Saturday, May 31, 2008

Georgetown to Chesapeake City

Yesterday we left Georgetown and had an easy, flat ride of about 3 hours up the Chesapeake Bay to where we are now--Chesapeake City, Md. Several interesting things have crossed our minds as we have made our way north. First, the water has turned from brown to green. Second, we haven't seen any pelicans since Portsmouth, Va, but the ospreys are still everywhere--making their nests on every channel marker we pass. Third, both Louis and I need haircuts--although Louis is saying he's going to grow a ponytail. Yeah, right.

Chesapeake City is located at the mouth of the C & D Canal which links the Chesapeake Bay with the Delaware Bay. The canal is heavily traveled, has very fast currents, and is the only linkage for these two bodies of water. Yesterday, we saw a humongous transport ship in the canal (traveling towards Baltimore) with 6, 500 imported cars in it, and just barely making clearance under the very tall bridge. We are in the small Chesapeake Anchorage Marina, right on the waterfront, and "Marti" is taking good care of us. This small town has got to be my favorite to date! But we're told it wasn't cute, fun, and safe 25 years ago.

Mrs. Richard C. DuPont (Allaire) was at one time the richest woman in Maryland. She lived very close to the waterfront on a large horse farm. This is huge horse country, raising some of the most famous thoroughbreds in racing history. Mrs. DuPont was ashamed of the way the waterfront had become--rough, rowdy, unclean, and unsafe. She had a vision of what she wanted it to be--she wanted to turn it back into the community it once was. So she formed a committee and, using her money, bought up the houses and storefronts, and cleaned up the waterfront. The whole process took about 10 years to complete, and now it is this charming town full of quaint little shops, good restaurants, and a great "tiki" bar right on the water--with nightly live music. In fact, if your boat is tied up to their dock, the waitresses come out to the boat, take your order, and then bring it back to you. How great is that?! Just like being at El's Drive-In in Morehead City! We love it.

Today is cloudy and a storm is approaching--so we have stayed put for the day. Tomorrow we hope to go through the 15 mile-long C & D Canal and then on to Cape May, NJ. This will be a long day for us, about 60 miles = 8 hours, as there are no towns or marinas of significance once we get into the Delaware Bay.

We would love to hear your comments about our blog/trip so far. Please feel free to leave us a message at the end of this posting. Just click on "comments". Thanks!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rock Hall to Georgetown

Tuesday, May 27th, we left our friends, the Lovettes, and Annapolis for a short run (16 miles) over to the "other side"--the Eastern Shore--to the small town of Rock Hall. We had hoped for a pretty day and an easy ride, and we got both--outrunning a thunderstorm in Annapolis.

Rock Hall is a small and pretty fishing and crabbing town. The town got its' name long ago from local fishermen. Upon returning to port, the rockfish fishermen would hear, "You've made a good rock haul!" The name stuck. Also, a fishing boat came in beside us laden with these strange looking empty traps--I've never seen anything like them before. Turns out, they were eel traps--and the fisherman said they had had a good season. Great--one of my favorite sushi dishes is eel! The season is over now, and they were unloading the traps from the boat--hundreds of them. With such a pretty setting, we just stayed near the boat the rest of the afternoon and relaxed--and watched the sunset off the bow--so pretty.

Wednesday morning, we got the bikes off the flybridge and took off for town. We were able to peek inside The Waterman's Museum, a small one room schoolhouse type building that told the history and hard work of the town's founders. A lot of the shops were closed (it being Wednesday), but we were able to find a cute little sandwich/coffee shop and sat outside and had lunch. The local Methodist church was right across the street, and at 12 noon sharp, the chiming began--and after that, we were treated to 3 good old songs. We thought it was really special--we were the only ones outside enjoying the music! After lunch, we went to the local grocery store, loaded the bikes down, and headed back to the boat.

Not long after getting back to the boat, we got a wonderful surprise. A friends of friends story. Seeing our blue hull, our North Carolina flag, our AGLCA burgee, plus the bicycles and orange balls, they realized we must be the "Loopers" Rosabel Gherini had told them about! They had done the Loop 3 years ago, and knew what to look for. Robbin and Roger Seal, from Punta Gorda, Florida, are spending the summer up on the Chesapeake at her great uncle Doug Price's dock. They invited us over to their boat, "Sea Robbin", for cocktails and dinner--and we had a wonderful evening with our new friends. We both have so much in common--they have 2 grown and married daughters and 4 grandchildren-- two of the grand girls are even named Katie & Taylor--same ages too! I'm sure we exhausted them with still-many-more questions about our journey. We have wanted to join MTOA--Motor Trawler Owners of America--and Roger provided the opportunity for us to join. We can't wait for our new burgee to arrive! Thanks to Robbin, Roger, Doug, and Rosabel for making this fabulous evening possible!!!

Today is Thursday May 29th. We left this morning for just a short ride (4 hours) still up the "east side" to Georgetown on the Sassafrass River, where Louis has hunted geese for 12 years. We will eat tonight at the Kitty Knight House (one of Louis's favorite places!) and head tomorrow for Chesapeake City--the top of the Chesapeake Bay and the beginning of the C & D Canal.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Solomons to Annapolis

We did not leave Solomons on Saturday as planned--it was just too nice weather wise and we didn't want to travel. We both wanted to bike again to Solomon's Pier--just one more time--for their crab and corn chowder! I asked for their recipe, but was told it was a secret--I guess I'll just have to write Gourmet Magazine and ask them to get it for us!

So early Sunday, May25th, we left for Annapolis, deciding to skip Deale. The Chesapeake was not rough, and we had an easy trip here. On the way up here, we went by Thomas Point Lighthouse, and got a picture for our son-in-law, Thomas! It was a beautiful day to be on the water, and all the sailboats here give credence as to why this is such a sailing mecca.

We arrived in Annapolis around noon, took the Bella Luna for a quick loop around the harbor--like all the other boaters. It was so crowded--you would have thought it was the 4th of July! I beleive everyone who had a boat anywhere near here was out on the water and in the harbor--either tied up or cruising. We are now in the Chesapeake Harbor Marina (by choice!), just south of Spa Creek and all the hubbub/traffic of the harbor.

It's now Monday, Memorial Day. Our friends, the Leveretts, on "Southern Comfort", have left for Baltimore where they will be flying to Texas on Wednesday for their granddaughter's high school graduation. After a morning here in the marina of doing odds & ends and wash, we took off for a trolley tour of Annapolis--what fun! We have been here before, both by boat and for a bus convention, but this was our first trolley ride--and it was so informative. We learned about the Naval Academy--established in 1845--and which just this past Friday graduated 1,027 midshipmen. They now have 5 years of service to our country for their 4 years of college education.

After the trolley ride was over, we went--guess where??--for ice cream! After a nice treat, we walked just a block over to the Naval Academy in hopes we could see inside the huge, domed chapel. It was closed, but we were able to peek through the doors on three sides to get a view--awesome! Inside the tall, iron-fenced compound all the gardens and grounds were truly beautiful and spotless. It was especially meaningful being at the Academy this particular graduation/Memorial Day weekend--all the officer's big white homes were draped in flags. By mistake and because we were in a hurry to catch the shuttle to town, I left our camera on board! It really made me sick too--we'll just have to come back. Love those dress whites!

So far, "Buddy" is the only one of us to go swimming in the Chesapeake--and he was one happy dog too!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Solomons, Maryland

Thursday, May 22nd, we arrived about 2pm in the town of Solomons, Md. We had left Deltaville, Va early in the morning, and sure enough, right at 11am the winds picked up and we started rocking & rolling again! This time, however, we only had a short ride in rough water.

We officially have been on the "Loop" now for 10 days, and we are already in our third state! Pretty weather has certainly been in our favor, and we woke up this morning to another cool and beautiful day. It looks like this Memorial Day weekend will be perfect. TYJ!

We've been traveling with two other boats: "Sunshine", with Muriel & Bud Lovett (Mooresville, NC) and their 33 year-old daughter Shelly (and Jack Russell, "Carley"), and "Southern Comfort", with Peggy and Guy Leverett (Apollo Beach, Fl). We are all three here in Spring Cove Marina in Solomons. The marina is the largest we've stayed in so far--with sprawling trees, pretty landscaping, plenty of showers & laundry facilities, and a great ship's store, we are having a great time. The refrigerator went out yesterday on "Sunshine", so for a while there, we all were scrambling for coolers--but all is taken care of now, and they will get it fixed Tuesday morning when we get to Annapolis. That's why it's nice to have other boats to travel with--we all realize that any kind of problem could be us too! We're waiting also for another boat, "Segue", with Doris and Wayne Prichard (Knoxville, Tn) to get to Solomons. We're hoping they will catch back up with us later today.

Hopefully around noon, we'll get our bikes off the boat (our first!) and go exploring the town of Solomons. With lots of good restaurants and cute shops, we ought to have a fun day.

Tomorrow, Saturday, we'll head north some more. Weather and slip/anchorage availabilty, we'll either stop somewhere around Deale or go on up to Annapolis, where we plan to stop for a few days. Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Our First Night At Anchor

Wednesday, May 21, we decided not to try and get all the way to Solomons, Maryland. The winds have been fierce here on the Chesapeake every day, and they seem to really kick up at noon. So the 3 of us boats left Deltaville early Wednesday morning and got as far as Reedville, Virginia. When we pulled into their harbor in anticipation of anchoring out, we saw the largest osprey nest we've ever seen--about 4 feet wide by 5 feet tall! With a little head (a "peep" as we call them) just sticking out of the nest, I thought, "What a special welcoming sight!" And indeed it was, because all around us were these large nests--either with peeps in them, or the adult birds were building them. Ospreys were everywhere we looked, and they didn't seem to mind that we were invading their peaceful little spot.

Once we got the anchor set (our first!), we launched the dinghy (our first!), loaded Buddy dog (his first!), and off we went to explore the town. But first Louis had to see if our dinghy would outrun the other two boats' dinghies that we've been traveling along with. Of course his did!

Reedville was, at one time, the third largest menhaden fish processing plant in the world. Now it is still processing, but at a limited pace. It is a pretty, quiet, peaceful little coastal town. All the yards along the main street have beautiful gardens, and all the dogs just roam free. There is a nice museum focusing on the fishing/menhaden industry too. We stopped--first things first--at the local ice cream shop, also the local gossip corner. Homemade amaretto almond--yum!

After riding around some more in the dinghy, we rode back to our boat, dropped off the dog, and headed back over to town for dinner. The Crazy Crab--overlooking the water--has probably some of the best crab cakes we've ever had. We love the Chesapeake! We had a delightful evening--all 7 of us.

After a wonderful, peaceful night at anchor, we awoke to a fantastic Bella Luna still in the early morning sky. What a perfect way to end our first night "on the hook"! We're off to Solomons, Maryland today. We've decided that these 45-50 miles a day are just right!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Rough Chesapeake

Monday, May 19th, we were underway from Portsmouth by 7:30am. We passed by all the huge ship harbors, both military and private. There were many police and Coast Guard boats --several with machine guns on their bows--guarding all the entries into the various harbors, a glaring and somber reminder of the impact that 9-11 has had on all of us, especially boaters. Newport News Shipbuilders--the largest non military ship building company in the US--where my brother Jay works--employs over 20,000 people. It is an awesome, sprawling property covering over 57 blocks in Newport News and the company is in the process right now of building 2 air-craft carriers and 1 submarine. Huge--just imagine!

We began our journey up the west shore of the Chesapeake with 2-3 foot seas. Not bad for the Bella Luna. But once we got out into more open water, the seas went to 3-5. A very rough ride!! "Buddy" was inside the cabin holding on for dear life when our dining table fell over--poor thing, he must have been really scared then. The wind was "side-to", which made the boat roll "big-time" from port to starboard most of the trip--not an easy ride. But all 3 boats made it safely here into Deltaville--Dozier's Marina. After all of us got 2 good hits from the moonshine jar, our nerves were steadied and we were ready to get the heavy salt spray off our boats.

We're all tired from the beating we took yesterday and Dozier's Marina is a great spot to stay put for a couple of days. They have wonderful guest facilities, a courtesy car, a pretty pool (although it's still a little early for the bathing suits!), and a nice Captain's Lounge. Easy Wi-Fi too. As it is not a pretty day to travel (rain), we plan to use their car today, see a little of the area and get groceries. The guys will probably go to West Marine--a boater's best friend.

Wednesday, we hope to travel up to Solomons, Va. We're hoping to get pictures put into this blogspot very soon. Geni, HELP!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Dismal Swamp

As you can see from the postings, we have been out of wireless connections for the past 3 days. I hope this is not going to be the way the whole trip goes! But we're here in Newport News at my brother's house right now, doing wash, having a delicious lunch (thanks Nancy!), and letting me post our last three days' blogs. Now, I will finish catching up from yesterday to today.

Friday, May 16th, we left Elizabeth City early in the morning and waved "goodbye" to Joe--our favorite bridge tender--who was on duty. We traveled the Pasquatank River 20 miles up to our first-ever lock--the South Mills Lock. There we secured the Bella Luna to the side of the lock, wrote the name of the boat & the date & the direction we're traveling on the wall, and proceeded to rise 8 feet. I was nervous, but our transit was a piece of cake! Then we were in The Dismal Swamp.

The Dismal Swamp is a canal, approximately 20 miles long, built by slaves in the late 1700's. It takes you from North Carolina into Virginia and Highway #17 parallels it almost the whole way. The water is a dark coffee brown color preserved by the tannic acids from the bark of the trees growing in the water--and it is very narrow. We saw several turtles sunning on logs, beautiful banks with trees overhanging the water, and the smell of fresh blooming honeysuckle was just delicious! I'm told we were experiencing the canal at its' best.

However, we were told at that first lock that all boat traffic on the canal was halted at the Visitor's Center because a car had run off the road and into the canal and a boat had struck the submerged car. What a mess! So, all 9 of us boats rafted up at the Welcome Center for a couple of hours, and just waited it out. Fortunately, no one was injured, and repairs to the damaged boat should only take a few days.

At the end of the canal, we had to lock through again. This time, we would go down 8 feet at the Great Bridge Lock. Robert, the lock master, is quite the host. If you get there for the first lock of the day, he brings coffee and danish out to the boats. And then for the rest of us later on in the day, he gives his conch horn a good blow, tells us to hold tight to our lines because we are going down! What a hoot! He has quite a collection of conch shells from all over the world--boaters bring him one when they can--evidently he's quite famous! We'll know next time.

After the second lock, we traveled 20 miles up the Elizabeth River to Portsmouth, Virginia. Again, we got to the marina later than we had anticipated (because of the car/boat mishap), and were tired to say the least. But brother Jay was there with outstretched arms to catch our lines and help us tie up. We're in a pretty marina now --Tidewater Yacht Marina--for three nights, where we plan to rest, catch up on laundry, clean the boat, and visit with family. We have lots of pictures, but we've left the camera on the boat--so, we'll add them later.

We've met other "Loopers" at every stop, and boy, are they all great people! We're sharing and gathering good information. And "Buddy" the dog is doing great on the boat, but he really does enjoy his off boat times. He's also making friends. So for now, all's well. We plan to pull out Monday morning and head towards Deltaville. Fair winds, please blow!

Crossing the Albemarle

Thursday May 15th--another great morning to travel--lucky us! We got underway around 7am, going up the ICW to the Alligator River (saw no alligators though!), and entered the Albemarle Sound. What had been a calm ride so far suddenly became rough and choppy. There were so many crab pots all over the sound that we had to be very attentive as not to catch one--that would have messed the props up terribly! So we arrived in Elizabeth City more tired than we wanted to be. But that was soon to change.

Dave Thomas (not of Wendy's fame!) came to the Municipal Dock to help us tie off and said The Rose Buddies would be having a cocktail party under their new tent at 5pm. We had been to Elizabeth City before, so we knew what they were--and we were glad they were still keeping the tradition going. Many years ago, a group of men decided that "boat" people need special attention--so they formed a group called The Rose Buddies--to welcome all traveling boaters with wine and cheese and lots of local information--every afternoon! Plus, every woman onboard would receive a rose--hence the name. We met a wonderful Rose Buddy named Joe--who is also an Elizabeth City bridge tender--and he spent lots of special time with us telling us all the local color. He even wound up taking me to the grocery store. Thanks Joe!

A Glorious Beginning

At 6:30 am, Wednesday May 14, we cast off our last line to officially begin our journey. It was a perfect morning--clear, cool, and calm. We were so glad we had waited for the weather to turn! We made a stop for fuel with another boat at the docks in Morehead City, and saw our friend Sam--who came to wave us off--thanks for turning around Sam!

We traveled through Adams Creek where we saw two pods of dolphins and several blue/grey herons--my favorite birds! Passing Jarret Bay Boatworks, we were amazed at how much it has grown. They have several old "Trumpies" there on the hard, and they are still so pretty--even though they are in great disrepair!

From the Neuse River, we went up the Pamlico, past Jones Island Hunt Club, where Louis used to be a member, to Belhaven, where we spent the night at The Dowery Creek Marina--a very nice place to overnight. Upon arriving, it was no time before someone on the docks came by to tell us of a "cocktail party" at 5pm. Since it was the first night of our journey, we took two bottles of champagne (thanks Joan & Page, Meri & John!), and all there toasted us--truly special!

The only sad part of the day was when we learned of the sudden death of our friend, "WW" Weaver. We will miss him terribly, especially breakfast time at the White Swan! God speed.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Waiting Out The Storms

We almost named our boat "Knot in a Hurry", but we figured when we approached a bridge or a lock the person in charge would take us literally! How true that name really is though because cruising is not being in a hurry--you always have to be flexible--because the weather dictates your pleasurable traveling. With the recent storms and gale force winds blowing through our area, we thought it prudent to just stay put. Our extra time here has allowed Louis to add a small chest freezer to our flybridge and fix our "day bath" head sink, which chose to spring a leak two days ago. We still have our car here at the marina, which has made it nice for us to go daily to Wal-Mart, restaurants and such. We will take our car to the cottage when we're sure we're leaving. Surely it must be soon!

Our boat here in the marina can be seen from the street. Our original plans were to leave earlier in the week, so when friends drive by and see the boat, they pull into the marina and ask why we haven't departed. We've had a lot of "good-bys", followed by more of the same. It's really been comical. But it looks as if the weather will be calming Tuesday afternoon and onto Wednesday, so we'll plan to FINALLY/maybe? cast off then. Also, we are waiting for our friends on-board "Sunshine" to get here from Wilmington. Friends from another boat, "Segue", will return from a Duke graduation Monday and they should be ready to leave Tuesday/Wednesday as well.

To all the "Mothers" who are reading this today, we hope yours is a happy one! We went with the Brewers (thanks Pud & Betsy!) to Tony's for a delicious Sunday lunch. Yum Yum.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Our First Night

With limited energy, but with lots of enthusiasm, we moved the rest of our belongings onto the Bella Luna yesterday--and spent our "First Night" here in our slip of the past 7 months--the Coral Bay Marina, Morehead City, NC. We went to bed not knowing where any of our things were, bags and crates were everywhere, but after a full day today of unpacking and storing, it looks like we really might be able to "cast off" this Friday, May 9th for our real journey to begin! We feel it's important to spend a few nights here in the marina getting to know our "floating condominium" of the next year--where we have the convienience of our own car, know stores and shops, and know people who can "fix" things. And we just might think of something more that we REALLY might need to put on the boat! We hate to leave this wonderful marina--our "security blanket" is here in this spot--but both Louis and I are anxious to begin our Loop. Our AGLCA burgee is flying on the bow now, ropes and red balls and fenders are also hanging on the bow, and bicycles are on the flybridge. We feel we look like the Clampetts!! But Friday, hopefully, Belhaven here we come!