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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Charleston and the Election

Sunset over McClellanville

Zeta ended up not being a big deal in the end. A couple days in the marina with a fair amount of wind, but nothing to write home about. So we hung out, chatted with our neighbors, and when the weekend came, headed south.

With a full weekend of calm weather ahead of us, but needing to be in Charleston the following weekend, we had some mileage to put behind us this week. My work week was also packed solid because of quarterly planning meetings, so we weren’t going to make much progress mid-week.

This area of the ICW starts to get quite tidal, with regular inlets and short rivers that lead out to the ocean, leading to lots of shoaling (underwater sand buildup spots) from all of the daily water exchange. As such, charts tend to be out of date within months, as shoals pop up out of nowhere, causing very shallow spots in the middle of the charted route. We’ve been reading alerts in the past on various sources (activecaptain, mostly) to know when to be cautious and make sure to go through near a high tide, but this summer found out about a set of tracks released by Bob423 that are regularly updated and can overlay into Navionics (and other apps) to give the latest safest water as proven by Bob and his community of other ICW travelers. Their community data is significantly more up to date than anything else we’ve found.

Bob423’s proposed alternate route (upper) through Lockwood’s Folly (old route dotted)

Setting out on Saturday, we knew that, just west of Southport, was a notorious spot called Lockwood’s Folly, which I’d been seeing alerts for the past couple months saying it’s super-rapidly shoaling, and down to around 4 feet deep along the currently-charted (and buoyed!) route. While we were in Southport waiting out Zeta, we saw Bob put out a message with an updated “beta” track that actually followed some deeper water (charted that way, anyway) far off course that he hadn’t tried before that he wanted someone to try out. We knew we’d be heading out early in the morning, near high tide, and with a forward-facing sonar we were in a good position to give it a go. We veered off course at the right place, and never saw less than 10 feet under our hull! We reported the data back to Bob, and I exported track and depth data out of BoatKit, which he sent off to the coast guard, and next week they’ll be re-setting the buoys for the new route!

After the excitement of beta testing Lockwood’s Folly, Saturday was otherwise a fairly mundane long journey through rural North Carolina, on an ICW that was mostly an endless series of neighborhoods. Late in the day, we entered South Carolina, and made a pit stop at Osprey Marina, the cheapest diesel around for a while, before we headed into the Waccamaw River. Checking out, the plexi wall around the cash register was emblazoned with a large “TRUMP 2020 MAKE LIBERALS CRY AGAIN” sticker, so we knew what kind of country we were in. Why anyone can comfortably have a worldview centered around others’ pain is beyond me, but that apparently describes slightly under half our country right now, sigh. We’ve been trying to keep a list of proudly-Trump-supporting businesses to avoid when we come back up in the Spring, but I’m not sure we’ll be able to find diesel south of Virginia if we hold fast to the list.

As the sun set, we entered the Waccamaw River, a very cool winding swamp-like river system with limited civilization nearby. On the way north, we had a couple very peaceful days on anchor here, and heading back south, we were disappointed that timing didn’t quite work out to spend more time here. But we still set up for the night on a nice little side river and had a peaceful (but warm) night among the wildlife noises.

Speaking of warm weather, we’ve been having absurdly warm weather for weeks now. We’ve had 3 summers so far this year: February in Florida, July in Maine, and now another in November in the Carolinas. The average for the area for this time of year is highs of 70 and overnight in the 40s, but we’ve had weeks of 80 degree humid weather, with only a single cold night that got into the 40s. As I’ve started getting emails from ski areas talking about getting ready to open in WA, I feel so utterly disconnected from that world right now.

Waking up in the morning to head out, we decided to pull anchor during the only 10 minute window that it monsooned, so my drowned rat crew was not super pleased.

We spent another uneventful day winding through the rest of the Waccamaw River and emerged into the “low country” of central South Carolina. We were originally planning on picking one of the few semi-sketchy anchorages along the river for the night, but the wind forecast kept increasing throughout the day, for the next couple days, so we decided instead to pull in at McClellanville Marina and wait out the wind for a couple days.

Before the overnight winds came, we did get a nice sunset at McClellanville

In the afternoon, I had noticed the starboard voltages periodically spiking higher than normal, but it didn’t seem awful enough to do anything drastic, and it would come and go. Unfortunately, when we went into the boat after tying up at McClellanville, the inside of the boat smelled like a hot springs — one of the starboard start batteries (Lifeline sealed AGM) apparently did not like the overvoltage and had started off-gassing hydrogen sulfide. So we frantically aired out the boat to keep from dying, set up fans in the aft cabin bedroom to run for a couple days, and slept in the front bedroom for the duration of our stay. I pulled the coil wire off of the alternator so it would stop generating when under way until I could get a replacement (one of the few things left that I don’t carry a spare for, since it’s not a terribly critical piece of equipment, believe it or not).

Tuesday, before work, we left the marina and headed ~7 miles down the ICW to Awendaw Creek, a well-known ICW anchorage, and a spot we stopped for a day on the way north in the spring, to basically spend the week. No weather of interest was forecast, and it put us around 38 NM to Charleston, which would be an easy trip to knock out Friday (which I had off work after the four days of planning meetings). So we hung out there, for 3 nights, while the expected election madness played itself out.

I tried to work with the one place in Charleston that could theoretically replace the voltage regulator on my alternator, but after 2 days of repeatedly calling and failing to get them to figure out whether or not they could actually fix it, I gave up and had a new higher-amperage alternator shipped from Seaboard Marine to the marina in Charleston to pick up in a couple days. I’ll have the broken one fixed up at some point in the future and then keep it around as a spare.

A lovely sunset over Awendaw Creek

Several days of meetings and nights of great sunsets later, Friday rolled around, and we tootled on into Charleston to spend the weekend. The city was basically entirely shut down (early COVID times) on the way north, so we didn’t do much other than grocery shop the last time here, so we were excited to actually see some of the city this time around. We knew we’d be able to get food this time, which we were excited for, but after searching a bit for other outdoor activities to do, found that there’s a hojillion walking tours, which seemed like a perfect COVID activity. I researched several options, and found that one that seemed likely to be the most irreverent, and we signed up for a Saturday midday time slot.

The walking tour turned out to be excellent. The guy was a complete history dork and went into huge detail on the slave trade origins, the evolution of the city, and how all that still affects the composition of the city (and the state) to this day. It was both incredibly informative and entertaining. If you’re in Charleston, I highly recommend Oyster Point Walking Tours, they were excellent. Of particular highlight was, while he was talking about a church in front of us, the bells all started ringing, nowhere near a :00/:15/:30/etc. time border. We quickly realized that they had just called PA for Biden, and celebrations were starting to break out. Later that night, Hannah went out for an errand and saw celebrations downtown as well.

After the walking tour, we got an enormous and delicious tray of loaded fries, burgers, and drinks, and waddled back to the boat for the evening, not needing to eat again until the next day.

Today (Sunday) was, unfortunately, fairly gross out, with on and off rain and consistent heavy wind, so we are holed up on the boat to finish off the weekend. The alternator’s changed and we’re back in full running shape, as well. This week, we’ll head toward Beaufort or Savannah, depending on how weather holds up. We have yet another storm coming through, so we’re waiting to see how the forecasts solidify for Tropical Storm Eta before making final plans…

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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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Fleeing Fall

It’s only been a week since the last post, but we’ve clicked off nearly a quarter of the east coast in that time. With how long we lingered up north, and fall rapidly approaching, the weather has been quickly degrading, with days of sustained winds making travel difficult. We made the decision to bust south as fast as possible for a bit until we find better weather again, likely once we get back on the ICW.

Our day on the Jersey coast was, fortunately, incredibly uneventful. A little wind picked up in the afternoon, but as ocean crossings go, it was about as peaceful as you can get. The days are rapidly shortening, so even though we started at dawn and conditions were perfect, there just weren’t enough hours of daylight to make it all the way up to Delaware City on the same day. We pulled into Cape May in the late afternoon, parked for the night at Utsch’s again, got takeout from the same restaurant as last time (which was also just as mediocre as last time, so I think we’ll pass next time through here), and chilled out for the evening.

In the morning, we picked up enough diesel to make sure we’d make it through to the Chesapeake and headed out again. It was significantly less calm than the Jersey crossing, but still just fine. It’s possible that a summer in Maine has altered our baseline for “bad conditions” a bit. We timed it to have the current with us the whole way, and when we headed into the C+D canal, got a nice 2kt push the whole way through. We stopped early at Chesapeake City, since we liked our stop here last time through, and spent a lovely afternoon in the sun. Hannah went for a run, I did some boat cleaning, and in the evening we hung out and caught some live music and drank in an outdoor “rum garden” that had opened up over the summer. It was a lovely way to end a weekend that we’d been dreading for months, knowing how the conditions were our last time through here.

On Monday, we resumed our standard routine — make a short hop of a couple hours some time during the day either in the morning or between afternoon meetings. We headed onto the Chesapeake proper and up the Sassafras river, our favorite spot from our last time up the coast. We went deeper into the river this time, since it was super pretty up in there, and there was the cheapest diesel around in Fredericktown, several miles up the river. Unfortunately, cell reception basically everywhere in between our anchorage from the spring and Fredericktown was unusable, so we had to stay at an uninspiring (but cheap) mooring in Fredericktown to be able to work for the day, after filling up with diesel.

Wind was predicted for most of the rest of the week, so in the morning we headed down to what looked like a pretty protected hidey-hole at Fairlee Creek. It looks/sounds like this place is party central on summer weekends, with outdoor tiki bars everywhere on the beaches and dozens and dozens of boats anchored in the shallow bay. This late in the season, it was essentially deserted, and we had a peaceful few days on anchor while the wind tore through the main Chesapeake. A few boats passed in and out for a night here and there, but at least one of the nights we were the only boat in the bay.

Hannah’s shoulder results finally came back in, so we had to make a plan to find a doctor to get a cortisone injection, and miraculously, there was an office walking distance from the Solomon’s marina, where we were planning on meeting up with Jan and Jim again, with an opening on the following Tuesday. So that became the new plan.

Friday, we emerged from our cocoon and crossed over to the west side of the Chesapeake, just north of Annapolis, to a random anchorage I found on ActiveCaptain. It turned out to literally be a tiny river surrounded by solid houses with docks, and we felt more than a little weird just dropping anchor basically in their back yard. However, by the time we got in, we both had meetings coming up, so we were pretty committed. We had a peaceful windless day and night there with kayakers looking oddly at us periodically. We even had a quite good dinner at a waterfront restaurant a short dinghy trip up the river from our “anchorage”.

Today (Saturday), we’re making most of the trip down to Solomon’s, stopping at Hudson Creek, which theoretically will nicely protect us from some overnight wind from the southwest, and the comments say will deliver a lovely sunset over the beach, if these clouds clear a bit (unlikely). I guess we’ll find out. The raindrops starting to fall aren’t a great sign, though.

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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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Boston!

After leaving Handy Boat, we headed back to Isle of Shoals for a night. It was a beautiful weekend day, so we were a bit nervous that there would not be an available mooring buoy for us to pick up, since our arrival was late in the afternoon. If you recall, there are two yacht clubs with several moorings each here that are free and available to the public, with members of the yacht club taking precedence. The bay was quite full when we pulled in, but luckily we found an available buoy and set up for the evening. We were treated to a lovely sunset while we prepared dinner.

About 3 months ago, I did something wonky to my shoulder and it had been hurting ever since. Being that we live on a boat, which means I’m always doing things with my arms, and after about 2 months of no improvement, I finally started doing some remote PT. After a couple of weeks of no further progress, it was recommended that I should try to get some imaging done. Turns out, when on the move, finding medical care is a logistical nightmare. We decided that Boston would be a good place to try, so we organized a marina in the middle of downtown and headed there on Sunday. As a side benefit, we had skipped Boston coming North, and I’d never visited before!

We arrived in Boston on Sunday night and, following the recommendation of Anna and Aaron (David’s sister and her husband), who had lived in Boston, we headed in to town to sample Mike’s cannolis – which were apparently a local favourite. Aaron recommended that we go for the classic ricotta flavour, and specifically not to order the “weird green one”. Well, you can guess which David ordered! They turned out to be delicious, even David’s green mint one! We also booked reservations for dinner on Monday night at a michelin star restaurant that had outdoor dining, Oleana; another boon!

On Monday morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn and enjoyed a lovely stroll trough the city to the hospital where I’d see a doctor. Boston is a very beautiful city and the architecture is very European. It was almost a surreal experience being in a big city, after being in small towns for so long. I could have spent a lot more time there, but unfortunately due to the weather turning bad pretty quickly, we could only stay for a short while…some day I hope to come back for longer!

The doctor recommended that I get an MRI, and miraculously there was a same-day appointment available! Unfortunately, there were several snafus with insurance and communication, and it appeared that I would not be able to get the required authorization in such a short turnaround. So, we did not cancel our dinner reservations and I gave up hope on making recovery progress.

We biked to Oleana for an absolutely delicious dinner! David took all the pictures that night and unfortunately most of them drastically distort my face…thanks, love! I had to include this picture though, because I had their famed Baked Alaska for desert which was a masterpiece!

The weather was turning pretty sharply to winter at this point, and we still had several more open water crossings before getting into more protected waters in the Long Island Sound. We tried to find new locations that we had not hit on the way North, but ultimately ended up back in Scituate for a couple of days riding out some strong winds and waiting for a clear day to get through the Cape Cod Canal. The ride to Scituate was pretty rough (and so were our next several legs of the trip), but after 2.5 months of being rocked daily by lobster boats that drive 10 feet away from our moored boat at full speed, the rough seas didn’t feel that bad to us.

It was around this time that the west coast was basically entirely on fire. The smoke even reached us all the way over here on the east coast, resulting in a few days with eerie orange sun.

After Scituate, we had a long leg through the Cape Cod Canal (another rough day) and anchored in the bay just outside Marion, another place we had stopped on the way north. We stayed here only one night, looking to make our way to Wickford for the weekend.

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Attack Sailboats, Electrical Fires, Old Forts, and More

Drone shot of Fort Gorges, one of the highlights of our Portland weekend

We headed out from Tenants Harbor a couple of days later than we thought we would due to work schedules. Now that the Summer is nearing its end, we are starting to make our way back down south. Our next destination was Round Pond, where we struggled in the wind for some time to pick up a mooring buoy with Padebco Marine. David did some excellent maneuvering to save us from being blown into the rocks before I was finally able to grab the line from the bow. We only stayed one night here and didn’t get off the boat!

Next we headed back to Boothbay, where we anchored out – about 200 yards further out than we had previously…we were very isolated. John and Joan were also there, so we managed to grab dinner with them one night. The weather was predicted to be fairly bad (the remnants of Josephine heading north through Maine), so we decided to stay put for the weekend and have a couple of lazy days on the boat.

The view from my desk window at Boothbay

The winds were fairly heavy on Sunday and late morning, after we had just rolled out of bed, David heard someone yelling. He went outside and saw a trimaran heading towards us on a collision course! They had lost their center board and could not steer. Luckily we already had the dingy down and it was just tied up to the side of the boat, so we quickly threw on clothes and hopped in the dingy. We were able to hitch a line from their boat to the dingy and tow them back in to shore! Sadly we didn’t have the wherewithall to grab our cameras during this exciting rescue adventure, so we don’t have photo evidence!!

Once the weather calmed down, we headed out towards Falmouth, just north of Portland. Our plan was to spend a couple of days on a mooring buoy at Handy Boat and then head into a slip in a marina in Portland for the long Labor Day weekend. We had also arranged for a canvas guy to sew velcro into the roof of the bimini as David had finally convinced me we needed to move the solar from the hard-top to the bimini out of the way of the shadow of our antennas and we’d be able to get more panels. The canvas guy would pick up the panels from us in Handy Boat and then drop them off to us in Portland.

[David Edit] For the past several days, with the generator running, we could on and off smell a faint whiff of an oily/plasticy smell, so we’d known that something was up. I had ordered an infrared camera to check all electrical connections but it hadn’t arrived yet. Wednesday night, with the generator running, I noticed that the smell had suddenly gotten a lot worse, and dug into the electrical panel, where it seemed to be coming from. I found a completely melted and smoldering bus bar and spent the evening fixing it. Whatever idiot had set up the AC wiring before we owned the boat had crossed the neutral leads between bus bars, so the power draw through the charger was running through an extra ~60 feet of neutral lead, to/from the inverter, through an semi-isolation circuit, and back again — an additional 4.4 ohms of resistance. The wires had gotten hot enough to melt the plastic supporting the bus bar and it was only a matter of a couple hours before it would have melted into the wood below and probably started a fire. Lacking a spare third bus bar at the moment, I joined the neutrals of the inverter output with the input, and everything worked nicely again.

On Friday morning, right after my first alarm went off, I felt a sudden jarring of the boat, that was not a normal boat-wake bump. I stumbled out of bed and went outside to see a sail boat perpendicular to Highwind. Turns out, he’d rammed into us. Luckily, one of the Handy Boat shuttles had been driving by and witnessed the action. He was able to point me in the direction of where contact had been made, and sure enough there was an imprint of the bow-sprit in our fiberglass. (The sailboat guy wasn’t saying a word). David had also woken up with my yelling, so he hopped in the Handy Boat shuttle and they and the sailboat headed in to the dock to exchange contact and insurance information.

By this time, it had been 6 months since we’d both had haircuts – back in Florida at the beginning of our journey!! – so I decided to try to find a hairdresser in Portland that would come out to the boat, since we are still trying to avoid being inside places. After several emails, I was successful and arranged someone to come out on Friday afternoon. Since the damage from the sailboat impact wasn’t huge and Handy Boat was not going to be able to fix it in the afternoon, we decided to put a piece of Gorilla tape over the hole, head to Portland for the weekend and then head back north to Handy Boat on Tuesday to get it fixed.

We had a lovely weekend bike-touring the city of Portland, which has a lot of Seattle Ballard/Freemont vibes. Saturday, we biked around town and did wine and beer tasting and visited a few distilleries, and ended the night with a great sushi dinner.

Sunday, we slept in (a little hung over), and in the afternoon dinghied across the bay over to Fort Gorges, an old harbor fort from the civil war era that is on a tiny island in the bay and now essentially abandoned. It was a neat spot and kinda spooky to walk around the decaying interior rooms in the pitch black, since the flashlights we brought turned out to not be great.

Monday, we rode out to Portland Head lighthouse and walked around the park and grounds. The park also had another fort from the same era, on the other side of the bay from Fort Gorges. We even ran across what must be a Portland scooter collective, as they rolled out in cinematic ironic fashion, meep-meeping the whole way.

After a great weekend, we headed back north to Handy Boat, where we learned that we’d need to be hauled out for one night for the repairs. The cleaned bimini canvas with new velcro attachments for the solar panels were delivered to Handy Boat also, so now we have a roof again, and will start assembling the new solar setup this week!

Luckily the repairs were completed with no issues and we were dropped back into the water the next day. We’re now ready to start heading south again!

For those keeping track, Canada is still showing no signs of opening up to plague-ridden US citizens until next year sometime, so we’re going to be heading back down the coast to Florida for the winter, getting ready to head to the Bahamas to claim asylum when the civil war breaks out in November. If the country stays intact long enough, we’ll give the loop another shot in the spring, but for this year, we’re just east coast boaters.

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