Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Great Dismal Swamp to Charleston, SC

Wendy and I have always loved the east coast and now being able to see it from the water as we traveled down the ICW was incredible.  Much of the waterway through upper NC is not very developed so we loved the remote areas and the natural life.  We began to enjoy being out at anchor instead of in marinas, even though I worried at each new sound to make sure that all systems were good with Forever Exploring.   We soon got into a pretty good routine of traveling each day, and tried to balance some stops along the way with our mission of getting South.  

Elizabeth City, NC - Great shrimp dinner at Quality Seafood and we bought fresh shrimp f or another meal.

Dowery Creek Marina, Belhaven, NC - Restocked with groceries, got a run in and ran the heat, yay!  We planned to stay the next day for their Thanksgiving pot luck dinner, but decided to move along and after a day's travel, we anchored and celebrated Thanksgiving at sunset with Larceny bourbon on the flybridge... perfect.

Carolina Beach, NC - We planned to stop at Wrightsville Beach, but the on-coming yacht traffic made us nervous to make the left turn at the draw bridge, so we kept straight!  Carolina Beach was great and we picked up our first mooring ball.  We had read quite about how to pick up a mooring ball, but with zero wind, it was uneventful.  Then we lowered the dingy for the first time by ourselves, having our scoot around transportation was exciting and it took us to breakfast out the next morning.

Charleston, SC - Approaching Charleston, we ran aground just north of the Sullivan's Island Bridge.  Actually, a dredge was working the area and I got confused on which side of his yellow buoy to go on.  The rising tide assured us only about 15 minutes of embarrassment, and soon we were off... another first!   It was great to see my nephew Lex and his girlfriend Sara who joined us in Charleston for lunch.  
Two days at anchor across the Ashley River for the Charleston City Marina provided for a trip to the grocery store and lunch with Lex and Sara.

We got pretty good at setting the anchor, hand signals and all.  The previous owners had made a good harness to spread that load of the anchor chain to the front hawse pipes.

We love our waterfront view, and we looked forward to the incredible sunsets each day.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Cape may, NJ to the ICW

When our training captain Carol left us in Cape May and flew back to Newport, we suddenly realized that we were on our own.  Excited but nervous.  For two days after she left, the wind blew hard out of the west, so it was a good excuse to stay put in Uscht's Marina.  The weather was breaking on Nov. 15th, so we departed Cape May to travel up the Delaware Bay to the C & D Canal and Chesapeake City.  Passing several cool lights along the channel, we made 65 miles our first day on our own.  Not bad, and we anchored by ourselves, only moving once since we were too close to the Coast Guard dock.

Although the weather was generally holding quite well, our goal was to get to Norfolk and inside the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to enjoy it's protected waters.  Then we felt like we could slow down some and not be so hurried.  It was chilly, but we did not want to get hit with real winter storms.  We kept pushing south.  The next day was Annapolis for a quick walk downtown.  Jayme's sister Jessica and her boyfriend DJ drove down from DC for dinner on the boat.  Our first dinner guests!  Luckily for me, Wendy says that only one person can fit in the galley to do dishes.  But I kind of like bumping into each other and I did dry.

Still on a mission to push South, the next day we made anchor at Solomons, VA, then the next morning on to Deltaville, VA for an adventurous docking at the Deltaville Boatyard.  I re-learned to never, ever approach downwind if you can help it.  We had the yard look at a couple of mechanical issues, primarily our not cold refrigerator.  On the 21st, we went through Norfolk fascinated by all of the water based industry and the Navy yard.  We wanted to see cool naval ships but not deal with them in the channel.  Feeling a bit proud for making it to the ICW and a somewhat relieved that we could slow down some and enjoy the trip south, we headed to Top Rack Marina and it's cheap diesel.  I was not used to these large tanks, we hold 750 gallons of diesel.  Finally, after taking on 350 gallons, I stopped short of filling the tanks.  We had made it to the beginning of the Dismal Swamp and the ICW.  With a day of very cold rain in the Dismal Swamp and frozen lines the next morning, we were glad to be chasing warmer latitudes.

Soon, we got into a nice daily rhythm traveling down the ICW.

We had some chilly but beautiful days the Chesapeake.

The Norfolk yards were very cool.  Our first views of huge ships up close.

Our first night on the ICW just south of Norfolk at the beginning of the Dismal Swamp Canal.
The Dismal Swamp Canal was hand dug and opened in 1805 to connect the Chesapeake Bay to Albemarle Sound.  It's 22 miles and George Washington was one of the original investors.  We went through on a chilly, rainy day to the free dock at the welcome center.

Our first lock was exciting. 

The lock operator Robert is a hoot.  He provides great guidance for new boaters through the lock, blows conch horns and makes a yogurt parfait for each traveler.  He also had plenty of good advice for us new boaters.  As we later learned, other lock operators are boring compared to him.  He is a true example of how go make a job fun.

Getting our well deserved parfait at Robert's hut, and he had some really good heat.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Newport, RI to Cape May, NJ

These posts are our attempt to backup and update the blog.

We finally left Newport, RI at 1:00 November 8, 2015 and headed South to find warmer and safer weather for traveling, especially since we are new boaters.  Because we departed Portsmouth in the afternoon, the plan was to only go three hours and anchor at Point Judith just outside Narragansett Bay, so this was a good trail run to check out all the systems.  Inside the breakwater at Judith Point, with plenty of coaching from our training captain Carol Vernon, we dropped the hook.  Our first night on the boat and everything was so new.  And of course, we each were secretly wondering... will we love this as much as we think we will?

Our concern for approaching winter weather encouraged us South as quickly as possible, so we were underway the next morning at 6:05 in the dark, the beginning of our first full day, 10.5 hours to Milford, CT.  The same schedule the next morning allowed us to time the tidal currents through the East River and NYC.  Even though it was rainy, passing through New York City on our own boat was spectacular.  Coming out of NY harbor was pretty lumpy for us new boaters and our cat Mooney did not like it one bit, but soon we anchored at Sandy Hook, NJ.  Our third night at anchor brought 25 MPH wind that made it difficult to sleep as the boat bounced.  Carol truly seemed not to notice so Wendy and I pretended to be brave.

Our goal was to make it to Cape May, NJ with guidance from Carol, and after the washing machine anchorage at Sandy Hook and studying the improving weather forecast, we left at 6:50 for the 14.5 hour day.  Around midday, we completely lost steering off the coast of NJ.  Of course Wendy and I were about to panic, but Carol calmly says lets look.  In the lazarette, the steering arm had completely come off of the post.  I reattached it, tightened as best I could and we were underway again.  It was good to have a hiccup off the coast to learn that you just deal with it.  About 9:30 we entered Cape May harbor and anchored.  Another good learning experience was to navigate and identify traffic at night.  The next day we checked another item off the new boater list, using the boom and hoist to lower the tender to the water.  After a couple of trips around the boat, back up it went.  Then over to Utsch's Marina to test me for only my second time docking the boat in a slip.  No damage, whew!

We had made it to Cape May, so we celebrated by dinner out with Carol realizing that she was leaving and then we were on our own.  Wendy and I were excited, but panicked at the same time.
Yes, we were pretty excited to boat through NYC!  How cool is that...  except for the big barges and ferries that completely expect you to stay out of their way. 

The messy, rainy day could not dampen our spirits of being in NY harbor.

Our first time bringing the dingy down from the boat deck and a ride.  Cape May, NJ
Not quite the professional line handler yet, but it's coming.  She likes her lines coiled up just right.