with Joe and Pat. After two days paying for electricity, water and dockage at the marina, on Monday we moved into one of the free slips and went to the Regional Museum of the Albemarle, right across the slip. It is extremely well done and tells the story of the Albemarle very well. They also had an exhibit on WWI and did a very good job there, as well. Dave Wolf, one of the new members of our crew, is something of an expert on WWI and also thought that they had done a good job.

For lunch we went to the Cypress Greek Grill on Water Street in Elizabeth City. Although I didn’t see anything on their menu that was Cypriot or Greek, they did have a Yellow fin tuna wrap that was to die for. It might become one of my favorite meals!

After a great deal of discussion we decided that the next leg of the trip would take us to Manteo, on Roanoke Island, the home of the Lost Colony and the site of the first European birth on American soil – that of Virginia Dare. We are saving that discussion, however, for our next entry.

Ann's Notes:
I feel like a school girl when Michael said I needed to do my part of the blog...remember going back to school in September and the first writing assignment is ...What I did on Summer vacation.
Well here goes...

We arrived back to Solomons on the 21st of May, just in time for our granddaughter Caylin's 11th birthday celebration. Hard to believe she is a Tween.

It was good to be back on land and into our wonderful land condo. However we were only home a few days before flying off to CA to visit our daughter Lisa and husband Dave. They had just moved from 29 Palms CA to Oceanside CA, he is assigned to Camp Pendleton Marine Corp base. We had a short and fun filled visit with them and our grandson Trent. From CA, Michael and I went in different directions. Michael went to AZ to visit his mom and I went to OR to visit my mom and sister Liz. 

We both had a week with our families. I did some pretty tricky planning, those eight years I was a travel agent came in handy. Michael and I meet at Dulles airport, from different states and different airlines, and landed within fifteen minuets of each other. We linked up in baggage claim, picked up our car from long term parking and drove off. In case you were wondering where Spot as, she was enjoying her vacation at Dave and Joan's  house.

June was filled was doctors appointment and the normal yearly medical stuff. My doctor was pleased to see that I had lost weight over the winter even while living on a boat. I have managed to keep it off and feel so much better.

W bought a new car. We now have a Ford Fusion Hybrid...I love how quiet it is. After driving around in the little Mazda Miata , having cruise control and automatic transmission is wonderful. I thought I would miss that little car but I was wrong. We had it detailed, put it on several local sites and it sold for a fair price and quickly.

July was filled with visits with family and friends, nice summer days. I had a small garden on our back deck, watched the humming birds return and all the song birds to the feeders. I also put a squirrel feeder out so Spot could have something to watch. We had a busy back deck.
Michael had his back surgery on the 30th of July.

August was recovery month, a few more medical appointments. Lots of packing and unpacking and re-organizing the boat. Now that we have a bigger car that task was much easier. 

September was a fun month, Michael had recovered enough to make it to his 45th West Point class reunion. We went a few days early so I could visit were I grew up in Saugerties NY. Thanks to my cousin Ralph  and his wife Mary, I got to visit all the places I remembered as a child. It was a great day and discovered I had a pretty good memory.

The reunion was GREAT, I had hopes of seeing a few friends I had lost track of and my wish came true. Army won the football game and the event was well organized. The downside was our hotel was about an hour away from West Point campus and the bus ride got old fast. All and all it was well worth the time and expense.

We are now into October, I am sitting on Traveling Soul with Michael and our good friends Dave and Joan. Spot has settled into her cruising mode and being her best spoiled feline self.
Traveling Soul....OUT