Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Block Island, RI Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Our cruise from Cape May to Block was quiet and uneventful.  We followed two sailboats out of Cape May that were also headed to Block, and spoke to them as we passed them late in the afternoon.   We had very little wind, and the fact that we were cruising on the longest day of the year made the nighttime hours relatively short.  We had the usual traffic of big commercial ships coming and going in the New York City lanes, but no close encounters.  The moon was only half full, but shone very brightly, and we were visited by the dolphins at about 4 am in the morning, as we were getting close to the southern shore of Long Island!

Upon arriving at the entrance to the Salt Pond, we were confused by the sight of what looked like “many” (forty to fifty??) sailboats milling around in front of the island.  We quickly checked and found out that this week is Race Week at Block!!  This means that there are probably over 125 sailboats participating in various classes of races over the entire week.  Too bad, there is hardly any wind, and it has just started raining!!!!

Anyway, we anchored at about 11 am, and had a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs, and had a nap.  Chris just went for a dive under the boat to “check things out” and decided that everything looked good after about 5 minutes in the 62 degree water….We ain’t in the Bahamas any more…!!!

Tomorrow morning we will cruise the 5 hours or so to get to Fall River.  Our friends John and Travis Woolcott will pick us up in the afternoon from the marina and bring us home.  Then it will really be over.  I’ll try to think of some deep and meaningful things to say by then on our final blog of this great adventure.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cape May NJ, June 20, 2011

Well, here we are anchored again in Cape May, nearly 8 months after arriving here in late October at the beginning of our journey.  Not much to say, but it is bittersweet!  We saw many dolphins today on our way down.  We had not seen any all through the Chesapeake Bay, so we were very happy to have our swimming friends back!

We are anchored right next to another Selene, Alacrity, a lovely 48 foot boat.  She is relatively new, and the owners invited us over for cocktails!  They are heading to the New York area, then on to Montreal and the St. Lawrence river.  Amazing, everywhere we go, we see Selenes!!

We are heading out tomorrow early for our 30 hour run to Block Island.  We'll check in on Wednesday afternoon after we arrive.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cambridge & Betterton MD, to Chesapeake City, MD June 14 to June 19, 2011

After leaving Urbanna in the Rappahannock River, we cruised to Solomons Island, already in Maryland.  The bugs were atrocious is this harbor!  It was a very closed in and protected anchorage, but it was also a “bug heaven”.  By morning, our boat was literally covered in small, mosquito-like bugs, which seemed to give off a green powdery substance so our boat was covered in it!  Yuk! 

We headed out of Solomons the very next day. Solomons is up the Patuxent River.  In the harbor, we saw both Blue Grotto, a 53 foot Selene from our rendezvous with Mike and Renee on board, and Ashton Gray, the mysterious power boat that has been “following” us since the ICW!  Our next stop was Cambridge MD, on the Choptank River.  We relaxed for a couple of days, and ate lots of oysters and crab cakes!  Cambridge is a very small town, but has some lovely old historic homes.  Cambridge is famous for being an important link in the underground railway system that was used by many slaves to travel to freedom before the civil war.

We then moved on to Betterton MD , on the Sassafras River.  Not much going on here, but it was a quiet anchorage for the night.

We are now anchored in Chesapeake City, which is on the C&D Canal.  This is a convenient stopping point for crossing Delaware Bay tomorrow.   From there, it’s onto Cape May, then the 30 hour overnight run to Block Island.  The weather seems to be shaping up pretty good for the next several days, with no big storms or high winds.  A few rain showers and cloudy conditions, but that is not an issue for us for these next few legs.

There is another Selene in our anchorage here, it looks like a 43 foot older model, and still has “Solo” badges – Solo was the predecessor name of the Selene boats.  Amazing!  Everywhere we go we see Selenes!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Norfolk to Urbanna VA, June 12 to 14, 2011

Well both the broken bridges finally sorted themselves out around 2:30 in the afternoon, and we were on our way.  We did narrowly squeak through another railroad bridge that was about to close for a train, but thanks to Captain Chris, we speeded up and got through without any other delays.  We then had to cruise through Norfolk harbor, a roughly two mile “no wake” zone, where they were having a huge harbor festival.  We saw some tall ships, and many large (huge container ships) and small boats milling around.  There were also many police and coast guard boats making sure everyone behaved on the water.  We managed to get through without attracting any attention from either for an unscheduled boarding!

Because of the nearly 4 hour bridge delay, we stopped short of our intended anchorage and instead stopped at Old Point Comfort and anchored in the same place we had anchored on the way down last November.  It was completely empty of boats, so we had the place to ourselves, until “Ashton Gray”, a large cruising power boat arrived.  We had seen the boat a day earlier anchored off the ICW.  They anchored in the same anchorage, and left after us the next day.  We cruised to Fishing Bay in the Piankatank River on the West side of the lower Chesapeake, and low and behold, they showed up in the same anchorage!  I don’t think they are following us, but it was quite a coincidence!

While we were in Fishing Bay, we spoke to a couple from a beautiful 2-masted sailboat “Valkyrie”.  They suggested we visit Urbanna, on the Rappahanock River if we wanted to get some good oysters and crab cakes.  So here we are.  We cruised to this lovely and protected harbor yesterday, and have decided to take a day off.  We ate well last night on fried oysters and crab cakes.  Today we will have a lazy day and maybe do some swimming, take the dinghy for an exploratory ride up the creek, and get some groceries in town for the last leg of our trip.  The weather is beautiful, so we are lucky.

We are also planning the last few days of our journey back home.  We will likely visit Solomons for a couple of days, before heading to Annapolis, the C&D Canal, Cape May and then Block Island.  With just about two weeks left in our grand cruise, we are feeling torn between the desire to stretch this trip out a few more days, and getting back home.  We will definitely enjoy these last few days of our grand adventure!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beaufort NC, to Norfolk VA, June 8 to 11, 2011

We arrived in Beaufort expecting to anchor, but the Taylor Creek anchorage was filled with mooring balls!!  As we were trying to figure out what to do, we got a call on the radio from Catalina Sunshine, one of the boats at the marina on the shore.  We had seen that boat anchored in the Waccamaw River and along the ICW over the previous few days.  He told us that there was a “free” mooring ball whose owner was off in the Caribbean.  He had used it the night before, and suggested that we could pick it up rather than anchor.  We were very happy to hear this, and picked up the mooring ball and had a very relaxed evening, not having to worry about the anchor in such a tight spot.  It’s always nice to have strangers help out!!

The next day we headed off early into the ICW, and started off with the 20 mile journey down the Pungo–Alligator canal.  This is a fairly narrow channel that connects the Pungo and Alligator rivers.  On this trip, we saw three bald eagles, and a little black bear swam across the stream right in front of us!!   We also had many bugs along for the ride, needless to say lots of green heads and black flies, but we also had two beautiful bugs, a golden tortoise beetle (it is not a ladybug, as I found out on the internet) and a huge dragonfly.

Bald Eagle
Little black bear swimming across the ICW

Golden Tortoise Beetle

Today, we started early, as we had a busy day to get through Norfolk.  The passage in the last 10 miles of the ICW through Norfolk is packed with bridges, and lots of boat traffic.  We also planned to get 500 gallons of diesel for the return trip home at a marina just along the ICW.  It is now 1 pm, and we have been through all the bridges but one, fueled up, and were excited to pass the last opening bridge and be on our way to the Chesapeake, when, the bridge has failed to open due to “mechanical problems”, and is not expected to be fixed until 2:30 pm the earliest.  The railroad bridge that precedes it, which is normally open, just closed for a train, and it apparently also has failed!!!!!!!!!!

The "broken" railroad bridge is stuck in the down position just to the right of the large red boat on the left of the photo
After jockeying for position with about 10 other anxious large power boats, we have left the area and are anchored about a half mile from the problem, outside the channel.  

Who knows how long we will be stuck here!  Hopefully they will get it working so we can be on our way.  In any case, we won’t make the bottom of the Chesapeake tonight, and will most likely stay at Old Point Comfort just north of Norfolk, VA for the night if they get the bridges working. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Charleston SC, Waccamaw River SC, and Carolina Beach NC, June 2-7 2011

We arrived in Charleston, SC after an uneventful 22 hour run overnight from Fernandina Beach although it did get kind of busy off the inlet to the port of Savannah, where at least 10 large freighters showed up as AIS targets at 2:00am. Charleston is everything our friends told us it would be – beautiful architecture, great restaurants and pubs, and a great friendly atmosphere.  We spent Friday and Saturday walking around the beautiful ante-bellum houses, we took in the Farmers’ market where we got to snack on all the samples that were on display, we ate in a couple of great restaurants, and even got to see an art festival held on the common in the evening, where they had a band and great food!  We really enjoyed our stay.  The highlights were the “Charleston ice” which is a cross between a slush and a sorbet, in mango and peach (our choices), and, in true Simmons character, we found the only Irish pub in town, Molly Darcy’s, and managed to stop there twice in a 32 hour time span!

Fort Sumter, at the entrance to Charleston

Architecture in Charleston - a feast for the eyes!
Wrought iron gates are everywhere...
We could have had 20 photos like this...!

We left Charleston on Sunday early, and headed for the Waccamaw River on the ICW.  This is truly the most scenic part of the ICW, with wooded banks and cypress trees lining the way, as well as nesting ospreys on nearly every single mile marker!!   

The Waccamaw River
Pelicans guarding the dock

We also passed a barge, which looked ordinary as we were approaching it, but once we got closer we saw it was towing almost a quarter mile of dredging gear behind it!  Wow!!

Barge approaching
A quarter mile later...!

On Monday, we left our secluded and quiet anchorage, and headed for Carolina Beach in NC.  This is a very busy part of the ICW, and we crossed the Cape Fear inlet and river, which is a pretty big shipping port going to Delaware NC.  We were “chased” by a huge ship, the Socol 6, and managed to get a VERY close up shot.

Socol 6!! up close and personal!

Today, Tuesday, we have decided to spend the day in Carolina Beach.  This is a very quiet and relaxed beach community.  The real reason for our decision though, was last night, as we were anchored in the harbor, we heard on the news that Michael’s Seafood Restaurant, right here in Carolina Beach, just won, for the third time, first place in the Newport (RI) chowder contest!  We couldn’t resist the temptation to head over there today for lunch, so we will report out to you our conclusion about the chowder! 

Tomorrow, we will head off for Beaufort, NC, and then plan to be at the bottom of the Chesapeake by Saturday evening.  We have a busy few days coming up, since there are lots of bridges to go under!  The good thing is that this time of year, the ICW is much quieter, since all the cruising boats have already stopped moving around for the summer. 

We’ll report back in a few days.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ft. Lauderdale to Fernandina Beach, May 27 to June 1, 2011

We finally left Ft. Lauderdale with an almost brand new dinghy, a second leaking dinghy, and a full refrigerator after restocking our provisions.  Our “old” Rendova dinghy got a brand new set of inflatable tubes in Ft. Lauderdale, so it looks and feels like new, while our “new” dinghy that John & Travis brought over in March (to substitute for the “old” dinghy that fell upside down in the water) sprung a significant water leak – presumably from a defective seal!!  Honestly, we should call this cruise “The Curse of the Dinghies”!!   We cruised on the outside to Ft. Pierce, which was a roughly 12.5 hour cruise.  The weather was glorious, warm, sunny and perfect for an outside run.  
The bridge at Las Olas near our mooring in Ft. Lauderdale

One of our neighbors in the mooring field with his crew!

We anchored in Ft. Pierce where we had stopped before on our way south back in early February.  It was quite fun going through the inlet, knowing that “we had done this before”!  We then decided to travel the next leg north on the ICW.  This was due to the wind predictions being a bit strong, and from the East, such that a northerly cruise would become a bit uncomfortable.  

Nesting ospreys on the ICW

Pelican waiting for a handout from the fishermen...

We traveled from Ft. Pierce to Titusville, then the following day from Titusville to St. Augustine.  We hadn’t actually traveled on this stretch of the ICW on our way down, so it was all new to us.  However, we had to go through the planning of bridge openings, and other ICW traffic.  Because of the time of year, there was a lot less traffic on the ICW, and we generally had the place to ourselves.  We did see many dolphins, Chris saw a large ray breach out of the water, and we actually saw several manatees, but we generally only saw their back-ends going down into the water!  They never hung around long enough for us to get any photos!

Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine
Upon leaving St. Augustine, we decided to cruise on the outside to Fernandina Beach.  Fernandina Beach is actually the northernmost city in Florida, and is on Amelia Island.  We are planning to spend a few days there.  We will not only get to see Amelia Island, but will also go over the Cumberland Island, where there are some Indian ruins, and some wild horses that roam the island. 

On our way we saw the Royal (that’s British) Navy Auxiliary ship the Wave Ruler.  This is a ship that provisions other Royal Navy ships with fuel, food, and other essentials.  We saw their AIS signal on our chart plotter, but each time we tried to get the info on the ship, it shut off our GPS and the entire chart plotter went dead!  Obviously some serious radio jamming frequencies from that boat!  In any case, I think they decided to put on a show for us, and did some amazing helicopter exercises.  We got some great pictures.  

Helicopter exercises!!
 Once we were settled down on our mooring at Fernandina, we saw, Orient Moon, one of the Selenes that was with us on the rendezvous with Leslie and Terry on board cruise into the anchorage!  Unbelievable!  Two Selenes in the harbor!  We asked them over for drinks, and we had a great time catching up.  We may see them again in Annapolis, which is their home base. 

We will update the blog again on our way from Cumberland to Charleston, NC in a few days.  We can definitely tell we are back in the States…the water temperature is about 80 (as opposed to the 85 degrees in the Bahamas) and the water is a murky greeny blue, instead of the crystal clear “I can see my toes in the water” of the Bahamas.  But it’s good to be home…