Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Eagles, Clouds, & Fog

After spending 10 days in our ‘home’ waters of the Chesapeake, we are underway once again.  We spent our time visiting family and friends, and hung around to attend the Annapolis Boat show.  Our purpose for visiting the boat show was to be able to play with, and compare, new chart plotters.  The day was beautiful, and although we attended on a Friday (with the hope of avoiding a crowd), the place was packed.  I guess we forgot that nobody works anymore😉.  

We have now been underway for the past 8 days.  The trip has been fabulous!  During the first three days the sky was heavy with cloud cover.  All day-every day it looked as though it would pour down rain at any moment, but we barely saw a drizzle the entire time.  However, for a cloud enthusiast like myself, the cloud formations were amazing!

In addition to seeing beautiful clouds, our week has been packed with Eagle sightings.

Glad we aren’t there yet…someone is getting wet.


I still can’t believe it isn’t raining.

Eagles, clouds, and fog.

Clouds and battleships.

We rarely see an Eagle at a nest.

These types of clouds are easier to see ‘pictures/things’.  I clearly see a stuffed animal in the lower right of this sky.

You see it too, right?  It could be a little lamb jumping over something, or possibly flying.  Anyway, Keith and I play the cloud picture game often.  Of course there are points involved…that are actually worthless, but like any game we defend our sighting to garner additional points. I think this is worth a 7 or 8, but Keith only gave me a 4😡. 

Ah…the lazy days of retirement!

As soon as the sky cleared of the ominous clouds, the fog set in.
Several mornings on the ICW, south of Norfolk, were thick and eerie.

The perfect setting for Halloween.

There was a boat behind us…

On foggy mornings the boat is covered with tiny water droplets.

Thanks to our resident spiders, and the mist from the fog, our Halloween decorating is complete!

This is my pick for picture of the week.

Thankfully, the entire week wasn’t grey!  

Today is Tuesday, October 19, 2021, and we plan to travel outside (meaning we will leaving the ICW and go out into the Atlantic) tomorrow, for the last 75 miles to our anchorage near grandchildren in Charleston, SC.  That leg should take us about 10 hours.  For those of you keeping track…yes, the trip that would have taken us 9 hours to drive, has taken us 9 days by boat.  It is safe to estimate each hour in a car is equivalent to a day on our boat, because our boat only travels at about 8mph.  However, you should keep in mind…we aren’t in this for the destination, we’re in it for the journey!

Also…kudos to Keith for rescuing my new ($400) glasses.  I have previously expressed my happiness for having a personal mechanic onboard.  Please don’t think I am cocky for referring to Keith in that manner…he is the one who used that line as part of his dating advertisement, but that is a story for another day.  Anyway, I am super happy to also have a personal diver onboard.

After passing through a lock we decided to spend the night at the free dock in Chesapeake, VA.  Somehow, when I tossed the line over the piling, to secure the stern of the boat, the line kicked up and caught the outside edge of my glasses, flipping them off my face and into the water…my hero!

Monday, October 4, 2021

Watersnake WOW

While anchored on the Sassafras River we decided to have a ‘fun’ day.  Sometimes we get so caught up in ‘life aboard a boat’...allowing projects, weather, navigation planning, travel...etc. to drive our time, we forget to slow down and enjoy the reason we chose this lifestyle.  When I look at the weekend boaters and feel jealous of their carefree time to enjoy their boat, I know it is time for us to step back and enjoy a fun day.  

With lunch packed and kayaks launched, we are off.

The Sassafras River is a fresh water river in the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay.  Lotus fields abound here, and as you can see the leaves have an amazing water repellent that if we could bottle this substance we could make the most incredible rain coats!

Another interesting fact about lotus plants is that the stems are so strong the leaves remain high in the air when the tide recedes. It is easy to quickly lose sight of you kayak companion!

This is the view while paddling through the lotus field.  The leaves are over my head, and you can clearly see all of the large brown seed pods.  You can actually see the seed pod over my head has dried enough to start dropping its seeds. Imagine each of those seed pods hidden inside huge yellow cream flowers...that was the image a few weeks ago.

Paddling back into a tidal pond exposed large sandbars and mud flats.  Our arrival startled a Great Blue Heron who had been fishing here for a very long time.  There were thousands of heron foot prints.

Blue crabs were plentiful in this area, and Keith was able to pin this one down with his paddle and pick him up.

He wasn’t in much of a hurry to leave when we released him.

Rejuvenated after our fun-day, it is time to head to our ‘home’ anchorage off the Magothy River.  As we leave the Sassafras we see this new CG patrol boat anchored at the mouth.  We heard some radio chatter that they were preparing to transit the C&D canal.

The northern part of the Bay is littered with debris.  Heavy rain over central and eastern Pennsylvania means the Susquehanna River carries a lot of sediment and debris to the Chesapeake, and once flood gates are opened on the Conowingo  Dam all of the detritus that has collected behind the dam is swept into the northern branch of the Bay.  Large logs are NOT our friends!

I am sooo tired of seeing Mylar balloons in the water.  I have seen no less than 20 in the past month of travel, which is extremely concerning considering the tiny slice of water we actually see from the boat.

I never tire of seeing eagles!!

Our first job, when we return to land, is to replace our dead starting battery.  We haul the 130 lb. battery out of the engine room (I probably should have videoed that process...for your entertainment) and into the Whaler.  I sit in the boat at the community boat ramp while Keith walks a few blocks to bring our truck around.  When he returns...he points out something that had been 2 ft from me the whole time I waited...YIKES!

This snake is trying to wrangle a catfish. The snake was using the boards on the bulkhead as leverage to hold onto the fish until it stopped moving.

Once the snake was confident he/she wasn’t going to lose lunch it swam away for a more private place to dine.  I would have loved to see the bulge created by that fish inside the snake...do you think he/she actually swallowed it?  I believe this is a Common Watersnake, but it is the largest one I have ever seen.  Common watersnakes are nonvenomous and harmless to humans, but online resources describe the appearance to ‘superficially’ resemble the venomous cottonmouth.  If you are a snake ID expert (or novice), and disagree with my identification, please let me know.

We are staying here for a few more days to attend the Annapolis Power Boat Show.  We will continue our southern migration next week.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Return to the Chesapeake

Long Island Sound is a nice place to cruise.  After close examination of wind and weather predictions, we planned our passage through N.Y. City for September 13. We decided to leave Port Jefferson and stage in Port Washington, where transient boats are welcome...and provisioning is easy!

As we headed toward N.Y. City the skyline came into view, and once I realized the date was September 11 I couldn’t take my eyes off the tall buildings and the planes.  From this vantage point, it looked like every plane (coming in for a landing) might strike a building.  I had to stop looking...the stress was too much.

And...I had closer objects to keep an eye on.  The wind was up, and the sailboats were out...and they were actually sailing!!  I love to see sailboats sailing, but it is a rare sight.  In the past two years of our travels I would estimate 95% of the sailboats we have seen are using motor power instead of sail power. It was great to see sailing!

While at the helm, the trick I use to see if I am on a collision course with another boat is to check ‘line of sight’.  For about 15 minutes before I took this picture I watched the position of this boat relative to my boat.  Every time I looked at the boat I could draw an imaginary line (that looks blue to you) that landed in the exact same spot on my boat.  This means we are on a collision course.  The only difference is that each time the boat looks bigger.  Now it is time for me to change my course to give way to this sailboat, and pass behind him/her.  Even if this was a power boat I would have to ‘give way’ in this example.  The easy way to remember right of way rules is ‘right is right’.  The boat on the starboard (right) side has the right of way, but sailboats always have the right of way when they are under sail power.

There were at least six sailboats tacking back and forth in front of my path.  I changed course many times on this leg of the trip.  It felt like our path was almost as zigzagged as their’s.  They do look like they are having a blast!

Port Washington did live up to its welcoming reputation.  They have transient mooring balls that are free for the first night, and only $25/ night after the first. They have a launch that will pick you up and take you ashore, and they also provide two dinghy docks.  This one happens to be located directly across the street from the grocery store...PERFECT!!!

I don’t know anything about architectural design, but the diversity along New York’s East River is almost funny.  I mean...look at the building in the upper left that looks like a Jenga game gone wrong.  In New York, nothing is out of place.

Another successful transit of the East River!  Passing under the Manhattan Bridge then the Brooklyn Bridge, with the Statue of Liberty is dead ahead.

Liberty Enlightening the World (the statue’s full name)...let’s just think about that!  An interesting fact, she would wear a size 879 shoe.

We anchored at Sandy Hook to stage for the next leg of our trip down the New Jersey Coast.  While at anchor this beautiful insect landed on our upper deck.  Wait a minute, I think I’ve seen a picture of this insect on a ‘most wanted’ poster.  I placed a cup over the bug while I searched the internet. Sure enough

The instructions are to kill this insect on sight.  Well...I didn’t really have the heart to kill it (plus it’s pretty big so the squish factor is disgusting) so I talked Keith into taking one for the team and dispatching our bug.  With the dirty work done I felt good that we helped the environment...however, within an hour 6 more Spotted Lanternflies landed on the boat, and we realized that our attempts to make a difference here were futile.  These insects don’t fly very well, and they seem to stay put once they crash land so they are super easy to catch, but I can envision thousands of these bugs clinging to vehicles traveling 70 mph down the highway.  They will be everywhere very soon.

Back in Barnegat, and the sky is finally blue!  We have not seen very many clear blue days this summer.  There seemed to be a constant haze everywhere we traveled.  I have read that the west coast fires were contributing to hazy conditions on the east coast.

Barnegat has a very nice walkway and stone jetty for people to enjoy the inlet.

When we were here two years ago we were treated to front row seats to a ‘pilot ocean ditch’ training session, and it looks like the same activity is happening this time.  However, the wind picked up and they didn’t practice the helicopter basket lift portion of the exercise...disappointing!

BUT, while anchored in Cape May (a few days later) the Coast Guard did a demonstration in front of the CG Training Station.  They dropped a rescue dummy into the water (from our angle we were hoping it was a dummy) then lowered a diver.  The diver put the dummy into a basket, which was brought up to the helicopter, then the diver was retrieved by this cable...super COOL to watch!

This is the lighthouse on the southern shore of the mouth of Delaware Bay.  After leaving Cape May we traveled south to Rehobeth Beach to visit friends and family.  Rehoboth Bay is extremely shallow with no anchoring options, so we stayed at the Indian River Marina.  This marina is owned by Delaware State Parks and was a wonderful place to stay if you are visiting on a power boat.  This river is not accessible to sailboats due to the 45 ft clearance of the bridge over the inlet.  Also be aware that this inlet can be very dicey! We experienced an outgoing tide that met incoming swell and wind, which made our entrance very turbulent.  We were making headway of 4.2 knots at full throttle😬

We are currently anchored on the Sassafras River, and spent the day planning/preparing for severe weather.  Normally this type of weather threat wouldn’t cause much concern, but our situation isn’t ‘normal’ at the moment.  Our start battery died a few days ago, and in order for us to start our engines Keith has to run a jumper from the house bank.  In this scenario it would take additional time for us to start our engines if our anchor should start to drag in 50 knot (57.5 mph) winds, which could be dangerous.  To reduce the risk of dragging anchor we let out additional anchor chain to achieve a 13:1 scope, which should hold in those winds.  We also prepared the jump for the starboard engine (which would be the first to start) and ‘walked through’ our procedures should the anchor start to drag. 

Luckily we did not see waterspouts or 50 mph winds today, but the storms moved out just in time for an incredible sunset!

Thursday, September 9, 2021

All Creatures Great and Small

As we slowly work our way south, once again, we find ourselves hiding from the effects of a hurricane.  Last week we took a mooring ball in Salem, MA in an attempt to get out of the path of Ida, or at least lessen the effects by locating ourselves in a pretty protected harbor.  We still woke up the morning after the storm with the feeling of spending the night on ‘Miss Ida’s Wild Ride’.  With 40+mph winds, heavy rain, and 2 anchor alarm alerts (we were not dragging the mooring ball, but the low tide must have given us enough extra line to push us out of the tight alarm radius) during the night, the wild ride left us tired, but unscathed. 

We are currently anchored in Port Jefferson on the north side of Long Island, and plan to explore anchorages on this side of the island for the next 4-5days...or however long it takes Larry’s waves to lay down.  Even though Larry is staying well offshore, he is transferring a tremendous amount of energy to the water.  We say no thanks to LARGE SWELLS!

Aside from planning for weather, we have had a delightful trip during the past two weeks.  We caught up with our friends Ken & Barbara, and were treated to a sailing tour of their home port...FUN!!

Salem is the only place I have ever seen commercial fishing taking place in the middle of a mooring field.  It was very interesting to watch the process.  They ran the net around the school (dodging moored boats) with a smaller boat, then pulled the net in until the huge mass of fish was tight against the boat.  Finally, the long handled net was used to scoop the fish out of the larger net.

Salem is a great town to explore (Patricia and Dave drove down for the evening to join us for dinner😁), and it is always intriguing to read some of the history.  This area (directly outside the cemetery) is a memorial to the people killed as a result of the Salem witch trials.  Each rock ledge has a name engraved, with the cause of death and the date.  A total of 25 people (women and men) died during this time, 19 were hanged, 5 died while in custody, and 1 was ‘pressed’...yikes!  

Giles Corey was an 80 year old man who was accused of witchcraft/sorcery, but he refused to enter a plea. At that time, a person who refused to plead could not be tried, however, the legal remedy was to chain the person to the ground and add weights (usually rocks or boulders) to a board on top of him until he either pleaded or died. Every time Giles Corey was asked to enter a plea his reply was ‘more weight’.  It took three days for him to be crushed to death.         What a terrible time in history!

Moving on to happier news...living on a boat encourages creative solutions.
As part of our preparations for Caribbean cruising, we thought a coffee bean grinder was a smart purchase. Of course all boat purchases need to be small and easy to store, so I thought this little hand cranked variety was a good choice.  I only realized it was a bad choice after discovering that it took 200+ cranks to grind enough coffee for a small pot each morning. As it turns out...the one I purchased is perfect...after a little Keith ingenuity! 

Our search for the best price for fuel led us into this tight spot.  Green Harbor, MA had the best fuel prices ($2.89 diesel), but I would not suggest any boat large than ours enter this harbor.  The harbor looked big enough on the chart, but we didn’t know that mooring balls covered all but a narrow fairway.   With a lot of boat traffic (holiday weekend), little room to maneuver, and a strong tidal current the captain was a wee bit stressed about getting away from the dock and turned around in such tight quarters, but all ended well...I didn’t hit one single thing!

But I was very happy to have this view.

While anchored in Woods Hole, MA we noticed a lot of fish balls forming when a school swam together, as tight as possible, to avoid a predator from below.  These fish swam in such a tight ball that some of the members were forced out of the water.

Such a spectacle attracts a lot of bird attention.

Most birds patiently waited for their turn to pick up fast food.  These fish seemed to be ‘darned if they do and darned if they don’t’

As a former oceanography and marine biology high school teacher, I am endlessly intrigued by the scientific research of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  As a classroom teacher I relied heavily on the research, data, and discoveries published by the Institute, to bring meaning and relevance to the classroom. Now, I am happy to visit the place that inspired so much interest, curiosity, and discovery amongst my students.

Super happy to see Rachel Carson memorialized here.  During my education, her works sparked interest and motivation in my pursuit of knowledge regarding marine ecology.    I believe most people have heard of her book Silent Spring, which led to a nationwide ban on the synthetic chemical pesticide DDT.

My favorite Carson quote: “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

Sorry to blast you with a giant toe picture, but I wanted you to get a good look at this grass shrimp.  While anchored near Woods Hole, Keith and I took a dinghy tour of our anchorage and discovered Bull Island. This is a small, uninhabited island with a sign that reads, “picnickers welcome”...well, we didn’t have a picnic, but we tied the Whaler to the dinghy dock and set out to explore.  After a short hike across the island, on a very beautiful trail, we came to a rocky beach and decided to have a seat on a large rock at the waters edge.  I took my shoes off and put my feet in the water, and within minutes several grass shrimp were investigating my feet.

Now I’m not a spa kind of person, but I have heard about some spa treatments that include soaking your feet in a fish tank and allowing small fish to pluck the dead skin cells from your feet.  I can’t imagine ever paying for such a treatment, but the free version of ‘nature’s pedicure’ was pretty interesting!  At one time there were 20+ grass shrimp picking at my feet...what a strange feeling!  

And just when all hope, of seeing a whale, was lost...look what appeared out the pilot house window.  I was at the helm and had turned my head to talk to Keith when over his shoulder I spot a whale spout...ahhhhh!! I put the boat in neutral and ran for the camera (or course while yelling, whale...whale!!). This was a small (30ish foot) humpback whale (I think).  I have no experience identifying whales, but have relied heavily on the internet to make this identification.  In addition to a small dorsal fin and large white pectoral flippers, I am taking the fluke characteristics into consideration.

Numerous internet sources explain the easiest way to identify a humpback is by the tail.  Humpbacks have tips on the flukes, a clear notch, and the trailing edge of the fluke slopes down toward the notch.

Here is our whale tail...what do you think?  Is it a Humpback?  Sorry for the poor quality, but I had to capture this frame from the end of a video.

We have really enjoyed the sights and creatures encountered during the past two weeks!

Eagles, Clouds, & Fog

After spending 10 days in our ‘home’ waters of the Chesapeake, we are underway once again.  We spent our time visiting family and friends, ...