Thursday, May 31, 2012

More Looping with “kids” on Board

Days on Cruise: 69

Distance traveled today:  20.1 miles

Travel Time today:  2 hours 45 mins

Total odometer:  1,422 statute miles

After 10 hours “at the office” yesterday, Mackenzie and Matt took off to explore our Fairlee Creek anchorage in the dinghy while Bob and Cathryn got dinner started, steaks cooked on the barbecue on the transom.


After eating another dinner outside on the Sundeck, Bob wanted to do all the pre-trip fluid checks for tomorrow’s journey, and Matt expressed interest in knowing what that entails. Matt’s Dad (also a Bob) is currently a diesel mechanic, and Matt seems to share some of his Dad’s interest in and affinity for mechanical matters. The two of them descended together into the still-very-hot engine room (we’d been running the generator and air conditioning some to keep the boat cooler).

Our twin diesels are Caterpillar 3126s, with 385 hp each, more power than we generally need for this trip in which we’re mostly traveling about 8-9 mph (though we’ve had several occasions on which the higher  power was very useful).  The generator is an 8kw Westerbeke. All are raw water cooled.


Matt seemed to enjoy his time below decks despite the heat, and Bob showed him the whole 15 minute routine he goes through daily.


As the sun was setting late in the evening, we each took a glass of wine to sit on the bow and talk until bedtime. There was a cool breeze, 3 sailboats had come in to anchor nearby, and it was quiet and beautiful.


Mackenzie is an awful lot cuter than Cathryn, but they often get told they look alike (Bob did not, and would not, have written that statement).


This morning Bob and Cathryn were up at 5:30, so pulled up the anchor at 7:15 and took off for the next destination to get the engine-growling hours behind us before Mackenzie and Matt needed to be in meetings by telephone.

We entered the Sassafras River, still on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, and continued into Taylor Creek.


The entry was another weird one with dog-leg routing that took us almost onshore, between the green floating buoy and hillside in the photo below, most improbable looking for a 42-foot boat!


Ha ha! The red bucket on the stick in the photo below actually serves as the red marker to indicate the right side of the channel in this tiny creek. In the end we decided this creek was too shallow and narrow, and we weren’t comfortable with the idea of anchoring there, so we back-tracked and found a more wide open, slightly deeper location back on the Sassafras.


Almost immediately after we anchored, Mackenzie and Matt, who had already been working on their computers for more than 2 hours, began taking phone calls. Believe it or not, Mackenzie actually worked on the bow of the boat or the flybridge for most of the day, while Matt stayed inside at the dinette.


During his lunch break, Cathryn took Matt to shore in the dinghy so he could go for a quick 5-mile run, then jump off the boat to cool off afterward before returning to work.


We should all have such unusual offices in which to conduct our work, eh?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fairlee Creek, MD

Days on cruise:  68

Distance traveled today: 40.1 miles

Travel time today:  3 hrs, 57 mins

Total odometer:  1,402  statute miles

At 7:15 a.m. we pulled out of the marina under rainy skies, just after the “kids” stumbled out of bed and jumped right into working on their laptops with coffee mugs in hand.  The water on the Bay was calm, so travel was easy.

We passed under an 18-foot bridge (we are 18.5 feet tall), so had to have it opened for us and found it to be by far the narrowest bridge we’ve gone through; no way could two boats pass here!


M&M came up to the flybridge for a 10-minute coffee break in the morning, and Matt, who has shown great curiosity about the boat and boating matters, took the helm briefly while we were traveling a weird, shallow couple of dog-legs just after passing through the Kent Narrows. He did great! This photo is for you, Jeri.


Halfway through the days’ journey when we realized it would not be a horribly hot day like yesterday, we changed our destination and decided to bypass Rock Hall and continue to an anchorage further north at Fairlee Creek, a short side-trip off the bay.  The entry into Fairlee Creek looked completely improbable:  so shallow and with the day markers taking us within only a few feet of shore while zig-zagging through the marked channel that couldn’t have been more than 30 0r 40 feet wide, then finally passing through a shoal that looked as if it couldn’t possibly be deep enough for our boat.  We had 3.5 feet of water under the boat at the shallowest point, happy that it was not low tide!


Here’s what we saw on our chartplotter at the time.


After the morning conference calls were over, we all ate lunch together on the sundeck, conferred regarding the travel plan for the remaining 3 days we have together, then M&M went back to work while Bob and Cathryn dropped the dinghy in the water and went off to explore Fairlee Creek.


There are some interesting homes along the shore . . .


and overall it reminded us of a larger Beaver Lake (where we lived for 15 years and raised our kids), though the houses are spread further apart here, and fewer trees are evergreens.


And some of the shoreline is marsh, beautiful but buggy.


One stretch of shoreline beach is so narrow you can see Chesapeake Bay on the other side.


Finally at 6:00 p.m. EST, M&M finished working for the day after one last conference call, so Bob and Cathryn sent them off in the dinghy for their own exploration while we began putting dinner together. Another nice day on the Great Loop!


Other Looper Adventures

A few Loopers still well south of us found themselves caught in the very heavy wind and rainfall of Tropical Storm Beryl on the Florida and Georgia coast. The weirdest adventure we’ve yet heard about came from our Canadian friends Jim and Mimi with whom we spent a night on the hard in the Deltaville Boatyard a couple weeks ago.

Mimi texted us yesterday afternoon to say they’d just survived a TORNADO inside Lock #10 on the Erie Canal in New York!  Fortunately the water was at the lower level at the time, so their boat was below the top of the lock wall, and therefore somewhat protected, but they said it felt like being inside a wind tunnel. The boat wasn’t damaged, but the power was knocked out, so they were stuck in the lock until power was later restored and the gates could be opened.

Fortunately, Jim and Mimi are the most mellow, resilient people we’ve ever met, with great senses of humor, so they were already making jokes about their experience by the time we heard about it. Kudos to Jim and Mimi for being such great adventurers and facing this experience with good cheer!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

St. Mikes

Days on cruise:  67

Distance traveled today:  28.7 miles

Time traveled:  3 hrs, 8 minutes

Total trip odometer:  1,362 statute miles

We got up early this morning and left lovely Annapolis to cross to the east side of Chesapeake Bay to the city of St. Michaels, a popular destination for Loopers and others.  The conditions crossing the Bay were fine: a few whitecaps and waves in the 1-3 foot range, but only briefly on the beam, so we were content.

After getting settled in at Higgins Boatyard with desperately needed electrical hookups because it hit 90 degrees today and we’d suffer without air conditioning, the kids settled down to work and Bob and Cathryn took off for a walk around this very pretty  little town.


Like many towns we’ve visited on the east coast, it has charming, old (meaning 100 or more years) houses that are well-kept. These are mostly smaller than ones in big cities like Charleston, but very sweet.

This one used to be a tiny Waterman’s Cabin, built in 1805 and restored and relocated in 2002. Now it’s a vacation rental cottage.


The Main Street in town is small and active, with a number of colorful shops like the toy store below.


So, it’s time for the story on Mackenzie and Matt’s week with us.  Mackenzie’s a project manager for Bank of America and works full-time from home on a laptop in Seattle. Matt is a financial analyst for Russell Investments (for those who are investors and have heard of the Russell 2000 stock index, this company is one and the same) and normally works in an office in downtown Seattle, but occasionally on his laptop from home. They NEVER have enough vacation to do all the travel they want, so came to see us during a short week in which Monday was Memorial Day holiday, and Friday Matt has the day off, and Mackenzie only has to work a half day. So they have to work while on the boat Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  We have a Verizon MiFi that provides a wifi for up to five computer connections, and Mackenzie has an air card, so as long as we have a cell signal, they can work.

Since they normally work on Pacific Standard Time, and we’re currently on Eastern Standard Time, we figured if we left early each morning to travel, and quit moving by 11:00 or so, they could begin work at 8am Pacific Time and have no problems.  Because they spend lots of time in meetings via teleconference, they can’t easily do their jobs while twin diesels are running in the background.

So here’s what things looked like this morning while Bob and Cathryn drove the boat from Annapolis to St. Michaels:


The dinette across from the galley became Matt’s office for the week, and Mackenzie settled on the L-shaped settee in the main salon. They came up to the flybridge to join us briefly a couple of times, but mostly kept their noses to the grindstone.

During their lunch hour, the 4 of us wandered over to the St. Michaels Maritime Museum, a really great one!  A relocated lighthouse is there (one of 77 lighthouses originally on the Bay), a wooden boat restoration shop, a decoy exhibit, lots of displays explaining the crab and oyster business in the Bay, and much, much more. Have you ever given a moment’s thought to the people who are “crab pickers” for their career?  All that work is done by hand.  We know a lot about it now. M&M had to race through the museum  quickly, but Cathryn and Bob spent more time enjoying the offerings, which were quite good.


The huge figurehead below at one time resided on the front of the schooner “Freedom”, but was later relocated to the Annapolis Naval Academy. The signs explaining her history say the Midshipmen at Annapolis would rub her breasts for good luck before exams or difficult assignments. One hapless Midshipman wrote to his mother about the great luck he had after following this tradition, she wrote to complain to the head of the Academy, and the figurehead was immediately moved off campus.  Watch out what you tell your mother!!!


One shed at the museum contained this 3-year boat restoration project underway, a beautiful example of handiwork done by many volunteers, all skilled in the craft of wooden boat-building.




The history of decoys, in use both for hunting and for artistic display, was explained in another exhibit.


And we climbed the circular staircase to the top of the lighthouse to see the lens and lantern.


The town’s old-fashioned street signage contributes to its charm.


Now that M&M have finished work for the day, they’ve headed out for a walk around town while we blog, and next we’ll go out for dinner to celebrate a late Mother’s Day and early Father’s Day. Life is good!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Kids, Rolling Thunder and Being Tourists

Sunday morning we headed for Washington D.C. in the rental car to pick up Mackenzie and Matt at their hotel.  It’s great to see them again!  Washington D.C. was abuzz with activity this Memorial Day Weekend, and the crowds were large everywhere we went. Most of today’s photo are courtesy of Mackenzie; Bob was feeling lazy.

Our first stop was the Washington Monument . . .


followed by the Lincoln Memorial.


Everywhere we went, we were surrounded by crowds of aging bikers in their leathers and do-rags, participants in an annual Veterans’ parade called “Rolling Thunder”. We were told there were 25,000 of them participating in a parade around town for 4 hours today, and we got caught in traffic both coming into and leaving the city later in the day. They were polite, respectful and friendly to the rest of the crowd and vice versa.


Next up: the Vietnam War Memorial, which had many, many flowers laid at the base of the Wall in honor of the holiday.


A Rolling Thunder participant.


We spent a couple of hours inside the powerful (and depressing) Holocaust Museum, which does an extremely effective job of telling the story of how this horrible historical event came to occur, and both individual and collective stories of the impact on people’s lives, including perpetrators, victims and heroes.


In celebration of Matt’s 27th birthday (a week late), we had dinner at the Dock Street Bar and Grill, which turned out to be more bar than grill, but we had a good meal and returned for another evening on our sundeck with a glass of wine and again enjoyed the live music at the nearby dockside restaurant/bar. We stayed up REALLY late for Bob and Cathryn:  11:00 p.m.


Sunday morning we returned downtown and took Mackenzie and Matt on an abbreviated tour of the Naval Academy with which they seemed impressed. One whole street is lined with houses like the one below, senior officers’ quarters, and today all the sidewalks were lined with flags.


Main Street in downtown Annapolis is a brick-paved two-lane roadway lined with busy shops and restaurants.


We wandered through the St. John’s College pretty campus for a few minutes, founded in 1696 as King William’s School, and later renamed St. John’s College, now with two campuses, the second in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Its’ library below was actually built in 1634 before the school was established.  An interesting aside:  while at the Naval Academy we overheard a Midshipman telling his family about the “Johnnies”  who go to this college where they have no majors and no grades! We surmise there may be a bit of a culture clash between the “hippies” at St John’s and the “straights” at the Academy.


Our last stop in the city was a quick look at the Maryland State House, the capitol building, which also served as the first capitol of our nation for one year before Washington D.C. was established as the permanent capitol.


Finally we had a late lunch at a harbor-side restaurant with loads of boat activity nearby. Three of us ate soft-shell crab sandwiches and thought they were delicious.


Mackenzie and Matt seem happy to be on vacation, at least for this 3-day weekend.  Starting tomorrow they both have to work!  More on that later.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Guest Prep

After almost a week on the hook or a mooring ball, we moved into a marina Friday so we could fully re-charge the batteries and hook up to electricity and water.  Our daughter Mackenzie and her husband Matt come aboard tomorrow (Sunday), so we wanted to get the boat washed outside, cleaned inside, catch up on laundry, and stock the pantry and refrigerator.

We had to call 8 marinas to find one with an available slip due to the long weekend coinciding with Commissioning Week and Graduation at the Annapolis Naval Academy.  This town is full!  Though the marina we ended up in, Chesapeake Harbor Marina, is not as close to town as others we first tried, we’re really happy with the setting.  It’s fairly large, full, and surrounded by attractive 3-story condos, so the wind is broken, meaning the boat doesn’t rock hardly at all.  There’s a laundry room, two swimming pools, a dockside restaurant which has live music on weekends, and lots of activity – a lively place! We sat on the sundeck Friday night with our books and a glass of wine listening to the pleasant live music at the nearby dock.

Mid-day Saturday there was a knock on the hull, and on emerging from the helm door to see who was there, we met Roy and Sandy who’d noticed our Great Loop burghee and wanted to meet us.  They’ve done about 1/2 of the Great Loop in their Mainship 34, live in one of the condos adjacent to this marina, and offered to give us a ride to the car rental place this afternoon.  Talk about nice!  They told us stories about their many trips up and down the east coast, including one in which a prop FELL OFF their shaft in the middle of Lake Okeechobee. Hard to imagine how that happened, and we don’t know whether they thought it was funny at the time (probably not), but they sure enjoyed telling it now, and we all had a good laugh.

So Roy gave us a ride to get our rental car, and off we went to Target, Home Depot, a hair cut for Bob, and the grocery store, stocking up for having guests on board for a week.

Mackenzie and Matt flew into Washington D.C. last night and spent today seeing the city for the first time.  We’ll drive to D.C. tomorrow morning (about 35 miles) to spend a few hours in the city with them, then bring them back to the boat for 6 nights.  We’re excited to have our first “long-term and underway” guests on board!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Annapolis Inner Harbor

Let’s move to Annapolis!  OK, maybe not, as we really love where we live, but we did fall a little bit in love with this beautiful town today.

The photo below shows our boat on a mooring ball in the VERY busy Annapolis Harbor. Yesterday on arrival the mooring balls were mostly empty.  Today they’re mostly full. We attribute this to the upcoming Graduation of this year’s senior class next Tuesday, coupled with Commissioning Week AND Memorial Day weekend. There’s so much boat traffic our boat has been rocking and rolling all day in the boat wakes, coupled with a good wind. We’re ready to move into a marina tomorrow.

Someone from the Harbormaster’s office came by and suggested we move to a different mooring ball as they were inspecting the condition of all the anchors and chains holding the mooring balls and felt ours was not sufficiently sturdy.  So we moved!   There’s something about seeing the mooring ball we stayed on last night covered with a bright red “do not moor here” bag that makes you feel insecure!


This afternoon we took a ride in the dinghy to explore the harbor and adjacent waterways and found it to be a really lovely place with zillions of smaller waterways, each lined by pretty homes with attractive yards and all with boats parked on the waterfront.


These small waterways also had boats anchored out, and some better-protected mooring balls, not something we’d considered.  Maybe we’ll come in here after a couple days at the marina getting the boat watered up, cleaned, and taking care of some chores that are better done at a dock.


The yard below was literally overflowing with blossoming trees, plants and flowers – so colorful!  Can you see the roses? We doubt roses at home are blooming yet?


Every waterway is busy, with paddle-boarders (see below), small marinas, anchored boats, shore-side docks, dinghies and boat traffic.


The weather was spectacular – sunny all day with a high temp about 80, coupled with enough breeze to keep it comfortable. We like this place!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Everyone Dressed in White, and it’s Not a Hospital!

Days on cruise:  61

Distance traveled today:  48.7 miles

Travel time:  5 hrs, 36 mins

Total odometer:  1,318 statute miles

After a particularly quiet night at anchor except for the cacophony of birds at sunrise this morning, we headed back to the Chesapeake Bay before 8am.  We had a new weather  “first”:  FOG!  It wasn’t too heavy, and visibility was still at least a mile, but it was interesting trying to find the many crab pots, some of which have black (!) floats on them, in the gray water, gray sky, gray fog. This could be Colvos Passage where we live back home, except the temperature here is 25 degrees warmer.


We passed yet another attractive lighthouse marking a huge shoal more than a mile offshore in the Bay. What is it about these places that holds such allure?


Both our radar and AIS system showed us this military vessel ahead in the fog, but since we could see it anyway, we weren’t at risk of getting run over.  AIS is the Automatic Identification System which tracks and identifies vessels equipped with the system.  We have an AIS receiver, so get alerts on our chartplotter about upcoming vessels which tell us where they are, the name of the vessel, and how many minutes and seconds before we collide if we remain on course toward one another.  We don’t have a transmitter on our system, so other vessels don’t see us with AIS.  We’re happy to take responsibility for staying out of their way, as most vessels equipped with AIS transmitters are much larger than we are, and can’t turn or stop quickly.


We arrived at Annapolis mid-day, got set up in Annapolis Harbor, dropped the dinghy and went to the Naval Academy for a tour of the campus. There were only 5 people in our tour group, so plenty of opportunity to ask questions of our tour guide. Here’s the campus seen on approach by water.


How many of you who went to college ever lived in a dorm like the one below? Not us. It has exquisite marble halls and stairways with gorgeous railings, high ceilings and beautiful chandeliers. We saw a dorm bedroom and it looked well-equipped, clean and comfortable.


Did the entry hall to your dormitory look like this?


We were told stories about Naval Academy training and traditions, watched a short video, were told how people come to be accepted to the Naval Academy, and what the 4-year program entails today. It sounds rigorous and like great preparation, both academically and for life as a military officer.


Below is the home where the Superintendent of the Naval Academy lives and entertains dignitaries.


We’re getting more exposure to military history and installations on this trip than we’ve had previously, and our respect for the work these folks do, conditions under which they live, and things they accomplish has expanded greatly through new knowledge, despite the fact we’ve always had great appreciation for the way of life our military forces defend for America.


The harbor here is so full of boats that they’ve established a mooring field so more boats can fit into the same space than they would if each was anchored instead. So we’re on a mooring ball for $30/night for a couple of nights.  No electricity or water, of course, but we don’t have to wonder if our anchor might drag during the night, and there’s a dinghy dock, trash disposal and bathrooms we can use on shore (though we prefer using the heads on our boat).  It’s only a 3-minute dinghy trip to downtown Annapolis from our boat.

There are some interesting boats moored nearby.


Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and this is also Commissioning Week, during which the next class of Midshipmen completes their 4 years of training, graduates and gets their Navy or Marines assignment. Cathryn’s Dad attended the Naval Academy many decades ago and learned to sail here on the Severn River, so there’s a little family history here.