Monday, October 26, 2009

2nd Year: Southbound Norfolk to Charleston 2009

  Monday, October 26, 2009

Love the firepower around Norfolk!
Pulled out of the Norfolk Naval Marina early making that turn to ICW Mile Marker 0, the start of the journey really south.  The ICW starts here and for our purposes, ends at Key West at Mile Marker 1240 where we plan to spend a couple of months.  For the short term, we are headed to Charleston for a month at Ashley Marina, Mile Marker 468.  Ouch, payback time.  We fueled up at Ocean Marina, taking on 500.3 gallons of diesel for $1,225.23 ($2.45 gal) - putting in 214 in the port tank and 232 on the starboard side.  We topped off the aft tank with 50 gals.

We love the beauty of the primeval Dismal Swamp route, narrow, autumn trees in nearly full color lining the banks; dark brown tannic water and lots of birds, so we turned sharp right rather than head the route through Coinjack, NC.  However, this year, even with water levels higher than in years, we kept bumping and bumping -- like logs banging under our hull, not running aground.  The banging slamming quickly got on our nerves and we've sworn -- 'no more'. 
Southbound in the Dismal Swamp

The infamous Ray Marine Chart Plotter malfunctioned today yet again.  Here we go again with a lousy piece of equipment that is absolutely driving me crazy.

Pulling into the Dismal Swamp Welcome Station for the night after locking through the first of two locks today.  The place was crowded with boats, so we rafted up to a 36' Monk with new boaters aboard....Dean & Renee have just begun their new adventure and are headed south for the winter to begin their new life style.

Settling in for the evening with 4 rows of boats rafted 3 across each, I kept wondering who in the world out there was still running a generator at 11 PM; at midnight and on and on.  The sound was softer so I thought it was a sailboat generator. At 2:00 AM Andy jumped out of bed, running to the cockpit flashlight in hand.  Ugh, the noise was us!  Seems we had a pump going all night -- did not sound like any pump noise I'd ever heard.... A short time of banging around in the lazarette and the problem was solved, but only after Andy bumped into the high water alarm down in there setting it off into it's screeching and beeping.  I do hope we did not wake anyone!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 & Wednesday, October 28
In only a few minutes the approximately 12 boats untied from each other and the dock wall and all of us made the 8:30 lock opening.  Being big and on the outside of the rafting group, we made it to Elizabeth City ahead of the masses and for the first time were able to secure a spot on the wall (got there about 2:30).  We  were invited at least 4 times to the 4:30 wine and cheese party hosted by the City for the boaters.  A nice time, with a warm welcome speech and an overview of what to see/do in Eliz City.  
Downtown Elizabeth City is charming
Firefly store was an old pharmacy in years past.

Original pharmacy labels on drawers are still in existence!

Beautiful old buildings in Eliz City

With crummy weather on the way that will toss up Albemarle Sound, we stayed put another day, as did all the other boaters.  Again, a nice two days and evenings meeting other boaters & seeing some old friends.  We again attended the RoseBud Ladies wine and cheese, a tradition that has been going on for years.  A very friendly city for sure.

Thursday, October 29, 2009
Pulled out of Eliz City at first light (7:15 am) with a fleet of 10-11 boats, moving southward  - reminding me of the birds flocking together flying south.  We are traveling w Adios again and with the Monk 36 "Prime Time" we rafted up to the other night.  Dreary, cold day underway.
Heading south!

Just south of Eliz City is a blimp factory!!
 Today, I counted and wrote it down.  In the first 30 minutes the RayMarine Chart Plotter went off twice.  By 9:30 AM it had shut down/malfunctioned 11 times.  At the end of the day, it had malfunctioned 19 times, leaving us with - among other things - no depth sounder in these shallow waters that are fraught with shoals, etc.  Our group of 3 boats pulled into Alligator River Marina  at noon - not a bad place - it is actually a truck stop on the highway, with water behind it!  We had the 'cocktail' party aboard Finally Fun with Adios and Prime Time -- lots of great conversations and laughs.

Friday, October 30, 2009
Pulled out of Alligator River Marina at 8:00 am, in a line of boats again with weather clearing.  Today, not only is the Chart Plotter still going off, but the auto pilot is screwy, so I kept the boat underway manually.  I think the boat behind me thought we must be drinking and piloting -- even called me on the radio to ask if something was wrong with the Chart Plotter again.....weaving and weaving til I turned it to Manual Mode.   Me, I prefer that  anyway to using auto or Nav, just like I don't use much in the way of cruise control...preferring to just drive the car.  I think it is a control thing!  Andy says Nav is a little screwy today, going off in the opposite direction.  What is this all about?????

Love the sunsets at anchor!
Dropped hook in Pungo Creek just south of Belhaven at a lovely anchorage, Adios & Prime Time settling into their spots around us for the evening.

Saturday, October 31, 2009 & Sunday, November 1, 2009
Sharon & Karen w a 'rock star' at a NPC launch meeting in 2007
Happy Halloween!  On our way to Beaufort, NC, where we will meet a former work colleague & friends, Karen & Donna,  who will stay aboard til Monday AM.  Arrived at 3:00 ish, staying at Beaufort Docks, right in the heart of the tiny city.  With nice weather, we walked the quaint, charming town, having a great dinner at the Beaufort Grocery Company.  Sunday was not so nice, but we still were able to shop, wander about and even drive to Morehead City to look around.  This marina is packed with boats headed south - so always make a reservation prior to arrival here!  See the link to photos of our weekend in Beaufort, NC.

Monday, November 2, 2009
Donna & Karen were jolted awake by the large boat docked next to us - hitting us on their way out.  They said it was quite a bump at the bow.  Inspecting closely, we could find no damage, so let the issue go.  Bummer boat - hit and run.  I see that all too often.

Pulled out after a great breakfast on board and goodbyes to Karen & Donna with cold gray weather still.  Uneventful day on the ICW, with careful attention paid to the charts and markers as shoaling is everywhere.  A jerk in a go fast boat waked us, throwing our stuff around all over below.  Andy yelled at him on the VHF and we heard via VHF other boats down the line doing the same.  What is the matter with these jerks?
Entering Camp Lejune via the ICW - See warning about live firing!

A major mess and a nightmare trying to anchor in Hammock Basin on the USMC Camp Lejune basin, where we've anchored in the past with no issues.  My goodness, we dropped the hook 6 times, dragging out each time.  The anchor would  come out of the water with the shackle bent at a right angle & we finally figured out that it was not able to roll, turn or do it's thing underwater to grab bottom because of the angle.  Andy would try to fix it, hammering it with the boat hook as we hauled it up over and over.  At one point, we hauled it onto the deck to try to work it loose and it slammed into the boat, creating some damage at the anchor pulpit.  By that time, we had dropped anchor, pulled anchor, circled all over trying to find a new spot where we might have better luck til I know every boater in the basin (and there were at least 20!) was wondering how unskilled and what idiots we were!!!

Finally, I figured out  that no matter where we put the boat, the anchor was not going to do its job because the shackle would go sideways when it touched bottom and was freezing up at an angle, not allowing the anchor to set at all.   It finally froze up so tightly that there was no way we could get it straight - so there  we were, with the anchor at a right angle to the chain.

Our friend, John, aboard Adios, was in the basin and dinked over to help.  Long story short with no easy fix in sight, we finally, with lots of difficulty,  dropped our second anchor by hand with it's 20 feet of chain and then the long line.   John & Andy then  proceeded to take the seized up shackle OFF and replace it with one from John's stash of tools (boat jewels he calls them).  We then pulled up the first anchor and all that line - again by hand - and successfully dropped the Rocnar anchor.  The deck was covered with mud and water, as were John & Andy!

This is the second shackle we've had on it because we had the same problems and here we go again with another freaking repair that did not work and for which we paid good money.  This frustrating exercise took almost 2.5 hours to resolve!  John stayed for a beer and went back for Ellie and we had a nice visit while my blood pressure came down and so did Andy's.  Thank God for John - I don't know what we would have done without his help!  There is no way I could have launched that second anchor by hand nor gotten it pulled up, even with the help of the winch - which we used but with difficulty.  Then - with no extra shackle on board and only that second anchor set with line, Andy & I would probably have taken shifts during the night to be certain we didn't drag - GPS set too.

By the way - there is no other place to go for miles -- this is the only place to stop so we were really 'stuck' here, like it or not!!!!  Later, thinking about it, Andy said he would have rafted up to John - John liking it or NOT!

We also ended up selecting one of the few remaining spots which happened to be in front of "Aquila" a sailboat from Chalfort, PA.  First time we dropped the hook the woman on board (that was no lady)  stood on the bow screeching that she had 150 feet of line out and that we needed to move.  We ended up, at the end of our circling, dropping, cursing afternoon trying to fix and set the anchor by her once more with no place else to go.

One more time, she's up screeching she has 120 feet of line out.  Lady, make up your mind and get your story straight - is it 120 or 150 feet?  And besides that - - you, lady, are irresponsible, laying out that much line in a crowded anchorage with no storm coming.  She kept screeching that she "didn't want that boat by her" and then her husband came out and loudly tried to tell me how to set a hook.  As I interrupted  to explain that we knew how to set a hook & that we had a mechanical problem, he said, "Shut up & listen to me".  What an ass.  By then I was livid at them and shouting,  let them know we had a mechanical problem, etc. and if they had an issue, they should say it to us and not loudly to the 'world'.  She continued to bitch and moan.  I hope I can cross paths with her on land or somewhere close by.  She is an attitude that gives (a) women and (b) boaters a bad name and he's not much better.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Ah, slept somewhat peacefully, swaying quite a bit at the anchorage, but worried about dragging.  Perfect night, did not budge an inch.  This daylight savings time is getting to me - feel like a baby with days and nights mixed up...preferring to sleep in, which I did til 7:00.  We pulled out at 7:15, with most all the other boats already out and underway.

There are a series of three bridges to traverse today, with careful scheduling to make it work.  The first one, Surf City Bridge, opens on the HOUR only; the second 8 miles away, Figure 8 Bridge, opens on the 1/2 and the hour  and the last, Wrightsville Beach Bridge only 5 miles further down, opens only on the you can see, calculating speed and distance is crucial or one ends up circling in tight little circles, basically treading water til the bridge opens.

This morning, 25 boats went through the first bridge --- like an armada!  What a crowded place to be!  Sailboats and trawlers jockeying for space and position and if one was not tight in the pack, the bridge tender was threatening to shut the bridge!  We spent much of the morning passing sailboats and slower trawlers and we successfully traveled the 3 bridges with no 'down time'.  By afternoon, we were way ahead of the others with no issues.  Even passed the screechy woman aboard the sailboat, Aquila, who waved at us as did her husband.  Hhrump -grumpy hold a grudge me did not wave back.  She certainly did  irritate me no end....and a missed opportunity,  I had practiced mentally all sorts of retorts should she speak to us on the radio......she never did.

I think I need to get some sleep and wake up with a smile......or a boat that works better would make the difference in my sense of humor - or lack thereof.
Love the color along the way!

Ah, on to finer things.  The sections from here on southward are so beautiful.  Much of today was spent with the Atlantic Ocean peeking out from sand dunes on our left and low country marshes and barrier islands on our left and right, with birds of all types everywhere.  It is so peaceful through here EXCEPT one must pay close attention....the current can grab at you without warning and the inlets cutting in from the ocean, while scenic, create shoaling and the currents push you out of the channel if you get distracted for a second.

Note the large giraffe in the yard!
Wrightsville Beach & Topsail Island have the majority of beautiful homes and larger homes for much of the ICW til you get way further south - one is never bored cruising through here.....but REMEMBER one must pay ATTENTION to the water and not the houses....As this is now our third time cruising the ICW - we have become (a) more skilled and (b) remember where the trouble spots are.  We are now 'old hat' -- but one second of being complacent will certainly get us in some trouble somewhere along the line.....

We are at the St. James Marina, just below Southport, NC, for the evening -- there is no anchorage anywhere in this area so we stay here each time we traverse.  A nice spot, in the middle of an upscale residential community with its own marina.   I think they pick up a little extra cash by renting to transients for $1.00 a foot - a GREAT rate!  We enjoyed a lot of conversations with fellow boaters & a beer at the outdoor pub right at the docks. 

We think we can make Charleston by Thursday afternoon.....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Entering the Rock Pile - coquina everywhere
Up and out of the slip by 7:00 AM headed to Thoroughfare Creek in the absolutely drop dead gorgeous Waccamaw River - 74 miles.  We successfully traversed what is called the "Rock Pile" (MM 347-355) a 26 mile stretch of waterway lined with coquina rock ledges where boaters "routinely go aground on the rocks".    Some places are so narrow and twisting curves that tugs and boaters should announce their passage via VHF -- " a heads up, here we come, ready or not!"  call to all who are within range.  This year, while still carefully watching our chart and depth sounder, at least we could turn the steering wheel.....last year our palms were so sweaty it was difficult to hold the wheel!  We are more confident -- and that does NOT translate into over confident nor are we complacent!  Those two traits could get one into serious trouble on the water.....

Pontoon Bridge with new bridge being built to replace it
We also traveled through the last remaining swing bridge on a pontoon that floats the bridge back and forth - Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge near Shallotte Inlet, at Mile Marker 338.  It looks as though this little quaint bridge will be no more by next year as a 65 foot mega bridge is being built right next to it.  Ah, progress comes at a price - while bridges such as this do slow one's progress a tiny bit, they are so charming and the bridge tenders so helpful -- they will be missed.

We arrived at about 4:00 ish, dropping the hook way up Thoroughfare Creek behind another trawler.  An uneventful day - which means a great day! This anchorage is one of my favorite - birds sing loudly, an owl or two hooting in the evening and the full moon & sky full of stars this evening was a plus!

Thursday, November 5, 2009
Pulled anchor just before 7:00 AM on a sunny, very cold morning with what I believe are wild pigs squealing on shore somewhere in the marsh and tree line area -- either that or there is a pig farm here which I seriously doubt!  Being a hiker and backpacker, a wild pig is NOT what I ever want to come across - they are meaner than mean and generally aggressive.  Good thing they don't have any inclination to swim to attack!
Cold Andy & this is the SOUTH

It is so cold this morning Andy put on his ski gloves so he could hold the metal steering wheel and I'm in my usual morning designer outfit of wool socks, fleece & wool bedroom slippers, fleece pants and a fleece shirt topped with a fleece jacket.  I'm the Southerner and it is too slow getting to warmer climates!  By afternoon, we've peeled to shorts and t-shirts and bare feet for me.  Go figure.......

Ah, I love cruising into the southern waters with the marshlands, trees, dolphin coming to play in our wakes on a fairly continual basis and the sun warming us through the bimini Isenglass windows.  It is so scenic & peaceful as one cruises the ICW past small fishing 'villages' with shrimping trawlers everywhere either at dock or viewed across the marsh as they ply their nets.  However, one cannot get mesmerized watching the view as there are so many little inlets coming in from the ocean side that GRAB your boat as you cruise by, pointing you in a direction you had not planned to take, forcing you to madly turn the wheel in the opposite direction to get back on track.
Cruise ship in Charleston Harbor

City Marina in Charleston
Whew!  Traversed into the very busy Charleston Harbor this afternoon, successfully navigating through confusing markers and rushing currents into Ashley Marina where we will stay for a month before heading further south.  Getting into and out of this Marina (or any marina in this harbor) is tricky, tough and scary.  We made it into our slip and settled in to play with grandchildren, RobertE and Riley, and daughter, Leslie, for the month.   A great respite to spend time with family and wander about our most favorite city, Charleston, with all its history and beauty.  We will drive to Jacksonville and Clearwater from here to visit Mom, sister and youngest daughter, Lindsay, baby Pickett and son in law, Walker.  Then, on to Jacksonville via Finally Fun to spend approx Dec. 10 thru Jan. 6...Plans are always subject to change with this lifestyle....we are hearing noises about some regulations from the State of FL that if you are in FL waters more than 90 days, you we will check that out and if the case, will stay here in SC the extra month, spending our $$$ here rather than FL.   FL seems to hate boaters; taking away the ability to anchor outside of many cities; tries to tax you for everything, including your boat, etc. etc.  Always looking for the dime --

The blog will be very sporadic while at dock here at Ashley Marina - if one of our friends reading this needs to reach us, use email: and you will get a prompt response.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2nd Year: Kent Narrows to Norfolk

                         Southbound from Kent Narrows, Chesapeake Bay, via ICW

Tuesday, October 20, 2010
On our way!  After the sink/faucet repairs were completed at 6 PM on Monday, we decided to bolt....been tied to a dock way too long.  Up early, eager to pull out, even without any major planning, we headed out in great weather (cold to get warmer).  Ah, the sun sparkling on the water,  boats all around, birds all over and Finally Fun smoothly cutting through the good to be underway......I could cruise forever.

Over the next 5 hours cruising toward Solomon's Island, our overnight anchorage, I figured out a plan for the next few months and especially for the next few weeks.  We will kill time sightseeing in VA as we can't go further south than Cape Hattaras, NC til 11/2, due to insurance requirements and the hurricane season.  (See our itinerary for plans).  Given that most boats have the same restriction, we are keeping our eyes peeled for friends we've met along the way -- many boats headed south this time of year.  Given that, I've planned our trip for early afternoon stops to ensure we will have swing room at anchorages.

Love the sunsets at anchor!
We pulled into Mill Creek, Solomons, at 2:00 today, dropping the hook.  By 4 PM there were 7 new boats swinging around us......We had our 'choice' spot, so no hassle.  Ah, a wonderful evening, reminding me how much I LOVE anchoring out and how much I don't enjoy the marinas.  The solitude (the other boats don't make any noise), the birds, trees, sunset, calm waters -- so relaxing.  AND a first warm day in what seems forever.  We sat on the aft deck, reading, writing, playing with our new Kindel that daughter, Stacey, gave us and reading the Wall St. Journal.  In general, just kicking back.  Best day in a long time... so nice to relax ON the water.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Ahh, another beautiful day - pulled anchor at 8:45 AM, cruising a long day to York, VA, actually on the York River and home of  the historic 'triangle' of York, Jamestown & Williamsburg.  We grabbed a mooring ball just as it was getting very dark ( I FINALLY found it in the water -- started to worry!) at River Landing in York just to spend the night for $25 vs about $90.  We'll move into their marina tomorrow early so we can play and sight see...too much trouble to do that from the dink and have to worry about losing power while we are gone for who knows how many hours out 'playing'. 
Coming into Yorktown at dusk

Bah, gremlins still inhabit this boat that I am certainly having a love/hate relationship with.  The RayMarine Chart Plotter that has given us nothing but trouble since DAY ONE and that no one can fix - in spite of being sent back TWICE, failed again.  Failed 6 times while underway after not failing all day yesterday - the first day it was in operation since being returned as 'fixed' by RayMarine.

Finally Fun almost alone in the marina at Yorktown
I am so sick of all this....still can't convince Andy to move to a sailboat with fewer moving parts....and be done with all this hassle.  We spent the usual inordinate amount of time on the phone speaking to the guy, Rick, who installed the units and keeps trying to fix them (it is both the upper and lower stations) and to RayMarine.  Finally, long story short, we will have someone meet us in Charleston (a real live CERTIFIED tech) and try to determine the problem.  And RayMarine will pay for it.   Me, I am ready to dump all those parts in the ocean with a big sign, "HERE LIES TWO RAYMARINE CHART PLOTTERS THAT HAVE  ALWAYS BEEN FOREVER DEAD" and I'm ready to slap a sign on Finally Fun, adding a big YELLOW LEMON to her hull...... 

Thursday & Friday, October 22 & 23, 2009
Relaxing, enjoyable days sightseeing in York & Williamsburg...and so easy to do.  This Triangle of historic sights has trolleys and a shuttle bus to hop on/off of all day long so no hassles with transportation. 
Yorktown bunkers

Note the hole in the building from the battle
 York is the site of the last battle in America's Revolutionary War, where Lord Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington about 300 years ago.
Click to enlarge & read about the battle
The story, as told by one of our US Park Rangers, was hilarious, as he really got into the personalities and how and why the battle was won by us, vs being won by the Brits.  Amazing, we should have lost our quest for independence as it was just about over and our rag tag troops about done in, when Cornwallis got lazy, complacent and focused on chasing women -- very distracted.  Then we snuck in here & whipped him!!
The bunkers & Redoubt 10
I also enjoyed the risk taking the Americans pulled off as they fought for their beliefs and how they won at York.  I especially loved  the Ranger's take on history vs what I remember from my elementary school history.  Guess at that age, no one talked about chasing women....... if our schoolbooks were half as interesting as this Ranger and some of the Rangers I met in Canada, I'd have been a history major no doubt!  Both Williamsburg and York are so picturesque, charming and well worth the stop here, up the York River, just a few hours north of Norfolk and only an hour's drive from Richmond.

River Landing Marina at Yorktown


York River

We hope to be off in the very early morning at first light, trying to beat out bad weather that is predicted for tomorrow.  We plan to hunker down at the military marina at the Norfolk Naval Base for one or two days and see if our Insurance Company will give us a waiver to head south a few days before the 11/1 date.....We need to beat out a bridge closing just north of Charleston that will give us a potential problem getting southbound....Andy doesn't like cruising in the ocean, given his last hurling experience.

Saturday, October 24, 2009
Up and headed down the York River back to Chesapeake Bay by 7:15 AM, in hopes of  beating the bad weather predicted.  Here we now sit at the military Norfolk Naval Base many hours later and no storm in sight.  An uneventful cruise here, taking about 4 hours and not the heavier seas predicted.  Surprise, we are in exactly the same T dock we were in last year when we were here!

Andy's nephew David, Andy, Brother George, Sister in Law Jill & Sharon
AND a BETTER surprise, Andy's brother, George, called him, asking where we were.  George & Jill were celebrating an anniversary and were in VA Beach, only a few miles from us!  Small world.  We hooked up and had a fun afternoon eating in downtown Norfolk and wandering around before they continued their drive home to Reston,VA.    So very good to see them again!

Sunday, October 25, 2009
Ugh.  Cold, rainy, dreary.  We spent the day being lazy and doing not much of anything given the ick weather.  We celebrated Andy's 70th birthday today - I made two of his favorite foods:  pasta & eggplant, combining them into a very tasty dish with lots of garlic that I roasted.  I made brownies, to pretend it was a cake.

His gift from me is a trip to Poland and Russia, given that where he was born, Grodno, is now in Russia as they stole the land in 1939, the year he was born.  He and his Mom were put on a train to Siberia by the Russians where they lived for several years doing slave type work in the coal mines.  Irena was a nurse by training so that kept her out of the mines.  At any rate, we shall depart in early May for about 3 weeks in search of relatives and roots.  We'll leave the boat in Jacksonville for the month while we head overseas.  A good day, in spite of the rain.

Monday, September 14, 2009

2nd Year: Kent Narrows, Chesapeake Bay - Repairs & Other Stuff

Monday, September 14, 2009 PM
A long stop in Chesapeake Bay @ Mears Marina
Ah, we will be here for several weeks, awaiting repair of the Raymarine ChartPlotter that has been shipped back, repair of the CD Radio, repair of the windless and some other 'fixes'.  Andy & I are amusing ourselves with cleaning the boat - scrubbing, waxing, cleaning engine room, etc.  Took 3 days just to scrub our bimini top; will take  a week to wax the boat - top side only- phew.  Much needed work and our forced stop is a good thing.  Finally Fun will look like new when we finally finish. 

Eric & Carol
Never a boring moment aboard.  Had two sets of friends, back to back this week visiting us on their way elsewhere.  Eric & Carol, friends for more than 30 years, stopped by, as did Judy & Charles, my friend since high school.

Each evening was great, sipping wine, remembering our past lives and sharing tall tales.  We have several other friends in the area we hope to catch up with - Ellie & John, aboard ADIOS, are in Baltimore and will head south at the same time we will in Oct.  Dan & Char, whom we've charted with in Desolation Sound, live here and we hope to hook up shortly.  Again, the beauty of boating is friends everywhere that we get to see!

Now beginning our third week here at Mears Marina, still under repair.  Good news is that we have a working CD radio - our island music is blaring as we work aboard now!  We are still waiting for the Raymarine ChartPlotter to get fixed and shipped back to us; awaiting work on the windless to be done and get the gelcoat repaired.  We have met with the Broker and our claims against the manufacturer for the shaft problems and for the electrical generator problems are moving forward.  Andy spends his days sanding and varnishing (7 coats) the aft teak rail; changing oil in various and sundry places down below in the engine room and fixing the toilet pumps.  I'm scrubbing cushions and everything else and catching up on paperwork.

All is not hard work.  John & Ellie came by from their mooring in Baltimore in a rental car.  We had fun sightseeing in St. Michaels and Easton and just catching up with each's travel stories.  Bob & Chala showed up with a loaner auto for us to use while we are here!  We'll go to the Annapolis Boat Show together.  Andy & I will also meet up with friends from Novartis at the Boat Show and go to dinner with Mary O. & her husband, Neil.  I'm biking a few miles every day in this cool sunny weather in between my chores.  Our target date to pull out is Monday, October 18, to slowly head south, following the warmer sunshine. 

View from our aft deck at Mears Marina

Waking up each morning, peering out the windows to view the early morning sun, mist over the water and our resident heron fishing for his breakfast, reminds me how much I love being on the water and living on a boat.
 In spite of my significant frustrations with the mechanical problems that are driving this Type A Perfection Oriented Personality crazy, I can't imagine being anywhere else and can't imagine moving ashore.

There is a special peace about living aboard, watching the water and the wildlife all day, all night.  Simply being outside all the time, smelling the air and feeling the breeze and sunshine brings a calm and a smile all the time.  I often think back to my 'former life' of busy days and nights; rarely outside except to walk to and from the car; overbooked, overscheduled;  too many personal plans cancelled and postponed, all in the name of work.    Ahh, glad to be rid of the rat race.
Off our aft deck as the sun sets at Mears Marina
Enjoying friends aboard
Life is wonderful!!

Andy, likewise, certainly enjoys all this.  He has been quick to say, however, that I love this lifestyle more than he does, but that he wouldn't change anything.  We both look forward to the next adventure, the next cruise around an unknown corner and to seeing new places and making new friends.  This is far better than we ever imagined!  Of course, given our lack of experience when we started, we didn't know WHAT to imagine!!!!

Monday, October 12, 2009
Just returned from five fun filled days in New Orleans, LA, getting to visit with my middle daughter, Stacey, and having a reunion of friends from middle school in Stuttgart, Germany.  Imagine, catching up with friends from 50 years ago...Bob Newman, Bob Flourney, Chantal Day Andrews,  & Jack Hopke & spouses or significant others.  Jack  as acting tour director, hosted us at his house for a great gumbo dinner and arranged a great few days  in Lafayette for us all.
The group + spouses about 45 years later!
We attended a Cajan Festival complete with great bands, much dancing, wonderful food tents (ah, chowing down on shrimp, gumbos, alligator, rices) and on and on.
Dancing at the Cajun Festival (none of us!)

A highlight was having a BBQ dinner at the home of our former football coach, Capt. Newman and his wife, now well into their 80's, but full of memories of us as young kids -- Chantal & I were cheerleaders and the guys all played on the RAMS team. Laughing, reminising, choking up and thoroughly enjoying the adults we have all become, we  vowed to  get together again in a few years, including our much beloved Coach!
Sharon, Jack, Coach, Bob N, Bob F, Chantal

Our 1962 yearbook & a RAM cake - ahh, memories!

October 16, 2009 Friday
Still tied to the marina dock in Chesapeake Bay, now freezing to death it seems like, especially after sweating to death in New Orleans 80 degree heat!   Cold, rain for past few days and expected for the next few days.  Way time to be GONE from here!  Repairs are just finished (we think and hope).  Can you believe, our RayMarine Chart Plotter we have had NOTHING BUT TROUBLE from since Day One was finally returned (after sending in both Chart Plotters and other equipm,ent that works with it) and the problem, according to the paperwork returned by RayMarine was that they did NOT finish the job the first time we sent it in.  They actually admitted that in the paperwork send back to us.  Technician said "found the mod VDR-0808 was not finished when here last...the tape was not placed across the three power pull thrus on the CCFL board which is known for comm problems.: He went on to state that there was damage to the power connection terminals" -- probably because they did not do a good job first time around?!!

Granddaughter Makenna playing with the windless Aug. 2011
The windlass was worked on as it had not been set properly by the manufacturer and was wobbling; steel bolts with only minimal nuts and washers had even bent and the windlass was certainly not solid.  It was set in basically layers of balsa wood which clearly showed the impact the windlass was making on the wood -- chewing  at it!  We added a ring of steel and beefed it up and used appropriate strength/size washers, nuts & bolts.  Lots of photos were taken and hopefully, the manufacturer will learn how to do this right the first time next time around.  Our dealer did agree to pay for this one.

October 14 - 16, 2009
Ego Alley in the dark at Annapolish
With friends,Bob & Chala, back on board for a couple of days to party, we attended the Annapolis Boat Show in the cold and rain, rain, rain!  We had a good time, in spite of the weather, but certainly did NOT climb on many boats...too raw out. We shopped the tents and displays, which protected us somewhat.  We all had a great time celebrating the guy's birthdays - both will be 70 on the same date - Oct. 25...amazing how two best friends from high school share the same birth date! 

Ah, five straight days of rain.....hunkered down and caught up on 'stuff'. Boat still hasn't gotten waxed...think Andy was doing rain dances during the still of the night............

Sunday, October 18
ping ping zing zing, rattta rattta tat..........What the Hell?  Sounds like raining UPSIDE DOWN from the galley sink as I finished the evening dishes.  Without the water running, this sound was LOUD....A shout to Andy -- 'something is WRONG!" 

 Brain engages and we both realized a hose had burst somewhere and water was spraying underneath the sink.  Bumping into each other as we charged down into the master bedroom, we were met with a cloud of steam and HOT water pouring out of the bathroom ceiling, all over everything.  As Andy ripped out panels, I was afraid something would electrocute him ---- a hose did burst...a hose encased in a STEEL cage like thing -- the steel had ruptured and so had the hose, spewing out all that water. 

Blown out hose

Andy finally got it all shut down and I slopped up the mess.   Long story short, upon investigation, who ever in CHINA that installed this hose, had too much hose left over and so this person twisted it around and around, thereby putting KINKS into it that finally, with the vibrations from the boat, wore it out and wore it through, allowing the break....geeze 

I'm totally convinced this boat is a lemon....on and on and on........the dealer paid for this repair.  He pays for the little ones, but not the major big expenses that have failed (the cutlass bearings and the generator problem totallying about $12,000+).  We are certainly not finished with these issues and are investigating a number of things, including analysis of the cutlass bearings 'made in a very fine factory in Tiwan'....  We bought a new boat so we would not have to deal with a lot of repairs.  Joke is on us!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2nd Year: Hudson River to Kent Narrows, Chesapeake Bay

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Down the Hudson River
Off we went, on our way toward fulfilling a dream of Bob’s  -- to cruise down the Hudson River.  He and Chala will cruise all the way to their house in Chesapeake City, MD with us – a least a week, weather permitting.  An uneventful cruising day on a spectacularly beautiful day.

West Point
Chala & I kept the binoculars glued to our eyes, as beautiful home after beautiful home passed by.

Love the lighthouses along the way

On the west shore we passed the Catskill Mountains; passed by Poughkeepsie & Hyde Park (home of FDR), Vassar College and the Culinary Institute of America which we wished was open so we could eat a grand meal there.  We passed Pollepel Island, home of a medieval fortress built by Frank Bannerman, a Scottish immigrant and weapons dealer.   It is spectacular, but due to a fire, uninhabitable nor can one get on the island due to the danger of the crumbling castle.  We watched West Point go by – what a fortress! And Sing Sing Prison.

With horrific currents and blowing wind, we finally got tied up to the dock at Front Street Marina in Newburg, about 2/3rd of the way to NYC.  In luck, a city festival was being held so we walked the long blocks of food vendors, pigging out on Polish, Mexican & misc. foods and taking in the sights.  Back on the boat, it did not take long to ‘crash’ as we were tired from the day’s travels.  Guess what – already feeling ‘ripped’ due to the $3.00 a foot charge to dock, the Marina failed to give us a heads up.  A tiki bar & restaurant, located on the dock approximately 50 yards off our stern,  was rip roaring all night long, til 3:00 am. The music actually vibrated the bed continuously and between that and the laughter, conversation, etc. needless to say, I got NO sleep.  I even heard the “LAST CALL for ALCOHOL” at 1:45 am, but it wasn’t til nearly 3:00 that the place got quiet.  Ugh .
Don't even THINK of staying at Newburg Marina!!  Tiki Bar is just behind Finally Fun
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Big stuff passes us by!

The cruise through the middle of NY Harbor never fails to inspire awe and a faster heart rate.  We just missed (good planning and some luck!) the tug boat races through the Harbor but did get to see a number of the tugs chugging their way homeward after the ‘race’.

Ferries abound in NY Harbor

Never tire of the view of NYC

Sharon, Chala & Andy

Lady Liberty is as beautiful as ever and we again, cruised very close to her on our way to Great Kills Harbor, our destination for the evening, way south of the city near Sandy Hook.

NYC from the rear view
We thought we had reservations for a mooring ball at the Richmond County Yacht Club, but had certainly been mis-informed.  We learned no space was available as we turned into the little harbor.  Luckily, we were able to get dock space at the next over club, Great Kills Yacht Club and quickly slid in.  We weren’t even tied up thoroughly when we had two invitations to dock parties celebrating Labor Day.  Never one to miss fun, we quickly grilled our dinner, ate and prepared our wine and drinks to carry around with us as we ‘crashed’ each and every party of the dock.

Boater Rule:  When invited somewhere,  always bring your own drink!  Remember, it is difficult to restock one’s supply, so use up your own stash!  We were warmly welcomed at each dock and felt right at home.  We met some great people instantly, including a Polish man and his Polish cousin, who had a good time with Andy, all speaking Polish.  Me, I got them to write down places that are a ‘must see’ in Poland.  I so do want to pull off a trip to Poland in search of Andy’s roots!  We tumbled into bed rather late – forget Boater’s Midnight – must have made the real 12:00 tonight!

Monday, September 07, 2009
Labor Day!  Weather is beginning to get a little dicy and we have long offshore passages to make – 2 or 3 down the coast of NJ; across Delaware Bay and into the Chesapeake Bay to drop off Bob & Chala.  We pulled out about 9:00 as we had visitors aboard bright and early – remember that Southern ‘ya’ll come”??   They did!

Not our best day on the water – we rolled and rolled most all the way with 15 knot winds and seas of only 3-4 to 6 feet, but most of it beam…ie hitting against our side, making the rolling worse.    Chala & Bob got very very quiet and Andy turned green, finally losing his breakfast many times over.  The table and chairs strapped down on the aft deck kept sliding back and forth & I was afraid the chairs on one side might go overboard.  No way, however, was I going down there from the fly bridge to better secure them!  We made it the six hours into Manasquan Inlet with me watching the autopilot carefully along with Bob, while Andy hung over the side.  Poor man.  Wonder why he refuses to take sea sick pills?
Chala, Andy & Sharon admiring the view down the Hudson River
Green Andy had to take the wheel to bring the boat in thru Manasquan Inlet, which was rip roaring at that time with all the wave action.  With rocks and rock jetties on both sides of the narrow passage, I looked over to the port side and saw a smaller boat washed up on the beach, with USCG standing by.  Clearly, the guy had NOT made the inlet safely, and washed up on the beach.  As we were coming in, big that we are, all these little power boats are like bees on the water, all coming out – mostly under pretty full power to get through it all.  And all in our way!  Andy hung for a minute or so, but there is no easily controlling the boat like that and one bad wave could ruin your day.  About the time he begins muttering about all those little boats in the way, Bob & I in unison said – ‘screw the little boats, just GO”.  Which he did, full throttle and we were safely in.   I must say, it was a breath holding few minutes until we got safely past the rocks and into the calm of the inlet.  Those little boats made in and/or out too and they are MUCH more able to maneuver than are we!

Docking at Hoffman’s Marina, at Brielle, NJ, just inside the Inlet, with a lot of help again due to strong currents, we recouped and finally went for lunch at 4:00 PM!  Even Andy was now hungry!

September 8, 2009
A LOT of discussion went into today’s decision to travel via the NJ ICW rather than cruise outside in the Atlantic.  Seas are building and so is the wind.  Frankly, no way Andy wanted to have another day like yesterday!  So, after much discussion, checking of charts and a phone call to the local Boat US folks, we decided to travel the ICW.  This route has a ‘bad’ reputation due to very shallow water, but Boat US and some other local folks say that as long as we stay in the channel we will be okay.  Right off the channel the water turns to below shallow!  Me, I’m nervous – doesn’t Boat US make their $$ by pulling people off sandbars, etc.????  Sure, folks, easy trip!  Grin

Departing closer to high tide, with more water under us, we will attempt to get to Atlantic City.  We’ll play there a day or more, depending upon the weather and our ability  make it to Cape May and across the Delaware Bay.
Coming into Atlantic City

8 hours  later -- We MADE it to Atlantic City. Only had to call BoatUS one time to pull us off a shoal!  True story -- how embarrassing.  In a very confusing part of the channel, where there are several channels, one inattentive moment and poor choice of the proper green and we were OUT of the channel, hard aground.  Took about 45 minutes to get to us and get us off, after much pulling!   No harm done, thank goodness we are back in sand and no longer in rock!  Remember, our last bump cost us about $3,000 in Lake Champlain to fix both props. 

Weather is coming in nasty nasty so we will play in the rain here in Atlantic City tomorrow with Bob & Chala, seeing the sights in our raingear.  We hope to be out by Friday with improving weather.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009
All fake storefronts!  Back of a casino...
Weather coming in, having today gone from small craft warnings to gale force winds.  Looking ugly.  We'll stay tied at this marina til it passes and hope to pull out Thursday, heading south to Cape May.  We washed the salt off the boat, giving her a fairly good scrub; put on our raingear and headed to check out the Atlantic City Boardwalk and casinos.
Bob, Sharon & Chala in Atlantic City

Sad place, kinda seedy and the folks walking around look as though they need to be saving their pennies, not throwing them away at a craps table or slot machine.  We all agreed it is very depressing to be here.

We found a slightly brighter spot by taking a cab to the other side of Atlantic City, off the boardwalk to Borgatas Casino - a much 'higher class' place, packed with people and upscale shops and restaurants.  We wandered around about 30 minutes, grabbed a lunch and decided we'd all had enough.

The saddest I saw was the woman sitting at a slot machine, wired to her oxygen tank on wheels, smoking a cigarette!!!  AND she was in the NO SMOKING section.  We decided she was suicidal - either to kill herself or let one of us non-smokers do it for her.
View from Finally Fun across to Atlantic City
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Still stuck, weather worse, but hopefully it will pass during the night and we can be outta here.  Howling wind and bouncing boat with things going bump in the night.  If weather permits, we're planning to pull out at 8 AM heading south toward Ocean City and then with a rising tide, go on all the way to Cape May, all along the ICW.  I hope these winds have not blown all the water out of the shallow bays and canals....or created a few more shoals.  Guess we will find out tomorrow the hard way.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Whoa!  What a night of storming! A good lesson on how the weather professionals cannot predict Mother Nature perfectly.  I was up almost all night, starting with a night owl attack, piddling around on the computer and what ever else caught my attention.  The wind and waves certainly DID!  The storm increased in fury and the boat was bouncing and slamming.  At 1:00 Andy was up and shortly thereafter, Chala crawled out of the forward cabin.
The USCG Station across from Finally Fun.  Waves blew over the roof there!
We all watched the lightening display and the huge waves crashing way way UP over the Coast Guard Station across from us.  The waves rolled into the inlet, massive looking rollers that 'waked' us continually.  I so wished I had tied the boat up differently but had no intention of going outside to change anything around.  We estimated the winds at about 50 mph and they clocked around just like a hurricane, with even a 'lull'.  We all went back to bed about 2:00 am, but Andy & I were back up at 5:00, watching the weather on the computer.  Tornado warnings had been added and the 'gale' extended during the night from ending at midnight  to ending at 2:00 to ending at 5:00 and finally an update with the storm ending at 9:00.

Finally Fun tied to the end of the dock

Baah, we hunkered down for yet another day stuck in Atlantic City, tied to a dock.
We spent our day watching 9-11 memorial services on the television and remembering where we were and what we were doing on that awful day.

Saturday, September 12, 2009
OUTTA HERE, Finally!  Much discussion again on whether to go 'outside' in the Atlantic or down the shallow ICW to Cape May.  My 'greenies' did NOT want to risk the ocean again and would rather spend their remaining days stuck on sandbars somewhere along the NJ ICW!  Okay, another call & discussion with Boat US regarding local information and any new more shallow spots.  With careful attention to when high tide would occur, we pulled out at 10 AM, heading south.  Bob, in charge of the chart navigation, hunkered down and watched our progress very carefully, plotting where we were at all times.  Lots of discussion from time to time and lots of searching for the next green or red and we made it safely without a single 'bump'  all day. Checking into Utich's Marina, we were so tired we did not walk into Cape May, but went as far as the local lobster restaurant where we celebrated our safe passage and toasted to a great 10 days aboard with Bob & Chala.  Tomorrow we'll be in MD and dropping them off outside their home, right on the C&D Canal.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Still with NO sunshine - now about six long days -- we pulled out of Cape May toward Chespeake City, home to Bob & Chala.  Uneventful trip with the sun finally peeking out mid-afternoon.  No room at the dock for us in Chesapeake City, so we kept with our original plan, dropping our anchor in front of their home.
Bob & Chala's house on the C&D Canal

A kind neighbor met us in his run-about, and lent it to Bob for the evening and next day so none of us would have to launch our dink or Bob's boat.  Many thanks!  After delivery pizza and salad at Bob's, Andy & I were back on the boat and asleep probably before 9:30.  Why are we so tired?  Boating, although very relaxing, is still hard work, requiring sharp attention at the wheel and with the charts.

Monday, September 14, 2009
Ah, Chala & I went grocery shopping and fresh produce is back on board!  We pulled the anchor before noon, heading to Mears Marina in Kent Narrows, our boat's home away from home.  This is where we purchased Finally Fun and spent many many months here getting her commissioned, repaired and re-repaired.  Repairs are yet again in order as are discussions with the broker as to many of the issues.  Ah, well......someone just FIX this #$#&*boat.