Off the French Beaten Path – Illes de la Petit-Terre and Marie-Galante

After the relative excitement of populated Guadeloupe and Pointe-a-Pitre, it was time for some peace and quiet at anchor. Illes de la Petit-Terre consists of two uninhabited green islands protected by reef. A national park has provided moorings (no anchoring allowed to preserve the reef) in between the two islands for cruising sailors.  There are day charter boats that come over from Ste. Francois, and their guests swarm the islands during the day, but after 3:00 – wondrous peace. The snorkeling right off the back of Mira is marvelous, and the hiking on the larger of the two islands is enjoyable, too.

Petit-Terre is not easy for the sailor to reach. With prevailing easterly winds, you must sail directly into the wind for several hours to reach it. Also, if the swells are over 5-6 feet, the waves start to break over the entrance reef and makes entry to the islands dangerous. We picked a fairly good day – winds were just under 20 knots and waves were about 6 feet, but we set off early from Pointe-a-Pitre, and we were so glad that we did!

The breaking waves on the reef were intimidating as we approached Petite-Terre. Even more nerve-wracking was threading the needle between the reef and the shallow beach, as entered the cut.

It was all worth it – as we saw the view inside the cut. In front of us were the crashing waves on the reef that separated us from Africa and on either side of Mira were tropical islands straight from Caribbean posters.

The kids gave us a drone for Christmas, and this was the perfect spot for Glenn to practice. The results are amazing!

The coolest part of Petite-Terre was the sea life that was swimming right around our boat. We usually have to swim or dinghy over to a reef or rocks but, here we jumped off the back of Mira with a snorkel mask, and were treated to spotted rays, turtles and tons of fish!

We spent the next few days – swimming, hiking, sunning, relaxing – cruising and sailing in the Caribbean doesn’t get any better than this!

As always, the sunset off the back porch can’t be described.

We could barely tear ourselves away from Petite-Terre, but we needed to keep moving. We headed southwest to the small French island that is also part of Guadeloupe, Marie-Galante. This island is fairly flat but is thickly wooded and green, with palm trees lining the coast. Marie-Galante is perfect for touring by scooter or car. Traffic is light, and there’s really just one road that circles the island. But, most importantly for us, it is a quiet, unspoiled haven.

We rented a car on a cloudy, drizzly day and saw all of the sights. Quaint colorful homes, rocky cliffs, mangrove swamps, beaches, wooded hiking trails, plantation and distillery ruins and of course, the BEST sunset happy hour beach bar ever – Chez Henri!!

Parlez-vous un petit peu d’anglais? Guadeloupe

This January 2019 we made our second pass through some of the most beautiful French islands. We were able to spend two weeks exploring the island of Guadeloupe and its smaller sister islands of Iles de la Petite-Terre and Marie-Galante. The French Caribbean islands are as varied as they are beautiful – with lush mountains and volcanoes, white sandy beaches and dense forests.

Since Guadeloupe is a French department (essentially France), the food, wine and cheese are divine. Every French island that we visit, we stock up. The only stumbling block was that the French prefer to speak only French. But luckily, Glenn, armed with his high school French, was a fearless interpreter. And, it was SO worth it!

As we sailed our way south from Antigua, Mira and her crew were in for the surprise of their lives. We were about 5 miles off the northern tip of Guadeloupe when Glenn spotted a large dark stain in the water that was not moving like the rest of the waves – then, a spout of water erupted – a whale – just in front of our boat!! The rush for phones was hysterical!

After the whale excitement, we continued sailing down the western coast and settled into our first anchorage in the bay across from Pigeon Island for the night. Pigeon Island is the home of Jacques Cousteau’s famed Marine Park – a world destination for snorkeling and diving. It lived up to its reputation! And, the sunsets from our back porch looking out over Pigeon were also spectacular!

High winds and waves were predicted for the next week, so Mira made her way into a protected anchorage at Pointe-a-Pitre. Over the past 18 months of full-time sailing, we have learned the limits of our sailing comfort zone. Since we couldn’t explore Guadeloupe by boat, we rented a car for the week. Not as much fun as sailing, but it turned out to be a tremendous week getting to know the beautiful island of Guadeloupe.

Guadeloupe is a butterfly-shaped island separated by the Salee River. Basse-Terre, the larger side of the butterfly, is characterized by rocky mountains and lush rainforests. With completely different topography, hilly Grande-Terre has long beaches, sugarcane fields and white sand beaches.

La Grande Soufrière, is an active stratovolcano on Basse-Terre. It is the highest mountain peak in the Lesser Antilles, and rises 1,467 m high.  Glenn has always wanted to hike a volcano, so I read a few articles on the internet and off we went. Not the smartest thing we’ve ever done – but, again, another “outside the box” experience. We learned later from the locals – that no one attempts to climb Soufriere if the top is obscured by rain clouds. The day we went – the entire mountain was obscured by rain clouds! After an hour and a half of struggling through pouring rain and high winds, we were out. Climbing a volcano is still on the list, though!

The day was not completely wasted though. Carbet Falls is a series of waterfalls on the Carbet River in the Parc National de la Guadeloupe. Its three cascades are set amid the tropical rainforests on the lower slopes of the volcano La Soufrière.  The day that we were there – only the second falls were open – the other two falls were too dangerous to climb. It was a beautiful site to see!

The day after exploring Basse-Terre, we headed off in our car to explore the smaller half of the butterfly, Grande-Terre. We drove along the southern coast and explored one beautiful beach after another. Last stop was in Ste. Francois at the very southeastern tip of Guadeloupe. Found a nice cafe in the marina (of course!) for lunch and also enjoyed the requisite French wine. A beautiful day.

I spend much of my time in the Caribbean seeking out the “markets”. Always an amazing collection of fruits, vegetables, flowers and local spices. Ste. Anne’s beach market was no exception.

Our last night in Guadeloupe, dinner at Chez Margaux in Gosier,  a special place.

Barbuda – A Special Jewel

Barbuda is wild and uncrowded, just the opposite of its close neighbor to the south, Antigua. Sadly, Barbuda is most recently remembered for taking a direct hit by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The prime minister declared the island uninhabitable and the 2000 residents were evacuated. 95% of the buildings were destroyed or badly damaged. There was no water, electricity or communications for many months.

We visited Barbuda this past December – more than a year after the hurricane, and the island is slowly getting back on its feet. Most of the residents have returned. Homes have been rebuilt. Small hotels, restaurants and shops are under construction. The famous frigate bird colony is thriving. The residents of Barbuda own the island communally, and they are a fiercely proud group that are determined to rebuild their island, while maintaining control of the island and its natural resources.

We set off for Barbuda from Deep Bay on the northwest side of Antigua in the morning. Only about a 25 nautical mile sail, winds were perfect at about 14-18 knots and at an angle just forward of our beam. We were sailing an average of 6-7 knots and were anchored in Low Bay just west of Codrington Lagoon by mid-afternoon.

The approach to Barbuda was stunning. The water is striped with the magical pale blues of the Bahamas and the blinding white beaches shimmer with specks of pink coral shells. It is a site not to be missed!

That afternoon we contacted George Jeffery for a tour the next morning of the famous Frigatebird colony. We were so happy to discover that the colony was thriving despite the hurricane interruption.

Frigatebirds are the masters of the sky with black feathers, long forked tails and hooked bills. Wings can span up to 7.5 ft, the largest wind area to body weight ratio of any bird. Frigatebirds are so large that they can only skim along the surface to catch their fish, any deeper and they will sink. For this reason, they have become experts at letting other birds do their fishing and then will harass them until they drop their prey. We were lucky enough to be in Barbuda during mating season – so we got to see males in action, females tending to their babies, and teen birds wreaking havoc around the colony.

Male frigatebirds with all black feathers expand a bright red bubble on their chest to attract females during mating season.
Sweet white baby fluff balls surrounded by preening male frigatebirds
Male and female frigatebirds having a discussion.
George Jeffery is the iconic ambassador of Barbuda. He has lived on the island his entire life, and is passionate about Barbuda and the frigatebirds. He gave us a fascinating and enlightening tour of both.

After anchoring for a couple of nights at Low Bay near the Lagoon and the town of Codrington, we made our way down the southern coast to the famed Cocoa Point. The gorgeous pink sand beach along the southern end is also known as Princess Diana beach. Barbuda was one of her favorite island destinations to relax in privacy with her boys.

The next morning just after sunrise we dinghied around the southern tip to Gravenor Bay and the Spanish Point Reef for snorkeling. It was so worth the early adventure!

Amazing coral and sponge formations and tons of fish!

The sunsets were spectacular.

Mother Nature spanked us on the way to the Caribbean

Departure Day, Sunday November 4, promised to be a beautiful, crisp autumn day. Glenn, the captain, and crew, Pam, Jason and Karen, stumbled around in the darkness, donning warm, winter gear and grabbing hot coffee to start their journey.  We’d been preparing Mira and ourselves for this journey for months and were feeling ready – though, with the usual anxieties that precede a multi-day passage at sea. Lines were tossed and fenders stored and by 6 am we were off! Since Mira was the only boat of 21 boats participating in the Caribbean 1500 Rally headed for Antigua (the rest headed to Tortola), we chose not to join the official start line at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay later that morning. As soon as we took the turn out of the Bay heading south, the winds freshened to 20 knots slightly forward of our beam, and Mira was off!

The ensuing 1745 nautical mile passage was a true ocean sailing adventure. During the next 12 days at sea Mother Nature seriously had her way with us.  The first 24 hours of the trip were spent sailing south along the Virginia and North Carolina coasts and around Cape Hatteras as we encountered a nasty warm front. The front threw 40 knot winds, choppy Gulf Stream waves, and a 5 knot current in our face.  The crew doused the head sail, centered a scrap of main and turned on both engines – trying to stabilize the boat as we doggedly pressed southward. Continuous rain and squalls added insult to injury, as we turned east at the designated coordinates for our Gulf Stream crossing.  Another 24 hours later the Gulf Stream was behind us and we were exhausted but, as the air and sea temperatures noticeably rose, the crew began to sense a glimmer of the Caribbean waiting for us.

The middle part of the passage had Mira continuing east into the open sea of the North Atlantic. From the US east coast, the Caribbean islands are not only south but quite a bit further east than most people realize.  Traditionally, sailboats head eastward almost to Bermuda before turning south to catch the prevailing trade winds. In contrast, we encountered a stalled high pressure system which sucked away all of the wind we needed to sail east! We were forced to motor for 6 days – seriously depleting our diesel stores. But …. we were wearing shorts and swimming in the 4 mile deep ocean and catching Mahi-mahi!!  Skies were clear, fish were biting, stars were shooting, captain and crew were happy!

Unfortunately, about this time, Mira received weather updates via our IridiumGO satellite system that alerted us to a tropical depression forming in the Leeward Islands and heading northwest directly into Mira’s path. Game-day decision time! Our best option was to head a bit farther east than planned (all the way past Bermuda to the 61st longitude line) and then sail south to Antigua, hoping to come in behind the eastern edge of the tropical depression.

These last five days of our journey were spent sailing straight south – skirting the tropical depression…almost. Collectively, the captain and crew of Mira sailed faster and saw higher winds, waves, and more squalls than in all of Mira’s experiences. 25 knot sustained winds and 3 meter swells directly on the beam catapulted Mira southward. Waves crashed over the cockpit roof. Constant squalls and confused waves took a toll on the crew. Top wind gusts recorded reached over 40 knots, and Mira’s top speed was 15.9 knots – a first for Mira.  She was lurching and bucking like a bronco. Meals were limited to those eaten with a spoon from a bowl.  Water usage was rationed because of low diesel stores and a stressed water maker.

Mira, an Antares catamaran, is one of the best blue water sailboats in the world, but all boats have their limits. As the stormy days wore slowly on, Mira began to show symptoms of the strenuous and difficult passage.  Limping into Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, with reluctant engines, we dropped anchor under sail at 10:39 am on November 16th.  The next 14 days were spent washing, rinsing, scrubbing, repairing, adjusting, and testing all systems on the boat.  The crew also took a few days of well deserved R & R before our kids were scheduled to arrive for Thanksgiving. Happily, Mira is now returned to her former glory while her crew keeps a watchful eye for another sneak attack from Mother Nature.

This is the Carib 1500 Rally map that shows the track of each of the participating boats. Mira is the pale yellow track line that shoots straight east to maneuver around the storm.
This is a screenshot of our instruments showing total nautical miles of the trip – 1745 – and top speed during the trip of 15.9 knots. Considering our average and cruising speed is 6 knots, this speed was way out of Mira’s comfort zone. It was achieved during one of our last 3 days – and for those sailors out there – we were NOT surfing down a wave! Our wind and waves were flat on the beam. ;(
The first day of our passage – bundled up from the cold of November in Virginia.
Jason giving Glenn lessons on the fine art of catamaran sail trimming.
Beautiful sunset at sea.
Pam at the SSB radio (single side band) taking her turn (along with 3 other boats) leading the morning and evening Carib 1500 Rally nets. It was a great way for all of the Rally boats to connect each day and discuss safety and weather information, but also – fun things like Mahi catchings and shooting star sightings.

 

Here are the beginnings of the churned up and confused waves of our Gulf Stream crossing. The next 24 hours became even more difficult. The nasty warm front tossed more wind, waves, and rain in our face as we battled the strong Gulf Stream current.

Small, dark Atlantic dolphins greeted us after we ventured through the Gulf Stream and out into the open Atlantic Ocean.

Relaxing on our favorite perch – savoring the warm temperatures and sunshine that were starting to appear. The middle part of our passage was truly delightful.

Captain and all crew on Mira participated in meal preparation for this passage.  We took turns with cook duty every 4th day in our watch rotation. On our “cook” day we cooked and cleaned all day and didn’t take watch until the nighttime.
Pam enjoyed planning all of the meals, buying the ingredients and provisions, and most importantly, seeing the happy faces of the well-fed crew. Here’s One Pot Beef Stroganoff.

 

This is Barbacoa shredded beef with corn salsa on yellow rice – all prepared in the pressure cooker.
Here’s one of three beautiful and delicious Mahi-mahi we caught on the middle part of our passage. Definitely a highlight of the trip.

Rocking and rolling a bit, but Glenn still got the Mahi grilling done!
Freshly caught grilled Mahi served with lemon garlic butter sauce. Leftovers made yummy Mahi fish tacos the next day.
Captain threw out a line during one of our motoring days and we all dove in!! The middle of the Atlantic (latitude 26.45 longitude 62.23) that was 19,690 feet deep or 3.7 miles. Surreal experience!

A beautiful sunset from Pam and Glenn’s cabin. Seas were starting to build.

As Mira took her turn south on Monday, Nov 12, she was starting to skirt the edge of the tropical depression. The seas got increasingly confused and much larger, winds began to increase and squalls began appearing. The last 3 days were the most difficult of the trip.

A screenshot of the tropical depression smack dab in Mira’s path.

The crew of Mira practiced safe sailing precautions. All crew wore their own PFD when leaving the salon area at night and during rough seas. Each PFD had its own personal locator beacon that would alert Mira’s chart plotter with a GPS coordinate and Mira’s crew with a loud alarm sound – if the PFD went overboard and was deployed. Each PFD also had a light, a knife, a face spray shield, and a whistle. Each crew member also attached their blue tether immediately upon entering the cockpit and would tether onto jack lines along either side of the boat if leaving the cockpit.

Glenn performed a deck check late every afternoon – checking all the running and standing rigging (lines and metal supports) – even in the worst of the weather.

Glenn and Jason supporting each other during their difficult watches during the last few days.
Land Ho! Antigua on the horizon. A sigh of relief from all!
Mira’s engines needed some tender, loving care – thanks to the Antigua Yacht Club for towing us in from the outer anchorage area.
Glenn multi-tasking technology – coordinating a delicate docking operation with the tow boat and his crew.
Mira at rest – finally – in the Antigua Yacht Club – twelve days later!

 

The Carib 1500 Rally – preparing Mira & crew for the tropical migration

The Caribbean 1500 Rally is orchestrated by the World Cruising Club. For this November’s rally from Portsmouth, VA, to Tortola, BVI – 21 boats participated. Mira elected to join the rally – despite our ultimate goal to sail past the BVI to Antigua. The WCC offers a wide range of benefits when you join their rallies. They provide a superbly prepared Rally Handbook with a wide range of safety and sailing system checklists, off-shore seminars in the week prior, and last but not least, camaraderie with other sailors through happy hours and local events.

Contemplating another winter in the Caribbean with limited marine resources and summer 2019 in the Mediterranean, this fall seemed the perfect time to join a rally and complete some additional safety and comfort features on Mira. So, the Captain detailed a long list of projects to be completed and items to be purchased. Annapolis without wind seemed like the perfect spot to accomplish this list.  So …. during the months of August and September …. we added the following,

  • replaced our nearly new two Volvo diesel engines due to an emissions recall by Volvo,
  • new refrigerator handle & stainless kick plate,
  • European power battery charger,
  • 5 zone bilge dry out system
  • Exhaust system in galley over the stovetop
  • New mirror in master head,
  • Fixed freezer refrigerant pressure,
  • New Seagull water filtration system,
  • New life raft & stainless steel mount cage,
  • Mount on our arch for dinghy motor,
  • Newly configured arch davits for dinghy,
  • New outhaul line for mainsail,
  • Protective covers for hatches,
  • New stainless pedestals for cockpit table
  • New salon carpet & mat,
  • Stern anchor,
  • New jumbo ‘super yacht’ fenders & fender covers,
  • 4 inflatable life vests and personal locator beacons,
  • Wide variety of aerial, smoke daytime and night flares,
  • and we completed extensive offshore safety requirements for Carib 1500 including authoring our first official Mira Ships Operations & Procedures manual.

Yes.. it was a very busy (and expensive few months).  As the leaves were starting to drop, Mira sailed down from her fall home in Annapolis and arrived at the Ocean Yacht Marina in Portsmouth, VA, on October 25. The next week was reserved for additional preparation before the official start of the Carib 1500 Rally on Sunday, November 4th. Pam and Glenn were happy to be joined by Karen and Jason Trautz, who had recently completed a ten year circumnavigation on their own Antares catamaran, YOLO. We were thrilled to have sailors with their incredible sailing experience aboard Mira for the offshore passage to Antigua.  Our week was filled with boat work, seminars, meetings, tours, provisioning, cooking and happy hours.

Mira’s interior was well protected during her engine swap out.

New life raft and stainless steel cradle.
Check in for the Caribbean 1500 at the Ocean Yacht Marina in Portsmouth, VA.
Glenn and Jason hard at work installing new pedestals.
Glenn installing a thru-hull cap amid provisioning stores.
Chafe gear – always a necessity!
Just a fraction of the provisions necessary for 4 people for a 12 day passage.
The view from above!  A trip up the mast is always required before a long passage.
Mira festively decked out in her dress flags for the Rally.
Mira passing the rigorous safety inspection.
Safety demonstrations included PFDs, life rafts, and flares.

Glenn, Karen and Jason at Happy Hour in historic Portsmouth, VA.
Mira’s crew decked out in their Halloween best.
Pam and Karen off to provision!
Glenn studied weather information for the passage.
Departure Day! Sunday, November 4th!

 

 

 

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.