Monday, May 26, 2014

Three Days, Three States -Memorial Day Weekend

I have been in three states in three days by boat!  CRAZY!  I left Maryland, spending Saturday night at Poole's Island.  This is a picture of the little island as I was heading further up the Chesapeake:
I was there by myself in a shallow anchorage, in the middle of the Chesapeake. I thought it would be a calm night, but there were thunderstorms just after I went to bed, and the boat rocked and rolled a lot during the night.  I am glad I went there, just because I could.  The charted depths are 3 feet at the anchorage.

Sunday, I headed up the remainder of the Chesapeake and went to Delaware City Marina.  I arrived early afternoon, just after a fellow-looper, John from Endeavor, who I had run into a week earlier at an anchorage.  My docking skills were put to the test, as Tim, the harbormaster led me in.  He very clearly explained what was expected in the small canal, and I followed his directions.  I passed the challenge with flying colors, putting my stern cleat at the cleat he was standing at, winning the "Docker of the Month" award.  I think he may have made up the award, on the spot.  However, I did have witnesses, and was given a quarter off, per foot, for dockage and a free hat!  The looper discount is already down to $1.00 per foot from $2.00, but I only had to pay 75 cents per foot.  There were several of us "loopers" at the marina, and it was a great little town.  I was able to walk into town and have an strawberry sundae... a perfect way to celebrate making it up the Chesapeake and through the C&D Canal into Delaware.
Turkey Point Lighthouse

I got out of their way in the C&D canal.  Don't mess with the BIG ships!

Delaware City from the channel heading to the marina.  Great town!!!

Strawberry ice cream, hot fudge, wet walnuts, whip cream and a cherry!  YUM!

I don't think I could say enough good things about this little town of Delaware City and the marina.  Tim was there to assist me in docking as well as un-docking this morning at 7:00.  My "looper" friends, including Mark and Jane, decided to stay longer.  Since I am in my small boat, I feel like I need to travel when I can. If the weather is good, I need to go.  I headed down the Delaware River, into the Delaware Bay, and finally to Cape May, NJ.  I guess I have hit the Jersey Shore.

Along my way to NJ, I was out there in the big waters by myself... or almost.  I came across a pod or school of dolphin.  My camera was close, as is everything in my boat... like within ten feet or so...and I managed to get a couple pictures.

It is hard to get dolphin pictures!  Meanwhile,it was a calm day on the Delaware Bay.  As I was arriving at the entrance to the New Jersey ICW at Cape May, a ferry was heading in.  The ferry goes to Lewes, Delaware, across the bay.  I might head over there in the next couple of days, while I wait on another good weather window.

Here it is, the end of another great Memorial Day weekend.  I am at Cape May, at South Jersey Marina, and life is good.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend - leaving Annapolis

I left Annapolis early this afternoon.  I brought my grandkids to Annapolis last summer. While in Annapolis this time, I was able to revisit some of the places I had been last summer.  More importantly, I was able to meet up with friends and make new friends.

Joie, a friend of my son, lives in Annapolis.  She had promised me a hot bath.  Her friend, Wendy, graciously offered up her home for an afternoon, so I could relax, get my laundry done, and soak in the tub.  Joie also offered to have a BBQ at her home and invited Mark and Jane, the not-so-average-loopers.  I was able to spend a few days in Annapolis and hang out with Joie, which was great.   Mark and Jane took a video, which they posted on their Average Looper facebook page.  Check it out, they have been making daily videos.

There were many, many boats on the Chesapeake outside of Annapolis this afternoon.  The Chesapeake was calm, but the wakes from all the power boats were crazy.  After I got past the Annapolis area, everything settled down.  Tonight, I am at an anchorage at Poole's Island, which is used for military exercises.  It is peaceful here, and I am the only one at the anchorage.

Tomorrow, I will be heading up the Chesapeake to the C & D Canal.  I have missed a number of amazing places on this Bay, and I hve spent time in places I didn't expect.  I hope to come back here someday and spend more time. Meanwhile, it is time to move on.

Here are some pictures:

Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse - I was able to get fairly close to it.

One of the many sailboats in the Bay today.  I liked the interesting sail design.

Bluebird!  Another Ranger Tug!

This ship was anchored, but surprisingly, there were some large ships still moving on this holiday weekend.

This family was fishing in a skiff... the water was calm, and they appeared to be surviving all the wakes from other boats.

The sun setting at my peaceful anchorage at Poole's Island.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

One Month

It has been a month since I left Southport.  I can't believe how the time is flying by, and I feel like I haven't gone very far.  Between weather and repair delays, my traveling days have been sparce.  I am in Maryland though, having passed through most of North Carolina and through Virginia.

I made it further up the Chesapeake yesterday.  The Bay was so calm in the afternoon, I bypassed Soloman's Island and headed straight to Herring Bay, south of Annapolis.  As much as I would have loved to spend the afternoon with some of my looper friends, I also knew I had to take advantage of the calm seas.  I came into the marina, and met a friend of Dean's, Joie.  After a couple days of anchoring, it was good to be back on land and go out for dinner.  I am really looking forward to tomorrow, when I will be heading up to Annapolis with Joie and her mother aboard.  I will be able to stay in Joie's slip at her marina , which is awesome. I have also been promised a hot bath!  (It is just what this girlie girl needs!)

So, for a summary of life on my little boat:
I am enjoying long, hot, showers in somewhat public restrooms... who knew?  On my little boat, I have to conserve water, and the best time to shower is after the engine has been running, at the end of a day on the water.  My new routine is showering in the afternoon or evening.  I appreciate clean public bathrooms, and I appreciate my flip flops (aka shower shoes).

In checking the oil this morning, I noticed more belt dust, meaning my belt for my engine was too loose.  I had to fix it... and I know I tend to rely on people to help me (or maybe do things for me... and is this such a bad thing?).   My friend Jon came over, and supervised me in changing my own belt.  It was the right thing to do, and there was only one nut that was too difficult for me to loosen.  I replaced the Napa Auto part belt with the Yanmar certified belt.  About two minutes later, a mechanic from Zimmerman came over to check the belt, and he tightened it a little further for me and felt the problem would be taken care of with the new belt.  Checking oil and other levels is part of my new routine, as well as noticing anything out of the ordinary with my engine.  I did procrastinate the ten minutes it actually took to change the belt for several hours, but made good use of the time by cleaning my boat, rinsing the salt spray, and putting Rain-X on the windows.

Docking:  I love floating docks with long finger piers, like we have in Southport.  I am further north, where floating docks are becoming more rare.  I remember my son telling me that it is different here in the North, because of the freezing temperatures in the winter.  Most boats have to be taken out of the water and stored "on the hard".  One of the neighboring sailboat owners remarked that his boat had just been put back in the water, a little late this season, because of the weather.  I am sure as I head north, I will see more differences.  Docking with pilings and small finger piers is difficult even with a dock hand.  I gratefully used my remote control for my bow and stern thrusters for the first time.

Water and sewage:  Knowing what is consumed and where it all goes is important and can not be taken for granted. I have a 30 gallon tank for fresh water.  Some of this is used to flush the toilet. It is also used for cooking, cleaning, showering and brushing my teeth.  If I run out of bottled water, I also have to drink this water.  It does not taste as good as bottled, even though I run it through a filter.  Many marinas have places to empty the holding tank.  In Annapolis, where a lot people anchor or moor their boat, there are boats that come around and empty their holding tanks.  I don't want to imagine how bad life could get if I didn't empty my holding tank on I try to get it done frequently, at least once a week or so.

My boating skills have been improving, at least I have more confidence now than I did a month ago.  I am learning my boat and more about what I can and can't do.  I am still trying to figure out how much fuel I need.  I have to rely on engine hours and averages.  For the last two fills I was averaging less than a gallon per hour.  Before the repairs, I was averaging 2 gallons per hour.

Finally, at the end of this first month, I am grateful for all the friends who have been with me along this journey, and for the new friends I have made.  This trip is so much about the people we meet along the way!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Heading up the Chesapeake

The Chesapeake is BIG!  There are times it is difficult to see the shore.  I have a small boat, and it is definitely not a "go anywhere" type boat.  I have to time the Chesapeake for waves and wind.

When I was in Hampton, I was docked next to Gary and Alice, on Counter Offer, a 32+2 Albin.  Gary and I had compared plans on anchorages, coming up with two choices, one on the Hampton side of the Rappahannock River, and one on the far side of the river.  There was about 2 hours difference in the anchorages.  The weather was supposed to be a little choppy, with 2 to 3 foot seas and 10 to 15 mph winds.  After a few hours, I heard from Counter Offer, that they were going to head into the first anchorage.  I chose to continue on, as the afternoon forecast was better with the winds and seas decreasing.  As predicted, the afternoon was much smoother than the morning.  I ended up going further than the second anchorage to Ingram Bay, and up Cockrell Creek.  I found a peaceful, beautiful spot to anchor and the night was calm.  I don't think my boat moved.

This morning, I had plans to head past the Potomac River, and to Soloman's Island.  However, the weather forecast was not as accurate as yesterday.   The two to three foot seas became three to four.  The winds were 15 to 20, with gusts.  My little boat handled the seas well, but my microwave was moving all over the place and had to be relocated to the V-berth, where I sleep.  As I was heading into the Little Wicomico River at Smith Point, the waves were getting bigger and bigger.  One wave came at me like a wall of water, over my entire boat.  I was glad the microwave had found a new home!  On the map, those two hours don't look very impressive.  I came into a new anchorage.  Another "looper" was here on Endeavor, a catamaran.  John, from Endeavor, had spent the last couple nights waiting for the wind and waves to calm down.  Hopefully, tomorrow, I can head up the Chesapeake for Soloman's Island or go further.  The next marina I plan to stay in is Herrington Harbor, south of Annapolis.

Here are a few pictures...

Looking out from my dock at Hampton City dock the night before I left.  I will miss Hampton!

I saw these sailboats off to my port side as I headed up the Chesapeake.  Fortunately, I have a good zoom lens.

Entering Ingram Bay, there was this boat house, which is very interesting.  I wonder what it looks like inside.

I don't know what kind of boats these are, but they are both bigger than mine. What kind of fishing they are doing?

Cockrell's Crab and Seafood Deli.  I anchored just past their fishing boat.

Sunset at my anchorage, peaceful and quiet. the water was still and looked like glass.

Morning at the anchorage.  If only the Chesapeake could be this peaceful!

Heading out to the Chesapeake at the break of day, before I had to relocate my microwave!

Thursday, May 15, 2014


The repairs were finished on my boat yesterday!  It was a tough day, leaving behind Tidewater Marina, where I was really starting to feel at home.  Gaston did a sea trial with me, and then I was on my own, heading out for a two hour run up to Hampton.  I got into the Hampton City docks at 5:00 and was met by Ralph and Gaston from Tidewataer to help me tie up.  It wasn't the best of docking, as I initially headed into the slip with my bow, only to realize that a "stern in" tie up would be much better.  So with the help of the dockhand, Ashley, I rotated my boat around. Then, with perfect timing, Ralph and Gaston showed up!  (I have heard this trip is all about the people we meet, and I have to agree!)

Today, I cleaned my boat and walked around town.  I went to the museum and found out how much history this little town has, from the 1600's... a LOT of history.  I took some pictures of murals on some of the old brick walls.  Tomorrow I might go to the Virginia Air and Space Center.  It will be raining, so I will be here in Hampton until Saturday morning.  Then, I will head north on the Chesapeake and meet back up with Mark and Jane, from the "not so Average Loopers", to continue on this great trip of ours.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Big boats and little boats

I am sitting in my little Tug, with great views of the water.  It is a Sunday, and in general, not much gets done on Sundays in boat yards.  However, Ralph, who runs Tidewater boatyard, is here working.  Today, he has offered to take me to the grocery store, so I can get some provisions.  I am close enough to restaurants, that I am not really in dire straights for anything. However, when I leave in a couple days, it will be nice to have some fresh produce.

The one restaurant which has been recommended by a few people is a German place called the Bier Garden.  I went there a few nights ago with Tom (No Compromises) and Mark and Jane (Average Looper), and may go back. I only had a bowl of soup for dinner, as I saw their apple streudal, and opted for more dessert and less dinner.

Meanwhile, most of my time is spent here at the marina, on my little boat, high above the ground, looking out over the water.  Most of my friends have left and headed up the Chesapeake.  I will be a few days behind.  While waiting for the repairs to be finished, I have the best view of boat traffic.  From aircraft carriers to rowboats, I think I have seen it all.  Here are some pictures of the various boats that travel along these waters, in my temporary backyard.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Boat Repairs

Coming out of the Dismal Swamp and into Norfolk was a big change.  There are shipyards, industrial areas, cranes, tall buildings, etc...  I have left the tranquility of the swamp and headed into a city.  "Loopers" are having a rendezvous in Norfolk this week.  During the rendezvous, we get to meet each other, see each other's boats, and compare notes.  There are seminars each day which cover the areas we will be traveling, as well as other information which we may find helpful.  At any given time, there are two seminars.  Today, I would have loved to go to both the New York Canal System and the seminar on how to "lock through".  Despite my first bad experience, I went to the seminar on the New York canals.

Another aspect of being in Norfolk, is the ability to get my boat fixed.   I am actually at a boatyard, across from Norfolk, in Portsmouth.  The second picture, I took from the back of my boat, looking towards the marina in Norfolk, where all my looper friends have their boats.  I am taking the ferry (3rd picture) to Norfolk for the rendezvous.  The area around my propeller shaft has been leaking and had some problems, which need to be fixed, as well as my motor mounts.  While I am here, I am also getting new foot switches for my windlass for my anchor.  One of my switches was corroded and I had to cut the wires for it.  I also need to repair my stern thruster.  At this point, I am hoping to have the repairs finished by Friday, so I can move forward with my friends.  I have a feeling it may not work quite that easily.

I mentioned the "locking through" seminar, which I didn't go to.  Since my first bad experience, I learned to be better prepared.  My second locking experience, on the northern end of the Dismal Swamp, went very well.  I would say 'almost perfectly', except my lines were too short.  Once again, I was asked to use both a bow and stern line.  This second time, I used my midship line, which is towards the bow, and my stern line.  Instead of going up 8 feet, we went down 8 feet.  I was holding the ends of the lines, one in each hand, and finally, on tiptoe, I had to let my bow line go free.  It just wasn't long enough.  I held myself close to the wall by using my hook and holding the stern line.  When all was said and done, it went smoothly.  As I started pulling my bow line down, I felt a tug... I had a moment of panic, until I looked up and saw the lockmaster smiling at me holding the other end.  He threw it down to me with a smile, then threw my stern line down to me, and I knew I had done a good job.  The first thing I did when I got into Norfolk was order longer dock lines.  From talking to people, I usually won't have to use my own lines and I will be able to just use the one line, which I was initially prepared for.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Leaving Lamb's and Heading to the Dismal Swamp

Lamb's Marina was a great place to stay.  It wasn't fancy, but the people there were friendly and helpful.  My prop was more difficult to take off than the diver expected, so he arranged to have my boat pulled onto a trailer.  Since he had taken the zinc and bolt off the prop, Annabelle had to be towed to the ramp.  After she was towed, we headed off to Norfolk where I got a new prop and dropped off my old one to be fixed.  It took the entire day.  The following morning, Annabelle was dropped back into the water with her new prop, and we headed back to Lamb's Marina for one last night of rain.

This older gentleman, Bill, was very kind, and he towed Annabelle with his little boat, with a 25 hp motor.  I have a picture of his very well-behaved dog.  Bill was there when I first docked, and there when I finally left the slip - helping with my lines.  The owners of Lamb's marina were concerned for me when my boat was on the trailer, and offered to let me stay in a spare bedroom at their home.  However, I stayed with Mark and Jane on Average Looper.  The night my boat was on the trailer, the dock where Annabelle had been, ended up under water because of all the rain.

The last night we stayed at Lamb's Marina, we had the most beautiful sunset.  I couldn't see well from my boat, so I went down and told Mark and Jane.  The three of us headed out to the bow of their boat to take pictures.

Bill's dog

In creek on way to ramp
Being towed to the ramp
Yes, it took two trucks!

Annabelle on the trailer waiting for her new prop.

We had a lot of rain!
Sunset at Lamb's Marina
Today, we headed out to the Great Dismal Swamp.  I was looking forward to an enjoyable, peaceful ride.  It was not as relaxing as one might think though.  The canal is narrow, and there are logs and other debris floating or sticking out. It is not an area one can use auto pilot and relax.  There were a total of 5 boats ahead of me - two sailboats, and 3 other "Looper" boats.  As people saw or hit things, they would radio back to the boats behind them.   I also had my first "locking through" experience.  I expected to tie one line from my mid-ship cleat (which is towards the front of my boat) and loop it around the part at the lock and then bring it back to my cam cleat.  The lockmaster instructed me to use a bow and stern line, and did not want me tying up the way I had planned.  It did not go well.  While trying to reach out my window and hand him the bow line, I accidentally put my boat into reverse (it was in neutral), I was trying to run my boat and take care of lines, and dodge logs.  There was a log directly in front of me and one on my side. UGH!  Once, my lines were taken care of, the rest was fairly easy.  I had to go back and forth between bow and stern tightening up my lines as the water level raised 8 feet.

Tonight, we are docked at the Dismal Swamp visitor's center.  In the morning is a kayak race.  Tomorrow night, we will stay at Elizabeth dock, on this side of the next lock.  I have heard the lockmaster at the next lock has coffee and donuts available in the morning for people who have spent the night.  I am hoping to have some time to talk to him about locking, so I can improve.  I have about 150 locks to go through, so I will have lots of practice and I don't think I could do worse.

Sunday, we are going to Norfolk, where we will be staying for a few days for the Great Loop Rendezvous.  (I will also get some repairs done!)

Sign for South Mills Lock in the Dismal Swamp