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!


We are in a great marina in Sarasota FL celebrating Thanksgiving 2021.  Our assigned parking spot is in amongst the “Big Girls”. 

Marina Jacks, Sarasota FL
More Big Girls as the day wore on…

Over the past 3+ weeks we have traveled into and across portions of the Gulf of Mexico and along the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway to quite a few ports, including Panama City, Pensacola, Apalachicola, Crystal River, Tarpon Springs, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota, and several others. It has been a wonderful journey filled with playful dolphins, Blue Angels, manatees, yummy seafood of all varieties, interesting walks and the occasional company of good friends.

Herds (pods) of dolphins all day long…
Panama City Public beach
Pensacola  downtown
Into the abyss… 86 miles from Carabelle to Steinhatchee. Chop gradually turned to glass about 20 from the finish.  That made it easier to dodge the mine fields of crab pots!
Sunset from Roy’s in Steinhatchee
Scallops, crab, grouper plate – Steinhatchee
St Pete’s skyline from our boat in the marina
Street art St Pete’s

And we are thankful for all of it it ….pleasures-both big and small, our family,  friends (new and old), our health, our boat’s great running condition and all the workers everywhere who supply goods, services and knowledge to make our life and everyone’s life possible and better.

Eating our T-day dinner of pork chops, mashed potatoes, cranberries and salad on the upper helm as the sun sets

We are winding down this leg of our journey soon.  We’ll check out Venice this coming Saturday, then head to Cayo Costa (a FL state park accessible only by boat) to anchor out for 2 nites and then on to Ft. Meyers to visit with family and friends for 3 days.  Within a few days after that, ’tis Grand will be hauled out and stored under cover on the hard until we return next spring.  A new coat of bottom paint to repel the barnacles will be applied before she’s launched for the 2022 run up the Atlantic coast.  We are looking forward to seeing family and friends back in WI by mid-December.  Zeke is dreaming of running free in Cable Woods and leaving his leash behind on the boat for several months!