Saturday, May 23, 2015

Poughkeepsie Yacht Club - That's All Folks until 9/15/2015 when we'll do it all over again!

West Point is on the Hudson River
The wind blew all day yesterday out of the north which blew water out of the Hudson River so when I took Hoolie ashore, I noticed that the wall was visible on one side of the entrance to the cove. Normally, the wall is underwater but not today. That was a clue that the low this morning was going to be much less than normal. Yesterday afternoon I had seen 5.0 ft MLW over the entrance channel but I was afraid it would be even less with the strong north wind of the last day or so.

The Hudson River is much like a fjord, 1340 ft high Storm King Mountain is on the left
So I told Ann we had to leave an hour earlier than we had planned so we caught a 1.0 ft tide over low. If we waited and had breakfast we would have left at exactly low tide. Leaving the anchorage we saw 4.6 ft over the bar in front of the entrance even with a 0.8 ft tide according to the tide tables. Since we draw 4.75 ft, we slid over the bottom, it was soft mud, no rocks, on the way out. Had we left when we had first planned, we would have had problems. When cruising, one must pay attention to all the clues: weather, wind and tides.

Home base, the PYC clubhouse
In contrast to yesterday, the ride up the river today was calm with flat water. We had the current against us the entire way but we still made 6 to 7 kts most of the way. Ann expertly guided Fleetwing into our dock and I jumped off and secured the lines, we were home!

We had many visitors from the club welcoming us home which is always nice, good to be part of a yacht club. This year we don't plan on a cruise to Long Island Sound. Ann wants to do more pastel work during the summer and I plan on writing a book on cruising the ICW with guides to trouble areas as well as tips on getting ready and what to take along, both in electronics and otherwise.

At home at our dock
However, we plan on doing our sixth cruise down the ICW starting September 15 of 2015. Please come back and visit us again. The blog will restart then, mark your calendars.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Haverstraw - at anchor in Haverstraw Cove

A shot from 1 mile away from a severely rocking  boat, we're braced, "Ann take a photo" She stuck the camera out the side zipper and pushed the shutter. Amazing technology to get a steady picture, Canon PS 330HS
We left Atlantic Highlands with every intention of docking at our home port, Poughkeepsie YC but the weather and tides would not cooperate. The winds started out at 15 kts on the forward quarter, not too bad, and we headed towards Verrazano Narrows. The tide was supposed to change in our favor when we reached the bridge but it did not. What we did see were three large ships headed our way, all together, spread side by side coming at us. We got over to one side as far as we could but got a call on our VHF for "Fleetwing" (see, they do have AIS activated even for small boats) asking us to cross over in front of him. That seemed like a foolish thing to do since there were two other large ships also coming right beside him. We declined, he was not happy. We used a large tanker at anchor as cover as he passed by, hit us, you hit the tanker!

Headed up the Hudson dodging ferries - rolling, rocking, bouncing - but still got the picture
We later learned that there are eight lanes of traffic under the bridge through the narrows, they are shown on shipping charts and labeled with destinations. So large ships and tugs are supposed to stay in those lanes depending upon where they are headed. I guess it helps the flow of boat traffic in a very busy harbor like New York. 

Here are the lanes that ships are expected to keep within  by the Verrazano Narrows bridge
So we made it though the bridge and used AIS extensively to watch out for other traffic. The tugs go where they want, even if they are not pulling a barge. AIS showed we were on a collision course with a tug on our starboard side, he was not going to change course so I ducked in behind him. Then it was time to dodge the bright orange Staten Island Ferries as they headed across all the lanes. Up the Hudson it was dodgeball with the local ferries, about a dozen in all. You are expected to avoid them, they don't move too much from their set course.

Finally, finally we reached the George Washington bridge and still no favorable tide! PYC is starting to look unlikely. It's an 82 Nm ride and we need 1 to 2 kts of push to make the trip in time to dock in daylight. The icing on the cake was Haverstraw Bay. The rule of thumb is to double whatever the wind prediction is for the area when passing through Haverstraw Bay. So we had been seeing 8 to 10 kts and expected perhaps 20 kts but when we reached the Tappan Zee bridge, the wind was gusting 25 to 30 kts with 3 to 4 ft waves coming over the bow and covering the bimini with water spray.This was not good.

Haa, nice and calm, no waves - still blowing 15 to 20 kts outside with gusts to 30 kts
After a short discussion (about 2 seconds) we decided to put into Haverstraw Cove. It's an unchartered cove in the bay with 360 protection but with an unmarked entrance. A couple of years ago I was shown the spot and how to get in by a local and I drew up a chart with waypoints of the entry route and posted it on Active Captain. I faithfully followed my own chart and anchored safely inside, no waves, very little wind, calm.

So now we're at anchor and will leave in the morning for PYC. The current will be against us all the way but we'll get there eventually.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Atlantic Highlands - at anchor - where's summer??

Goodbye Atlantic City until the fall
During the night we heard the winds rattle the rigging and thought that we might not have a good day to go north after all. However, the forecast was for light winds less than 10 kts so we decided to go. We left Atlantic City at 6:00 am and headed north with overcast skies. The ocean was a little lumpy  but not bad for going outside. The winds were exactly as predicted but we did have rain showers throughout the day. I do have one complaint, the temperature was nothing like we're used to, in the 50's! After all, this is the end of May, where's the warm weather?!

Curled up for heat! Notice the ceramic heater in the bottom right. 
So I put our ceramic heater in the cockpit turned on high. That helped a lot but with no sun at all, it was bleak outside. After 11.5 hours, we reached our anchorage at Atlantic Highlands and found just one boat at anchor, we had lots of room.

We had thought it just another boat broken loose that went ashore
We also noticed a boat up on land. We had seen such boats often along the ICW, they either drag an anchor or break a mooring and wind up on the side. So I thought nothing of it at first and took Hoolie ashore. On the way back to the boat, I saw a New Jersey police boat following my path. They pulled along side and started asking questions. It seems that there was a body found next to the boat and the police were there to investigate a possible homicide and I was a potential witness as well as Ann, my wife! I reported that we had pulled into the anchorage at 5:37 pm (Ann keeps the arrival times so we can record engine hours) and saw the boat up on land but with nobody around it. So they asked for driver licenses and boat registrations and I took a trip to their dock for further questioning. They had about 1/2 dozen policemen on the scene headed by a detective which asked me what I had seen.

After about 2 hours they returned me to Fleetwing and all is calm now. Nothing like a nice, dull anchorage... We'll head up the Hudson River on Friday and with the tide in our favor, hopefully make it all the way to the Poughkeepsie YC, our home port provided we don't encounter any ice along the way..

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Atlantic City - A biker gathering

Two boats in the Coast Guard anchorage, we've stayed there in the past, a good anchorage
Looking at the iPad apps PocketGrib, SwellInfo and Coastal Forecast by NOAA were are on track to leave Thursday morning at 5:30 am (be sure to get up and see us off...) The center of the low that's tracking north has veered inland somewhat so we're going to get northeast winds instead of west winds which are not as good but they are supposed to be less than 10 kts so it's okay - provided the reality matches the forecast! The swells are due to decreae from 3 ft to less than 2 ft, also good.

Coconut Shrimp served in a cup of rice paper
I took Ann out to the Chart House restaurant here at the Golden Nugget Casino, one of our favorite restaurants along the ICW. It's not cheap but they serve excellent food with outstanding presentation. We always make a point of having a dinner in both directions, going and coming.

Unknown to us, this Wednesday night is biker night for the Golden Nugget. There are dozens of bikes, mostly Harleys, all lined up in a row. There are four police cops from Atlantic City and a dozen or so security personnel from the casino. Every person that enters the event gets wanded for guns. I had to take Hoolie out through the crowd and when I returned, I was stopped. I guess I looked suspicious with Hoolie in tow. When I said I was on a boat, they let me through!

Biker heaven
We had wanted to get to bed early for a good night's sleep due to the early morning departure but I don't think that's going to happen given the "music" playing at max volume a couple hundred feet from us. On a Wednesday night we thought we were safe from the loud music but we didn't count on a special event, a biker rally.

So at 5:30 am, it's on to Atlantic Highlands if all goes according to schedule.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Atlantic City - at a dock

It's a huge marina and we like it for a stop along the New Jersey coast
We thought we had a good forecast when we left Cape May with light winds out of the south but the ride north was anything but comfortable. There was a 3 ft swell coming in from the east and a 1.5 ft swell arriving from the southeast. The two swells combined in various combinations to provide a very bouncy ride north. To make matters worse, what wind there was came out of the south which gave no angle against the mainsail to steady the boat. So we endured, no problem, just uncomfortable.

Typical patrons, two white-haired ladies
We made a steady 7.3 kits north and arrived at Atlantic City  by 1:45 pm. In the past we've anchored out at the Coast Guard Station by a sandy beach but recently we've taken to just getting a dock at the Golden Nugget (used to be Trump). In the off season (before Memorial Day) the cost is only $2/ft and if you have a MarinaLife membership, it's only $1.50/ft. So for us at $1.50/ft it's worth the expense. It comes with access to the swimming pool on the 6th floor with a good view of the area and access to showers, restrooms and even exercise equipment along with free WiFi.

The slips on E dock are for larger boats but we get to use them in the off season
I plan on celebrating our cruise south with dinner at the Charthouse on Wednesday evening at the marina, it's one of Ann's favorite restaurants. We will wait out high winds on Wednesday and plan on leaving Thursday with a swell about 1/2 what we saw today and a west wind that ought to stabilize the boat better, we hope. We plan on dropping anchor at Atlantic Highlands that night.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cape May - at anchor

The anchorage at Cape May by the Coast Guard station
Our anchorage last night was calm but in the morning it was buggy in the extreme! We had anchored in 35 ft (it's deep behind the island!) and put out 100 ft of rode which is fine with our setup of a 66 lb Spade anchor and 60 ft of 3/8 BBB chain with 5/8" nylon the rest of the way. We swung with the change in tides but the anchor never moved. The Spade anchor just rotated around its point without having to reset with a change in current.

The bugs are another matter. We had a peaceful evening but in the morning we had an abundance of mosquitoes and no-seeums. I took Hoolie ashore, suffered through many bites and then we hauled anchor as fast as we could, we needed some relative air speed, it was dead still in the morning.

The evening entertainment was provided by the local fire trucks spraying water
Once again Delaware Bay was non-typical, dead calm and flat. If you didn't know better you'd think it was always like that! We had seen the grib report of increasing winds in the afternoon and that played into our decision yesterday of pushing on to Cohansey so we would have a short day today, 36 miles.

We usually take the Cape May canal since it saves having to round the tip and sometimes some nasty stuff along with it. The trouble is you have to time your passage at near low tide since there are two bridges with only 55 ft of clearance at high tide. So we passed through at 0.9 above low tide and the height boards read 58 ft, fine for our 55.3 ft mast. We don't even look up anymore as we pass under the bridges. If you did you would swear you're going to hit! The illusion is overwhelming.

We plan on getting to Atlantic City on Tuesday and then up the coast on a weather window due Thursday followed by a run up with Hudson River with a following tide on Friday to arrive at PYC sometime around 6:00 I would imagine. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cohansey River - at anchor

A zero carbon footprint powerplant on Delaware Bay
We had intended anchoring at Chesapeake City but then the weather was so fair and the winds so light without waves that we decided to push on to Delaware City at the end of the Chesapeake - Delaware Canal. We made reservations and was due to arrive at 4:30 when the weather continued to be outstanding so we pushed even more and reached Cohansey River. We had anchored there several times before so we were familiar with the place. We covered 85 Nm today. 

Delaware Bay was never so calm as today! It was completely flat and we know how worked up the bay can be, we've been in it in the past. The anchorage here is strange. The approach includes going over a 7.5 ft bar at the entrance but then the bottom drops out to 45 ft! So we anchored over on one side in 30 ft of water behind the island. There's no wind expected tonight so we feel secure. We are the only ones in the anchorage. It even includes a sandy beach for Hoolie relief, what more to ask?

A very calm day and a calm sunset
Now we are staged for getting through the Cape May canal at low tide so we can clear the 55 ft bridges (measured at high tide, we are 55.3 ft!). We will spend Monday night at Cape May and then head for Atlantic City the next day on Tuesday. Wednesday is a wash out with strong winds out of the north but the next day there's a window to head north, hopefully. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Annapolis, MD - on a mooring

This guy was on a collision course with us. AIS warned us, we ducked just outside the channel
We had first thought of going to Rhode River and anchor out but the weather was so fair and with winds out of the south so steady that we pressed on to Annapolis so we could have a head start on Sunday for Chesapeake City which is 50 miles northeast of here.

The alternate dinghy dock at Annapolis, much better than downtown
Coming into Annapolis on a Saturday afternoon we found most of the moorings taken but there were still a few left. We picked one up and found that the price has increased to $35/day, wow. Annapolis has a high opinion of themselves and I guess they figure they can charge whatever they want. Well, we paid for today but we're sure not staying long. We took a dinghy ride in but used the secondary dinghy dock that most people don't know about, the one that even closer to the moorings than the usual one, by the Police boat. It's an official dinghy dock and it's always less crowded than the one downtown.

The downtown dinghy dock - dominated by boats that don't belong (the skiffs bigger than 13 feet) Where's the police when you need them?
Annapolis was packed. I think everyone had a dog too, about one every 10 feet or so on the sidewalk. We took a hike just to stretch our legs  but you could hardly move downtown, it was a Saturday afternoon on a warm day in the spring, what to expect?

We made it back to the boat before the line storm came through with lots of rain and watched the Preakness, we could get the Baltimore NBC station on our boat antenna. We plan on an early start Sunday to reach Chesapeake City in good time to claim a spot in the anchorage. The entrance has shoaled in but you can still get through if you hug the eastern bulkhead. Once in the anchorage you have 10 ft or so, then we'll look to Delaware Bay weather.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Solomons Island - At anchor by the Holiday Inn

We're the last boat in line, far left
The passage this morning was a smooth as silk which we especially like since we had to transit the mouth of the Potomac River, always an adventure. The forecast was a little strange. They predicted a small craft advisory for the Chesapeake but not until 2:00 pm. We were inside and anchored by that time so it didn't affect us.

The wonderful, wonderful dinghy dock - it would be tough accessing shore without it
The anchorage we use is opposite the Holiday Inn and completely protected in all directions with good holding. The great attraction in addition to the protection is the availability of a dinghy dock hosted by the Holiday Inn with a $2 fee. So there's easy access to shore with 7/11 type stores and a Food Lion supermarket about a mile walk away.

First charging station I've seen
I made the hike to the store to pick up the last of our provisions before reaching PYC, no more stores enroute. Along the way I saw an electric car charging station tucked behind a store, the first one I've ever seen. I wonder how you pay for the electricity.

From here on it's just watching the weather, especially down the Delaware Bay and up the Atlantic coast. Saturday and Sunday look good for making Chesapeake City. We'll stop in Annapolis tomorrow to stage us for the Sunday leg.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mill Creek - We depart Thursday with a south wind

Ingram Bay Marina - gas and ice today
We could have gone north today but the wind was still gusting to 30 kts at 11:00 although it was predicted to decrease to 5 to 10 by the afternoon. We decided we would rather stay another day in the pleasant anchorage and leave on Friday with a fair wind at our backs and the tide with us, neither of which we would have had if we left this afternoon. We appreciate fair passages, we've made many. Others may have a schedule to meet but we have none.

A fixture in the area, a duck blind
So Ann painted today on her pastels while I went for ice at the nearest marina which was almost three miles away. I had to leave the anchorage and strike out into the bay so I waited until the predicted winds actually slowed to less than 10 kts in the afternoon. The marina is Ingram Bay Marina which is hard to find visually. I didn't take a GPS with me (should have...) and just sighted the route by eye using the markers. I had been used to using the chartplotter and had gotten out of practice using visual navigation. The markers are surprisingly hard to see on open water with a confusing background of houses and land and I think I wandered around more than I should have finding the way in.

The entrance is almost impossible to see from the water until you get within 500 yards of the channel in. I eventually found it and filled up the gas tank for the dinghy and bought 20 lbs of ice, the original reason for the trip. The way back was just as uncertain. Next time I'll be sure to bring a GPS with a route active. I had my iPhone with a navigation app but with no route installed. I thought I could just eyeball the route but with the overhead, very bright sun, it was very hard to see anything on the display.

Jacey Vineyards - Lunch in the summer but not now
Nevertheless, I eventually found my way back ("What took you so long?", said Ann) and all was well. We took a ride in the afternoon to find the Jacey Vineyards. We had looked a couple of days ago but couldn't find the house where they held afternoon lunches. It turns out that it's right across from the 7 ft mark on Mill Creek by a side stream with a mark across the entrance. Just go down the stream and tie up but they were not open today, too early in the season I guess.

Finally we have good weather for the next several days and we hope to make Chesapeake City by Sunday evening and if all holds to plan, make the run up the coast from Atlantic City on Thursday but that's probably too much to hope for as far as weather prediction. For tomorrow, Friday, we plan on reaching Solomons and we'll take it from there.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mill Creek Anchorage - still waiting for weather

The anchorage is very pastoral and the shoreline is mostly undeveloped
The winds in the Chesapeake were still gusting over 30 mph from the north with 4 ft waves. Since we wanted to go north, it was not a good day for that direction. The first day we were here, we were the only boat but now there are nine of us holed up. The winds are due to turn around by Thursday afternoon to out of the south but too late for us to make it to Solomons unless the forecast changes.

Meanwhile, this is a pleasant anchorage. The holding is excellent and there's lots of room. It could hold a hundred boats I think without getting crowded. With the wind protection from the high trees around, we are very comfortable. We even had a place for Hoolie relief on a deserted  beach nearby. However, we're out of ice and there's nothing nearby for that. So I put a couple of ice trays in the freezer but it takes 24 hours to make ice that way.

We noticed a raccoon checking out the beach behind the boat
There is still supposed to be 20 kt winds and 4 ft waves out of the north Thursday morning and it's 42 miles to Solomons so we'll probably still be here Thursday and leave for Solomons Friday morning. From Friday on the weather looks good for going north the next three days so we hope to be in Chesapeake City by Sunday night and then we'll start looking at how to get down Delaware Bay.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mill Creek - Waiting for weather

Ann's latest work in psatel
A small craft advisory will continue through Wednesday night with 15 to 20 kt winds and gusts to 30 with 3 to 4 ft waves. On the Chesapeake the waves are closely spaced. One time we came from Atlantic City to NYC along the New Jersey coast with 4 ft swell but with a 15 second period, we didn't even see them. Not so on the Chesapeake. They are usually only a few seconds apart and can be managed if the wind and waves are directly behind you but on the side or on the bow, forget it unless you like to be tossed about, some do I guess.

If it wasn't for channel markers, I don't think ospreys would have anywhere to build a nest
So on Wednesday it's out of the north with gusts to 30 kts and 4 ft waves, not good for going north. The weather starts to moderate on Thursday  but doesn't settle down until Friday with winds out of the south, that's probably when we'll leave unless there's a huge change in the forecast.

Eight more boats came in today - I wonder if anyone will leave on Wednesay?
Ann worked on her pastels today and I included her most recent painting above. She has a complete set of pastels and although it's not the equivalent of her studio at home, it's worthwhile work for the boat.

We are due for a big weather change from a high today of 90 to a high on Wednesday of only 72. That's the north wind that's coming at us and punishes anyone foolish enough to go north is such conditions. We'll stay put.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mill Creek Anchorage - at anchor

We are the only boat in the anchorage this time
We knew the remnants of Ana were headed up the Chesapeake but it was down by Hampton when we left Fishing Bay YC at 7:00 am, we were trying to get ahead of it. So the sun was out when we left but it gradually clouded over.  We were able to stay ahead of the rain until we reached the mouth of the Potomac. At that point the rains grew heavier and the winds became steady at 17 to 20 kts with occasional higher gusts. Adding to the uncomfortable ride was the direction of the waves, off the aft quarter which gave the boat a sideways slew as the waves passed underneath. Also, the Potomac had an ebb tide underway and the waves would have been directly against the outflow of water, not a good scenario, wind against tide. .

Ann continues to take photos for inspiration in pastel painting
So we asked ourselves, do we want to put up with this for the next six hours? We all voted No and ducked into Mill Creek just south of the Potomac River. We had been here once before and the anchorage is protected 360 degrees with high trees on elevated banks along both sides of the anchorage. That may sound ideal (and it is) but it plays tricks with your mind. The first time we were here in 2010, there was a small craft warning out with winds of 20 to 25 kts and higher gusts. However, in the harbor the max wind gust was only 5 kts. There were a dozen boats here then and one by one half of them (including us!) felt the calm conditions and ventured out thinking NOAA had gotten the forecast wrong. As we left the harbor and approached the bay, the wind started to increase in direct proportion to the distance to the bay. 5kt, 10kt, 15kt, and then 20 to 25 kts with 3 to 4 ft waves on the  bow when you reached the bay, about 4 miles from the harbor. Without exception, every boat turned around and came back to the harbor, including us!

Typical home in the area
So now we know better.When we arrived in the harbor at 10:00, it was dead calm and yet we had just come from 20 kts winds on the bay. We won't be suckered this time! Unfortunately, Tuesday through Thursday does not look good. NOAA predicts 20 kt winds with gusts to 30 kts the first two days with the winds only gradually decreasing on Thursday. So we may make a dash for Solomons Thursday afternoon but the more likely bet is for Friday. Too bad, we were making very good time and had caught up with our advance as of last year even though we spent an extra month in Key West. We still hope to get home before the end of May.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Fishing Bay Yacht Club - at a free dock

The creek side of the yacht club
We left around 8:00 and had to stop for fuel at Bluewater Marina, just down the line on the way out. Although the fuel gage on the Beneteau 423 is wildly inaccurate, you can calibrate it by writing down how much fuel you need against the gauge reading. After dozens of refuelings I  can now determine the fuel needed for a refill to within a gallon.

The bay side yacht clubhouse
The day turned out to be much better than predicted with light winds of 10 kts or so out of the southeast. Since we were headed northwest, that was a perfect direction! The Coastal Forecasts tend to be worse case scenarios.  On the way into the yacht club, we watched a boat ahead of us come to a complete stop! He had run aground in the narrow passage to the creek. I looked at Active Captain and saw that there was shoaling on the green side and to favor the red side of the channel. This is typical of the information available on Active Captain for all potential hazards and is invaluable for cruisers, very useful information!

The creek side clubhouse
The Fishing Bay Yacht Club is just a beautiful place. They have three, large buildings - a main clubhouse facing the bay and a second clubhouse on the opposite side facing the creek. They have an active sailing program for the youth with three arrays of single class boats for racing. They also have a swimming pool for membership enjoyment and an active participation program. For visiting yachtsmen they offer free dockage along with a free electrical connection for the first night. If you have to stay longer, it's $1.50/ft. It's a friendly club and highly recommended for a night's stay. 

One of three arrays of single class sailboats for racing
We think we will be headed north on Monday provided the forecast does not change, never a certainty. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hampton - Waiting for weather

The museum is self supporting in funding - a good way to go
Ana is due to make landfall tonight but the forecasts up here are still okay for going up the Chesapeake (if they're accurate...) So if the forecasts hold for 10 to 15 kt winds out of the south, then we will leave Sunday morning for Deltaville. It's a 40 mile trip so we figure on around 6 hours. However, things can change when you're dealing with weather forecasts, as we've learned. We will check at 7:00 am on Sunday and then decide.

All towns ought to have block parties for their residents, a good investment in giving people somewhere to go
Meanwhile we spent all day cleaning the boat. It had accumulated debris from our ICW trip north and needed help to look good. We've given up on Pirate, he must be gone, no further reports unless he suddenly appears.

Hampton has a block party every Saturday night so we walked by with Hoolie. The amps had nothing left to give, everything was max'ed out. Why do bands play everything at max volume? I guess it's the same reason that 85% of Harley owner defeat the noise control on their bikes and why go-fast boats sound just like a motorcycle. I guess it's a "notice me" syndrome.

So it's an early morning update and then a decision.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Hampton - We pick up a car and provision at Walmart

It's one long dock but the fingers are only half length - many people have trouble docking due to the river current
We got everything we needed at the nearest Walmart. Now we're fixed for the rest of our trip north. Hampton is the home of Hampton University and this is graduation week so there's lots of activity with parents' events and such. Just south of here in the bay is where the two iron clad vessels, Merrimack and the Monitor, met and fought. The battle changed the course of naval construction not only in the USA but also in England and France. The wooden ships were too vulnerable to such attacks by iron clad ships.

The curved brick wall is self supporting, and pretty
There are only 20 or so docks in all, a small marina but it's well protected and close to the old downtown. If you buy into their seasonal rate for $50, then you get the $0.75/ft rate for the next 365 days with every fifth day free. The days do not have to be consecutive so you can visit on the way down, stay four days and on the way back north get your first day free (the fifth for the year). Of course you do not have to buy into the plan and just pay by the day, then it's $1.25/ft, still a pretty good deal and then you get the fourth day free if you stay that long.

As always, birds keep watch over us (and Pirate too?)
So we spent all afternoon loading supplies on board and getting the freezer in order. We plan on seeing the latest IMAX space feature sometime this weekend. The IMAX is part of the Virginia Air and Space Museum right next door. It's a great place to visit but this time we're going to the IMAX only to see Journey to Space, footage on the history of space travel and what lies ahead. It's in 3D and the theater has recently been renovated, it's all digital, no film.

We're continuing to watch Ana. It's south of us but headed north. It may very well affect our travel plans for Monday, we'll see.

PS, No pirate, I think he's jumped ship.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hampton Downtown Public Piers - at their dock

Every shade of green imaginable
We did have a peaceful night at the bulkhead but we didn't get to leave until 9:00 am or so since the priority for the canal was boats moving in the opposite direction. So we waited until they all passed. Eventually we got going and had to settle for the 1:30 pm opening at the opposite end of the canal, we just couldn't make the 11:00 opening. It would have required about a 9 kt average speed, beyond our capabilities at 7.3 kts max cruising speed. 

So we idled along at a snail's pace for us to be in sync with the 1:30 opening. Meanwhile, we saw lots and lots of turtles but not much else. The canal was overgrown with greenery. Vines, trees, bushes of all types -  a symphony of green. 

Lots of container ships - imagine if one of these containers fell off and  you met it with your boat! It happends
Eventually we reached the north locks and found that the opening would be delayed about an hour to permit southbound boats through first (who would want to go south?!)  Finally, eventually we got through and now the race was on to make the Gilmerton bridge before it shut down for rush hour traffic at 3:30. We cranked the Volvo up and was making 8.0 kts through the water to be the first to reach the bridge and the bridge operator relented and let all of the boats in our group (5) through, holding the bridge open for about 15 minutes while the cars set idle. 

We are now at Hampton Downtown Public Piers, a marina run by the city and it's a fine base for exploring the area. Right in the building behind us is an Enterprise office where you can walk over and pick up a car and if you reserve over a weekend, it's only $10/day, hard to beat and it comes with free parking in the same building. We plan on trips to Walmart and Home Depot on Friday for provisioning. There's an iMax within walking distance of the marina and we'll see their latest feature too. We plan on being around until Monday morning when we'll head north again, stopping at Deltaville at the Fishing Bay Yacht Club for their free dock followed the next day for an anchorage at Solomons Island by the Holiday Inn and their dinghy dock ($2/day). Then we'll wait out the weather and see what's next. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

South Locks on the Dismal Swamp Canal - at a free facedock

You are gliding through a green tunnel along the way
We had intended taking a free dock in Elizabeth City but the day was so nice and the time only 1:00 pm that we decided to press on. What attracted us onward was a bulkhead for docking between the south dock and the bridge, about 15 miles beyond Elizabeth City. The bulkhead had cleats and came at no charge and had ample grass for walking Hoolie, perfect for us.

Approaching the south dock, quiet, peaceful, all shades of green
We docked through with four other sailboats and we thought we were going to be the only ones on the bulkhead but three of the other boats decided to do the same thing. The bulkhead is along the west side of the canal and even comes with cleats spaced just right. There appears to be enough room for eight  boats so our four fit comfortably. Needless to say, on a canal there's no tide and very little wind so we're set for the night.

He sampled the trees along the way...  Watch out overhead!
Meanwhile, we're watching developments off the coast of South Carolina, it may be the first tropical storm of the season! So we're hurrying north and hoping for the best. We now plan on reaching Hampton, VA on Thursday and then reassess the weather for the run up the Chesapeake. Alas, there was not sighting of Pirate today. I think he jumped ship when he realized we were heading north into colder weather ("are you nuts?")...
At the bulkhead - cleats for all and nice grass for Hoolie