Republic of Eastport
On this visit
to Annapolis we discovered the Maritime Republic of Eastport (MRE). Eastport is
an historic neighborhood of Annapolis on a small peninsula with Spa Creek on the
North and Back Creek on its south shore. We've been to Eastport before but only
to visit the Sailrite store or a restaurant so we weren't aware of its existence
as a sovereign state.
sort of a sovereign state. In 1998 Eastport residents were displeased at being
cut off from the main section of the city by work being done on the drawbridge
across Spa Creek. So on Superbowl Sunday, 1998 over a few beers, the Maritime
Republic of Eastport was born. What began as a lark has become a major player
in the Eastport neighborhood. The resulting organization now holds several significant
annual events, the proceeds of which go to local non-profit organizations. These
events, in fact, provide a major source of income for some local organizations.
This visit, we
were anchored in Back Creek and walking the neighborhood to get to the post office
and find lunch. A walk down any residential street in Eastport will find homes
flying the MRE flag - an indication of the level of support of the local citizenry.
It's wonderful to see the community involvement. Click
here to read more about this fun-loving, not really independent nation.
Serious Cold Front
sat out a cold front in Annapolis and finally left there on October 26 heading
south on the Chesapeake Bay. Weather forecasts looked as though we'd get to Norfolk,
VA after 2 stops to anchor overnight. We got to Solomons, MD and found a nice
protected spot to put down the hook.
MD - Chesapeake Bay
we left Solomons on the morning of the 27th we were expecting winds of 15 - 20
knots with gusts to 25. What we got were winds consistently 25 - 30 knots with
gusts to 35! Luckily, the wind was on our stern so we got a push from it and were
traveling with the waves rather than against them. It was a very rolly ride. Conditions
were severe enough that we heard a few boats calling for assistance. We're sure
glad that we have a robust and very seaworthy boat.
anchored at Bones Bay in Dymer Creek just a little way north of the Rappahannock
River. Charts and Skipper Bob's Anchorage book indicated that we'd be able to
tuck behind a small island but the island is no longer there. What's left is a
small stand of dead trees. This is a very nice anchorage with protection on the
north, south and west. We looked at the weather forecasts and found ourselves
facing gale warnings the next day and continued high wind the day after. Wind
might be manageable on Wednesday, but it would be right on the beam and cold.
Who wants to be that uncomfortable on purpose? We'd be hunkered down here until
Thursday the 30th.
wind did roar. We dragged anchor the first night. After moving to a slightly different
spot, we used the tracking feature of our handheld GPS to monitor our movement.
The pattern was interesting. We had a normal swing arc, but a few spikes in the
track show where gusts took us out to the full length of our scope. But the anchor
here for an article that explains anchoring
on to Norfolk
October 30, we had good enough weather to head on to Norfolk where we again stayed
at Waterside Marina. The plan was to stay just long enough to relax a little,
do laundry and pick up groceries but there was weather. A storm was forming just
off the Carolinas and heading northwest. We decided to stay put instead of heading
into the weather. By the time the weather system got to Norfolk it was quite intense
with gale and storm warnings being issued for the area.
extended stay coincided with a visit from a tall ship from Norway. As it came
into the dock, sailors were up in the rigging of the forward mast and lined up
on the bow sprits as well as all along the decks. And they were singing! It was
a spectacular entrance. Here's a link to info about this ship. It stayed only
a couple of days and when it left the sailors were back in the rigging singing
as it moved out into the harbor.
November 7 everybody who'd been waiting out the storm decided to leave Norfolk
and head down the ICW. It was a mass exodus. This is the first time we've done
this part of the trip in prime time - along with all the other migrating boats.
Like being on the freeway at rush hour. Of course, we all bunched up waiting for
bridges to open, then spread out a little until we came to the next bridge. When
we got to the lock at Great Bridge, there were so many boats ahead of us that
they filled the lock and we had to wait an hour for the next southbound lock opening.
Once past Great Bridge,
there are fewer swing and draw bridges, so it gets a little less congested. The
procession of boats reminds me of a trail of ants.
It's only 205 miles on the ICW from Norfolk to Morehead City, NC, but it takes
a long time because it's dangerous to travel it at night; and the days are so
short this time of year that the travel day is limited. The channel has some straight
canals, but also follows meandering rivers and crosses two large but shallow sounds.
Not all markers are lighted and in some places they're far apart so night time
travel is strongly discouraged.
Fall foliage was lovely. We stopped at 3 of our usual anchorages and one new one.
Pungo Ferry, Deep Point and Bonner Bay are favorite stops; and Buck Island was
new to us. When we wanted to anchor at Buck Island last spring, it was full of
crab traps. The length of the travel day is often dictated by the availability
of a good anchorage before dark. We do not like anchoring in the dark so some
days were relatively short trips We got to Morehead City on November 9 and stayed
again at Portside Marina overnight. Although we'd planned to anchor here, by the
time we'd gotten fuel, we just decided to stay until morning.
out to sea
Morehead City, we headed offshore for Charleston. This 200 mile passage would
be accomplished in about 33 hours compared to the 4 days to travel a similar distance
on the ICW. Once we got offshore, the wind was much higher than had been forecast
- it was above 20kts with gusts in the low 30-s. At least it was blowing on our
stern so we weren't crashing bow first into waves. But the waves were pretty high
and gave us a very rolly ride. Neal estimated that at times we had waves up to
10 feet. Made it difficult sleeping. And there was rain. It was one of those nights
when I count the minutes until my watch is over. Then I feel both grateful to
get out of the weather, and sorry for Neal who is just beginning his 3 hour turn.
By early morning,
both the wind and seas were calming down a little and the ride got much better.
And then we encountered fog. Of course, we're now old hands at sailing in fog
thanks to our time in Maine. We relaxed when the fog lifted but encountered more
of it as we approached Charleston. We stayed just outside of the shipping lanes
to be out of the way of any ships. Luck was with us as the fog cleared again just
as we got to the harbor. Charleston It was late afternoon when we got to the Ashley
River and the anchorage across the river from City Marina was very crowded. We
looked around for adequate space but ended up going back across the river to anchor
between the City Marina and the Coast Guard station. It was a problem because
it was pretty shallow but we finally set the hook before it got completely dark.
The bad news was that hadn't noticed that a large catamaran had set two anchors
so she didn't swing the same way we did. At 5:00 a.m. we found ourselves against
the cat in a strong current!
got free of the cat and went east of the Coast Guard station where no one ever
anchors. We had 30 feet of water so we again set the hook. Except for the lack
of wind protection this turned out to be a very good anchorage - partly because
no one else was there. Currents are very strong on the river and we were able
to swing with it without any worries. We'd been there a couple of days waiting
for a weather window when a sheriff's boat came by wanting to know why we were
there because it's an unusual place to anchor. I guess they were satisfied with
our answers and decided we weren't plotting to invade Charleston.
hadn't been to a supermarket in quite a while so we'd used up a lot of groceries
and supplies. I actually dug out the powdered eggs and gave them a try. Hint:
don't use powdered eggs for meals unless you're pretty desperate. They were barely
"edible" as scrambled eggs, and sort of OK as scrambled eggs with corned beef.
I've decided that they're adequate for baking but that's about it. When it looked
like a weather window was approaching we moved into City Marina for 2 nights to
do some provisioning and top off fuel. I won't disclose the amount but we set
a new spending record at the grocery store.
at St. Mary's
November 24 we headed offshore bound for Saint Marys, Georgia and a Thanksgiving
feast. The passage began well, but then the wind shifted. We had more than 20kts
on the nose - pounding into the waves. Makes it pretty much impossible for the
off-watch person to get any sleep. We were both very tired by the time we got
to Saint Mary's inlet channel. It was another few hours before we got up the river
to the town. We had a glass of wine and went to bed.
was here that we discovered that the dinghy had developed an air leak on one side.
With all the rolling we'd done on the way to Charleston, the davits were swaying
back and forth and the dinghy was being swung around more than usual. The constant
boat motion had also caused a couple of the davit bolts to come undone. Luckily
they fell right into the dinghy and weren't lost.
Marys holds a Thanksgiving feast for boaters. It's become a tradition over the
past few years. The Riverview Hotel lends space, townspeople provide turkeys and
hams, and boaters provide side dishes pot luck style. It is a marvelous event,
superbly organized. There are get-togethers on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings
for boaters to meet and greet. Organizers provide transportation to a Super WalMart
for shopping. Volunteers arrange the buffet tables and make sure they're well
stocked, and then clean up afterward. I can't say enough about how well everything
year there were 85 boats in attendance. Since most folks bring more than one dish,
that's probably at least 160 different food contributions from boaters to feed
about190 people if the local volunteers partake. What a spread!
Marys is a nice small town with a pretty waterfront. Spanish moss hangs from the
trees and there are many old homes and other buildings - some dating to the early
1800's. People are friendly. There's a large park that's well used by the locals.
The main downtown street is a broad boulevard. There's not much actual shopping
that can be done downtown, but there are 2 bookstores - one new books and one
used - and a number of restaurants. It is also the National Park Service headquarters
for Cumberland Island National Seashore.
town has a submarine museum and the Park Service has a museum on the subject of
Cumberland Island and the National Seashore. The submarine museum is appropriate
because the US Navy has a major submarine base nearby at King's Bay.
the head of the public boat ramps is a bait shop/information booth manned by volunteers
from the Saint Marys Yacht & Boating Club. I got to volunteer. The guy manning
the shop offered to take Neal to get a propane tank filled and put me in charge
while they were gone. I asked what I had to do and he said just answer questions.
Having been in town for 2 whole days, I knew I was well prepared to educate the
masses about local attractions, events and history. No one came to ask questions,
but people did come to buy stuff. A couple of fishermen wanted bait - specifically
cigar minnows. HUH???? We ended up finding the right bait but then they had to
give me exact change because I couldn't operate the cash register. I sold some
ice and a couple of bottles of water. I was very lucky that everyone had exact
out another cold front and then went to Fernandina Beach for fuel and anchored
overnight just inside the inlet to get a quick start the next day.
- at last
December 4, we headed out to sea for the trip to Vero Beach, FL. We had light
winds and a pretty smooth ride. Everything was going well until midnight. Just
as we were changing shifts, the propane alarm went off. The propane controls include
a sensor that detects propane fumes in the bilge. Propane is heavier than air
so if there's a leak, the gas collects at the lowest level in the boat and will
likely be undetectable to the human nose until it has reached dangerous levels.
Neal turned off
the gas at the tanks, but the alarm wouldn't stop. He lifted the floorboard where
the sensor is located and found that the sensor was UNDER WATER! We had a water
leak. We were running the engine and couldn't tell whether or not the bilge pump
was working, but the water level didn't change, so kept a watch on it.
to do?? We were still north of Cape Canaveral, the nearest inlet, but there are
no obvious anchorages there and it was the middle of the night. We could head
in there, but should we? As time passed and the water level remained stable, we
decided to continue on to the Fort Pierce inlet where we'd anchor and try to figure
out what was the problem. Ft. Pierce has facilities for hauling the boat if we
needed to. Once we arrived there, we found that the bilge pump was not working
at all. There's a manual pump, but it is difficult to operate.
of our wisest investments recently was a 2 gallon $30 wet/dry vac from Sears.
We used it to try to empty the bilge, but the water level reduced to a certain
point and then remained constant. Fortunately, Neal thought of checking the knot
meter (speedometer) which is a device that goes through the hull. It turned out
to be the culprit. Once that device was removed and the thru-hull opening closed,
we were finally able to make some progress removing the water. What a relief to
find a simple answer!
continued on up to Vero Beach, our planned destination, to finish pumping and
find the problem with the bilge pump. It turns out that we had a double failure
in the bilge - there's a sensor that detects water and turns on the pump - it
had failed, and the pump itself had failed. We got the rest of the water out;
ordered an new bilge sensor (we already had a spare pump on board); and a new
propane sensor because water ruins these sensors. The knot meter problem is a
Beach = warm weather. Finally. Even when a cold front comes through it's not as
cold as we had farther north. It's wonderful to put the long johns away for another
year. We've vowed to head south much earlier next year so maybe we won't have
to dig them out next fall.
paragraph above was written fairly soon after we arrived in Vero Beach and no
longer applies as I finish this article. Cold fronts that put the North in a serious
deep freeze, also visited Florida in December and January. No sooner had we gotten
the long johns put away than we had to dig them out again. We had some of the
coldest weather in this part of the country since 1978. Frost & freeze warnings
on several nights. It got down to 29 one night - note that we don't have heat
on the boat. Layers of clothes during the day and lots of blankets at night made
it less uncomfortable. We hunkered down and hibernated through it all.
tend to get into a rut when we don't have a specific plan and we'd rather play
than work so the boat projects don't get done very quickly. After being on the
go for so long it felt good to just relax and stay in one place for a while so
we spent the entire winter at Vero Beach. There's a certain luxury to being where
we know the local shops and services and can get to them easily. Being a nomad
means always having to search out groceries, barbers, etc. For a few months, we've
known exactly where to go and how to get there. We know where to get good cheeseburgers,
and great pizza. Kind of takes the "adventure" out of it, but it's been comfortable.
Beach is known as "velcro" beach among boaters because it's so easy
to just stay here instead of moving on. The city marina has nice facilities for
laundry and showers and has park-like grounds with sheltered picnic tables and
charcoal grills. And the county has FREE bus service to take you to just about
every kind of shopping and service. No other place we've been offers the conveniences
of Vero - mostly because of the bus service - one route has stops right here at
watch the fish jump, the pelicans soar, dolphins feed, anhingas dive. Anhingas
are related to cormorants. Like their cousins, they do not have oily feathers
so they can stay in the water for a limited time before they must find a perch
to spread their wings to dry. We had an anhinga perched on our dinghy outboard
one day and another one spent a few days using our mooring parther's anchor as
a favored roost. And Neal has begun experimenting with using the pressure cooker.
As usual he makes good stuff.
the middle of all this laziness, we did have one exciting afternoon when our mooring
broke loose. We were rafted between two larger boats - a 50 foot schooner and
a 48 foot ketch. Rafting means that the boats are tied to one another side by
side and each is also tied to the mooring. We were below when we heard people
calling to us. The mooring had come free from its anchor and our three boat raft
was drifting toward other moored boats. No one was aboard either of the other
two boats. Neal started the engine and began trying to maneuver the three of us
to avoid collision. Our engine was able to move us all, but imagine trying to
steer with a larger boat tied to each side! To make matters worse, we have a sun
shade on the windshield so he couldn't see forward and his sideways visibility
was hindered by our rafting partners. But luck was with us. The owner of one of
our partners arrived and got his engine going. With one boat in forward gear and
one in reverse, we were able to turn the raft. In the meantime, other boaters
came out in their dinghies to offer assistance and the guys from the marina arrived.
We got tied to another mooring, the marina crew untied us from the loose mooring
ball we'd been dragging around with us and one of our partners untied and went
to a different mooring. No damage was done and things are back to normal.