Monday, June 27, 2016

The Dismal Swamp Deserves a Nicer Name!

From the Ablemarle Sound, we made our way into Elizabeth City, NC which calls itself  the Harbor of Hospitality and it holds true to its name.  Since we were very fatigued after all the longer days of cruising and dealing with wind and waves in the Sound over night, we decided to stay in Elizabeth City for Thursday and Friday nights.  And as luck would have it, on Friday, 3 looper boats came to join us so we had a fun time making new friends.

This harbor town offers free docks along its attractive water front and a great free museum documenting the history of the Ablemarle Sound and the Dismal Swamp.  Good ol' George Washington and others, had the brainy idea of buying part of the swamp land and draining it for harvesting lumber.  Well, that didn't work so easily as there is still a lovely swamp.  But later in history toward the end of the 18th century, a canal was dug with shovels and slave labor to connect the Ablemarle Sound with the Chesapeake Bay bringing a lucrative trade route to Elizabeth City.  We chose to use the canal as our way up to the Chesapeake, leaving Saturday morning and taking 2 days to complete the 50 miles to Norfolk, VA.
We spied this chair nailed to the tree and wondered if it was a hunting or fishing spot at high tide, except this area has no tidal changes and the water level only changes small amounts with rain.

We had an overcast day keeping us cool and breezy and even with no sun, the area is beautiful and not so dismal!! We brought up the rear, following 2 of the looper boats we met the day before.
We locked through a rise of 8ft on Saturday and dropped down the 8 feet in a second lock on Sunday. 
The man made "ditch" is quite narrow and shallow so we kept our distance between boats to avoid logs and other floating debris that each boat churned up in their wakes.  Most of the time in the canal, we had 4+ feet of water below our keel so each boat had a few "thunks" along the way as we gently bumped into submerged logs.  No damage was experienced because the entire way is "No Wake" so we puttered along slowly. About half-way across this waterway there is a very nice visitor's center with a free dock that provided a place for us to stay Saturday night. We learned more about the swamp area at the small museum on the park grounds and strolled a boardwalk through the swamp where we swatted off the merciless horse flies that needed our blood for protein to reproduce! 
We are now in our ninth state on the loop and looking forward to spending the summer hucking around the Chesapeake Bay. We will be spending the next week in the area of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown, while visiting our friends Dana and Marion Helsey.  Al heads out for a few days to return to Miami for another eye check up as well.  This should be a perfect area to celebrate the July 4th holiday!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

"Got Mud on My Face..." Yup We Are Back to Finding Good Anchorages!

We have been traveling longer distances than our normal pace because we want to be in the Norfolk area where Al's college roommate, Dana Helsley and his wife Marion live, because he is Al's ride to the airport for another jaunt to Miami to have an eye check up.  Plus the weather and choice of anchorages allowed for the longer days.  In four days of travel we covered 245 miles!  The title of this blog is in memory of the last 2 mornings of pulling the anchor in windy conditions!  My job is to man the anchor pulpit while Al drives the boat to reduce the tension on the anchor chain.  Part of my job is to spray the chain and anchor with water to clean it as it rises out of the rivers so when the chain drops into the chain locker is is not caked with mud.  So when I spray I sometimes get wet as it blows back and the last two mornings, the chain was more muddy than usual, the wind was stronger than usual so I got much more mud sprayed on my face in the process.  And I haven't been able to get that old song out of my head!!  (When Erik was young, he loved to sing it). And despite the mud and wind, we still love to anchor out.
See how happy Al is enjoying his new chair as he drives the boat with the remote in his hand that directs Mr. Auto to turn one way or another.  Our first anchorage was called Mile Hammock and is adjacent to Camp Lejeune. It was spacious and we had it all to ourselves except for some soldiers that looked to be enjoying some R&R on the water.
Early night fall with the moon rising over the beautiful horizon. 
And yet another beautiful sunset to begin a quiet night.
Leaving the anchorage, we passed by this area used for firing practice for the base and sometimes there is live fire crossing this section of the ICW.
There were signs like this one marking the beginning of the danger zone and the end of it warning boaters to stop if the lights were flashing.  We read that if there was live fire, army boats would be posted to physically block the waterway so the signs are not the only warning signal.
We passed this pretty momma Osprey sitting with a baby tucked in the nest with her.  Just about every channel marker has a nest with a mom and baby Osprey along this area. Our second night was spent in an anchorage in the harbor for Moorehead City where we had a great walk along the water and ate at a good waterfront bistro.  It was a windy night but we were set tight. 
On our third day of travel we briefly stopped at RE Mayo, a fish pier where we could have stayed the night only to enjoy these lovely outhouses but opted instead to go on to a beautiful finger creek off the Alligator River. We did buy some fresh/flash frozen fish and scallops and took our afternoon walk on local streets before cruising another 20 or so miles to our anchorage. 
This is us leaving the anchorage after I got mud sprayed on my shirt, shorts and face!  But we both agree that wind is our friend when it is hot as it keeps us cool on the bridge. We then cruised another very long day covering 78 more miles. 
This is our view as we entered a canal that connects the Alligator River with the Pungo River. 
The water here is like tea or coffee because of tannin staining which comes from leaves and natural breakdown of forest debris. 
Then when it was time to stop, we nosed out into the Ablemarle Sound and found the wind prediction was correct and the water was fairly calm.  This is an area we were warned to only cross with decent wind.  So at 5:30pm we chose to cross this open area and then drop anchor along the Pasquotank River.  It seemed like a really good idea because the weather prediction for the next two days was questionable and the winds could be high.  So drop the anchor we did and started with a peaceful night.  But the wind did rise and by 2am, I was up taking Dramamine and waiting patiently for morning.   So again, when we pulled anchor I had mud on my face and a grin to go with it thinking of that crazy song that Erik always loved to sing!   ON to Elizabeth City and the Dismal Swamp!!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Make Lemonade When Given Lemons!

We added a little side trip to our loop when it was determined that our boat repair would take us into this past week and of course nothing happens on weekends.  So we took off from Southport and headed north on the Cape Fear River last Friday for a long weekend in Wilmington.  This is a fun place to visit in the summer because they attract visitors with free concerts, a Saturday farmer's market, festivals and wonderful shops and restaurants.  We were treated Friday night with a free concert by Red Zeppelin (no typo here), an imitator band and rocked out to some old tunes.  Saturday was a gathering for antique car enthusiasts called "Rims on the River".
This cute little number was for sale and I thought she would look quite nice next to my red Porsche in our home garage.  But the logistics of getting her there were too complicated so I just drooled a little!  While in Wilmington, we toured the USS North Carolina, a WWII battleship that was retired and moved by Wilmington history enthusiasts to preserve her heritage.

We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the working and living quarters of this massive ship and viewing how the sailors lived in close quarters during dangerous times.  Makes me proud to be an American!
Al liked sitting in the captain's chair while imagining what it would have been like to be responsible for the ship and its men.  We enjoyed exploring the bridge and the old navigation tools, realizing what skill was needed to cruise the ocean without a Garmin GPS!!

The sailors on board were in dark, narrow working areas most of their day so it was interesting to see how ice cream was made on board as a treat to keep them motivated!  And now to unveil the new captain's chair that motivates my captain to keep on cruising in comfort and style. It arrived by crate at Myrtle beach while we were in Indianappolis and we installed it easily on the base that was put in place at Stuart Yacht some weeks before.

I will take some pictures with the captain in his seat when we finally get going tomorrow.  So we have enjoyed some lemonade along with our lemons during this past 2 weeks!

Uninspired on InSpeyered 2!

We left the loop for Indy and had a nice break, but we both felt restless to get back on the move only to find repair and weather issues slowing us down.  So we haven't gone very far!  While in Myrtle Beach we had nice visits and meals with my sister, Carol and her husband Peter.  With their help we got the boat all provisioned and ready to roll. Then weather came in with a big threat of severe winds so we postponed leaving for a few more days, boring!! So finally on Monday, 6/6 we headed out in light wind and some heavier rain but that was easy to tolerate with the new canvas.
We ran through an area called the rock pile which is lined by a rocky ledge that is hidden by water so signs along the way warn of danger.  It really was not a threat unless we meandered out of the channel so we had no difficulties.  We nestled ourselves into a lovely anchorage near a barrier island with the plan to walk the beach in the morning.  So we watched it rain and enjoyed the peace.  But gradually the wind increased and after checking our weather online sites, we did something we have never done before.  We pulled anchor at 6:30pm and zipped back up to the ICW, headed back south where we knew there were marinas and tied up to a dock way after their business hours to be in a safe place.  Of course, the weather really didn't get all that bad and we missed out on a nice anchorage. Oh well, better to be safe!
But the next day we passed this beached fishing boat and it sent goose pimples along my arms thinking about the mad dash we made the night before to get out of the wind!  This boat has been there for some time so really was not related to our storm situation.  We cruised on north to the lovely town of Southport and found a free dock at a local restaurant for the price of a burger.  Free docks don't typically have electric hookups so we turned on the generator to charge the batteries only to find it started well but didn't produce power.  So to make this story short, we called a local repair place, had the problem diagnosed, ordered the expensive part, found after installation that the problem was not corrected and eventually discovered the part was faulty so a second replacement was needed.  This all took 10 days so here we sit in Southport!  Of course our free dock was only for one night so we have been tied up at Indigo Plantation Marina which is quiet and quite nice.
This is our free dock where the saga began. While waiting for the part to be shipped, we took the new dingy (which we love!!) across the wide inlet of Cape Fear to Bald Head Island, home of the Cape Fear light house called Old Baldy.
This is no longer a functioning light house but is a great museum where we read about all the ship wrecks that gave the name "Fear" to the Cape.  There is a 22 mile area off the coast with shallow water and rocks that nabbed many boats during storms back in the day before navigation became so much easier with electronics.  We climbed her 124 steps to the top and this is what we saw:

Then we walked the beautiful, nearly deserted beach and had a cooling off swim.

We don't seem to take good pictures in the historic of towns we visit, but we never miss a photo opp on yet another beach!  To end the story, our repair was completed this past Thursday 6/16 too late in the day to leave.  And then we found a wind storm coming our way for Saturday 6/18 so decided to stay yet another 3 nights to play it safe.  So here we sit in Southport with the plan to leave early tomorrow for a long cruise making some headway North!  But we have had an added bonus.  We acquired boating neighbors a few days ago so have new friends whom we have enjoyed meeting.  They are a couple from Germany who brought their 41' sailboat over the Atlanic 7 years ago and have cruised 6 months of every year since in many varied places in the Carribean and other waters south.  Now they are making their way up to the Chesapeake as we are, so perhaps we will bump along and meet up periodically in the months to come.  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Memorable 100th Running Race at Indy!

Going to Indiannapolis for a week in a Mariott while looping is kinda cheating but this year's race was #100.  We went to the 100th anniversary in 2011 while Al was still working the race so we needed to complete the race circle with the 100th running.  For those of you who may not know, The 500 was not raced during war years due to tire shortages and other considerations.  We had a wonderful week meeting up with loads of old friends all amazed at how relaxed Al looked with a nice tan and casual clothes.  His look of concern and his starched white uniform shirts are gone and the boating look predominates.

Our tradition is to walk the track before the race begins to see the cars up close and try and identify famous people.  But we only saw the cars and many folks working the race that knew Al well in his old life.  Erik had his buddy Danny Lusk as his guest for the weekend.  

The prerace crowds on the track were as big as ever for this sold out event.  The new pylon was directly in front of our seats listing the starting grid.  Our seats over looked the beginning of pit lane giving us a great view of some of the front running cars when they pitted for fuel and tires.  
The biodegradeable balloons are set free just before the drivers hear the famous words "lady and gentlemen start your engines" and the air is filled with the roar of 33 high performance engines!  

Mario leads off in his two seater car with none other than Lady Gaga in the second seat.

The race goes green and the cars zoom by in uneven rows of 3 abreast.  We made the race more interesting by setting up a wager between 6 of us.  For $50 we each picked 4 drivers and the top 2 finishers out of the 4 were given a number based on the finishing position and then added.  I had the lowest number of 10 so won the $250 pot!! And all were surprised since I picked them based on who I liked by personality!  They all have skills and hot cars!! It was a great race with lots of lead changes and the winner was a rookie driver to the Indy track so was not easily predicted.  All in all we had a fun day only to go back to the hotel to watch the race again on TV, tape delayed so we could better follow the action and what the commentators said. 
The J.W. Marriott was dressed up for the month and the day after the awards banquet, she was slowly  "undressed" with the plastic sheeting removed piece by piece. Now we are back in Myrtle Beach and happily aboard InSpeyered 2, ready to continue our travels north.