Sea Trials, Highwind Adrift, Miami and New Year – Quite the Week

After Chrismas our plan was to spend the next week in the Ft Lauderdale area. We had managed to confirm an engine survey, hull survey, and sea trial for the new boat in the week between Christmas and New Year. We would be renting a car and driving up to Stuart for two days to oversee this process. We moved the boat out of the Hall of Fame marina where we’d stayed for Christmas and set up shop on one of the buoys of the Las Olas City Marina. It was pretty close quarters in the mooring field. We had to snug up our lines on the buoy pretty close, but even so, on part of our swing, our stern was about 15 feet from a brand new 75-footer Viking that was for sale. We had nearly a full week of consistent 20kt winds ahead of us, so we had pretty constant swinging and pulling on the lines for the buoy. The mooring field (2 other buoys) filled up with other boats.

Everything for the first day of the survey was relatively uneventful. We spent almost the entire day poking at every button, switch, window, device, etc., and didn’t find anything major wrong. In the evening, back in Ft. Lauderdale, with the rented car we were able to venture a little further for outdoor-dinner and re-visited a spot from when we’d first arrived and had a car for loading and prepping the boat.

Sneak peak of view from new boat flybridge/pilot house

On the second day of the survey – the sea trial, we had to voyage north to Ft Pierce (a 2 hour boat ride) to the only place that had availability to haul out the boat for the hull survey on such short notice. As we were nearing Ft Pierce, David receives a phone call. It was the coast guard, informing us that Highwind was currently on someone’s dock. Apparently, the buoy anchor line (the one holding the buoy to the sea-floor) had snapped and Highwind had drifted, missing all the moored boats, and the brand new Viking, right into someone’s empty dock. He’d been nice enough to tie us down and then called the coast guard to have them look us up.

There was no apparent damage to the boat. OMG. We are so lucky – it could have been so much worse. The coast guard gave us this good samaritan’s phone number. We called him up to find out more information. As it turns out, the dock had been empty, but he was expecting delivery of a brand new boat shortly. We then received a call from the captain of this new boat. He was a bit of a beginner, and in the heavy winds was not pleased about the idea of rafting off Highwind. He demanded that we have Highwind towed to a marina. At this point, we were a 2 hour boat ride from our rental car in Stuart, which was a 1.5hr drive from Ft Lauderdale. There was no way we would be able to get south in time to sort anything out. We called BoatUS, who are pros at moving boats without anyone on them, and within 45 mins, they were at our friend’s house and had moved Highwind to a spot we’d secured with the Las Olas Marina. He even sent us some photos!

We decided that there wasn’t much we could do, so we focused on the remainder of the day with the sea trial, hull survey, and engine survey. Once we arrived back in Stuart, we headed straight back to Ft Lauderdale to check out Highwind. BoatUS had done a fantastic job securing her in the marina and there was no damage at all- I saw only a few rub marks where she’d touched the dock without fenders, but it was superficial only. Again, we were SO LUCKY.

We’ve been having unseasonably strong winds for the week and the forecast was set for them to die down on New Years Day, so we discussed the possibility of spending one more night in Ft Lauderdale before heading south towards the Keys. When we woke the next morning and spoke with marina, they did not mention anything about paying for our night on the dock (we’d already paid for the mooring buoy!), but were going to charge us a huge amount to stay where we were for another day, or a slightly less amount to move to a different slip in the marina. We decided that if we were going to untie, we might as well just head south to Miami, even with the fairly heavy winds. We headed down yet another slow/no wake/idle speed only section of the ICW and took 5 hours to go 20 miles. This was New Years Eve and we saw so many boats filled with people (probably not a single boat with less than 5).

New Years Eve partiers in Miami

When we got close to our intended anchorage spot, we saw through the binoculars that there were about a hundred boats moored there, so we decided to head a little further to Key Biscayne Bay. This was a little quieter, and we dropped anchor just in time for a beautiful sunset, a bottle of champagne, and a quiet evening on the boat, followed by fireworks 360 degrees at midnight.

This year wasn’t quite the adventure that we had planned, but as it turned out we have been fortunate to have still done so much in relative safety during a global pandemic. We have fallen in love with this lifestyle and are planning to try for the full Great Loop next year. Living in close quarters is not without its struggles but we are both happy and well (my bad shoulder notwithstanding) and we look forward to what 2021 brings – in particular vaccines as soon as we can get them!!

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Stuart to Ft Lauderdale, Christmas on Highwind

After looking on the potential new boat at Stuart, we decided that we were interested enough to make an offer, so we decided to head back to another anchor spot east of the marina for a couple of days during the negotiation process (to avoid marina fees!). However, on one of the (weekend) days, our main propane tank that runs my stove and oven ran out. We decided to see if there was a place to refill in town, since we had no other plans for the day. I found an Ace Hardware within walking distance of the town dock and called them to confirm (3 times!) that they did do propane refills. We dropped the dingy down, filled it up with our two tanks and the dock cart and headed in to town. It was about a mile walk along the road.

David pulling the two propane tanks to town

When we arrived to the Ace Hardware, the first sign of trouble was that they did not have the large propane tank sitting in the car park. I went in to the store and it turns out that they only did propane tank swapping – despite me confirming that we would be bringing our own tanks to refill! We then promptly got on our phones and started calling every marina and possible other place within reasonable walking distance around town to see if anyone would be able to refill our tanks. We found a few places that would be able, but were not open on the weekends.

While we were both on our phones, a friendly patron of the hardware store came over to talk to David. He recognized our situation (a fellow boat owner) and let us know of a place a couple of miles away that would be open, and he offered to give us a ride. This was a little concerning to us primarily due to covid, but he was wearing a mask and said we could put the windows down. While he was picking up what he needed in the hardware store, we called the place that he suggested to confirm that they would be open. Turns out the store did not do refills, but in there parking lot there was a random dude who did…sketchy!! Well, we decided we’d give it a go, and loaded our tanks and cart into the guys car. He was very friendly and also a live-aboard boater, spending a couple of months staying put in Stuart for the winter. We arrived at the propane place, and lo and behold, it was a random guy, with a large tank in the parking lot who was open during the weekend to do propane refills. We were able to refill the tanks and the guy drove us right back to the marina where we’d parked the dingy! Propane adventure successfully complete!

It turned out that we couldn’t get surveys done on the new boat until after Christmas, so there wasn’t a lot of point in hanging out nearby for another two weeks. So we decided to start heading south, with our plan being to make a base of Ft Lauderdale for the Christmas weekend. We stopped in Palm Beach for one night at a marina so that I could do a last load of laundry before getting to the house in the Keys.

As we were pulling out of Palm Beach, we drove by a ship-shipping ship that was either being loaded or unloaded. Pretty cool to see in real life the type of vessel that brought Highwind to the east coast.

The next stretch of the ICW is probably our least favourite – consisting of lots of bridges with clearance lower than our boat, with specific opening times during the hour, and LOADS of slow/no wake/idle speed only zones. It took us 9 hours to travel 40 miles (we can ordinarily do 100 miles or more in about that time period) to arrive into Ft Lauderdale on Christmas Eve. This was actually the first section of the ICW that we travelled back in March when we started our trip. We reminisced that we were so starry-eyed with the newness of boating on the East Coast that we didn’t realize how slow and boring this section really is! We agreed that any passages through this area moving forward will be done on good weather days going outside (in the open ocean), rather than up or down the ICW.

The most outrageous Christmas decorations seen in the slow zone of the ICW

We decided to see if there was anything open in Ft Lauderdale, despite it being Christmas Eve, so we headed off the boat for a short walk to the Las Olas Beach area where we knew (from our trip last year to the Ft Lauderdale Boat Show) that there was a strip of restaurants with outdoor seating open on to the beach. Turns out everything was open and it was actually quite busy! We managed to find a place that had fewer people and a good amount of space. We had excellent Mexican food and giant margaritas, which is actually a Short family tradition for Christmas Eve, so that turned out well!

For Christmas we had planned to spend the day to ourselves on the boat and do various family Zooms. It was a little sad to not be able to travel home for the holidays and see people in person. We are really looking forward to when we can get vaccinated and we’ll be able to travel home! I also had decided to cook Cornish Hens for our Christmas dinner- they turned out delicious, though David grumbled a bit about the ROI of meat to picking off the bones. :). Overall, a pretty good holiday, all things considered.

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Daytona Beach, Anchoring, Fort Pierce & Stuart

After St Augustine, we headed to Daytona beach, and dropped anchor in a spot just off the ICW. Unfortunately, we were spending only one night here, on a week day, and the weather was starting to get a little cold, so the odds were stacked against us actually visiting the beach. However, after a busy work day, while google-mapping what was near us, we discovered we were a short hop from a distillery: Copper Bottom Spirits. So we put down the dingy and headed to shore. We discovered that the restaurant attached to a nearby marina offered free temporary moorage to guests of the restaurant, so we put our name down in the queue for their outdoor deck (a 1 hour wait!) and headed off to the distillery.

When we arrived at the distillery, we were the only people there, so the owner let us into the back room/warehouse and gave us a tour. We’d never actually toured a distillery before, just lots of wineries/breweries, so this was a neat treat.

Their specialty is rum, offering several different varieties aged in different types of barrels: Sherry, Port, Whiskey, and even several beers. They also started doing a from-scratch Vodka recently, which is apparently a very rare thing, as almost everyone buys high-proof source Vodka from one of a few giant producers, and then just adds their own flavors/water/filtering and bottle it.

He talked about their entire process, most of which they do manually, from sugar cane through to bottling/labeling, including the long distillation process in the middle. It was fun to chat with him about everything, because the business was obviously a labor of love, not just a job. Anyone passing through here with an appreciation for liquor should stop in and get a tour/tasting!

After the tour, we went out to the tasting room and actually got to try everything. Their “base” aged rum was at least as interesting as our current “drinking rum” choice, the Plantation 20th anniversary, and the various barrel-finished rums were fascinating. We ended up picking up a variety of their rums. The vodka actually had a drinkable flavor, unlike virtually all other vodkas we’ve tried, but we’re not really vodka folks, so with limited space on the boat we passed. At the end, they, like everyone else in these coastal towns, turned out to be boaters, so we talked about our trip as well, as the nightly Christmas boat parade bobbed by outside their tasting room window.

Back at the restaurant (1.5hrs later), our name still hadn’t been called, but after a few more minutes of waiting, our table was finally ready. This was a pretty gimmicky restaurant and it turned out our table was a rocking contraption, which moved when you climbed in or set it to motion! We also ordered a tiki drink that was served in a take-home coconut carved with a pirate face.

Strange rocking chair table

Since it was still mid-week we did another short hop to a somewhat random spot 15ish miles south, just off the ICW, where we dropped anchor.

David had discovered that there was a nearby German restaurant that was very highly reviewed, with its own dock. After another busy work day, we dropped the dingy and headed again to shore. The temperature was getting much colder at this point, and the restaurant staff were pretty surprised by our desire to sit outside, but we insisted, so we were led out to their deserted porch. It was a delicious meal!

Next up, we headed to Fort Pierce and decided to stay there for a couple of days to be there on the weekend. We spent the first evening at a brewery (Sail Fish) very close to the marina where David tasted a couple of the beers.

The next day we dropped the bikes down and rode to a nearby botanical garden, which turned out to house one of the largest collections of bonsai trees in the country! The gardens were all set up for their holiday season light event, so you can see those in the photos.

After the bike ride, we ended up at a cider brewer (Pierced Cider Works), where we were able to sample all of their 10 different ciders! They had a great band playing in their garden seating area, so we spent a couple of hours going through the samples, playing cards and listening to music. It was really a rather perfect afternoon, and much more like what we were hoping to spend the year on the loop doing. Maybe late next year after we’re all vaccinated we’ll have more opportunities like this…

As we were walking back to the boat, the sun was setting and the sky was beautiful.

Sunset over Fort Pierce

After Fort Pierce, we headed south to Stuart. We’d been planning this stop for a while as there was a boat in the marina here that we wanted to take a look around. We’d gotten to Stuart a few days early, so instead of going into the expensive marina for a few weeknights, we anchored a few miles downriver instead, in a huge open cove with good holding and minimal wakes from passing sport fisher boats. We enjoyed a few perfect evenings of still water and perfect weather here before heading into the marina Wednesday morning.

At the end of the work day, we took a tour of the boat (very nice! we have some thinking to do…) and then dropped the bikes down and headed in to town for some errands. At the end of the line, we ended up at another brewery (Ocean Republic Brewing) for a tasting. We are finding that when we only have an evening in a place, the sun sets at 5pm, and we are still avoiding inside activities, that breweries seem to be our main option of off-boat entertainment, so it’s possible we’re just alcoholics at this point. Thanks COVID.

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Jacksonville Beach and St Augustine

As we pulled out of the south end of Dunbar creek and rounded the southern tip of St Simons Island, we drove very close to the salvage area and got an even closer view of the overturned ship.

For this leg, since the weather was good we decided to try going outside of the ICW. Though the waves were predicted to be 6 seconds apart (a pretty tight interval), they were actually closer together, and more random, so it was rocky enough that I battened down the inside of the boat for the trip. However, once we turned the corner, the waves shifted to the stern and made it an uneventful voyage.

We landed in Jacksonville Beach. Here, we were able to meet up with some family friends of mine whom I have known for essentially my entire life (pre-move to America, certainly). They had recently moved from Seattle to Jacksonville Beach, so we grabbed a spot in a marina near their new place and arranged to eat an outdoor dinner. The benefit of a Floridian winter is that this is comfortably possible even on Nov 30!

Due to our hasty boat-packing experience last winter when we readied Highwind for shipping to FL, we still had all of our holiday lights for decorating the boat for Seattle’s Christmas Ships cruises in December. We fished them out of deep storage and adorned Highwind for the holidays and she’s now looking very festive.

Our next destination was St Augustine. We had only stopped here for a couple of days on our way north mid-week and this was the exact time of the Florida Covid lockdown.

It’s the oldest city in the US, with a historic downtown area, and there is a distillery where we knew we needed to pick up some refills from our previous stop! We ended up staying here for several nights in order to be able to fit in some touring with our busy work schedules. We were able to have a couple of outdoor dinners and also walked around the historic district and the fort just outside of town.

From here, we are back in fast-transit mode for most of December. We’re trying to get down to Stuart (~200nm away) by the 16th to look at a boat that we may be interested in purchasing, and then down to Key Largo (~400nm away) to spend the month of January at an AirBnB with Hannah’s family. So expect mostly a lot of transiting for the next few weeks. Disappointingly, it looks like the only rocket launch in December will be while we’re too far north to see anything, so now we’re hoping for one on the way back up in the “spring”. Alas.

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Thanksgiving on St Simons Island

Dunbar Creek by drone, Highwind moored bottom left

From Sunbury we headed south to St Simons Island, our intended destination for Thanksgiving weekend. We had not stopped on the island on our way north, so this would be a new place for us to explore. We had been invited by some friends from Meydenbauer Yacht Club to share Thanksgiving with them in their winter island home, where they had been largely stranded due to Covid. They live right on Dunbar Creek, which runs through the island and had a dock large enough for us to tie up, ish.

Highwind on Jim and Leslie’s dock on Dunbar Creek

We had been invited for the whole week, so in addition to hanging out and doing some touring of the island, we had planned to work on several large projects on the boat. David wanted to rebuild the old broken alternator to become a spare, we needed to rebuild the solar setup on the bimini top, and David was re-doing our internet setup on the boat (more details here). This resulted in the boat immediately becoming a war zone of tools, boxes, and cables.

On our “solar panel rebuild” day, we laid out the bimini top on the dock next to the boat and started securing (involved elastic ties through eyelets and many zipties to some PVC piping that will rest over the bimini frame to assist with some of the weight of the panels). After we were about half way through, the sky opened up and began to pour. I mean cats and dogs pouring. After some minutes of panicked organization to get everything we could into the dry, we were completely sodden. We hid in the boat for a couple of hours until the rain stopped and everything had dried enough for us to keep going! We then had to lift the entirely constructed panel from the dock, up and over the side of the boat and secure it into place via zippers to all the other panels. All of this was happening while we were being eaten alive by no-see-ums. All in all, not my favourite boat project! However, we finally got everything secured and plugged in and David is very happy with the completed set up!

We had a wonderful time with Jim and Leslie who invited us up to the house for happy hour and dinner each day. We enjoyed largely a week of sunshine and weather in the high seventies (aside from the aforementioned rain storm). It is sometimes a little surreal to think that we were sitting outside in summer clothes watching the sun set at the end of November! Jim and Leslie also gave us a tour of St Simons Island. They both grew up on the island, and were able to share a lot about its history and pointed out to us how it has changed.

If you recall from our post around the time of Jekyll Island, at the southern point of St Simons, there was an overturned containership stuck in the shallow water. The salvage mission is still under way. I believe they have spent the better part of the year creating a large structure that sits over the ship which will use a huge chain to saw it into pieces for removal. We drove by the ship from a large distance on our way north, but were able to get a much better view from the public pier in the middle of town, where you can now see the chainsaw archway. They are anticipating that the ship pieces will not be removed until potentially the spring of next year!

On the actual day of Thanksgiving, we were joined by Leslie’s sister and her daughter, both of whom where at some risk of exposure to Covid due to their jobs, so we spent most of the afternoon outside on the balcony and then David and I ate at a distanced table across the dining room. Despite the arrangements, we had a wonderful and delicious dinner.

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Beaufort, Savannah and Sunbury

Sunset after the storm

Since the weather was pretty dreary, it was the middle of the week and we knew another storm was coming, we decided to head to Beaufort, rather than all the way to Savannah.

We actually did something unusual for this leg, which was to set out in the afternoon, rather than the morning due to the tidal schedule. This section of the ICW has a bunch of very-shoaled spots that, even with Bob423 tracks, you really don’t want to be going through at low tide. With high tides around 3am and 3pm, we didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter for timing.

While underway we called the Lady’s Island Marina to make a same-day reservation and discovered unfortunately that they were all full that night, but had room for us the next day. Since the storm would be hitting the next day, and no wind was predicted overnight, we decided to anchor near the marina and get tied up as soon as possible in the morning. As we pulled into the inlet with the marina (with about 10 mins to spare before we both had to jump on meetings), the area with “lots of space” according to the marina’s dockmaster turned out to be full! With little other choice, we drove past the marina hoping for a spot further into the inlet. There wasn’t much room, but since it was getting dark (darn winter) and we both needed to be on calls, we dropped the anchor, set up a tight radius on our anchor alarm and went back to work.

We moved into the marina in the morning, and the remnants of tropical storm Eta hit later in the day. We had some strong wind and some short-lived mini-monsoons, but were otherwise ok. We heard from some boating friends who were anchored outside of Charleston that they were dragging their anchor in 40kt winds, so we were glad to be in the shelter of a marina and a few more miles inland! After that, the weather started improving and we ended up being able to have outdoor dinner on the patio of the restaurant next door to the marina and I was able to walk to the grocery store to provision. I also managed to go for a run!

We knew we wanted to get to Savannah on the weekend, so on Saturday morning we did a fairly long cruise from Beaufort all the way to Savannah. When coming North we had stayed at a marina 8 miles south of Savannah, knowing that everything was closed due to Covid and there wouldn’t be much to do. With Georgia currently having few restrictions, we figured that there would be a few more options, so we decided to stay in a more expensive marina right in the heart of the historical part of town. This was great, as we could hop right off the boat; however late Saturday afternoon as we arrived, the area was crowded with tourists and almost no masks in sight! We decided to go for a walk to explore a little. There were several restaurants open with outdoor seating, but they were right in the middle of the sidewalk with pedestrians passing by 1-2 feet from the tables. We hurried back to the boat and ordered delivery for dinner!

The next day, I had booked us another walking tour of the city. Our tour guide clearly had a great love for the city and we learned a ton about its history from founding to present. It was very interesting to experience the differences in character between Charleston and Savannah.

On Monday morning, we did a short hop to an anchorage on the Vernon River and the next day in the Little Tom Creek. These were great little spots, where we were alone. Nothing too exciting happened here – we both had days packed with meetings. Since it’s winter, the sun usually sets while we are still on work calls. One of these nights, I was sitting outside on a call at sunset. It was very beautiful, but since I was presenting, I was only able to take a couple of bad shots with my phone through the boat canvas. My portion of presenting ended, so I just had time to stand up to get this shot of the last little bit of light with the moon over head, while still wearing my headset on the call!

On Wednesday, we reached the stretch of the ICW where, due to Georgia’s very restrictive anchoring laws, we would be only able to stay in marinas. We had wanted to revisit Sunbury Crab Co, a restaurant with a marina that is about 8 miles off of the ICW. When we stopped here on the way North, we had eaten the most amazing grilled flounder that either of us had ever eaten before. Unfortunately the restaurant failed to live up to our memories a second time – the founder was good, but it wasn’t the flaky, melty, deliciousness that we both remembered. Since our next leg is at least 40 miles due to anchorage restrictions and lack of marinas, we ended up staying on the dock at Sunbury for the rest of the week, so that we could make the next leg on the weekend.

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North Carolina

From Coinjock, we headed south towards the Alligator River. Along the way, we ran into a problem getting up on plane; Highwind just wasn’t getting up to speed as she should be. We were getting to the right RPMs, but fuel usage was way high at those RPMs, so the motor was having to work too hard to maintain those RPMs. As such, we assumed there was some kind of an issue with the running gear – either we hit something or snagged something. I got on the phone and started calling around to find a diver that would be able to come and check out the bottom of the boat in any of the towns that we’d be heading through. We determined that the most sensible place to get a diver would be Belhaven, which is just south of the Alligator River. We’d be able to make it there doing trawler speed – it would just mean a couple of longer cruises than we expected. At the north end of the Alligator River is a bridge with very low clearance and as we were approaching, we discovered that the opening mechanism had broken earlier that day, and they had no ETA for opening. That left us essentially trapped (along with a handful of other boats); the alternate route around being much longer and not something we wanted to do without the ability to plane. We dropped the anchor north of the bridge and decided to wait and hope that it would be fixed the next day.

When we awoke in the morning, the boat was COVERED in bugs, but the bridge was planning to open at noon, so we pulled up the anchor and started heading south. As David was testing out the speed/planing issue, we discovered that it appeared to have resolved itself. We were now able to plane and reach our normal cruising speed, at normal fuel usage. This really implied we had been dragging a crabpot or something for a while, and while maneuvering for anchoring/unanchoring, had managed to eject it. We decided to still get a diver out to check out the bottom regardless, so we headed south down the Alligator River into the Pungo River all in one shot, basically taking the afternoon off work, since the Pungo canal is the one spot on the whole loop where we have poor internet, even with our giant antenna. We also read that the bug issue was common on the Alligator River and they were less prevalent in the Pungo, so getting out of the Alligator seemed prudent. This was a fairly long cruise and we dropped anchor in the Pungo right as the sun was setting.

The next morning we headed in to Belhaven, this time staying at the Belhaven Marina (last time we stayed on the town dock). The diver was there to meet us and found nothing wrong, besides a few fresh scuffs around the rudder suggesting that we might have snagged a crab pot recently, but no smoking gun. The marina host was extremely friendly and gave me a ride to the grocery store to re-provision and the laundry facilities at the marina were free, so I was very happy, domestically-speaking. Now that we are so far south, we seemed to have discovered a new Summer with the weather being warm and sunny (and humid). We were happy to discover that the restaurant we ate at before (the one that gave us free wine and flowers) was still open and we had another delicious take-out meal, since they had only indoor dining available. While waiting outside for food, we chatted with a local resident who told us about a rooftop bar in Beaufort (one of our next destinations). We also chatted with our sailboat neighbors in the marina – also live-aboards who cruise up and down the ICW.

After getting a clean bill of health from the diver, we headed south to Oriental. We had planned to stay here a couple of days, since we’d been on the move every day for a little bit. We stayed in the same marina, and its outdoor Tiki Bar was now open, so we had a happy hour cocktail and also ate on the outdoor patio of a restaurant that on our previous visit had only been open for take-out. Where the marina’s grass lawn/tiki bar/patio area had been deserted on our first time through, it was now very busy in the late afternoon through the evening. We also didn’t see any masks, so we ended up mostly staying to ourselves on the boat.

Us staying to ourselves in Oriental – me reading and David napping

Beaufort was the next stop and we planned to stay there for the weekend. We had not stayed here on our way up – we stayed at Moorehead City just across from it (which was actually an unplanned-storm-shelter stop for us). We had heard that there would be some boat races there that weekend. We went into the main street and located the rooftop bar for sunset drinks and dinner.

The next morning was pretty windy and rainy. Our plan had been to take the bikes out for a ride over to Moorhead City to see if we could see the boat races and to get some pastries from a bakery I found there. We decided to wait a little bit to see if the rain would stop. We also discovered the bakery was closed on Sundays…boo. After an hour, the rain had basically stopped, so we got the bikes out and rode to Moorehead City to do some errands. Unfortunately we couldn’t see any of the races, so we just turned around and headed back to the boat. But David got an unexpected stop at a Harbor Freight and picked up some new toys.

Our next stop was Swansboro – another town that we had skipped on the way north. You may remember that this was the period when coming north that we didn’t have an anchor bridle because it had snapped. This town turned out to be really cute, with many options for outdoor dining (more than some of of the larger towns that we’ve visited!). We were only staying one night, but I definitely want to stop by next time we pass through.

Looking at the weather, another tropical storm (Zeta) would be coming up north, so we knew we needed to get somewhere safe to shelter. David’s uncle also wanted us to check out a boat for him just west of Southport to see if it would be worth his time to drive down to visit. The marina that boat was in was surprisingly cheap to stay in, so we combined tasks and decided to hole up there for the storm.

We were planning on staying at Topsail Marina at Surf City, but when we called the day before, all of the marinas in Topsail weren’t accepting transient guests, so that screwed up our plans a bit. With no reliable anchorages in that stretch of the ICW, we ended up waking up at dawn to make it all the way to Wrightsville in one shot before work (which was going to be our 2nd day stop). We just stayed on anchor there without going into town, since we had (apparently incorrectly, from later investigation) remembered there being nothing to do there.

The next morning we had a leisurely jaunt into Southport, and then spent the rest of the week in the Southport marina tucked away safely while there were high winds. The storm brought no rain and it was actually in the eighties, so we took a short walk and found a park with a boardwalk out to a gazebo right on the ICW. We did laundry, provisioned, and met a great couple on Inquest, an Endeavour TrawlerCat (which we’re contemplating for possibly our next boat someday) that pulled into the marina the same afternoon we arrived, also to ride out Zeta.

We both have really busy work weeks this coming week, so we’re planning on getting onto the Waccamaw River this weekend, and then making little stops next week to get us to Charleston for the weekend, where we have a marina reservation.

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Solomon’s and Speeding Down the Rest of the Chesapeake

Our anchorage for several days of wind/rain on the Great Wicomico River

We spent Sunday night on anchor just up the creek in Solomon’s and pulled into the marina on Monday morning. Since it was Indigenous People’s Day/Columbus Day, I had the day off; however I’d forgotten to block off my calendar, so I spent the day doing interviews and 4 loads of laundry…fun! I’d managed to schedule an appointment with another orthopedic doctor for Tuesday morning that happened to be within walking distance of Spring Cove Marina where we’d be staying. Armed with my full medical records from Boston, and a CD of my MRI images, I headed over to the appointment and was able to get a cortisone injection for my shoulder. This has helped a little, but not completely and I’m still working on my PT exercises.

That evening, we met up with Jan and Jim (David’s aunt and uncle) for a lovely outdoor dinner. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take a group photo, but I did get a great sunset shot as we were arriving at the restaurant.

On Tuesday morning, we headed to Sandy Point and set up on anchor. We knew a rain storm was approaching, so we planned to be here for several days until that abated enough for us to keep heading south. Thus ensued a couple of relatively boring and quiet dreary days. The sun came out again by Saturday and after a lazy morning, we headed out to refuel at Ingram Bay Marina. Their fuel pumps were very slow flow, and we were pretty empty, so we were there for about an hour refueling! We spent the rest of the afternoon heading towards Norfolk and ended up chasing the sunset to an anchorage spot just north of the city and dockyards.

We woke up early this morning (Sunday) because we needed to get all the way through Norfolk to the Great Bridge Lock for 11:30am. Norfolk is the world’s largest naval base and since we forgot to take photos last time, we set up the GoPro on the bow and took a timelapse video of our morning cruise, in addition to some photos along the way. It’s a bit of a crazy experience going through miles and miles of boatyards filled with massive ships.

You might recall that as we came north, we came through the Great Dismal Swamp, which sounded much more romantic than it turned out to be. We’d decided that we’d never do that again (too many sunken obstacles), so going South, we are going the alternate route via Coinjock. South of Norfolk we turned left and headed towards the Great Bridge Lock. We timed the mornin g perfectly — topped off fuel with a Formula 1-worthy pit stop at Top Rack Marina, the cheapest fuel we’ll find for weeks, and pulled up to the lock right as they were opening the gates, and we entered with several other boats. The lock was only a drop of about 4 feet and then we were back in the ICW, which will take us all the way back to Florida over the next few months.

A long uneventful afternoon got us all the way to Coinjock Marina, which apparently has some famous prime rib, which we will sample later tonight. We spent the last of the sunlight scrubbing a layer of salt off the boat, and are kicking back with drinks for the sunset.

We’re planning a fairly ambitious schedule for the week. Weather looks like it’s cooperating, so we’re trying to get all the way to Oriental by next weekend, 115nm from here. With a known target several days away, we can receive our ballots and vote, and get some velcro to finish fixing up our solar installation.

But meanwhile, prime rib.

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Rowayton, NYC and the Jersey Shore

We pulled in to Rowayton and this time around, our mooring went much smoother than last time, now knowing how to use the system. John and Joan were returning home on Sunday, but had graciously given us access to their house to do laundry and to borrow their car for running errands. I drove the dingy solo on Friday afternoon while David was finishing up work meetings to pick up packages that we’d had delivered and to get started on a load of laundry.

Many of these included items for what are hopefully our last few boat-projects in a while. This included some cables for hardwiring our laptop chargers into the 12v system and the remaining solar panels for the roof.

The next day was our planned errand day, where we went to Costco, Total Wine and Stew Leonards, a grocery store that David has fond nostalgia for from growing up in this area (it has animatronic creatures singing throughout). It turns out that the owners, however, are not great people. This is something I myself have been struggling with over the past month or so as I am having a very hard time reconciling the increasingly obvious ugliness of JK Rowling’s views with, as anyone who knows me would attest, the incredibly special role Harry Potter has played in my life.

That evening, I mentally prepared to assist David in a boat project that involved me crawling behind our toilet into the cavity in the swimstep and wriggling my way all the way across the entire beam of the boat and behind the watermaker to unscrew the rear thruster relay for replacement, since it appears to have died. The space is smaller than a coffin and very dirty, and involved holding tools at awkward angles above my head. I have great appreciation for all the other jobs on the boat that David does involving similar discomforts; this particular task fell to me since this particular space was not big enough to fit him!

After about 45 minutes, I had clipped several dozen zipties that were attached in places even more inconvenient than the relay, and we had everything free. David opened the relay and discovered a load of salt-corrosion, so we hoped that a replacement would be all that was needed to get the stern thruster working again. This experience actually turned out to be good practice for my MRI on Monday!

I don’t have pictures of me in the crawl-space, so here’s a swan swimming on Five Mile River instead.

On Sunday evening, we gathered at John and Joan’s, and Paul, Nancy, Mike, Jen and Dan joined us for a socially distant outdoor family dinner (that’s David’s other aunt, uncle, and cousins). Jen and Dan live near Lake Champlain and we had been planning to visit them as we made our way North on the Loop. Coincidentally, they happened to be in Connecticut while we were passing through, so the timing worked great, and hopefully we’ll be able to visit them again next year when we actually Loop!

On Monday, the time had finally come for me to have my MRI. This happened fairly uneventfully (discounting the somewhat traumatic experience of not really being looked at, placed on the bed, and immidiately transported backwards into the tube while one of the attendants said “about 30-35 minutes, don’t move” and then I was left alone).

We’d been keeping an eye on the weather as our 100+ mile New Jersey open water leg was upcoming and requires a good weather window. I also really wanted to try to swing at least one night in NY/Brooklyn so that I could meet, for the first time in-person, the founders of my company. The weather seemed to be lining up for a weekend run down the coast, so we headed out of Rowayton on Wednesday with plans to spend one night in Brooklyn.

I know I already wrote about the surreal and wonderful experience of driving through New York on our own boat, and this second time, now traveling south down the East River was no different. The city has such a distinctive skyline and the novelty of knowing that we are doing this literally in our own home had not yet worn off.

We had organized to stay at a marina just south of the Brooklyn Bridge and were treated with an amazing view of the skyline visible right from the back of our boat. We hosted dinner with Nick, Steve and Lauren on the aft deck of the boat, with the windows open and had a lovely evening.

We decided not to stay longer than one night as the marina was incredibly expensive (the most expensive marina we have stayed at to date) and most everything in the city is still closed. I hope that when we next pass through, we will be able to do more.

The weather window seemed to still be holding for the weekend, so we headed towards Sandy Hook to fill up with diesel and drop anchor for a couple of days. The wind was blowing pretty strongly, so we had a couple of extremely rocky/wavy nights, but when we woke up this morning, the sun was out and the winds had died down.

We’re now cruising down the Joisey coast line, and unlike our trip north where we were in 6ft rollers all day, the water is smooth and it’s a beautiful day. Today’s leg will put us at over 3,000 nautical miles on our journey so far!

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A Lot of Wind; Long Island Sound (again)

Weather windows are becoming few and far between at this point, so we had a windy ride to our next destination – Cuddyhunk. In hind-sight, we probably should have given this spot a miss considering it’s not that well protected. The wind prediction was moderate, but reality turned out to be far worse as we got there. The wind was blowing waves over the top of the breakwater, which required a nice sideways drift into the narrow and shallow channel entrance.

The winds were bad enough that the harbormaster was not comfortable with us docking in the marina where we had made a reservation and suggested we rope a piling in their piling mooring field. Due to my lack of coordination, and current shoulder situation, I got on the bow with the bow line and prepared to sort of bear-hug/throw the rope around the pylon as we approached. The winds were blowing so hard that it was very hard to control the boat and even with our docking radios on we had a slight miscommunication which resulted in the bow railing being pushed quite strongly into the piling (understatement….). We did eventually get the rope around, but due to a combination of extreme wind and a short line, I wasn’t pleased with the situation, and worried about damage to the anchor, or further damage to our now-bent bow railing.

There was a mooring buoy field also in the bay (not owned by the marina harbor master), and I managed to convince David that we’d be safer there. So we carefully cast off the piling and headed to the mooring field. Again, we had a bit of difficulty in the mooring field due to the wind, but were able to run a set of lines. The wind was blowing us so hard that our stern was almost touching the buoys behind us in our swing radius.

That night, despite the winds, we were visited by the “Raw Bar” boat, so ordered some fresh oysters and clam chowder that was delivered to us a short while later – yum!

We headed out of Cuddyhunk for another rocky ride to Wickford and picked up one of their town mooring buoys just inside the breakwater (at high tide, when the break water was completely under water). This was another place we had visited on our way north, and found a winery with a wine tasting room in town. We knew we needed to stock up on wine, so we headed there as soon as we’d moored to do some more tasting! Since there was also a Walgreens in town, we also managed to get our flu shots.

At this point, I started arranging to get an MRI in Norwalk, Connecticut, since we already had a couple of days scheduled there to see David’s family again. As it turned out, on one of my many calls to the insurance, I actually had been authorized for that same-day MRI…frustrating! I was able to get scheduled in Norwalk and after about 3 hours on the phone over 3 days, between Norwalk, Boston and Insurance, I was finally able to get a new appointment scheduled and authorized. Phew.

After Wickford, we headed towards Mystic. This time, rather than going all the way up the river to the seaport museum, we made a reservation with Noank Boatyard near the mouth of the river. We stayed on a mooring buoy for a couple of nights here without even leaving the boat waiting for another weather window to get further west on the Long Island Sound. Both David and I have had extremely busy work weeks, with a lot of working late in the last couple of weeks, so our stay at Noank was relatively uneventful with not that much to write about!!

Another weather window presented itself for the ride to the Thimbles – another spot we’re revisiting. We dropped anchor with no problem (David doing most of the work himself while I was on a work call) and had another uneventful night, mostly filled with work.

Sunbreaks at the Thimbles

Next we are on our way to Rowayton, back to the weird stern/bow mooring situation on Five Mile River – hopefully tying up this time will go much smoother since John is not able to help us out in his dingy this time…wish me luck!!

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