Wednesday, July 19, 2017

6/23 to 7/14 Heading South to Home

I got very lazy about posting to the blog.  My apologies.  We had a few bad days of internet and then I got behind.  We met so many wonderful people and had some unique experiences.  I feel like an ambassador for the Great Loop.  We met so many people who were thinking about doing it.

6/22 It was starting to get hot, not just warm, hot!  We cruised up the York River to Crown Point Marina.  A nice family sort of marina with a boat yard, two pools, grills, and laundry.  We had a couple of relaxing days there.  I grilled some extra sausages and got a few loads of laundry done, while cooling off in either of the pools.  Here we met the first of the couples who were dreaming about the Great Loop.  Our last night there, the sky was filled with spectacular rainbows that were so bright they reflected in the water.

6/25 We finished our tour of the Chesapeake and headed to Norfolk.  Once again we could see huge Navy vessels on our way in and out of Norfolk.  The support of the city of Norfolk for the military is impressive.  Things to do in Norfolk-1) Get my hair done-I had liked the way the stylist did it when we were heading north and got an appointment with her and was happy with the results again 2) Attend a bayou festival that was on the waterfront-Met a nice couple who had an extra free drink coupon. 3) Go to Guy Fieri's Smoke House-It was fun to look at all the pictures of the famous folks on the wall.  The food was good but I was expecting amazing.
4) USS Wisconsin and Nauticus-we didn't do them this time, but those are terrific take ins.

6/27 Prime Rib Time!  The best part of transiting the Virginia Cut is passing Coinjock, NC.  So first on our agenda for being back in NC was to dock at the Coinjock Marina and get reservations at the Coinjock Restaurant.  I ordered the Mate's Cut.  The Mate's Cut is 16 ounces of the best prime rib you will ever had.  The Admiral's cut is 32 ounces!  As it arrived on the table, I immediately cut a huge piece off to save for lunches on the boat.  Umm so good.

6/28 Albemarle Loop- Two summers ago, we cruised the Albemarle to Columbia in Tyrrell County and Manteo for the lost colony play.  This time we cruised up the Albemarle Sound to see Edenton and Albemarle Plantation.  I said cruised but really we just dodged crab pots.  There are so many crab pots placed helter skelter, even in the channel, that it took some of the fun out of cruising.
On the Albemarle Loop, each stop allows two nights free dockage.  There can be small charges for electricity but you can't beat the prices.

Edenton, NC was our first stop.  The lighthouse guards the entrance to the marina. 
Edenton had been the colonial capital of NC.  After the Boston Tea Party, the women of the town got together and boycotted tea, sending a statement to the King.  The teapot became the symbol of the town.

The  town can be walked easily but we also took the bus tour.  The Supreme Court of NC still holds court in the Old Courthouse once a year, although it is mostly used as a venue for weddings and other functions. 
The Cupola House has extensive gardens with ornamental gardens in the front and a very large kitchen garden in the back.
All the buildings have been maintained and restored.  Our boat looked large in this marina, so wherever we went when I told people we came by boat, they would say they had seen it in marina.  The entire town it seems walks the main street and the marina everyday.

Our next stop was Albemarle Plantation.  This is a huge planned community with a marina, golf course, club house, casual eatery, and huge pool that overlooks the sound.  They were having a big weekend when we were there.  A golf tournament was going on and they were having a big anniversary, early 4th of July celebration.  Besides enjoying the pool, I enjoyed the decorated golf cart parade.  What a hoot that was.  One golf cart was towing a pirate ship with a young pirate aboard.  Another golf cart was decorated as a boat and had Uncle Sam waterskiing behind it on some type of rollers.  That night they offered an extensive firework display.  John did very well getting pictures of them.

7/2 Heading back to the southeast, we dodged a few more crab pots to the mouth of the Alligator River.  The Alligator River Marina has changed hands but we were met by the same dock hand who has been so nice to us in the past.  Two different couples approached us to ask about doing the loop and our Mainship.   One couple even came on board for a tour of the boat.  They don't own their boat yet, but are in the planning stages.  The other couple had a smaller boat but took our boat card and looked at the blog to begin their forward looking plans.   It is fun to meet folks who are so excited about the loop.  I hope they will let us know when they head off on their journeys.  An evening thunderstorms passed through and left this rainbow for us to ponder the beauty of the world.
One of the best parts of the Alligator River Marina is that part of it is a gas station with a grill.  The next morning, we made sure we got their homemade biscuit sandwiches to take along for the ride. 

7/3 We travelled down the Alligator Pungo Canal.  It is one of the last connecting sections of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and it was built VERY straight.  It is a good time to use Auto Pilot and smell the NC pine forests.
We stopped at Dowry Creek, one of our favorite stops.  We met some folks taking their new to them boat from FL to the Chesapeake.  We also met the folks aboard Rascals Retreat, who were the tail end of the loopers heading north because straight line winds had torn out their canvas and the metal frame of the flybridge.  As it turns out, on 7/5 when they were cruising to Coinjock, the fellow had a heart attack.  The story of all who helped them, included the owners of Coinjock sending a boat out with someone to climb aboard to help his wife dock was inspiring.  Thankfully, he was helicoptered to Norfolk where he had a successful bypass and is recuperating now.

7/4 We headed up the Neuse River just past Oriental to River Dunes Marina.  On the way there, we passed R E Mayo Seafood and were glad they were open on the holiday.  Everyone was pulling into the docks there for the wonderful seafood.  We stocked up on frozen scallops and some shrimp.  They were having a July 4th celebration at noon with hamburgers and all the fixings but we were a little early for lunch.  They are such nice people there.   We had been to River Dunes two years ago and loved it.  I particularly love the cabanas by the pool.  The cabanas have fans and curtains to keep out the sun.  The River Dunes community is very nice.  I joined in the water aerobics on two days.  At the pool side bar, we got to taste frozen "adult" freezepops, made with things like Not Your Fathers Root Beer.  They are hand made in containers that you can get at Walmart to make your own freezepops.  Another good idea.  They have a courtesy car and we made two trips into Oriental for dinner.  Oriental is known as the sailing capital of NC and definitely has way more boats than people.  While I was doing laundry, I met a man and his son who were doing their laundry too.  He told of going off-shore tuna fishing the day before.  They went to the same fishing grounds that were on the television show, Wicked Tuna Southern edition.  His laundry finished and I was waiting by the pool for mine.  The man and his son returned to the pool to swim with a HUGE piece of fresh caught vacuum packed tuna.  Wow.  After our 4 day respite at River Dunes, we were ready to head on.

7/8 Heading inland on the Neuse, we aimed for the Grand Mariner Marina in New Bern, NC.  We passed several sailing races from huge sailboats to little optimist boats along the way.  After Edenton, New Bern was the colonial capital of NC.  The downtown is very quaint with lots of good places to eat and shop.  Tryon Palace is a replica of the colonial governor's mansion and has been faithfully rebuilt. 
We took the trolley tour which included a tour of Cedar Grove Cemetery where many of their founding fathers and mothers are buried.  John and I will be buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Boston so this was interesting.
New Bern is the home of Pepsi Cola and we visited the site of the pharmacy where it was invented. We liked this sign at the Beer Army about Bruce Wayne and knew our son-in-law would find it funny. 
The Beer Army is known for its hamburgers.  I can honestly say it was the best, juiciest, medium rare burger, I have had.   Like so many small towns they had a fabulous hardware store where I found exactly what I was looking for to use with my white hoses on the boat.  I liked this fountain in the courtyard between the two main streets.
  New Bern was named for a city in Switzerland.  Bern means bear and the town is filled with decorated bears.  This one is sponsored by a company that uses phosphorus.  It is a periodic table bear.

7/11 The Neuse River is the longest river in NC and at the mouth of the river is the widest in US at just over 6 miles.  We headed east again and met back up with the ICW heading south to Beaufort, NC.  Out on the Neuse, we saw several military transports. 
We love Beaufort.  It is a real great boat town and we have been several times for July 4th with our neighbors from the Tides.  We had heard that Homer Smith Marina was doing a lot for transients and some of our friends had loved it there, so we decided to give it a try.  Homer Smith is also a shrimping business.  I have never seen so many shrimp.  Shrimp are brought in on the shrimp boats and processed right there.  Then 18 wheelers back up and fill with the shrimp to be sent to restaurants and groceries.  When we checked in, the owner gave me over 2 pounds of fresh shrimp.  Some I cooked immediately and the rest I froze quickly for future meals.  The temperature was very hot, so the next morning we put the dinghy into the water and dinghied around to the front of town.  This is across from Carrot Island, which is part of the Rachel Carson Marine Estuarian System too.  Feral horses also live on Carrot Island.  You can see them in the background of this picture.
It was a very nice dinghy ride and helped keep us cool.  For lunch, we pulled into the town dinghy dock and had lunch and an ice cream.  Of course, I did a little window shopping too.  For dinner our last night, we went to the Sanitary Restaurant just over the bridge in Morehead City.  It is long established large family run seafood restaurant.  You had to appreciate the sign on the wall, that had obviously been there for many years.   It made me smile.

7/13 This cruising day takes us down the ICW past Camp Lejeune.  But as we were leaving past Morehead City, we heard on the radio the Coast Guard was doing exercises.  As the morning progressed, we heard more radio chatter from Navy Warship 7 telling boats to stay away.  I think if Warship 7 had radioed us to stay away I would have fainted.  I couldn't even see them but found it intimidating.  Then we could hear booms even though we were on the ICW and these exercises were out in the ocean.  Just north of Camp Lejeune, we started to see military jets.  They came in close and it felt like they would land on the flybridge.  I know they don't look so close in these pictures but they were.  And they were loud.

Just after we went through the Onslow Beach Swing Bridge, the bridge tender announced that the ICW was going to be closed to transit by the military for several hours. 

Normally, we stop to anchor at Mile Hammock Bay at the south end of Camp Lejeune.  It was so hot, we decided to seek refuge at the Topsail Island Marina in Surf City where we could plug in and run the air conditioning.  The marina is right on the main street of Surf City.  It was a happening place and gearing up for the weekend.  We walked to dinner and after dinner,  I walked for an ice cream.  A good last night before heading home.

7/14 We knew that we were close to home when we could see the local fauna.  This giraffe lives just north of the Figure Eight Island bridge.
In no time at all we cruised past The Tides and headed to Snows Cut and Joyner Marina to our home dock there.

7/19 I am finally finishing this segment of the blog.  We heard about using Reflectix behind our outside curtains in the front of the boat.  We have bought it and installed it and it seems to make a big difference.  The house bathroom remodel started again on Monday and is almost done.  We have a list of chores for home and boat to keep us busy for quite a bit.  Lastly, we can prepare for our three grandchildren to spend two weeks with us.   I am looking forward to that.  The blog will resume with our next adventure.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

6/19-6/22 To Chincoteague and Cape Charles by car

6/19 The winds were still keeping the Chesapeake very choppy.  We rented a car for the next few days.  First, we did a large provisioning trip to Walmart.  We got heavy items like Gatorade, etc.

6/20 We headed to Chincoteague, VA.  On the way we passed NASA Wallops.  Christine has to go there periiodically.  But the big draw of Chincoteague is Misty, the pony.  Two herds of feral ponies live out on Asseteague Island.  The caretakers of the herd keep the herd to about 150 ponies.  Each July, the herd is rounded up.  Each pony is given a physical.  Only the ones strong enough are guided to swim to Chincoteague where they are sold at auction.  The book, Misty of Chincoteague, was written in the late 1940's about the pony, Misty, and the family who bought her, the Beebe's.  There was a movie but I don't remember it.  I do remember the book though.  The story of Misty was one of my favorites.  My mother kept the book and my children read it too.  In the 1960's when Misty died, she was preserved.  Today, she is in the Chincoteague Museum.  John got this picture of me and the story of Misty. 

We took a bus tour about the history and development of the island.  It was interesting to see how much everyone cares for the ponies.

We drove out to Asseteague Island which is now a nature preserve and National Park.  I used my National Park senior pass and the entrance was free.  We drove around the trails but we only say the herds way in the distance.  While walking out on one of the viewing areas, I did see this bunny though. 
We stay on bays and rivers so much, it was nice to see the open ocean there. 

6/21 We had planned to visit Cape Charles by boat but the winds and waves were not cooperating.  So we drove south on the Delmarva to Cape Charles.  This quaint little town is at the end of the Delmarva.  It is a sandy shore on the Chesapeake.  At the beach is this LOVE sculpture and sculpture of Poseidon.

The town water tower is decorated as a lighthouse.
We strolled the shops.  John was fascinated in the old hardware store.  They sold everything.  Yes, they had all the regular tools, etc.  They had huge pots to cook your crabs, a full sized skeleton, swimming and beach toys, brass knuckles, lawn products, and thermometers.  We bought a thermometer.  It was hard to get John to leave.  After a really good lunch at the Shanty Restaurant in Cape Charles, we headed north and turned in the rental car. 

The best lesson of the day came from the Enterprise driver, who drove us back to the marina.  He told us that most people worked for either the Tyson or Purdue plants, both of which are huge.  He used to work there and explained the process from bringing the chickens until the chicken breasts, wings, etc. leave frozen from the plant.  The process is very manual and physically demanding. 

For dinner, we ate at Mallards, which is on the Onancock Marina Wharf.  We knew they had Smith Island Cake there.  Smith Island Cakes are made on Smith Island and sold around the area.  They are very dense multilayer cakes that were made for the watermen to take on the water with them.  The cakes are very flavorful.  Last night, they had a lime cake.  We were able to polish it off.  Yum.

6/22 We saw a weather window and sadly left Onancock.  The Chesapeake was choppy for the first few hours but finally calmed down as we headed for the York River.  The weather is hot and humid.  The next few days promise some winds and lots of rain.  We will hole up here before heading back to Norfolk.  We are in no rush.  The Great Bridge, south of Norfolk, was hit by lightning over a week ago.  A piece had to be flown in.  It is only opening twice a day and causing back ups in both directions.  So we will take our time heading south.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

6/15-6/18 To Solomons, Onancock and Tangier Island

6/15 We headed back down the Choptank and across the bay back to Solomons, MD.  We docked at Calverts Marina again after fueling up.  For all loopers, we have sad news to report.  The iconic, well worn Mercedes is no more.  As it turns out, we were one of the last to drive it.  It was a diesel with a glow plug.  The odometer showed over 222,000 miles but the odometer had been broken for some time.  Someone, not me, drove it over the speed hump at high speed and after that the Mercedes would only go in reverse.  As of our visit, they had purchased another old Mercedes.  This one is gasoline powered.  It was in the shop so we didn't get to drive it. 

In the afternoon, I explored the Calvert Marina property.  Calvert Marina is on the former Naval Amphibian Training Base from WWII.  At the point on the end of the property is this statue in tribute to Naval Watchmen.  There was a wonderful warm breeze and I laid out my beach towel and read under the trees. 

6/16 We headed south and back across the bay to Onancock, VA.  We had visited there last year on our loop and had enjoyed this little town so much, we planned to go back.  It was a beautiful cruising day.  The water was so flat on the bay that we could see crabs swimming along on the top of the water.  We also saw many fish splashing and some rays.  This is a beautiful sculpture on the waterfront in Onancock.

We felt welcomed back to this little artsy town.  On Saturday morning, I walked up to the farmers market.  I came back to the boat with homemade bagels and fermented sauerkraut with caraway seeds.   I love unusual items at these local markets.

Leaving from just 7 dock spaces down from us was the Tangier Island Ferry.  We opted to take the ferry out to visit Tangier Island.  Tangier Island is an island in the Chesapeake Bay.  It is a watermen community with about 500 year round residents.
The island was part of the travels of John Smith in the 1600's.  Almost everyone on the island is involved in crabbing or oystering.  The island is very low lying and has been eroding since the 1800's.  The island has a school for grades K-12 and this past year had 70 students.  The residents mostly use golf carts and bicycles to get around the island.  It has one grocery store, that has one brand of everything you can think you need.  For instance, they had Suave shampoo and conditioner.  The ferries bring special items from the mainland and our ferry captain brought a big cake for a celebration from the bakery in Onancock. 

As you approach Tangier Island, there are crab shanties surrounding the harbor.  Each watermen has a shanty where they keep their boat, crab traps, and crabs who will become soft shell crabs.  These shanties are very scenic.  In some of the pictures below, you can see that they have electricity and phone lines running out to the shanties.

Summer tourism supplements the crabbing industry.  Several ferries run from Maryland and Virginia shuttling mostly day tourists to the island; although there are two bed and breakfasts to accommodate overnight guests.  As we disembarked, there were several women waiting with elongated golf carts to take us on a 15 minute tour of the island.  It is a small island.  The one church and the school are the center of the activities for the islanders.  The shops and restaurants were being run by the women on the island and the men were on the water.  There was a group of teachers involving the children at the church with activities, like a parachute game.  Electricity and phone lines come underground to the island and some have satellite TV.  It seems that everyone works very hard but everyone we met seemed very content. 

We visited one of the restaurants for lunch.  I had a soft shell crab sandwich.  The crab was so fresh, I felt like it must have been caught just a few hours before.  It really was tasty. 
After lunch, we walked up to the ice cream store for dessert.  The small museum was very detailed.  It outlined the history of the island and the erosion.  It showed pictures of the island during Hurricane Sandy with all of the streets flooded.  There was a very good film about the people of the island and how they live as watermen.  It was a fine take in.   

I enjoyed this view from the marsh of the church steeple over the homes.
Here was a set of birdhouses that depicted the town. 
The afternoon thunderstorms threatened but the ferry picked us up just in time.  Fortunately, the rain had hit Onancock before we arrived back there.

Last year, Jay Davenport one of the Onancock Transient Hosts took us to church on Sunday.  We called him again and he had remembered us and followed our blog while we looped.   He was so nice to pick us up again this year and take us to Mass.  After Mass, he joined us for lunch at Janet's, a great breakfast and lunch spot in town.  Jay shared his sailing trips around the Chesapeake.  He was right when he said it was like spending time with an old friend.  What a nice man!

On the dock today, there was this unusual butterfly. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

6/9-6/14 Up the Choptank, St. Michaels and Georgetown

6/9 We cruised out of Rock Hall back into the Chesapeake and down to the Choptank River.  As one heads into the Choptaank, there is a lighthouse that is their own leaning tower of Pisa.  In 1977, it was tilted due the ice and snow that year, and remains tilted to this day.
We had been told of an excellent anchorage on the north side of the Choptank, San Domingo Creek.  It is called the back door to St. Michaels.  From this pleasant anchorage, it is only a short dinghy ride to a free town dock, where the locals put in their kayaks, and paddle boards, and a few watermen keep their boats.  After we dropped the anchor, we took the dinghy to investigate and plan the next day.  After dinner, the full moon hung over the anchorage.  We knew we had made a good choice.

St. Michaels is known as a very upscale town and is well known for the Chesapeake Maritime Museum.  So Saturday 6/10, we dinghied in to begin exploring.  We hadn't gone far up the street from the dock, when I saw two homes with a beautiful connecting garden.  The sign on the gate beckoned me to enter.
There were paths around the houses with nooks and crannies filled with flowers, greens, and items that added to the enjoyment.
A sign towards the street said one word, "calm".  An engraved piece of granite offered the observation, "One never crosses a canyon in two small leaps". 

We hadn't gone 100 yards and I was already in love with St. Michaels.  We meandered up Taylor St. which was lined with unique shops and eateries.  A farmers market was being held.  John thought the Amish lemonade was terrific.  I bought fresh radishes that I enjoyed the next several days.

The Maritime Museum was the best of all the ones that I have toured.  In addition to being a museum, it is a working boatyard where they are restoring examples of all sorts of boats that have worked the Chesapeake.  A former screwpile lighthouse was moved to the site for display when it was going to be dismantled.  I thought it was neat that a troop of Girl Scouts were able to sleep in the lighthouse the night before.
The view from the top of the lighthouse was neat.  In one direction, one could see all the boats entering the channel.  Saturdays are busy in St. Michaels.
Looking in other directions, one could see the docks and the boats that were being worked on. 

The exhibits included being able to catch crab.  I learned about a crab catching technique I have seen here many times now, a trot line.  The watermen drop long lines, usually a mile or two long, to the bottom.  On the line, they have periodically tied in chicken necks and cow lips.  Once they complete putting out the line, they go back and forth collecting the crab.  There were buildings that used to belong to the Navy that are now part of the museum.
On the porch of one is this huge figurehead that was removed from a Navy ship because it was so heavy.

We strolled back to the dinghy but not before stopping at Awful Arthurs for some lobster mac 'n cheese.  It was even better than it looked.  The waitress told me their secret. They use lobster bisque to make the cheese sauce instead of milk.  Oh, yum!
We stopped at a Village Grocer and got wonderful sandwiches for supper.  The sunset that night was spectacular too.  Sleeping on the hook is always so restful.

Sunday morning we headed up to church.  The sun was strong and it had gotten really hot.  The google map directions took us along a short cut using the St. Michaels Nature and Art Trail.  There was this heron piece, Seeking Refuge.
This piece entitled Fisher King was made from recycled steel. 
The church was very nice, welcoming and air conditioned.  After church, we were walking towards town.  A lovely couple stopped.  They had seen us at church and would be happy to give us a ride uptown.  We welcomed their kindness and were thankful for them.  We ate a late lunch uptown and headed back to the boat.

The forecast for the next few days actually said, "VERY HOT".  We were headed to Georgetown, Maryland further up the Choptank River.  John did some research and found the Hyatt Golf and River Marsh Marina.  On our way up the Choptank, we saw this very famous boat, Redhead.  It is owned by Jeffery Seigel, who founded and just sold Active Captain.  We called on the radio and congratulated him on the sale.

We arrived at River Marsh Marina.  The floating docks are very nice and wide.  The staff were terrific.  We are living the life of the rich and famous.  The Hyatt has 3 pools, a hot tub, mini golf, lifesize chess, in room service delivers to the pool and so much more.  Our favorite pool was the adult infinity pool.   Look at the view across the Choptank River!!  John found an infinity monster in the pool too.

We sat under umbrellas to stay out of the sun.  I managed to get 4 loads of laundry too.  I had crab bisque for dinner last night that was chock full of crab.  Tomorrow, we will be leaving but have had a great three days here.  We liked it so much that we sent the information to AGLCA for them to consider having a rendezvous here.