Monday, October 29, 2018

Time at the Dirthouse and Now Back to Cruising

After we enjoyed 3 quiet days and nights anchored in the Magothy River we saw predictions that the powerful Hurricane Michael, that decimated parts of Florida’s panhandle, would come all the way across the US and bring wind and rain to the Chesapeake later in the week.  So, since we had already planned to tie up at Pleasure Cove Marina for a  bit over a week as a place to safely leave InSpeyered 2 while we flew home, we decided to move sooner and pulled anchor on Wednesday 10/10.  It was a short run of 14 miles back up north on the Bay to Bodkin Creek where Pleasure Cove is tucked into a protected area.  Marinas always mean work, so I spent the day cleaning inside the boat and Al spent the day cleaning the outside.  Pleasure Cove was recommended by friends who left their car in the marina’s lot to be moved to Florida at a later date.  So we had access to their car and the marina was very nice which made for a couple of pleasant days to pass the time until our flight took us home for a week. The trip home was made primarily to attend a wedding celebration for a long time friend, Mike, and his new bride, Jane.

The remnants of Michael did pass over us with some boat cleaning, fresh water rain and some wind but it didn’t do any damage.  Al caught this heavy cloud reflecting the sunset over Pleasure Cove Marina.  While there, we had a great overnight visit with our friends on Leilani who live in the Annapolis area.  They had other boater friends also visiting so it was a fun night of 4 boat living couples sharing cruising stories.  

The highlight for me while home, was spending time with “my girls” who make up the Heiss family. We also met up with home friends for some meals out and some nice walks, along with the required annual doctor visits.  It was an accomplished week at the dirthouse.  
We flew back to Baltimore airport on Monday 10/22 and were happily greeted by Jim and Linda from Leilani who then drove the 4 of us into Annapolis to have delicious crab cakes at our favorite Chesapeake restaurant, Chick and Ruth’s.  Great way to arrive back to our water home!!

We were back to cruising south on the Chesapeake in the afternoon on Tuesday 10/23.  The morning was spent stocking up with much needed groceries, filling tanks with drinking water and prepping to get back to our cruising life.   Plus I got in a fast 3 mile walk! Our 30 mile cruise took us under the massive Chesapeake Bay Bridge.      


It also took us past the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse which I already wrote about the summer we spent as Chesapeake tourists in 2016. The conditions for this short cruise were calm so except for the glare of the October sun low in the sky, making the search for crab pots a slight challenge, it was an uneventful afternoon.  We vowed to avoid cruising in late afternoon sun! 

Our destination was an anchorage we’ve enjoyed in the past, on the Rhode River.  And as always, we were treated to a lovely but chilly sunset. Gotta get moving south, the fall weather is getting cold.  

The thing we like about the Rhode River anchorage is the close proximity to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Facility where there is a nice public dock and great hiking trails.  Since Wednesday was too windy on the Bay to travel, we took Victory Lap to the dock and had a brisk walk in the woods away from the cold wind.  Before leaving for our walk, we discovered that the refrigerators were warming up and only the freezer was running.  So we did some immediate ice making and moved the most perishable food to the freezer. That night was too cold to go out to watch the sunset and we were glad for extra blankets on the bed for sleep.  Temps dropped into the high 40’s in the night! Not so good for living on a boat, but the cold temps helped to not stress the refrigerators. And the soup I made in the crockpot, could be put outside on deck over night to stay cold!   

Thursday, 10/25 we crawled out of bed into our chilly stateroom and donned warm clothes to get started cruising early in an attempt to get as far south on the Chesapeake as we could.  We needed to get to Zimmerman Marine to have the inverter chargers worked on, plus the new job of fixing the refrigerators and we only had two good weather days to get as close as possible.  The cold morning was made a tad worse when the anchor chain came up solidly caked in thick mud. My hands were plenty cold once the chain was clean and the anchor was cleanly pulled up to the bow pulpit.  On the way, I snapped the picture of the trees that were just beginning to change color.  Colder weather at least makes the scenery pretty! 

Also along the way, we crossed paths with this gigantic commercial ship that was getting steering assist from the tug attached to its stern by cable.  The tug could move side to side to pull the stern around for turning.  We managed to cover 87 miles to reach Mill Creek off the Great Wicomico River before the sun started getting low in the sky.  It was a long and at times choppy cruise but we were happy to have gotten so far south.  Our Zimmerman destination was only 50+miles away and doable on Friday before the wind was predicted to increase late in the day.  

Mill Creek is well protected so it was a quiet night spent with 6 other sailboats sharing the anchorage. 

We made it to Zimmerman by mid afternoon just in time to have an extra foot of water with help from the tide so we could pass through the very shallow entry way into the cove where Zimmerman has their working docks.  Here we sit just off the East River which flows into Mobjack Bay with other boats all needing some work.  

We love the sign in front of Zimmerman’s office.  This place has an excellent reputation for doing solid work on boats so we were feeling good about getting here before the weather turned rainy and windy.  We had a quiet weekend sitting and waiting for the work to commence on Monday.  

This place has a courtesy car so we treated ourselves to pizza Saturday late afternoon and had a nice surprise that the town of Matthews, Virginia was celebrating Halloween in the town’s business square.  Yesterday, Sunday was clear so we got to know our boat neighbors and had docktails on the aft deck of the Kadey-Krogen.  The conversation started with “what are you in here for” as if we were all in the waiting room of a hospital’s emergency room;  well we are in fact all a little injured or broken with need for a boat yard repair!  
Today is Monday and so far we know we need a part for the refrigeration, more testing on the battery chargers and oh, we also have oil leaking from one of the engines and that requires a part as well.  So we’ll settle into this yard for a few more days!  

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Three Challenging Days to Get to the Chesapeake!

Alarms were set for 6am on Monday 10/1 but the Captain and I awoke on our own, anxious to get started on the Jersey run.  We had planned to untie at 6:30 but it was still too dark so we waited another 20 anxious minutes.  Our conditions were predicted to include 2-3 foot waves, wind in the single digits rising to 15mph mainly from the south.  We headed out and all was calm enough in New York Harbor.

The morning was tedious but not uncomfortable.  We had some chop from wind on top of the rolling ocean waves but it was doable.  It was calm enough for me to go down below to get breakfast food but by lunch, I did a fast grab of crackers, cheese and things I could stick in baggies and put in my pockets to keep my hands free to hold rails while traversing across the deck.  But the day got more windy than predicted and by 1pm, we were both pinned in our seats to avoid sliding or falling.

The good news was that the waves were hitting on the bow and at times more on the port bow but not slamming into the beam of the boat.  The bad news was that the predicted period of the waves was to be 10-11 seconds which is more of a rolling wave, but in actuality they were coming in 3-4 at a time with a few seconds between.  We figured they were 3-5 foot waves with some in the 6 foot category.  We have a bell on the flybridge that was ringing all afternoon!!

It was like riding a roller coaster and felt worse when we looked down the wave slope as we hit a crest.  I tried to glue my eyes on the horizon.  Luckily I never felt nauseous, only nervous!  Al handled the helm well with the help of Mr. Auto.  

Note the partially opened window to allow for air flow to help me stay clear headed but it was fully opened earlier until a wave washed over the bow with such force that it doused my face and sweatshirt with fresh seawater right through the window!   So after 11 hours of cruising we pulled into Farley State Marina in Atlantic City and tried to unscramble our brains!!   We were exhausted from tension and the effort to tighten muscles to keep from rolling with the waves.  We had a quiet night and sound sleep.  Needless to say, we sat still for the day on Tuesday!  It was a beautiful but very windy day so staying put made sense.  We walked a couple of miles to a great little restaurant for a delicious and well deserved breakfast.  Then we filled the day, Al with engine room chores, me with salt removal from every outside surface of the boat.  It was interesting that several mega yachts came in late afternoon with professional captains talking about the rough seas they had, so rough that they stopped earlier than planned.  So glad we sat in the marina! 
On Wednesday 10/3 we were joined by friends who live near Cape May, Joan and Matt, who have cruised the Atlantic plenty of times and who believed our conditions for the 44 mile ocean cruise to Cape May would be doable.  They and the weather sights were right and it was a tolerable day.  We had waves in the 2-4 foot range, rolling on the beam but they were indeed rollers, not fast, short period waves so between the distractions of friends to talk to and the help of Motion Eaze, the cruise went by quickly.  

We followed these clamming boats out of the Absecon Inlet as we left Atlantic City.  We figured it was a good omen that the clammers thought it was a good enough day to go out and work! The next set of photos were all taken by Joan who has a good camera and an excellent eye for photography.

The captain was at ease with the auto pilot remote in hand.

Matt used his eyes to help with the navigation while I used Aquamap on my iPad to follow our course and track the markers. 

The rides of Wildwood!  This is the Jersey Shore that I remember as a kid! 

Not much action again until next summer when tourists will flock back for some fun. 

The breakwall of the Cape May Inlet, as we looked at the beach where our rolling waves were crashing into shore.  I guess we did have some wave action out there! 

Then Joan spotted this eagle that greeted us as we ended our Jersey coast run.  We were tied to the dock at Utsch’s Marina mid afternoon so had time for a grocery run and then enjoyed fried scallops at the Lobster House to finish our day and say thanks to our friends, Joan and Matt who made the trip enjoyable.
 On Thursday we woke up unsure about attacking the third part of the trek to get to the Chesapeake which is the Delaware Bay and River.  This part of the trip is a bit over 60 miles going up against the river current in a north westerly direction.  Timing it to have the rising tide along with you to counter the river current with light wind behind is about perfect.  Of course the weather sights did not all agree but we could get a sure read on the tide.  So after watching several boats take off and hearing from another boating friend (Jim on Leilani) who thought the conditions were good, we untied easily with help and headed out the Cape May Canal at 10:30.  It turned out to be a very easy, hot, no wind cruise with some tidal current helping along the way!  We had one small mishap, InSpeyered 2 ran aground near the end of the canal as we were getting close to the Bay.  A dredge was working the entrance to the canal and moved into the center of the channel.  So Captain Al did the prudent thing and pulled over toward starboard and found soft mud stopping our forward progression.  He tried to plow through but quickly realized that wouldn’t help so he backed off the grounding and freed the hull.  The dredge Captain hailed us immediately to say we should head right toward the dredge and he would turn to starboard to let us pass.  Whew, crisis averted!!

We passed only a few commercial boats and this one in the far distance looked like a city being pulled by the tug.   Calm waters were greatly appreciated!  We pulled into Delaware City Marina, thrilled to have all that challenging cruising behind us.  The Captain requested a day off on Friday so we walked the canal and had an excellent lunch at Crabby Dick’s.  Then it was on to the Chesapeake via the C and D canal for an easy 39 mile cruise with tidal current pushing us the whole way.  

We anchored in Turner Creek Bend off the Sassafras River; an anchorage we have used 2 other times. We did run into some trouble with the anchor chain but it wasn’t a surprise.  With all the jostling from waves on the run to Atlantic City, the chain had become jammed and tangled.  We used Al’s brute strength and the weight of the chain being pulled against the boat’s momentum backward and pulled all the chain out of the locker, cleaned it all up as it was winched back in and easily set the anchor to hold for the night. As often is the case, anchoring provides beautiful sunsets.  So nice to be on the Chesapeake Bay again!  After going to shore for a decent walk on Sunday, we concluded that moving to a different anchorage would make sense to find stronger Verizon service.  We have some planning to do for a week long visit home.  We moved early afternoon in calm conditions across the Bay to the Magothy River and dropped anchor behind Dobbins Island.  That is where we have stayed for the past 2 nights and where we will be tonight. 

The rock walls along the Bay make for scenic travel.  Nice calm bay water along the way.  

Sunset Sunday night in the Magothy.

Sunset Monday night with heavy cloud cover but no rain.  Mornings have been overcast with fog, afternoons have been hot and clear and nights have been just cool enough to allow for comfortable sleep but not blanket weather!  We went to shore yesterday by tying up at a restaurant dock and had a good walk and then a late lunch that was quite tastey.  Today we used a marina dock and just walked a local neighborhood. 

One last sunset to enjoy in this anchorage.  Easy walks, very quiet anchorage, no more running for a while, life is good for the crew on InSpeyered 2.  


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Champlain Canal Takes Us to the Hudson River

From the town wall in Whitehall, NY, we started our cruise to go up the Champlain Canal on Saturday 9/22, which was a cool and sunny day.  More low bridges, so we lowered the mast with relative ease, got the pole set to measure our air draft and untied mid morning.  It was a slow 25 mile cruise because we locked through 4 locks.  When we were one lock away from ending our travels early afternoon, we got word that a barge had broken free from a tie up and had to be rescued by a tug so lock #7 was closed “until further notice”.   We waited 1 1/2 hours tied to an old dilapidated wooden dock with 4 other boats.  So late in the day we all piled into the lock and all but one turned into a creek just past the lock to find the free town wall of Fort Edward. It is another town with lots of closed businesses and yet it still provides a great place to tie up with free electric hookups.

We tied near to a ladder so we could climb up and off the boat.  We met some new friends, Pat and Chip on Aerin E, the boat tied behind us.  This new friendship made our 2 night stay in Fort Edward quite interesting as Pat was previously a Grand Banks broker so she had a vast knowledge of boats and boating and Chip designed museums as his long time career and one of those museums is the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.  Their stories made for interesting conversation during docktails at a picnic table along the wall.

And unbeknownst to us, the town had a big hot air balloon festival going on that weekend so we had 25-30 balloons pass over us.  They were so high up that any picture of multiple balloons showed tiny dots but this balloon veered close enough to us to allow for a decent picture.  

We were treated to a beautiful sky looking up the creek at sunset. Once the sun set, it was a very chilly night.  Sunday morning, I treated Al to a classic diner breakfast that was cheap and plentiful. It’s important to support the local businesses when they offer up such a nice “marina” wall. We  walked the town and happened upon a park where re-enactments of battles of the French and Indian War were occurring. 

We only caught the tail end of them marching back from a battle.  But it was interesting to follow them back to their encampment and see how they lived for the weekend’s event. 

Other boats came in later in the day including a 72 footer that scooted in to a spot in front of our boat, just barely big enough for a boat that size.  That in itself was entertaining to watch!  We met some other folks on a sailboat that also arrived late afternoon and while we all enjoyed drinks at a picnic table, we heard about their plan to take their boat all the way to St Martin in the next couple of months.  So many interesting people to meet!  Since we took a long walk earlier in the day, we felt we deserved a good meal at the Anvil Restaurant with Pat and Chip.  It was another fascinating evening. 

An eagle sighting on the Hudson River!  Fort Edward is where the head waters of the Hudson River start.  In the days before the Champlain canal, boats going north between the Hudson and Lake Champlain had to be portaged by land so Fort Edward was a busy town.  When we left the wall there, we were still on the Champlain Canal but also officially on the Hudson River.  Our destination was Mechanicville, a 29 mile cruise that included 4 more locks and the lowest bridge we’ve tried to pass under! 

As we approached the fixed bridge, we stared intently at the tip of our height pole.  If you enlarge this photo you can spot the tiny piece of white tape at the top of the pole.  It was looking to be a very close passing.  The lock master of lock #3 assured us that the bridge height was a bit over 17’ so we had a whopping 2 inches to spare the canvas!               

And the tip of the height pole just barely cleared the entrance to the bridge when we breathed a sigh of relief! Then we had a short cruise to the free town wall in Mechanicville, NY.

Once again, this town provides very nice bathrooms with good showers, free electric hook up and even an area for a free pump out!  This was as good if not better than many marinas we pay $100 for! Exercise was accomplished with a walk around town to scope out the grocery and small shops.  There was a small farmers market but not much fresh produce this time of year.  The night became quite chilly so we hunkered in for the night in our cozy boat.  On Tuesday we woke to rain that only let up for short periods all day so it was a “stay in the boat day”.  But we had a nice visit from friends on Free To B who were our hurricane buddies during Matthew in 2016 and their dirt house is close to Mechanicville. So we warmed up in a great authentic Italian Restaurant and wallered in home made Italian pasta!  Great visit but not the only one.  We stayed a third day and night to wait for our friends on Leilani to catch up with us.  The much warmer day (back to shorts!) was spent on chores, shopping and making beef barley soup for Jim and Linda to enjoy with us.  Fun to swap stories of our summer Canadian travels since they followed days or weeks behind us all the time we were up there! 

We left Mechanicville on Thursday 9/27 with a beautiful blue sky after lowering our mast for the last time. We had an uneventful day to cruise through the last 2 locks of the canal with no waiting time and through the Federal lock on the Hudson in Troy, NY.  We stopped 38 miles further south with the canal completed and anchored behind Houghtailing Island.  The clouds picked up, the rain came in and the night became chilly.  That remained the same on Friday morning as we pulled anchor to head to Kingston with a nice push from the river current.  On the way, we passed the Athens Lighthouse, built in 1874 to mark the Middle Ground Flats, a raised area to avoid.  We ended our 41mile cruise with the clouds dispersing at Rondout Marina near Kingston, NY.  On a whim, I texted with a long time friend from college days to let her know where we were because the last time in the same area, she flew over us and took pictures while giving a flying lesson which is her occupation and passion.  So at the last minute she and her husband Greg decided a road trip was possible so they drove nearly 2 hours to have dinner with us that night!  True friends!  Great fun having drinks on the flybridge and a really good dinner in town!    

Thanks for the visit Peggy and Greg!
We went to bed that night thinking we were going to continue to meander down the Hudson and likely stay a second night at the marina.  But I awoke with a hinky feeling that we should keep moving.  After we both spent some time on various weather and buoy sights, and after communicating with Jim and Linda on Leilani who were far ahead of us by that time, we came to the conclusion that the weather along the Jersey coast was going to get more difficult so we needed to get south to be ready when the weather window would allow an easier passage in the Atlantic along the Jersey shoreline.  So the next two days, Saturday and Sunday, we traveled 57 miles to Half Moon Bay Marina and then another 56 miles to Great Kills Yacht Club, Staten Island.

The Hudson is such a beautiful cruising waterway.  We had wanted to really take our time but the NJ coast was calling us to move on.  

There is a great bike/walking path near Half Moon Bay Marina and the sunsets along it are typically spectacular.  We at least took the time to walk the path the night we arrived (well, just me because Al needed to rest his eyes from the strain of the day) and again the next morning before leaving.  

We passed slowly under the new Tappen Z Bridge because they are still dismantling the old bridge more than a year after construction was completed.  This is looking back at the bridge and the NJ Palisades .  

By moving quickly, we ended up entering the crazy busy area of NYC on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  The skyline is peeking out from under the George Washington Bridge. 

We passed this mega yacht anchored right in the middle of the Hudson.  Erik knows of the boat and told us an Australian cattle baron owns it and uses it as his NYC office.  Nice work space! 

So we hit the New York Harbor right when all the sail boaters flitted all around the Statue of Liberty while we dodged fast moving ferries, loaded tourist boats, and all the regular Sunday afternoon boaters.  At least the boats under motor power were somewhat easy to predict and avoid but small boats under sail change course in minutes.  It was a time when all 4 eyes on board were watching intently! 

The Staten Island Ferries are easy to spot in their bright orange paint.  So we ended our Hudson River journey on Sunday 9/30 late in the day, tired and prepared to enter the Atlantic Ocean for the long 100 mile cruise along the Jersey shore to Atlantic City the next day.  We had studied many weather and buoy reports to conclude that Monday was the day.  For me, it was uneasy sleep but the Captain was confident and ready to cruise the ocean. We were in agreement so the decision was made.