Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Weekend in St. Pete: Zombies, Shopping, and Friends

We had a great time in St. Pete. Necronomicon went really well; we actually sold out of one of Chris’ books, Weapon of Flesh! And both Chris and Anne participated in some really fun panels. Chris’ panels related principally to writing, while Anne’s were science-based. The costumes were, as usual, terrific, and not limited to humans, as you can see here. Anne ran out between sessions to shop for provisions for the Bahamas. A nearby Aldi’s store has great prices, and we’ll be stopping by Sam’s club later this week. Finally, we were able to see lots and lots of friends, whom we have missed terribly. Sunday night out friends Bob and Kitty and Jeff and Elise hosted a barbeque dinner for us on our former dock. We’ve had a boat at the municipal marina since 1991, when we first moved to Florida, so it was like old home week. The food and company were excellent, and a good time was had by all, as you can see in the pitifully few pictures I managed to take between conversations and eating and laughing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vero Beach, Florida

We have been making our way steadily south, and currently are at the Vero Beach Municipal Marina for a few days. The marina was recommended by several other cruisers, and we can see why: the moorings are well-protected by mangroves; the staff is nice and helpful; the showers are clean and well-maintained; there’s a lounge with internet, TV, and books and a pretty, tree-shaded picnic/BBQ area, and a free bus to the beaches and town. And only $11 per night! There are, however, many many many tiny no-see-ums, or barely-see-ums, as you could actually see them if you looked hard enough. We’ll leave the boat here for a few days while we rent a car to drive to St. Pete to attend Necronomicon, a sci-fi/fantasy convention at which Chris has been a guest for a number of years. Anne will be on several of the science-based panels – a first for her!

Helping Out a Fellow Traveler

We sailed offshore from Beaufort, South Carolina to the St. Johns River, Florida, and the winds were pretty stiff. This bird apparently was blown offshore and decided to use Mr Mac for a resting spot. We enjoyed its company.

A Tale of Two Anchors

We’ve been anchoring in tidal rivers lately, and the currents are wicked, sometimes flowing up to six knots. To maximize our holding and minimize our stress levels, we set two anchors, one each in the direction of the flooding and ebbing currents. You can see the speed of the water flow in this picture as we set the anchors in the Matanzas River Inlet. Our main anchor is the chain on the port (left) side of the bow, and the secondary anchor is the line on the starboard (right) side.

Dockhouse Décor

Cruising along the ICW, you see lots of docks and dock houses. Some are quite utilitarian, while others, such as these shown here, are decorated with beautiful carved details, or populated by quaint mermaids. It’s these little extras that make a dock special and a delight to travel by.

Beaufort, South Carolina

Beaufort is a delightful little town, with gracious Southern mansions,lazy cats, thriving art galleries, and delightful public sculptures. We spend a couple of days here, and were able to take nice long, hot showers for $1 at the town marina. It’s amazing how special the little treats become when you don’t have them everyday anymore.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To Bring Us Up To Date

We’re currently anchored in Beaufort, South Carolina. That’s Beaufort (bew-fort) as opposed to Beaufort (bo-fort), North Carolina. We hope not to embarrass ourselves by mixing them up again. We transited the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway, for those who hate acronyms) from Charleston to here, and passed some beautiful areas – lots of salt marshes, some extending as far as you could see, others dotted with copses of trees. The fact that there were extensive mud flats between the land and the water doesn’t deter homeowners, who build loooong docks out over the marsh grasses and mud flats to deep water, as you can see below.

Anywhere I Lay My Hat Is Home

Or, in our case, anywhere we put down anchor is home. And sometimes, we have to put our anchor down in unlikely places. This picture is not Mr Mac, but a boat we saw pulled off the ICW and anchored near a bridge. Not ideal, but adequate. The previous night we had anchored off of the ICW on the Stono River, just south of Charleston, South Carolina, between a range marker and high power lines. Perhaps not an anchorage we would have preferred, but the dark clouds of a front were overhead and we were tired from a night offshore rounding Frying Pan Shoals off of Cape Fear. That said, we slept quite soundly in our odd little anchorage.

Pony Hunting in Beaufort, North Carolina

One of the delights of Beaufort, North Carolina, is the sanctuary across from town, and the ponies that roam the island. Last spring we were anchored along Taylor Creek, and saw the ponies from Mr Mac. This time we were anchored in Town Creek, north of Beaufort proper, so we had to seek out ponies. Above is a picture of the sun shining on Freedom’s dinghy and crew as they search for ponies ashore. We actually found a small herd of them, feeding at the water’s edge. Then it was time to “assume the position,” picture-taking position, that it. Roberta and Laura immortalize the ponies with digital photos while John just horses around (no, I’m not going to apologize for that pun).

Sailing, sailing…

…through the ICW. It doesn’t sound as good as the bounding main, but it’s a start. We had a good wind as we traversed Currituck Sound, so we put out sail. Pictured here is (left to right) Blue Blaze, Freedom, and Celebration under sail. Mr Mac is pulling up the rear, taking pictures.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Great Friends in Great Bridge, Virginia

We’ve thrown our lot in with a pretty great crowd and, since we’re all going to the same place at the same time, we’ve been travelling together. This stop was at Great Bridge, Virginia, which has terrific free town docks. What a deal! We arrived about mid-day, so we all had time to do laundry, shopping, etc. Late afternoon we all got together on Celebration for a bread-making demonstration by Steve, and tortilla-making demo by Anne. After that (munching fresh tortillas and bread with herbed oil), we all walked to a nearby Mexican restaurant where you can eat and drink your fill (including good margaritas), for less than $30. Then back to Mr Mac, where Chris read a passage from his newest release, Scimitar Moon. Here we've got Jason, Laura, Steve, Roberta (holding a copy of Scimitar Moon), Lynn, Chris, and John (Anne's behind the camera). What a great day!

A Stop in Norfolk, Virginia

On our way north, we motored by Norfolk, Virginia, on our way into Chesapeake Bay. This time we stopped, anchoring at Hospital Point which is off of, what else, a hospital. We had great views of the city, including this fantastic sight of a schooner under full sail at sunset, sailing under an almost full moon. We met up with several friends here, including Steve and Lynn (Celebration), John and Roberta (Freedom), and Laura and Jason (Blue Blaze), so we all went into Portsmouth (on the opposite side of the river from Norfolk) for a night out.

The anchorage was calm, if not exactly quiet. It’s located just outside the main shipping channel, so we had many passersby, like the barge pictured below, during the night.

Real Estate According to Wind Direction

After Annapolis, we started south down Chesapeake Bay, and spent the first night anchored near Reedville. A pretty place: trees, nice shore-side homes, protected waters. Of course, that’s if you’re upwind of the stink from the menhaden processing plant. I don’t see how they can sell homes well on days when the wind is wafting the smell over the homestead. We had to pass through the odorous cloud on our way to the anchorage and on our way back out. Thankfully we anchored upwind; otherwise, I think the whole boat might have reeked in the morning. Well, as Chris says, “It smells like money…,” but only if you’re in the menhaden-processing business. As we were leaving at dawn, we saw this fishing boat arriving, presumably full of nice, soon-to-be-smelly fish!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Even the Rich and Mighty…

…hang their laundry out to dry! When we had done laundry last week and were about to enter the Rhode River anchorage, Chris and I took our laundry down so we wouldn’t look tacky (or at least wouldn’t embarrass ourselves with the state of our towels). But coming down Ego Alley, a narrow channel in downtown Annapolis (which presumably is the place to “see and be seen” with your boat, according to one of the guidebooks), we noticed that it apparently was wash day on this megayacht, and their duvet was draped over the rail to dry. It’s nice to know that we have something in common!

Annapolis, Maryland

Leaving the Rhode River post-gam, we sailed past the Thomas Point shoal marker (pictured at the left) and north about twelve miles to Annapolis, Maryland. It was a brilliant day, and there were many, many boats on the water. We made our way up the channel in company with about a dozen boats under full sail.

Annapolis is home to the U.S. Naval Academy, pictured at the right, along the banks of the Severn River. We first anchored in Weems Creek, just north of downtown Annapolis, then picked up a mooring in Annapolis Harbor. What a pretty city! Annapolis has loads of historic buildings, and all roads lead to the harbor (well, not ALL roads, but I’m using poetic license here), as pictured below.

Meeting Old Friends and Making New Friends at the Gam

The Random House Dictionary defines “gam” as:

1. a herd or school of whales.

2. Eastern New Eng., Naut. a social meeting, visit, or the like, as between whaling vessels at sea.

3. (of whales) to assemble into a herd or school.

4. Naut. (of the officers and crews of two whaling vessels) to visit or converse with one another for social purposes.

5. Eastern New Eng. to participate in a gam or social visit.

[1840–50, Amer.; perh. dial. var. of GAME1]

Well, socialize is exactly what we did this past weekend at the annual Annapolis gam of the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA). This is a great association. The SSCA promotes cruising, has members from around the world, and hosts annual gams in places such as Annapolis, Florida, and Maine. There now are many locations where local members get together for breakfasts, potlucks, and happy hours. For more information, see the SSCA website (LINK). Featured at the gam were presentations on practical topics such as safety at sea, diesel engine troubleshooting, and weather, as well as fun topics like cruising the channels of Chile and rounding Cape Horn. But the main event is meeting up with old friends and making new friends. Steve and Lynn of Celebration, our friends and former neighbors in St. Pete, attended. We hadn’t seen them since Key West in May, so we were delighted to get together. They introduced us to folk that they have met while cruising in Chesapeake, such as Carl and Carrie on Sanctuary, Kim and George on Adagio, and Frank and Joanne on Fantasy Island, and we met many other folk for the first time. It was really cool to be able to talk with people like Travis, who just bought a boat and will actually be moving onto it at the St. Pete Municipal Marina next month – small world again! (We advised him to get onto the North dock, which is the most fun.) We went to SSCA gams for years as cruiser-wannabes, soliciting advice from those already out there, and it was great to be able to return the favor.

Unfortunately, Anne was a very bad girl, and never took any pictures at the gam (of which there were many great opportunities). So you have to look at another sunrise in the anchorage in the Rhode River, where the gam was held. Perhaps I’ll just start a sunrise blog…