Thursday, October 29, 2015

Check Ya Later Chesapeake

In case you're wondering....it's still cold!! And good sailing weather does not equate to a warm, comfortable passage so I put on my layers upon layers and bury Lexie in a blanket as we keep pushing on South. This particular day we found ourselves making the long 57 mile slog from Deltaville to Norfolk, which also marked the end of our time in the Chesapeake Bay. With barely scratching the surface in our short time in the bay, it's easy to see how people spend years exploring all the nooks and crannies in the area, leaving us wishing we had some more time to spend here, especially along the quiet, rural East shore.
Nothing like a little hot soup in a cup on a cold, rocky and rolly day on the water
You know it's cold when Ron puts on a jacket
We had a bit of a brisk sail for a couple of hours then the wind both died and turned to be spot on our nose. In the usual fashion, we went from sailing to motor-sailing to just motoring in about an hour. But in this case neither of us really minded, miles are miles when you're trying to catch warm weather!
Coming into Norfolk
I've been told that these are the "small" aircraft carriers 
Hospital ship!
After a LONG day on the water these two ships' names had us hysterically laughing.
Don't ask me why...
We had planned to anchor at Hospital Point but got lucky and found space on the Portsmouth Free City Dock. It's a nice, but fixed, dock and we had to play around with getting our lines right to deal with the 4 foot tide here. Actually, it took Ron getting up multiple times in the night to check it out before he had a light bulb moment and figured out how to tie up without having to adjust the lines every couple of hours (the next morning of course).

In the morning Ron and Lexie had a slightly wet walk for the morning potty run.
After being on the move for the last few days it was so nice to spend a couple days with family near Norfolk. We had some fabulous food, watched jets take off over our heads, turned Ron into a tiara-wearing princess and a human jungle gym (thanks to Ady and Juliette!), visited Virginia Beach on a blustery day and spent hours and hours just catching up. After a couple months of new faces, it was a nice treat to see some familiar faces again.

With our family fix now satisfied, it was back on the road intracoastal waterway again, and this time we were tackling the Dismal Swamp. Sounds delightful right? As with any canal, a little bit goes a long way but there's no denying the scenery was pretty with flares of fall color starting to show and seeing that quintessential swampy North Carolina landscape. Someone told me that we didn't have to worry about alligators until we got to North Carolina so I was also on undercover (because Ron would laugh at me) gator-watching duty as well, naturally. None we spotted but I know there were some somewhere in there, sneaky little devils. 
In more locks. Although these people could learn a thing or two about
efficiency from the Erie Canal. Or maybe it's a southern thing ;)
Kind of a dismal day for the Dismal Swamp
~Is there anyone who didn't see that one coming?!?~
It may have been raining, but it was warm!!
Needs a little sprucing up
Not impressed with the scenery
Second (and last) lock.
We're noticing a slight but definite warming trend as we go and we're more than ready for it!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Outrunning the Cold

Pretty St. Michaels...not sure about Ron
After almost two weeks in Weems Creek in Annapolis our anchor was quite litterally starting to become one with the bottom, it took some back and forth maneuvering to get it to pop up from the thick, stinky mud!. But we had a cold snap on the way and with lows in the 30s at night, we were ready to make some miles! 

We had a cold, but otherwise nice sail over to a quaint little town called St. Michaels, so cute it almost makes you sick. Fun shops, a brewery and a ton of old historical homes to ogle over, I could have spent more time there but, as I was covered in three to four layers of clothing at any given moment, we pushed on after just one day in the town. 

St. Michaels Harbor

Old, old church
With a cemetery in the front lawn
In order to make our departure from St. Michaels easier, we went in the back door, as recommended by several other cruising couples. That way we not only avoided the long trek back around the point, but you also have one of those fabulously protected anchorages the Chesapeake has in spades and a more direct route south. A short dinghy ride to a park and an even shorter 2 block walk (down the cutest street ever) and you'll find yourself smack dab in the town.
Old Brick Inn (I think)

See???? A-dorable!

Leaving St. Michaels we were treated to a school of clammers,
so East Coast, am I right?

Minglin' with the locals...
even if they didn't acknowledge us
From St. Michaels we headed to Solomons Island and had another great anchorage in Mill Creek. It was so calm that I actually thought we were on bottom a couple times, even though we were in 11ft of water. Seriously spoiled.
Ron dreaming up his next woodworking project.
And trying not to drool.
We checked out the Maritime Museum and had a fantastic time talking with some of the volunteer boat builders/maintainers. I thought for sure Ron would have signed up as a volunteer and we'd never make it out of here. And I'm pretty sure he was back to trying to figure out how to turn the boat into a 'livable woodshop'...for the hundredth time.

The inside exhibits were full of history and artifacts from the early discovery of the area and the oyster, clam and crabbing industries that served as the backbone of a developing local culture.
Lots of boats

Old crabbing boat
I have a real weakness for lighthouses, you have no idea how many blurry, grainy pictures I have of the ones we've passed because, even though I know they won't turn out, I just can't help it! So it was awesome to see this big, original beauty sitting pretty much on the dinghy dock as we pulled up. Got me geeked, and I hardly noticed the paint chips raining down as workers scraped the roof from above.
By this time the cold snap had passed and, as you can see, the weather was pretty pleasant, but it won't last much longer and I have zero desire to get caught in any more cold weather like we had so we're trying to keep moving as much as possible while not missing too much. A tricky balance, but I can be comforted by the warmer weather we're hopefully headed into!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cruising Revelations

A pretty normal day on the move aboard Hullabaloo
The cruising world is jam packed with just about every type of cruising style from those that are 100% self sufficient and never step foot on a marina dock all the way to the marina hoppers that simply hop from dock to dock. Neither is better or worse and numerous factors, like budget, cruising area and pre-cruising preferences, certainly play into what one's cruising life looks like.

With all the research, blog stalking and first hand experience over the last few years, we had some fairly strong ideas about what we thought we would or would not want while cruising. And after so.much.research I never had even the slightest doubt about the accuracy of my preconceived notions. Oh, but I should have!

I had all these grand visions of every evening consisting of sitting peacefully in the cockpit enjoying a drink and a snack in a quiet, peaceful anchorage, being totally self sufficient and  never stepping foot in a marina. Yeah, I was wrong. That's all well and good for a weekend warrior, as we once were, but once this becomes your life and not a vacation, the importance of comfort takes more priority than pride, self sufficiency and, sometimes, even money. As it turns out, it sometimes rains or is cold or the anchorage sucks and the last thing you want to do is sit out in the cockpit singing Kumbaya 'til the wee hours of the morning.

We've learned somethings about ourselves as cruisers...

More power! I thought for certain that we would use very little battery, certainly not enough to have to watch our consumption very closely but apparently we I like power, when I want it I use it, and we use more than we anticipated so a level of battery awareness is necessary. And let me tell you, eyeing the battery levels like a hawk and worrying about whether I can turn on one more LED light is just absurd. And, darn it, some times (or more) I just want to watch a movie while charging my computer and getting online without worrying about the stupid batteries. I think I've become a bit of a power brat. Okay, it's not really that bad, as in we don't actually need more power, but we are definitely further than I anticipated on the 'power addiction dichotomy'.

Marina Mavens Pshhhh...marinas. Not in the budget, pointless to pay to stay when you can anchor for free. That's what we said. But you know what? Sometimes there really isn't another option. Sometimes the hot showers or laundry or the ease of hopping from the boat to the dock to get to shore is, well, blissful. Then there's times where it's necessary in case a hurricane heads your way and the boat needs to get pulled out fast. Or, when said hurricane system gives you a week of clouds and rain, sitting in a marina with unlimited power can help bolster morale. And sanity. Oh, yes, we've stayed in far more marinas than we anticipated but we're okay with that because, at the time, we needed it. In the future we're hoping to not get stuck in so many places without anchorages...and that maybe we'll toughen up a little!
We're not there yet, but it could happen!
Cash Kitty On land I was a real budget natzi, it was a very rare occasion that we would (or Ron could) purchase anything non-cruising related or that fell into the 'frivolous' category. If we weren't taking it with us, we weren't buying! And I thought I'd really go off the deep end when we no longer had money coming in. As it turns out, I'm the one with the smoking pockets! Not that we're living crazy extravagant by any means, but I don't struggle with spending money (small amounts) like I thought I surely would. I like to think it's because I've realized the value of enjoying our time cruising, but there have been times when Ron has had to reel me back in. That's scary.

Something else we've learned:
Ron will shower outside in 50 degree weather, Jackie will not 
It's been...educational so far, I just wonder what else we'll learn along the way!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Naval Academy Tour

Love the architectural details on Bancroft Hall
Since we got here I've been telling Ron that I wanted to take a tour of the Naval Academy, I mean, how can we come to Annapolis for the first time and not go there? That ain't right! And it's literally a block from the main drag in town, that's what I call easy access. I would have loved to have toured Westpoint (the Army's version of the Naval Academy - something I learned) as we passed by it but it didn't work out and now that we're here in Annapolis for a week or more I'm not missing this opportunity. It took a little convincing to get Ron to come along but for $10 each (which all goes to the Midshipmen Fund), we had a 2 hour tour with Jim and Chris, another couple from Michigan (they're everywhere!!) and a fantastic tour guide who also is a retired Naval physician.

I'm not even going to tell you how little I knew about the Naval Academy or the Navy as a military branch, it was embarrassing really.  But I sure know a lot more now, from how the Navy came to be to how it ended up having a goat as a mascot (kind of funny) to the many famous graduates of the Academy, I know just enough to be dangerous no longer be totally Naval-y naive.
Instructor's housing
The chapel dome behind the Superintendent's home
Part of Bancroft Hall, the country's largest dormitory
housing over 4000 midshipmen!
Noon formation, what a sight!

Naval Band closing out the noon formation
Bancroft Hall after the noon formation
French architecture on Bancroft Hall
Main entrance to Bancroft Hall
Pretty fancy dorms!

All these sights, and then the camera dies. Wuh wahhhhh. So ticked. The pictures may have stopped but I assure you, the tour continued, and I loved every history-filled minute!

I am so glad we did the tour, and Ron actually enjoyed it too, which is really impressive! I would highly recommend the Academy tour to anyone visiting Annapolis.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Annapolis Whirlwind

We were ushered into Annapolis by the US Navy Sailing team

A very full Back Creek
We thought we were getting into Annapolis with plenty of time coming in the Monday before the show, which technically started on Thursday. Nope, not even close. Boats were anchored extremely close and with very short scopes due to the narrow creek. I was pretty okay with there being no room here, I wouldn't have been able to sleep that close without much anchor line out. So we moved a couple miles up to Weems Creek and couldn't have picked a better place to be. Quiet, calm, well protected...yup I could stay here a while, which is exactly what we did.
Pretty boat!
Such a cute town, and with dinghy docks at the end of each street!
Look at these streets! So much history.
Capital building
#historynerdalert
The main drag in Annapolis
Loving all the fabulous architecture detail around town
Then there was this little thing called the Annapolis Boat Show that we went to. It's just the world's largest sail show.
So many boats
The Cruising Outpost booth was rockin'!
A little hard to see but we've got Bob Bitchin, Katie (behind Bob) and Jessie,
Paul and Sheryl Shard and Lin Pardey....phew!
Just a little different S2 than ours - 56 ft catamaran...only $1.5 mil
Floating condo anyone?
Then we stopped by the Mantus booth, being Mantus Ambassadors, we thought it would be good to stop by and introduce ourselves and boy are we glad we did! We, yet again, connected with another cruising couple that were working the booth and got to meet the owners brother who is in charge of shipping out items ordered. We probably hung out for a good 30 minutes just chatting. Then we started getting freebies tossed our way; T-shirts, a burgee, a bottle opener...they just kept digging stuff out for us. Free stuff aside, we couldn't be happier that we made the decision to go with Mantus for our anchor, especially after meeting some of their staff. Way to go Mantus!

SO happy we chose Mantus, for many reasons!
We've met a ridiculous amount of new people here in Annapolis, ridiculous in a good way. To my surprise most of those we've met are, like us, making their way South for the first time but, even more surprising, is the number of "young" cruisers close to our age and even younger that we've run into, much of which you may have seen captured on Facebook. So, you see, despite what you may think, we're not cruising pioneers in the slightest, but, for once, we're a little ahead of the ever increasing trend of pre-retirement cruising. And meeting up with other like-minded trendsetters crazies is a lot of fun! As evidenced by the fact that I have zero pictures of the shenanigans. So.Many.Shenanigans.