Friends, Family & Crabs in Annapolis

Here’s a look at our new temporary home along the dock in Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard in Back Creek, Annapolis, MD. We were excited about the yachty vibe in Eastport and Annapolis. Everyone either owned a sailboat or sailed on someone else’s – great energy and memories of sailing from Annapolis in our twenties.  There were more marine services, stores, professionals than we had ever seen – Glenn was like a kid in a candy store!

The summer sunsets on Back Creek were spectacular.

Another great part about being in Annapolis – was that it was close to our daughter Kelly in DC and to lots of friends and relatives – living in Richmond or Maryland or Philadelphia! So we got lots of visitors.

Kelly and her friends, Anna and Chris, headed down from DC early one Saturday morning in early August – we piled aboard Mira and headed out into the Bay.  St. Michael’s – an adorable waterfront town – was our destination.

Glenn was so excited to be sailing again – except we mostly motor-sailed.  😦    Summer on the Bay.
Kelly, Anna, and Chris taking advantage of a gorgeous day.
St. Michael’s
Picking crabs is a family tradition, started by Glenn’s grandmother at the Jersey Shore. Glenn never misses an opportunity to pick a bushel of crabs. Chris was up to the challenge and Anna helped! 

It was also important to provide a how-to video for crab pickers everywhere.

The Crab Claw in St. Michael’s – all clean before that huge pile of crabs arrived!
Before a very silly crab dance.
The Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michael’s  – the site of some very good times back in the early days of Pam and Glenn.

A few days after Kelly and friends left, Glenn’s cousin Bruce and wife, Lee Ann, arrived from Pennsylvania for some more Mira fun. Again, we headed out in the Bay for St. Michael’s – again we motored. 😦

St. Michael’s Marina
Bruce and Lee Ann

Glenn didn’t miss ONE more crab picking opportunity!

Glenn and Pam’s very good high school friend, Al, brought his daughter to visit Mira in Annapolis. This time we didn’t even attempt sailing, but we had a great time visiting and of course, picking crabs!

In the middle of August, we “sailed” Mira overnight back to Norfolk to Cobb’s Marina. We spent almost 10 days there having our two Volvo engines replaced. Volvo recalled the engines due to an emissions issue, and we got brand new engines!

Heading early in the morning into Norfolk – we encountered the USS Bush heading into the Naval Base. It is huge!!

The only good part about being stuck in a marina getting Mira torn apart for new engines – is that we got to see our sweet friends, Babs and Bob, in Virginia Beach again!!

Heading back north to Annapolis once again, we had 3 ft seas and strong winds on the nose due to a cold front sweeping through. The first 7-8 hours were quite bumpy then the Bay calmed down. It’s really shocking how much the Bay can seem like the Ocean.

Pam was able to see the sunrise and sunset and planets at the same time while on watch – hard to hold the phone still with the bumpy waves and wind!

Time for Pam to take a break Mira and her boat work, so she headed up to DC to spend the night with Kelly.

Yummy dinner with our girl!

As August came to a close, we were able to entertain a little more. Pam’s sister, Cathy, and our niece, Ellie, were able to drive over from Richmond to spend the night and explore Annapolis with us. Again, no sailing. 😦   Maybe September will bring wind!

Summer motor-sailing up the East Coast and through the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)

The middle of July, and Mira was on her way again. We pulled out of Charleston Harbor just before dawn. The harbor can be a little tricky with currents and tides – so we timed our exit to coincide with slack current.  The “outside” sail from Charleston SC to Beaufort NC was about 18 hours for Mira. We left at 6 am and arrived in Beaufort about noon the next day.  It actually wasn’t a sail, but more of a motor. Another overnight passage under Pam’s belt! We were quickly learning that there is not much wind (other than squalls) during the summer along the East Coast.

We did have an amazing pod of dolphins greet us in the ocean. They had the most fascinating stripes and markings.

We were also rudely disturbed during the night by a school of flying fish. One little guy even managed to fly through the port light on the starboard side and scare the daylights out of a soundly sleeping Glenn! They were scattered all over Mira – on the bimini, tramps, sugar scoops, and in the dinghy. I’m sure they were as startled as we were!

Beaufort, NC, is a scenic waterfront town with charming shops, restaurants and an iconic main drag, Front Street. We enjoyed wandering and exploring and were even able to catch up with friends from our Caribbean travels – Fletcher and Kris from s/v Lovely Cruise!

We were excited to explore the ICW after leaving Beaufort. The ICW can be a bit tricky for some larger sailboats. One – the depth varies greatly from section to section, and in some places the depth changes frequently with storms and tide.  Mira only draws 4 feet so we aren’t so worried about that.  Two – there are many bridges along the ICW.  Some are “swing” bridges that open either on schedule or on command, and others are fixed. The lowest height for fixed bridges on the ICW is supposed to be 65 ft.  Antares quotes the mast height as 63 ft, but since we had heard that there is at least one bridge along our route with a posted height of 64 ft., we needed to measure Mira’s mast for ourselves. While Mira was tied to a stable dock in Brunswick, up Glenn went with a long tape measure. We needed an exact mast height including antennas before we attempted to scoot under the ICW bridges. Verdict? 63′ 3″  OK – we are gonna give it a try!

We ventured out of Brunswick Landing Marina early one morning and had a lovely first day coasting up the ICW. It was exactly how I had imagined – quiet, peaceful – almost like going down a river.

We stayed just outside of Oriental, NC, at the River Dunes Resort the first night – relaxing!

We never get tired of the sunsets off the back porch!

The next day dawned grey and cloudy with some rain and a rough ride down the Neuse River. The wind was whipping up and we had an incredibly stormy night in Belhaven at the River Forest Marina. Our amazing dinner at Spoon River made up for the bad weather!

We snaked our way up the Alligator River – barely making it under the first fixed bridge. Luckily a very nice motor yacht went ahead of us and radioed back the height. The water was rising rapidly from the Noreaster – so we needed to get moving if we were going to make it under the bridges!

 

This was our first swinging bridge on the ICW. Just after this we stopped on a concrete dock loosely called the Alligator River Marina.  An awesome black bear greeted us across the way the next morning at dawn.

We left the Alligator River early the next morning to sunny skies. No storms, but little wind, which was great because we needed to cross the infamous Albemarle Sound.  The Sounds is a large body of water that opens to the ocean – notorious for choppy waves and wind whipping up easily. The wind didn’t start to pick up until we entered the North River. We wound our way up the North River and arrived in infamous Coinjock early afternoon. Again, tied up to a concrete dock – loosely called Coinjock Marina. Their restaurant is famous for their 32 oz. prime rib – Glenn couldn’t resist!

It poured and stormed all night in Coinjock, and Glenn was up at 0 dark 30 prowling around. He was nervous about the water rising, and we had 4 bridges and a lock to make it through that day. We were off before 7. The first bridge was a swing bridge, and the water level was getting precariously high. The operator warned us to go very, very slowly so as not to splash water in the electrical system. We later learned that this bridge was forced to close early that afternoon for 5 days because the high water shorted out the system. We were SO lucky to get through!!

This was the next fixed bridge we came to – the river kept rising, and we were barely squeaking under each bridge. The sign shows the current bridge clearance to be 63’6″ or so – we are 63′ 3″ – nerve wracking!!

We were excited about going through our first lock near Great Bridge, VA. The actual height of the water doesn’t change more than 15 ft or so, but it was still an experience.

The Lock at Great Bridge on our way to Norfolk.

In the Elizabeth River nearing Norfolk, we encountered lots of military ships and construction cranes and freighters. A very busy place!

We stayed for a few days in Little Creek Marina in Norfolk, VA. Finalized plans with the Volvo dealer for the engine recall that we would do later in the summer, and had a chance to see my very best friend from college, Babs, and her sweet husband, Bob! They hosted us at their home and explored Virginia Beach and Norfolk with us.

A few days later, we were headed for Annapolis, but took a quick detour to visit a good friend. Jim sailed with us to the Bahamas earlier in the year, and was the source of great sailing experience and MacGuyver-like talents. We were happy to stop in downtown Yorktown to explore and visit with him.

The beautiful Coleman Memorial Bridge on the York River – lit up at night.

We were off by noon, headed up the Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis. It was a very interesting motor up the Bay – amid staggering thunderstorms and bolts of lightning. As each squall passed through – the wind would whip up to 30 knots or so – then completely die until the next storm.

Finally a peaceful sunrise as we approached Annapolis – the tankers lined up waiting for their time to dock in Baltimore.

We arrived in Annapolis around 6 am or so. We were able to cruise up the Severn River, around the Naval Academy, and Annapolis Harbor – before we could head into Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard. It was the end of July and little did we know it – but, this would end up being the farthest point north of our East Coast Tour.

“Outside” Sailing from Brunswick GA to Charleston SC

Mira was safely tucked into a marina in Brunswick, GA.  After a brief hiatus in Atlanta, we returned and started making sailing plans for the summer.

We wanted to sail up the East Coast to see family and friends along the way, to explore some new and old towns, and to get some boat upgrades done in Norfolk and Annapolis.  And, by the end of October, we planned to be in Portsmouth, VA, to join the Caribbean 1500 Rally. This rally sails about 30 boats nonstop offshore from Portsmouth to Tortola, BVI – about a 7 to 10 day sail.

There are two ways for boaters to sail up the East Coast – “outside” or “inside”. “Outside” refers to sailing off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean. “Inside” refers to sailing along the coast in a canal called the Intracoastal Waterway. The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), or “The Ditch” as many refer to it, provides the boater with a continuous, and for the most part, protected passage just inside the Atlantic Coast. Beginning at mile marker (MM “0.0”) in Norfolk, VA, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway stretches 1,243.8 SM (1080.8 NM) south to Key West, FL.

We decided to try a little bit of both. “Outside” is usually quicker, but more difficult with long overnight watches for the two of us  The ICW is more scenic and protected, but with little wind, tricky depths, and fixed bridges for Mira’s tall mast to squeeze under. So, we made plans to sail “outside” from Brunswick GA to Charleston, SC and again “outside” to Beaufort, NC then “inside” from Beaufort, NC to Norfolk, VA then work our way north up the Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis MD. A very busy July!

We have done a few non-stop overnight passages since commissioning Mira in Argentina…. 11 days from Brazil to Grenada, overnight from St. Martin to the BVI’s, and 5 days from St. Thomas to Exumas, Bahamas. Somehow Pam had managed not to have taken a single overnight watch. She was a little nervous…but, she was ready to give it a try.

Glenn planned the sail from Brunswick GA to Charleston SC to be about 24 hours or 141 nautical miles. We left Brunswick about noon with light winds and motor sailing in mid-July. The plan is always to arrive into a new anchorage during daylight hours.

After an early dinner, Glenn went to bed in the salon (easy access if Pam needs help) about 8 pm. Pam’s plan was to stay awake as long as possible and then switch with Glenn. Because Glenn can literally sleep anywhere and anytime on command – he got the first sleep shift!  Her first nighttime watch turned out to be delightful and much easier than she thought. Winds were light and that really helped – not having to make sail changes in addition to watching the AIS and radar screens. She is still getting used to all of the lights of nighttime marine traffic and gauging their distances – but, radar and AIS make it much easier. Following a huge tanker’s track in AIS and knowing that Mira won’t cross its path is reassuring! She woke Glenn about 1:30 am, and then was off to sleep until about 6 am.

We arrived into Charleston Harbor around 10 a.m. and settled Mira into her new temporary home at the Charleston Maritime Center.

We thoroughly enjoyed exploring Charleston – both gastronomically and architecturally! We ate, drank and rode bikes through Charleston.

So much fun exploring all of the alleys and nooks and crannies of Charleston by bike!

So happy Lori and Mark drove up to visit Mira and explore Charleston with us!
Dinner at Hank’s Seafood – I still have dreams about their delicious grouper!
Drinks at The Rooftop Bar of the Vendue Hotel.

Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina, and its history is written in brick and wood.  Wealthy Charlestonians traveled the world and brought back with them a desire to imitate the opulence they found abroad. The result is a city that boasts 8 different styles of architecture, from Georgian to Art Deco. The culmination of our time spent in Charleston was used exploring some of the most beautiful areas of town on a guided walking tour.

Sadly, we had to say good-bye to Charleston!  Time to move on!

 

Offshore Sailing in June – Getting Out of the Danger Zone

Boat insurance and hurricane zones are interesting topics among cruising sailors. Irma and Maria’s devastation in the Caribbean last year have created even more buzz. We discussed the cost of policies, coverage of policies, and hurricane season geographic restrictions. Many factors affect marine insurance quotes – value of boat, experience of skipper and crew, cruising area, and location of boat during hurricane season. The carrier we selected required Mira to be north of Fernandina Beach, FL between June 1 and November 1.

So, since Mira was still in Nassau at the end of May, we needed to sail her very quickly north to be compliant with our insurance.  Glenn asked his friends Glen and Jim to join him on the multi-day overnight passage from Nassau to Brunswick, GA.  Pam was perfectly happy to sit this one out!

The guys and Mira had great conditions for the passage and their route worked exactly how they planned. Head northwest from Nassau then head north along the Florida coast to ride the Gulf Stream current for as long as possible. They left Nassau at 3 pm on Friday and arrived 3 am on Monday morning –  450 nautical miles.

Mira’s typical cruising speed is 6-7 knots (1 knot = 1.15 miles per hour). We don’t go anywhere rapidly. But, when Mira caught the northward current of the Gulf Stream she was booking at 10 knots!!

Freshly caught fish always makes for a spectacular dinner on board!
No words for the sunsets at sea
Days on passage fall into rhythm.
Endless blue ocean as far as you can see.
Glenn, Glen, and Jim arrival in Brunswick

A couple of weeks later, Glenn and Jim helped Glen move his boat north also. Sirenité left Brunswick Landing about 10 am on a Sunday morning and arrived Wednesday morning around 8 am. 515 nautical miles in less than 3 days. Beautiful sailing conditions with following winds, except the last day and night, taking the turn west towards Norfolk from offshore, Sirenité faced building northwest winds gusting to 30 knots which made for a little uncomfortable ride.

Beautiful Sirenité – a Privilege 49′ catamaran

Two fish caught at the same time – one from each pontoon!!

Days offshore – spent sleeping and reflecting.

Pam happily heading off to play tennis while the boys are enjoying their offshore sailing!

Nassau – our refuge from Tropical Storm Alberto

Tropical storm Alberto first appeared in our weather forecasts as a numbered storm about 10 days before it hit. The various weather models gave it a 30% chance of hitting the Bahamas directly, and Mira was near Staniel Cay in the Exumas. So, the captain made an executive decision to head for a protected marina on the northeast side of New Providence Island (Nassau) to prepare.

Sadly, Alberto was projected to hit at the same time that Patrick was due to join us and Kelly to sail on Mira for his Memorial Day vacation. So we shifted everything to Nassau and made the most of it!

Beautiful Nassau Harbor sunset before the storm.

A graceful spotted ray appeared almost every day next to Mira.

We spent our only sunny day at the new Baha Mar resort at the northern end of New Providence Island. Beautiful beach and amazing pools and food.

And, we made friends with birds.
And, we jumped off stone grottos.

On the rainy days, we explored old Nassau – loved our stop at Watling’s rum distillery.

Reminisced at the Ocean Club and its gardens on Paradise Island. Glenn and I had celebrated a milestone birthday there many years before.

And, we managed to have a yummy sushi dinner too!

Video Tour of Mira – Inside and Out!

Finally, a video tour of Mira (for those requesting “..less Glenn and more boat” 🙂 ) – exterior and interior. We had a chance to straighten Mira for guests in Charleston and decided to take the opportunity to film her. She has been our live-aboard home since January, and has far exceeded our expectations in all categories!

Bahamas Bound!

After enjoying several weeks hopping around the British Virgin Islands, it was time to move on. We really wanted to spend some time exploring the Bahamas and see the gatorade blue shades of water and white sugar sand beaches.

After talking to other cruisers about the current state of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic post-hurricanes, we decided to skip that traditional sailing path to the Bahamas. Most cruisers sail from the Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico to Dominican Republic to the Turks and Caicos to the Bahamas. Hopping from country to country –  with just a few overnight sails – fairly easy to do with a crew of two.  But, we decided to sail straight from St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands in a single passage – skipping PR, DR and T&C in between. Since we would be sailing without stopping for 5 days (impossible to anchor in 3 miles of ocean 🙂 – we wanted an additional crew member to help keep watch. Thanks to Neil and Shawn’s introduction  – we met their cruising captain buddy, Jim. It was a perfect match!

Jim had many years of sailing experience that he was willing to share with us – as well as endless mechanical “MacGuvyer” problem-solving skills.

Mira, with her expanded crew, left the BVI mid-April and sailed for 5 days and 4 nights. Every day was different. Winds 25-30 knots from behind us with 10 foot waves and intermittent squalls greeted us for our first two days out. Winds and waves decreased by the third day – and, we motor sailed with our big screecher headsail out. The 4th day dawned bright and sunny and flat calm – motoring that day. And, the 5th day had fairly strong winds on our beam – a bit of a rambunctious and bouncy sailing day. We all agreed that this is the best and worst part about offshore sailing.

It’s always a good day when you catch dinner!

Our route took us from St. Thomas west across the top of the northern coast of Puerto Rico to northwest along the top end of Dominican Republic and then south of the Turks & Caicos and north of Acklins Island (one of the Out Islands of the Bahamas) to north around the top end of Long Island in the Bahamas.

Our route above in blue

Glenn on watch with Jim. Clear skies and following seas!
Thoroughly enjoying napping while they are helming.

As we rounded the top end of Long Island, we got our first glimpse of the crystal blue waters of the Bahamas. Our first anchorage in four nights, we were literally in shock. No need to dive on the anchor – you could see it from the bow! So very beautiful!

The next day, we docked Mira at Emerald Bay Marina on the island of Great Exuma – just north of George Town. We usually plan a short marina stay after a long passage – giving us time to rest, take advantage of endless water, and thoroughly clean Mira – inside and out.

Glenn and I enjoyed several relaxing days on Great Exuma. We visited George Town – some say the Mecca for cruisers in the Bahamas. Hundreds of sailboats spend the winter in the huge Elizabeth Harbour – enjoying social and athletic activities of all sorts – many marine facilities – as well as an international airport close by.

Elizabeth Harbour – George Town, Great Exuma

The Grand Isle Resort – adjacent to the Emerald Bay Marina – offers day passes to marina guests. We were able to experience the beautiful blue waters and white sand beaches up close and personal – just as gorgeous as advertised!

Dinner on the beach at the Shoreline Beach Club.

Our time on Great Exuma Island was brief as were were eager to explore the long Exuma island chain to the north.