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Vero Beach, FL to Salem, MA - Northbound 2009

Route North and stops along the way
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Leaving Florida

We finally left Vero Beach on June 12. Procrastination has its price. If we'd taken care of our projects earlier when it was still reasonably cool we'd have been able to leave earlier. Waiting so long meant that we were trying to do physical work in very hot humid weather. We had to take frequent breaks and it took much, much longer to get a project done. In fact we ended up leaving some things undone for the time being. We'd already gotten an extension on our insurance that gave us until June 15 to get ourselves north of the 32nd parallel.

The "plan" was to travel from Fort Pierce straight to Morehead City, NC. On a boat, plans are written in Jello. Sure enough we had to change our destination to Charleston, SC to avoid a weather front. On June 12, we moved from Vero Beach down the ICW to Fort Pierce to anchor overnight and head out to sea early in the morning.

We got moving by 7:00 am on the 13th . Saturday during the day was an easy ride which was good because I felt awful. Breakfast didn't sit well and I was uncomfortable all day. That was the good part of the day. We leave our sailing gloves (used for line handling) hanging in the cockpit. When we grabbed our gloves getting ready to pull the genoa out Neal found the remains of a small wasp nest in one of his. Luckily it was tiny and abandoned.

We got hit by a storm Sat evening with sails up and had a scary time for a while. I'd gone off watch at 6 pm with sails sheeted in for relatively close winds. Suddenly came strong swirling winds that confused the autopilot so Neal was stuck wrestling the wheel while I scrambled to get into the cockpit. Winds were in the mid 30's. The port rail in the water. I dropped the main and we eased the genoa and that made a big difference and made the autopilot happy again, but there was a problem with the genoa furling line and we couldn't get it to furl. So we ran mostly downwind until the worst was over. It was strange; we weren't in the heart of the storm. We had no rain. There was lots of lightning in the big black clouds far off starboard but it was so far away that we couldn't hear the thunder. I guess I'm grateful that wind was the only thing we had to contend with.

Then, later, on my 3 - 6 am watch I had problems with winds in the high 20's because the genoa was still out. We'd decided that it just wasn't safe enough for anyone to go forward in the dark to try to figure out the furling line problem so that big sail was always a factor. On Sunday morning we managed to get the genoa furled. Fortunately the rest of the trip was very boring - and windless enough that we had the engine on. We managed our speed so that we'd arrive in Charleston after dawn and were in Charleston Harbor on Monday morning 48 hours after we'd left Fort Pierce.

Men fishing standing on a sand bar in the ICW at low tide at Ft. Pierce, FL

 
     

Charleston

I'd had such an uncomfortable trip that we opted for the comfort of a marina and got a slip at the Charleston Maritime Center. We figured we'd spend a week and get a couple of chores done. We had to fix the dinghy air leak and the fridge needs recharging (uses the same stuff as auto air conditioners). The rest of the day was rest and recovery. The next day we still needed to take it slow.

We met Steve and Lynn on Celebration in the next slip and got to talking. They're just beginning their cruising adventure so we offered them our opinions on places to see heading north. The four of us went to dinner at Jestine's Kitchen - great food as always.

When we got back to Sea Fox, Neal noticed a huge blister on his leg so we scheduled the next day for a visit to a doctor. We were directed to a great Urgent Care clinic where they spent the better part of the day trying to diagnose the problem. They were able to eliminate scary things such as a blood clot, but never did come up with a real diagnosis. We did learn more about the Charleston bus system than we'd known before. They gave Neal a serious antibiotic. Unfortunately he had a reaction that kept him up most of the night so the next day was another recovery day for him.

It was hotter in Charleston than it had been in Vero Beach - temps in the mid to upper 90's. It was brutal. We spent most of our time sitting in front of fans and trying to stay hydrated. When it was recommended that we use a product called Tear-Aid for the dinghy air leak, I spent hours looking for my supply of the stuff. Never did find it but in the process, the aft cabin got re-organized - one of my planned chores. Too bad sweating doesn't get rid of fat - I'd be down to what I weighed 30 years ago..

Got to know the Charleston buses even better by going to West Maine for the Tear-Aid. There's a sense of accomplishment when we're successful at negotiating an unfamiliar transportation system. It's an interesting part of the whole adventure. Our time at the marina was limited because it was the site of the Charleston Maritime Festival and there was no room for us to stay. We got the dinghy leak fixed (we thought) and headed out on Wednesday, June 24. Our departure was unusual because we left in the afternoon instead of early morning. It was 1:30 p.m. by the time we got fuel and headed out the channel to the sea. The wind wasn't all that great, so we were motoring but we put out the genoa to try to get a little help - it gave us less than a half knot of additional speed. But some is better than none.

On my 9 - 12pm watch, I thought we'd be in for some excitement. The Coast Guard issued a weather warning about a line of intense thunder storms heading right for us. There was lightning flashing way off in the distance. I woke Neal so we could get the big sail furled. That done, he went back to bed and I waited for the fireworks. Nothing happened. The wind came up a little, but apparently once the storm got over the ocean, it fizzled out. Got a few sprinkles of rain but barely got wet. I figure it was Neptune testing me to see if I'd be smart enough to take precautions. I did, so maybe I passed that one.

 

Beaufort, NC

On our way into the channel at Morehead City, we decided to go to Beaufort instead (they're right next to one another). We got to Beaufort on the 26th; and anchored in Taylor Creek downtown. We never got off the boat until we went to the fuel dock on the 29th .on our way out. It was hot and we just didn't see a need to get the dinghy down to go ashore. We did as little work as possible and still sweated buckets all day every day.

Keith and Rose aboard Camelot, a sister ship to Sea Fox, came through but anchored in a different area. They were headed for Oregon Inlet north of Cape Hatteras to go back out to sea on their way to Connecticut. We'd never thought that Oregon Inlet would be practical for us because it is not very deep but Keith has gone that route and thought we could do it too. We planned to give it a try. It would enable us to bypass Norfolk and head directly for Cape May, NJ. Camelot has a slightly shallower keel than we do. On Tuesday morning Keith kept us informed by phone as he navigated the channel toward the inlet. It sounded good. Until he went hard aground. Luckily it didn't take to long for them to get free but he recommended that we not try it. So when we left Beaufort on Wednesday, we were heading for the long, slow trip up the ICW to Norfolk. Bridges and power boats and fishermen and crab pots and the winding water path through North Carolina and Virginia. Yes, it is a pretty ride, but takes days and I get impatient.

And of course it was hot. Trying to stay hydrated meant that our drinking supplies were rapidly diminishing. Belhaven, NC seemed like a good place to stop for a visit to a grocery store. It would also give us a chance to have fried chicken again at the Fish Hook Café.

Taylor Creek, Beaufort, NC
     

Belhaven

We docked at River Forest Marina. Did I mention that it's hot? I get on the internet and see that the Great Lakes and Northeast is having a very cool start to July. We could use a little of that just now. What is it about Belhaven and Sea Fox? This is the second time we've been here (First time was in 2006 at Dowry Creek Marina.) and it's the second time we've had wind that made docking difficult. This is probably the last time we'll come here on purpose.

River Forest Marina is also an inn in a beautiful old Southern mansion. It was probably a busy place at one time, but it seems to have become a bit shabby -or maybe that's just my impression because the inn is empty and there's been only one other transient boat here overnight. Maybe it looks better during the tourist season.

We walked to downtown for a late lunch only to find that both restaurants close at 2 in the afternoon. The Fish Hook Café opens again at five so we had a couple of hours to kill. It was too hot to consider walking back to the boat and then downtown again so we looked for a local tavern. There aren't any. We did spot the "Rack" which offers pool tables and beer. It was sort of air conditioned and the beer was very cold. We were the only customers. Chatted with the owner over a couple of beers and then went to the library to try to stay cool until the restaurant opened. Turns out the Fish Hook has fried chicken only on its lunch buffet. Had a pretty good shrimp dinner then walked back to the boat.

The marina has a golf cart that we could use to go to the supermarket. The cart definitely IS shabby. The dockmaster told us "it drives just like a boat". What he meant was that the brakes don't work so in order to stop you have to put it into reverse gear - just like a boat. I wonder if they've considered the liability issues of letting people use a vehicle with no brakes? On the way to the grocery we stopped for lunch (fried chicken) at Fish Hook. It was a real adventure taking a golf cart out onto a 2 lane highway. You can imagine how pleased the drivers were behind us. We acquired quite a long string of cars & trucks before we had a reasonable place to pull off to let them pass. It was a relief to finally get to the store; and even more of a relief when we got back to the marina.

River Forest Marina, Belhaven, NC
 

On to Norfolk

On July 2 we left Belhaven headed for the anchorage at Deep Point where we encountered lots of biting flies. Nasty. Our next anchorage was Buck Island where we found lots of crab pots. But we were able to find a place to spend the night. Didn't touch bottom and didn't swing into any pots.

Saturday, July 4 - a holiday and a weekend. Once we got north of Coinjock, NC, the water was teeming with small power boats pulling kids on inflatables plus a few jet-skis. These boats seem to have no concept of a larger boat's need to stay within the channel which is often pretty narrow. In some places the channel is less than 11 feet deep and quickly goes to 5 feet or less outside the dredged channel. A few of these drivers seemed miffed that they had to get out of our path, and some of them make tight little curves ahead of us pulling their kids on a little inflatable of some sort. Apparently they don't understand that if the rope lets go or if the kid falls off, it takes us a long time to bring our boat to stop. And some of the kids aren't wearing life jackets. What are these morons thinking?!?!?!?!!!

Then we encountered the water skiers - again in the channel. The Chesapeake & Albermarle canal is narrow. Near the edges are lots of tree stumps. So the ski boats can't drag their skiers through the scattered stumps, and we must stay well within the channel so we're all trying to fit into the same space. And when a skier falls, they wave their yellow flag to indicate that someone is in the water. Again, we can't just stop - and we can't get out of the channel. Makes for frustration all around.

As the afternoon wore on we eventually came to the Centerville Bridge - a swing bridge that only opens at scheduled times. During the wait boats accumulated. There were a couple of motor yachts on our side plus about a dozen little ski boats. The ski boats moved in right up to the bridge. Once the bridge opened it was like a Chinese fire drill - with the little boats giving no quarter to the larger boats that need more maneuvering room. So a bunch of small boats started through the bridge and everyone else began slowly moving forward. Then, just on the other side of the bridge, one of the little boats stopped - he was trying to figure out where to get into the little marina there. The miracle is that there were no serious collisions. The small boats were able to scoot around the idiot and the rest of us just slammed into reverse and hoped not to get hit from behind. Lesson learned: stay put on holiday weekends.

Got to Great Bridge about 4:00 pm and tied up at the free dock. There were several people on the dock crabbing. One guy had a crab pot. But mostly it was just bait tied to the end of a string and dropped in the water. The guy with the crab pot had been there for a while and had got nothing. A couple of hours later when we went ashore, his place had been taken by a woman who already had caught 3 crabs. Maybe it's just timing. We stayed a couple of days did some grocery shopping and relaxed. We got ready to leave, left the dock and were waiting for the bridge to open when we heard terrible noise from the engine room. So we tied up to the dock again. When Neal opened the engine compartment he found that the high-output alternator had broken loose and was hitting against the fly wheel. Apparently a weld had failed on one side of the frame that held the alternator in place and bolts had vibrated out of their holes on the other side of the frame. Neal was able to remove it without too much trouble. That alternator hadn't been used for a couple of years because it was out of alignment so it wasn't a real loss to us. By the time the work was done and we were sure the engine was ok, it was getting late enough that we stayed another night.

On July 9 we finally got to Norfolk, got fuel & water and anchored in Mill Creek at Hampton Roads. It was here that we finally discovered the source of the leak in our fresh water system. We'd had this mysterious leak for some time but hadn't been able to find it. We'd thought it would be somewhere near the pump, but it turned out to be in the forward head. When Neal removed the little under-sink cabinet he found a hose connection that just spewed water. We didn't have the right parts to fix it, but at least we'd found it and knew what to do. We still had to be careful with water, but it was a relief to have found the problem.

         

Struggling north from Norfolk.

The plan was to head directly to Mystic, CT from Norfolk, VA - it would be two overnights and we'd arrive on the third day. Didn't happen that way. Winds that had been forecast to come from the West actually came from the Northeast - right on out nose. The forecast also said that the wind would shift so I thought it would be a temporary situation. Wasn't. Just to add to the fun we also encountered an opposing current. This had not happened on our previous trips out of Norfolk, so it surprised us and it took us a while to realize that it wasn't just a localized phenomenon but something we were going to have to cope with for quite a stretch. Engine on - using fuel - going very slowly. Problem was that if we got to Long Island Sound a day later than planned, we'd face a cold front with its attendant storms. So we decided to make a stop in New Jersey; either Atlantic City or Cape May. The anchorage at Atlantic City is in a strong current, but fueling is easy. Cape May's anchorage is very nice but getting fuel is hampered by current. Pick your poison. We picked Cape May and probably should have gone on to Atlantic City. Only one marina is deep enough for us but it has a hellacious current and very little room to maneuver. What a pain!

Mystic, CT

On the 14th we finally headed out again and arrived in Mystic by 4:00 p.m. on the 15th. Again this year we're on a mooring arranged for us by Keith on Camelot. It's an easy dinghy ride to the dock in town. We rested. Keith and Rose put us up for one night at their home so that we could have real showers. We rented a car for the weekend to get some shopping done and to visit Neal's son Mark and his family in Groton. We sure enjoy seeing them. We got the plumbing problem fixed.

We also wanted to get some stainless steel repairs done. A weld had broken on stern rail and we thought we'd also get a couple of bent stanchions straightened. But the metal repairs never happened. Keith introduced us to a guy who does great stainless work. Problem is that he's unreliable. He was going to come to look at the boat but never did. Didn't respond to phone messages. It was frustrating.

When Camelot left for Maine, we moved onto her mooring for a couple of days. Ladyslipper who has the nearest mooring to Camelot had temporarily moved to another mooring. We woke up one morning to find that we'd floated over Ladyslipper's empty mooring and the pennant (line) from the pickup stick had gotten hooked onto our rudder and was stuck between the hull and the top of the rudder. We spent a lot of time trying to free it. Problem was that Keith had promised Camelot's mooring to someone else so we had to get back to our original mooring We had no choice but to untie the pickup stick from the mooring and drag it along with us, We ended up hiring a diver to free the line from the rudder. We had him clean the bottom, too.

We ended up spending 6 weeks at Mystic. In those 6 weeks, we never got a response from the guy we'd hoped would fix our stern rail and bent stanchions. His first priority is work needed on commercial fishing boats; second comes fishing; and maybe he services some other customers in between but we weren't lucky enough to be one of those.

The good side of that was that we got to spend more time with Mark and his family. We also did some sightseeing and went to a local winery. We'd never had a Connecticut wine so we were curious. Unlike the tasting rooms we'd visited in California these folks charge for tasting. (Maybe they do now in Calif, too.) White wines were good but the red was pretty poor. We didn't even finish our samples of the red... Reds seem to need a longer warm growing season. We bought a couple of bottles of whites and wished later that we'd gotten more. We drove into Rhode Island and visited some seaside towns. New England is truly beautiful in summer.

We also went to the Submarine Service Museum in Groton. And by chance we met Mark and Melissa just outside the museum. They were there to attend a retirement ceremony for one of Mark's former shipmates. Got a great photo of Mark in uniform wearing most of his ribbons and medals.

The sub museum was great. The highlight of the museum is the USS Nautilus - the first nuclear powered submarine. We took the self-guided tour of the sub. The museum building houses excellent exhibits chronicling the history of the submarine service; the evolution of the subs over time; and their exploits during wars and in peacetime. We were delighted to see the battle flag from USS Sea Fox.

There was a classic boat rondezvous one weekend at the Mystic Shipyard, On Sunday they had a boat parade down the river. Several of them had crew in costume and a few had musicians on board. They were fun to watch.

One evening the swans came to visit the boat. We'd seen them farther up the river but never near the mooring field. There was a mother and 4 young. They gobbled down all the bread we tossed into the water but they weren't at all interested in lettuce. Before long gulls came to see if there were any leftovers but they mostly kept their distance. When one or two got too close, the swans would chase them away. Mama swan came right up to the boat and stretched her neck up to the toe rail. She pecked and snapped at us if we came anywhere near. The young ones also came near and pecked at us if we tried to reach food out to them. Swans are beautiful but not exactly friendly.

The length of time spent in Mystic meant that we wouldn't get to Maine this year. I was sorry to miss gathering and feasting on mussels, but I did NOT miss dodging masses of lobster pots.

         

Massachusetts

At long last we left Mystic on September 3 and got to Salem, MA on the 8th. We had appointments for our annual physicals on the 11th. It took some time to get all the ancillary appointments made but we were finally finished with doctors on the 21.st In the meantime I got to spend some time with Jim and Nathan. Nathan's in first grade this year. It's always great to see them. When I win the lottery, we'll be able to travel to visit kids and grandkids more often.

We spent time at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. It has mostly Asian art and celebrates Salem's history as a major port in East-West trade in the past. A highlight is Yin Yu Tang, a 200 year old house that was dismantled in its rural village in China and reassembled at the museum. Eight generations of one family occupied the house and it is presented with its furnishings as it was last inhabited in the 1980's.

We were surprised to see another Saga 43, No Se', being hauled at Hawthorne Cove Marina. We'd forgotten that her owners, Pat and Duane, live in Marblehead in summer. We got in contact with them and were able to get together a couple of time. Great fun.

We finally headed back south on September 30.

     

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