Thursday, July 31, 2014, Baltimore, MD: Our luck holds out. I am afraid to put the hex on us. Three times we have run the Jersey Shore on the outside (there is no inside in NJ, just a lot of skinny water) and Delaware Bay. Both can be nasty for no particular reason than the wind being wrong or running against a wicked tide in the bay with no place to hide. It turns out to be an ideal 160 nM ride mostly with tidal boosts and wind on the bum, too.
Inner Harbor East is a little tired and undergoing repairs. The nighttime music is loud, so loud that the railings of the boat were vibrating with the cranked bass. Good for them that they quit at 11 pm, sharp. We walk Fells Point, reminiscent of the market in Charleston, only not as interesting. We visit Attman’s Deli, an institution, for lunch, and then cross the street to the Lloyd Street synagogue. We discover service times but the rain stymies us on Friday night. Shabbat morning services are sparsely attended and we wait for a minyan until nearly ten o’clock. There is an aufruf so it fills up rapidly.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014, Atlantic City, NJ: We are headed south in earnest, now. We plan to be back in the Chesapeake in two big steps, a one-night stand at the Golden Nugget and a big jump to Baltimore where we plan to be on Thursday through Sunday.
Sunday, July 27, 2014, The Big Apple: Negotiating the East River to our destination was the easy part. Here we are passing the Islamic Nations’ Debating Society and the city canyons. Coming out the other end opposite the Statue of Liberty was hairy. Ferry boats and boat owners everywhere and 6-foot wakes. We pick our hole and put the hammer down to cross the river to Jersey City and Liberty Landing. We find the marina quite empty and they are only too happy to see us. They recall the shaft they gave us before July 4th. Arthur was unkind to them but they discounted us for being members of MarinaLife. We are docked with a view of the new World Trade Center in the background across the Hudson River.
The purpose of the visit is to meet up with old friends Micki and Alan and their adult children Mark and Lenore and grandson Noam. We also programmed our obligatory visit to MoMA to take in the Lautrec exhibit. Our timing coincided with the UN rally for Israel. Unbeknownst to us we were part of a Charleston delegation but never met our fellow delegates.
The next day we spent the morning at the 911 Museum—a very powerful exhibit. We saw an artwork quilt by students from Charleston. In between times we visited with Noam, his parents, and grandparents. Alan hosted all of us for supper at The Landmark on Columbus Circle. Thank you, Alan!
Friday, July 25, 2014, Port Washington, NY: Our cruising luck is eerie. Departing Sag we head north for Plum Gut five miles distant in calm, clear weather. We have planed to arrive at the gut at slack low or slightly later to get the lift through the rips. The sound is like a mirror for our 95-mile run to PW. We have decided to forgo the Connecticut shore for this trip. The marinas are full and half few transient slips. The Admiral is not inclined to ride a mooring ball or a hook. Brewer Capri East is an easy access at the south end of the sound. We arrive in plenty of time to do a little shopping for supper aboard. The walk through Manorhaven is not uplifting—rundown would be an apt description. There is a beautiful public park in the middle of Manorhaven but it is surrounded by chain link fence! We are obliged to walk around this huge green space. We find a supermarket on Shore Road. Instead of carrying our groceries back we take the water taxi, which stops conveniently at a pier on the west end of the bay a few minutes away. Great service—a drop off at the boat.
The next day we water-taxi to town and walk about looking for some cultural or ethnic stimulation but don’t find either. The place is Deadsville except for a cute little bookstore/coffeeshop. We walk for miles up Main Street passed closed storefronts to the road that traverses town. There is big business on the intersection and banks and community stuff.
Back down the hill we are getting hungry and find Ayhan’s, a Lebanese Restaurant, where we can have something veg. It is quite good and the owner/cook is very friendly. Afterwards we make friends with the Dolphin bookstore/cafe shopkeeper. We shmoozed and browsed until mid afternoon and returned to the boat by water-taxi. That evening, thinking the town deserted we discover that the restaurants in town are booked. We walk a quarter mile to the other end of the marina to Fish by the Bay. It is undersubscribed but excellent for fresh fish.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Sag Harbor, NY: We leave Block Island around 08:00 bound for Harbor Yacht Club, a strong recommendation of friends Mike and Judy, under brilliant sun and flat calm conditions. We idle out of the mooring field for the mile and half to the New Harbor entrance channel. We can draw a straight line to Orient Point at the end of the Long Island North Fork. We plan a stop at Brewer’s Stirling Harbor to fuel up and pick up a lost fender. The run in beautiful calm weather goes by quickly and Edie minds the store most of the way so I can make future plans for this cruise. We are reunited with our fender but taking on their fuel turned out to be a ripoff despite their discount for being Brewer Cruising Club members. We paid almost a dollar premium per gallon over the price at Sag. Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me.
Sag Harbor Yacht Club is as close to town as you can get without being parked on the street. The small clubhouse is nicely appointed. The price per foot is definitely the highest we have ever paid; $6.25 per foot plus power.
We wander about the pleasant little town and befriend folks who live seasonally in The Hamptons. There is a good choice of restaurants. We meet Chip and Barbara Ross of somewhere, Florida. They on next to us in a 46.6 Bertram, a beautifully kept vintage two-story yacht. I can’t help looking at him and thinking I am talking to Rodney Dangerfield. Wife Barbara is a big deal in ORT. They are bound for Port Washington, our next stop. They will winter “Mr. Chips” in PW and head back to Florida when the weather begins to cool. Don’t worry! They have a Florida boat, too.
Monday, July 21, 2014, Block Island, RI: The day dawns under the influence of a lingering low meandering along a weak front south of us. The wind blows cold from the north and Vineyard Haven is choppy as we depart bound for Block Island, RI. The weather guru says we are heading into clear, fine weather and Vineyard Sound is protected from the norther. Rain squalls blow out as fast as they appear. The friends wave at us from the cliffs as we head west. The sea chops up as we leave the Sound and head into Buzzards Bay and Block Island Sound. The gods promised following seas and that is what we got, not a bad ride—mostly 3s and 4s and a following current. Our float plan is to arrive around midday. We make 11 knots, occasionally surfing. When we approach the traffic separation zone north of Block Island we pick up to 21 knots to traverse the commercial channel and
the swirling tides at the north end of Block. Once on our approach into New Harbor on the west side the sea becomes flat calm and we glide into Great Salt Pond past the light guarding the channel to Payne’s Wharf at the east end. We tie up at noon under the reproving glare of a camped gull who isn’t moving just because we showed up. We lunch at the bar. Billy Dunleavy of Dunleavy’s pub on Sullivan’s Island is tending. We renew our acquaintance. He loans us his ancient but functioning Chevy van and we tour the island. The Southeast Lighthouse is the highest on the eastern seaboard. Built in 1875 and moved back from the eroding cliffs in 1995, it does not serve any longer as the beacon for the shoals off of that corner of Block Island.
Today, Tuesday, we walk the mile and a half into town and look around. We have a pleasant lunch on the veranda at The Surf Hotel and watch the high speed ferry come and go from New London, CT, disgorging its crowds on the town.
Monday, July 14, 2014, Vineyard Haven, MA: Happy Birthday, Edie! Last night we killed a bottle of champagne and dined at 22 Bowen’s Wharf (left), a mediocre experience. The night before Judah treated us to sushi at a respectable uptown establishment. This morning, slightly hungover and the weather a bit murky, we decamp for Martha’s Vineyard. Buzzards Bay is none too friendly but at least wind and surf are both on the bum. Occasionally the murk closes in and we rely on radar and AIS. The weather god says that by the time we round Cuttyhunk at the tail end of the Elizabeth Islands the wind and seas should lie down. In the murk we come close to a catamaran that has neither radar reflector nor AIS and is not visible on radar. We hail him but evidently he isn’t monitoring channel 16 either. We observe a tug and long tow (quarter mile) a mile ahead on radar moving on a course to cross us. We hail the tugboat but he doesn’t see the sailboat either. We deviate to pass ahead of the slow moving tug. It is a bad day when a skipper chooses a course between a tug and long tow. As we round Cuttyhunk the murk lifts, the seas lie down, and the wind becomes fitful as if we pass into a parallel universe.
We make port in Vineyard Haven at the Black Dog Wharf at 10:55, complete with the black dog, and aging Labrador retriever. Black Dog is expensive. They do not have weekly rates and we are there for a week. Their charge for utilities is also as much as the traffic will bear and they are full of boats from Connecticut and Rhode Island. At least they are polite and helpful, rather anxious to please. The place is very close to Main Street and groceries where we stock up but find that the price of grub is also inflated.
We make contact with friends Joanne and Myron who are here for 5 weeks renting a house in Lambert’s Cove on the west side of MV. They collect us for supper in Edgartown. Edgartown is happening—lots of tourists, shops, restaurants, and bars. We dine at Atlantic on a selection of antipasti and have yet another happy birthday for Edie. The food is adequate but not delicious and high dollar.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we are on our own as the Spectors have their own activities. We discover the VTA, the island bus system and the best deal by far. On Tuesday we bussed to Oak Bluffs, another tourist mecca. The town is charming away from the pubs, shops, and restaurants. There are hundreds of The real center of town is “The Tabernacle,” a large fixed structure where revivals happen in the center of the town green. Gingerbread houses are arrayed around the tabernacle (below).
Wednesday is an ugly day, pouring rain and wind. Dressed appropriately, we bus to Chilmark and Menemsha and climb to Gay Head in driving rain. The view is still spectacular.
On Thursday we prepare to greet the rest of the traveling friends at Martha’s Vineyard airport. After that we do the island circuit the weather having lifted, picnic and dine We do the circuit of art shows and flea markets and attend jazz on a green complete with picnic. On Sunday the weather closes in, again. We visit Lambert’s Cove and the palatial Spector abode on the cliffs and dine on the remains of dinner on a previous evening.
Thursday, July 10, 2014, Newport, RI: We depart Greenport headed for Block Island Sound and Newport. Once again the weather gods are with us—a smooth short ride until we enter Narragansett Bay. Newport Race Week is in full tilt and even though it is Thursday the bay is covered with boaters and boat owners racing hither and thither like it was a Sunday without the slightest regard for any other vessel. We will be berthed at The Newport Yachting Center. We pass stately homes on the high ground. We pick our way through the mooring field and dodge the small tenders who claim every right of way, their operators never having heard of the rule of relative tonnage.
Having arrived at 11:30, we had time to walk about the town and enjoy lunch in one of the cafes on Thames Street. We continue our walk and note the Touro Synagogue and plan a return for the tour on Friday.
The town is teeming with visitors and sailors. Son Judah is soon to join us as he is racing a J70 with 3 other friends. We grill on board Thursday and get treated to a beautiful sunset. We settle in to await Judah’s arrival.
Judah didn’t arrive until 01:00. By then I was out for the count. I awoke the next morning to breakfast with Judah and to my surprise Eitan, our eldest grandchild, saunters our of the bat cave where he and
On Friday, while Judah was prepping for sailing with his friends, We, accompanied by Eitan, visited the Tour Synagogue and then did a trolley tour of the island passing by the sprawling homes of the rich and shameless. The Touro Synagogue sparked considerable interest. Many of the early Jews of Charleston had roots and kin in Newport and the Touro Synagogue.
On Saturday we left our dock around midday looking for the J70 regatta but got snarled up with the smaller boats. We observed the competition at one of the weather marks then returned to the dock. Friday night we hosted Judah’s friends for supper aboard then they left us to go pub crawling On Sunday we found the J70 race course and also watched the Swan 42s intimidating everyone else on the bay. Judah and team finished second in their fleet and earned the right to compete at the next level on the following weekend.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014, Greenport, NY: The day dawns misty. We pull out of Brewer Glen Cove at 06:50 bound for Greenport at the eastern end of Long Island. The Sound is mirror calm with a light mist rising into the cool morning air. Not a soul accompanies us except the birds until we arrive at Plum Gut just in time to catch the fierce fair tide that races through the gut. We make our way into Greenport’s Stirling Harbor at 11:45. Although we announced our arrival on VHF channel 9 at first-timers in Greenport, it is wondrous that the dock master thinks that we can pick our way to their particular fuel dock amid a profusion of marine facilities. “Take a right at the hospital and come into the medium sized American flag,” all the while dodging moorings and boats at moorings.
We tie up but make the mistake of presupposing the proficiency of the dockhands. They let us go from the fuel dock before we are powered up giving us a few anxious moments as we drift every closer to a large vessel tied alongside across the channel.
We get ourselves sorted out and take the courtesy shuttle into town, a 5-minute journey. After lunch at Claudio’s, a Greenport institution, we make our way to the IGA to replenish our onboard groceries. i made the mistake of going into Claudio’s wine shop up the street. The clerk was having is siesta and couldn’t be bothered with me so I left empty-handed.
The next day we took the short ferry ride to Shelter Island and walked about the small town and then lunched at Chequit Inn. Shelter Island might not be a part of New York, after all. The locals were friendly and helpful. The island is not overrun with seasonal guests. We walk to a hilly golf course—open to the public—with beautiful views of the island.
Sunday, July 6, 2014, Glen Cove, NY: We leave the glitz and glamour a slip out of Farley State Marina at 06:00 into the sun sun dappled Absecon Inlet bound for Long Island Sound. The day being beautifully calm and devoid of the fleets of fishing boat owners that close to a Sunday dawn we blew up the Jersey Shore to New York harbor in about 3 hours. New York harbor could only be described as a zoo of amphibians—commercial vessels in Ambrose Channel and boat owners exercising overpowered rarely used watercraft at flank speed, oblivious of anyone around them. We catch the sight of Lady Liberty, just re-opened after Hurricane Sandy. Indeed, there remains much unrepaired damage for Sandy, which passed through almost 2 years ago. We turn into the East River just as the tide is turning in our favor. We planned our arrival just so because of the fierce currents in Hell’s Gate and Throgs Neck.
We arrived outside Brewer’s channel in Glen Cove shortly after noon and, despite a prepaid reservation our VHF call went unanswered. We groped our way in, shallow even at half-tide to the fuel dock and patiently hovered to await our turn. We settled in at the fuel dock for services and got blank stares when we inquired about our reservation. The Sunday crew seemed somewhat inexperienced but we got sorted out. They informed us of our oddity; they do not accommodate many transients. Nevertheless, we persisted and were assigned a calm slip against a bulkhead with excellent floating docks. The place turned out to have some amenities—pool, clean bathrooms, a well-stocked ships’ store—but is a working shipyard.
Glen Cove is a small town at the foot of Glen Cove, the embayment. We order a cab not knowing how far we are from town. Barbara, a long time cab driver, points us to a local Greek diner. We dine on a veggie Greek pizza. Barbara probably receives a bit of fragrant grease for directing folks to the diner for they know her well. However, it isn’t too long before we discover that everyone knows everyone else in Glen Cove and their business, too. We have a walkabout in the town and return to the restaurant to summon Barbara. The town is almost deserted on Sunday. We bribe Barbara with leftover pizza and we take her ride back to Brewer.
The next day we walked up to the town of Sea Cliff, 2 miles uphill. Sea Cliff and Glen Cove are close together but totally different. The town is more affluent and much smaller. Main Street is not more than a hundred yards long—restaurants and various shops. At noon we find a little mom and pop sandwich shop and share a veggie wrap and do our fave activity—people watch. The town is decidedly friendly and we are immediately pegged as strangers. Again, everyone knows everyone else. It isn’t long before we meet Joe Krupinski, a 50+ year resident of Sea Cliff. We exchange personal details and everyone else in the place hears we came up to Long Island in our own boat from Charleston. Joe would like to adopt us. HE invites us to his party on July 27th. and shows us around Sea Cliff, proud that he lost the last mayoral election to a youngster by the name of Kevin Kennedy. Undaunted, he tells us of his plans to run for one of two council seats in November. With success their he will seek appointment as deputy mayor. We say that we are going to walk on down to Glen Cove since gravity is now in our favor. He insists on driving us down and showing us around Glen Cove all the while hanging out the driver’s side window greeting everyone in both towns.
Sunday, June 29, 2014, Atlantic City, NJ: On a falling tide we make our way out of Utsch’s into the Cape May Canal and harbor bound for Atlantic City. We were sorry we didn’t make AC our destination the previous day as it is only 37 miles from the Atlantic end of the Cape May Canal. Once out of the shallows we encounter the hordes of fishermen speeding out for the catch of the day. The Ocean was calm and less than 90 minutes later we are turning into Absecon Inlet with the Farley State Marina at the Golden Nugget Casino in view.
The Golden Nugget is hopping but the marina is well kept and serviced. MarinaLife gives us a nice discount and we have the run of the hotel and casino. We were planning only an overnight here but we got the two-step from Liberty Landing in Jersey City. They failed to tell us that they were booked and couldn’t take us for the week. We had the choice of going directly to Port Washington or staying here for the week. We are staying in AC for the week. We will let Hurricane Arthur go by then on to PW and to destinations on Long Island Sound. Maybe we’ll catch the Big Apple on the way back but we want to be in Newport, RI, for July 10 to meet son Judah.
The Golden Nugget had its advantages besides the excellent harbor. We had a great week and visited the hotel and casino every day for a walkabout and people watching. We frequented the pool on the 6th floor of the hotel and the lounge and bar area where there were many large screen TVs for watching the FIFA games. Five-star restaurants and availability of shows are perquisites that are hard to ignore.
The ferocious rain and strong wind visited us on Thursday and Independence Day. July 4th fireworks celebrations were canceled in favor of Hurricane Arthur but Art blew by so fast on that day that we were left with a gorgeous clear evening.
Having stayed in this marina before we were ignorant of the sculpture walk that connected the Golden Nugget, Harrahs, and Borgata. We found the 3-mile walk the following day, which dawned clear and pleasant. We capped our visit with a performance by talented impressionist, Gordie Brown.
Saturday, June 28, 2014, Cape May, NJ: Once again, the water was flat all the way, even Delaware Bay. No shortage of yahoos on America’s boating day. We suffered a brief but unpleasant encounter with a commercial party barge. From 200 yards to starboard the captain decides to cross ahead of us at about seven knots as opposed to our 22—no sounds, no radio hail, nothing. “I’m goin’ and I’m commercial so get out of my way.” We skid to a stop in plenty of time but he is on deck shooting down all the birds. The pity is, had we been unfortunate he had made us the burdened boat!
Utsch’s at Cape May proved to be a big disappointment and not a repeat. Hurricane Sandy was unkind to the marina, which had all the appearances of being long in the tooth for the last few decades anyway. Our bow bumped bottom at low tide during the night, the shore water was foul, the electricity finicky, and the entrance shoaled in. Not a repeat. I don’t know why Active Captain lists the place as a top choice. We have stayed at the others in the same area. They are definitely nicer, especially Canyon Club.
Friday, June 27, 2014, St. Michael’s, MD: We depart Onancock for the 100-mile run up to St, Michael’s, MD. I gave up on NOAA and used a commercial weather map service plus an eye on the sky. The morning dawned crystal clear and cool and not a breath of wind. Out on the bay the water was flat. Once out of the flats we put the pedal down and flew to our destination in four hours. St. Michael’s Marina was hopping. We left the boat at 12:45 to walk the town, pretty, colorful, and well kept. We had lunch at the C-Street Pub—pleasant and adequate tuna wraps. The marina was jammed when we returned and promised to be that way all weekend. We decide to head to Cape May, NJ, about 140 miles distant the next morning as long as the weather was cooperating.
Thursday, June 26, 2014, Onancock, VA: We say good-bye to Judy and Mike and make loose plans to meet on our way back south. The weather is fine and calm. NOAA tells us the bay is quiet, too. We head out of Lynnhaven and set Captain-Pilot Blackthorne on a course for Onancock on the eastern shore. We take the direct route across the bridge-tunnel into the bay proper. As we travel north the bay gets rougher and rougher in a freshening northeast wind and incoming tide. Before long we are slamming into steep fours and fives, luckily on the nose. Onancock is only 50 miles distant and we make for the creek leading into the town. The channel is well marked but there are shifting shoals to get through. Once in the water is flat for five miles.
We tie up by 12:30 and bolt to the local pub 200 feet away to watch USA play Germany in the World Cup soccer matches and dine on fish and chips washed down with a cold beer. Ain’t much to Onancock! Scott, the dockmaster of the small marina, is a pleasant and helpful young man. It turns out that we dined at one of the two restaurants in town!
It takes about 15 minutes to walk Onancock. Nothing doing!
Tuesday and Wednesday: We do housekeeping chores and play with friends Judy and Mike. At the Cavalier Golf and Yacht Club we have the run of the club, a beautiful facility on a saltwater lagoon connected to the Chesapeake at Lynnhaven Inlet and well sheltered from every quadrant. Mike’s diver, Rob Rice, pulled the props within moments of our tying up in Mike’s slip. One slightly bent blade on the starboard aft prop! That must have smacked a piece of debris when Albemarle Sound kicked us around. Lots of stuff floated in the sound—construction debris, two by fours, deadhead logs, and stumps. We never heard or felt the boat hitting anything but then we were riding through tall steep surf.
The girls go shopping for the Hechtkopf son’s wedding on September 1. The boys boat shop and I go back to cleaning up from days on the water. Later, I practice a little medicine for Rob, the diver. The Coasties have mandated that he carry a huge inventory of emergency supplies. I teach him how to resuscitate, take blood pressure, administer CPR. I suggest a portable defibrillator because he has all the airway stuff he needs. He needs a jar of meat tenderizer for the jelly stings since the Chesapeake is full of jellies. We take Judy and Mike to supper at a tasty Italian restaurant in Virginia Beach, Il Giardino.
On Wednesday Mike takes me down to Chesapeake, VA, to fetch the newly minted props at Bay Propeller. Max Allen, the owner, knows Nelson Durant, the prop guy who does the tuning for me in Charleston. Max is a jolly fellow and expect to get hosed but he says only the one prop was bent and he charged me for that and balanced the other three. Rob meets me back at Sequel where he remounts the props. He refuses payment as he is grateful to barter for my services in giving signed approval of his emergency kit for the Coast Guard.
Monday, June 23, 2014: We met friends Judy and Mike. They live in Virginia Beach, closer to Chesapeake than Norfolk. Our AC died, again. They offered to take us back to stay with them but I was too preoccupied with problems I thought I had solved. We dreaded not having AC through the night. Providence smiled on us once again. The night turned cool after the front weather passed. We opened every hatch and port light and found that we needed a blanket.
The AC—I discovered that the top of the raw water sea strainer was dripping. I could not remove the top, which is very thick plastic. Atlantic Yacht Basin, a very well stocked yard, did not have a replacement. We could get one in 3 days from the factory or Defender Marine but West Marine came through. They had a complete new strainer that matched ours and agreed to cannibalize the top. Mike picked it up at their store near their house and West took the delay to replace the top to their part. Thank you West.
We are now in Mike’s slip at the Cavalier, Yacht & Golf Club in Virginia Beach. Mike’s boat is on the hard, bad sick! I hired a diver to pull the props and one was bent but not badly. Upon our arrival I went to work on the AC. Marsh, at Marsh Marine in Charleston advised using a spanner to remove the old cap. For a hand-tightened piece the top required all of my strength to loosen. Marsh had just completed an AC raw water cleanout. I discovered that the threads on the cap had broken. The cap is old and the replacement fit as designed. It cured the strainer leak. Priming the pump restored AC.
Monday night Judy lays out a gourmet meal at their house overlooking the lake around the bend from the club. Mike has picked us up in his runabout from the club dock. Mike’s 100-year old mom, meets us at the Hechtkopf abode. She acts like a 60-year old! She would still be golfing regularly were it not for a vision challenge.
Sunday, June 22, 2014: This must be Dowry Creek. This is close to wilderness, North Carolina. The nearest ville is Belhaven. We have been to Belhaven once before and it can be described in one word—nothing. Despite the nearby medical services there is no commerce. We use Belhaven’s empty grain silos as our landmark the turn to the east in the Pungo River. The place once thrived on farming and fishing. Since we import veg and fish who feeds from America’s breadbasket and waters anymore? Pity
Mary, who owns the marina facility in Dowry Creek, makes no apology for the Belhaven. “One eatery,” she says, “and it isn’t very good.” The supermarket is 3 miles out of the town. Mary and her friend Nick run a first class facility—pool, clubhouse with TV and a swap library that is well stocked, laundry, bath house—all clean.
We were treated to nature’s fireworks through the late Saturday afternoon and evening. The protected creek served us well. The winds came in ferocious gusts. The rains, though brief, came in squalls like the Almighty was emptying a barrel of water on us. Luckily, the docks were substantial and on piles. We broke one line but everything else held. Examining the line later, I have to say that I should have retired it long ago! After the storms passed, the sun shone beneath the cloud layer creating a kaleidoscope of color in a phenomenon we recognize as storm lighting.
Today, our plan is to negotiate the Pungo River, the manmade Pungo-Alligator River canal, Alligator River, Albemarle Sound, and the Alligator-Chesapeake Canal, to Chesapeake, Virginia. This passage, 120 miles in length, is picturesque. The predicted weather, courtesy of Mr. NOAA, was fair and it started pristine, clear, cool, and mirror calm. We came across Ragtime II, again. They had intended to be in Coinjock but held back the previous day because of the impending weather. We discovered later that they pulled up in Coinjock because of a bent prop.
All of the aforementioned waterways are in the safekeeping of the USCoE. I hate to keep ragging on them but the waterways are in poor shape. The canals are not well marked and very shallow. We passed one barge tow after another. The captains are all very helpful. They tell us of the bad spots, the better side to choose, and where the shoals are this week. How they negotiate the S-turn of the Alligator as it flows into Albemarle Sound remains a mystery. The waterway is less than a 100 feet wide and less than two feet deep on either side.
As we emerged from the Alligator River the clouds thickened, the wind shifted to the northeast, and freshened to about 25 knots—not a NOAA prediction. This is the exact condition to avoid when crossing the sound but we were committed. Anchorages are too shallow and would have ridden it out if there was an available anchorage. We forged ahead across the sound into the wind. We bashed through 5-footers buttoned up and used our speed and trim tabs to even out the 10-mile ride into the more sheltered Chesapeake Canal. It was a cocktail shaker of a ride with substantial below decks redecorating. At 22 knots the worst was over in about 30-minutes but we both felt like we had a workout.
Coming into the flat calm of the canal Sequel picked a new shudder. I recognized it as a bent prop. Albemarle Sound is full of dead heads, logs, and building debris. It is possible we dinged the props during the raucous sound crossing but we never felt it.
We pulled up in the Atlantic Yacht Basin in Chesapeake, Virginia, just a few miles from Norfolk. We were 100 yards upstream from the Great Bridge Bridge and Lock System that begins the slow 12-mile passage through the highly controlled Elizabeth River that flows past Portsmouth and Norfolk Navy Yards.
I tried to free dive on the bottom but couldn’t see the tea colored water. There is a scrape on the keel at the bow that suggests we plowed into some debris on the sound.
Friday, June 20, 2014: Last night’s weather features thunderstorms and lightening shows. NOAA weather, our “gumint” weather forecaster foretold of evil portents. We made a plan to do the run to Morehead City in the ICW with a substantial trawler, Ragtime II, captained by Rick Graham from Somewhere, Florida, and Boston, Massachusetts.
Daybreak today was fair with a cloud bank out to sea. NOAA advertised 3- to 5-footers offshore, which means 8-footers, most of the time. The ICW was dead calm and easily negotiable in the ripping currents of the Cape Fear River and tributaries, that is until we ran out of tide. Then, typical of our friends in the USCoE, they forgot to dredge critical places. We rang up Towboat US for some local knowledge when we were coming into Wrightsville Beach. Wouldn’t you know it? The open sea featured 0- to 1-foot over short period swells. We bolted for Masonboro Inlet and got out of the ditch and all of the brain damage that implies. The run up to Beaufort ship channel and Morehead was quick and comfortable, not a cloud in the sky. Once again, we were fueled and docked by 12:30. Ragtime II stayed out too but, at 10 knots of cruising speed, got hammered by late afternoon thunder squalls. The only benefit to the squalls is that Mother Nature does the washing of the caked salt from hull and fittings.
Morehead City is not the garden spot of North Carolina. The marina staff at the yacht basin was very helpful. They have a convenience vehicle, ten dollars for 2 hours, plenty to get the feel of Morehead City. Beaufort Town docks are desirable because downtown Beaufort is quaint and lives. Diesel at $3.48 per gallon at Morehead City is hard to pass up. Next stop Dowry Creek on the Pungo River.
Thursday, June 19, 2014: We are underway, finally. A litany small but consequential failures held us back. The AC system got balky—the worst of the problems—due to plugged raw water hoses. Traveling sans AC is not the end of the world. However, without humidity control everything below decks would get damp and mildewy. The fix was not bad. Marsh Marine came to the rescue and during the repair he found a basic design flaw in the raw water handler. The builders did not control water supply to the five AC units from a single manifold; every plumbing joint became flow restrictive plus the overboard waste connections were made with reducing barbs—5/8 to 3/8 of an inch. Marsh changed all that. With the increased water flow the AC has never been so efficient.
We pulled out this morning at the dawn of a brilliant day, already feverishly hot and humid. The harbor was flat calm but for the wakes of numerous fishermen heading for deep water. We turned toward the northeast and drew an open water rhumb line to the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. Except for a light chop over long period ocean swells, our passage was smooth a quick. We were docked, fueled, libated, and victualed at the Bald Head Island Marina by 13:30.
We spent the afternoon tooling around the island in a golf cart. Bald Head is hilly and covered with the typical growth of Virginia pines and marsh grass. The interior of this roughly 4- x 3-mile land mass features a country club and a golf course. The island is girdled by beaches and dunes on all sides.
The marina is well managed. Although completely enclosed it is scoured by southerlies because there is no elevation to the island facing south. High winds make docking especially on the north end of the marina a challenge. If docked on the north side of a dock finger, as we were, expect the lines to creak and groan all night. I softened the annoyance by wrapping the fairleads with towels. On the south side of a dock finger the noise comes from fenders being squeezed between hull and dock.
There are several restaurants to choose from in the marina area. The most recommended is Mojo. Despite many vacant tables the wait was long, the service terrible, and the result hallucious. Who could possibly bugger up a salad! The best restaurant on the island is our galley.
Despite the sketchy eating arrangement we would go back. The island is quite beautiful and not overbuilt. The only access is by ferry or private boat. There are no cars except for police, emergency, and service vehicles.