Saturday, May 29, 2010

Elizabeth City, North Carolina: Harbor of Hospitality

Boy, does Elizabeth City earn its nickname as Harbor of Hospitality. First, they have free docks, right on their beautiful waterfront. Second, there generally is someone on the docks to help you tend you lines as you tie up. And third, if there are five or more boats at the docks, they host a wine-and-cheese get-together for the cruisers. And finally, everyone is just so nice: Charlotte, head of tourism who serves you wine, and her administrative assistant Susan, who answers the phone when you call and actually makes you feel right at home over the line; Sam, the gentleman who took our lines and told us where everything was; and everyone just walking by, who stops to talk with you if you’re out on deck. The supermarket will even pick you up and bring you back if you need a ride. We’ve spent a couple of wonderful days here. This morning (Saturday) there was a farmers market right by the dock, and in the afternoon, we visited the museum to learn about the history of the Albemarle area. Check out the Elizabeth City harbor cam at and you’ll see us or Mr Mac, up until Monday morning (the images go back 24 hours, and we’ll leave here Sunday morning).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


We just found out (4:30 pm, Wednesday, May 26th) that Chris’ book, Scimitar Moon, won top honors in the ForeWord Magazine 2010 Book of the Year Award, in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category. There are three levels of awards—Gold, Silver, and Bronze—just like in the Olympics. Well, Chris was the Gold winner. Needless to say, we’re ecstatic! Books were judged on the following criteria: editorial excellence, intent of book met by author, originality of subject matter, accuracy, author credentials, and professional packaging. ForeWord Reviews brings good books published by small and independent publishers to the attention of libraries and bookstores. Want to help? Visit your local library and bookstores and ask them to stock Scimitar Moon, by Chris A. Jackson, published by Dragon Moon Press, ISBN # 189694454X. Thanks to everyone for their encouragement and good wishes!

Oriental, NC

We're in Oriental for a few days. Oriental claims to be the Sailing Capital of North Carolina, and it's certainly a cruiser-friendly town. For example, they've got a public dock where you can stay free of charge for 48 hours (if you can get on it, of course!), and a nice dinghy dock with handy trash and recycling receptacles. This may not seem like much, but to a cruiser, it's big. The town itself it very pretty with easy walks to the post office, grocery store, and restaurants. They’ve got a cool dragon theme that you pick up in unlikely places, like this little pond dragon. Our friends, Steve and Lynn on Celebration, spent the winter in Oriental, and recommended dinner and music night at M&Ms CafĂ©. They also gave us contact information for their dock neighbors while they were here. So we combined the two activities and met Jim and Beth, along with their son, Cameron, and daughter, Taylor, at M&Ms. What a great time. Jim, Beth, and Cameron will start cruising on their boat, Wild Haggis, at the end of May, so this is a very busy and exciting time for them. Cameron is also a fan of Chris' book, Scimitar Moon, and Chris loves talking with fans. We were happy to have been able to steal a few of their hours. We were so caught up in conversation, in fact, that when we got back to the boat, we realized that we hadn't paid our bill (Chris assumed Anne had paid, and vice versa). So we're heading back to the restaurant this morning to pay our arrears so they'll let us in for a delicious meal the next time we come through Oriental.

Back in the Ditch, and It’s Feeding Time

The ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) has its good and bad features. Good: inshore and protected, close to towns, pretty (in many areas). Bad: can be straight and boring and not-so-pretty in some areas, still air lets bugs descend and eat you alive. We left Beaufort, NC, and headed north in the ICW. Almost immediately, the horsefly invasion started, so we kept the fly swatter handy and kept count. Us: 32. Horseflies: 0 (bites). They’re not too bright, which is a good thing for us, because they land on the bimini (sun screen) and just sit there until you kill them. We counted our blessings, though. When we passed this way last year, we killed over 100 in one day. Below is just a small sample of our carnage.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Those Great Coasties

We checked into the U.S. at Fernandina Beach, Florida, then spent two nights and three days heading north to Beaufort, North Carolina. Our autopilot, which steers the boat automatically, died in the Gulf Stream on the way to Florida, so we were tired from hand steering, but the weather was good and we made it A-OK. We dinghyed over to Morehead City, just across the bridge from Beaufort, and happened onto a boat show. We toured the local Coast Guard inland-buoy-tending boat, crewed by a great group of guys, shown here. I tell you, we have a new appreciation for these guys and the aids to navigation that they maintain. Buoys and markers are few and far between in the Bahamas, and to come in from a few days offshore to see a well-marked channel (especially at night, which is when we arrived at Fernandina Beach) is a delight. Of course, in the Bahamas you can actually see through the water, which has its own advantages.

Sharks, Shooting Stars, and Ctenophores

I almost forgot! One of our last days in the Bahamas was just terrific. When snorkeling, we’ve seen sharks every now and then. Nurse sharks we’d see fairly often, but they’re fine and we’re not bothered by them. Other sharks, however, we’re just not used to. They’ve got this way of approaching you, then going away, then approaching again, that’s rather unnerving. Well, on our last day of snorkeling (when Chris caught the aforementioned hogfish), we were swimming along and saw a shark, but it paid no attention to us. Great! That gave us the opportunity to follow it, which was really cool. Anne was so glad that she was finally able to make herself stay in the water with a shark around. Chris wasn’t quite as thrilled. Then that evening, we had shooting stars crossing the sky, always a treat. Finally, there were fireworks underwater as the current brought ctenophores (they’re adorable and one of Anne’s favorites; see for more info; photo courtesy of NOAA Photo Library) by the boat, where they became agitated by hitting the side of the boat or a wave, and biolumenesced. We saw this as explosions of blue light (about two to three inches diameter) in the water. What a great way to end a great day!

Waning Bahamian Days

Well, we’re actually back in the U.S. now, but here are a few pictures of our last week in the Bahamas. We were in the northern Abacos islands, snorkeling and preparing for our crossing. Chris caught a tremendous hogfish, seen here, which will last for several dinners. He also got to do a good deed, helping a couple get the engines on their center-console power boat working again. Good thing, because there was a whole lot of nothing where we were, and they needed to make it back to Man O’ War Cay about twenty miles away. There was also that small world thing again; they’re from Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. We had mixed feelings about leaving the Bahamas. We had such a great time here, and look at this water, how clear and beautiful it is. And here’s Anne, relaxing in the cockpit with a glass of wine after a hard day of snorkeling and sailing. Ah, yes, we’re going to miss this. However, we were looking forward to a variety of relatively inexpensive fruits and vegetables, steaks, and shrimp.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bahamas Real Estate

Out of curiosity, we look at real estate prices on the different island. Of course, the stuff advertised in those slick little brochures is the high end of the market, which is so far beyond what we could ever afford that it’s easy to laugh it off. But in New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay, we finally found something that might be within our price range (actually, probably not). It’s quite the fixer-upper, as you can see in this picture of the well-kept portion of the house. But as they say: location, location, location!

The Island Roots Heritage Festival on Green Turtle Cay, Abacos

We’re at Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos, which is the northern Bahamas. Yesterday and today (April 30 and May 1) we attended the Island Roots Heritage Festival. What a great time! The genealogical heritage of this and many of the northern islands is interesting. These islands were colonized by both American loyalists (loyal to King George during the American revolutionary war) and their slaves, so they’re quite racially diverse compared with some of the other islands, and they trace their roots back to both Europe and Africa. The festival theme was pirates, appropriate because the Bahamian islands were quite a pirate haven back in the 1600s and 1700s. The festival was officially opened by the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, just sitting up on a little stage, no big bodyguards, no security. Rather refreshing. After the intro, primary school kids, wearing white shirts and colorful neckerchiefs, sang a couple of songs about Abaco, doing little hand movements to go with the lyrics about chopping cane, hammering nails, etc.—they were adorable. There was an array of food available. We got conch fritters, which were delicious and so fresh we had to wait for them to come out of the fryer. Even fresher was the conch salad. See the picture of the gentleman making the conch salad? Those conch in front of him are still alive. There was a conch-cracking contest (I’m sure the conch went into the fritters and salad); lots of pirate-related activities for the kids; displays on island genealogy and local pirate history; lectures on various subjects such as blue holes, a genealogical study of the Green Turtle Cay inhabitants using DNA, the pirates Anne Bonney and Mary Read, potcake dogs (a Bahamian breed), and more. In the evening, the Royal Bahamas Defense Force Marching Band performed. The band consisted of about 20 men and women dressed in incredibly crisp white uniforms. The drum major had this big smile on his face the whole time, despite it being really warm and sunny. The band marched in intricate patterns, then they’d stop and do some dance moves. One elderly gentleman did a little dance with the drum major. He was pretty limber for his age! We were glad we were able to attend the festival—it was great fun.