Friday, September 30, 2011

Solomons Habor Marina - at a dock

We're starting to see nicer sunsets as we move south
The morning started out innocently enough with morning preparations but then the water died. After seven years, the house water pump gave up the ghost. Being a prudent marina, I had a spare on board that was equally old but never used which I then swapped out. The alignment holes had been moved but otherwise it was an exact fit and we had water again within 15 minutes. Success stories like that don't happen very often!

These are fish weirs and they are right in the path to Solomons - be careful...
The cruise down Chesapeake Bay was getting lumpy out in the middle so we tacked in towards shore for a smoother ride even though it was a little longer distance. We wanted to reach Solomons for the weekend since strong winds were predicted for Saturday and Sunday along with very cool weather (high of 60 on Saturday!)

The marina we chose is attached to the Holiday Inn in Solomons Island and located much further in than Zahniser's Marina, the marina of choice for most boaters. Instead of a 15 minute walk to West Marine, it's just across the back lot of Holiday Inn and you're there, much closer. The dockmaster could not have been friendlier. He was there to take our lines and help us dock, what more to ask?

As mentioned above, the weather is not looking good for the next few days but starting the third day, the rate here is only $1/ft so we're intent on waiting for very good weather to go across the  mouth of the Potomac River which has a notorious reputation of being rough. So it looks like a little downtime is in order on our way south. We are basically fair weather sailors, we like ideal conditons - why go out in anything else?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rhode River at anchor

Notice the moon! At anchor in Rhode River
What a great day! The sun was out, the winds were 10 to 15 kts out of the west and we sailed a good part down the bay to Rhode River. The anchorage is just a perfect example of Chesapeake Bay inlets, calm waters, beautiful sunsets and a place to take Hoolie. It's days like this that you super enjoy cruising!

He circled the island for 30 min, trying to coax the dog back aboard
Meanwhile, I did the teak today, a 10 minute job with Semco teak treatment. It seems that there's always something to do on a boat. One wit told me that if everything on a boat is perfect to your tastes, then it's time to get a new boat! So far that has not been a problem with me. We got the genset fixed to our satisfaction, the Volvo main engine runs like a top after the tune-up last year, I changed all the fuel and oil filters last month, the A/C runs great after the recharging this past summer, the refrigerator now keeps 15F after the recharging in September (anybody keeping track of these dollars?...) and the two days we spent at Rock Hall allowed the boat to be washed inside and out. What's not to like about cruising? Cruise one day, do boat maintenance the next, then repeat. Actually I exaggerate, it's not that bad but you do seem to do a lot of boat work on a cruise.

We're headed to Solomon Island on Friday to sit out two days of expected bad weather. The high on Saturday is only predicted to be 58 with high winds! After that the temps are expected to return to the 70's and we'll head further south to escape this reminder of the far north!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rock Hall - Last day

Ann with the engineer
I'm an avid member of Active Captain and they maintain a list of recommended products for boat use. Today I decided to give one of their recommendations a try, the use of Oxiclean for top deck cleaning. Guess what, it works wonders. The bleaching effect in the formula is enough to get rid of minor stains (like from birds) and also dissolve and lift off all the dirt, fantastic - it's cheap too (isn't this blog educational?)

While haivng fun cleaning the boat, we heard a loud racket behind us which turned out to be a strange looking boat. It was a dive boat that supports three divers at once. They clean the bottoms of large boats as an alternative to dry docking. The engineer invited us aboard for a tour and showed us what's required to ensure that three divers never run out of air for hard hat diving (scuba diving is unsafe working on props and under a very large ship for long periods). First on the list was three separate generators to run the air compressors for the air lines. It was his responsibility to keep them running, no matter what! What a racket with all three running at the same time! Additonally, there were two more engines to keep in shape that drove the ship.

One of three generators - large!!
He spoke of coming down the Delaware River from Wilmington. The river was full of large logs, whole trees and often with no way to go around them so they just plowed through the debris. They had to reduce their speed from a normal 7 kts to 3 and often had debris jammed between their props and the rudder. Finally they entered Chesapeake City for the night and today they made it to Rock Hall. He came over to visit and helped adjust the idle speed on our Volvo which was too low and stalled once upon switching to idle right in the harbor!

Ann with Jim, our host and boater friend at the marina on his boat

Tonight, Jim (the boater we met at the marina) invited us over for dinner. He used the grilling facilities provided by the marina to prepare two pork tenderloins and we retired to his boat for wine and a great dinner with a wide ranging conversation - somehow always better with wine on the water. We tried talking him into going down the ICW this year instead of next but without success (but he thought about it!)

The end to a perfect day
We're ready to move Thursday to Rhode River, weather permiting. .

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rock Hall at a dock - Day 2

Having the end dock gives a good view of the sunset - when there is one
Today was cleaning day. We had some mildew in the forward cabin which does not get as much  ventilation as the rest of the boat and after trying many cleaners, we found the best to simply be a solution of Clorox, 1/4 cup to 1 quart of water. Using a microfiber cloth, the mildew just wipes right off and the Clorox sterilizes the surface and the cloth (isn't this interesting......??) Oh well, not everything about cruising is exciting but you do gather a wide range of knowledge - not necessarily what you want to know but useful nevertheless.

Next was the typical reprovisioning routine and we had an offer for transportation from a fellow sailor down the dock, Jim, which made it much easier. We had Jim over for cocktails and dinner, a pleasant evening.

The grocery store is about a mle in town - closer with a ride

The storms avoided us for the most part and we'll have one more day here before shoving off on Thursday. Today was cleaning inside the boat and Wednesay is for the outside. Unbelieveable what the  boat picks up while cruising?! (where's Sharman when you need her??)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rock Hall at a dock

Nice Rock Hall sunset off the back of the boat
The day broke with a dense fog at Chesapeake City and we were afraid that the canal would once again be closed until the fog cleared. However, the Coast Guard announced shortly thereafter that the canal was open - and it was more foggy than yesterday when the canal was closed! We didn't argue the point as we headed out. We fell into line behind a tug and ahead of another tug with a huge barge carried side-saddle. The canal was a bumper to bumper freeway of tugs with barges. It was also full of debris, more than I had ever seen in the canal. Our strategy was to snug up behind the barge in front and let it sweep the way clear of logs, branches, stumps, etc. It seemed to work pretty well.

Ann is always on the lookout for clouds to use in her pastels
We were concerned about the approach into Rock Hall, MD. We had read reports that the entrance had shoaled to 4 ft or less and since we drew 5 ft, it could be a problem. So I read up on the harbor using Active Captain and mapped out a strategy according to the latest experiences of the captains on the website. As it turned out, the advice was spot on. We followed the recommended route and saw no less than 7 ft which gave us a little more than 2 extra feet of insurance. I would recommend Active Captain to all boaters - it's invaluable.

Relaxing tonight, we were attacked by mosquitoes, there was a bumper crop around here so were huddled in the boat with the A/C on and all windows shut. We'll stay another two days to reprovision, clean the boat and do laundry - even on a  boat on vacation there are things that must be done.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chesapeake City - at anchor

The anchorage at Chesapeake City
We escaped from Hancock Harbor Marina around 7:00 am and headed to Chesapeake City. The trip was uneventful until all of a sudden we heard a dreadful sound - bang, grind, bang... I put Fleetwing out of gear and coasted to a stop. There was a lot of vibration on the prop, not good. I tried putting it in reverse at low speed and we saw a crab pot appear off the end of the boat, floating away downstream. After that I slowly put Fleetwing in forward and found that the vibration went away and we continued onward at full speed, whew!!

The three free docks were taken!
After that bit of excitement (nothing like hitting a crab pot to wake you up in the morning), we continued and then heard over the VHF that the Chesapeake - Delaware Canal was closed due to fog! Still we continued onward. There were four large barges anchored off the entrance and several sailboats waiting for the canal to reopen. The fog had lifted from the eastern end of the canal but still no word from the Coast Guard. We chose to enter the canal anyway since it was clear of fog on our end and getting later, past 10:00 am so any remaining fog was due to lift anyway soon. Ann called the Coast Guard again and asked for the status and after several minutes of going back and forth ("yes, it's clear here", "yes, we're already in the canal') the Coast Guard finally officially opened the canal. We wondered if Ann's report of it being clear on the eastern end helped the decision along.

The canal was full of debris, much more than the last time we came south. I told Ann it was like playing a video game where you were dodging aliens coming at you. Some of the debris was very substantial, you really do not want to hit it!

Although the three free docks were taken, the rest of the anchorage area was open and we found a calm spot. This anchorage is great for those with pets since there's a free dinghy dock for the use of boats at anchor. I took Ann over to the ice cream shop for dessert after dinner, great place!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cohansey River Marina

Anchorage at Cape May, note the sandy beach for Hoolie relief
The tides just were not in our favor for taking the trip to Chesapeake City all in one day. So we decided to split the trip up by stopping over at the Cohansey River Marina, about half-way up Delaware Bay. The marina itself is about 1/2 hour up the river so it's a hike to get there. We came into the gas dock since no one was around but then someone finally appeared and said we couldn't stay there and directed us to a dock in the distance - but then he could not possibly get over there (too long a walk I guess) so we were on our own with a 2 kt current.

Flying saucer landed??
On the plus side it only $1/ft for dockage with electricity. On the minus side, the electricity doesn't work, they didn't answer our calls on VHF or telephone and nobody met us at the dock - what an outfit?! Once docked, we plugged into shore power and discovered that although we got a reading of 124v, there was no amperage behind it. As soon as we started to draw power for recharging the batteries, the voltage cut out. It's a sad marina.  Needless to say, it's the last time we'll ever come to Cohansey River Marina.

However, our trip up the Delaware Bay was great. There was no wind but also no waves and we made good time. It's just that we had to leave late to get under the 55 ft bridges on the canal and catch the upgoing tide. Sunday we'll leave at daybreak to catch the tide.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cape May at Anchor - Rivers of Rain

Caesar's Palace - A step above Golden Nuggest
Rudy and Allison left today for New York, renting a car for the trip back. We greatly enjoyed having them on on board for the trip to Atlantic City. All stops were explored and fun was had. We don't travel all that far each day and like frequent stops, our way heading south.

The technology available to the sailor of today is truly amazing. We awoke to a downpour but we looked at the weather radar via the Internet and saw that there was a large gap developing that would allow us to tool down the coast to Cape May. So we timed our departure just as the last of the current showers ended and headed out. The Atlantic City inlet was still not too bad, at least compared to past experience. Looking at the radar, we saw showers to the west of us over land and another large mass of showers to the east of us over water, we continued to have a path south free of rain. However, it didn't last, as we approached Cape May, the showers finally caught up with us but the rain was free of lightening at least.

Now we're anchored off the Coast Guard station which is conveniently located only a few hundred feet from Hoolie relief on shore. As always, our future plans are strictly governed by the weather. We mainly rely on the raw weather radar (not the Weather Channel product) and grib data, supplemented by the NOAA marine forecasts - about in that order of reliability. We may head north to Cohansey River tomorrow if the weather looks good or stay another day and head out Sunday with better tides that would enable us to reach Chesapeake City in one day, decisions, decisions...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Atlantic City on the Boardwalk - Rudy and Allison leave

Dancing Waters at the pier shopping center, every hour on the hour
Since Rudy and Allison had planned to leave on Thursday anyway, we decided to stay another day in Atlantic City where access to a rental car was easy compared to Cape May. After calling many car rental companies, he found out (as I did last year) that Hertz was the only company willing to rent cars one way across state lines.

Atlantic City boardwalk - a lot calmer than last year!
Before they left, we took one last walk down the Atlantic City boardwalk and had lunch on the top floor of the pier shopping center for $8 (1/2 sandwich, cup of soup and a salad, all very good). The casinos on the boardwalk are all in much better shape than the one at the marina (which was just bought out by the Golden Nugget). I think Atlantic City is still on hard times, people just don't have a lot of money to spend on gambling.

We saw Rudy and Allison off around 4:00 when they left for PYC in a rental car. They were great fun to have on board. Now we're by ourselves for the next leg of the trip down the Chesapeake Bay. Friday it's off to Cape May.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Atlantic City at the Golden Nugget Marina

Two nearby casinos viewed from the Golden Nugget Marina
We left Atlantic Highlands at 5:00 am, long before the sun came up at 6:45 am. On the plus side, it was dead calm and the moon was up, providing some needed light - and - there was no fog, a first for us on this leg of the journey. With the chartplotter and radar, we found our way around Sandy Hook and headed south towards Atlantic City.

Just had to try the slots!
We had intended to anchor out but when I checked the Trump Marina website I found it had been bought out by the Golden Nugget and they've reduced the marina rates. Where the rates used to be $3 to $4/ft, it's now $2/ft, at least for this time of the year. With my Marina Life discount, the charge was only $1.50/ft! Now that's reasonable!

Rudy and Allison treated us to a dinner out in the casino which saved a tired crew from fixing dinner and was much appreciated by all. The old Trump Casino is undergoing renovations under the new ownership of the Golden Nugget but the main slot machine area is largely unchanged, so far. Of course we had to play a few rounds, $10 worth and lost it in the end after being up briefly.

Since Rudy has to leave on Thursday, we'll stay another day at the Golden Nugget Marina which is much more convenient for connections to NYC than Cape May. We now plan on heading out to Cape May on Friday.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Atlantic Highlands at anchor

Calm Anchorage at Atlantic Highlands
We got some respite from the constant rock and roll last night at Newport YC, at least until 5:30 am when it started up again. We heard the pitter-patter of rain in the morning too and looked at the NOAA radar to see when it would stop - not until late morning. Meanwhile, I met Peter Grabow who has a Nonsuch. I asked whether he knew Bill Spencer and he replied, "Of course!" He wanted me to convey his hello to Bill and added that he was also wishing to take the same route we did to Florida but had to wait until he could retire, several years from now.

Peter Grabow, owns a Nonsuch
Eventually we shoved off and headed toward the Narrows which was filled with large boats. Looking ahead, all you could see in the dim light (foggy...) were lots of barges arrayed in all directions. Looking at the chartplotter with AIS you could tell which ones were moving and in what direction and which ones were just anchored. I had to change course four times by 90 degrees or more to avoid all the movement conveyed by AIS! It's a great help.

There was a guy at the YC who actually bid and bought this lighthouse!

We made Atlantic Highlands by 3:00 pm and found it very crowded in the anchorge area (there were plenty of moorings but who wants to pay the $50/night fee?!) Everybody was waiting for the good weather predicted for Wednesday before heading south I suppose. For ourselves, we plan on leaving Wednesday morning around 5:00 am. We expect to take 12 hours to reach Atlantic City. We plan on docking at the Golden Nugget (the new name for Trump Marina) since they've lowered the rate to $2/ft for this time of year.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Newport Yacht Club in New Jersey

View from Newport YC
The Croton Point anchorage was as still as a lake last night. It's a good anchorage for winds out of the south but last night there was very little wind from any direction and it was even better, especially since Hoolie relief was so nearby at a deserted beach. We left with a following current and sped down the river. The current ran for a good hour beyond its predicted end (by the tide tables), I suppose due to all the rain we've had recently. At any rate, we welcomed the added push and arrived at Newport YC ahead of schedule.

That's the George Washington bridge in the background
There were two dockhands to help us in, much appreciated. However, the marina is subject to all the passing river traffic and so you roll constantly during the day - not just a little but a LOT. Things do settle down at night but start up again early in the morning. The compensating factors are excellent shopping at the nearby shopping center and other stores in the area which include Home Depot, Best Buy, Staples, Kohl's, Macy's, Sears, Radio Shack along with many fine restaurants. At night the view of Manhattan cannot be beat. The night sky is alive with the lights across the river. Newport, NJ has gone through a major renovation with a nice river walk and upscale facilities with views of Manhattan.

The tallest building is the Freedom Tower
All in all, the positives out weigh the negatives of the constant roll of the docks but everyone may not feel the same way. The marina even maintains a herb garden for the use of their customers! We're told that it became so popular with chefs aboard visiting yachts (very big yachts!) that they expanded the garden this year. I never heard of any other marina having a herb garden!

Tuesday we'll head for Atlantic Highlands and anchor out in preparation for an early morning start down the New Jersey coast to Atlantic City.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Croton Point Anchorage again

Rudy and Allison
Rudy Colich and Allison are with us for the first leg of our trip. It was cold in the morning!! I saw 41 on the thermometer in the cockpit just before the sun came up. I don't remember any days that cold the during the previous year of our trip south. Hopefully it's not a harbinerger of things to come. Regardless, the trip south was smooth and warm in the sun heated cockpit enclosure. There was some floating debris to avoid in the river and in the approach to West Point, there was even a tree limb that was stationary in 80 feet of water!

Unfortunately, there was no wind. It was motoring all the way. We're anchored on the north side of Croton Point with predicted winds of less than 10 kts, perfect for a good night's sleep. We'll probably wind up at Newport YC in New Jersey on Monday night and Atlantic Highlands on Tuesday followed by a trip down the Jersey coast to Atlantic City on Wednesday if the weather holds as predicted. We hope to avoid a repeat of last year when we were trapped in Atlantic City for a week due to a passing hurricane.

Our First Sunset of the new season
It sure feels good to once again be on the water and headed south!! I would recommed the trip to anyone!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Oh No! - Hurricane Maria has delayed our departure

Well, you can't fight Mother Nature. Although Maria is well out to sea, it's still generating a ton of swells on the New Jersey shore. Last year we were trapped in Atlantic City for a week by another hurricane but we're waiting this one out at home. The good news is that the Atlantic is clear of hurricanes for the moment (except for Maria).

Our departure target is now 9/18 but we'll still not sure of which day we'll head down the coast, Maria seems to be stalling (go Maria!!). The blog will restart on 9/18.