Even though it has been over a week since my last post here, I don't really have much to update. Shortly after that post, the weather here went from warm and beautiful, with shirtsleeve evenings on the dock and dinner preferences for patio seating, to cold and rainy. It looks like it will be a bit more pleasant today, so maybe we will get out a bit. Unfortunately, whatever crud Louise came down with over a week ago is still hanging on, so we shall see.
Between the lousy weather and the ongoing crud, we really have not left the boat in over a week. We did manage a nice dinner out with some neighbors on the dock one evening, and we've walked to dinner a few more times in the surrounding neighborhood, but the scooters still sit forlornly in the parking lot and we have yet to make it to any Baltimore area attractions. We scheduled a dinner with new cruising friends in a marina on the other side of the harbor and we've had to postpone it twice so far.
I've been trying to make the best of it by getting a few things done around the house, but the weather's been too poor for the long list of outside projects, and my motivation has been somewhat lacking on the indoor ones as well. I did have to take the inverter charger apart twice more, as whatever intermittent connection problem lies therein has resurfaced. I've narrowed it down to the misbehaving board, but cleaning and tightening every connection thereon would require a complete disassembly, something I can't do until I remove it from the boat.
One of the "projects" on my plate was to plan our route and schedule from here, and I have now spent the better part of three full days working on that. Early in the process we determined that making it any further north than right here in Baltimore this season was too much risk for too little gain, and so we will be making our about-face here and heading south directly when we leave. That acknowledgement led to our decision to remain right here until our fully-paid month runs out, this Saturday.
With a few days on my hands, and being here in a place with good coverage and a company store, I decided to take the plunge and upgrade my cell phone, a project I knew would consume at least two full days of my time. Notwithstanding the incredible amount of computing power my last phone represented, which I compared, for amusement, with my early mainframe experience in this post, today's application landscape requires even more horsepower and, more importantly, memory. Also, my old phone was equipped for Sprint's earlier 4G network, based on WiMax, which Sprint is ditching in favor of LTE.
I have never been a "new every two" kind of guy, whether that be cars, motorcycles, boats, or computers, but as with my last upgrade from the Blackberry to the Galaxy S, the never-ending push of application updates from the manufacturer ended up filling the memory to the point where I had to start uninstalling applications just to keep everything running. On top of that, I have a slew of navigation and marine related apps I'd like to try out, and there was no room left to install them.
And so it is that I now have a shiny new Galaxy S4. Once I turned it on I discovered that Baltimore has great 4G coverage, and so getting everything loaded onto the new phone has been pretty zippy. Since I stayed with Google's Android platform, I didn't have to worry about transferring contacts, calendars, email, and lots of other data, as that just syncs right up to a new phone automatically. And I had utilities in place to backup and restore most of my other apps and data. But there are just enough differences between platforms and Android versions that I had to re-learn lots of the tricks of the trade to get everything working as I like. Incidentally, this phone is roughly an order of magnitude faster and more capacious than the last one, making the mainframe comparison that much more quaint, and the screen is about 20% larger as well, although I did have to give up my prized hardware keyboard.
I'm mostly recovered from the phone-upgrade trauma and everything is working now, including all those apps I had to remove over the last few months to keep my old one working. I'm also happy to now have instant local tide and current information available at my fingertips, along with GRIB-file reading, real-time charts, Active Captain data, and marine weather forecasts on the new phone. When we are under way, the phone provides our only real-time access to some of this information -- another set of tools in our navigational toolbox.
Now that the southbound migration has started, the marina here is clearing out. The Tiki Bar at the end of the dock has closed for the season, and local eateries have closed up their patios and gone to fall hours and menus. The marina itself is open year-round, though, and I am told about 25 or so boats stay the whole year, quite a few of which are live-aboards.
We, too, are contemplating our trip south. As much as I'd like to spend another few weeks cruising the Chesapeake, we really need to be south of Cape Hatteras early in November. Since we have a few days' work to get done back at the boatyard in Deltaville first, we will head there more or less directly from here, meaning we will mostly retrace our route.
I'd like to stop in Annapolis, since we opted to skip it on the way north, and that makes a nice first day's cruise from here. From there it is a matter of weather to time the next leg to Solomons on the Patuxent, thence to the Wicomico and finally to Deltaville. The actual stops and timing will depend on sea conditions, but I hope to be there before the end of the month.
Whenever we are done in Deltaville we will retrace our steps back through Hampton Roads and the northernmost part of the Atlantic IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) to Albemarle Sound. Given how miserable we were coming north up the ICW with our six-foot draft boat, we've sworn off doing it again, but the reality is that going around Cape Hatteras on the outside is a much longer trip, and conditions off Hatteras can be brutal -- perhaps not the best choice for our first real outside passage.
Once in the Albemarle, conditions permitting, we will exit the ICW at statute mile 67 and head south for Pamlico Sound by way of the Croatan Sound, west of Roanoke Island. This route is not any shorter than the ICW, but it should present fewer shoals, and different scenery. If seas and weather cooperate we might make a stop on Ocracoke Island before heading west up the Neuse River to rejoin the ICW at statute mile 167. Ocracoke inlet is too dangerous for us, and Core Sound too shallow, so we need to take the inside route to Beaufort and Morehead City, where we can head to sea via the well-marked deepwater ship channel at Beaufort Inlet. From there a one-hour eastward detour to Lookout Bight will provide us with good anchorage and obviate the need to negotiate the inlet in the morning for our first ocean leg.
That leg will consist of Cape Lookout to Masonboro Inlet at Wrightsville Beach, just north of Cape Fear. I admit to a certain amount of apprehension about this inlet -- if conditions are not right when we arrive, we'll need to head back to sea for the night, making the Cape Fear River inlet at first light after a long trip around Frying Pan Shoals. From Wrightsville Beach it is a one-day cruise down the ICW and through the Cape Fear River to Bald Head Island at the Cape Fear River entrance, where we will stage for the next leg.
By this time we should be in warmer temperatures and generally better weather for the next four hops -- Cape Fear to Winyah Bay, Winyah Bay to Charleston, Charleston to Hilton Head, and Hilton Head to Savannah. That will "close the loop" and bring us back where we started, and I expect to spend a few days catching up with friends there.
From Savannah south our route is more of a question mark. We have yet to see any of the ICW south of there, and I am sure there are some sections we don't want to miss. That said, Georgia is notorious for some of the worst ICW shoaling, and so we need to spend more time doing the research before choosing between inside and outside routes in Georgia. My gut feeling is that we will end up outside, based solely on what I have heard thus far.
We will stop short of the Florida line until we have more word on when our friends Steph and Martin expect to begin commissioning their new boat in Stuart. We'd like to spend some time with them while they are there, but Florida limits us to 90 days in the state, and we need to arrange the timing so we can comply with their requirements. Last I heard, the option to purchase a one-year cruising permit in the state had been suspended indefinitely, which is a shame. My best guess is that we will head to Florida sometime in December and stay through February or so. After that, I have no idea which direction we will head.
I expect this will be my last post from here in Baltimore Harbor, and you will next hear from me once we are back under way, from our next stop with Internet access. If I get ambitious, I might try to find some way to use my whizzy new phone to put a map link here on the blog by then.