Sunday, June 28, 2009

Moving around the Lower Bay June 25 – 27

Great Kills National Park beach

Great Kills Harbor anchorage - with the storm passing.

We woke up to rock and roll. Not music, but the motion of Tiffany Rose. The night before we had been too tired to travel any further so we had dropped the hook in front of the Coast Guard station as soon as we rounded Sandy Hook. Not a bad place to spend the night, but as soon as daylight came and all the fishing boats and ferries were active the wakes were a bit much. Trying to keep breakfast dishes from flying around was a challenge so it was time to move on. We were in the middle of bringing the anchor up when the Coast Guard stopped by for a visit. “Where are you going, where are you from, where did you clear customs, have a nice trip, hope we didn’t interupt you bringing up the anchor” then off to greet the others anchored nearby. We headed south to Atlantic Highlands, where you can anchor behind the breakwater. We got fuel and water first and kept the engine running for the first bit after we anchored so we could each get in a quick shower. (The objective is to use as little water as possible, so shower in the sense of “Ahh, that feels nice” might not be the appropriate word, but you do get clean and that feels good.) We then headed off to do a reconaissance of what the town has to offer. There was a trawler from Vancouver anchored next to us wondering where the laundry was so we promised to come back with a report. Found the dinghy dock, found the laundromat, got permission to dock the dinghy at a spot closer to the laundromat and passed on the news to our neighbours. Dave and Christopher spent the afternoon exploring Atlantic Highlands while our clothes did the transition from stinky to “Mountain fresh”.
On Friday we woke up to a forecast of impending severe thunderstorms. We had intended to head up to the 79th st. moorings in Manhattan, but that is a rolly place on weekends and add a thunderstorm to that and it might not be too pleasant. Many people had told us about Great Kills Harbour on Staten Island, as a protected spot. The sky didn’t look too great already so we hurried to eat breakfast and leave hoping we could get there before the storm came. In about an hour and a half we were entering this horseshoe shaped harbour, marinas down both sides and the rest of the harbour completely filled with sailboats on mooring balls. We thought we were in Boot Key Harbour in Marathon again for a moment! The guidebooks said that there would be room at the north end past the moorings to anchor and when we got there we found we had plenty of room. Not sure about the weather we stayed on the boat for the rest of the morning trying to finish up some things in the boat schooling folder. Christopher reminded me that school at home is done now. When we are travelling on flat water it is good for doing school work, but on ocean days and days like Delaware Bay it doesn’t even get looked at. So, we’ll try to finish up before Canada Day.
In the afternoon we dinghied to shore at Great Kills National Park, then walked to town to seek out the Staten Island Railroad for our train fan. It was a hot walk and you could feel the impending storm must be coming even though the sun was shining.
When we got back to the boat and turned on the weather radio, Mr. Computer voice was issueing all sorts of dire warnings, and the sky was looking like he was right. When the storm hit, we went into what has become our usual thunderstorm routine. Invariably, we try to get supper done before the storm hits but we never make it. I’m sure we must look like a comedy routine. Look at the family sitting down to supper in the cockpit. Oops, it’s pouring rain, they are passing things down below and scrambling around like mad. Oh, there they are sitting at the table. Crack! Oops, lightening! Don’t want to be so close to the mast, everyone to their stations! Christopher and Dad huddle in Christopher’s room at the back of the boat with their meals, and Mom climbs into the v-berth at the bow with hers. Oh, the wind is howling too! Look at them take turns popping up to make sure they are still where they are supposed to be. Ok, things are quieting down now, as you were, carry on.

Saturday we spent exploring the Great Kills park. from the beach you could see most of the Lower Bay, with Sandy Hook and Atlantic Highlands in view.

Our Final Day on the Ocean - June 24

Sunrise as we head into the ocean from Atlantic City

Working the winch to keep the jib tight.

A Sandy Hook Beer at the end of a long day!

After watching the weather carefully the last few days today looked like a decent day to head off shore again. Up we got at 4 am and headed off with the first glimmer of sunrise. The winds were quite calm and we noticed a number of other boats ambling out the inlet at the same time. We could feel the rollers coming in but these were not nearly the same magnitude as the other day. Once we were out far enough and turned north it actually felt very comfortable. The light wind, generally on our nose, meant that we motored along with only the mainsail up to help with stabiltiy and to grab any favourable gusts that may come along. Our plan was to try to make it all the way to Sandy Hook, about 80 nautical miles. This would be our longest day yet. It was looking pretty good as we set out doing around six knots. Then we noticed our speed dropping. Hmm. I didn’t know of any opposing currents along the coast here. But down it went to about 4.8 knots and stayed there. Bummer. This was now putting our plan in jeopardy. To continue at this speed would mean arriving after dark which isn’t what we wanted to do. There were two more inlets coming up that were possible exits but neither of them were very appealing for their anchoragability (if that’s a word). As the last one crept up we had to make a decision. Just before this however, our speed started to creep back up, we also had a bit of wind and had unfurled the jib. Now we were back up to 6 knots and the decision to continue was easy. The seas had settled even more and Christopher was able to while away the hours playing on the computer. He also took a turn at assisting on the helm for over two hours. Getting the sails out is also a very active time for him as he helps pull on the jib sheet, uses the winch to harden the jib as well as the main sail when we need it. It is fun to watch him be a keen sailor!
A magical part of the day was the dolphin greeting we received. Along the way we came across about 5 different pods of dolphins some with about 30 dolphins. Most were just swimming along but some were more frisky and did a few full body leaps out of the water. We are really glad they came to say goodbye!
By 6:30 we reached the offshore buoy marking the Sandy Hook channel and by 7:30 we had the anchor down and felt totally relieved. As we came in we saw Rich on his boat Nessie anchoerd as well. Just when you thought you’d never cross paths with someone again, there they are! Great day!!

More High Rollers! June 21 - 23

Atlantic City Boardwalk

The Gamblers!

With some less than ideal weather out on the ocean we took the opportunity to take in the sights around Atlanctic City. The boardwalk is a little more than a mile from the marina and that is where many of the hot spots are. Being Father’s Day it seemed appropriate that I try my luck in one of the casinos. So into the Taj Mahal we went. After stumbling around a bit inside trying to figure out how things worked we finally settled on a couple of slot machines with nautical themes for good luck. Now the high rolling could really start! A bit of up and a bit of down – just like out in the ocean! Gambling is a bit of a hard concept for Christopher to understand but the action of the machines was pretty cool. But when you win all you get is a coupon, which isn’t a very impressive prize to him. When all was done I was a total of 37cents in the red!
Then off we went to continue along the boardwalk with its amusement park, gorby shops and more and more casinos. There was also an interesting historical museum about the area. Monopoly was invented here and we walked by many of those street properties you could buy. We also walked along the beach for a while but it wasn’t a swimming day. Before we ended this 10 mile walk a bird deposited its load right on Shirley. Try as I might to convince her that was good luck and she should pop into a casino she was somehow more interested in getting back to get more fully cleaned up.
After losing that 37 cents we decided it would be best to leave the dock and its costs and head over to a nearby anchorage. It turned out to be a really nice spot that was well protected. We went to shore to do some shopping, which was a challenge because there was no decent dinghy landing. We found a spot that we had to slog the dinghy through by pulling it over marsh grass in knee deep water and then drag it over land to a stable spot where we could lock it up. We do a lot more locking in these urban areas. Later we had a much easier time dinghying over to a beach and taking doing some fun exploring there. Tons of little crabs to watch. Cars with special permits are allowed to drive along here and so many were there with families hanging out or guys and all their fishing stuff.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rolling on the Ocean June 19

Shirley and the ocean - together again!

We have been out of site of the ocean now since we left Beaufort NC. Now we are sitting on its edge again anticipating our sail up the east coast of New Jersey. To do this we will need a couple of good weather days. Friday morning we saw ‘Alice” leaving the harbour so we radioed them for their impressions of the conditions. Large rolling swells, not the pounding waves we’d had on Tuesday. Time to go! We had to wait for a fuel dock to open so we could fuel up before heading out.

Heading out and heading in. Those are the times when your senses are on full alert when travelling on the ocean. The combination of tides, currents, winds and narrow channels make inlets places that grab your attention. As we started out the inlet it didn’t look bad but you could see the “bumps” on the water toward the horizon. Sure enough as we continued along the swells started to well up underneath Tiffany Rose’s bow. With the outgoing tide we were zipping along at about 7.5 knots and we started to bounce into the waves. But it wasn’t long until we were out of the channel and pointing our way to the north east to follow the coast toward Atlantic City, our next stop along the way. The breeze was good and we had all sails flying. Feels good!

The swells were quite large so it was like being on a slow roller coaster. First you are on top of a wave, then there’s that sinking feeling as you descend into the trough, then up, then down. At times in the trough we would lose all site of land and then at the top we would have a splendid view. So we knew these were sizable swells, mainly left over from the stormy weather earlier. Even though we have been travelling by boat for ten months being on the ocean is still thrilling. The expanse, the smells, and the power all create a sense of awe as we bob along in our tiny craft. This time Shirley did ok with the movement but for the first time it seemed that Christopher wasn’t so keen on the wave action. As we approached Atlantic City, again we are on full alert as we see waves crashing along side the jetty of the inlet. Coming in now we have the waves pushing us along which is nice except it can confuse your steering. Fortunately the tide was also going in which meant the waves were not popping up and bouncing us around. Our entry was pretty smooth.

Christopher was glad when we pulled into Atlantic City and be out of the swells. We docked at the Historic Gardner Basin, as we did in the fall. Here, the marina doesn’t really have facilities for you but your dock fee allows you to visit the Atlantic City aquarium. Good deal!

Cape May and waiting for weather June 17-18

Audubon Society Nature Centre

We stayed anchored there in front of the Coast Guard station until Friday, wating for the right weather to head north. Wednesday we were able to dinghy to town and explored around Cape May. There was a nature centre there with a tower that offered a good view of the harbour.
Thursday it was stormy and we stayed on board most of the day. At least Christopher and I did. Dave was doing some maintenance chores and would zoom off to “Alice” who was also anchored there to borrow tools, ask advice or see what they thought of tomorrow’s weather for travelling. Meanwhile Christopher had announced that by the date on the calendar it was time for exams. That hadn’t been part of the original boat schooling plan but hey, we aim to please, so exams can be arranged. That made the day go by quickly! The stormy weather also made the day more exciting as other boats started dragging and everyone was out in their cockpits on watch or out at the bow adjusting their anchoring system. This has been one of the more rock-and-rolly anchorages we’ve been in.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Beating Down the Delaware (or..the Delaware beating down us) June 16

Delaware Bay has a reputation. And any place that has a reputation we pay special attention. At Chesapeake City, we spent some time with Charles and Laurel and their boys from the sailboat Alice, talking about the upcoming weather and our thoughts on getting down the Bay. It would be 73 miles from start to finish – our longest run. The combination of a fairly shallow but very large body of water, strong ocean tidal currents and winds makes for a potentially rough ride. The weather for Tuesday was looking the best for the next 5 days –10 knots from the east. After some deliberation “Alice” decided to leave at 4:30am and we decided to follow about a half hour later.

With our running lights on and the sun still hidden beyond the horizon we nosed out into the second half of the C&D Canal, with the knowlrdge that the forecast wasn’t as favourable – the winds were going to be stronger than we thought. The current was against us now so the 13 canal miles were a bit slow. When we hit the Delaware river the current had turned in our favour and we accelerated to over 7 knots. Both sails were raised and we upped our speed to over 8 knots. YES!! A couple of hours later the Delaware river poured us into Delaware Bay and the real fun started. Actually not that fun – but awfully exhilerating.The wind current combination turned our rapid ride into a wet and wild show. The east wind was now on our nose and we had to angle off to keep wind in the sails. The waves quickly built up and were steep with a short space between them. Our smooth sailing Tiffany Rose was now bucking up and down in the waves. As they built up more her bow started to pop into the air and then dive down into the next one sending a gushing spray over the deck.

Christopher was down below working on something on the computer as it started. When he came up to the cockpit he was looking a bit off and so we stuck him in his favourite corner to try to nap. This short sleep did the trick and he came back to life. What this looked like then was laughing enthusiastically as a wave would run over the bow and spray over the dodger and hit me or Shirley in the face. Great fun!! You'll notice the distinct lack of pictures for this post, partly because of the wet and part becasue our hands were busy doiong what we had to do.
Shirley and I were trading off at the helm – it was tough work keeping the course, trying to keep wind in the sails and control the wild throws of the waves. But then she had to go below to attend to something. That pretty much did her in. The wild rocking and working in close quarters turned her stomach upside down and I watched in anticipation as she clung to the lifelines ready to give the Bay a taste of her breakfast. “That’ll teach it!” But she was able to bring things under control and kept her much needed honey nut flake nutrition. Usually it is best to take the helm when you get seasick. But today it was so wild at the helm as the stern would plunge down and then fire back up into the air, it wasn’t having the desired calming effect. So I kept my place there and rode us on down the Bay. The wind had turned too much on our nose and we furled up the jib, but left the main flying. Of course the engine had been running all along as well. More than close hauled now we were still able to squeeze 5.5 knots, except when the GPS would read 2kts when we slammed another wave. After about 7 hours of this pounding we could see the land forming Cape May. We thought for sure as we got closer things would subside, but it kept blowing. Sure felt a lot stronger than the 15 knots they were forecasting. It wasn’t until we reached the Cape May canal that everything suddenly went flat and my white knuckle grip on the wheel relaxed. We breathed easy over to the anchorage next to the Coast Guard Station and joined a number of other boats. Now to wait for the next "good weather day" to head into the ocean and start up the coast.

On to Chesapeake City June 14 &15

Perryville Train Museum

We still had the rented car for part of Sunday so we took advantage of it to get some chores done such as groceries and getting to and from the laundromat. Dave and Christopher took advantage of the laundry time by driving over the bridge crossing the Susquehanna River to see the train station and museum at Perryville. It had a nice model train layout.
Monday morning we headed out again to wave goodbye to the Chesapeake Bay as we started into the C and D canal that connects it to Delaware Bay. It wasn’t long before we reached Chesapeake City. There is a free dock there, but in the fall when we had stopped there it had been full and we had anchored in the basin. This time though, there was just one other boat there (besides the resident ferry) so we decided to enjoy the free stay. We realized as we were pulling in that the other boat was Alice, a family with two boys from Maine that we had met in the fall. It was fun to exchange the “So how did your winter turn out?” stories.
Tiffany Rose at her free dock in Chesapeake City

Monday, June 15, 2009

Surprise at the Top of the Bay! June 11-14

Tiffany Rose Motoring up Chesapeake Bay
(Courtesy of Whipoorwill)

Havre De Grace Lighthouse from Tiffany Rose

Up early to once again beat the weather. Whipoorwhil stopped by and we set off at about the same time. We had little wind but a good current going with us so we briskly cruised out of Annapolis up to the top of Chesapeake Bay. There were no big ships to contend with so we used the current and markers of the shipping channel to help us along. Whipoorwhil was headed off to Chesapeake City to make time towards home. We, on the other hand, were detouring off towards Christopher’s “Promised Land”. Who would have thought that Havre de Grace was such a place? Most Canadians would pronounce this city’s name with a bit of French flair in the pronounciation but here it is “Hav-er de Grayce”. The French was lost hundreds of years ago. As far as Christopher is concerned this city is beautiful for its train activity! We anchored right at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, beside the old lighthouse, in sight of the Amtrack train bridge. Perfect! Relax in the cockpit with a cool drink of juice and watch trains for hours! Along with the relaxing vista our ears were treated to the sound of machine gun and artillary fire. Just south of us is the Aberdeene Proving Grounds where the army trains its people and tests its firepower. We feel very safe here…
We spent some time touring around town and finding all the good train spotting locations and then we got ready for the big event. Thanks to some folks we met earlier in the trip we found out that Havre de Grace was only an hour or so drive to Strasburg PA. Strasburg is Christopher’s most favourite spot because it is live steam train central. So we rented a car, moved Tiffany Rose over to a mooring ball at Tidewater Marina and got ready for a road trip!
Early Saturday morning we were dinghying to shore to hop into the car to skoot up to Strasburg. It’s funny, as the crow flies we are now about as close to home as we’re going to be until we get into the Erie Canal. (From here we have to go south and east, down the Delaware Bay to Cape May, New Jersey then up the coast to New York City.) Pulling into Strasburg, it was odd knowing we were less than a days drive home by car but weeks away by boat.
We have visited Strasburg a few times before for summer vacation and the railroad is always a calm place to be. Not so today. As it happens, it was also a Day Out with Thomas event. That meant at least a thousand more people there, all families coming to see Thomas the Tank Engine. We hadn’t planned on that, so we didn’t have tickets for “Thomas”. Christopher knew that we would ride the regular steam train, and that he could watch the Thomas train but that we wouldn’t be going on. That was fine because there was already so much to see and do. Christopher loves to see the trains come and go, and he has all the conductor’s signals for coupling the engine to the train down pat. We were watching a train leave when a lovely lady came up to us, saying she had two tickets for the 10:45 Thomas train that she couldn’t use and that she’d like Christopher to go on the train. We couldn’t believe it! What a generous gesture! So Dave and Christopher went on the next Thomas train. When we caught up to her again later to say thank you again and give her our blog address, she said”Oh, are you sailors? We have a 34’sailboat we keep in Chesapeake Bay.” She said they'd like to do a trip like this when their kids are a little older. It is a small world.
Between doing the activities that go along with a Thomas day (rides on other rail cars on sidings, getting a 'tatoo', etc.) and doing what he has liked to do when we have visited Strasburg before (sprinting from end to end of the platform as the engine leaves the front of the train and comes back to couple on the rear), plus going on both the Thomas and regular steam trains, Christopher had a very full day. The video below shows Christopher assisting the train man to couple the engine to the cars. We ended it off by having supper in the rail car restaurant at the Red Caboose Motel further down the railway tracks. We were able to wave at Strasburg`s last train of the day, The Evening Breeze, as it went by. No sooner had we gotten in the car then it started to rain. What a perfect day!

On to Annapolis

Officer Christopher

US Naval Academy

After Dan drove off into the sunrise we hoisted the anchor and followed suit, back into Chesapeake Bay hoping for good winds and a fair tidal current to speed us on our way. Today was another “thunderstorms in the afternoon” day and we wanted to get to Annapolis before getting bombarded. Turned out to be just that way. We scooted along nicely for most of the day although the wind wasn’t nearly as nice as it was sailing with Dan the day before. So it was an emphasis on “motor” for a motor sailing day. When we approached Annapolis it got a bit hairy as there were many boats out doing their own thing but also some Navy training ships (small ones) doing manoeuvres. We had a few moments of nervous hesitation as one of these would stop and pirouette right in front of us and the take off in another direction. While over to our side navy zodiacs were zipping and swerving around like crazy doing something of the utmost importance, or so it seemed. Fun and games at the US Naval Academy!
At Annapolis we turned into the Back River to look for a good anchoring spot. This river is wall-to-wall marina with loads of beautiful sailboats to gawk at. Good anchoring spots though are hard to find. We ended up anchoring right beside a small mooring field. Right beside meaning a bit too close for comfort, but the winds were fairly light and all the moored boats were behaving – for now. After we were snuggled in at our spot Ab and Karen from Whippoorwill stopped by. They are a boat from Port Stanley ON that we have met at different times along the way. Ab was kind enough to direct me to the hardware store because our sink in the head (bathroom) blew the faucet line out.
We also met the crew from Mystic, a 63 foot sailboat that sailed around from San Francisco, through the Panama Canal to here. What a ride!
Next morning we dinghied ashore for a few errands and to see parts of Annapolis we missed our first time here. Being the capital of Maryland it has a beautiful old section of town with the old government buildings that are still in use. One fun Police Officer offered Christopher a turn on his trike segue (see picture). We also had a wonderful time visiting the Naval Academy. What a place! It is THE training centre for the Navy and it has a superb visitors centre to show off what they’ve done and how many famous people and astronauts have come out of that school. Quite impressive.
That night, after the faucet got fixed, the threatening skies came good on their word and we had a doozy of a storm. We spent a lot of time watching out for the boats on the moorings as we swung every which way and came in awfully close to one of the boats. Fortunately we avoided any impact but agreed that staying there another night wouldn’t be wise.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Drivin' Dan the Sailing Man June 6-8

Earlier in our trip our friend Dan Mulrooney let us know he was interested in joining us at some point along the journey. As with others who have expressed this interest we let Dan know that coordinating these visits while we are en route is extremely hard and that it would require a lot of flexibility on his part. With the influence of the weather, mechanical issues and and a myriad of other factors it is almost impossible for us to say we will be at a given location on a specific date – unless we are already there. And that’s what happened. When Dan found out we were at Solomons Island he asked how long we’d be there – “A couple of days because of the weather”. Next thing we knew Dan was getting in his car with an extra pair of underwear or two and doing a long overnight drive from Ottawa down here. That’s the way to make it work! We had moved the boat over to the marina dock and in the morning we had to get some groceries. When we returned to the boat Dan was inside having a nap! He was then duly oriented to the boat and its systems by Christopher doing the tour and many of the explanations.

That afternoon ( Saturday) we left the dock and scooted down Back Creek into the Puxatant River hoping to give Dan a sail time. When we got organized to hoist the sails Christopher immediately protested loudly exclaiming that there was not enough wind and demanding we take the sails down. Well, he was right again. We tried painfully for a little while to see if some puffs of wind would move us along but no luck. So what is one to do in such a case? Go anchor and start the sundowner drinks early!!

Sunday was a different scene. Out we went to the mouth of the river and into the grand Chesapeake Bay. No protests this time. The wind was up and the sails were set. And when Christopher did his duty of turning the engine off, the peace combined with the rush of the wind was like magic. It was a perfect combination of wind, sun and small waves and made for exhilarating sailing. Dan took the helm (video below) and tacked us back and forth to the other side of the bay. By afternoon a whole armada of local boats were out as well making for a classic Chesapeake Bay day on the water.
After a great supper of shrimp and grilled tuna followed by a few more sundowners we were able to reflect on this spur of the moment visit as a great example of successfully seizing the moment. And before we knew it Dan was driving off into the sunrise at 6am the next morning.

Dancing with Storms June 3-5

Our departure from the exotic Grog Island was under clear skies but with thunderstorms lurking on the horizon. We beetled out of there by 5:45 and dashed (at a steaming 6 mph) toward Solomons Island hoping to get there before the lightening started. The motor sail up the Chesapeake turned out to be a very good one. We had some good wind for a while, our pace picked up and the breeze felt good in the 90 degree sunny day. It is always a struggle in our planning when the forecast says chance of thiunderstorms for 5 days in a row. Do we sit tight or try to beat them to the next anchorage? Our strategy lately has been to try to beat them unless they really seem imminent.

After arriving at Solomons Island we landed at a perfect anchorage and got everything secure as the big black clouds started to move in. We beat them! And then, as Christopher likes to explete, “KA-POW!” A great rip roaring thunderstorm came through. The site at a busy anchorage after a thunderstorm is all these guys sitting in their dinghies bailing them out – only to have them fill in again as the next wave comes through.
It was a pleasant surprise to meet up with two other boats we had met in our travels and thought that they would have been long gone from our range. Bird on a Wire is a boat from New Brunswick with wonderful family of 4 – parents and two daughters aboard (in picture above). We had a bit of a visit with them and found out about their adventures over the winter. We also met up with Kismet – a boat from Sodus Bay NY which is where we bought Tiffany Rose. I actually met Jim and Laurie there when we were all working in the boat yard getting the boats ready for the water after the winter last April. It has been great to bump into them along the way and swap stories of the ups and downs of cruising the waterway.
With the weather looking rather crummy for travel we decided to get a few things done here like change the oil, shopping and the all time favourite, get a blood test for Christopher. This meant getting a local doctor appointment at a clinic within walking distance. We were lucky to book one for the next day. Before getting to the doctor we realized that Christopher’s ear was discharging ooogy stuff. What timing! We were able to include a check-up for his ears at the same time. Turns out they are not too bad but the Doc gave us a prescription in case it flares up.

Having got this no-fun business out of the way we were free to explore the area on a rainy day. Along the lovely riverwalk here we met up with some local folks and Christopher got to know their large and friendly dogs. We also went to the Calvert Museum that we visited in the fall and were equally impressed this time around. It is hard to take it all in at one visit at a great museum like this one.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Not Always What the Brochure Claims…

The glamour of it all
Of course a sailing journey is full of exotic anchorages with gorgeous scenery. At least that is the romantic image of what cruising aboard a sailboat is. Water lapping gently on the side of the boat while the sun dips behind a breathtaking vista. Well, we have had some of those and have shared them in this blog. Not so all the time however. Quite often the anchorage area in a town leads to the not-so-savoury part of town. The “vista’ bestowed upon us in the picture above is a prime example. Not the romantic moon we had envisioned. And we couldn’t believe how long this fisher person stayed in that exact position perhaps proudly demonstrating that he too could wear his pants like those young city kids do! This did provoke a number of belly chuckles from our cabin but it also made me think that we’ve been fortunate to have the wide mix of landing experiences. Dinghying in to shore and landing in a spot not geared towards tourists but full of local folks living and sometimes struggling through their lives is a rich experience. Like a little while ago when we were in a not so lavish location and spoke with a teenage brother and sister. Through a heavy southern accent we learned their story of how “Mamma just got fired from her job that day and now they had to move…but we can make some good come out of all this”. Real life by the river. Dropping in and out of real people’s lives is fascinating and often shifts what we are thinking and feeling as this adventure continues to unfold.

Just because it says 2009, don’t you go thinkin’ that means up-to date…..
Before we headed north from Norfolk we thought that perhaps a brand new guidebook for the Chesapeake Bay might be nice. Heading north we have more time to explore, so a book just dedicated to the Bay, rather than one geared for people cruising on through, was in order. What luck! We found a 2009 illustrated cruising guide for Chesapeake Bay for half price! (Maybe that should have been a red flag……)
Following the advice of the guidebook, rather than go straight from Deltaville to Solomons Island we would spend a day and night anchored where we could visit the “pearl” of the Bay, Grog Island. There was a lovely drawing of a treed island with a lovely beach. The book read “It’s sandy beach shines gold in the morning sun with a fringe of trees silhouetted against the sky”. Sigh…. Doesn’t that sound beautiful honey?
There was more….”it features a nice sandy beach, perfect for picnics, and children have a chance to run and explore.” Now, to be fair, it did mention that the island was suffering some erosion into the Bay but….”for now, however, it is one of the true gems of the Chesapeake.”
“For now” was obviously not in 2009, or judging by what was left of the trees (see photo) any time in recent memory. And the children running and exploring the beach? They better be wearing lifejackets and flippers. As well, make sure that picnic floats and attach a tether to it because the wave action is pretty brisk! As there didn’t appear to be any Grog Island we thought perhaps we were in the wrong spot. After anchoring Tiffany Rose, we got in the dinghy and went over to where a couple was sitting in a small motor boat anchored off of what once might have been the end of the island. “There used to be an island here,” the lady said. “When I was young there were two ponds on it as well.” “Was this Grog Island? we asked. “Yes” she said sadly, “things change”. Yes they do, but I guess not the guidebook. Once again, as travellers, we’d dropped right in the middle of someone else’s real life experience.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Starting up the big Bay May 29 – 31

After anchoring two nights in Norfolk, the weather looked right Friday morning for us to at least make a start up the Chesapeake Bay before the next forecast storm. First we pulled into a marina to fuel up and pumpout then we headed up the Elizabeth River, crossed the James River and then up the Hampton River to Hampton. Only a short trip of about ten miles but one that can be unnerving when the big warships and large cargo ships docked in Norfolk are coming or going. Luckily we were already across the James River and out of the way when a large ship went by.
In the fall we had anchored in the Hampton harbour along with many other boats, so when we saw only three boats there we thought it would be easy. However with the direction of the wind and the way those three boats were spaced we could not find a place to put down the anchor. After circling and circling we decided to head down the creek to Sunset marina we had gone to last fall during bad weather. They were really nice, they remembered us and welcomed us back. We spent some time shopping and wandering around the very pretty town of Hampton.
Next morning, we headed out into the Bay. The wind was on our nose so we motored with the main up until the wind shifted in the afternoon and we were able to sail. The chop of the Bay made for a bouncy ride with the nose of Tiffany Rose diving into the the next wave. It was great to be in the open waters of the Chesapeake after so many narrow stretches on the Waterway. Our destination was Jackson Creek in Deltaville, another spot that had been a really crowded anchorage when we had stopped there in the fall. One of those where you are up half the night checking that you aren’t swinging into another boat. No such problem now. Plenty of room. In fact, Deltaville is a spot where many northerners will leave their boats to return to in the fall and head south again. There was a boat yard near where we were anchored with a lot of boats “on the hard” (out of the water, stored on stands on land). We did a little tour around and saw a few Canadian boats that we knew. We took pictures of Breeze Hunter and Sweet Surrender, boats we had anchored near and visited with in the first leg of the fall trip, and sent them by email to them back home.
Now that we are back in the Chesapeake area we notice again the great hospitality toward boaters. In both Hampton and Deltaville we were given rides from people who just thought we looked like boaters and might need a lift to the store or back to the boat.