Alligator River, NC

We departed Elizabeth City, NC this am at 0900 hrs for the Alligator River 51 miles away. The day was spectacular at day break with the most beautiful sea smoke I have every seen. We had a strong Nor’easter off the NC coast that dumped SNOW on the northeast and chilly temps in NC. We awoke in a boat that was 40 degrees inside with a thin film of ice on the decks! WE NEED TO GET south ASAP! So I shot a few photos of the sunrise and the sea smoke as the yachts were leaving the city docks and then we had a wonderful sail south across Albemarle Sound in 18 knots NE winds. We killed the motor and actually sailed the entire way across the sound. We know that this could be the only sailing we could have until we reach the Florida Keys, so we set sail and enjoyed a beautiful day sail.

Tonight, we are anchored just before the Pungo Canal in Alligator River, where Radeen is on Alligator watch all night. We are keeping the alligators off the anchor chain as they are well known to climb up the anchor chain and pay a visit on your deck. Here is a photos to prove the point….

See, here is an Alligator trying to get onto the deck via the anchor chain!

Another GREAT day on the ICW as we press on south toward the Florida Keys! More photos and stories as we move into better internet access. Here, in Alligator River, Verizon has been sparse with the towers….we only have 1X speeds…

Elizabeth City, NC

Harbor of HOSPITALITY is so true
This town really makes boaters feel welcome

We arrived in Elizabeth City, NC, at the free city docks and we plan to wait out this cold front passage tonight and tomorrow. There is a strong low pressure building off the NC coast and this low will be blowing strong NE winds in the 30-35 MPH range. The same low will be causing SNOW in PA, MD and NY! It is COLD…but we are enjoying the town and taking care of common items.

Today I fixed a flat tire on the bike so I could then ride it 2 miles out to the bike shop where I had spokes repaired which turned into replacing the entire front rim for $40. Then I walked 1.5 miles to the grocery store to meet up with the IPY team, Radeen, Patricia and Eric who hopped a ride courtesy of Farm Fresh. After this adventure, I walked back to the bike shop, picked up my newly tuned up bike and rode it back to the boat where I returned it to the deck bag storage.

It is interesting, when living on a boat, how simple tasks such as going to the grocery store for milk, bread and eggs can take ALL DAY, especially when you have to walk or hitch a ride since you have no car. Life is simple, just imagine not having a car for a year, walk everywhere you need to go or ride a bike, and oh yea, carry or collect all the water you will need….these are the simple tasks you deal with when living on a boat. It is simple and it is fun.

Photos of the PASQUOTANK RIVER as you arrive Elizabeth City and some around town…

Anchored 8 miles before Elizabeth City, NC behind Goat Island
on the lovely Pasquotank River
Pasquotank River scenery is beautiful

You drive your boat around trees, as you exit the swamp

Elizabeth City Bridge, at an angle and double roads, opens on demand

A walk up main street and the restored homes in the historic district

Some more colorful than others

A must stop….the BEST coffee in town is at MUDDY WATERS

The local library is new, modern and very impressive. We always enjoy libraries!
The Elizabeth City Free Public Docks and tree lined brick walkway

Bow into the docks and a step to access the short finger pier
No tide here, so it is easy to set up a simple step

Roses are given to the ladies of transient boats as a tradition of the “Rose Buddies”
These are roses from Fred Fearing, the creator of the Rose Buddies in 1983

Bike services, fixed a flat tire and rode to the bike shop for new spokes

Great logo for the City, the good life is here….welcome to NC

Dismal Swamp to Pasquotank River

6am Photos of the Portsmouth Ferry Basin, Cutter Loose and Island Spirit

Long day…but fun day….Portsmouth VA to Goat Island NC, 43 miles

  • 0600 Wake to buy coffee from the Portsmouth Coffee shop 2 steps off our dock!
  • 0730 Depart Portsmouth, South Ferry Basin (way too soon for the bridge 8 miles away)
  • 0930 Gilmerton Lift Bridge
  • 1100 Enter Deep Creek Lock to be lifted 7′ up to the Dismal Swamp
  • 1130 Enter the swamp, run 22 miles for the other lock
  • 1530 Enter South Mills lock, drop down 7′ to Pasquotank River
  • 1800 Drop anchor behind Goat Island at mile marker 43
  • 1900 Make and serve hot pasta with beef, salad and wine
  • 2000 Process 205 digital photos taken today, select the best 12
  • 2030 Write this blog post

This is the 3rd time we have traveled the Dismal Swamp and I am still taken by the beauty of the canal. The overhanging trees, the lily pads, frogs, egrets, and tannic acid stained water, all make for a very unique experience. None of the 205 digital photos I shot today show the true beauty, you really need to transit this canal and take a look for yourself.

 These are the best photos, to share the experience….

Our First Bridge, Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridge in the UP position
The chaos at the Gilmeton Lift Bridge, 16 sailboats and 6 power yachts
Race for the bridge opening and the race south is on!
After the Gilmerton Bridge, you are presented a choice to divert to the Dismal Swamp
Or keep on straight for the Virginia Cut. Both run south to the ICW
We chose the SWAMP, where you have to enter Deep Creek Lock
and be lifted up 7 feet into the Dismal Swamp
The lock holds 10-15 yachts, we are all rafted up and the lock door is closed
Within 10 minutes we are all lifted up the 7 feet and the door opens to the Dismal Swamp
Radeen tending the bow line as we rise up
Lines need to be pulled in to keep the boat under control as the 1,200,000 gallons enter the lock!
There we are, lifted up to the top of the dismal swamp
The view into the swamp as the lock doors
The reflections in the Dismal Swamp are beautiful
Lucky for us, we were the lead boat or 12
More reflections and beautiful photos in the swamp
Look at that…..a view aft over the stern with the USA flag
The sign in the lock showing the mileage
1,217 miles to Key West……that is where we are going!
South Mills Lock, 22 miles from the Deep Creek lock
Time to lock DOWN out of the swamp and into the river
Lock doors opening and you are at river level
Welcome to the Pasquotank River, another gem!
Overhanging trees, and winding river bends, require total attention

Finally, we reach GOAT ISLAND and we drop anchor at 1800m hrs
What a great adventure

Onboard, all systems are running well. The motor is great, the fuel burn seems normal, and the speed is good. It has been very rewarding to tear down the motor systems, rebuild them and then take off for a 1,200 mile drive and have it all working better than ever. Tomorrow, we will move into Elizabeth City and take a break as we enjoy that town and the public library. Life onboard is a dream, it is easy, peaceful and adventurous. Thank you for following along….

Portsmouth-Norfolk VA

Daybreak over Willoughby Bay Spit, VA

Departing at daybreak, we carefully navigated the Naval Exit Channel out of Willoughby Bay into the the Elizabeth River toward Norfolk and Portsmouth Virginia. This passage we always find a bit stressful and challenging as you are dealing with Navy ships, tugs with barges, and 1,000 foot long container ships, all working the same narrow channel. We only had 9 miles to go today, but it seemed like 20 miles due to the all the ship traffic. Welcome to the AM rush hour in a busy seaport harbor! Radeen had the helm and I managed the navigation as we pushed on to Portsmouth, where we moved into the South Ferry Basin and docked right up against the city streets. This is such a fantastic spot with a friendly coffee shop only steps from our boat!

Our buddy boat, IP460 Cutter Loose in the AM sun

We rode the commuter ferry over to Watersides in Norfolk where we enjoyed seeing the Tidewater Community College and had lunch at a Cuban restaurant. Back in Portsmouth, we walked the old town and historic districts. The evening was capped off with our favorite dinner movie theater, the Commodore Dinner Theater. This beautiful 1945 movie theater has been converted to a restaurant where you may order sandwiches and salads along with wine or beer and then turn your comfortable chairs to enjoy the latest run movies. We saw “Footloose” – fun!

Tomorrow we will make the 0930 Gilmerton Bridge opening. giving us access to the Great Dismal Swamp and locks. Thank you Portsmouth for the use of the ferry terminals, we greatly appreciate this town’s hospitality.

Photos of the day….

Again, we had the honor of traveling next to PANGAEA the world explorer
We dodged container ships in the morning light
This one was actually a USA flagged ship from Philadelphia, a first…

Of course it was followed by a container ship from Singapore
Look at the scale of these ships. That is 13 tractor trailer boxes across!
There it is R36, Intracoastal waterway mile marker #1
The trip starts here, only 1,100 miles to the Florida Keys!
Two IPs docked right in the city of Portsmouth VA and walked the town
This is the South Ferry Basin in Portsmouth, VA
Norfolk…..Mermaids on Parade….these sculptures are everywhere
over 100 in the town!
Island Spirit docked in Portsmouth, VA

Overall, another wonderful day as we revisited these two great waterfront towns, Norfolk and Portsmouth, our official starting point for the ICW run south. Now, we can enter the SWAMP and we hope it is not a “dismal” day….more on that next…

CAVU day, beautiful

This is a CAVU day….beautiful

As our good friend Ron would say….This is a CAVU day! Ron is an air traffic controller and CAVU, his boat name, stands for Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited. So, yes, it was a CAVU day as we pressed on towards Norfolk. VA. We departed Jackson Creek at 0800 and arrived Willoughby Bay at 1500 where we dropped anchor just off the stern of our buddy boat, IP460 Cutter Loose.  We always prefer to come into this bay rest and then move into Norfolk or Portsmouth. It is only another 8-9 miles, but after a full day of powering down the bay, we prefer to NOT press on into the congested river with all its commercial shipping and Naval activity. This anchorage is calm and 10 feet deep everywhere. It is also a hub of Naval Air activity with helicopters, and planes working the area. It is exciting to see our servicemen doing what they do best, and I am proud to know a few personally. The excitement of the day was seeing some special ships… one a UFO from the Navy doing 33 knots (see photo below!), another world famous sailing expedition ship arriving from the Northwest Passage, and a Navy guided missile destroyer. Arriving in Norfolk is always exciting and challenging and on a CAVU day, it could not be better. The evening was topped off with a gourmet dinner aboard Cutter Loose with Eric’s high school classmate Jim and wife Chris.

Photos of the day…

Wolf Trap Lighthouse, VA
NAVY UFO….we guess? It was doing 33 knots, northbound
Look at the special radar sides and check out that wake!

How about this show of power, a guided missile destroyer, the USS Ross

Then came sailing vessel PANGAEA, the world explorer
Check out
We dropped anchor in Willoughby Bay and enjoyed the helicopter fly overs
Radeen, Hayden, with Patrica and Eric, our friends on IP460 Cutter Loose

What a great day afloat with wonderful friends! Traveling by sailboat is easy, safe and peaceful, especially when the weather is good like these past three days. Tonight the winds are to build to 20+ after midnight and we need to move into a more protected area tomorrow. We live by the weather….that is the life of a boater.

Fall Southbound

AM Rush Hour SUN GLARE Departing Solomons
Dew covered windshields keep fogging up

Since this is our first trip south, we are experiencing new aspects of fall sailing. For example, enjoying chilly nights behind the full enclosure and waking up to a boat that is 50 degrees. We have zero visibility as the morning dew coats the windshields and the enclosure. Steam off your coffee fogging up your glasses, and wearing  fleece, lots and lots of fleece! Yes, this is FALL Southbound and we are enjoying the new experiences. One sure sign we are moving south was the arrival of the BROWN PELICAN. These sea birds are such graceful gliders as they soar inches off the water. Then they climb up, do a barrel roll and dive directly head first into the water filling their bills with fish. What a show. Mix in the constant flow of commercial shipping, car carriers, tugs pushing cranes, and container ships and you have a never ending scene to enjoy. We are into day #2 as we left Solomons MD at 0730 and pulled into Jackson Creek at 1700 running another 50+ mile day. Our motor work is working out very well as our engine is smoother, quieter, faster and more efficient.  Today, we plan to make Norfolk, VA, only 38 miles away, and rest up in Willoughby Bay before moving into Portsmouth for some explorations.

Look at the contrast of this day…

Morning mist light by the sunrise off Solomons, MD
AM Dew, washes the boat. I always say that keeping varnished teak on a boat
is like keeping your best piece of furniture outside and then TRYING TO MAINTAIN the finish!

BRRR….Radeen enjoys and finishes a book off watch

Point No Point Lighthouse, Chesapeake Bay
Tug pushing a large crane up the B,ay. This was a first…

PELICANS….we are getting there now. Yes, Virginia has Brown Pelicans
Car Carrier named Horizon Leader, 656′ long, 105′ wide, 13 decks tall.
Carries 6,650 cars, we called him on the radio and he told us the specs, interesting!
Speed….20 knots! Get out of the way!
Smith Point Lighthouse, south of the Potomac River, on a Sunday afternoon
Container Ship with Tractor Trailer Boxes full of imported goods.
Click this picture and count the boxes wide! UNREAL
By late afternoon, the fleece comes off and we enjoy the warm sun
Anchor down in Jackson Creek along with IP460 Cutter Loose.
Another Great day….

Life is fantastic aboard a well running boat. It is simple, it is peaceful, and adventurous. Next stop…Norfolk and Portsmouth, VA, then the Dismal Swamp.

ICW South Departure

5+5=10… YEARS in the planning…for this day!
We did it, we depart for the ICW South to Bahamas.

After what seemed like forever working on the boat and preparing for our trip south, we finally left the dock in Rock Hall, MD for our first trip SOUTH on the ICW, Intracoastal Waterway. Destination the Florida Keys and Bahamas! We have been planning and dreaming of this day for well over 10 years and to actually have it arrive seemed like a dream. I have to say, the most difficult aspect of any voyage is actually leaving the dock. It is so easy to get yourself into an endless vortex of fixing one more thing, installing one more item, buying one more car load, and stowing all the items, that you might never leave. We fell into this deeply and my best guess is that we stored well over 15 dock carts of “stuff” on Island Spirit. Amazingly, it all fits! Island Packets have a lot of storage space and now we know just how much. We probably have enough onboard to sail around the world, but we are only driving to Florida. This is the reality of all new cruisers, we are told. We take too much and worry too much! So for now, we are very happy that we departed the docks and we look forward to the adventures ahead.

Here are some photos of the day…

Good friend Rich sailed out Swan Creek with us
Rich and Wanda have the coolest sailing son, Connor
Check out this great boat name: R-Wanda-OR
South of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge looking towards Annapolis
I love to photograph this structure.
Our first ship, the MSC Sindy
Those are containers or tractor trailer boxes full of imported products
1,100 feet long, 10 boxes high, 10-15 wide, and 15 rows plus below decks.
We are employing the Chinese at $1/hr while we lay off USA workers!
We need to equalize the world labor cost in all products or else we will NEVER have jobs!
Cove Point Lighthouse off Solomons, MD
with Dominion Cove Point Liquid Natural Gas Storage Tanks over the hill
We dropped anchor as the sun was setting over the bow
Radeen is a great cook and made a wonderful hot beef dinner.
Yes, that is steam rising. It is a bit nippy out here!
Boat buddies Eric and Patricia aboard IP460 Cutter Loose took this
photo of Island Spirit as we arrived in Solomons.
Overall…this was our BEST first day ever. The boat ran well, our motor work seems to be running smoothly, and the weather is PERFECT. Looks like we have 5 days ahead of high pressure.
The run south begins. Thank you for traveling along.

Summer Sail 2011 MAP

As we make final preparations for our ICW south bound departure, we created this Google Map of our summer 2011 sail to Maine.While up in Maine we attended the Norm and Mary Pierce Island Packet Yacht Owners’ Rendezvous in Boothbay Harbor. We also explored many of these map pins with our good friends Eric and Patricia on IP460 Cutter Loose. What a fantastic summer as we traveled another 1,500 miles round trip. For example: 30-35 knots ALL NIGHT offshore heading north; 10+ WHALES when crossing the Portland Shipping Lanes; Hiking Acadia; FOG zero viz; Full BEATING exiting the Cape Cod Canal into Buzzards Bay with 30 knots SW against opposing 6 knot current=killer waves; Block Island paradise; Out running Hurricane IRENE; and enjoying friends along the way…

View the interactive MD to Maine 2011 larger map
See our right hand side bar for all our Google Maps

View MD to Maine 2011 in a larger map

Sept-Oct Friends

We have been slacking on our blog but we have been having a great time with good friends for the months of September and October as we have day sailed out of our home slip in Rock Hall, MD. In addition to sailing over to and enjoying Annapolis for weekends, we also have made several drives home to our beautiful home where we re-connected with good friends for a few home town BBQs. Here is a photo essay of the past month…next adventure begins soon, with the run SOUTH on the ICW!
Anita and Mark visit home for a BBQ.
Do these Grls look like college roommates? They were…
Anita & Hayden taught together at the same High School….for 1/2 year!
Sorry I left you, Anita…to go off sailing.
Jim and Hayden enter a secret pact…can’t tell you.
Good time with Jim and Gail, more college roommates

Radeen and Gail sail the Chesapeake Bay
College Roommates also!
Girls….visiting on the bow, Radeen and Gail

Jim, Radeen and Gail say goodbye to Island Spirit on the docks
Great time, unexpectedly good sailing!

A beautiful sunset in a rhombus shape, how unusual!

Dianne and Gene visit for a weekend adventure and sail to Annapolis
Thank you Dianne for the great IPY new clothespin bags….very cool

The WENDY CUP RACE kicks off.
Wendy and Craig sail Island Spirit in Small Craft Advisories for Annapolis
We get in a race….Hence….the Wendy Cup is born!

We have Island Spirit locked on the bridge.
Craig is a master at the helm and upwind sailing!

We win the Wendy Cup and take mooring ball #1
My FAV in Annapolis for the weekend

We celebrate the victory meal with competitor Dave on IP35 Eau de Vie
Dave was a good sport and let us WIN as we cut to corner for the “A” spider at Annapolis

Craig provides our LIVE music program on Island Spirit
We have our usual sing along and fantastic music that Craig provides!
Thank you CRAIG we LOVE the guitar skills you bring onboard!

BRRRRR….we sail home in cold Weather, but Annapolis is so much fun.

Island Spirit knows the way….autopilot for home

I never get tired of photographing this bridge
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge

We sail under with ease, heading for home

BRRRRR….thank you, full ENCLOSURE
This is early October,  sailing on the Chesapeake Bay

We return home to be greeted by our pet HERON, named HERBERT

OK…back to Annapolis MD for the SAILBOAT SHOW
WE love to go to this by boat….Off we go again…

Time to CELEBRATE 10 Yrs CANCER FREE!!!!!! THANK YOU Dr. Kevin Fox!
We plan a night of reflection at the Chart House Restaurant.
Radeen looks so beautiful.

Time to reflect. We bought Island Spirit when Radeen was on chemo.
Now, 10 yrs later, and 12,000+ miles we are healthy and happier than ever!

Annapolis Boat Show Time…
Five Days of boat show, Thur to Monday
Seminars on the ICW, Gulf Stream, and the Bahamas

Conrad and Myrna host THE BEST Wine and Cheese Party EVER!
Thank you team Oro Negro for a great night.

Captain Blaine Parks joins the party in Annapolis…
hey…Who let this cool dog into this party????

Sadly, there are friends who were un-photographed, like Fred & Gail who came for a Friday nite B-B-Q.  John & Nancy came to the Boat Show with gourmet meals and invited us to their new home in Lancaster for Sail-Rite sewing lessons, but there are no pictures to prove it!

So….overall….it has been a great time visiting with friends, sharing our passion for sailing and simply living the dream! We have been onboard since June 24, and it is now October 20. We have lived aboard nearly 4 months, we sailed to Acadia, Maine, and every day we appreciate how lucky we are to be here.

Thank you to all our friends for sharing in our sailing dreams!