ICW 19 – 1424

PLEASE HOLD…

1424…

But first, the numbers (for two days):

Day 15 – Cape May, NJ to Jersey City, NJ, 124 miles, 7.33 hours (including NYC touring time)
Day 16 – Jersey City, NJ to Oyster Bay, NY, 34.7 miles. 2.5 hours (you’ll see why in a moment)

Okay, 1424. Well, in the year 1424 King Wladislaus III of Poland was born. And, according to el Goog, Angel Number 1424 is a message from our angels that they are currently assisting us with keeping our thoughts light and positive (who knew!?). But 1424 is also the number of miles we’ve traveled since we left Blowing Rocks Marina in Jupiter, Florida sixteen days ago. To me, that’s a pretty large number! And we’re not home yet…

Yesterday was pretty thrilling. Leaving Cape May around 6:40am, we ran the inlet with some pretty wild currents and standing waves, knocking Sequel’s nose one way then the other and giving us a bit of concern about what the Atlantic would hold for us. The sport fisherman ahead of us was pounding through the swells with spray exploding up over her bow. Uh oh… But then we were through and to our relief the seas were slow gentle rollers that never gave Sequel a shudder or crash. We ran north at our full cruising speed of 2200 RPM, giving us about 19.5 knots and we never throttled back until New York Harbor. The seas got pretty confused as we neared Manhattan, but I mean, who’s surprised. Nothing moves slowly in the city that never sleeps.

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SONY DSCIt was great running into (not literally) the city – watching the skyline grow, seeing the Lady appear, marveling at the scope of the new Freedom Tower gleaming from the area that had brought both Amy and I such personal pain. Amy worked at the Financial Center and we both lost friends on that fateful day in 2001. But here we were, arriving in the city where we had met fourteen years ago on a blind date – and arriving in our own boat, experiencing it from an entirely unique angle. Awesome!

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So we toured around for a bit – dodging high speed ferries, tour boats, sail boats, megayachts, jet skis, and security vessels of all shapes and sizes – and then eventually feeling our way into Liberty Harbor Marina on the Jersey side of the Hudson. We’d been calling all the way up from Cape May to try to secure a slip, but Amy was getting a voicemail message that they were CLOSED Sundays and Mondays! What? Fortunately someone did answer hours later, although Amy got, “please hold” and after waiting for an eternity she hung up and tried again. “Please hold”. Aargh! Again, after an eternal hold Amy hung up. A third time was the charm.

Amy: “Hi – I was wondering if you had a slip available for tonight. Possibly for two nights (more on that in a second)?”
Wanda (I just made that name up): “Yes”
Amy: “Great, so what kind of a slip is it – side tie, back in, …?”
Wanda: “I don’t know anything about the marina.”
Amy: “Oh, okay. Well, do you know what side we should rig?”
Wanda: “No, go to C55”
Amy: “Um, where in the marina is that?”
Wanda: “I don’t know anything about the marina. Go to C55 and park it there.”
Amy: (I’ll delete her internal discourse) “Okay, thank you.”

So… Yeah, it was an interesting place. And not even (really) a city view because it was tucked behind a large apartment building. And the place was a bit of a dump (sorry LHM, but it was). Still, we were in Manhattan (kinda) and it was a good feeling. And then Deborah, Amy’s sister, came for a visit. We chilled on the boat with margaritas, caught up, and then took the dinghy out to dinner (and no, I didn’t actually take the dinghy out to dinner. I may like our RIB, but not THAT much).

Great night.

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Now I’m back to today. We left Manhattan behind this morning after fueling up (choke), and have gone as far as we can go. Literally.

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We are at a mooring in Oyster Bay on Long Island, and, as you can see in the picture below, our electronic charts go no farther. We’ve known about this predicament for a while – there was a miscommunication and we didn’t have the final chip for our ‘plotter to get us home from Long Island Sound. So long story short, Peter to the rescue again. He is overnighting us a chip to this marina and it should be here tomorrow morning. Cutting it close, or perfect planning – you choose.

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(I feel like a modern day Columbus at the edge of the known world)

That’s it. Tomorrow I want to chat a bit about our thought process for go / no go with regards to mother nature – as there will need to be some decision making in the very near future. But before I forget – I wanted to give a shout out to our friends Deb and Scott. Deb, thanks so much for looking after our garden! And I wanted you to know that in Annapolis we saw these huge chicken statues all over the place during our cab ride to Whole Foods (like the cow statues that were in Boston), and I got excited to get the camera off the boat and take a video of me saying, “Hello Chicken!” to one of the six foot tall cluckers (inside story), but to my chagrin the art installation didn’t extend into the waterfront area at all. Still – Hello Chicken!

Good night and enjoy the sights and sounds of these past two days…

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Till John learns a lesson from an inanimate object…

John

<– Back to ICW 18

 

BUT DON’T CALL HER SNOOKI

Jersey Shore, there ain’t no denying it…

First off, technically we are on Day 15 of the adventure. I tried to post last night, but per usual, we had no cell service and the WiFi was imaginary. So here I am, sitting on the settee in the helm deck, three miles out on the Atlantic – with, of course, full cell service. But more about today’s journey this evening.

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Day 14 – Annapolis, MD to Cape May, NJ, 131 miles, 7 hours

We made a break for it. Or, alternatively, the best made plans are the first to be tossed overboard…

We left Annapolis after an exchange of fluids – we added 196 gallons of diesel, about 75 gallons of water, and removed 30 gallons of the less desirable stuff. Our plan was to do a quick and easy run to Havre de Grace, which is some quaint town on the Chesapeake right by the C & D Canal that leads to the Delaware Bay, pick up a mooring and chill for the day. Instead, after looking at the weather, we opted to push on through the canal and run the entire Delaware Bay down to Cape May in one day. The advantage being that the Atlantic is looking a little foreboding Monday and into the near future. By making the push today we can tackle the run from Cape May to Manhattan in possibly one day. The down side is that our trip is almost over, and we kinda don’t want it to end.

Regardless, another interesting day. This morning I spent a half hour scrubbing off the salt and grime the had been dashed on poor Sequel during our trip up the Chesapeake two days earlier, while Amy worked on scrubbing the tons of bug poop off Sequel – perhaps literally. Then we departed, along with Navy training ships from the school. And best of all, the northern Chesapeake and the bulk of the Delaware Bay were kind to us today. We almost made it the entire trip without stuffing a wave and dousing the topsides with salt. Almost.

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The run down Delaware Bay was filled with huge commercial traffic – and a pair of Mylar balloons. We ran past the balloons just floating around looking for a turtle to choke, so we decided to stomp on the breaks (for the record, for those thinking of purchasing a boat, they don’t actually have breaks) ad go on a rescue mission (see video).  Finally, after a fairly long, but not too hot, day, we ended up in a slip at Utsch’s Marina (and I ask you – how on earth do you pronounce that when hailing them on the VHF? Not fair). And at the marina we met Wes on his Sabre 42 – the big sister to Sequel – who is bringing his Sabre up to Tiverton, RI for the summer from his home in MD. So we’re boat neighbors! And we also met Edie and Joe – who have a Tiara named Seaquel (sic). We actually heard them hailing another vessel while we were running down Delaware Bay and at the time I was sort of like, huh? Did I just hail someone?  Nope different Sequel, different spelling, same small world. They are taking their Seaquel to Martha’s Vineyard.

So I’ll let the pictures and video compilation speak for the rest of today’s post. We’re getting up early to make our next push – so with any luck Lady Liberty will be greeting us at the end of tomorrow! (And by that, I mean Amy’s sister AND the statue…)

Oh, and here’s our neighbors for the night. And they are from Gloucester! (Can you spot Sequel through all the rigging?)

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Till the Big Apple…

John

<– Back to ICW 17

 

AND ON THE THIRTEENTH DAY, WE RESTED

Down day. How nice!

Day 13 – Annapolis, MD to Annapolis, MD, 0.0 miles, 0 blissful hours

We’re sitting on the bow at our mooring, drinking a glass of wine and watching the dazzling array of watercraft motor, steam, paddle, sail, everything – pass. Again. It’s fantastic. Amy’s reading up on the next leg of the trip (and the one beyond that), and obviously I’m working on the blog. The weather is looking good for the next two days, but then, just as we expect to come out of the Delaware Bay into the Atlantic for the run outside along the Jersey coast, seas are looking to be three to five feet. We’ll have to play it by ear (inner ear?) when we get closer to that point.

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But for now, it’s just relaxing. We got up, made coffee and toured the harbor in the dink before running it to city dock in Annapolis where we took a taxi out to Whole Foods for some much needed provisioning. It was amazing to see seven and eight year olds running large center consoles and sailboats through the incredibly busy harbor, with six and seven year old crew – all professional and serious – and probably more competent than us. After we returned from our provisioning expedition I worked down in the engine room (aka Holy Place – we’ll address that in a few) while Amy did some course plotting and planning. Then we showered, put on our shore going rigs, and took the water taxi back into town for some meandering and sampling the of the local brew and crab dip. Oh – and apparently prestocking the boat with two cases of wine wasn’t enough for us so we stopped at Mills Fine Wines and Spirits and picked up a case of wine and two four-packs on Dogfishhead 90 Minute IPA for the water taxi ride back to Sequel. The taxi captain appreciated our taste in both boats and wine. Compliment accepted.

But before I forget – a quick story from yesterday. During our run up to Annapolis it really did get pretty rough. The boat was pitching and rolling all over the place. It was kind of fun and kind of nerve wracking because it was OUR boat. I thought of a story my folks told us when we were in Hilton Head. Years ago they had traveled to England with another couple – the Smiths (literally the Smiths) – where they ran a 62 foot narrow boat in the canals there (like father like son I guess!). Well, my folks love to dance – again, father / son thing – and so when they went to visit the Smiths before the trip at their old (and narrow) home in Maine, my parents suggested they practice dancing in a particularly narrow and long hallway, to ensure they could do it on the canal boat. That is so my parents. So while we were underway yesterday, with no land in sight and our Sequel bucking like a bronco, I cajoled Amy into an impromptu dance party on the helm deck. Thanks Jean and Zeke – it was fun, and it took our minds off the conditions for a while!

Okay – so tonight I present you with a tour of our Holy Place, a picture of Amy drinking a bottle of Raging Bitch IPA (no comment), and the general sights and sounds of the evening. I hope you enjoy!

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Till Jersey…

John

<– Back to ICW 16

 

I PRESENT – A QUOTE FROM OUR BROKER…

(yawn)

Day 12 – Deltaville, VA to Annapolis, MD, 90.5 miles, 6.5 (looong) hours

This one is going to be short but sweet. As no doubt you already know, we left Deltaville late – around 11:00am – in order to find a better weather window for our 95 mile push north to Annapolis. Everything was looking good as we left the protected harbor of Deltaville and turned north. Unfortunately mother nature had other plans. For those who’ve never been on the Chesapeake, it’s big. Really big. As in, when you’re cruising in it, you can’t see shore to shore. It’s more like a sea than a bay. Anyway, the waves were nose on, about three feet, and according to my observations, had about a four second dominant period. And that was the average. Toss in some nice sharp four footers that were closely spaced and rolling over on themselves and ol’ Sequel took a good pounding (as did we), with spray and sometimes entire sheets of water cascading up over the entire helm deck. At one point Amy became airborne while sitting on the head (yes – she’s going to kill me for saying that).

During the run I texted our broker Peter, complete with a short video of the conditions, and asked him if I was driving the boat too hard. His response was awesome – and is the title of this post. He said, “Drive her like you stole her”. Enough said.

Our plan was to make Annapolis by day’s end, but at the reduced speed we were forced to do it was looking pretty dismal (and not like the swamp). According to our ‘plotter we weren’t slated to get in until after 11:00 at night! Ugh. Fortunately the seas laid down after 2:30, as we were hoping, and we were able to let Sequel run at a nice 19 knots for the second half of the trip, letting us make landfall at a much more reasonable 5:50pm. We ran through the mooring field and picked up a mooring amongst the dazzling array of boats. J boats sailed past us on the way out to a race, megayachts toured around the harbor, crazy rowing things rowed past, and everything you can imagine that can float and costs money ran past our “back yard” as we sipped martinis prior to an excellent grilled meal.

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We’re going to have our second “down day” tomorrow, and play in Annapolis. Now I am ready for bed!

Oh, and Jeff our excellent dog walker and house sitter, sent us some encouragement from home…

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Here’s all the video I managed to snag…

Till tomorrow, when we get up late and do NOT travel!

John

<– Back to ICW 15

 

MOURNING THE LOSS OF THE MAGENTA LINE

This one is a little late – for two reasons – the first is because we are always battling the loss of cellular service, and the second is because we were on the lookout for our friends on Sandpiper, who were also nourthbound in the Chesapeake, but were a few hours behind us.

Day 11 – Dismal Swamp Welcome Center, NC to Deltaville, VA, 96 miles, 8 hours

Leaving the serene Dismal Swamp was bittersweet. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous, but when you were actually IN it you were descended upon by a horde of biting flies that looked like miniature jet fighters. We also were getting freaked out by things that went BUMP and THUD in the dark (water) as we hit invisible semi-submerged logs (we dodged many visible ones).

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Then we came up the Deep Creek bascule bridge and lock, with Robert the very friendly and informative lock keeper. He provided us a history of the Dismal Swamp (something Amy had been asking about for several days) as the lock closed up and we dropped nine feet to the lower level. He also told us the area had the country’s highest black bear population – 1.5 bears per square mile. Definitely more that Boston. Sadly, we never saw any bears – or even half bears.

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Then as a we were about to depart he sent us on our way with a resonating tune from a pair of conch shells – that was new!

NOTE: trip planners – he suggested bringing old t-shirts for locking through to put over your fenders. Ours came out of the swamp lock experience all slimy and were basically impossible to clean.

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After the swamp came culture shock as Norfolk, VA just sort of happened. Huge industry and more military than I’d ever seen (I bet there was more than 1.5 battleships per square mile).

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We were in a no wake zone – enforced by the military – for miles as Amy snuck pictures at whatever she could. She is pretty confident she’s now on some no-fly list. There were Navy ships under repair, Navy ships preparing for departure, and Navy ships departing – with the heavy security everywhere, and stern warnings over the VHF about violating the security zones (apparently the Navy has invested in some pretty good radios, because they cut through everything).

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And to cap it all off – we saw a nuclear submarine cruising out of the Elizabeth River out to the Chesapeake, with just its conning tower and tail fin poking out of the water.

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Just as we were watching it go, and as we were leaving the shipping channel to head north, our VHF squawked, “Sequel Sequel, this is Sandpiper”. Sandpiper! I had forgotten all about them. They were a mile off our port bow making the same course as us – for Deltaville. We chatted for a bit, then I burned fuel and left them behind. There was a large front building to the northwest and we wanted to get ahead of it if we could.

And we made it – the storm moved inland and never touched us. We tied up at end of the T at B dock at Norview Marina, washed Sequel down, drank champers, went swimming in their pool, had a great dinghy tour of the harbor, and then ordered takeout to be delivered to the marina. Nice! Tasty Italian – best Italian I’ve ever had in the cockpit of Sequel. We also heard from Sandpiper around 8:00. They were coming into a channel just south of where we were staying – and they tried an overland journey to find us, but we heard back from them around 11:00 – they walked for several miles but couldn’t find us (cue the no cell coverage).

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That’s it – it’s 10:30AM Thursday morning and we’re deliberately leaving late because the seas are calming down to the north this afternoon. We’re off to Annapolis!

As usual, we have some video for you:


Till Annapolis (I hope!)…

John

<– Back to ICW 14

 

STILL LIFE ON GLASS

Today was a nice day – as in, no stress, no long runs, just a dismal swamp. I usually like to come up with a catchy title for each post, but I think I’ll just go with the name of the place we’re at…

Day 10 – Newport, NC to Dismal Swamp Welcome Center, NC, 56 miles, 5 hours

Yep – it was a nice causal day – after we left Alligator River Marina we ran across Alligator River (duh), up along Albermarle Sound before turning into the Pasquotank River, past Elizabeth City and eventually angled into the Dismal Swamp Canal. The two locks that control the water level in the canal – one each at the north and south ends – only open at 8:30, 11:00, 1:30, and 3:00, so you are either there or you wait. We got to South Mills Lock, the southern lock, at 10:50. Perfect. We waited for five minutes with a sailboat for the lock to open and then ran in. The Dismal Swamp Canal is pretty amazing – from its rust colored water to its primitive beauty to its absolute stillness, this often overlooked final section of ICW shouldn’t be missed. It’s a no wake zone the entire way (we’re a 20 knot boat, whereas no wake means 5 knots), but really, it’s only about 30 miles long, so what’s the hurry?

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We tied up at the midway point – at the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center – along with the sailboat. Dockage is free here (no power, but free WiFi and water) and they give you loaner bikes to explore the Dismal Swamp Park if you wish.

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photo 4We took advantage of the bikes and rode the 6 miles back to South Mills to Williams Strawberry Farm and Bakery where we bought some goodies for dinner (more on that in a second).

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But before that I wanted to introduce Rupert and Richard, the two guys from the sailboat. A Welshman and a Brit (Richard, forgive me if I’m wrong there!), they were bringing Sandpiper, Rupert’s sailboat, up from Marathon in the Florida Keys (and that has traveled the likes of Cuba and Mexico). We shared some beers and stories with them in the air conditioned comfort of Sequel’s helm deck before we parted ways. Nice guys. I told them I’d pass along their Facebook pages. Rupert’s is “Voyages of the Ketch Sandpiper” and Richard’s is “Realms of the Day”.

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(Richard and Rupert)

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Though the bugs were a bit crazy, such can be said for the crew of Sequel, and we grilled (well, Amy grilled and I ate) some tasty local “salmon” (we suspect trout), a dozen amazing shrimp, the freshest corn ever, and topped it off with a sweet potato biscuit and some Gruner (side note – we shipped two cases of wine ahead of time. We’re almost out…).

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(Here’s where we are tonight – that little blob of blue in a mass of land…)

That’s it – tomorrow marks the last handful of miles (28 to be exact) of the ICW, then we’re on our own to find the rest of our way north. What do we do? Run outside? Run up the Chesapeake then down Delaware Bay?  Where do we stop? Do we stop, or do we simply set a course for magnetic 90?

Stay tuned…

But first, enjoy today’s video compilation


Till the Chesapeake

John

<– Back to ICW 13

 

LIVING THE SUBURBAN LIFE AQUATIC

I feel like Steve Zissou, suburban version.

Sorry for no post yesterday. It was actually going to be Amy’s day to write one, but we ended up in a part of the world that has no cell service. Who knew that even existed? (And stay tuned – Amy’s post is coming at you tomorrow, provided we get service in the great Dismal Swamp… foreshadowing). But before that, here’s the basics for the past two days travel…

Day 8 – Carolina Beach (off Cape Fear River), NC to Newport, NC, 108 miles, 7 hours
Day 9 – Newport, NC to Columbia, NC, 110 miles, 6:45 hours

We are now at Mile Marker 84 in the ICW. That translates to 918 miles Amy, Sequel, and I have traveled together. I for one find that amazing (Amy does too…)

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Yesterday was a bit of a trying day – though it started off well enough. After leaving Carolina Beach, NC we had a nice chat via VHF with Bill who, with his wife Mary, own Harbour Reach, hailing out of Wickford, RI. They have literally spent a decade traveling the great loop route, and are bringing their boat north to RI from the Keys. Perhaps we’ll see them in local waters this summer.

But then we touched bottom in Greenhead City (my name – don’t look it up) and added about a baker’s dozen grey hairs to my head. We also dealt with a slew of local day boaters who have zero sense of courtesy (and we saw a bunch more who did, but sadly it’s the jackasses who you usually remember).

Then we cruised out of Beaufort just as a storm was blowing in, and the wind began screaming across the broad Newport River as we made a dash for the canal cut to the Neuse River – the canal where we were planning on spending the night at Sea Gate Marina. We were both pretty done in when we made the canal and then turned into the marina a few miles in. What a shock for us – it was a little cut in the side of the canal where we tied up literally beside the lawn of a house. It’s a marina largely used as a boat ramp for day boaters, but has great fuel prices ($3.60 / gallon diesel) and very friendly people. So we watched our neighbors mow their lawns and had a nice meal, and revolted at some great hairy bugs.

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 We also saw that angriest and perhaps saddest house ever…

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And we got a much needed dog fix…

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Then today we ran across several broad and tumultuous rivers – which really should be called sounds. It was somewhat unpleasant for a bit, with the seas a short and sometimes steep chop that made for rough going. At the end we ran up Alligator River, under a very long car bridge, then skirted along the bridge to a truck stop. Yep – a truck stop that also doubled as a transient marina. Alligator River Marina (and alligators are part of what makes the story of this place). It was perfect – we are the only boat in the entire place (though not was true for the cars and trucks), there’s a building for us to do laundry, and Annette who works behind the counter made us fantastic fried chicken with okra, slaw, creamed potatoes and salad (and she brought out a pair of frosty mugs for our beer). Did I say perfect?

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And of course, we also had some fun times throughout the day. This morning we passed an enormous silver Pershing megayacht in the canal. When I radioed the captain for a pass, I told him he had a sweet ride, and he replied that the same was true for us! Then about two hours later, as we were slogging our way though the Neuse River, that same Pershing flew by us doing at least 30 knots. Probably more. By then we had reduced to a bashing 8.7 knots. Ah the life.

We also saw a new Nordhavn 86 foot trawler that was stunning.If you’ve read my novel Out of Hell’s Kitchen, you know that I feature a Nordhavn 62 significantly in the book. Great boats.

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I don’t know – lots more – oh, we motored through a bombing range. That was interesting. Luckily there was no bombing, strafing or otherwise exploding happening today – but the burned out and bullet ridden hulks of previous victims were all around. And we saw an “Amy Jay” (Close enough to Amy J as to be counted).

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So at the end of the day, we’re here…

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I’m tired. Amy has her head on my shoulder, and we bought an ice cream sandwich that needs eating. Enjoy this video montage…

Oh, and a shout out to Tom and Leslie. I didn’t see your comment, but looking forward to having you aboard! Leslie, I took this just for you. I never knew there existed a few of the varietals listed here!

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Till then (and ye ol’ Dismal Swamp)…

John

<– Back to ICW 12

 

IT’S GOING TO BE A SHORT ONE

As they say (well, I do anyway), salient points first…

Day 7 – McClellanville, SC to Carolina Beach (off Cape Fear River), NC, 135 miles, 10 hours

It’s going to be a short one today – since it’s been a rather long one today. Ten hours running the boat, much of it through small rivers, inlets, and canals lined with docks. Although you’d never know it by all the center consoles racing by us waking the hell out of everything. It’s a little frustrating as we could go so much faster than we chose to go out of respect, only to have so many others ignore any courtesy at all. But regardless, it was actually a really fun day.

We left McClellanville at 7:20am, of course to no water as it was low tide – again (see the picture of the sounder below), but eventually escaped the greenheads – uh,cowflies – and the scenery changed to that of vibrant green canopy composed of languid trees draped in dense moss.

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It was quite pretty. And, it being Saturday, the various rivers and waterways were absolutely crammed with pleasure craft. Sequel got more than her fare share of stares, stares, and the occasional (nudge) “look at that boat” points. We were decidedly quite different than the other boats around us – pontoon party boats and center consoles being the norm. I swear there must be some kind of law in the Carolinas that stipulates every water born vessel must at all times carry one male and at least three bikini clad women. At minimum.

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(I hope Ashley was there)

For lack of a better place to plunk today’s video clips, I’ll put them here…

There was one three mile stretch in SC filled with rocks and tales of woe and sinking boats, appropriately named the Rock Pile. For anyone looking to do this span, I highly (as in highly) recommend reading up on this notorious section of the ICW and above all – stay in the center of the channel. This can be challenging when confronted with commercial traffic trying to push you off to the side. Fortunately we didn’t have to deal with that on our transit – but it was a tense section regardless. Here’s what can happen if you aren’t prepared:

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But we finally we made it into the broad and commercial-infused Cape Fear River, without sinking, just as dark and low clouds came rolling in. We picked up speed and gunned it for the mooring field at Carolina Beach Municipal Marina and Moorings. There are nine mooring balls located here – and can be had for a paltry $20 a night. There were two other boats sharing the field with us – a sailboat hailing from Annapolis, MD with a banner hanging in the cockpit reading “OUR DREAM”, and a 40+ foot trawler named Harbour Reach hailing from Warwick, RI. Small world! Our new marina is just across the Narry from Warwick. I hope we can see them in the morning before we leave, it would be interesting to chat. I was thinking of running our RIB over to them tonight, but the rain that has started to fall has washed away that idea.

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One thing is for sure – the water definitely breeds some interesting characters. Enough to populate volumes of sequels (yes – not to be forgotten that I’m an author and I am always seeing people as characters, as others see characters as people…). Example: after we picked up the mooring – the wind blowing pretty strongly from the Atlantic with the incoming storm – we sat on the bow and drank champagne with some brie and crackers, waiting for the harbormaster or equivalent to show up on his launch to sign us in and take our $20. We speculated on various boats, guessing if it was going to be our guy, each time we were wrong. Then Amy jokingly said, “there he is, in that paddleboat”, and to our amazement, running down with the wind to his back, peddled a grey haired, ponytailed harbormaster who sidled up behind us admiring our Freedom dinghy lift. You just can’t make these things up.

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Okay – that’s it. We just had dinner (stay tuned for a post from Amy on her experiences in the galley), the genny is shutting down and so am I. Amy is already in bed…

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Till then (when we sleep at a truck stop…)

John

<– Back to ICW 11

 

MUD DON’T STOP ME NOW!

Salient points first…

Day 5 – Hilton Head Island, SC to Hilton Head Island, SC, 0 miles, zero hours (down day)
Day 6 – Hilton Head Island, SC to McClellanville, SC, 128.5 miles, 8 hours (and ten minutes, but who’s counting?)

Record distance day – it was a big push because this part of the ICW is rather thin in the fuel / marina front. Fortunately Amy found us a one-stop-shopping deal – Leland Oil Company. Just off the ICW in Jeremy Creek, Leland is the home to a shrimper fleet and is about as 180 degrees as you can get from Hilton Head. Both places are great – just really different. We’ve some video and pics below of where we are tonight, but before those, I want to talk about today’s post title – Karma’s a B*tch…

Case in point. This morning we were heading north out of Hilton Head, coming around a bend at mile marker 535, with Ladies Island swing bridge (a 30 foot clearance) about a mile ahead. Also ahead of us was a tug pushing a crane barge. I hailed her on VHF for a pass – though we were content to wait until the tug and her load was through the bridge. So I hailed on channel 16 – nothing. Hailed again, again, again and again. Tried channel 13 – nothing. Tried 16 again, nothing. By now we had eyes on the tug’s captain. He was either blatantly ignoring our call or one of our radios was clearly not working. I called out a radio check and immediately got a response from some obliging captain – loud and clear (our radio had damn well better work, it was brand new, as was our main antenna). Okay – so the bridge was coming up, we were politely stuck behind a tug and crane barge doing 4 knots. I switch to channel 9, which is the bridge channel, figuring the tug had to call the bridge at some point for an opening, as it was way too tall to pass through without. And sure enough, loud and clear, he hailed the bridge and requested an opening. He had been ignoring us. What in the hell?! Whatever. I saw the way come off the tug and took the opportunity to pass. And here’s where karma came into play. The bridge was swinging open, traffic lined up on both side of the roadway, and we watched the tug push forward, then rapidly slew sideways. I had the radio still on channel 9 and heard him call the bridge to cancel the opening – he had run over a buoy and was hung up on it. Dead in the water.

Karma. It’s a…

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Beyond that it was a good day – the usual slow zones, the less-than-one-foot-under-the-keel undredged stress patches, the incessant heat and the equally incessant biting flies (what we call ‘greenheads’ though when you call them that to the locals you get blank stares and are asked if you’re talking about fish. No dammit – I’m talking about those evil bugs from hell that take out great honking chunks of skin with each bite. Greenheads! Oh – cowflies? Sure, those things). Off on a tangent again, aren’t I…

Fine. Reset…

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As I was saying, beyond that it was a good (hot and buggy) day. At the end of which we landed in McClellanville, SC at Leland Oil – a working shrimpers dock masquerading as fuel dock and transient haven, though we are the only ones here – but it’s low season. We’re surrounded by working boats and apparently the entire town hangs out under the tree off the pier. I very much recommend this as a place to stop for other ICW travelers. We took the dink off and tooled around the port for a bit – here’s what we saw…

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(What a great example of the different world we found ourselves in – wrecked trawlers in front yards)

And dogs! Earlier we ran past a boat absolutely filled with dogs – overloaded with them – and no humans in sight. Then when we docked for the night who motored past us but the same boat – still filled with dogs, but this time with humans as well. Bella, this bit is for you!

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That’s about it – we have Ray LaMontagne radio on Pandora playing through the boat, Amy’s drawing a thin green line through North Carolina and muttering to herself. I think I had better ask what’s in store…

Oh – but before I go, I wanted to share a clip of the interaction between captains for a passing. I know something similar to this was extremely helpful to us, so we want to pass it forward. So here it is…

Till we finally enter into North Carolina

John

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WHEN RENTS ARE OKAY…

…When they are your paRents!

But wait! First off, the stats for our journey (and to tell the truth, these stats are for yesterday, as today we did not move ONE INCH!)

Travel Day 4 – St Simons Island, GA to Hilton Head Island, SC, 116.5 miles, 7.5 hours

So we are sitting here, at slip A7 in Windmill Harbor Marina, drinking margaritas on the helm deck. Amy’s sorta planning the next two days, although she just said, “They don’t accept transient lips for more that ten days”. Perhaps I made the margaritas too strong…

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Regardless, it’s been another interesting and fun few days. We got into Windmill Harbor yesterday around 4:00pm, after a long and somewhat stressful day of travel. Another cruiser tip – if you plan on going through the Mud River, just north of St Simons Island (mile marker 660 till about 653), be warned that it’s VERY shallow. Stressfully shallow. There’s about a 6′ tidal swing here and if you do it at low tide there is basically no water. Trust me – that’s what we did. The loss of government funding for the ICW means that there’s no dredging in many parts, so shoaling is becoming more and more of an issue, which is shown no better than the MUD RIVER (which lives up to its name – it’s all stirred up and you can’t see bottom, even when it’s scraping by just under your keel). We had many, uh, intense moments throughout this stretch when we were pretty positive we were going to simply grind to a halt, the sounder reading the same number of inches under our bottom as the number of fingers on your two hands. I had to run zig zag patterns simply to find the deepest part of the river, which is tough because the Mud River is so windy (wait – is that a word? Words suck sometimes), curvy, and all ’round voluptuous. We also used the numerous ranges whenever we could – except that half the time the range markers were destroyed, or in the process of becoming destroyed. Still, we never touch bottom, never grounded, and in our book that means success.

Windmill Harbor Marina, our destination. How cool in so many ways. It is protected from the tidal influences of Calibogue Sound by the ‘quaintest’ lock I’ve ever seen (we just got back from running a 43′ canal boat through southern France where we locked through 33 times, so we ate this lock for breakfast). But it works. So smart – no tides at Windmill Harbor Marina.

However, this place holds more interest to me than just a haven for two days. For starters, my parents – the infamous Jean and Zeke, for those who’ve come into their sphere of influence – live here in Hilton Head on a ‘Land Yacht’ (my term as far as I’m concerned, and if you use it then I get royalties).

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(My folks, Jean and Zeke – and Max – in front of their rig)

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: The story of my parents could fill an entire blog, book, bookshelf, and more. Let’s just say they’re way more interesting than I am.]

Beyond my folks (who can get beyond me folks?), Windmill Harbor Marina is where Amy and I looked at a Sabre 38 Hardtop Express in December. It was a pretty boat, but obviously we ended up with a different girl. I had driven to northern Florida in December to do some rebreather diving training (if interested I did write a little about it), and when I was done Amy flew down to Key Largo where I was staying with friends. We drove north together (prophetic, right?), stopping at Hilton Head Island to visit my ‘rents on the way and we all went to see the Sabre at Windmill Harbor Marina. Anyway – my sense of full circle was satisfied when we motored through the opening lock gate into the very same marina on Sequel.

Which brings me to today – kind of. Last night we had pizza on the boat with my folks (pizza was a request of ours) and we were happy to have them as our first boat guests – they were our first guests when we took delivery of our last boat, the Double G.

Today was a ‘down day’. We got up late (7:45), had a leisurely coffee with no checking of fluids (leave it!), no unhooking or stowing, no uprooting in general. Nope – today was all about… Target. West Marine. Laundry. Shaving (I can only vouch for me). And of course seeing my folks again. We also got to meet their neighbors at their motorcoach resort, John and Elaine of Atlanta – wanted to give them a shout out.

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(Nautical equivalent of a high school carwash…)

Lastly, we had coordinated logistically with Jay our installer to have a replacement chartplotter, already preconfigured for us, shipped to Windmill. It arrived today and I swapped out the original unit with this one. Fingers crossed our crashing issue is behind us.

That’s about it. Oh – we watched Non-Stop, an action film with Liam Neeson last night too. It was okay.

Amy’s now checking the weather for tomorrow and just finished filling up our water tanks. And I have to head into the engine room, AKA ‘Holy Place’ and clean the AC strainer basket. Which reminds me – next down day (in about five days), I’m planning on doing a set of blogs titled ‘Meet the Helm’ and ‘Meet the Holy Space’, is that of any interest?

Till then (and our home for the next night)…

John

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