Lady Liberty, put a check mark here

May 27, 2009

One of the items on my ‘bucket list’ are (were) to anchor under the Statue of Liberty.  The symbol of freedom and opportunity in the world that brought immigrants here to build the America’s, including my grandfather.  Well, a check mark goes here, we did it.

Entering New York harbor required watching the tide and current tables, so we anchored in sight of the Verrazano Bridge and waiting several hours.  I tried fishing; I think the fish left New York years ago.

When the tide shifted, we motored in, eyes wide with delight at the huge buildings, traffic, ferries and people.  When we got closer, our eyes were wide not with delight, but fear and concentration.  There are so many buildings, traffic, ferries and people.  Every one of them believes they have the right of way, and have absolutely no reason to slow down or change course, so they don’t.

We were caught once in St. Georges Bay in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with 10 foot breaking waves, and that is exactly what the close ferry wake is like when you can’t get out of their way.  Good thing “Pot ‘O’ Gold” is a sturdy old boat.

We arrived at the Statue of Liberty in late afternoon, and moved right in beside her, along with (what seemed like) 200 ferries of tourists, after all, it was Memorial Day.  We took pictures, admired her, thought of the past, and then, to my horror, realized that the flame she is holding is FAKE.  All my life, I thought the flame was real.  Ah well, another letdown and highlight at the same time.

We anchored in a basin behind the Statue; we were the only boat there for the night, strong winds kept us awake.  I tried to get pictures with the Lady all lit up at night, but they didn’t turn out.  The pictures are in my memory, and the photo of the sunset is incredible.

Leaving New York harbor, we had to go  by Manhattan, right past the Empire State Building, then through an area on the East River called ‘Hells Gate’ (true, check the charts).  This area has very fast currents, and must be navigated at the correct time, which for us meant we had to leave the anchorage at 05:30.  Our speed reached 11 knots through this area.  What a ride!

Upon leaving New York City into Long Island Sound, the tide and current changed, and we had 20 knot winds on our nose, so we stopped in a quiet anchorage for the day and night.  We’ll be moving towards Cape Cod this week.

It was such an exciting couple days; I wanted a separate blog entry.  Have fun, everyone.

Joe & Mary Beth

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What were we thinking?

May 25, 2009

We decided to take an inland route to Chesapeake Bay called the “Dismal Swamp”.

I wonder why, I would even think it would be a nice, sunny, warm route where we would enjoy our privacy, scenery, and be a nice trip.

As soon as we pulled into the lock for the beginning of this canal (I know, another side trip, two more locks, this one will be another ‘last lock’), it started to rain.  As the lock started filling with water, the rain started coming down harder and harder, until, when full, it was pouring.  All the big motor boats in the lock with us left first, and then found out that this canal was shallow, so crawled along at about half the proper speed for here.  There were eight boats in the convoy (so much for privacy), travelling along at 3 knots, when the complaints on the radio started.  Not only is there nowhere to pass, there is nowhere to dock, with the exception of the NC Welcome Center at the Virginia border, and there is only room for a couple boats, everyone else is expected to raft.

The 50’ motor boat that was crawling so they didn’t hit bottom got on the radio and said they expected everyone else to stay away while they docked, then everyone else could fend for themselves.  It would have been fun to have a recorder to record the radio comments.

The Welcome Center was closed (not welcome on Sundays or Mondays), so we didn’t get the ‘t shirts’ we wanted, and with all the issues these folks were having, we decided we would be better off getting wet than rafting there, so we trucked on, as did another motor boat, and another sail boat.  Places to dock or anchor the boat were almost nonexistent, but we found a small government dock that we stopped for the night at, as did the other sailboat, the motor boat just drove hard through the end of the canal.

We were soaking wet, but had our privacy, and could enjoy the evening without having to walk over everyone else’s boat.  It was too wet for a pot luck dinner, and there was nothing open at the center anyway.

The next morning, up early, went to the end of the canal in the pouring rain, again, and met up with ‘Lady Margaret’ at the lock wall.  We rafted with them, to wait out the rain and get provisions.  We no longer wonder where the name “Dismal Swamp Canal” came from.

After we reached the end of the Dismal Swamp Canal, the “dismal” ended.  We travelled with Lady Margaret for a couple days, stayed at a dock, had some fresh shrimp, then stayed at a marina and took a rental car to Williamsburg.  What an interesting City that was.

It is restored to Colonial times, as its claim to fame would be during the Revolutionary War, and they have restored several buildings, including residential to that time period.  The buildings open to the public have folks working inside that are dressed in tune with the times, and everything is built, made, or baked there.  Jewelry, Blacksmiths, clothing (right from the ball of cotton), and even bricks made on site.

It was a fun trip, made better with great company to do it with.  Thanks Pat and Colin (Lady Margaret)!

From Norfolk, we again ventured outside in the Ocean, deciding our weather window was more important than visiting the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.  In preparation for our Cape Cod to Nova Scotia sail, we did an overnight from Norfolk to Atlantic City, NJ and had a grand time.

We spent the night in Atlantic City (nope, I did not get a chance to try out my system for winning at the ‘Crap” table), then got an early start stopping just short of New York City.  We are stopped at Shark Inlet, anchored for the night, and will head to the Statue of Liberty tomorrow morning.  Once again, just like Quebec City, the currents will play a very important role dictating when we can get in.

Love to everyone, we’re still having a ball.

Joe and Mary Beth  S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”

Life is not about avoiding the storms

May 16, 2009

Life is not about avoiding the storms; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
Author unknown

The trip through North Carolina certainly had to do with storms.  Gone are the fresh breezes of the Keys, with gentle lapping rain that only lasts a few minutes.  One thunderstorm caught us so hard we had to drop anchor in the river, when I tried to get out of the channel it was too shallow to navigate, so we dropped anchor on the edge of the channel and kept a “securite, securite, securite” call out on the VHF for safety.  It is a strange feeling being out on the water alone, with a 45 foot metal stick pointing at the sky, saying “I dare you” to the lightning.

We finished the day, and moved on only to sit out another thunderstorm; we pulled into a marina and sat this one out with other (higher) masts around us.
So far we have been successful at staying at free city docks for our supplies, and the one very inexpensive and nice marina.

We crossed Albemarle Bay under sail and had a wonderful day, only to arrive at a city called the “Harbor of Hospitality”, in Elizabeth City, NC.  Free City docks, the mayor himself was on hand to tie up boats.  There was a wine and strawberry party for the arriving boaters, where the ladies were given a rose, we were all given a welcome and verbal tour of the town of 20,000 people.  They call these parties and welcome the ‘Rose Buddies’ which were started years ago to welcome boaters.  This city found out a long time ago, that cruisers have to spend money too, and will spend it where they are wanted.  Cruisers provide a lot of economic spinoff to this welcoming community.

One dockhand gave me a ride to the Gas station to buy fuel and ice, the grocery store came and picked MB up and brought her back to the boat for groceries, we visited the Museum, and then went to have dinner with “Blackbeard and his crew”.  It turns out that Blackbeard was killed in this area (Ocracoke in 1718), and it is believed that some of his booty is buried near here.  It made for a good time, of course we had “bar-b-que” for supper and after dinner, some wenches were auctioned off.  Check out the video of the Pirates singing on the sidebar.

Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first manned motorized flight in Dare County (in this area) December 17, 1903, so the museum had lots of history to show.  North Carolina sent their men to both sides in the civil war; there are lots of displays for that as well.

Tomorrow is “Potato Festival Day”; apparently they grow a lot of potatoes in this area.  Since we are from PEI where we also grow a lot of potatoes, we absolutely have to stay and watch the boat races (speedboats), the Moth Boat Races (one man sailboats designed and built in this area), free French fries, live music and a potato peeling contest, all on the waterfront, it should be a grand time.

Then we will be on our way again, headed up the “Dismal Swamp” Canal.
We’re starting to see a mist on the water in the cool mornings; we are in no hurry to see the fog start.

I hope everyone is having a good spring, we still are!

Love Joe & Mary Beth S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”

Southern Hospitality at its Best

May 8, 2009

Last spring we met some folks on the Great Loop via email who were doing part of the Loop we are doing, the unusual northerly route on the St. Lawrence River, Gaspe, Nova Scotia coasts.  Their motor blew up in Rimouski, and they stopped their trip, making repairs and planning to finish this year.  They sent us an email that said they had a spare dock on the ICW, and expected us to stop for a visit on our way through.

Chuck and Claria Gorgon live in Beaufort, SC (pronounced Buefort, unlike Beaufort, NC, which is pronounced Boefort).

Beaufort SC, Savannah GA, and Charleston SC were all left unscathed during the civil war, as both Generals had ties to this area, so the history is absolutely amazing.  Claria Gorgon made sure we saw it all (or at least as much as we could in the given time).

When MB and I dock for the day, we usually like to have a cocktail, relax, watch a movie or listen to some Jimmy Buffet tunes, then early to bed for our visiting and touring the next day.  HA, Claria and Chuck would have none of it.

We walked the park like setting of their island home, visited some folks in the neighborhood garden, another boat landed, Chuck moved his small sailboat to land, we visited, discussed routes and charts while sitting on their huge friendly porch in scenic comfort.

Claria then proceeded to make a 3 course meal, we ate, talked, relaxed on the porch, and we said good-bye to Chuck, who was off for a couple days, and Claria made sure we were ready for a busy day tomorrow.

We did a horse and carriage tour of Beaufort, which was enough for us, these tours are great, they give you a good overview.  Claria then proceeded to take us on a walking tour so she could explain everything the tour guide missed.  The waterfront (beautiful place to take a family), the shops, the   architecture, the food, and the Oak trees.

Bob, Ginny and George (no photo of George, from the vessel “Time Out” were leaving their boat on the dock for the summer, and had to fly out of Savannah the next morning at 7 (an hour and a half drive), so Claria was up early, drove them to the airport, came back, picked us up, and drove us back to Savannah.  “You absolutely cannot leave here without the Savannah tour”.

We toured Savannah by tour bus, the guide was great and we stayed on the bus for the whole tour, then did it again, getting on and off at several points of interest.  The Pirate House for lunch (had my mint Julep here, Claria says it wasn’t very good, she can do better), cobblestone roads, the wrought iron railings were fabulous (there was an iron foundry here, the owner said whatever they can make out of wood, he can make it in iron).  His house was built with iron columns, I didn’t bother with a photo, and you can’t tell the difference.

The streets with the overhanging trees in the city are breathtaking, the alley where gentlemen used to duel, the Churches are like a high-rise.  We toured  a huge Anglican Church (if I remember right it was the first one built in the US), MB found a statue in honor of John Wesley, who started the Church she belongs to, the police barracks with the old 50’s cars in front,  the Spanish moss on the trees, it just goes on and on.  Both Beaufort and Savannah are exceptional cities, so close and yet different, with history that just goes into your pores.

Home, then another 3 course meal of fresh shrimp.  I called Claria the energizer bunny, the woman never stops.  She was bound and determined that we were going to tour Charleston the same way and wanted to take us.  When she found out there were some folks we were going to meet there for a visit and tour she relented, but explained how upset she would be if we didn’t tour the city.

We met with Flint and Leslie Firestone in Charleston, from “GraceFul”, also on the Loop on temporary delay, for a visit and a tour.  The last time we saw the Firestones was last summer in Canada.  They have PEI ties, and we hope to meet up with some of their relatives when we return to the island.

We did a tour of Charleston by horse and carriage, we went to dinner, and we toured some houses and had a great visit.  Thanks Flint and Leslie.

There are a group of folks called “Gullah” who learned to make a living weaving marsh grass baskets.  They are not cheap, but are absolutely beautiful; they sell them at the market, while weaving them on the spot.  The same person picks the grass, dries it, and weaves it.

As you can see, we are exhausted!  We need a couple days cruising on the ICW to wind down.  Remember Marathon, a big day was going in to take a shower and drop off the garbage.

Thanks Chuck and Claria, I’ll get you back when you arrive in PEI this summer.

We are almost out of South Carolina now; we’ll see what North Carolina has in store.

Love everyone,
Joe & Mary Beth, S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”

Southern Belles, Mint Juleps, my Ocean, and Culture Shock

April 27, 2009

We arrived in St. Augustine on the 20th and left on the 22nd, so we had a couple days to enjoy the company of Ron & Linda on ‘Fantasia’, a terrific couple on a 36’ sailboat that we have been enjoying the company of until Fernandina Beach, where we left them.  After St. Augustine, we went to the Ocean for some open water sailing.  Absolutely incredible is the only way I can describe it.  We watch and move with the weather we choose, and have been under sail for the most part.  The water looks absolutely filthy.  I’m sure it’s not, but it is not the beautiful aqua color of the Gulf.

We have been going into inlets to stop at night, which is normally about an hour or more to get in, and on Thursday the 23rd, the winds were so calm I got a little cocky and decided to anchor in the Ocean without going in.  I had too much sun all day, so after I was sure the anchor was set, I went to sleep.  Later, when MB woke me up, the boat was rockier than when we had anchored at the Marquesas almost in the Gulfstream.  It rocked hard all night, and we were sure we were dragging anchor.  I had to continually get up to check the plotter to make sure we were not dragging.  It was my most uncomfortable night ever, and when I got up in the morning, I was seasick, so I fed the Ocean, that makes it mine!  Lesson learned, no more Ocean anchoring (hey, I anchored in the Gulf, it was not like that).

We arrived near Savannah, Georgia on the 25th in the afternoon, are anchored in a small river (Turner Creek), it’s a nice quiet anchorage with a marina close by.  We will dingy in for supplies, showers, fuel, and to see the local sights.  There are plenty of Southern Belles in bikinis out and about, and I want to try a mint Julep at the local bar.  I used to read about them, along with the history of this area, I’m sure there will be lots to see and do.

I was surprised to find nothing like a mint Julep in the local café, where they served bar-b-que.  That’s another thing about the south; bar-b-que is a noun, not an adjective.  MB and I keep waiting for them to finish the sentence.  Bar-b-que what? The meal was good, the drinks were beer, and the entertainment never showed up.

Culture shock for me is explained when they charge me an outrageous sum of money to dock my dingy so I can go spend money in their town.  In Florida (at least the places we stayed) they were glad to see us tie our dingy up, so we could add to their local economy (food, hardware, marine supplies, etc).  If we wanted a shower, sometimes we paid for that, sometimes not, and the fee was always reasonable ($2 each, or $5 for the dingy, which included showers and wifi).

Not at our first stop in Georgia, the marina was so expensive we didn’t consider taking the big boat in, (we haven’t kept the boat in a marina with us on it since Shalimar, last November).  We anchored about a mile from the marina, and were charged $10 a day to take the dingy in.  The first day, I took empty jerry cans in to buy some gas, and he said I would have to pay the $10 for the dingy to buy gas at the marina!  I declined, went back to the boat and told MB we would have to do it all the next day.  Sunday, we paid our $10 for the dingy, which did not include showers, which was another $10, got our fuel, provisions, and went to the local café for dinner.  They had no laundry, no wifi, and no internet at all, yet I paid as much as I would have for my big boat in a full class marina on the rivers.  Welcome to the East Coast.
We have decided to try and anchor only in cities that provide free dingy tie ups, not sure if it will work or not, but we are going to try and spend our money where they want us.

There is certainly no poor economy in this part of Georgia, the marinas are full, the fuel dock is full of boats all the time, and there are always boats coming and going.

At the anchorage we are at, there are a few derelict boats.  One in particular, a large shrimp boat has been the talk of the local council, and they are trying to do away with the derelicts.  They argued about how to remove this one so long (years) that an Osprey built a nest in the mast (see photo) and the derelict is now protected, and they cannot remove it.  Too cool, it adds a local flavor to the site.

Our plans are to leave Monday morning, the next section will be slow going, we have a couple stops to make, and I want a locally made Mint Julep, perhaps I can find one in South Carolina.

Beautiful weather here, Ralph and Peg are back on the Island, the bugs are all right here in Georgia, and we are still working our way home.  MB is getting more focused than ever, she even seems to be enjoying herself in my Ocean.

Colin and Pat, we listen to Michael McLeod’s music nightly, we should have got the rest of the cd’s.

Hope everyone had a great April.  See you in May.

Joe & MB Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”