Chesapeake Appeal

We initially had some trepidation about Chesapeake Bay as it has a reputation for rapid changes in weather and travel conditions. But, for a little over a week it was kind to us and ’tis Grand. Under mostly fair skies and smooth water we traveled back and forth stopping and exploring some of the scenic, historic and unique towns that line its shores.

First stop was Yorktown, which I covered in the previous post.  Next came Deltaville where we took 2 days of respite from the crowds and noisy beach scene at Yorktown. It’s a well-kept family-owned marina with nice  amenities, including a beautiful herb garden for boaters’ use, friendly boaters all around us and lots of great birds to watch.

Next stop was Tangier Island ( less than 400 acres), located in the middle of the Bay, inhabitated by watermen and their families who have made their living harvesting crab, oysters and fish over the past 250+ years.  It seems to be a tightly-knit working-class community proud of its heritage, but struggling in many ways, especially economically and because of rising seas. Many of the weather-beaten homes and fish/crab shanties lining the waterways that criss-cross the island are slowly being abandoned or put up for sale.  Incoming tidewater is clearly visible under many of  the homes and the Combined School (K-12) was raised 8 ft in 2008 to preserve the building which is still in use. Small cemeteries and individual gravesites occupy much of the remaining “high” ground (including residential front and back yards), as residents try to keep their deceased loved ones above water.  Some sources say the island will have to be abandoned by 2050. We are glad we had an opportunity to visit this unique place.

Thousands of stacked crab pots – our nemesis at times!
Main street in Tangier…residents use golf carts, motorcycles and ATVs to get around to

Next was Solomons MD, a small but vibrant community on Back Creek on the western shore of the Bay. Our assigned slip and the marina grounds were shaded by lovely, huge pines and hardwoods reminiscent of northern WI.  Then north to Annapolis, home of the US Naval Academy and the sailing mecca of Chesapeake Bay. It’s an interesting, walkable city where we spent 2 days seeing the sights and stopping at bakeries, breweries, ice cream shops and restaurants along the way (not necessarily in that order). The brick-lined streets near the Statehouse and over to Prince George St and the Academy were very cool! The entire city waterfront is literally lined with marinas and boats (mostly sailing vessels) and the Bay is dotted with dozens of white sails on evenings and weekends. 

After dodging a vast field of sailboats on Saturday morning, our last full day on the Bay was spent crossing to Rock Hall on the western shore. We explored this small community on foot after arrival and enjoyed a serene sunset over the water at dusk. Sunday we headed north and exited Chesapeake Bay by entering the C&D Canal, which took us to Delaware Bay, known for its wicked currents and choppy, sometimes dangerous waters.  But.. we traversed the 61 miles south under fair conditions and landed in Cape May NJ on the Atlantic coast. Who knew it was filled with  Victorian homes!   Up the NJ coastline is next and then on to NYC and the Hudson!

Sunset at Swan Creek (Rock Hall)

Cruising to MM 0 and Beyond

Oriental, the sailing capital of NC, was our next stop after Beaufort. A great small town with a pleasant waterfront park for watching sailboats on the bay, a friendly local brewery and one of the best marine provisioning stores we’ve seen anywhere, regardless of the surly clerk! Plus, Blackbeard, the pirate shrimp boat was docked just a few yards away.

Then on to several more small marinas leading north to Abermarle Sound. Our decision to traverse the Great Dismal Swamp (GDS) enroute to Norfolk/Portsmouth VA (MM 0 and the end of the Atlantic ICW), meant we had a slightly shorter crossing of the Sound. But we still got rolled around pretty hard over the 16 miles to Elizabeth City. There was some slam-banging down below as we drove the boat from the upper helm. It was too rough to immediately investigate, but we later found that the microwave had flown off a shelf and hit the floor! Could’ve been worse. It was a relief to tie up at the free docks (no electric or water) in Elizabeth City, have lunch and visit the Abermarle Sound Museum before heading on to a small marina a little farther upriver to “plug in the AC” and get an early start to the lock where we would enter the GDS in the morning. In addition to the history and early inhabitants on the Sound, we learned about the important role that several blimps, housed in a hangar just south of Elizabeth City, had in reducing human and boat casualties along the Carolina coastline from German U-boats in WWII.

Elizabeth City Blimp Hangar, 20 stories tall and 1000 Ft wide, one of the few remaining in the US from WWII
Sunset from Belhaven Marina north of Oriental

Started at daylight to make 15 miles to South Mills Lock as it only opens 4X daily. We initially hesitated to go through the GDS because of a recent explosion of duckweed, an aquatic plant that can clog the water intake that cools your boat engine and cause engine overheating. But it was a windy day and previous communication with the lock master and GDS staff said it seemed to be thinning and blowing off to the sides. Indeed it was! We traveled through a few long patches, but most of it was hugging the sides. It was a peaceful relaxing day with no other boats around. Stopped for a walk and exhibits at the Visitor Center and made it to the Deep Creek lock at the north end of the Swamp with plenty of time to travel the last 10 miles to the bustling harbor and shipyards in Norfolk/Portsmouth by late afternoon. What a transition!

Early morning start to the lock
Peaceful, cypress and cedar swamp
Just this for 22 miles…with lots of bird song and dozens of ospreys too!
Then this 5 miles north of the lock!
Multiple cranes for off-loading cargo ships
Aircraft carrier in the Naval shipyards

After 2 days of exploring both Portsmouth and Norfolk on foot with the aid of a very cool free ferry that crosses the river every 15 minutes, we started our journey up Chesapeake Bay. First stop Yorktown. Lots of history and a neat 3-masted schooner across the dock, but also lots of tourists and summer heat. So north we went the following day to the Deltaville Marina, a wonderful stop with an on-site oyster bar and crab hush puppies that are heavenly. Stayed 2 nights due to high winds on the Bay, but hope to head out to Tangier Island in the middle of the Bay tomorrow. We’ll be up early watching the weather. And hoping to spot more species of jellyfish, which are abundant in the Chesapeake!

Jellies next to tis Grand in Yorktown
Zeke made some friends in Portsmouth
Gorgeous life-size glass art in a Norfolk gallery
Zeke asking to go back to the boat so he can rest in the AC-cooled bdrm

The Journey North (and our blog) Begins Again

After 10 weeks off for a family emergency, we’ve continued our travels north on the Atlantic ICW.  We are well behind our fellow Loopers and there are advantages and disadvantages to that.  We miss their company and occasional docktail sessions, but there is little competition for limited slips. There was also the huge problem of mid-summer heat and humidity limiting our sleep but we remedied that a few days ago by buying and installing a “window AC unit” in our aft bdrm hatch. Best boating decision of 2022 so far!!

Leaving Jacksonville where the boat spent 10 weeks at the Ortega River Marina was a welcome change, but the dock master Paul, crew member Clay and other boat buddies will be long remembered for their kindnesses and kinship. North of JAX, we began entering the salt marshes of coastal GA and SC. They were beautiful and endless (and best of all, free of new housing developments)! Loved the town/marina at Brunswick Landing, the fresh shrimp at Sunbury Crab Co., And the history and beautiful waterfront in Beaufort SC (say B-you-fert) where we spent 4 days.

Salt marsh views
At anchor on July 4th in our own serene spot on Steamboat Creek.

We had our own quiet 4th at anchor and then headed into Charleston for several days. It’s a great city, but our chosen marina wasn’t really pedestrian or dog friendly and we were docked among several “mega yachts” – more than 125′ in length. Nevertheless, we put on lots of miles walking the downtown and nearby residential areas. We moved on to tiny Maclellanville with its huge shrimp boat fleet, historic, picturesque Georgetown SC, passed quickly through the over-developed Myrtle Beach area, and on into North Carolina.

Charleston post-4th festivities
Part of the McClellanville shrimp fleet
Storm clouds brewing in Georgetown SC
Zeke admiring the tranquil scene and watching squirrels play in the live oak tree.
Moonrise in Southport NC

We and Zeke are enjoying the mix of cedars, cypress, and salt marshes along the ICW and are now seeing more sandy beaches. Carolina Beach, where we hooked onto our first mooring ball for the night and dinghied to shore several times, even allowed dogs on the beach! We are now in Beaufort NC (say Bo-fert), another very walkable town with a historic waterfront and wonderful homes with huge porches.

Early morning at Carolina Beach

From here in Beaufort (at Mile Marker 203 along the Atlantic ICW) we’ll have a few more beautiful NC stops and then we’ll be making a major decision to either travel through the Dismal Swamp to reach Norfolk VA or take the traditional ICW route to that destination at Mile Marker 0. After Norfolk, we’ll be plotting our own route north through Chesapeake Bay for awhile. It should be beautiful, but it can also be tricky due to weather conditions that can run the gamut from wind, rain, fog, to sunny skies in a matter of hours. More adventure awaits!

Turning North on the AICW

We crossed the Okochobee Waterway and started our journey north on the Atlantic ICW last Tuesday (4/5), leaving behind locks for awhile and numerous smoky fires from burning off the sugar cane fields prior to harvest. (It’s an ag practice that’s been discontinued nearly everywhere in the world due to its ill health and pollution effects, but still occurs in the Florida glades.

One of many polluting fires from burning off sugar cane fields

Our first of many marina stops to come on the Atlantic ICW was Ft Pierce at Mile Marker 965. MM 0 is at Norfolk VA, so we will be counting down the miles as we head north over the next few months.

On Thursday we raced an incoming thunderstorm as we docked at the Titusville Marina just 4 miles from Cape Canaveral where the SpaceX Axiom rocket would launch Friday morning. Though not fans of the “billionaires race to space”, seeing a manned rocket launch from that proximity was pretty cool!

One of Titusville’s Many Space-related Stops
View of SpaceX manned launch from the Titusville Marina

Friday was a “free” day as we traveled only 26 miles after the launch to New Smyrna Beach. We intended to anchor out but the blustery winds 15-18 mph made us nervous…fortunately the city’s “free dock” in the downtown area was wide open. A sign indicated a 5 hr limit but a city employee told us we could overnight if we left in the morning. It was a great, safe spot in front of their civic center with easy on/off access for Zeke and much appreciated!

New Smyrna Beach North City Dock

We planned to arrive in St. Augustine on Sunday (4/10) and stay a few days at the Municipal Marina after traveling for 7 days in a row, much of it in strong winds. The marina is located on the waterfront in the old historic part of the city and we learned that a traditional Palm Sunday ceremony “the Blessing of the Fleet” was occurring at the marina from 12-3pm.

We planned to arrive in time to watch the procession of boats being individually blessed and sprinkled with holy water by the local bishop as they passed by an elevated stand on the dock. the last boat passed us, we decided to join the line and be “blessed” also. We hope it helps to keep us and ’tis Grand safe and seaworthy as we continue our journey!

BTW, St Augustine is a great city to explore on foot and by bike, so much history here!

The Blessing of the Fleet by the Bishop – note the ladies in Spanish colonial garb too
Small boat approaching the dock for a blessing
The historical Bridge of Lions
One of the two lions fronting the bridge
Loop boats ’tis Grand from Ashland and Superior Passage from Duluth (in forefront)
Exploring St Augustine with friends who visited from Gainesville

On the Move in ’22- leaving the Gulf

We are on the move after a 3-month hiatus to spend some time in Cable reconnecting with family and friends, XC skiing and snowshoeing.  ’tis Grand got a new coat of anti-fouling bottom paint while resting in the shade, on the hard.

Safe Cove boat storage in Port Charlotte FL

After being relaunched and prepared for travel, we took her on a 71-mile “shake-down” cruise to Ft. Meyers.  That wasn’t the original intent or plan, but several upcoming days of 20-25mph winds convinced us to get inside and up the Caloosahatchee River ahead of schedule! Flexibility is always the name of the game!  Zeke weathered his first day back on the water well.  He was calm and collected all day until we entered the marina at dusk when his excitement for going ashore gave way to lots of barking. He definitely loves his marina stays…. He’s just not too pleased with the 88 degree temps!

Too hot!!

Tomorrow we head east upriver toward Lake Okochobee.  There will be locks and bridges to contend with as we make our way to the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway, as well as lots of alligators, pelicans and muddy shoals.  We will try to keep Zeke safe and mud-free!