The Trent-Severn Waterway

Last glimpse of the US for a while - Oswego, NY

Last glimpse of the US for a while – Oswego, NY

Leaving the dock at 7:20 a.m. on the 22nd of June, we waved goodbye to the US and entered Lake Ontario. It was a perfect day to make the crossing, the seas almost flat, with sunny skies and only a little haze. We decided to take the most direct route across, almost due north for 50 miles, then another 50 miles through the many switchbacks in the scenic Bay of Quinte’.

Ship on Lake Ontario

Ship on Lake Ontario

It was a long day – 11 hours of non-stop cruising. We were happy to see the town of Trenton and the Fraser Park Marina with Craig the harbor master waiting out on the dock to grab our lines. We had made it to Canada without issues, although there was loads of water in one of the Racor filters.

Ferry Station on Bay of Quinte'

Ferry Station on Bay of Quinte’

Jim went aboard to clear customs and we got settled in. We saw Terry and Anne aboard “Quality Time”, Canadians whom we had seen a few times before. We met some new friends Erik and Karen across the dock from us, and we all commiserated for a while. Jim and I took a short walk around town.

Gateway to the Trent Severn Waterway Bridge

Gateway to the Trent Severn Waterway Bridge

Monday morning we walked to the Metro grocery store to get a few things, the drug store where I printed some 8×10 photos of the grand-kids, and the LCBO – that’s what liquor stores are called here in Canada. If you want beer though, you have to go to The Beer Store.

The 1st Lock on the Trent Severn

The 1st Lock on the Trent Severn

An electrician came to check our battery voltage, as we were having a few issues. We talked to many of the locals. At dinner time we walked across the Gateway to the Trent Severn Waterway bridge with Terry and Anne to a restaurant/bowling alley called Wahoo’s. Afterward we got a tour of Erik and Karen’s custom-made Duffy and shared docktails aboard “A-RIVER-DERCI” with Anne, Terry, Erik and Karen.

Locking thru with Erik and Karen

Locking thru with Erik and Karen

The next morning after a hearty breakfast, pump-out, and re-fueling we started our journey on the Trent Severn. We had tried to watch the weather, but temps were given in Celsius and wind speed was given in kilometers, so none of it made a whole lot of sense.

Canada Geese in the Grasses along the Shore

Canada Geese in the Grasses along the Shore

At the first lock I climbed off and paid for our locking and mooring permits. Lock 1 is the only one you can call via VHF radio. But it’s surprising how well they keep track of you with all the boat traffic. They communicate with the next lock, and so on and so on.

In the Lock at Healey Falls

In the Lock at Healey Falls

At most locks there are walls where you can tie up for the night if you’ve purchased your mooring pass. If you are planning on going through a lock, you are supposed to tie up on the blue line which indicates to the lock workers that you intend to go through.

Tied up to Wall above Lift Locks 16 and 17

Tied up to Wall above Lift Locks 16 and 17

We went through Locks 1 through 6 that first day, meeting up with Erik and Karen. All day we locked through with the same 3 other boats, getting into a rhythm and tying to the cables in the locks on the same side when possible. The locks are small, but much nicer than those on the Erie. Many of them have no hydraulics – workers walk around turning this big handle to open the doors, and crank this contraption to manually regulate the water flow.

Drained Canal below Lock 16

Drained Canal below Lock 16

We stayed on the wall above Lock 6 that evening. The sky became overcast and looked a little threatening. We grilled burgers, took a walk to the park along the river, but soon the rain and thunder sent us inside. We planned our next day’s travel and laid low.

On Wed. the 25th we set a new record of going through 11 locks in the same day, including 2 sets of flight locks. Those are 2 locks together, they share the middle set of doors, so as you drive out of one, you are driving into another. The day was cloudy and cool, but the scenery kept getting better as we went along. We stopped along the port wall above Lock 17. The setting was very rural with birdsong and wildflowers.

Lock Emptied of Water

Lock Emptied of Water

We walked back to the flight locks of 16 and 17 and were amazed that all of the water had been drained out of the lower lock and the approach canal. It was an impressive sight. That night we got treated to a great many fireflies lighting up the bushes and brush along the wall.

The weather the next day was a perfect 10. Lock #18 is at Hastings, which reminded us of Lock #2 on the Mississippi at a town of the same name. After leaving the lock you enter Rice Lake which is dotted with islands and beautiful cottages. Fisherman were out in abundance, and the 10 km/hr speed limit signs were posted along some of the narrow sections. Loons could be seen and heard along the way. Now I was beginning to feel like I was ‘up north’ in Minnesota.

Islands in Rice Lake

Islands in Rice Lake

After navigating the lake, the Trent Severn follows the Otonabee River. Shortly inside the river we came across a young Asian couple in a little motorized rowboat waving their arms. Despite the language barrier, we understood their trouble, hooked up one of our stern lines, and gave them a tow back to

Towing Stranded Couple on the Otonabee River

Towing Stranded Couple on the Otonabee River

the resort where they were staying. It was about an 8 mile run up the river, and slow going. They looked so happy to be rescued, smiling and laughing under their sun umbrella.

We continued up the narrow windy river toward Lock 19, but missed the last opening at Scott Mills, so we tied to the starboard wall behind the blue line. We walked into Peterborough to get ice and ended up eating at a good little Italian restaurant. Back at the boat we made a fix to stop the generator from sparking, Jim added a ground wire, and I washed my hair in the galley sink, as showers are hard to come by on the Trent Severn.

Loons (the MN State Bird) along the Waterway

Loons (the MN State Bird) along the Waterway

Friday the 27th we beat our previously broken record and went through 12 locks. “Quality Time” with their mast stepped and braced by 2×4’s, caught up to us, and we spent the day locking through with them, including the big lift lock at Peterborough. The lift locks are like a ride at the fair. You drive into a big pan, and boats on the upside drive into a pan. You tie to a bar, and the whole pan is lifted up in 2 minutes while the other pan is lowered. The 2 pans balance each other.

The impressive Peterborough Lift Lock

The impressive Peterborough Lift Lock

The Peterborough Lift Lock was completed in 1904 and was considered an engineering marvel at the time. It is the still the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world.

As we climbed via the locks the scenery kept getting more breathtaking. Soon we entered the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario, many connected by the Trent Severn locks. My favorite lake among them is Stony Lake, which is peppered with rocky islands, many with cottages and boat houses. One even was adorned with a church. In many places the rocky bottom could be seen in the crystal clear water.

In the Lift Lock pan with Terry & Anne

In the Lift Lock pan with Terry & Anne

We stopped at the Lockside Trading Company for ice and ice cream. We anchored out in Buckhorn Lake near Terry and Anne. After swimming (bathing really) we took the dinghy over to “Quality Time” for Sundowner’s (Bahamian happy hour at sundown). It was a beautiful star-filled night, but the boat was inundated with many little bugs because of the anchor light.

On Saturday we lollygagged, went for a swim, and cleaned up bugs. That was the 28th, my daughter-in-law’s golden birthday. The lakes were crazy with boaters pulling tubers and wake boarders, rented houseboats, pleasure boaters, and fishermen zigzagging between and around the marked channel.We only went through one lock that day, and made it amid all the holiday weekend boat traffic to the village of Bobcaygeon where we surprisingly got the last spot on the wall, thanks to a very observant lock worker. That lock is the busiest of all on the Trent Severn.

Lock Working Manually Opening Doors

Lock Working Manually Opening Doors

There we met other loopers John and Sue aboard “Thanks Dad” from Pensacola. We hung out on the picnic tables and walked through the quaint little village to the grocery store for a few items. We had a late dinner aboard and watched the boat traffic go by – very entertaining!

Island Cottage on Stony Lake

Island Cottage on Stony Lake

Sunday was another hot and humid busy day on the water. We thought to grab a spot along the wall in Fenelon Falls, but it was jammed and crazy, so we went on to Lock #35 at Rosedale. It was a much quieter rural location, and we got the end spot on the port wall with a picnic table. We watched the boats parading by, grilled brats, and enjoyed the shade from the nearby trees. Jim swam and I went for a walk on a dirt cottage road. At sundown lightning lit up the sky and a short downpour ensued.

Cliff Jumpers

Cliff Jumpers

The following day was another hot one, with heavy boat traffic. We locked through at Rosedale and went to a nearby marina for water, ice, and a pump-out. We ended up buying two new batteries and had them installed. Cruising through Balsam Lake the scent of evergreens was thick in the humid air. Next came the Trent Canal, a very narrow and shallow man-made cut where we met and cautiously passed two other cruisers, barely able to squeeze by each other.

The canal opened into man-made Canal Lake, very weedy and shallow, where we went under the Hole in the Wall Bridge. We tried to get to a wall at the Bolsover Lock #37, but the nearby dam was under construction, and no mooring was available.

Another Beautiful Day on the Trent Severn

Another Beautiful Day on the Trent Severn

So we pulled into the Sunset Cove Marina. The owner’s live on sight, and many of the locals were there enjoying the long holiday weekend. We enjoyed happy hour with some of them on the dock, and many kids were swimming right in the marina. It was nice to have internet access for a change.

The Hole in the Wall Bridge

The Hole in the Wall Bridge

Canada Day (like our 4th of July) was anti-climatic. Jim caught up on his asset management, condo rental, and real estate duties via the internet. We got a ride to a local market with great fresh produce. It was another hot and humid day, but much quieter than I had anticipated. Dinner was chicken on the grill with fresh broccoli and strawberries. At sundown we heard the echoing fireworks from some nearby community, but saw none.

Thunderheads at Sunset

Thunderheads at Sunset

Wednesday the 2nd of July we drove through 5 locks, which were very close together. The scenery changed from lakes to farms. Hay rolls and barns could be seen in the distance, and cows meandered in fields along the waterway. Soon we could see Lake Simcoe in the distance, the largest of all the lakes on the Trent Severn. We took one look at the size of the waves crashing, and decided to stay put until the wind calmed down.

Lake Simcoe Entrance Breakwater

Lake Simcoe Entrance Breakwater

We spent the day tied along the wall behind the breakwater, and watched as boaters came by, drenched from the waves after crossing the lake. Some of them yelled at us, “Don’t do it!” So we hung tight. I took a walk, pulled out the cross-stitch, we watched the movie, “The Fastest Indian”, and watched a storm make its way toward us from across the lake.

Sunset near Lake Simcoe

Sunset near Lake Simcoe

Today we crossed Lake Simcoe in only 4 mph winds, so I’m glad we waited. It was a dreary and much colder day, as the storm brought in a cold front overnight with the winds coming out of the north. Rain spitted on and off, and we pulled into the Mariposa Landing Marina. Laundry desperately needed to be done, so I’m blogging in between loads. Jim got a ride into the nearby town of Orillia to a marine store, then walked to downtown and all the way back.

The marina is just off Lake Simcoe in a marshy section called the Narrows. Canada geese have overtaken the yard, and 3 mink popped out from under the dock next to our boat. Red-winged blackbirds can be heard among the reeds, and earlier we saw a Trumpeter Swan couple with their young.The Trent Severn, a national historic site run by Parks Canada, runs 240 miles north and west, connecting Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay.

At the Trent Severn Summit - Kirkland Lift Lock

At the Trent Severn Summit – Kirkland Lift Lock

We have only 4 locks left of the 44, one of which is the marine railway known as the Big Chute. We both appreciate the ever-changing natural beauty and the many friendly Canadians we’ve met along the way.

As usual we are looking forward to our next leg which is Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron with its 30,000 islands. Hope you all enjoy the 4th of July tomorrow! Until next time… A-River-Derci

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Erie & Oswego Canals

“Low bridge everybody down, Low bridge for we’re com-in to a town, And you always know your neighbor, You’ll always know your pal, If you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal.”

Blue Sign in Troy - Left Turn for the Erie Canal

Blue Sign in Troy – Left Turn for the Erie Canal

The Erie Canal is rich in history, and the famous song written by Thomas Allen in 1905, and re-done throughout modern times by many musicians (including Bruce Springsteen) was in my head for days as we made our way through the Erie Canal.

Wall at Waterford, NY

Wall at Waterford, NY

On Wednesday, June 11th, in intermittent rain, we went past the towns of Hudson and Albany, the capital of NY, and went through our first lock since Virginia. We said goodbye to the Hudson River at the big blue sign in Troy, turning west into the Erie Canal. A short way up the Canal is the town of Waterford, where we pulled up to the wall and got secured in the rain. Many other Loopers were there, and volunteers at the Visitor Center gave us information on the Erie Canal and what lay ahead.

Remnants of Original Erie Canal - now used for overflow

Remnants of Original Erie Canal – now used for overflow

We had docktails aboard “Errante'”, and reconnected with several other Loopers. I took a walk to see nearby original Erie Canal structures, some of which are now used as spillways.

The next morning after breakfast in town and showers, we untied and headed west, locking through the “flight of five” with “Estrellita” and “Young at Heart”. The “flight of five” is a very close set of 5 locks, which rapidly lifted us in elevation. You’d come out of one, and almost immediately enter another. We locked through Lock 7 together in the drizzle, and made our way to the Schenectady Yacht Club in the town of Rexford. After tying up to the rickety floating docks, we settled in, had dinner aboard, and watched a movie on Netflix. I was hoping for blue skies, as the gray days were getting a little old.

Mansion Atop Bluff - Erie Canal - Mohawk River

Mansion Atop Bluff – Erie Canal – Mohawk River

We woke to more rain, and someone pounding on our boat. Jim got up to help secure boats to the docks and docks to the shore. The water had risen precariously during the night, about 7 feet, and debris, trees, and logs sped past in the swift current of the Mohawk River.

Remnants of Aqueduct - Rexford, NY

Remnants of Aqueduct – Rexford, NY

That day they closed down the Erie Canal, and none of the locks were operational. We watched the river rise, the clearance under the nearby bridge shrink, and the buoys disappear under the surface.

We ended up spending 5 nights at the Schenectady Yacht Club, which turned out to be a nice place to be stranded. The locals were very friendly, and a neighboring live-aboard drove us to town for re-provisioning. We had happy hours with the other Loopers, grilled dinner together one night, and even enjoyed a campfire with the locals and swapped boating stories amid the swirling smoke, as the wind couldn’t decide which direction it wanted to blow.

Docks at Schenectady Yacht Club

Docks at Schenectady Yacht Club

One day we walked to the nearby convenience store for ice cream cones, and got a guided tour of the club house, with explanations of all the historic pictures of the nearby Erie Canal and old aqueduct. Once the rain quit, we scrubbed, polished and dusted the boat, inside and out. I caught up on laundry, and walked through the old village of Rexford.

The muddy water receded as fast as it rose, and soon the current was manageable and the Canal was re-opened for public use. The New York State Canal System manages the Canal, and they were busy clearing logs and debris, and re-positioning misplaced buoys in their bright blue and orange boats.

First Mate - Locking Up - Erie Canal

First Mate – Locking Up – Erie Canal

Finally, on Tuesday the 17th of June our section of the Erie Canal re-opened, and we were able to continue. It was an absolutely perfect cruising day, sunny in the upper 80’s, and the scenery was interesting as we motored along. We locked through #8 through #13, still rising. The Adirondacks rose in the distance, and the Mohawk narrowed as we climbed in elevation. We did a 49-mile cruise that day, and stopped at a free wall along the canal, in the town of Canajoharie.

New York State Canal Dredger

New York State Canal Dredger

Eventually many other Loopers pulled in, and the wall soon filled up. A Canadian sailboat ended up ‘rafting up’ with “Estrellita”. The evening was humid, and we walked into town with Burke, Stel, Glenn and Brenda, and had a great Italian meal at Gino’s. Burke didn’t know how to pronounce the town’s name, calling it “Calamari”. So we had to share some calamari as an appetizer and had a few good laughs about it.

One of the Locks and Dams on the Eastern Erie Canal

One of the Locks and Dams on the Eastern Erie Canal

Back at the boat, lightning could be seen flashing across the sky. Soon the wind kicked up, and the downpour ensued. Overnight we ended up with water coming in over the desk where all of our electronics (computer, iPad, phones, remote, and TV) were housed. Luckily, nothing was damaged once we dried out.

Little Falls, NY - Canal is to the right of the pic

Little Falls, NY – Canal is to the right of the pic

Wednesday we had a short day, only going through Locks 14 thru 17 to Little Falls, a very picturesque town, with water seeming to run everywhere. The weather was cooler after the previous night’s storm. We stayed at the marina, again on a canal wall. We walked into town, Brenda got a hair cut and Stel & I meandered through some of the antique shops. Jim also got a haircut, and the guys went to the local hardware store.

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Water Turned from Muddy to Clear

Thursday we waited for the other boats to leave, as we needed access to the pump-out station. We did 5 locks that day, reaching the summit at Lock 21, where we started descending in the locks. At that point the water suddenly turned from muddy to crystal clear. There were many side dams and spillways along the way, and the NYS Canal workers were out in force on dredgers and tugs. We no longer traveled in the Mohawk River, but rather in a straight and narrow man-made channel, which was what I expected the Erie Canal to be like.

Fellow Loopers Welcome Committee at Sylvan Beach

Fellow Loopers Welcome Committee at Sylvan Beach

It was a beautiful clear but breezy day, and we saw many Canada geese with their fluffy youngsters in tow. We pulled into the town of Sylvan Beach on the shores of Lake Oneida late, but other Loopers had saved us a spot along the free wall, which we managed to squeeze into. We had a whole crew to help us with our lines, and it turned into another spot where many of the Loopers converged.

Bridges across the Erie Canal

Bridges across the Erie Canal

It was a fun evening with docktails on the fly bridge of another Looper boat, an antique car show along the beachfront of Lake Oneida, and dinner at a crowded nearby restaurant. The old cars brought back some memories of our childhoods, our first cars, and how we would pack everybody in without seatbelts.

Docktails on Grand Banks - Sylvan Beach

Docktails on Grand Banks – Sylvan Beach

We got up early on Friday the 20th, and shoved off from the tight spot on the wall with the help of Burke, Brenda & Glenn. It was a cool but sunny morning as we traveled the 23-mile length of Lake Oneida. After the lake, the channel narrowed back down, dotted with summer cabins and homes along the shores on both sides. Going was slow with the locks to go through and the many no-wake zones because of all the private docks.

Crossing Lake Oneida

Crossing Lake Oneida

One of the locks had gasoline floating all over the surface of the water, and you could smell and see it along the slimy walls as we descended. We passed many sheriff boats, and found out later that they had found and pulled out a car with the remains of a woman inside who had strangely disappeared 18 years ago.

Junction of Erie and Oswego Canals

Junction of Erie and Oswego Canals

We locked through #23 on the Erie, and came to the junction of the Oswego Canal where we turned north. On the Oswego we went through 6 of the 7 locks (there is no number 4). Some of them were a little challenging in the wind which had become stronger as the day progressed. Current from the adjacent dams as you entered and departed some of the locks was also a little disconcerting.

Remnants of Old Cable Ferry Crossing - Oswego Canal

Remnants of Old Cable Ferry Crossing – Oswego Canal

We arrived in the town of Oswego about 5:00 p.m. and tied on the east wall between Locks 7 and 8. We hosted “sundowners”, the Bahama name for happy hour, on the back deck of A-RIVER-DERCI with a couple from Georgian Bay Ontario, and Glenn and Brenda on “Young at Heart”.

Locking thru on the Erie Canal

Locking thru on the Erie Canal

The town was getting ready for a big kayak event through all the Oswego Canal locks. Tents and picnic tables were set out, a band stand was put in place along with food vendor wagons – all right next to the wall where our boat was moored.

Kayakers Galore

Kayakers Galore

We awoke to another beautiful day. People were milling about, and the live music started at noon. Soon a horde of kayaks appeared, paddling past our boat toward Lock #8. We met and talked with a local resident who has lived his entire life of 63 years in Oswego. He pedaled off on his bicycle, but soon returned with an 8×10 picture of our boat he had just taken from across the canal. What a great gift!  I’m forever amazed at the kindness of strangers we meet along the way!

Oswego River Dam Current and Canal

Oswego River Dam Current and Canal

Jim walked across the bridge to a nearby grocery store for a few items while I worked on the blog. The whole town seemed to be out, celebrating the first day of summer and the kayak festival.

About 4:00 we said goodbye to Brenda and Glenn, and locked through Oswego #8, our last of the New York locks. Lake Ontario looming ahead, we made our way to the fuel dock at the Oswego Marina, filled up and pumped out. We both showered and I did two loads of laundry. Tomorrow we cross Lake Ontario and continue our adventure in Canadian waters.

Lock and Bridge - Oswego Canal

Lock and Bridge – Oswego Canal

The evening ended with fireworks to celebrate the beginning of summer. They were blown off right across the canal from us, and we sat up top to get the best view possible. It makes me wonder where we’ll be on the 4th of July. If we’re still in Canada, we’ll have to enjoy the fireworks on July 1st, Canada Day, instead of on the 4th.

Sylvan Beach Lighthouse - Lake Oneida

Sylvan Beach Lighthouse – Lake Oneida

We’re prepping the boat and charting our course for the big crossing of Lake Ontario tomorrow. Our intention is to make it to Trenton, where we will go through customs. Jim is putting the Canadian flag atop our US flag, which is a requirement while there.

While we are in Canada we will have very limited ability to text or take phone calls. Email will be our best way of communication. We’re excited to be on our way in the morning, with low winds and sunshine predicted. Happy trails to you all! A-RIVER-DERCI

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New Jersey, NYC, and the Hudson

I have fallen behind on updating the blog, so thought I’d better get to it! We have been moving along at a good pace, and have caught up with many other Loopers, despite our many delays with boat repairs.

Walkway to Pool and Aqua Sol Restaurant and Showers at Summit North Marina

Walkway to Pool, Aqua Sol Restaurant, Showers and Laundry at Summit North Marina

The Friday after Memorial weekend, we had a diesel mechanic install the re-built fuel pump and injectors for the main engine. We did a quick sea trial with the mechanic, only to find that one of the injectors was not working correctly. We quickly turned back into the marina, and despite the late hour were able to get in touch with Geoff Hoffman, who drove over, picked it up, re-built it and tested it, and drove it back so it could be installed that evening. Such service!

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Delaware City Street

After that all was good. We left Summit North Marina on Saturday morning for a short stint to Delaware City, finally completing the 14-mile C&D Canal (in 8 days). We arrived at the marina (one long dock in another canal) to find several other Looper’s. We commiserated with them, explored the town, and enjoyed crab balls and split a seafood potpie at Crabby Dick’s.

Lighthouse in Delaware Bay

Lighthouse in Delaware Bay

That evening we had a debriefing session with the Harbormaster for our trip through Delaware Bay to Cape May, NJ. Because of the tide and currents, we left Sunday morning at 6:00 a.m., and made good time traversing the length of the bay. The winds were light, perfect for crossing big water. Ships passed by in the nearby shipping channel, and lighthouse markers warned of hazards along the way.

Jim periodically goes down below to check the Racor filters while we are underway, and once we had to shut down because the pressure gauge was in the red, indicating restriction of the fuel system. We made it to the Cape May Canal, having to wait to enter for an outbound ferry. Once in the canal, we made our way a few miles in to Utcher’s Marina.

Jersey Shore Ferris Wheel

Jersey Shore Ferris Wheel

We decided that our restriction problem had to be a little electric pump, so Jim got some fuel lines and fittings so that we could by-pass the pump. We managed to do this rather quickly, and ran the engine to test it. Our 50-mile cruise and engine work done, we enjoyed a docktail party with about 20 others doing the loop. Then we were off to the Lobster House for seafood take-out.

Ocean City, NJ

Ocean City, NJ

Many of us were planning to go on the outside, into the Atlantic for the next stint, but due to changes in wind direction, and our lack of confidence in our fuel system, we decided to take the inside, the New Jersey ICW. We traveled the entire NJ ICW with 2 other Looper’s, “Estrellita” and “Fruitcakes”. It was reassuring to be traveling with a couple other boats, and enjoyed getting to know them along the way.

New Jersey House - Where's the yard?

New Jersey House – Where’s the yard?

The NJ ICW is very shallow, not really maintained, albeit to reposition markers as necessary. The southern portion reminded us of Georgia, very  flat, winding its way through marshes and sand bars. Wading in the shallows were men with rakes, collecting oysters on the bottom. The Jersey shore is densely populated, most communities having large ferris wheels that loomed amid the crowded buildings. We rode under many bridges, several which had to be opened as our height of 15′ was too tall for clearance.

Atlantic City, NJ

Atlantic City, NJ

We made our way around Atlantic City to an anchorage right near the ocean inlet. It was wavy, with current and a lot of traffic, and wasn’t our favorite spot, the lights of Harrah’s and the Golden Nugget our view that evening. We saw “Nightcap II” and dropped the hook nearby.

Raking for Oysters

Raking for Oysters

Tuesday morning we pulled up anchor about 8:00 a.m. on the rising tide so we’d have the current in our favor. Again we encountered many shallow areas, and spots where the actual markers didn’t match the GPS. Unfortunately, “Estrellita” ran aground, as they missed one of the red markers in a confusing spot. They had to wait several hours for high tide in order to get off the bottom, and back into the channel.

Estrellita and Fruitcakes NJ ICW bridge opening

Estrellita and Fruitcakes NJ ICW bridge opening

We slowly went on, stopping in Long Beach where we got pumped out and filled up with diesel for only $3.55/gal. It looked like a really fun area to stop and explore, but it was early and we had plans to stay at the last marina on the ICW with our traveling companions. So we kept moving. As we got further along, the channel became wider and easier to navigate, although the sky suddenly looked threatening.

New Jersey Shore Parasailer

New Jersey Shore Parasailer

After only light rain, we went through another canal with very swift current, and made our way to Hoffman’s Marina in Brielle, NJ, the last stop before the Manasquan Inlet. We had a meeting with our fellow Looper’s, and planned our trip into the Atlantic and to New York City.

On Wednesday, June 4th, we shoved off about 8:30, having to wait for a NJ Transit train to pass so they could open the bridge. We made it through the inlet and a couple miles out into the Atlantic. We had no issues, with very flat seas, although there was quite a bit of debris, crab pots, and fishermen to avoid.

Great Kills, Staten Island

Great Kills, Staten Island

We decided to part company by Sandy Hook, they heading on through NYC, and us to Staten Island where we could get a mooring ball in a cove near Great Kills. The marina that had the mooring balls was completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, the office was a tent in the parking lot, and they had no restrooms or showers. Plus they wanted $45 each night to tie to a mooring.

Times Square with NYPD cop

Times Square with NYPD cop

Arthur, a gentlemen from the Great Kills Yacht Club nearby owned a mooring, and offered it to us for free. So that’s what we did. The people at the GKYC were so accommodating, friendly, and helpful! Beers were $2 (unheard of for anywhere in NY), and we were so entertained by listening to the accents and stories around the bar.

Times Square - Jim with 2 painted ladies

Times Square – Jim with 2 painted ladies

We got a lot of helpful information from John, the harbor mate, about boating thru NYC harbor, and about transportation to the city. On Friday, June 6th, after mechanic Santiago spent 4 hours getting our generator to work, we walked to the bus stop nearby, and rode into NYC.

What a blast! The bus took us right by the 911 site, with its new sculpture being erected out of the rubble, and up to mid-Manhattan where we got off at 34th Street. From there we walked all over – to Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and all the way to Central Park. Once there, to rest our tired feet, we hired a young man on a pedi-cab to pedal us around the park so we could see more of the sites.

Central Park lake & fountain

Central Park lake & fountain

I had no idea it was so big, green, quiet, and beautiful! The energy of the city invigorated us, but with achy feet and smiles, we found our way to a bus stop, and hopped on, depositing our 24 quarters each for our ride back to Staten Island.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Saturday, the 7th of June, we departed Staten Island in light winds and sunshine. Slowly we made our way past the rock pile, which before Sandy held a lighthouse for 90 years, and into New York harbor. Carefully, making our way through the heavy traffic in the harbor (ships, ferries, water taxis, barges, excursion boats, travelers, pleasure boaters, fishing boats, and even a kayak), we cruised by the Statue of Liberty, then Ellis Island, then Manhattan, Yonkers, and up the Hudson River.

Manhattan Cruise Ship Terminal

Manhattan Cruise Ship Terminal

It was good to leave the hustle and bustle of New York City behind, and comforting to be in more familiar territory on a river. The Hudson is very picturesque with steep green bluffs on its banks, very deep water and huge spanning bridges. Our first stop on the Hudson was in the town of Harmon at Half Moon Bay Marina. It reminded us so much of our own Lake Pepin, where our marina is located back home.

Hudson River Sunset from Half Moon Bay Marina

Hudson River Sunset from Half Moon Bay Marina

Once again we reconnected with several loopers, and shared stories with some of the locals enjoying the weekend on their boats. Jim got a ride on a Donzi from owner Dominic, zipped up to an easy 70 mph in a few seconds.

Waterfall along the Hudson

Waterfall along the Hudson

We showered up on Sunday morning, then walked to a fantastic farmer’s market, where I got fresh eggs, rib-eye steaks, strawberries, potatoes, bread, asparagus, pickles, cookies, spinach and mushrooms. Afterward, a marina worker gave us rides, first to the local laundromat (expensive at $4 per wash), then to the grocery store to re-stock. It was an all-day affair, hauling our stuff down the docks, and stowing everything.

Monday morning we got a late start after sauna, showers, breakfast, and pump-out. It was foggy and cloudy, and we bucked the strong current as we slowly headed north.

Scottish Castle Ruins

Scottish Castle Ruins

The surroundings became more mountainous, trains traversing both sides of the river. We cruised near the ruins of Bannermann’s Castle on Pollepel Island, then past the formidable West Point Military Academy on the western shore. At points fog hampered our visibility, and light drizzle fell. We found some mooring balls in Chelsea, but our displacement was too much for their anchor weights. The harbor master came out in a little boat, and directed us to drop the hook at the southern end of his mooring field, which we did.

West Point Military Academy

West Point Military Academy

Barge wakes caused a little rocking, but we slept soundly. The Hudson still has tidal current, so we swung 180 degrees with the changing of the tide. The train whistles were loud, but did not disturb us much out on the water. I made pesto chicken Florentine for dinner, and we watched “America’s Got Talent”.

Islands & Bluffs - Hudson River

Islands & Bluffs – Hudson River

This morning we got underway about 10:00 a.m., making good time as the tidal current was in our favor for most of the day. We passed the town of Hyde Park, home to the Roosevelt’s and Vanderbilt’s. Unique lighthouses appeared alongside the channel, the Catskill Mountains hovered in the distance, and beautiful homes dotted the bluffs along the river.

An old Lighthouse, now converted to a B&B

An old Lighthouse, now converted to a B&B

We dropped the hook again just outside the channel. Jim tightened some bolts to keep the generator from rattling, and removed an air pump which is serving no purpose. Tomorrow we will go to Troy, through our first NY lock, and turn left into the Erie Canal. We will be on the NY Canal System, partway through the Erie, then up the Oswego until we hit Lake Ontario. This is another unique stretch that we are really looking forward to. Since we’re in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s neck of the woods, I will leave you with one of his famous quotes, “There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.”

In Central Park

In Central Park

Hope all is well with everyone following us on the blog! A-RIVER-DERCI!

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Chesapeake and C&D Canal

Patuxent River from Solomons Island

Patuxent River from Solomons Island

Saturday morning the 17th of May we took our time getting underway as the winds were supposed to calm down a bit in the afternoon. We had a big breakfast aboard, and took cool showers (not much hot water in the rustic marina bathhouse). We got underway about 11:00 a.m., winding our way through the narrow channel to get out to the Chesapeake.

Ships on the Chesapeake

Ships on the Chesapeake

Once out in the big bay, we turned to the northeast, with 3 to 4 foot waves at our bow. By 1:30 the winds had calmed down, making for a more comfortable ride.  The sun was shining, although the temp was only about 70 degrees. A little confusion ensued at a couple of points with ship traffic, and restricted and prohibited areas marked on the chart.

Sunset from ZYC Mooring Field - Solomons Island

Sunset from ZYC Mooring Field – Solomons Island

Solomons Island, about 10 miles up the Patuxent River was our destination that day, and we were surprised to find available mooring balls up Back Creek in Zahniser’s field. We picked up a ball and registered over the phone. There were a couple nearby Looper’s whom we chatted with. Since it was a weekend, many pleasure boats were out, and Darrell and Ruth from Nova Scotia who we met in Deltaville, pulled in before sunset and got secured to a ball. Live music could be heard in the distance. We grilled and played backgammon on the back deck, and chatted with folks on neighboring boats and bypassing dinghies.

Jim and our loaner bikes next to the Oyster House

Jim and our loaner bikes next to the Oyster House

The morning dawned sunny and clear, and we decided to take advantage of the loaner bicycles the marina offered. We pedaled to the Riverwalk area, and did the remainder of our exploration on foot. Solomons Island was founded in the late 1700’s, and is known for its oyster harvesting. We toured the John C. Lore Oyster House, where the process of cleaning, shucking, and canning the oysters took place. In the early 1800’s there were so many oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries that all the water was filtered and cleaned by them in only 3 days. Now, because of the dramatic decline, it takes the remaining oysters a month to filter all the water in the Bay.

The Tiki Bar - Solomons Island

The Tiki Bar – Solomons Island

We found a tiki bar (imagine that), and enjoyed one of their famous drinks out in the alley, which was covered in beach sand, palm trees, lawn chairs, and umbrellas.  We pedaled back to the marina, and had a cocktail at the pool bar which had just opened for the season the previous day. After dinner, Jim took me to the dock (via dinghy of course) so I could take a shower. That was an amazing shower – better than my own private bathroom at home!

Dinghy Ride - Solomons Island

Dinghy Ride – Solomons Island

Monday the 19th we got an early start because we had to stop for pump-out and water at the dock. The current was surprisingly strong, and we had difficulty getting into the dock. Third time’s the charm! Underway again, back down the Patuxent past the Naval Air Station, we saw their blimp flying overhead. Five ships were anchored where the Patuxent and the Chesapeake meet, and it’s a little disconcerting. Jim turned on the AIS on his cell phone, which shows all ships in the area, their names, destination, and speed and direction if they are en route.

Lighthouse Marker - Chesapeake Bay

Lighthouse Marker – Chesapeake Bay

Once again, the Chesapeake was a little choppy, but calmed down later in the afternoon. We stayed clear of the main shipping channel, and navigated our way up the Severn River to the city of Annapolis, MD. Again we got secured to a mooring ball in the City Marina’s field.

Dinghy with Mallards - Annapolis Alley

Dinghy with Mallards – Annapolis Alley

Annapolis was a hubbub of activity. We took the dinghy up the “alley”, lined with boats and restaurants, to the dinghy dock at the very end. The Plebes (freshmen) from Annapolis Naval Academy had graduated, and were all out on the town in their dress whites. We meandered along old brick tree-lined streets, passed many quaint shops, colonial homes, and the State House, the first Capitol of the U.S., and the longest continually used government building. The grounds were well manicured with lush landscaping, and made one stop to think about our nation’s beginning years.

Blue Angels - State House in background

Blue Angels – State House in background

Mallards had taken over the dinghy upon our return, and they were obviously not shy. It took a bit to shoo them away. Back at the boat we grilled burgers, watched the boats passing by, and saw Ruth and Darrell again on a mooring ball nearby, and made plans to have lunch in town with them the following day.

Darrell and Ruth's Boat "Nightcap II"

Darrell and Ruth’s Boat “Nightcap II”

The next morning was overcast. We dinghied back up the “Alley” to the dinghy dock and met up with Ruth and Darrell. We walked to a little Irish place and had a great lunch and a couple of beers/wines. Afterward, they came aboard and we enjoyed the Blue Angels performance overhead, their company and conversation.

Naval Academy Shoes Off before boarding boat tied up in Annapolis "Alley"

Naval Academy Shoes Off before boarding boat tied up in Annapolis “Alley”

About 8:30 Wed morning, we left the mooring field under cloud cover and threat of rain. We went under the 3.7 mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge. We made good time, as the tidal current was in our favor, but both Racor filters plugged, so we had to shut down and change both of them. We were cruising up the Elk River, at the very northeastern tip of the Chesapeake when we spotted the Harbour North Boat Yard, so radioed and were directed into the shallow channel to the fuel dock. Shortly afterward, we motored to the Travel Lift, and mechanic Mike King emptied all the fuel from the port tank.

Boat in Lift - Harbour North Boat Yard

Boat in Lift – Harbour North Boat Yard

We had dinner at the Sunset Cafe – surprisingly tasty food for such a small little joint. The owner of the Boat Yard is the main chef and creates his own menus and recipes. We spent the night in the sling of the Travel Lift and watched the finale of American Idol.

Early Thursday morning Mike showed up with McDonald’s breakfast, and the main engine filters were all changed. They pulled the boat out of the water, and Jim replaced the zinc on the bow thruster, and examined the bottom, the prop, and the keel. Everything looked pretty good, until Jim found a fuel leak coming from the injector pump. So that got taken out and sent off to an outside guy to have new seals installed.

View from Boat Yard - the Elk River in the Distance

View from Boat Yard – the Elk River in the Distance

We borrowed a van and drove all over in search of a laundromat. We finally found one in Elkton, after driving around in circles. Siri was no help on the iPhone. But the countryside was beautiful, very green with rolling hills, woods, and horse farms.

Neighboring boat (sinking) with live-aboards

Neighboring boat (sinking) with live-aboards

Four loads of laundry done, we headed back to the marina and put everything away and had dinner aboard. Then a walk through the muddy yard to the Sunset Cafe for a couple of drinks and games of pool. The place is aptly named, for the sunset that evening was spectacular – the rain clouds bringing out many colors and reflections in the calm water. That night, in the sling again, we fell asleep to the sounds of a bilge pump running every 15 seconds on a neighboring boat.

Mechanic Mike with Daughter Sophia - Boat on Blocks

Mechanic Mike with Daughter Sophia – Boat on Blocks

The next morning our boat was moved to blocks in the yard, as they needed the travel lift for another job. I rode in the front berth, which was a little eerie. I got a shower in, not the greatest facilities, but better than nothing. Mike re-installed the fuel injector pump, and everything seemed to be running smoothly. Then back on the Travel Lift to the sling for our final night there. We split an order of seafood lasagna at the Sunset Cafe, and a piece of the best Key Lime pie I think I’ve ever tasted, and said our goodbyes to the regulars.

We left early after making sure the engine was warmed up and running smoothly. We entered the C&D Canal, and refueled at Schaefer’s Marina in Chesapeake City, after waiting for them to open. We shoved off, going under the Chesapeake City Bridge.

Chesapeake City Bridge - Ship approaching in C&D Canal

Chesapeake City Bridge – Ship approaching in C&D Canal

Just out of the no-wake zone, the engine started to rev up on its own. Jim went down below to check things out. Oil and fuel were spewing out from the main engine, and we were blowing smoke. We were able to shut down, and despite anchoring being prohibited in the 14-mile canal, we did so.

Another Tow

Another Tow

Luckily were off to the side enough, as soon after a ship approached. Jim quickly radioed them to let them know our position and our predicament. We called US Tow Boat, and got towed into Summit North Marina, about half way through the canal.

Hot Air Balloon from our slip at Summit North Marina in Bear, DE

Hot Air Balloon from our slip at Summit North Marina in Bear, DE, piloted by a marina employee

We have someone lined up to look at our problem, but being a long holiday weekend, we have gotten very slow service.The weather is beautiful, and we made it to Delaware, but we are both beginning to wonder if this old boat is worth sinking more money into. Our hope is that this stop will be our last in a series of ‘working’ stops, and that things will finally be operating the way they should once and for all. It has definitely been a memorable Memorial Day weekend.

 

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Phase IV – Chesapeake Bay

Ellie and Logan   :)

Ellie and Logan 🙂

I arrived back in Norfolk on Friday, May 9th, after a great visit back home with friends, kids, Mom, siblings, and best of all, grand children. My time there was busy and full, and it was good to re-connect face-to-face with those so dear to me, and to meet Logan, the new addition!

Jim greeted me at the airport, having rented a car to go to the Great Looper’s Rendezvous during my absence. It was good to see him, and I was struck by how green everything looked in comparison to home with the late Spring there.

Atlantic Yacht Basin Sunset - 5/9/14

Atlantic Yacht Basin Sunset – 5/9/14

Saturday we spent re-provisioning, and planned our first few days in the Chesapeake. We walked to the ‘Farm Fresh’ grocery store nearby, toting our carts. We also purchased an extension cord for the iPad, which has proven invaluable as an additional aid to navigation while up on the fly-bridge. Jim showed me all the improvements done to the boat. He fixed the helm seat, which was rickety and squeaky and even fell off a few times! We enjoyed watching the big boats waiting for the Great Bridge bridge openings, and I met a few of the neighbors and toured one of their boats.

A couple of the many Norfolk Bridges

A couple of the many Norfolk Bridges

Mother’s Day dawned bright and sunny with light winds. After breakfast and dishes, we moved the boat up the dock to the fuel area, where we pumped out and fueled up. We shoved off, then waited a few minutes for the 10:00 bridge opening. Just beyond the bridge is the Great Bridge lock with a short drop of a couple of feet. Beyond that the Steel Bridge, where we waited again for the hourly opening.

Downtown Norfolk

Downtown Norfolk

We cruised past many commercial and military ships, and the downtown area of Norfolk, and I saw where the Rendezvous had taken place. After several more bridges and a wait for a ship leaving port, we made our way into the great Chesapeake Bay. We cruised about 50 miles that day in sunshine and sparkling calm seas to Yorktown, which is up the York River about 6 miles. Here we got a mooring ball from the Riverwalk Marina. We played backgammon, and talked, texted, or Face-timed with the kids. It had been a blissful day, perfect boating weather with beautiful vistas, and no engine or fuel problems!

Military Ship Going thru Double Yorktown Bridge

Military Ship Going thru Double Yorktown Bridge

Huge waves rolled through from somewhere Monday morning, and I flew out of bed. That got me going! We watched a military ship pass through the 60 ft. high Coleman Memorial Bridge, the only double swing-bridge in the US, and make its way to the munitions depot beyond. We took the dinghy to the marina office to settle up for the use of the mooring ball. From there we explored the Riverwalk on foot, then hopped a free trolley to the Yorktown Victory Center.

Yorktown Beach - Boat on Mooring in Distance

Yorktown Beach – Boat on Mooring in Distance

Yorktown is significant in our nation’s history, as it was where the last battle of the Revolutionary War took place, and where the British commander Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington. The Victory Center was a large museum with an amazing collection from that time, and had a living-history army encampment and 1780’s farm.

Victory Monument Site - Bridge in Background

Victory Monument Site – Bridge in Background

From there we rode the trolley to the Victory Monument, which was at the site of the battle. The 13 women around the mid-section of the monument represent the 13 US colonies. The grounds provided a picturesque view of the York River, from which we could see our boat.

Victory Monument - Yorktown

Victory Monument – Yorktown

It was a long and hot walk back to the Riverwalk area of town where we stopped at Ben & Jerry’s for ice cream and a bag of ice. Back at the boat we donned our swimsuits, turned on the air conditioning, dangled our feet in the 63 degree water, and watched the dolphins.

On Tuesday the 13th, after having trouble keeping the generator running, we headed back down the York toward the Chesapeake, again encountering ships and many Coast Guard boats. The engine quit once, but with our new double Racor system, Jim was able to quickly switch tanks, and we were soon underway again. It was another beautiful sunny and hot day. We navigated into Jackson Creek, and pulled into the Deltaville Marina and Boat Yard.

Deltaville - Relaxing in Adirondack Chairs by Laundry

Deltaville – Relaxing in Adirondack Chairs by Laundry

After discussing our continued problems with the Boat Yard staff, we scheduled work to be done early the following morning. We took loaner bicycles into town, and made a stop at West Marine for a new shore power cord and more filters. We met some of the other boaters, and turned in early.

Spring Blooms in Deltaville

Spring Blooms in Deltaville

At 7:30 Wed morning the mechanic was at our boat. They believed our issue was a matter of a plugged screen on the port fuel intake line. To access the line, a 6″ diameter hole had to be cut through the parquet wood floor, which took some doing. While the work was being done I did a couple of loads of laundry. They had diagnosed the issue correctly, and by noon we were underway again.

View from Sandy Point Anchorage

View from Sandy Point Anchorage

We did a short stint that day, about 25 miles because of the delayed start. The engine ran great, although the Racor filters picked up water, so they had to be drained. We anchored out near Sandy Point in the Great Wicomico River off Ingram Bay. I loved the anchorage spot as it was very secluded and protected. We played backgammon on the upper deck during happy hour. That evening the fog rolled in, and frogs could be heard croaking in the distance.

Sandy Point - Wicomico

Sandy Point – Wicomico

Surprisingly there was no fog in the morning, only low clouds and 10 mph winds. We made our way back down the Wicomico, through Ingram Bay to the Chesapeake. We encountered many crab pots along the way. Ships could be seen nearby in the shipping channel, and we had following seas, which picked up gradually as we headed north. One area on the navigation chart showed directional traffic lanes. Occasionally there are large round markers appearing in the distance like lighthouses or the pilot house on a ship.

View from slip at Smith's Point Marina

View from slip at Smith’s Point Marina

We had difficulty maneuvering to the narrow inlet on our way to Smith’s Point Marina. We chose it for the protection it offered, as the weather was forecasted to turn nasty, with rain and gale warnings on the Chesapeake.

The marina is very remote and a little on the rustic side. The employees were very helpful with docking and pump-out upon our arrival. All Racor filters were loaded with water upon our arrival, so Jim drained them, and arranged to have the fuel polished once again. Back at the Atlantic Yacht Basin, after polishing, the mechanic left the cap off the fuel tank. Jim arrived after dark in the pouring rain and hail, not noticing the cap was off. In the morning after his discovery, they re-polished the fuel to get the water out, but obviously they didn’t get it all.

Interesting Looking Bug on our deck table

Interesting Looking Bug on our deck table

The fuel polisher is here now, and he is finding loads of water and black gunk in the fuel. Will this issue never end? I am tired of not trusting the boat, and Jim is tired of moving furniture, lifting the heavy engine covers off, and lying on his belly with his arms deep into the abyss below. From overuse, he now has water on one knee, and is disgusted that we keep having fuel issues. And we’re both getting tired of the smell of diesel.

Bottle Nosed Porpoise

Bottle Nosed Porpoise

One nice thing, after heavy rains this morning the sun just broke out again. The winds have shifted from a southerly direction to a northerly, making it cooler. It will also mean we will be driving into the waves, which makes life easier when underway.

Once through the Chesapeake we go thru the C&D Canal, then through the Delaware Bay. Our travels will take us through mainly very big water until we clear NYC and are several miles up the Hudson River. It is a little intimidating, and requires certain weather windows, so progress seems a little slow. At the Rendezvous Jim was told that more people climb Mt. Everest every year than travel the Great Loop route. It is a much more grueling endeavor than we ever dreamed, but am glad we are committed to finish the journey.

Hanging with George Washington

Hanging with George Washington

Tonight I’m going to cook a good chicken dinner. We plan on leaving tomorrow morning to head up the Chesapeake to Solomon Island. It sounds like a fun community, with a nearby grocery store and lots to do. I’m looking forward to a little civilization after the remote areas we’ve been in for the last few days. Our phones don’t work here, but one good thing we have great internet service. Perfect chance to work on the blog!

Cruising the Chesapeake - Land Ahoy!

Cruising the Chesapeake – Land Ahoy!

Until next time, ARiverDerci!

 

 

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Phase 3 Completion

Logan Robert Rossman - isn't he handsome?

Logan Robert Rossman – isn’t he handsome?

Today is my 58th birthday, and this morning I’ve been reminiscing about our journey, and the difficulties and challenges we’ve faced on this phase, and the people we’ve met along the way. We made it to our destination of Norfolk at the Atlantic Yacht Basin on the 21st, tying up at the end of the face dock at about the same time our grandson Logan was coming into this world. I am SO excited to meet him and hold him and smell his sweet baby smell! I fly out tomorrow for a 2-week visit with family back in Minnesota. ♥

Alligator River Marina Office/Convenience Store

Alligator River Marina Office/Convenience Store

On Good Friday, the 18th of April, we said our goodbyes to Nick and Mary at Dowry Creek Marina. They helped us with our lines and we shoved off with Mike aboard ‘Queen of Hearts’ following. He is single-handedly taking his 37′ Grand Harbor back to New Hampshire. I have great admiration for him because of that, and sometimes wonder how he manages everything alone. We headed up the Pungo River, then through a straight and narrow canal into the wide Alligator River. Here the waterway widened, and again the cold wind and waves made our progress a little challenging.

'Queen of Hearts' docked in Alligator River Marina

‘Queen of Hearts’ docked in Alligator River Marina

Finally after 5 days with no phone service we were able to call the Alligator River Bridge, and found out that they were operational. After the bridge opened and we were through we turned hard to port, and through the waves made it into the Alligator River Marina. The dock hand was waiting for us (his name was Logan), and helped us get secured against the pilings and the narrow rickety wooden dock.

Entering South Mills Lock

Entering South Mills Lock

The marina has good protection with a sound breakwater, but the office is in a convenience store, along a stretch of road 12 miles from the nearest town. Only one other boat was there, besides ‘Queen of Hearts’ and ‘A-River-Derci’. We had burgers together at the grill inside the gas station/convenience store – they were surprisingly tasty. It was chilly and windy, and we laid low in prep for the next day’s voyage across Albermarle Sound.

Superintendent's House - Great Dismal Swamp Canal

Superintendent’s House – Great Dismal Swamp Canal

The next day dawned gray and overcast. It was windy once again, with occasional spits of rain. The markers were confusing as we navigated around the Middle Ground, the shallow entrance to the Albermarle. We passed by the sailboat from the marina, coming back. That should have been an indication how bad it was, but we proceeded anyway.

Elizabeth City Bascule Bridge

Elizabeth City Bascule Bridge

The Albermarle is 34 miles across, and the waves slammed at our bow. Staying on course was nearly impossible as we were tossed around. The wind picked up, with 6 to 8 foot waves crashing up onto the deck and spraying over the top of the fly-bridge cover. And then we realized that the anchor had jumped out of its cradle, and was dangling precariously over the port side of the bow, smashing against the boat. So Jim donned his life jacket and rain pants, went below and climbed out through the hatch, creeped along on his belly holding on for dear life, and retrieved and secured the anchor.  I was at the upper helm steering and praying that he would not be swept overboard.

Spring blossoms - because no pics of crossing the Albermarle

Spring blossoms – because no pics of crossing         Albermarle Sound

The anchor problem seemed to be the beginning of a downward spiral, with more and more things going awry. Jim was soaked to the skin, and back down below, tried to secure the furniture and other things flying around, having to crawl, as standing was impossible. Water gushed in through the windshield, soaking the desk area where our electronics and computer sat. Somehow he managed to make it back up to the flybridge. Meanwhile I was at the helm trying to maintain our compass direction of 22 degrees. I had legs braced a good 3 feet apart, unable to take even one hand off the wheel, rocking and reeling.

Pontoon Bridge over the Dismal Swamp Canal

Pontoon Bridge over the Dismal Swamp Canal

On the fly-bridge deck we have a container that houses the gasoline for the dinghy. It was sliding back and forth, slamming into the side curtain. Somehow Jim managed to tie it in, for fear that it would tear through the side-cover. I kept my eyes to the compass, the GPS, and the horizon, hoping to see land ahead, but nothing yet.

And then the engine quit. And of course the boat gradually turned, the waves coming at us from the side, rolling. Jim hurried below, and somehow managed to change the filter. Panic stricken, I grabbed my life jacket, sure that I would soon have to make a mayday call, and went below. On my knees I held the sliding door from slamming open and shut and prayed. In record time while being tossed around, Jim got the engine running. Holding on for dear life, I climbed the ladder and took over at the helm, steering back into the waves.

Barge tied up near lock

Barge tied up near lock

Eventually we were able to make out land ahead, which helped lift our spirits. As we got closer, the wave height lessened to 3 to 4 feet, and soon we turned to port, following the shoreline. Now we had to deal with hundreds of crab pots for several miles. We stayed in touch with Mike when possible via radio, a couple miles behind us.

Elizabeth City, NC

Elizabeth City, NC

Jim went below to check the Racor filter, and we had to shut down once again. The upper gasket was missing, and fuel was spewing into the bilge. After replacing the filter and gasket, we were underway.  Then we made it many miles up the wide Pasquotank River to the town of Elizabeth City, and waited for a bridge opening there. We decided to anchor behind Goat Island, about 5 miles north of Elizabeth City where we would have good wind protection.

'Queen of Hearts' boarded by the US Coast Guard

‘Queen of Hearts’ boarded by the US Coast Guard

Shaken, wet, and hungry, we set the hook. The Coast Guard pulled in behind us and first boarded ‘Queen of Hearts’. And then they came over and boarded ‘ARiverDerci’. It was not that bad, as we have all of our safety equipment in order. Still it was a little unnerving.

Daily event at our final destination

Daily event at our final destination

Afterwards, Mike invited us over for cocktails and commiseration, so we took the dinghy down and putted over to his boat nearby. He had also taken on water and had stuff flying out of cabinets, etc. He has a ‘hole’ in the vision of one eye, and had no one else aboard for moral support. He thought he probably ran over 6 crab pots, but has cutters on his twin props. Still, I think that he fared better than we did with our anchor and fuel problems.

Southern end of the Dismal Swamp

Southern end of the Dismal Swamp (with dismal weather)

Easter morning we were set to take off, only to find that we were still leaking fuel into the bilge. I like to think of the bilge as the Black Hole; if you drop something down there you will likely never see it again. Mike turned around and brought us some kind of goop to help stop the leak. Then he took off. We needed to make the 11:30 lock opening up ahead in the Dismal Swamp. A little difficulty pulling up the anchor in the heavy mud, then we were on our way.

Wisteria Vines in Bloom

Wisteria Vines in Bloom – Easter Sunday

The Dismal Swamp route is part river, but most of our way was through the canal, very straight and narrow, bordered by a wide variety of trees.  I loved the calmness of it after our experience the day before. We made it to the South Mills lock, built in the early 1800’s, with only a minute to spare!   Then through the opened bridge which operates in conjunction with the lock.

Boats at the NC Welcome Center, Great Dismal Swamp Canal

Boats at the NC Welcome Center, Great Dismal Swamp Canal

At Mile 28 we pulled into the NC Welcome Center, a roadside rest area that has a free dock and borders the Dismal Swamp State Park. We had difficulty docking the boat, but finally made it, and got secured. Later, I cooked Easter dinner. Mike provided the sausage and pork roast, and we enjoyed a great meal together, complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, carrots, and cranberries.

Narrow Dismal Swamp Canal

Narrow Dismal Swamp Canal

The weather was cold, but I bundled up and took a walk after dinner and dishes, and learned a little more about the history of the Great Dismal Swamp and the canal. In the 1760’s, George Washington wanted to drain the swamp and develop it, but that venture didn’t pan out. The money was in the timber, which was cut mainly for shingles and lumber. The southern slaves built most of the canal, and in doing so became familiar with it. Because of that it became a place for those that escaped to hide and live in. Later, it became a link on the Underground Railroad.

IMG1_0210The Great Dismal Swamp is a vast and dangerous place, eerie and mysterious. On my walk through the cypress, pin oak, sweet gumwood and sassafras trees, I happened upon a mailbox, labeled ‘Kindred’ with the red flag up, as if it contained a message for me. Inside was a journal housed in a large Ziploc bag, so I sat down and read many of the entries, and added my own.

Dock through the trees at the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center

Dock through the trees at the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center

Sore, bruised and weary, we went to bed early that night, and woke to sunshine and warmer temps the following morning. We said goodbye to Mike, who decided to wait out for less winds, and slowly made our way further up the Dismal Swamp canal. The entire canal is one long no-wake zone, and the first bridge we encountered did not open on schedule. Fortunately, there is a free dock right before the bridge where we tied up. We walked into Deep Creek and shared a pizza at a little place in a strip mall, then back to the boat.

Mike, our New Hampshire traveling buddy

Mike, our New Hampshire traveling buddy

The bridge opened for us about 1:20. From there the Deep Creek Lock is 0.3 miles north. George, the same man who operated the bridge, drove his white ’64 Thunderbird over the bridge, then to the lock, where he helped us with our lines and operated the lock. I felt like I had stepped back in time!

Leaving the Deep Creek Lock

Leaving the Deep Creek Lock

A short way north the Dismal Swamp ICW and the Virginia Cut ICW merge back together. Here we turned to starboard, heading south for a few miles, only to be impeded by the Steel Bridge. We got through earlier than expected because a barge was going north, and government and commercial vessels can have the bridge opened on demand.

Great Bridge Bridge Opened at Sunset

Great Bridge Bridge Opened at Sunset

Another couple miles ahead, we realized there was another lock to go through.  The Great Bridge Lock was at the site of a Revolutionary War  battle. The lock hand was very congenial and talkative. After going up about 3 feet, we slowly went out, only to wait for the 4:00 bridge opening. Eventually we got through the bridge, and our destination was ahead on the right.

View across the Virginia Cut from the face dock

View across the Virginia Cut from the face dock

Ed, one of the harbor masters there, helped us with our lines. Again, we are out on the face dock, but we are in a no wake zone, and very protected. We made it! And shortly after getting settled, we found out that our new grandson was born. Life is so sweet!

Yesterday I did 5 loads of laundry, including the wet bedding. We repaired a bow railing mount, and made a list of work to be done on the boat while Jim is here.  We walked to a nearby grocery store and picked up a few things, then grilled burgers when we got back. It is fun to watch all the boats heading north, waiting for the bridge nearby to open on its hourly schedule.

Final Day of Travel - Phase 3

Final Day of Travel – Phase 3

After I get this blog posted, we are going out on the town to celebrate my birthday, the completion of the 3rd phase of our trip, and that we have a healthy new grand baby! A-RIVER-DERCI to you now, and I will resume blogging upon my return to Virginia. ♥

 

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North Carolina Ups and Downs

One of Myrtle Beach's many Golf Courses

One of Myrtle Beach’s many Golf Courses

We left Osprey Marina at Statute Mile 373 on Monday, April 7th after breakfast, refueling and pump out. It was a cloudy but warm cruise that day. Through Myrtle Beach the ICW was a narrow ditch, and Jim spotted the place he stayed at years ago on a golf trip with buddies from home.

A Unique Wedding Proposal Along the Way

A Unique Wedding Proposal Along the Way

Long no wake zones made progress slow, as did waiting for 2 bridge openings. After only going 31 miles, we pulled into an anchorage spot on the Calabash River around 1:45, where we dropped the hook a short distance off the ICW, along with 3 other boats. Storm warnings were forecast, and the sky looked more and more threatening as the afternoon wore on.

One of several interesting lawn ornaments we saw along the way

One of several interesting lawn ornaments we saw along the way

The rain set in about sunset. We had leftovers from our previous nights dinner, and played 8 games of backgammon (Jim whomped me – 7 out of 8). While looking over the charts for our next day’s cruise, I realized that we were right on the NC/SC border. The anchor held well and we slept like babies in our front berth.

More rain greeted us in the morning. We pulled up a very muddy rode and anchor, and headed north again. Fog set in, so we ran with our navigation lights on. It was a damp gray day up on the fly-bridge. While traversing the Cape Fear inlet and going up the shipping channel we saw 2 large car ferries. About 3:00 we pulled off the ICW into a little river in the town of Carolina Beach and took a mooring ball. Randy, the marina owner came out in a dinghy about 5:30 with a bag of ice, and collected the $20 mooring fee and got us registered. So nice that we didn’t even have to take down the ding dong! The skies cleared for sunset, but then more rain followed. We watched the movie “Stir Crazy” and hit the sack.

Carolina Beach Mooring Field Sign

Carolina Beach Mooring Field Sign

On Wed. the 9th we drove 51 miles from Carolina Beach to an anchorage at Camp Lejeune marine base in Mile Hammock Bay. The morning clouds moved out, leaving blue skies. We went through the town of Wilmington, NC which borders the ICW on both sides. Another bridge opening at Surf City delayed us for 35 minutes.

Loon

Loon

Oddly we saw loons along the way, the Minnesota state bird. Normally they leave the NC and SC waters in March to head north for mating season. They must have some magical instinctive powers to know that much of the water up there is still frozen!

Sunset at Camp Lejeune Anchorage

Sunset at Camp Lejeune Anchorage

The sunset was very beautiful which we enjoyed from the bow. A few helicopters flew over, but otherwise all was quiet. Six other boats were in the bay anchored nearby. We cranked up the generator and I made beef stroganoff for dinner. Jim checked the Racor filter, and all looked fine. We planned our next day’s travel using the charts, our MapTech guide book, and some great recommendations from fellow cruisers.

Shoaling near Ocean Inlet

Shoaling near Ocean Inlet

We left our anchorage under clear and sunny skies. A few miles up we waited about 20 minutes for the Onslow Beach Swing Bridge opening. Right after clearing the bridge is the Camp Lejeune Firing Range. They actually close the ICW if live rounds are being shot, and your only notification is a sign with amber lights. Luckily, the lights were not flashing, so we were able to proceed. The waters gradually became wider as we approached Morehead City with a narrow channel and very “thin” depths (a term used here instead of the word shallow). Clammers were out at low tide on the exposed shoals with their rakes.

Beaufort, NC Waterfront

Beaufort, NC Waterfront

Our destination was the city of Beaufort (pronounced BO-fert, as opposed to Beaufort, SC which is pronounced BUE-fert). Established in 1722 as a customs port, it is still a busy place, the inlet crowded with fishing and excursion boats. We made our way to the historic downtown, which is up Taylor Creek, and off the ICW. We stopped at the Beaufort Docks for a pump out and slip, but decided to save some $ and grab a private mooring ball. The mooring’s owner cruised by captaining a ferry boat, and said he didn’t mind if we stayed for a couple of days.

Wild Horses Seen From Beaufort Mooring

Wild Horses Seen From Beaufort Mooring

After breakfast and showers the next morning, we took the ding dong back across the creek to Beaufort. We secured it at the dinghy dock in the hopes to get some supplies. Our first stop was part of the South Carolina Maritime Museum, a workshop where old boats are restored to their original glory, and new wooden ones are built. Across the street was the main museum, with its amazing collection of mounted fish and a great exhibit on the pirate Blackbeard. His flagship “Queen Anne’s Revenge” was discovered in 20 feet of water off the coast nearby in 1996, and they are still salvaging artifacts that make their way to the museum here.

Great White Shark Caught near Beaufort  Mounted in the Museum

Great White Shark Caught near Beaufort Mounted in the Museum

The streets in the historic district are lined with old homes built in the 18th and 19th centuries. We walked a long way in search of a marine supply place where we could purchase more filters, and finally found one. We bought a few groceries at the Piggly Wiggly and hauled them back in our collapsible wheeled cart. Steve, a volunteer who we met at the museum saw us walking, and gave us a ride back to downtown. We met another couple doing the loop in a Mainship, and had lunch at a great Mexican restaurant on Front Street.

Sea Gull Frenzy Trying to Pick up a Fisherman's Net

Sea Gull Frenzy Trying to Pick up a Fisherman’s Net

The wild horses were out on the island across the creek near our mooring site. We brought our purchases back to the boat. The wind had picked up, and it was a challenge not to get wet heading into the waves in the little dinghy. We grilled steak and planned the next day’s trip. The friendly people, the beautiful city surrounded by water, and the interesting history make Beaufort, NC one of my top 10 favorite stops.

Hazy Reflections

Hazy Reflections

On Saturday, April 12th we left the free mooring, and took the long way around back to the ICW because of a bridge with low clearance. The area near the inlet was crowded with weekend boaters, and long no-wake zones made for slow progress. Leaving Beaufort behind, the channel became more narrow, bordered by tall pines. Later the channel opened up into the wide Neuse River. Many sailboats were out, and it reminded me a little of Lake Pepin back home.

The Southport Shrimp Fleet Docked Along the ICW

The Southport Shrimp Fleet Docked Along the ICW

Jim checks the Racor filter about every hour while we’re underway. It was getting plugged with black sludge, so we had to shut down the engine so that he could change it. We drifted along in the wide deep river. We decided to head for the Oriental Marina and Inn in the town of Oriental, across the river and a little off the ICW. We pulled in, once again getting the outside T-dock. We got tied up, but had to re-rig all the fenders, as the dock was high and the waves a little rough.

Sunset from dock at Oriental, NC

Sunset from dock at Oriental, NC

A boat show was going on at the marina, so we walked around on the docks and through the booths. The town boasts more boats than people, and claims to be the “Sailing Capital of North Carolina”. We got an amazing bargain at a nautical flea market: 120 feet of heavy anchor line for $5! Then, we found a good marine supply place where we bought 4 more Racor filters. Jim bought ice and chatted with some of the people working the booths. I walked to a super cool shop in a house a few blocks away, and purchased a couple bottles of wine, and a few fun things for my grand-daughter.

Oriental Tiki Bar Toucan

Oriental Tiki Bar Toucan

That evening after dinner aboard, we walked to the nearby Tiki Bar, where it seemed half the town turned out to hear the live local band. We met an interesting odd fellow from Denmark named Jen Larsen, and danced to a few good old songs.

On Sunday morning the 13th of April we shoved off from Oriental and headed up the wide Neuse River. Sunshine, a light breeze, and warm temps lured us into a false sense of security. Leaving the Neuse River, the channel became a narrow cut, and we followed a barge from Charleston through this section. When we hit the wide Pamlico River the south winds had picked up dramatically. Again the filter plugged and we had to shut down the engine so Jim could change the filter. I was up on the fly-bridge while Jim was down below, and the huge waves rolled in, over and over, coming at us on our starboard side. I could hear things flying around in the cabin below, and the sliding door slamming open, then closed, then open. Finally we got the engine running again, and slowly creeped our way through the rough seas of the Pamlico River, and then the Pungo.

The Spirit Tree at Dowry Creek Marina

The Spirit Tree at Dowry Creek Marina

We hailed the staff at the Dowry Creek Marina, who helped guide us in and caught our lines. Again, we were directed to the outside dock with the waves pounding in at us. Extra lines and fenders sidewise were once again needed. The boat gouged some big wood chips out of a piling that is designed to keep boats from damaging the dock when they come in. Soon it was time for happy hour, which is an every day occurrence here at 5:30 in the community room. There we met fellow boaters, Mary the marina owner, and Nick the harbormaster.

Today is Wednesday, the 16th, and we are still here at Dowry Creek Marina, waiting on the weather. It’s not a bad place to be stranded, but it is in the middle of nowhere. I feel like I’m way up north on one of Minnesota’s largely unpopulated lakes. They have a courtesy car which we used to go to the closest small town of Belhaven. We did a little shopping, and had a great BBQ sandwich at ‘Farm Boys’.

5:30 Happy Hour at Dowry Creek Marina

5:30 Happy Hour at Dowry Creek Marina

We have planned our next few days of travel, but it is looking like Saturday may be our first chance to make a move. After heavy rains the last couple nights, the wind has now switched and is ripping at us from the north. At least we’re now being kept off the dock. With it, of course, came some very cold temps. Today this area is expected to break a low high temp of 54. This morning when we woke up it was in the mid 30’s.

We Saw These Wild Animals Along the Way - What Are They?

We Saw These Wild Animals Along the Way – What Are They?

We won’t be able to travel north until the Alligator River Swing Bridge resumes operation. When the winds exceed 25 mph the bridge will not open. Yesterday sustained winds were at 40 mph, and today there are gale warnings in the area. So we sit tight, and enjoy our 5:30 happy hour gatherings. Jim again changed all the filters, and borrowed an air compressor to blow out the fuel vents. He is installing a new door lock, and the laundry is done. We have terrible cell phone coverage here, and have tried a few times to call out without success.

Dowry Creek Marina

Dowry Creek Marina

Our route ahead includes crossing Albemarle Sound, a very wide open stretch exposed to the ocean. The marine weather forecast does not sound too promising with high winds every day, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed. From there to Elizabeth City, then up the Dismal Swamp Canal where we will have 2 locks to go through. We haven’t been through one of them on this trip since the 50 we did in the first leg during the Autumn of 2012.

Cable Car Crossing ICW Channel near Myrtle Beach

Cable Car Crossing ICW Channel near Myrtle Beach

Our final destination on this leg will be Norfolk, VA, another 132 miles north. I will be going home to Minnesota for a couple weeks–just purchased my ticket to fly out on April 24th. Norfolk is at Statute Mile 0, and the Great Looper’s Rendezvous will be held during the first week of May. Jim would like to go to some of the seminars on the Canadian stretch of the trip, purchase some of the navigation charts we are missing, and add another Racor filter and shut-off valves, as we continue being plagued with fuel problems. I am looking forward to seeing family back home, and meeting my yet unborn grandson! Keep your fingers crossed that the winds die down soon, so that  we can make it to Norfolk in time!

Selfie at Anchorage

Selfie at Anchorage

“Thoughts will change and shift just like the wind and the water when you’re on the boat; thoughts are no different than anything else.”

Jeff Bridges

 

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