Friday, November 26, 2021

Crystal Coast

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. We are under way southbound in Bogue Sound, where the ICW is a narrow, dredged channel punctuated by periodic shoaling areas that make for some excitement at the helm.  We have a half knot of current behind us and 15 knots of wind on the beam. It's exhausting, so we seldom come this way, normally preferring to make the offshore passage from Beaufort Inlet to Masonboro Inlet to get to Wrightsville Beach.

Tomorrow would actually be a perfect day for that, with nearly flat calm seas (today there is a small craft advisory). Two things swayed our decision to go down the inside today instead. The first is that the offshore run at this time of year is a dark-to-dark affair, with a 6am departure and a 6pm arrival (sunrise is at 7am and sunset at 5pm). Neither one of us wanted to get up in the pre-dawn hours and then go on deck in 30-something temperatures.

Vector nestled into her slip in Oriental Harbor.

The other was more pragmatic. In order to make the outside run, we'd have to leave the Morehead City docks today around noon or so and anchor near the Coast Guard station for the morning departure. That would mean running the generator this afternoon and evening to get heat, even though we left the dock with full batteries. By contrast, we can run the pilothouse heater all day while we are underway, and we'll have lots of free heat when we stop from the thermal mass of the engine

Thus we decided to plow down the inside, making it a two-day run, and I expect we will be anchored at Camp LeJeune tonight. Typing for the blog is a cinch offshore, but here on the ICW it's an on-and-off affair that depends on the width and depth of the channel and how recalcitrant Otto-the-autopilot is being. Fortunately, there is virtually no traffic today.

These two sailboats are anchored right in the middle of the channel; I had to pass one close aboard to get in. The same channel I spent so much energy avoiding when we anchored here a year ago.

After my last post we arrived in Oriental, North Carolina just a little before 3pm. Wind had picked up throughout the afternoon and I had to dock in 20mph of crosswind. The marina was full and the slips are very tight, but with beefy pilings to both sides I lined up and proceeded carefully in. As our bow arrived mid-slip we suddenly found ourselves rotating counterclockwise for no apparent reason. With some right rudder and a bit of power I managed to stuff it into the slip (map).

About halfway in, the depth sounder started screaming, and I realized we were plowing into the mud. This notwithstanding the fact that on two separate phone calls, the marina had assured me they had more than six feet of depth in the slip, even encouraging a stern-first entry. With no better alternatives for the night, I just powered all the way into the slip; this sort of silt is really no problem for us until it's high enough to be sucked into the air conditioning and the engine.

We came into the harbor right behind Lillie Belle, then had to wait for her to spin around. And then we had to drive around the end of her starboard trawl, which she left deployed.

The marina was completely unapologetic, which was reflected in the review I gave them. Once we were fully settled in, Stacey and Dave arrived and we enjoyed catching up over cocktails on board before strolling over to the Toucan Grill, the on-site restaurant, for dinner.  It was a great evening, as we always enjoy their company.

Saturday we stayed in the slip until checkout time, walking across the street to local institution The Bean for a breakfast sandwich. After leaving the harbor, dancing around the same sailboat anchored mid-channel that we passed on the way in, we had a half hour of bashing our way across the Neuse River in easterlies. We arrived at Adams Creek just as the Beaufort Belle was entering with one barge on the head, and we followed her through the whole creek.

Range light tower. This photo belies how close it is.

We arrived to the Beaufort anchorage a little before 3pm to find it absolutely packed, a little surprising since most of the migration is now well ahead of us. With no room in the main anchorage, we instead squeezed in to a tight spot between Taylor Creek daybeacon 7 and the tower for the Beaufort Inlet Channel rear range light and dropped the hook (map). At least we knew no one would intrude on our swing circle.

Ballast from Blackbeard's ship, Queen Anne's Revenge, which sank in Beaufort Inlet.

We had a pleasant two nights in Beaufort, in relatively mild temperatures before the next arctic wave arrived. We enjoyed dinner at new-to-us Mexcalito Mexican restaurant, and old standby Black Sheep. I spent part of Sunday strolling around town, which was very quiet for a weekend. We had no errands to run the way we did on our last visit.

Best shot I could get of the Shackleford horses on the banks, from our deck.

Monday we weighed anchor for the short run past the inlet and over to Morehead City for our dock reservation. The docks are cross-ways to the current and we timed our arrival for slack water, which put us there near high tide. We pulled alongside the end tie and positioned the boat for tying up, where I found the depth sounder reading a little over eight feet at a tide of a little under three. Once again we would be sitting on the bottom, at least at low tide (there is no tide in Oriental).

We ruminated about moving to a different slip where there might be another six inches of water, but decided we'd just live with it for a cycle and see how it was. No harm, no foul, and we ultimately decided to just stay where we were the whole four days (map). Our bow was resting lightly on the oyster shells, but we had plenty of water at the stern and the AC intakes were in clear water.

Vector, sitting on the bottom at the Morehead City docks. You can see the bottom in the foreground.

My first order of business was to deploy the e-bike and ride the mile and a quarter to the Walgreens, where I had prescriptions waiting. Afterward I rode over to the same Lowes grocery store I had visited a year ago and stocked up on some provisions, including a nice pumpkin pie. It was the last of the relative warmth before the cold snap hit, and I made it home just before the rain started.

The rain was done by dinner, and we managed to bundle up and eat out all four nights. Three places were new to us: Tight Lines brew pub, Beach Bumz pizza pub, and Casa San Carlo Italian restaurant. All were good, especially the Italian place. Last night, of course, was old favorite Floyd's 1921 for the traditional Thanksgiving meal, prix fixe. That will be dinner again tonight, too, as we walked away with at least half our meals as leftovers, including dessert.

A huge plume of smoke drew us to this heartbreaking scene Monday; a house fully involved, and a family losing everything just before Thanksgiving.

Other than bundling up and walking to dinner and back, it was really too cold to leave the boat for most of our stay -- the reason we wanted a dock with power in the first place. So we mostly got things done around the boat, except that I made two more excursions back to Walgreens on the e-bike, both times to pick up photos. On my final visit I spotted a stack of rapid COVID tests and grabbed a couple, as they are hard to find.

Our passports expire in March, so to facilitate even the slim possibility of a Bahamas trip this season, we rushed them off for an expedited renewal. I used a phone app to take the photos, assembled the 2x2 photos onto one 4x6 print, and lavished a whole 40 cents on printing it at Walgreens. After coming back with the first set and getting the applications ready to go, we decided the background was too wrinkled, risking a photo rejection, so we repeated the whole process.

Sunset from the Morehead City transient docks.

However challenging today's driving has been, it pales in comparison to the pair of fishing trawlers we passed a while ago going the other way. One was towing the other, on a very short chain in order to keep both in the channel in this strong crosswind. All in a day's work for them; I hope they got to spend at least a little time with family for the holiday.

Tomorrow we should be in Wrightsville Beach, where we will stay for a couple of days because I have Amazon packages arriving Monday. My next opportunity to post will be from the Cape Fear River, although at this writing, I'm not sure if we will be continuing south, or making a side trip to Wilmington. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 19, 2021

New friends and old as we roll up to the holiday

We are under way across the Bay River, bound for the Neuse and then Oriental, North Carolina, a place we vowed we would never return, except to meet up with friends. As it happens, our friends Dave and Stacey are just wrapping up a week in Oriental, leaving tomorrow morning.

The remainder of our cruise on Tuesday was peaceful, and we arrived to the wide part of the North River in  some of the calmest conditions we've seen. Rather than tuck in anyplace, we just pulled off-channel a short way into the deeper water and dropped the hook (map).

By the end of the evening there were four or five other boats anchored around various parts of the river, and we found ourselves in a conga line headed for Albermarle Sound in the morning, notwithstanding being at the very tail end of the migration. In the skinny part of the channel to the sound, we were passed by a large motorsailer, Fly Away, that we learned also draws six feet. We had a very calm crossing of the sound and an easy cruise down the Alligator River.

I had been ruminating about whether we could squeak in to the nice anchorage at Tuckahoe Point, just before the Alligator-Pungo Canal, across a 6-7' bar. As we made the westbound turn I could see Fly Away anchored there on our AIS display, and I called them to ask about conditions. They said they had no less than 7' on the way in, and we ended up squeezing in and dropping the hook just a couple hundred feet from them (map). Other than a couple of towboats passing overnight, it was a very quiet and peaceful anchorage.

Vector anchored in the Alligator River as the nearly full moon rises above her. Photo: Mark Grosby

We had an early start yesterday, and we were again passed by Fly Away in the canal. They called to say they had some photos for us, and we agreed to drop by in Belhaven, where we both were headed.  That made for a short day after the canal, but we wanted to get off the boat and maybe have some dinner, and the next town is a long way further down the ICW. 

We pulled through the breakwater to find the anchorage entirely empty, a stark contrast to our last stay. We dropped the hook fairly close to the town dock (map). I made 5:30 reservations at Spoon River, new since our last visit, and we tendered ashore a little early at the town dock. Fly Away was docked at the Belhaven Marina and we dropped by to say hello on our way to dinner; it was very nice meeting Mark and Suzanne. They had just waved off a Bahamas crossing due to weather, so perhaps we will catch them again further south before they cross.

When I learned yesterday morning that Stacey and Dave would only be in Oriental one more night, we decided to make an early start today so we could catch up to them by dinner time. Mindful of the difficulty we had anchoring last time, and also that it's in the low 50s today and dropping to the upper 30s tonight, I've booked a slip at the Oriental Inn and Marina, along the deep water channel. As soon as I am back in cell coverage I am going to try to reserve a table for dinner at the adjacent restaurant.

After Oriental we have a couple of days before we are due in Morehead City for a slip reservation at the city docks. This arctic blast that will arrive Monday means a dock with 50-amp power and a short walk to area restaurants will be welcome, and at just $80 per night it is a relative bargain. We'll stay through Friday morning so that we can have an easy walk to our Thanksgiving reservation at Floyd's 1921, where we remember a very nice holiday meal from early in our cruising days.

My next post here will not be until after the holiday. We wish all our family, friends, and readers a very happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Making tracks

We are underway southbound in the ICW, just entering Currituck Sound as I begin typing.  Seas got progressively calmer Friday and our speed picked up, and we actually had the hook down in the Phoebus anchorage (map) by 5:20. That was in plenty of time to splash the tender and go ashore, but rather than the longer ride and half mile walk into town, we just tied up at the Old Point Comfort marina and ate on the deck at the on-site restaurant, the Deadrise (named after the state boat of Virginia).

Our first dolphin escort of the season, southbound on the Chesapeake.

On our final leg down the Chesapeake we passed the ship anchorage, which was more full than I have ever seen it. The news coverage of enormous backlogs at US ports is not an exaggeration. We arrived at the entrance to Hampton Roads at dusk, and I noticed for the first time that the giant "77" on the island of the aircraft carrier George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) is illuminated in red, white, and blue. Too far away to get a photo, unfortunately. We just made the anchorage in the last of the fading twilight.


I could not get a photo of the ships at anchor, but you can see 13 of them in this plotter image, a few miles off to port.


The weather was dicey enough on Saturday that we considered just hunkering down in Phoebus, or maybe going around the corner to Hampton. But winds from the west were already making the anchorage uncomfortable, and we decided we'd just endure the pounding for an hour while we crossed Hampton Roads and got in the lee of Craney Island. We weighed anchor as the tide slackened.

Sunset over Norfolk, just before we turned off Chesapeake Bay.

Two outbound ships, including the "ultra large" container ship Al Qibla, had me crossing the channel early and running down the green side. That put us just 50 yards or so off the edge of the security zone for Naval Station Norfolk, but it was choppy enough that the overly aggressive patrol boats were nowhere in site. In addition to motoring past the Bush, we also passed the Harry S. Truman, CVN-75, two of the last Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carriers.

The heavy chop along with some ebb had us spending over two hours to make just 11 nm. We arrived in Portsmouth to find the High Street basin nearly empty, and we were able to tie up in our preferred spot on the inside bulkhead (map). Mindful of having missed out on our last visit, I ran right over to the Legend Brewing Depot and picked up a case of Legend Brown, which comes in pint cans. We ended up right back there for dinner on a chilly evening.

Tied up at High Street. The city has started decorating for the holidays. White platform at far left will soon sport a tree.

We opted to spend two nights in Portsmouth so that I could run out to Walmart on the e-bike Sunday. It's about a six mile round trip, but it's the last convenient Walmart we will see for a while, and we have a number of staples on our provisioning list that we normally get there, including two gallons of motor oil for the generator, which is overdue for a change. We ended the day by walking down High Street to Thai Basil for dinner.

This mural in the shopping plaza at Great Bridge depicts the bridge opening, but if you look closely on the right side you will see it is painted across a fiberglass heron. A half dozen of these herons line the canal.

Yesterday morning we walked over to the post office and then had a nice breakfast sandwich at The Coffee Shoppe just a couple of blocks from the landing. The post office shares a building with the Coast Guard Fifth District headquarters. Afterward we dropped lines for the short cruise down to Great Bridge. We had to hover waiting for the lock, and were tied up at the park bulkhead in the canal by 2pm (map).

This "mailbox" right near the bulkhead is actually a depository for old US flags, which are given proper ceremonial disposal. I dropped our retired ensign here.

Here again I had expected to stay two nights, since we are slow-rolling to our planned Thanksgiving stop. But a check of the weather revealed that we need to be crossing the Albermarle Sound tomorrow at the latest, and so we made plans for one night only, and as soon as we were secure I hoofed it the half mile to the shopping center, where I had s shopping list for the dollar store and the Kroger supermarket. At dinner time we walked to the Vino Italian Bistro, just a half block from the dock. I am happy to report they have improved since our last visit six years ago.

One of several herons across the canal from us, all painted differently. This one has a a scene from the Elizabeth River.

We needed to make the 9am opening of the Great Bridge bridge this morning to make the anchorage before dark, but we were up early and dropped lines for the 8am instead. We're having a good cruise, with Currituck Sound as flat as I have ever seen it. The plotter says we'll be anchored by 4pm. Tomorrow we will cross the Albemarle and head for the Alligator River ICW route, as conditions will be unfavorable on Pamlico Sound. My next post will likely be from the Neuse River in three days.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Sic Semper Tyrannis

We are under way southbound in Chesapeake Bay, bound for Hampton Roads. Short update today (I hear the sighs of relief), but it's my last day in open water, where I can type easily, for some time to come. These open water crossings are really my best opportunity to get anything written here at all.

We had an uneventful arrival in Solomons Wednesday afternoon, in flat calm seas. We proceeded up Back Creek and dropped the hook in the same spot we had used back in June (map) for a shorter tender ride. We splashed the tender and headed to the Holiday Inn's dinghy dock, where we tied up for a $5 fee. From there it was a mile walk to the CVS, which shares a shopping plaza with a Weis grocery store and several fast-food outlets.

As I was fixing breakfast I spotted a trawler circling us. It turned out to be someone who recognized us from Facebook, and he sent me a dozen photos. Photo: Alex Cadiz

Our entire reason for stopping in Solomons was for Louise to get her COVID booster. Eligibility guidelines vary by county in Maryland, so we could not just get this done while we were in Baltimore; a big tip of the hat to our friends Stacey and Dave aboard Stinkpot, who alerted us to her eligibility here in Solomons. My current medical status would have made her eligible anywhere, but that would involve more money on a telehealth visit for a script. As it was, CVS would not take our insurance for her flu shot, so we ended up paying that part of the visit out-of-pocket (by contrast, Safeway had no problem when I got mine earlier this week).

We had no need of the grocery store, and after wrapping up with shots (no waiting period, since she had Pfizer for both her booster and her original doses), we headed back toward the Holiday Inn and a pair of restaurants we had passed on the way. We ended up stopping at Boomerang's Original Ribs, which had an extensive menu (not just ribs), a full bar, and an uncrowded and well-space dining room. I did have the ribs, which were quite good.

Point No Point light. I keep expecting that privy to fall into the sea.

On the dinghy ride back to the boat, we passed two anchored sailboats with no anchor lights, a dinghy underway with just a flashlight, and two sailboats on transient moorings also with no anchor lights. Tempting fate, considering we also passed a large crab boat heading to the dock, well in excess of the local 6mph speed limit.

Yesterday was a decent day to travel, and we weighed anchor with the tide to put some miles in. I basically loaded the exact same route we had used northbound in June, and we ended up at the same anchorage, in Mill Creek near Kilmarnock Virginia (map) for a calm night. We left Maryland behind after crossing the enormous mouth of the Potomac River, a little wistful we are too late in the season for the side trip to DC. Under way yesterday I also learned that President Biden was at the Port of Baltimore on Wednesday to talk about infrastructure, which explained why we saw the Marine white-tops on Tuesday -- making a dry run.

Last night's sunset over Kilmarnock, from Mill Creek.

When we turned in last night, the forecast on the bay for today involved four footers decreasing through three footers until noonish, and we figured to just hunker down in the anchorage until lunch, and maybe make Deltaville this afternoon. But by this morning's coffee that had changed dramatically, down to one and a half feet on three seconds, and we decided to make a run for it.

The plotter said if we got under way immediately (by this time it was 9am), we could just make the Phoebus anchorage in Hampton Roads by the last of the twilight, and we made quick work of the departure checklist and weighing the anchor. I had my second coffee under way, on a little bit of a bumpy ride. We're now past Deltaville and the seas have calmed considerably. We should have the hook down before 6pm, and my next post will likely be under way south of Chesapeake, Virginia in a few days.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Charm City

We are under way southbound in the Chesapeake Bay, bound for Solomons Island. That's still some eight hours away as I begin typing here at 1:30, so we will drop the hook somewhere tonight. We've thawed some lamb chops to grill for the first pleasant evening in two weeks. On our way out of Baltimore this morning we were overflown by a pair of Marine Corps presidential white-tops, I assume on a training mission.

The calm before the storm. Boats at anchor in Rock Hall harbor. Docks at right were under water later.

We had a pretty quiet stay on the bulkhead in Rock Hall. Thursday evening it was dry and not too cold, and we strolled over to the Harbor Shack for dinner on their patio. Most of Friday was the calm before the storm, but by dinner time it was cold and wet and the wind started to pick up. The weather radio had been squawking all day with dire reports of flooding along the western shore. We had a nice dinner on board, and by bed time things were wild and woolly on the bay.

Oysterman statue in Rock Hall.

Sometime during the night the winds shifted around to the south, a full half day ahead of forecast. The Rock Hall bulkhead is miserable in south winds, and the lines and fenders creaked all morning. Around 4am the sound of engines woke me up and I went upstairs to find a crabber backed up to the bulkhead in the maelstrom, loading gear. They are a hardy lot. We awoke to find ourselves pretty much pinned to the dock.

Vector on the Rock Hall bulkhead.

There was very minor flooding in Rock Hall, and the bulkhead remained above water the whole time. Images and first-hand reports from Baltimore, Annapolis, and Solomons showed numerous docks under water and significant flooding in the streets. And this is why we had chosen to be on the eastern shore for the duration. With the boat pinned to the dock I spent Saturday morning walking into town and getting a few groceries at the small market there.

Sunset from our anchorage in Rock Creek.

The wind finally let up just enough for us to get off the dock by 2pm (15-20 knots rather than the 30 knots it had been earlier in the day). We needed to get to the western shore before westerlies made the trip miserable, so we proceeded directly to the Patapsco. We made our way to a familiar anchorage in the well-protected Rock Creek (map), in Pasadena, Maryland, where we splashed the tender and headed over to Mike's for dinner.

The National KatyƄ Memorial near Little Italy.

Our reason for being in the Patapsco to begin with was the follow-up chest X-ray and echocardiogram which I had booked at Johns Hopkins. The earliest date they could give me was November 8, and we were still back in New York when I made it. The nature of having a schedule on a boat had us here more than a full week early, and I had figured we'd gunkhole around the nearby rivers (Middle, Back, and Magothy) to kill the time. But by the time we were leaving Rock Hall, it was clear that the daily highs would be in the mid-50s with lows in the 30s-40s all week. We ran the gen a bunch in Rock Creek just to keep warm.

This "bug" anchored at the mouth of a creek is one of several water-powered trash scoops around the harbor.

I had previously booked two nights at a marina in Fells Point, Baltimore, bracketing my appointments, and I called the marina to see if they could just get us in early. That way we could keep warm, and also walk to dinner without a cold dinghy ride first. There was already a boat in our slip and they were not entirely sure when it was leaving, so they asked me to call back on Wednesday.

Submarine USS Torsk in front of the National Aquarium. Bow of light ship Chesapeake at left, and Vector at far right.

And thus it was that we ended up spending four nights in Rock Creek. It was too cold to want to move anywhere else, so we just hunkered down and ran the gen about twice our normal amount. It was warm enough during the day that I was able to land the tender at Blake's Bar Harbor Marina and walk into the town of Riviera Beach, where I was able to pick up a few more groceries and replenish the beer supply. There are a couple of restaurants in town, but too long a walk for dinner.

Maryland 9/11 memorial in front of Baltimore's World Trade Center.

On Wednesday morning we learned our slip would be unavailable until the 6th. The dock had been underwater for two full days and the occupants decided to extend their visit. I booked three nights at the Inner Harbor Marina instead, a familiar stop and operated by the same outfit. We weighed anchor and had a pleasant two hour cruise up the Patapsco. We tied up in an inside slip (map) and fired up every heater on the boat. In hindsight we should have just come here two days earlier, but we were hoping not to move marinas in the middle of our stay.

One sure way to know we've lingered too long in the north -- setting up the outdoor ice rink.

With the evening temperature in the low 50s, we decided to just walk to the Rusty Scupper restaurant right at the end of the dock for dinner, where we reasoned it would be reasonably safe to dine indoors on a Wednesday night. Baltimore also has a mask mandate, which helps. But, O.M.G., this was the most expensive meal we'd had in many months, bar none. And that includes dining out in NYC and such pricey tourist locals as Sag Harbor and Bar Harbor. Once upon a time there were 17 Rusty Scuppers around the country, and, like everyone in Silicon Valley, I spent many an evening at the one in Sunnyvale. I remember them as on a par with, say, Chart House. This is the only one left, and they've gone high-zoot as a "special occasion" joint, with prices far in excess of what they were on our last visit a few years ago.

This wonderful community park was under construction the day we arrived and opened to the public literally the next day, to much fanfare. The skate park within was packed our entire stay.

We ended up spending three nights here, walking to Federal Hill a couple of times for dinner at Pub Dog Pizza and Blue Agave, both excellent. We tried to pop in to CVS for flu shots, but the wait was too long. And I spent some time during the day exploring Federal Hill and the Inner Harbor, which has become a mere shadow of what it was just a few years ago. I got a couple of projects done, including fishing wires and converting one of our corded AC lamps to hardwired DC, and replacing the Stingray on the tender that broke in NY. We took advantage of the in-slip pumpout and, as usual, Louise did all the wash while we had the power and water available.

Dockless scooters from three vendors are everywhere in Baltimore. Including this one in the harbor itself.

On Saturday afternoon the slip over in Fells Point opened up (map) and we headed over there a day early, for a change of neighborhood. We walked to Little Italy for dinner, but even as early as 5pm on Saturday almost every place was fully booked. We ended up in a very casual and funky space that becomes a disco in the evening, aptly named Italian Disco, where the DJ booth is the front half of an old Fiat, high above the entrance. The food was surprisingly good.

The DJ booth at Italian Disco. The back half of the Fiat is on the opposite wall.

The Fells Point neighborhood was definitely closer to us and more interesting than was the Federal Hill neighborhood. But most of the action, along Thames street right along the water, is outdoors at the moment and was unappealing in the cold. We did end up sampling two pubs that sort of book-ended the main row, Penny Black, closest to the dock, and Duda's a few blocks away. Both were uncrowded at the early hour we chose, and had decent pub grub.

Industrial-chic, or just too cheap to buy a faucet?

In addition to walking around the neighborhood, I put the e-bike on the ground here and ran a few errands. On Sunday I rode all the way out to the hospital to pre-scope the gigantic complex ahead of my Monday morning appointment, and on my way from there to the Safeway in Canton for provisions I meandered through the enormous Patterson Park. This is Baltimore's equivalent to Central Park in NY or Boston Common, and includes some lovely spaces that seem underutilized.

The Observation Tower, aka The Pagoda, at Patterson Park.

Monday morning I rode back out to the outpatient center at the hospital, where they took me in for my first appointment, a chest X-ray, as soon as I arrived, about a half hour early. From there I made my way through the labyrinthine passageways of the hospital to the Sheik Zayed tower for my echocardiogram. Both were, thankfully, normal. In the afternoon I rode out to the main post office, where our General Delivery package that had been addressed to Fells Point ended up (the USPS web site is notoriously inaccurate on General Delivery), then took the ferry across the harbor to our original marina to pick up our mail.

The original Johns Hopkins hospital, now an administration building surrounded by others.

Update: I started this post yesterday, under way after we exited the Patapsco. While I had hoped to finish before we dropped the hook last night, I simply ran out of time, and thus here I am typing again under way on the second half of our two day transit to Solomons. We spent the night anchored in the bay, quite literally, just off the community of Franklin Manor (map). This is the first time in all our transits that the bay itself was calm enough to do so.

Vector in the Inner Harbor, as seen from atop Federal Hill Park.

Part of the delay in wrapping up was dealing with traffic, which is always heavier in the Chesapeake than offshore. That started with minding a large cargo ship, the Desert Honour, coming up astern of us as we crossed the channel. We had passed her in her berth just before she left, then she caught up to us and passed us. She passed two inbound cruise ships, the diminutive American Constitution (whom we had seen on an earlier cruise tied up across the harbor) and the very large Carnival Legend. I learned that the pilots, after making passing arrangements on the radio and thus obviating whistle signals, nevertheless sound the horn when passing cruise ships, just for the passengers' enjoyment. The horns are sounded much later than would be required for actual communication.

ACL's Independence across the harbor, our dockmate from Savannah. The larger American Constitution also tied up here.

I also had to dodge a number of sailboats under sail. That would include the two sailboats who never read all the rules of the road, and thought they could do whatever they wanted. Those sailors never have a radio on in the cockpit, nor do they understand whistle signals. I missed them, but only because there's a lot of paperwork involved if you crush them like walnuts, and our insurance rates would go up.

Desert Honour meets Carnival Legend under the Bay Bridge.

We're now southbound for warmer climes with all due haste, although we have a very relaxed schedule and so have plenty of time to wait on weather as needed. Tonight we will be in Solomons, where Louise has a pharmacy appointment for her COVID booster and a flu shot. And we have Christmas plans with friends in Charleston, so we have nearly six weeks to travel just 700 miles or so. I also booked Thanksgiving dinner in Morehead City, but that's just a stake in the sand and not a commitment.

Sunset over Franklin Manor from our anchorage in the Chesapeake.

If the weather cooperates we can make one more hop south tomorrow before being pinned down for a couple of days. If there is a silver lining to being this late in the season, it's that the bulk of the snowbird migration is well ahead of us, and our favorite anchorages and free docks should have some room when we arrive. Also, we are enjoying the fall colors along the way.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Harbor of Grace

We are under way southbound in the Chesapeake Bay, making tracks on a good travel day before we are once again pinned down by wind. We just wrapped up four days in Havre de Grace, Maryland, where we were also pinned down by wind.

View of the Concord Point Light this morning as we weighed.

When last I posted, a week ago, we were northbound in the Delaware Bay. We squeezed in behind the Reedy Island Dike, a training wall in the Delaware River that extends south from Reedy Island for three miles. We pulled up to a spot with favorable depths, abreast of the south warning light (map), and dropped the hook. As a side note, the dike is fully awash at low tide and just a short distance below the surface at high tide -- hence the warning light and a phalanx of buoys -- and it has claimed numerous inattentive vessels over the years, including a very nice Nordhavn a few years back.

Our view from the Reedy Island anchorage, dominated by the nuclear station across the river in NJ. In the foreground can be seen the warning mark for the dike, just below the surface.

We had a relaxing afternoon, a nice dinner aboard, and a calm night. Friday we did not weigh anchor until the tide was favorable on both the Delaware and the C&D canal, about mid-day, and we left the anchorage via a marked gap in the dike. The flood was running hard enough that we crabbed through at a considerable angle, making the narrow entrance seem even smaller.

We had a nice sunset from Reedy Island.

We raced up the Delaware on the flood and turned into the C&D just as the tide there was turning. The confluence always has confused eddies and I steered by hand. Soon enough we were whizzing westbound, arriving at Chesapeake City nearly mid-ebb. We normally anchor in the basin here, but we needed the facilities of a dock, so we spun around and pulled alongside Schaefer's Canal House, a familiar stop (map). They put us up next to the restaurant, and as I docked from the flybridge I was eye to eye with the lunch patrons on the patio.

Vector at Schaefer's. We had only one neighbor overnight.

The main reason we needed the dock was to do laundry. We do have our own machines, but they use a lot of water for wash and power for the dryer, so other than an occasional emergency load, we only run them when tied up. I started the water filling and Louise started the first of several large loads of laundry as soon as we were settled in. Unfortunately, the power here is only 208 volts rather than the normal 240, meaning everything takes a third longer to dry.

Sunset from our dinner table. Some boat nearly in the way.

We had a nice dinner on the deck at Schaefer's, where my view was dominated by Vector. The canal was relatively quiet during our stay, but the enormous RoRo Hoegh Trident did pass by at night, with the pilot boat Breakaway kissing her side. This is where the Maryland pilot disembarks and the Delaware pilot embarks, or vice-versa. In the morning we dropped lines right at slack and moved over to the fuel dock, where we bunkered 1,200 gallons at the best price we could find in the entire region, $2.90 per gallon.

The festive lights of Chesapeake City across the canal. We seldom have this vantage.

Bunkering took a full hour and a half, and we departed the dock with considerable ebb behind us. By this time it was the height of the weekend lunch rush, and we headed out into a veritable sea of incoming boats headed to Schaefer's or the Chesapeake Inn for lunch. We ended the day at a familiar anchorage in the Bohemia River (map), but not before passing a trio of, I kid you not, zebras on a hillside on Elk Neck. Not the only zebras on a farm in Maryland, according to Google, but we never found their backstory.

Another lovely sunset, from the Bohemia River.

Sunday we weighed anchor, rounded Turkey Point at the tip of Elk Neck, and made our way up the Susquehanna River to Havre de Grace, Maryland, a new stop for us. We dropped the hook in 15' off the historic Concord Point lighthouse (map), which is so much shorter than the surrounding trees that we could not even see it until we were right next to it. The annual Art Festival was in progress in Concord Point Park as we arrived, and we had also noticed some of it in a different park behind the city marina.

Vector at anchor in Havre de Grace. That's the promenade at left.

From our saloon we enjoyed the music of a Tom Petty cover band at the festival. Just before dinner we dropped the tender and headed the very short distance to a floating dock near the lighthouse, so we could stroll the festival in its final hour. After walking past the booths at Concord Point, we walked the wooden promenade around the end of the point, a bit over a quarter mile to Millard Tydings Park for the other half of the festival. They had different music at this venue -- a US Army combo was playing jazz and belting out Frank Sinatra hits. We presume they came from the neighboring Aberdeen Proving Ground, from which we occasionally heard ordnance during our stay, and where Louise once lived when her dad, the ordnance guy, was stationed there.

Army jazz combo in the gazebo at Tydings Park. Army sound guy at far left hard to see due to Operational Camouflage. The crooner front and center, but facing away, just finished In Other Words.

We walked back to Concord Point Lighthouse on city streets, passing the Decoy Museum and the Maritime Museum and arriving just as the show wrapped up and the vendors were tearing down. We got back in the tender and ran a half mile upriver to the Tidewater Grill, which has its own dock, and had a nice dinner on their patio.

Mandatory shot of a generic Arts festival.

Monday the weather was lovely and I ran ashore stag to wander the town. I tied the tender up at the little-used boat ramp at the Jean Roberts Park, just north of the historic 1907 railroad bridge that still today carries Amtrak's high-speed electrified trains from Washington to New York and beyond. Long-time readers may know that we stopped numerous times in Havre de Grace in the bus, parking at the Elks Lodge, but that's a very long walk from town and this was my first stroll through the historic downtown.

Re-purposed early 20th century buildings in downtown Havre de Grace

In addition to enjoying my walk along the downtown streets, I also scoped out other tender landings, finding a decent one at the Frank Hutchins Park, and some dinner venues with outdoor seating. Dinner was iffy, with a thunderstorm due to arrive at 7pm, but we decided to chance it by going early. We returned ashore at Hutchins Park and walked down to MacGregor's, eating on their nice covered deck in case of sprinkles. We enjoyed dinner and were just about to order dessert when Louise, checking the radar, said "we gotta go"; we took dessert in a to-go box and scurried back to the tender. We arrived back at Vector mere seconds before the heavens opened. Winds quickly escalated to 39 steady, and the harbor was a frothy mess.

Sunset over the city yacht basin, from our anchorage, in a calmer moment.

Having just become eligible for a booster shot, I had made an appointment at the CVS in town for Tuesday, and I also had a script refill sent there. As of Monday night, it looked like it would be pouring rain all day Tuesday and I very nearly rescheduled. But by Tuesday morning the forecasted rain had moved back to the evening, and I took the e-bike ashore at the closest dock for the trek up the hill to CVS, by way of the post office and the dollar store.

I initially had the one-shot Janssen vaccine, and I opted to get Moderna for my booster. After the 15-minute wait period I went next door to the Weis supermarket, across the street from the aforementioned Elks lodge and thus very familiar, to stock up on provisions before heading back to the dock. It was a whirlwind errands trip, but I got to see a bit more of the town, further afield than walking distance. Before errands I made a quick stop at the old Susquehanna and Tidewater canal lock.

Final lock on the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal, where it rejoined the Susquehanna.

The rain arrived at dinner time and we had a nice dinner on board. Yesterday, forecast gale-force westerlies had us pinned on the boat all day, which was fine with me as the booster shot had me feeling low-energy for most of it. By dinner time the winds had let up considerably, and I ran ashore at the boat ramp with our insulated pizza carrier and picked up a pie at Nonnie's Brick Oven Pizza, which was quite good. After dinner we decked the tender for an early departure this morning.

While we were just fine in gale force westerlies at that anchorage, tomorrow's gale is easterly, so we needed to get out of dodge. We'll be on the eastern shore tonight, so we should be well protected.

City seal over the Maryland flag, painted on a piece of Amtrak infrastructure.

Update: We are docked at the free bulkhead in Rock Hall, Maryland (map). This is a familiar stop, but we were last here in 2014. We've secured the boat with extra lines for the storm. I am a little disappointed that the nearby power outlets are turned off, which means we will be running the gen here, but still it's nice to be able to just walk off the boat.