Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Beautiful Cruising Weather!

Our last day in River Dunes was spent doing a few chores to ready the boat for travel and anchoring.  Always laundry to do and water tanks to fill.  Our last day being a Thursday left us no option than to eat out at the Silo for Thirsty Thursday!  Can't believe we have been in one spot long enough to go to the same restaurant for 3 Thursday nights!  After our walk on Friday, we fired up the engines and untied lines ready to leave our hurricane hole behind.  We were armed with several web sites and emails from fellow boaters further south from us that provided updated information regarding water conditions, marina conditions and bridges that were posing problems.  One bridge in particular closed when the Carolinas experienced major flooding a week after the storm and when we left 10/21 it was still closed.  Friday was an uneventful day of cruising and because the winds were fairly strong we went further than originally planned to an area that offered enough swing room for us to move around the anchorage without worry of hitting another boat.   We stopped in Swansboro, NC early evening just for a short stop over.  Saturday we cruised through several known areas for shallow waters and shoaling but we had extra water due to the flooding and we rode the tide from high to low.  But OOPS, this guy paid no attention to channel markers (after passing us a bit too fast!).
The blue hull boat perpendicular to the channel was hard aground and likely the captain was scratching his head wondering what went wrong! We tip toed around he and another boat that stopped immediately behind him, followed the markers very slowly and guided the 2 mobile boats through the proper channel around the shoal.  It pays to be prepared with first hand knowlege of the water conditions.

Later we passed this large pink house and note the pink boat to the right side of the picture.  Perhaps a Mary Kay consultant owns the house!
Then late Saturday afternoon, we entered Motts Channel to Wrightsville Beach anchorage. The channel is well marked but it is always nice to follow a local boat into an area that is new to us. 

Motts Channel is lined with large beach homes and lots of boats.  Where does all the money come from for so many people to afford this kind of living?
We dropped Victory Lap into the bay to take a short ride to a great town dingy dock so we could walk  the beach in a rather chilly breeze. 

Another beautiful sunset from our anchorage. 

Sunday was another perfect blue sky day but you can see the layers of clothing I started with because the breeze was down right cold.  The sun and our morning walk allowed for the layers to be removed and tied around my waist.  This is another place that we have decided we could buy a condo and settle into with daily beach walks.  But likely the beach is a bit more crowded in the warmer weather. 
Returning to InSpeyered 2 to head the 25 miles to Southport, NC. It was an easy cruising day. 

Al took this picture as proof that business was back to normal after the storm for the ferries that run people from Southport to various islands on the Cape Fear River.  We stayed in Southport Marina for 3 nights so the battery charging system and the 3 "house" batteries could be checked for problems by a technician from Zimmerman Marine Services.  While in Southport, we visited with a wonderful couple who are gold loopers and act as "harbor hosts". They provided us with the use of their car to take a run to the grocery.  And the highlight for me was returning to a hair salon I successfully tried out in June to get a much needed hair cut!! It doesn't take much to make a stop over a wonderful experience!  Plus Southport is a charming town to walk around so we got extra exercise.
Sunset last night 10/25 taken from the bridge. This was a very nice marina. But our batteries and charging system are A-OK and it is time to leave lovely Southport.  Today we cruised another 30 miles after taking on 360 gallons of diesel fuel.  Once again we were fully prepared to navigate 2 inlets that are slowly filling in with flowing sand. It is a shame there is so little money for the Corp of Engineers to keep dredging the shoaling areas.  Some boaters fear that the ICW will become impassible in the years to come.  Once today we saw 2ft of water below our keel.  Enough to get through but nerve wracking to experience.  And once again, we watched a boat who had passed us nearly run aground in a tricky inlet.  Lucky for that boat, the captain stopped before grounding, watched us slowly go around all the proper markers and he followed us for the rest of the day!! Al even got a "nice driving through that water, Captain" from the guy via radio. 

So this is our present view at the Bird Island Anchorage.  Just beyond the dunes is the Atlantic.  So I am sitting here listening to waves crash onto the beach while feeling a light wind mostly protected by the barrier island.  

The open water is the Little River Inlet, a way to go between the ocean and the ICW. It's a nice afternoon at mile marker 340.  We are 130 water miles from Charleston and tomorrow will leave North Carolina behind us. Life is grand!  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Enjoyed a Side Trip to Ocracoke (Outer Banks)

Putting InSpeyered 2 back together was a challenging task that I took on while Al traveled to Miami. The very good news is that Al's retina is reattached and healed well enough so he can have the much less invasive surgery to remove the oil bubble and have it replaced by a gas bubble.  The doctor used the word "amazing" to describe how much his vision has improved.  With a gas bubble in his eye, he cannot fly for 1-2 months so we have to be much closer to the hospital for that procedure.  So his decision is to wait until January and have the same doctor do the procedure while we spend some time enjoying Florida weather.  It also should allow us to head to the Bahamas in December for a Christmas celebration with Erik.
So I spent 3 days from 10/11-13 cleaning the canvas and glass and getting it all put back in place, cleaning all the screens that we removed and getting them back in place, and finding all the things we stowed away!  So when Mike and Nancy (California Lady) and I made the car trip to New Bern on Thurday to pick Al up at the airport, InSpeyered, looking quite spiffy, was waiting to surprise Al!
Here is Mike posing with one of the many bears that are all dressed differently on display all around the quaint town of New Bern.  (Apparently Bern is the German word for bear) This one happens to be at the arrival waiting area in the airport.  After Al got in we headed straight to our favorite cheap beer and pizza place for "Thirsty Thursday"!  ($1 draft beers!). And when we got back to the boat Al was truly surprised at what I accomplished so I earned the label "Best First Mate Ever"!  Nice huh?
Since there was not much work left to do, we set our plan to leave Oriental and begin heading south over the weekend.  But we learned about the annual Ol' Front Porch Music Festival and in keeping with our living in the moment journey, plans changed.  So Saturday we thoroughly enjoyed all types of music performed on various front porches in the great town of Oriental with our boat buddies on Cal Lady and Free To B.
This charming house provided the porch for the main stage for a group from Nashville that was the "headliner" country music band. 

This group played my favorites from the 70's and 80's. That's Nancy on the left and Ginny on the right mellowing in the sunshine to good music.

This house was particularly charming.  We decided we could be comfortable living in this lovely costal town!  So we enjoyed Sunday, staying one more day to return our rental car and have one last docktail gathering before leaving our hurricane hole.  But Monday we found that a bridge closure further south, plus flooding and marina closures made marinas south bound an issue.  After calling marinas in Southport, NC we had to once more amend our plans and delay our departure for 4 days.  We need to be in a marina in Southport to have a technician from Zimmerman marine repair facility fix our problem with battery charging failures.  We can't be in a marina until Sunday10/23 to have the work started on Monday.  So over more docktails we came up with the great plan to run 40 miles to Ocracoke on the Outer Banks, leaving Tuesday 10/18 for a 2 night visit.  Going to the Outer Banks has been on our "to do" list for a while. Getting into Silver Lake where a National Parks Marina is located in Ocracoke was reportedly tricky with a narrow channel that changes with shoaling but luck was with us!
As we neared the channel, along came 2 ferries bringing visitors and residents to Ocracoke.  We had one on each side so we backed off and let them lead the way in which turned out to be a very good thing because the channel has two tight S turns that were challenging to follow.

Here's Free To B and then California Lady playing follow the leader!

We walked the town and Al and I checked out Ocracoke Light House, built in 1823 and is the oldest operating light station in North Carolina.

Then we walked though a mosquito infested wooded area to find Teach's Hole, the cove where the notorious Blackbeard anchored his boat when not plundering other boats. Blackbeard died on his ship on November 22, 1718 right at this spot after a fierce battle with a British naval force 

Al is searching for signs of buried treasure!

On Wednesday we biked to the beach and enjoyed delicious burritos from a food truck in town and strolled the nearly empty beach with a perfect blue sky above!  Ocracoke was a great place to spend some time while waiting to move on South toward Southport, NC. We are such lucky people to have this opportunity to explore the coast while enjoying meeting so many wonderful friends and to be able to "change plans" when the time seems right! Thanks for following our adventure! Call if you want to join us somewhere along the way! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Matthew is Gone! We Survived!

We stripped down InSpeyered 2 over the days while we waited for Matthew to move on up our way. Once we set the plan to move into the rented house, the stress lessened and we just did our chores. But it was hard to look at TV reporting of the damage done in Haiti and the Bahamas and it was hard to not get nervous about our situation.  The dock master, Rich assured us he has been through many hurricanes and he believes River Dunes is the safest marina he has ever worked in so that helped a bit!
Took a picture of her before we stripped her down for insurance reasons.  Overcast skies lasted all week!  But it remained warm and breezy.

Then we removed all of the canvas on top and lowered the wiper antennas. 

Anything like the life sling and boat hooks were stowed away so all blow away items were put into hatches. 

Our boat has lots of fenders expertly tied to the port side (by me) to keep us from bashing into the dock!
We made everything storm ready and then moved our stuff into our house on Friday afternoon before the rain started. But we didn't actually move ourselves into the house until Saturday late morning after the last marina planning meeting.  In between work times, we had some nice docktail times to talk about prep plans and make new friends.  We watched each other and shared streategies for making our boats and the marina safe.  Mike on Cal. Lady took point on setting up a radio net so all of the boats with people remaining in our marina were connected by radio through the storm and that was a great support  network. As it turned out, only one boat requested assistance in tightening up some lines early in the storm. The rain started Saturday afternoon and the wind gradually increased.  So out came the jigsaw puzzle borrowed from the marina office!
  We were pleased to have power on all day Saturday so we could watch UT get beat by Texas A&M but sometime in the wee hours of Sunday morning we lost power.  A sailboater monitored wind speeds through the night and reported we had 40-50mph sustained winds with gusts to 65mph. The house shuddered on and off all night long.  By morning the rain gradually reduced to a drizzle and stopped in time for Al and I to take a long walk against some very stiff wind gusts.  (Even a storm can't keep us from getting a daily walk!) 
We encountered a few younger trees knocked down by the wind but there was no damage to boats, the marina or any of the homes on the property.  The storm surge expected to run over the roads never  rose that high and you can see the sky was a beautiful blue color on Sunday late morning.  For us, the storm was not as wicked as predicted.  Yeah!!  So now Al is off to Miami for hopefully his last eye recheck before having the oil bubble removed.  And I get to stay on the boat and work on getting her back in order.  Thanks for all the notes of concern over the past week.  It is nice to be cared about! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Preparing for Hurricane Matthew

Boy have plans been changed!  Al has an eye appointment next week in Miami so we had planned to take a nice and easy cruise south through areas we have already experienced and stop on this Sunday, 10/9 in Southport, NC.  I spent all kinds of time plotting our course, picking nice anchorages and making reservations for a cheap car rental and good, safe marina for my stay while Al flew to Miami.  Then we were at Top Rack Marina Friday 9/20 and first "caught wind" about a storm coming.  It seemed a long way off so we moved south on Saturday along the Virginia Cut and happened to follow a boat we didn't know who also stopped at the same Marina as we did (Coinjack Marina).  So I went to meet them and was thrilled to find the couple went to UConn and the woman spent her career as a pediatric PT!  What are the chances?!  So we have new friends Gene and Ginny on Free to B!  We had a lovely day to cruise on Sunday and crossed the (usually nasty) Albermarle Sound and this is what it looked like as we entered the large body of water.
Couldn't have been more calm and lovely.  While cruising on Sunday we became more aware of the impending storm by checking out our favorite weather sites and slowly became more concerned of its course.  But our weather was great and it seemed a long way off.  So we cruised to a lovely anchorage and settled in for a gorgeous sunset.

This is why we love to anchor in such peaceful places!  And the red sky did bring another perfect cruising day on Monday 10/3.  So onward we went south searching many options for anchorages and settled on the one we thought to be great. Also as we cruised, I spent lots of time looking at Matthew, and we decided that going on to Southport was ill advised so we changed our destination to New Bern, NC.  After calling all the marinas in that area, we learned that they would evacuate all boats out of the marinas and send them out on anchor if the storm came in at Category 2 or higher level. That was a scary bit of news.  So again we changed our minds and with suggestions from other boaters we made a reservation at River Dunes in Oriental, NC as they promised to not turn boats out into the storm. River Dunes is close enough to New Bern to allow Al to access an airport when the storm clears out.  So just before we headed into our anchoraage I checked the weather for Tuesday (today) one last time and found the wind prediction was changed and Monday night into Tuesday would be more windy.   So once again, our minds changed and we simply cruised the last 10 miles into the marina and tied up for the duration!  
The entry way into River Dunes is very protected and leads into a man made basin.  Such a beautiful day and a beautiful resort type marina, our haven for this pending storm! 

Our new home for at least 11-12 days, not bad eh?

Today we walked early around the periphery of the marina/resort grounds.  You can see our boat in the middle of this picture if you enlarge it or use a magnifying glass. 

This place is first class material.  This is the main building which includes the office, several rooms where we can relax and chat with friends and above, a classy restaurant.  If there wasn't a storm coming, life would be grand about now! So today we learned that if the storm is at hurricane level we cannot stay on the boat.  So we have rented a three bedroom house here on the grounds of the resort  with friends from California Lady and Free to B.  One more issue handled.  Here are pictures of our home away from boat homes: 

So you can see, we will be in a secure house in a lovely area and now need to batten down the hatches literally to prep the boat for the lashing she will endure.  We are surrounded by experienced people and good friends (making new ones daily) so we should be safe.  The next blog will be after the storm, wish us good luck and safe harbor! 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Year and Counting...

Mentioned in the last blog is the fact that we now have passed by "our one year of traveling" anniversary by 2 weeks and 1 day. I decided to take a look at our first year and see how many nights we actually stayed out on anchor since that is our favorite thing to do.  For the year plus the days through the end of September, this is how is stands:
     Nights out on anchor:  105
     Nights we paid for a marina slip:  155
     Nights tied to a free wall:   105
     Nights in a free slip: 8.
The free wall number includes the 88 nights we spent over 2 different stops in Stuart, Fl having work done on the boat and working through the process for Al to have eye surgery and heal enough to travel.  It is hard to believe we have been living on a boat for more than a year and still have no desire to go back to living in a house!

Usually I write these blogs by telling our story through pictures.  The only picture taken since the sunset in Mattawoman ending the last blog and until yesterday is this:
Of course another glorious sunset!  It was actually taken by Mike on California Lady during docktails in the St. Mary's River!  Let me explain. So after that lousy morning when the orange juice spilled all over the iPad keyboard we left Mattawoman anchorage on Tuesday 9/20 and went south on the Potomac with no actual plan.  The weather was comfortable with heavy cloud cover and later even some cooling drizzle and rain so we just kept on cruising all the way down the Potomac to the St. Mary's river which was about a 7 hour trip.  Why not?  A bit up the river is the waterfront campus of St. Mary's College and the old city of St. Mary which was once the capitol of Maryland.  The attraction for us was the many reports (from boat buddies) of wonderful lunches to be eaten in the college cafeteria and the reports were not exaggerated!  If I had the brain power to sit through college classes again, I would matriculate to that school and become an obese person.  The cafeteria food was amazing, international, interesting, fresh and most of the offerings were healthy! We enjoyed our Wednesday lunch so much that we had to stay another night for the Thursday lunch.  And what a treat that Thursday turned out to be crepe day so my lunch included a ham, swiss, and sautéed mushroom crepe! Another fun addition to this side trip was the arrival of California Lady on Wednesday just in time for lunch.  Walking the lovely campus and the old city/living museum of the old capitol was also a nice attraction.  Later on Wednesday, we took the dingy to the end of the river to find Tippity Wichity Island.  Yup we can say we've been there! 
Then after another campus walk on Friday 9/23 we sadly left our lunch spot behind and cruised to an anchorage we have already enjoyed near Kilmarnock.  Cal Lady headed out earlier than us and found a different anchorage also near Kilmarnock so we were close enough for docktails on Friday night. Saturday we headed to Deltaville to say good by to our good buddies on Greek's Folly. We anchored in Jackson Creek but could access Deltaville via dingy so went back to places already seen when we were there in July. We had a great "last supper" with Tom and Colletta and were joined by Mike and Nancy so they could all meet. Greek's Folly was pulled to be stored on the hard for the winter. 
From there we took another visiting trip further south to the Williamsburg area to see Al's college roommate Dana and wife Marion. We stayed at Wormley Marina also a place we have been.  On the way to Williamsburg, we again met up with Cal Lady and anchored together off Mobjack Bay in the Severn River in light rain.  We rafted our boats together to have docktails without a wet dingy ride! So that is why we have no pictures; we are retracing our steps.
That brings this diary to Friday, yesterday, 9/30 when we left Wormley and cruised 50 miles to Top Rack Marina at the beginning of the Virginia Cut and just past Norfolk. Yesterday was a Navy training day so a large area in the southern Chesapeake was cleared by patrol boats for safety and security.  We suddenly hear on our radio the Navy boat "Revenge" hail Corkscrew to give directions on where to move to be out of their security area.  Corkscrew are also friends who we last saw Labor Day weekend.  We had no idea they too were headed toward Norfolk so in a vast area of water, we suddenly are 1 mile apart on the same path.  This is the fun in looping!  We too were hailed by Revenge and politely told to head further west away from their training area and we even had a brief escort of a patrol boat ensuring we complied and steered clear of their space.  

Because the the Navy rearranged all the boats in the area into a much smaller space, we came closer than we have thus far to cargo ships. We left the Chesapeake after a nice summer and entered the Elizabeth River to pass through Norfolk.

Pretty good picture of a heavily laden cargo ship!

Passing the Navy yard is daunting and makes one realize how well protected the world is by our Navy; our tax dollars at work!

Old Navy ships in for repair amidst a much newer and stealthier ship in the middle.
So that brings me to today when we left Top Rack earlier than I like to travel (before even a glass of juice!) so we could get to a lock in the Virginia Cut before the lock shut down for high water at near high tide.  Heavy rains and who knows what else has raised the water level significantly in this area. Low level docks are water covered during high tide. The Virginia Cut is the ICW waterway that goes from the Elizabeth River to North Landing River, through a channel cut into the shallow Currituck Sound and Coinjack Bay and that will take us to the north River that dumps out into the Albermarle Sound.  We presently are sitting along a wall at Coinjack Marina in North Carolina as we make our way south back to Florida and perhaps the Bahamas!  One can only hope!