Sunday, Solomons to St. Michaels MD

May 31st, 2009 john

Day: 225  Miles: 56   Total Miles: 2614  

Woke up at 4:00 and turned on the boat weather service and it did not look so great.  The forecast was for winds with gust up to 20 knots, 1-3 foot waves and then I could see a thunderstorm heading our way on the screen.  I decided to delay our departed for a couple of hours and let the thunderstorm pass through before we ventured out.

By 7:45 the storm had passed through and the rain was starting to stop,  Off go the lines and out we go back down the river into the Chesapeake.  Today we were heading for St Michael’s which is across the Bay and North.  At first it was a little rough, but not as bad as the previous day and then it calmed right down.  We had a wonderful cruise right up the middle of the Bay.  We have friends who live in this area and a couple of them had been corresponding with us and were planning on meeting us.

We wound our way into the St Michael’s harbor and there they were sitting on the edge of the doc waving small American flags.  It was Bob, a fraternity brother of mine from my college days, Marybeth, his wife (also from our college days) and his sister Marie, who happens to own a DeFever 49 just like mine.  It was really great to see friendly faces.As we were having drinks and swapping stories, we get another knock on the hull and it is another very good friend of ours from New Hampshire.  They just happened to be visiting a relative about an hour away and came over to say hello.  We had a great time celebrating together, swapping stories and looking at old pictures from our “way back’ times.

 

We all got to go out and have a nice dinner, then back to the boat for some last minute goodbyes.  After everyone left, Barbara and I shared a few memories.  Old fiends are the best.

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Saturday, Deltaville To Solomons MD

May 30th, 2009 john

Day: 124  Miles: 65    Total Miles: 2558  

We woke up to the boat rocking and rolling.  The wind was strong and was coming right down the channel towards the marina.  I checked the weather from about four sources and it did not sound too bad, but it just looked lousy where we were.  At 6::05 we cast off the lines and carefully back out and around the Kadey-Krogen parked right behind us.  All went well and off we went into the wind and waves.  We made it out of the winding entrance channel and then followed the river back into Chesapeake Bay. 

Winds were a constant 25 mph and the waves were 1-3 feet.  I turned on the stabilizers and they helped but the waves were mostly on our bow which started the hobby-horsing again.  In this mode you learn to use the “Three points of contact” system.  That is you ALWAYS have at least three points of contact. (two feet and one hand, or if you are walking, two hands and one foot.)  After the first couple of hours of this, Barbara looked a little green but she ended up doing just fine.  Then all of a sudden around noon it calmed down and we had a delightful cruise up the Chesapeake, departing VA and entering MD.  We had chosen Solomons MD for our destination.  Not only is it  very popular cruising destination with thousands of boats, but we had been there by car two years prior when we attended Trawler-Fest, an annual trawler show.  At that time Barbara and I had walked down the marina used by the show and found a little sandwich and beer shack located just off the docks.  At the time we both sat on their deck and just wondered “What If?”  I had made the statement that in two years we would be here looking at our own boat.  Right!

Now we were back.  We docked at the same marina and the first thing we did was walk back down the shore to the same little shack, get a beer and give thanks.

About an hour later Richard and Pam and their Kadey-Krogen  arrived and invited us over for a drink.  It was Richard’s  birthday so we had several drinks and cheese and crackers and boiled shrimp that Richard had especially wanted on his birthday.  Again, many a tale told.

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Friday, Deltaville

May 29th, 2009 john

Day: 123  Miles: 00    Total Miles: 2493

Woke up this a.m. early and immediately checked on the weather.  It was not a show stopper but it was predicting a lot of thunderstorms, so we decide to honor our pledge and take our time.  We stayed another day.

I spent the day reading a book and smoking a cigar while sitting in a rocking chair up on the veranda.  Cool breeze, very relaxing.  Then I met some other boaters.  A large Kadey- Krogen pulled in right behind us and they were also from Tennessee.  Pam and Richard were from Nashville.

And then this lady came walking down the dock asking if I was John Haluska.  She introduced herself.  She and her husband (Rick and Betsy)  had just started out on the loop and she saw the loop pennant on the bow of our boat and looked us up in the “Loopers” directory.   We spent some time swapping stories.  There is an endless set of tales to be told.

They were from NC and so I started telling them of the five towns that we lived in the NC, and when I mentioned Laurinburg, they both stopped and said “St Andrew’s College”.  She was a student when I taught at the college (enrollment of 800).  He as also a graduate but from before I was there.  She said, “I knew that name was familiar”.  What a small world.  Barbara and I joined them for supper.  A local restaurant sent out a car to pick us up at the marina and we enjoyed a very good seafood dinner.  And Lolo, our driver, added some additional color to the evening.

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Thursday, Portsmouth VA to Deltaville

May 28th, 2009 john

Day: 222  Miles: 59    Total Miles: 2493

We depart the Norfolk area in the early morning hours.  We wanted to get through the busy harbor before everyone woke up and started working hard.  What a beautiful site: ships, boats of all kinds, and Navy, Navy, Navy.  We went past three aircraft carriers and a flotilla of other naval vessels.

Out Hampton Roads we went and into the waters of Chesapeake Bay.  I had a route mapped out that ran us up the Bay while staying out of the main shipping channels.  Most of the day was spent on auto-pilot just watching the instruments and the scenery around us.  At one time we were out of site of land for about an hour but you would not believe how wonderful it was.   We encountered a pod of porpoises during an eating frenzy.  They will gather in groups and circle until they corner a bunch of small fish.   Then one at a time they will dive up thru the fish to get their dinner.  They were jumping every which a way all around us.  I bet there were over 60 of them. 

The bay was smooth as can be.  No waves just a gentle breeze and the air movement caused by our boat.  We were so fortunate to have such a pretty first day on the Chesapeake.

We arrived at Dozier’s Regatta Point Yachting Center in the early afternoon just before the rain started.  This is also the Corporate home of the Dozier’s Waterway Guide.  These are very popular guides listing navigation, marina, and what to see information along the coasts of the U.S. and Canada.  In fact, the dock master was on a late lunch so Mr. Dozier came out to catch our lines as we were arriving.

We borrowed a courtesy car, went into the very little town of Deltaville and had a pizza for a late lunch/early dinner,  then stopped at the grocery store for some supplies.

After an evening cigar while sitting in a rocking chair on Dozier’s porch, we retired for the evening.

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Wednesday, Portsmouth/Norfolk VA

May 27th, 2009 john

Day: 221  Miles: 00    Total Miles: 243

We  sat around all morning waiting for the part to arrive: expected it by 10:00 a.m., got a call that it had arrived at 12:00 and then had in installed by 1:30.    The one big change you have to learn living this life is that the world now operates in “Boat Time”.

I had calculated that we needed to depart by noon if we wanted to make the first anchorage in Mobjack Bay.   So much for plans!  Rolling with it, we checked back into the marina and then took the ferry across to Norfolk for an afternoon visit.  We walked around downtown and did get a chance to see the Nauticus Museum.  There was a sit done battle simulation from an Aegis Destroyer and many more hands-on exhibits.  Plus the big show was the USS Wisconsin Battleship.  Very, very impressive!

Then, dinner at Outback, (we hadn’t had a good steak in a while.) and back on the ferry to Portsmouth and a block back to our marina.  And guess what, we got senior citizen rates on the ferry for only 75 cents each.

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Tuesday, Portsmouth/Norfolk VA

May 26th, 2009 john

Day: 220  Miles: 00    Total Miles: 2434

Norfolk is directly across the river from Portsmouth, so we had planned to stay an extra day here to see just a few of the sites.  There is so much to see, but we need to keep moving north.  Best laid plans don’t always work out.

We had been having a problem with the fresh water system on the boat.  I had replaced the pump back in Titusville Fl and then in Oriental it started to act up.  The system contains a pressure tank with a bladder full of air and that allows the system to build up good water pressure and then the pump will come on to rebuild that pressure when it is needed.  Well that was not the way it was working.  The pump would come on each time you turned a facet and then it would try to pressure back up and would come on/off several times.

I suspected that the bladder was leaking and loosing pressure, so when we pulled into Ocean Marine Yacht Center I called the service manager and he sent someone over to confirm that the tank was probably loosing pressure.  He ordered a new tank, but did not tell me that it would not come in until tomorrow.  Norfolk is a big boat building area and parts are normally readily available.  Ok, maybe we could get a late start tomorrow and still keep our schedule.  I started planning for new routes to new anchorages, just in case.

Then, Barbara called me down to the Salon.  The TV had broken.  We had long since lost the TV Tuner (we believe it was thrown out with the diapers in FL).  And Barbara had been pushing the little buttons on the set.  Well, the buttons pushed into the console and could no longer be reached.  Barbara went to do laundry so I took the opportunity to pull out the TV (a very old Sylvania model) and proceeded to take the back cover off in hopes to find the button panel unscrewed.  As I took it apart, each piece of plastic broke off. It was soon in a dozen pieces.  I guess being in the marine environment for so long did it in.  Off to the dumpster with the TV I was.  I then borrowed a courtesy car (thank goodness they had one) and went to a nearby Wal-Mart to look for a replacement before Barbara got back.   I purchased a small flat screen HDTV (we don’t even have one at home) and was back in a jiffy.  Hooked it up and we were back in business.  Most yachts have DirectTV but we have never made the jump.  It is funny, I will spend many BOAT Dollars on navigation electronics but just can’t make the jump to DirectTV.   We have a small local TV antenna which did not work for a darn, but now with the change over to digital, works fairly well.  Plus most marinas have cable TV hookups.

So much for touring Norfolk!  The day was shot just doing boat work.

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Monday, Elizabeth City NC to Portsmouth VA

May 25th, 2009 john

Day: 219  Miles: 50    Total Miles: 2434

At 5:55 A.M. four trawlers and one sailboat pulled out of free docks at Elizabeth City NC and passed under the bridge that had been raised for our benefit.  We ventured up the upper Pasquotank River as it wound its way up to the start of the Great Dismal Swap passage.  The river was beautiful, very, very windy and a constant challenge to navigation. (Just stay in the middle.) 

We then entered the canal that joins the Pasquotank River in the South to the Elizabeth River that runs through Norfolk and Portsmouth.  The digging of a canal was the dream of George Washington and was partially built by his slaves, then later was a completed by ‘Light-horse Harry’ Lee, father of Robert E. Lee.  Today the canal is used solely for recreational purposes and consists of an approximately 41 miles of a dug ditch with two locks that only open four times a day.   To prevent erosion, the speed limit is kept to 6 mph.  And then to just make in more interesting, right in the middle is the only welcome center that welcomes both highway travelers and boats at the same facility, right on the border of NC and VA.  When we went by the welcome center, all seven sailboats that had left the day before were tied at the free dock.  They were all standing on the dock waving at us as we went by.

There is a road that parallels’ most of the canal, so since it was Memorial Day, we saw loads of bikers and hikers, and kayakers along the canal.  There were families all out together with there bicycles of all sizes.  For a short stint we had two young boys racing along side of us, trying to keep up and doing a great job of it.

At the second lock we had a special experience.  We had heard via the Great Loop Blog that the lock tender collected Sea Shells.  So we had saved a special one to give to him as we passed through.  After tying up, I presented him with the conch and told him that I was trying to get my wife to blow her conch (a sunset tradition that we picked up in Fl).   He went straight back to the stern and asked her to blow it, which she did, very successfully.  Then he took the conch and played a simple tune on it.  Before we departed he came out and played his own conch and all the people of the boats (ten boats in the lock) applauded.  Another adventure, a day at a time!

After clearing the lock, our world would change.  We had been in the canal all day.  It was very narrow.  You had to almost stop to pass another boat.  The trees were canopied over the canal with the birds chirping away.  All the people on shore would stop to look at the Emery EL.  She looked a bit big in the little waterway.  As Barbara said, if she had stopped by this roadside and looked down at the waterway, she would have assumed it was for canoes, not 50 foot boats.

Anyway, when we left the lock, we were invaded by boats of all kinds out celebrating Memorial Day. (We were so bad that we did not even know it was Memorial Day.)  All of a sudden there were Sea-Doos all over the place, and skiers dropping down into the water right in front of us, etc.  Then we got though the recreational area and entered the main river.  We all stacked up waiting for one more bridge to open and then there we were amidst the Norfolk and Portsmouth waterfront.  BIG SHIPS!!.  All types, all over.  Navy Aircraft carriers, navy supply boats,  freighters, tugs. Too many to list. 

Talk about an overload, from the Dismal Swamp to a main maritime harbor.   We soon located out marina destination for the night, ducked in, tied up and sat down for a drink.

It was late in the day and we were pretty tired.  The passage of the swamp was beautiful but very tedious all day.  There was constant debris and deadheads to watch out for. (“Deadheads” are stump or wood that is attached to the bottom and if you were to hit one, it would put a whole in the bottom of your boat, which is not a good thing.)  Sometimes even a whole tree that had fallen into the canal.  So, after securing the Emery El,  we relaxed, Barbara made a great spaghetti dinner and we sat on the deck and gave thinks for a great day.  Another adventure, a day at a time!

 

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Sunday, Elizabeth City NC

May 24th, 2009 john

Day: 218  Miles: 00    Total Miles: 2384

We woke up at 5:00 planning to get a jump on the day when Barbara from her pillow said: “Can’t we just stay here one more day and then travel the whole Dismal Swamp in one day tomorrow, skipping the Welcome Center.”  Heads back on the pillow, so we stayed.

At 7:30 about nine sailboats cranked up, backed out and started up the dismal.  I think we made a good decision to stay for another day.  I helped them all cast off, waved goodbye and returned to my cockpit for a morning coffee and another run of the generator.  Got to keep those batteries in tip top shape.

It was a delightfully lazy day.  Barbara sat up top at the fly-bridge and read a book, while I sat on a park bench in front of out boat and talked to a lot of new friends.  They were all types of people.  I even sat down and talked with the “bird man” while his two parrots sat in a tree above out heads.  It was a very interesting conversation.

Later in the morning I got one of the bicycles down from the top and went for a quick ride around the sleepy little city on a Sunday afternoon.  The highlight of my trip was a burger at McDonalds and stopping at CVS for a gallon of milk.

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Saturday, Alligator River to Elizabeth City NC

May 23rd, 2009 john

Day: 217  Miles: 35    Total Miles: 2384

We chose again for an early start and were swinging back into the river  just about 20 minutes after sunrise.  What a pretty day. Warm crisp air, light breeze, but the water was as calm as can be.  Within the hour we were slipping through the gap at Middle Ground Shoals, leaving the Alligator River and entering into the Albemarle Sound.  This channel was supposed to be watched closely for shallow water but all we found a great 12 feet of water.  This made for a happy start to the day.  Albemarle Sound is about 35 miles long and probably 20 miles across and is notorious for being a rough patch of water to cross.  It is relatively shallow at around 14 feet and the wind can easily kick up some heavy chop making the crossing a hair-raising experience.

Today, however we were rewarded for our long patient stay in Oriental.  The waters were calm and beautiful. We went up top to the fly-bridge, put the boat on autopilot and I stood on the top deck doing my Tai-Chi routine while Barbara watched for crab-traps.  I sure am glad the water was calm because in rough waters, it would have been impossible to see the crab-trap makers and they were there by the hundreds.

After several hours cutting across the sound, we entered the Pasquotank River where we again picked up the ICW chart markings, leading us to Elizabeth City and then on to the Dismal Swamp.  We were just about an hour from our destination and we were quickly approached from our stern by the U.S. Coast Guard in there high speed inflatable patrol boat.  Their blue light came on and I powered the Emery El  down to idle speed.  They politely asked if they could come on board for a “quick” inspection.  We held our course and they came along side and quickly put two men aboard. (For a brief moment I though about asking them to remove their black soled boots.)  They were very professional and polite and then started checking out systems and filling out forms.  They asked for a picture ID and of course I could not resist giving them my USCG Aux ID, which produced a chuckle from them.  The Emery El was in good order with no violations, but their ‘quick’ inspection took a little over an hour.  Meanwhile Barbara was at the helm trying to avoid crab traps while I showed the ‘Coasties’ where all of the equipment was located.  Another adventure, a day at a time!

We resumed our trip to Elizabeth City and there was still an open dock left for us. These were free docks provide by the city but they tended to fill up fast.  They had very short finger piers so we had no choice but to back in, stern first.  We are technically 15 feet wide and they put us in a 16 foot slip.  But the backup cameras worked great.  It was just like looking in rearview mirrors in a car. (Well, kind a like that!) 

Elizabeth City has really opened up to the transient boater.  They have 14 free docks, right at mid town next to a beautiful little park.  They were having a farmers market when we arrived.  There are plenty of restaurants and the local supermarket will come get you by car if you want to do some shopping.  There is a beautiful brand new Albemarle Museum right across the street. And before you knew it all the docks were full with everyone standing on the rose lined brick walkway along the docks.  

And there was also plenty of local color: Sam the ‘Greeter’ wearing a WWII hat and later on the bird man appeared with his two parrots on a bicycle, and the little coffee lady walking up and down talking to each visitor. (At least I think it was coffee.)  Barbara said I was in my glory, standing out on the back of the boat answering questions from all of the people ashore.  There were two economics professors from Duke that asked a load of questions about the cost of fuel and travel. 

Later Barbara and I had a delightful dinner at Grouper’s Restaurant next door and retired early.  The free docks did not come with electric hookup, so we ran our generator for an hour to charge the batteries, then turned it off and went to bed, in our little cozy corner of the world. 

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Friday, Belhaven NC to Alligator River

May 22nd, 2009 john

Day: 216   Miles: 54    Total Miles: 2349

We were on the move at 7:00 a.m.  We have both decided that it is very nice to leave early in the morning.  First of all the winds are usually not awake yet and second it sometimes allows us to reach our next destination with time left to explore to local community.

Into the Pungo River, then the long Alligator River –Pungo River Canal, and finally into the large Alligator River.  We went under two fixed bridges and then at the end had to request an opening of a swing bridge to get to our destination marina.  Well we were first in again, and again I had to back into the corner.  We will have to wait and see if we can get out early tomorrow morning and not be blocked in.

The Alligator River Marina is a welcome stop just before the Albemarle Sound.  This sound is a very large body of shallow water and when the wind blows it can present one of the roughest crossings on the loop.  Everyone stays at this marina to wait for the right weather.  The marina is a very nice and neat little marina located right next to a bridge that carries US 64.   (It is hard to believe that over 30 years ago I went right by here in our Volkswagen Camper with Jason and Barbara as we went camping on the Outer Banks.)  To register at the marina you have to go into the attached Shell gas station.  I could elaborate, but best not written.  Another adventure, a day at a time!

Today was a first for me mate and me.  The weather was beautiful, low winds and warm air, so for the first time we went up on the fly-bridge and spent the whole day outside.  It was beautiful.  The scenery before us was all nature at its best.  I bet we only saw about three houses all day.  We can now feel more comfortable driving from the fly-bridge  because of the new chart-plotter I had installed in Oriental.  I have access to all of my navigational information, radar, weather, etc.   It was really enjoyable being up with the great view and fresh air.

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