Where in the world?

Where in the world are Mindy and Reinhart now?

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Enchanted Canal to the Bodacious Bay

We’ve been meaning to visit the Dismal Swamp for years. The name conjures images of fire spurts and R.O.U.Ss of Princess Bride lore. It turns out it is an enchanted canal full of mystery and whimsy. I’ve never experienced anything like it. The clear water was as black as I have ever seen, obsidian with a mirror like surface, and a luminous green blanket of duck weed.  Rather than dolphins, we were escorted through the canal by all manner of winged creatures, dragon flies and butterflies of all colors; I’m fairly sure most were fairies. 

Waiting to "lock through" the South Mills Lock
In reality, it is a beautiful canal and I’m so pleased we finally traversed it. The color of the water is actually more like scotch, and just like a lot of scotch, some of that color comes from peat. The water interacts with a sediment layer of peat, filtering and acidifying the water. That tannic acid is good for keeping a boat and a body clean, although neither of us braved jumping in or taking a drink. We transited the southern lock (raising us 8’) and tied up to the NC Welcome Center dock for Saturday night.  We visited the friendly staff at the welcome center and took a walk on the state park trail. We were absolutely thrilled to receive a visit from Paul and Joyce (“Time”) that evening, who saw us pass by their house earlier in the day. The next morning, we left at 8am for a long day of transiting one more lock (lowering us 10’), completing the canal and the ICW, and passing through Norfolk and into the Chesapeake Bay.

We listened to the VHF weather several times a day, and we knew we’d be coming into a small craft warning in the Chesapeake. We’d heard the predicted winds (NE 20-25) and waves (4-5’) and thought, “meh, we can do that”.

Aircraft carrier in port in Norfolk
Containership CMA CGM Melisande
When we came through Norfolk, it was looking like the trip would be pretty comfortable. We were entertained by Norfolk’s usual fare: giant container ships, battle ships, aircraft carriers, and the weekend pleasure craft, either lazing or zipping about. Once we passed into the Chesapeake Bay proper, the winds and waves hit us. What we underestimated was the wave “period” (the waves were very close together), making for an extremely rough ride. We beat into the wind and crashed headlong into those waves for hours, sometimes coming to a complete stop. We dropped anchor in a very protected anchorage on Chisman Creek at 7:45pm. The forecast was looking dismal for days, so we stayed tucked in our sleepy little spot for a while. 

The bad weather out on the bay continued and we finally got tired of relaxing on Chisman Creek, so we pulled up anchor and braved the same winds. Actually, the waves were at their most daunting when we were exiting the Poquoson River to get back in the Bay. After that, we took a pretty standard beating as we motored our way up to Deltaville, VA. We are currently anchored in Jackson Creek. We were thrilled to get the dinghy out and motor to a town dock (!) and take a walk (!) to a hardware store (!) and have lunch out (!) and drop by the library(!). Deltaville is a tiny town, but it has everything a cruiser likes to see, so we are thrilled to be here.

Our original plans were to make our way up to Solomons, MD sometime this weekend for a few days, and then to Annapolis mid-week. But the weather predictions get worse and worse, and we may end up waiting out the storm for a few extra days here in Deltaville, and just hop up to Annapolis in one 20 hour trip. By that time, maybe we can even sail!

RockHopper Anchorages: 
36°30.340N 076°21.320W; Dismal Swamp Canal, NC Welcome Center; 19Sep15
37°10.979N 076°24.817W; Seaford, VA, Chisman Creek; 20-22Sep15
37°32.722N 076°20.306W; Deltaville, VA, Jackson Creek south; 23-27Sep15

Friday, September 18, 2015

Rockhopper is on the move

When last we updated you, we were sweltering in Florida and growing tired of sitting in one place.  Since then we’ve been on the move north and cooling off. 

We left St. Pete and the Tampa Bay area and started heading south on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW). This section of the GIWW is pretty shallow, narrow, and full of drawbridges, so it was motoring most of the way with our dolphin escorts. We anchored the first night in a lovely residential spot south of Sarasota, and the next off a large wildlife preserve on Sanibel Island. It was nice watching the passing thunderstorms every evening, and we started to understand why Florida is considered the lightning capital of the US. 

We headed out into the Gulf just south of Sanibel and finally got to turn off the engine and become a sailboat. We even hoisted the spinnaker for the first time, although it has gotten a lot of use since that first day. This leg was a longer trip to dip our toes back into night sailing, so we continued through the stormy night to the Florida Keys. This time the thunderstorms were a little too close for comfort and it made for a stressful and sleepless first night back on watch, at least for Mindy. We anchored at Marathon Key the next day. It was a hot day but we got a little relief going for a swim off the boat in the 88° water. Reinhart realized we are acting as reverse RO (reverse osmosis) machines, drinking the RO water and producing salt water in the form of sweat. The heat was getting to be too much for us, so we got back on the move the next morning with a planned overnight trip to Miami.  

Once we got out into the gulf stream the conditions were so perfect and the forecast was favorable, so we decided to bypass Miami and start our big offshore passage to North Carolina. It was a pretty good trip overall with calm seas and excellent winds most of the time, and just a few of those pesky thunderstorms to make things lively. We had a stowaway, a little finch, who joined us very far out at sea for several hours. He even spent some time inside Rockhopper, checking out the cabins. Just as we were naming him and planning our future with him, he flew away. We stuck to our old 3 hours on & 3 hours off schedule we used in 2006/7.  We were happy with our instrumentation, particularly our Furuno Radar.  I had two productive radio conversations with large working vessels, which is two more than I’ve had in the past. The second to the last day brought stronger winds and wavier seas with sharp bratty 8’ waves that sprayed us in the cockpit.  Our nice new weather cloths were stowed away, so we’ll have them mounted or handy next time to keep us dry.  We loved all of our new canvas and had a nice shady and dry cockpit.   Still, it all gets monotonous after a while, so we were thrilled to pull into our old stomping ground of Cape Lookout after 664 nm and 107 hours.  We anchored just before midnight and went to SLEEP!

What timing - we woke to a pleasant morning in Cape Lookout, which quickly turned into near gale force winds with 24 hours of 25-35 knot winds.  It was so nice to be tucked away in the bight instead of out at sea, and it gave us a day to recover from our passage.  Our new wind turbine was in its element, and we made our RO water with wind power. Those winds were the passing of a cold pressure system, and the temps have been heavenly ever since!  The next day we headed north up the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to Oriental, NC, one of our favorite places.  Oriental hasn’t changed much, but now there is a grocery store to run to (in the form of a Walmart Express…the horror, or the convenience, hard to decide).  We spent lots of time with friends D and Don (Southern Cross), who had generously arranged a dock for us, and Bev and Arne (Scandia) came down from New Bern to visit and reminisce about days at Grass America, Annapolis, and Georgetown. 

We left Oriental and continued our ICW trip north to the Chesapeake.  Once again, it is mostly a motorsail on the narrow canal with a few sailing opportunities as we cross over the sounds.  The sailing vessel Dreadnought kept us company on the way up and we anchored together on the Pungo River.  They sent a photo of us at anchor in the sunset and we were thrilled with one of the technological advances since our 2006/7 trip…smartphones!   

The next day we made it to Elizabeth City, NC, which means we have been convinced by D and Don to take the infamous Dismal Swamp route.  We are currently enjoying the lovely Elizabeth City hospitality (free docks, free wifi) before continuing our trip up that picturesque and historic, albeit shallow (6’), canal.

Rockhopper anchorages: 
27°14.759N 082°31.492W; Sarasota, FL “White Beach”; 03Sep15
26°28.124N 082°05.349W; Sanibel Island, FL “Ding Darling”; 04Sep15
24°41.599N 081°07.074W; Marathon Key, FL “Outer Boot Key; 06Sep15
34°37.392N 076°32.852W; Cape Lookout Bight, NC; 11-12Sep15
35°01.406N 076°41.934W; Oriental, NC “Oriental Harbor Marina”; 13-15Sep15
35°33.085N 076°28.178W; Pungo River, NC; 16Sep15
36°17.901N 076°13.102W; Elizabeth City, NC “Mariner’s Wharf”; 17-18Sep15

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

We are outta here!

Rockhopper, the last evening in St. Petersburg
Okay folks, everything is done, and we'll be on our way Thursday morning September 3.  Goodbye to all the helpful folks at Lippincott Marine Canvas, Caliber Brokers, Suncoast Specialties, Elite Marine, and Harborage Marina (N27° 45’33.1848”  W82° 38’12.3792”).

We'll be heading down the gulf coast of Florida and then making our way up the east coast.  Currently, we think that will mean a couple of overnight anchorages the first nights on our way down, and then we might just hightail it offshore up to the Chesapeake after we round Florida.  We've got 4 weeks to make it to Annapolis, so we have some leeway to change our minds and stop every night and keep it close to the coast or ICW the whole way, but we'll decide as we go.  I'm not sure how our connectivity will be as we are on the way up, but if you are interested in knowing if we are stopping overnight in GA/SC/NC/VA, just text us and we'll get back to you if we are close enough for a signal.  We'll try to grab internet while we can, but I think we might have more luck with cellular.

Here are a couple of photos of Rockhopper.  You might have a hard time seeing some of the work that has been completed in that low evening light, but let me assure you that is it is some gorgeous stainless and canvas work.  Here is a photo of the new interior as well.