Sep 11 - Oct 5 Chandelle invited us on a cruise alongside the John Brown, a liberty ship made during World War II for transporting supplies. This is a cruise for all their sponsors, complete with music and reenactment of WWII planes flying by. Another interesting history lesson for us. The next day, we took off for Gibson Island. When we came in on Saturday, parties were in full swing, with many boats tied up together. Come Sunday afternoon, the anchorage was totally deserted. Chandelle joined us that evening. There was barely a ripple that night. The picture of Chandelle captured at twilight (above, right) gives meaning to the ultimate tranquil anchorage. Our next leg took us to Annapolis, always a fun place to visit. We anchored north of it at Weems Creek, off the Severn River . It was a perfect spot to hide, as hurricane Ivan made landfall in Alabama, sparking tornadoes in Maryland and Virginia, and drenching us with torrential rain. When it wasn't raining, we managed to dinghy in to town to enjoy some crab dip as well as to provision. The crab cakes and dips in the Chesapeake Bay are the best! They actually have chunks of crabmeat in them, as opposed to mostly breadcrumbs in other places. Several days later, Chandelle took off for Annapolis proper while we ventured south to the Rhodes River, another beautiful anchorage. We would have stayed longer had our starboard engine not acted up again. Doing some homework revealed a Cummins engine dealer in Oxford. That was our destination for the next week, to have work done on the boat - thank God it was a minor problem - and to wait out hurricane Jeanne which hit Stuart, Florida for the second time in less than three weeks! We were sad to learn that Ft Pierce city marina was wiped out somewhat. Next stop was Solomons. This is a popular mid-point stop for most cruisers as they criss-cross the bay, and you are bound to run into boaters you've met along the way. It is an excellent place for provisioning and fueling. Next on the list of place to visit was Onancock, on the eastern shore of Virginia. We got there by passing through Tangier Island. It was very interesting seeing a deserted place as we arrived on a Sunday. The tons and tons of crab pots and watermans' boats tell us that this is a seafaring community. We spent two nights on Onancock Creek, which was very picturesque, with nice homes along it, before moving on to Portsmouth.
Oct 6 - Nov 7 At Portsmouth, we hooked up with Chandelle, who was dockside at Ocean Marine, and attended to chores like provisioning and laundry. We went across to Norfolk and got a tour on the battleship U.S.S. Wisconsin. On Columbus Day, the 11, we took off for Great Bridge, tying up at the free docks in a park-like setting between the locks and the bridge. Next day, we saw Colorado Cat and we asked the captain if he would like to tie up. Steve was singlehanded for the trip to Florida. Next thing we know, all five captains were helping to make room for Colorado Cat and Cgull Seeker, after which we all chatted and got acquainted. That night, we all had cocktails at the picnic table, shared sea stories and photos, and even showed a home video. We grabbed the opportunity to cross the Albermarle Sound the next day, before the weather deteriorates as NOAA had forecasted, and we had lots of company - Arcadia, Karianna, Kalaha, Harmony. Still, we took a beating, with beaming seas and water splashing onto the bow way too many times. Thunderstorm had us seek shelter at Buck Island. Next morning, we moved to a more sheltered anchorage, where we recuperated for a few days before continuing on to Washington (the original one) in N.Carolina. One evening, Kalaha joined us, and we got together for a potluck on Colorado Cat.
We split with Colorado Cat and headed east to Ocracoke on the Outer Banks.
Entering unfamiliar territory can sometimes be a challenge, and this was no
exception. You leave the red markers to port as you enter Big Foot Slough
channel. To add to the confusion, there were a bunch of range markers sticking out
there. We made it in ok. During our stay here, we would hear boaters over the radio asking
questions on the approach, and to our surprise, boats and ferries come in and
out, no matter what the weather. Home to the 1823 Ocracoke Lighthouse, Ocracoke is a charming
town that exudes Cape Cod ambience. It is dotted with restaurants, and hotels, inns and
many private homes are all for rent. No doubt this is a busy place in the height
of summer. And it looks like fishing IS the thing to do here. We saw 4 wheel vehicles on the beach carrying fishing rods up the
ying yang. High winds had us hunkered down inside the boat for two
days. North winds blowing at 25-30 knots, and seas building to 9-12 feet made
for boisterous conditions outside. We were stuck. It is no coincidence that the Outer Banks has been called the "graveyard of the Atlantic."
Over the centuries, thousands of sailors and boats have met their fate here, as
did the notorious pirate Blackbeard.
When we had a good weather window, we got out of there as fast as we could!
The Pamlico Sound and ICW were much tamer. Further down the coast, at Wrightsville Beach
(another one of our favorite anchorages), we enjoyed several days of rest. We
had the good fortune to run into Tom and Ronnie of Minden, whom we met
Baltimore. We had cocktails with them, and one day, took a taxi with them to
Wilmington, about 20 miles away. We had a fabulous time checking out the cute
stores and art galleries around the waterfront. We took up on a local's
recommendation to lunch at A Taste of Country, a buffet serving southern cuisine
- pulled pig, chicken dumplings, hussh puppies, sweet potatoes souffle are
just some of the yummy items on the menu. Back on the boat, the same Canadian sailboat who anchored next to us at
Ocracoke, dropped his hook closed to us again. Around six the next morning, a loud bang had us jumped out of our bed. A confused tide and current
our boats in various direction, causing the Canadian sailboat to ram into us. Luckily it was just a scratch.
Nov 11 - 15: As we passed by Georgia, a nor'easter whipped up north wind of 25 knots with gust to 35. We sought protection at Cumberland Island. The wind was relentless for two days, causing Mai Thai to rock and roll much of the time. This has got to be the toughest we've endured in our entire cruising life. By the time the ordeal was over, a couple of zippers in the bimini had been ripped. All things considered, we rather be here (temperature in the mid 60s) than be in Boston (temp 30s)...
Nov 16 - 20: We are now in St Augustine, Florida . They didn't call Florida the sunshine state for nothing - the mercury is at 76 degrees F as I write this. We look forward to going ashore and contributing to the local economy (we had been self-sufficient for almost three weeks!). As America's oldest city, St Augustine is steeped with history, and a highly popular tourist destination. The Spanish architecture of the buildings and our view of the fort - Castillo de San Marcos - almost make us think we are in the Mediterranean. Wishful thinking, huh.
Nov 21 - 28: Off to Daytona Beach to meet our buddies Jon and Peggy for pre-Thanksgiving holiday. We had our share of turkey at trusted Crackel Barrel restaurant (yum), and even managed to catch a movie: National Treasure. At Cocoa Beach, we thought about tying to the town dock. Alas, it was destroyed by one of the hurricanes. After anchoring near a bunch of boats, we had a quick lunch and immediately went out to town. We generally are quite cautious and usually don't go out until later in the day or the next day just to make sure our anchor is set well. For some reason that day, we were itching to see the town. Because the docks had been destroyed somewhat, a gate was set up at the gangway to prevent the public from going there. Several dinghies were tied at the dock nevertheless. Monkey see monkey do; we followed suit. We climbed over the gate which lead to a public park and playground. It was humming with activity as we learned that the Christmas boat parade was happening that night. We wandered around the downtown for two hours, checking out the stores and restaurants. Back at the park, we watched the band set up for the tree-lighting ceremony, and the people streaming in with their picnic baskets and blankets. Turning towards the waterfront, we saw Mai Thai to be close to all the other boats. Did that many boats come in within those two hours? A closer check revealed that our boat had dragged anchor, and it was moving towards the power line poles! Adrenaline rushing, hearts pounding, we ran frantically to the dinghy dock, climbing over the gate. Moving in sync, the captain started the dinghy motor, the first mate untied the lines, and within minutes, we were back on our boat, had the engine cranked, and started moving out of harm's way. It was a close call. Given another fifteen minutes, the boat would have hit the poles of the power lines.
Nov 28 - Dec 31: We hit the usual spots - Vero Municipal Marina (noseeums were a killer this year), Ft Pierce anchorage by Harbortown Marina, and Peck Lake (this is new to us) before crossing Lake Okeechobee to LaBelle. We took the rim route this time. We spent 3 nights (the maximum allowed) at the town docks to scrub down the boat. It was filthy. Jon and Peggy came to drop off our mail. Thanks guys! We decided to take Craig and Helen's offer to tie up at their dock in N Ft Myers, where we will spend the holidays.