This post is from Walkabout's Log from October 8, 2016 to October 28. Annapolis, MD to Beaufort, ND. About halfway to Miami...
Today was rather unproductive, no boat work got done and I haven’t gone ashore because it’s pouring rain and tonight will be windy. I did, however, manage to write and post a blog entry. That job took most of the day, the wifi connection was intermittent and I had an unknown problem with Windows 10 that locked my computer in airplane mode for a while. For another unknown reason it started to work just as I was about to throw in the towel.
I had a good time yesterday though, the boat show in Annapolis was super, I got some things I needed and information for projects to come. Now I have another Cuba cruising guide with the latest information on the North Coast, very important, and a new Nautos line locker for the vang line. That will allow use of the winch for the staysail sheet after the vang is hardened up. I may screw it down on the cabin top before dark.
I walked into town this noon and met up with two friends Jeanne and I had met and traveled with on our first Bahama trip in 2010-11. Laura and Graeham Parkinson hail from the great white north near Ottawa and keep a boat on the Chesapeake. Jeanne discovered they would be in Annapolis this weekend and told me to get in touch which I was happy to do and thoroughly enjoyed the visit. We sat in the sun in front of Pusser’s Bar on the deck reminicing for three hours. That’s two reunions in a week.
On my walk back to the dinghy I stopped at Weems and Plath where they had a tent sale going and bought a new ship’s clock and a fancy hook for my oil lamp. Like any lady Walkabout needs accessories.
Unfortunaxtely……….. its one tninv axfter axnotner on tnis boat.
tne coputer keyboaxrd is not functioninv properly.. maxyb.e i caxn vet ax substitute
i spilled wniskey on it wnen ax boat went by
now i caxn’t write axnytninv sensible
but maxybe you caxn reaxd it axnywaxy
There is a special app that allows one to type like on a cellphone and, as you might expect, it’s slow.
But if I use tne keys tnis is tne result
I’ll bike around this morning searching for another keyboard.
(later) Thanks to the gentleman who runs Fawcett’s Marine Supply, who gave me an old keyboard of theirs, I’m now back in business. Otherwise I would have been faced with a long, long bike ride on busy streets to find a computer repair shop. Another example of kindness between boaters.
On my shorter than expected bike ride this morning I managed to buy a new circuit breaker, engine parts and breakfast. A productive morning. Now I’ll install the engine parts (two small switches) and walk back to the boat show in Annapolis to spend the afternoon. The circuit breaker can be an evening job.
Tomorrow the wind is supposed to die down a little, it’s been howling for two days out of the north and Chesapeake Bay has small craft warnings today because of waves. Maybe, if I feel conditions are good enough I’ll move south a little, to St. Michael’s or Solomon’s Island.
The circuit breaker for the refrigerator failed shortly after leaving Vermont. Substituting the adjacent breaker for the seldom used washdown pump kept the food cool but the labels on the panel didn’t match function – troubling but not critical – and Fawcett’s had a replacement. I fitted it in place this morning, and now all is well… The laptop has gradually been recovering from it’s keyboard immersion incident and all but one key is working correctly. To replace the thing would be costly not to mention difficult to do. And in the end I’d still be stuck with Windoz ten, a travesty of monumental proportions.
The weather, after hurricane Matthew passed far to the south of Annapolis, has become sunny and much cooler. It’s supposed to hold like this until Thursday when a front comes down with winds up to thirty knots. I would like to move and will try the Broad Creek area on the eastern shore near the town of St. Michaels that Laura and Graeham told me was well worth visiting. Judging from the charts the small inlets off the main river are deep enough for Walkabout and are sheltered from wind and waves. If I leave Annapolis tomorrow early there should be time to carefully find a spot.
Walkabout has been in Annapolis a week and it is time to move on. Today, after some chores I’ll will head a few miles south and over to the eastern shore to Broad Creek near the town of St. Michaels to find a suitable spot to anchor. Winds for tomorrow night are going to be strong from the north and, at least on the charts, the creeks look protected. We shall see.
The big sailboat show this past weekend in Annapolis was worth going to if only for a chance to see the newest products. I met and talked to the Nautos people, a Brazilian company new to the market that is enthusiastically selling well made, and competitive hardware. The large, established manufacturers, with flashy, overstaffed displays, might want to pay attention. To find a good deal, however, it’s best to wait until the last day of the show, vendors are willing to haggle a bit and sell something instead of packing it up.
It seems the average sailboat enthusiast today either wants a small fast boat or a huge catamaran. Prices for these toys are staggering, half a million is a good starting place. No wonder that the people I’ve met out cruising on a newer boat have sold their homes. I like the room on catamarans, similar to your own private island. Maintenance doubles and they can’t sail upwind but the space, inside and out, is spectacular. And cats always seem to have the most innovative names: “Catapult”, etc. There were lots of small sailboats at the show this year, racers and daysailers, trailerable boats that look easy to care for and fun to use. Hobie, the catamaran company had a pedal powered board, like a stand-up paddleboard, with a handle bar arrangement for steering and stair-climber pedals; you can fill your need for exercise and watersports both at the same time. The booths were giving away small advertising gimmicks, I’m stocked up now on beer can sweaters, pens, and floating key chains. The boat show business in Annapolis is an ongoing thing: The Fall powerboat show starts this weekend!
I visited the Chesapeake Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s today, it was well worth the time. I watched as museum volunteers hauled two huge logs out of the water on a marine rail lift. The logs are for boat timbers that they carve out for a reconstruction project on a bugeye fishing vessel. The museum covers acres and has a complete screwpile lighthouse, numerous boat building barns, a 700Hp steam engine, a water fowl hunting history display and enough other exhibits that I couldn’t see it all. I’m lame from all the walking.
Instead of staying another day in San Domingo Creek I went out early today into the Chesapeake for a forty mile motor sail to Solomon’s Island. Jeanne and I had anchored there twice before so I made it in before dark and anchored in quiet Mill Creek, out of the normal traffic, a good choice for a night of sleep.
Left Mill Creek at dawn after wiping off the dodger windows, the temperature had dropped to 48 degrees and the boat was heavy with dew. Cold sleeping even with two blankets but it’s supposed to warm up. As I was pulling the anchor, Sweet Chariot II went by on headed for their home port in Deltaville, VA and we waved goodbye once more. My destination today is the Indian River off Fleets Bay, about a fifty mile trip and it looks like a motoring day ahead.
Yesterday was a motorboat ride all day but I got into the Indian River just at sunset in time to watch the full moon rise over the houses next to shore. I anchored in Belle Cove, lined on one side by a row of new condominiums all alike. Around the rest of the cove are older, more traditional homes which match the setting far better. Such is progress I guess, but only three out of eight condos were occupied. The silence of the little pond was broken only by a dog barking and a deafening cigarette boat passing by on the river.
Today I had the longest day trip travelling on the Chesapeake, 54 miles to Portsmouth, VA just south of Norfolk. Tonight I am splurging a bit staying in a marina on a slip. The ride down this afternoon wasn’t thrilling by any means, the wind was on the nose most of the day and my speed varied between a frustrating four knots and a satisfying seven which can get you someplace. My concern was to get into the marina before dark, or before the staff went home because Walkabout doesn’t like to back up into a slip and I would need line handlers. But it was all good. Two marina guys helped me slide up to the narrow pier, tied me off and said “Goodnight, check-in in the morning”. I have a long list of things to do here in town, number two is to fix or replace my laptop after number one: a long hot shower.
Met a couple next to me on the boat Lady A. They are traveling from Maine to South Carolina out on the Atlantic all the way. They have a converted lobster boat, an extremely well built craft it looked like. They were gone this morning down the ICW and I didn’t get their names but if I see them again I’ll be more alert. On the other side is Philip who is traveling by himself, occasionally, on his sailboat Sounds Great. He is in no hurry, which is a very good idea.
Reports are coming in slowly with little specific detail about the condition of the Intracoastal Waterway other than there are higher than normal tides, up to three feet higher in places, and uprooted trees clogging the canal. I heard on the SSB radio this morning one cruiser saying he was in the Dismal Swamp Canal and might be able to move on in a couple days. The Coast Guard is working on it. Flooding from Hurricane Matthew is just cresting in North Carolina’s rivers and will subside in a week local weather says. All the more reason to find a place to hang out awhile.
This morning I took my bike and pedaled a dozen miles or so on High Street visiting two computer stores that were on my list to check out. The first was an Apple only place, couldn’t help, but the second store, much further away on the busy highway had a machine that I hope will do what I need. It was a fine day for a bike ride and was marred only once with a fall to the pavement. Lucky I crash well. Nothing hurt but my pride. And it was on the way out, not on the way back with the new computer in my backpack! I think I’ll have a sore right hand but it could have been worse.
I paid for two nights here at Tidewater Marina, I’ll move the boat tomorrow morning over to the town docks a couple blocks away for another day or two. The docks are free and there were only two sailboats there this afternoon. If they are full I’ll just continue south on the ICW to the nearest anchorage. I’ll be in the waterway until I’m down to Cape Fear then go offshore.
I made a short hop to Portsmouth’s North Landing ferry boat docks and tied up at the free pier. It was slack high tide so I didn’t need a hand with lines. According to the signs you can stay here for 36 hours, but I’ve seen boats stay here a week. It’s free but you get what you pay for, the ferry wakes will slam your boat into the pilings if the driver is going fast. Walkabout got a small scrape.
This evening I walked over to High Street to Baron’s Pub for a burger and a monster mug of Sweet Baby Jesus stout that one should sample at least once. That should hold me for a while.
After a quick bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee I was out on the Elizabeth River headed south again. Right off the bat I was dodging traffic, Navy workboats milling about in the middle of the river, a sailboat captain with tunnel vision sidled up a bit close before he saw me, and a monster of a vessel half a mile upstream listing badly and appearing not to be moving suddenly blew five loud blasts on its horn. Who, me? Another five warning blasts echoed off adjacent Navy ships and the big steel bridge I was going under. I headed for the only vacant spot and watched the obviously disabled cargo ship being pushed by a tug crawl on by. I got out of there as fast as my boat would go. Then came two drawbridges and a lock, the bridges each took a little time but the lock took over an hour and it only rises and falls three feet! In contrast, Will and I passed through locks on the Champlain Canal that have vertical lifts of twenty feet and we were in and out in only twenty minutes.
It was a good day though, went fifty miles motoring in a gentle wind and a nice, warm sun. I crossed Currituck Sound and by late afternoon got into the little town of Coinjock, NC and tied to Midway Marina’s dock for the night. Craig and Donna Lewis on Mighty Fine were there to help with my lines and later we had a small party on the porch. Hurricane Matthew did some damage in the area, the water is still very high flooding yards and roads in spots. Inland there is worse destruction, and I was told that some low-lying towns have to pump the water out, where to I can’t imagine. On the other hand, the extra water is great for us boaters traveling on the ICW as it means less danger of grounding (not to diminish the local folk’s problems). On the way I also waved to Lawrence of Elle and I whom I haven’t seen for a few years, he waved back but I don’t know if he knew me. Later I found they have mechanical problems and are waiting for repairs. Meeting people you’ve met cruising before is a pretty common occurance, the community is not very large.
For us who love wildlife I witnessed a rather disturbing thing. Close your eyes. Canada geese migrate through the great wetlands along our East Coast, the natural barrier protecting our shores, a nourishing littoral that feeds birds, animals of all kinds, and us. The geese seem to be everywhere, in the canal, people’s front yards, parking lots, flying overhead. It was just when a flock of a dozen geese, honking as they do, flew over my bow. One goose was leading and the late afternoon sun illuminated a long thread of monofilament fishing line streaming out behind it. The bird was distressed and landed in a pond alongside the canal. The whole flock followed it in and landed too. Well, I thought, what can I do? Not much, was the sad fact. Draw what you will from it but people kill a lot.
At first light this morning I was off, and got behind a tug and barge first thing and didn’t get to pass and be out of his wake for an hour. Just before the canal expands into Albemarle Sound the tug pulled aside and slowed so all the sailboats could get by. Albemarle is so large that one cannot see shoreline when in the middle, it’s like being at sea for a few minutes and then land becomes visible again. But that is the view from a sailboat’s deck not like that from a power cruiser’s helm high up over the water. We sailors live close to the surface. Sea level…
I motored all day as usual passing from the Albemarle through the infamous gap at Middle Ground, where channel markers were being repaired by the Coast Guard, into the Alligator River for fifteen miles. I stopped for the day at mile 102 where there is a slight expansion of eight foot deep water and a good anchoring spot and spent the night listening to military aircraft thundering in the distance.
What fog we had this morning, so thick you couldn’t see a hundred yards. I washed the boat’s plastic windows down with warm water so I could see and slowly followed three boats out of the anchorage. But the fog lowered and got so bad I stopped at the next wide spot and waited for an hour before going on into the Alligator-Pungo canal. Inside the canal, no problem. You can see both sides easily and shortly the sun came out with a southerly breeze and the day became very summerlike. Boat traffic increased, big yachts rumbled past me slowing down to pass. Politeness is rampant and I wish it were more so. The procedure to follow is, call the boat you’re passing, ask him to slow down, slow down yourself and pass. That way your wake won’t tip his boat over and dump everything inside it on the cabin floor. Or scald someone in the galley. Invariably we will have someone who, either because of ignorance or willfulness, will refuse to slow down when passing. I can handle it, Walkabout sure can too, but some others have a tough time recovering from a four foot wake.
I arrived at the Belhaven, NC harbor at two this afternoon and felt my way, with the help of Phil on Cyan, into the town docks at the far end of the harbor. The dock itself is well built but the slips leave something to be desired and no cleaning had been done for a long time so the dock is covered with guano. Coincidentally, Belhaven’s mayor walked out on the dock with a sidekick apologizing about the upkeep. No one came to clean it though. Once again, you get what you pay for. I don’t care, the wind is supposed to be in the thirty knot range tonight and tomorrow. I pedaled my bike a mile to the grocery store and later my new friend Phil and I will walk to town for supper and drinks with some other cruisers. Another couple, Amy and Bert on Sparrow came by in their dinghy earlier and I found that they are going to Cuba too. Perhaps a flotilla is forming.
Walkabout and Cyan were quietly swinging on their lines as their captains Phil and I soggily tramped back through the blowing rain and ankle deep tidewater after our visit to a tavern in town. The tavern owner felt sorry for us and lent us an umbrella and her husband drove us the half-mile to the dock. Nice folks in Belhaven. The wind and rain were short lived and I was settled in by ten. Something woke me at three in the morning, the boat had a different feel so I went up to the cockpit and checked the depth sounder – it read 0.3Ft. That’s four inches under the keel and she was bouncing off the bottom. I was afraid of that happening and lay awake in bed until daylight cursing my choice. In the early hours, half awake, the worst always seems inevitable but at eight o’clock the depth had risen to 0.9Ft and since I had tied up the day before at 1400 with 2.4Ft of water under me I hoped it would get deeper by noon. So I hiked around in the morning doing little errands and talked to one shopkeeper about the bay – he fished out there – and learned that the wind has more of an effect on the water level than the tide. That tidbit made me determined to get the boat out of her slip because the wind was blowing from the North at fifteen knots and probably would for days to come. Phil was on his boat when I got back and helped me with my lines as trusty Walkabout, who must have known the danger she was in, backed straight out of her slip for once into the wind and waves and we carefully moved out into much deeper water and dropped anchor.
Tomorrow we are off to the marina at River Dunes.
My well set Rocna anchor came off the bottom in Belhaven Harbor with a struggle, which was a good thing considering the wind blew over twenty knots all Saturday afternoon and night. We left with six other boats all heading South, sails up motors running, down the Pungo River through the Pungo canal and out into the mighty Neuse River. Waves were running two to three feet in the Pungo but had calmed down by noon. As we entered the Neuse I noticed what appeared to be two boats beside each other far ahead of me. As I got closer I saw a blue flashing light on one and realized the Coast Guard was just leaving a sailboat and mine was next in line. Sure enough, in a few minutes the cutter was coming up fast on my port side and a sailor on its bow was shouting that they were coming aboard for an inspection. Two Coast Guardsmen then jumped on board my boat armed with guns and clipboards and settled themselves down in the cockpit. I had never had an inspection, or been boarded in my home country before so this was a new experience. The fellows were courteous asking for my papers: Driver’s license, documentation, where my fire extinguishers were and if I had a lifejacket. All this while I was trying to steer the boat and stay in the narrow channel. One officer, I think his name was Jim, took the wheel while I went below to get what they asked for and was a little reluctant to give it up when I got back. Jim said he had never steered a sailboat. I passed the inspection and the officers hopped back on their cutter after giving me a copy to show if another USCG boat wants to board us. I’ll keep it handy.
I continued without incident and pulled into River Dunes at 1400, a quick 39 mile run. After fueling up and pumping out the marina crew found me a slip for the next two nights.
This is a day for computer work, the nasty little devils have taken over our lives.
The keyboard on my old laptop is toast but the plugin keyboard works. The combination is cumbersome to carry around but I’ll have to do it until my new machine has the apps I use installed and files transferred. The internet connection here seems adequate, I’ll get some of the tasks done.
I downloaded the diary app I use for this journal and chose the professional evaluation edition, I’ve used their free version for a long time and thought that maybe the pro version would be worth buying. But, when I enabled it the darn thing has a graphic plopped right on top of it’s workspace. How can it be evaluated? Such genius. So it’s back to my original program for a month when the new app reverts to free status, unless the ad stays then I’ll have to dump it.
I left River Dunes this morning driving out into the Neuse River and a stiff North wind which was raising waves up to three feet. Good thing I was going South, it turned into an eight mile sail, jib only, hitting six knots at times. Then we turned down Adams Creek for the long motor to Beaufort, NC arriving at 1300 and dropping anchor in Taylor Creek just off Carrot Island. The island is part of the Rachel Carson Marine Sanctuary and in addition to it being an important place in the study of marine life it also is home to a herd of wild horses which can be seen from time to time at waters edge. They were there today. Pretty Beaufort is on the other side of the creek with shops and restaurants strung out from one end to the other. It’s laid-back, seasonal; a quiet refuge to wait a day or two in. I’ll stay a couple days before continuing South.
This morning I tramped around with the Mighty Fines and the Mar-A-Lagos to the used boat stuff store and then went by myself over to the North Carolina Maritime Museum to spend a couple hours. The museum is a good one concentrating on local boat building, the oyster fishery and the pirate Blackbeard, whose vessel Queen Anne’s Revenge was discovered just offshore and has been the object of archaeological recovery for the past ten years. There were cannon, coins and all types of relics displayed making it quite interesting.
A young, fifteen year old, sperm whale was beached nearby some years ago and local amateurs with the help of some professional people (cetologists?) buried the animal and four years later exhumed it, treated and then reassembled the skeleton which now hangs overhead in the museum. There is no good reason not to visit because it’s free.
Everyone except me left this morning headed to their next destination. I didn’t feel much like traveling, instead I went out for breakfast at a local bubba restaurant and stuffed myself and then went back to the boater’s consignment shop and bought a fishing rod. It’s my birthday, maybe I’ll fish some. My friends and I went to the Mexican restaurant on Front Street last night where we had a good supper and then they sang happy birthday for me, wasn’t that nice? Little things like that seem special when you’re by yourself for any length of time – self imposed or not.
Tomorrow I’ll get going again and try to get closer to the other Beaufort down in South Carolina where it should be possible to go offshore again.