Monthly Archives: November 2019

Two States to Home!

Two States to Home!
We are now home in Winter Park, and this will be the last entry for the adventures on our Down East Loop trip of 2019.  Here is how we spent the last week on this journey:

Jekyll Island, GA – Tuesday, 11/5
Early in the morning the forecasted rain came through Hilton Head, but was light in the marina. When Denise got up she witnessed some spectacular lightning offshore and to the east of where we were.  Before we could get under way, we had to wait for Denise to have a client conference call at 9:30, so we took to a few minor chores on the boat.

While waiting for the call, we saw our friends Vicki & Mac (“Confetti”) who were out for a morning walk.  We had discovered they were in the marina last night when we arrived as they showed up on “Marine Traffic” (an app that uses AIS to track the movement of vessels on the water). We had considered going over to see them in the evening last night, but due to our delayed dinner we thought it would be too late for a visit.  We chatted for a while before Denise had to jump on her call and they continued with their walk around the complex.

Once the call was complete, we headed out of the slip and through the lock, once again saying goodbye to Harbor Town Marina.  The skies were cloudy as we headed down the ICW and through Calibogue Sound.  We turned right and followed the ICW in a narrow, but somewhat protected channel in the Cooper River, and around Daufuskie Island.

Eventually we came to “Fields Cut”, an area just north of the Savannah River and known for shoaling to near impassable depths.  However, they are dredging the area and we had to negotiate around two dredges and a few other boats.  At the same time we had visibility to two large container ships coming up the Savannah River.  Once past the dredge we came to an area where they were dumping the dredge and building up the island right at the mouth of the river.

As we came to where the ICW crosses the Savannah River we had to slow to allow the first container ship to pass, then negotiate around a northbound fuel barge at the ICW entrance south of the Savannah River.  It made for some interesting boating, but Captain Mark handled it all perfectly. And as we did so, we entered the state of Georgia; Denise was elated that we were only one state away from home.

After this excitement and once in less trafficked waters, we prepared and ate lunch while underway.  We finished just in time to go through the Bluff-Varnedoe bascule bridge, soon to be replaced by a new fixed bridge now under construction.  Then on our right we passed the Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous in the book/movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil”.

at Bonaventure Cemetery

at Bonaventure Cemetery

Shortly thereafter we approached the area where the Savannah marinas are all aligned on both sides of the river.  We stopped for fuel at Savannah Bend Marina on the eastern shore, across from the Hinkley marina. The pump was very slow and it took a long time to fill our tank, which was very frustrating. We knew today would be a long day and we had a very limited amount of daylight to get to Jekyll Island.

Finally, we finished fueling and were able to push off the dock and continue south.  We passed a few more marinas, including Morningstar Marina and the famous Thunderbolt Marina; known for “big yachts”, great service, and donuts at your boat every morning. Here we also saw the barge the “RL Enterkin” whom we passed twice in the Carolinas.

We headed south through the no-wake zones of Skidaway Island, then Isle of Hope, and Burnside Island.  Finally, we were able to open up the throttle and speed up.  We still had a long way to go and feared arriving at Jekyll Island in the dark.

We continued in the Georgia ICW passing through the Ossabaw, St. Catherine’s, Sapelo, Doboy, and Altamaha Sounds without issue. It stayed mostly cloudy all day, but we were treated to dolphins as we came up and went through all these outlets to the Atlantic Ocean.

Soon we approached St. Simons Island and could see the Sydney Lanier Bridge in the distance. This is the bridge we would go under if going to Brunswick, GA where we stayed in 2017. However, we opted for staying in Jekyll Island this trip instead as it is on the ICW and they are only 8 miles apart.

Sidney Lanier Bridge at a distance

Sidney Lanier Bridge at a distance

We cruised around St. Simons Island and came upon St. Simon’s Sound; a major entrance for container ships and other freight carriers.  Here we could see the salvage operations of the car-carrier ship “Golden Ray”, which wrecked here in September.  You may recall this as it was in all the news when it happened. The carrier was intentionally grounded by the port pilot as the ship was listing and would have been a major disaster if it sunk out at sea. Now the salvage operations are underway as they try to cut up the ship and remove the more than 4200 cars that also sank with the vessel. You can learn more about this incident here.

St. Simons Island Lighthouse

St. Simons Island Lighthouse

It was right after 6 pm when we cleared the sound and entered Jekyll Creek and into the Jekyll Island Marina. We were grateful for the extra 20 minutes of daylight and due to the late hour the marina put us on the fuel dock for the night.  Since we intended to stay two days, they would be moving us to another spot in the morning after other boats pulled out. That was ok by us as we were happy to finally be tied to a dock and ready for a happy hour drink.

After getting the boat settled and checking in at the marina office, we ate dinner aboard our Island Office.  As much as we didn’t want to, we were forced to keep the back door closed and turn on the air conditioners; the bugs came out after dark and we were infested. This was our Georgia welcome: heat and bugs!  We finished up the evening watching a little tv and then called it a day; exhausted but pleased with our 106 mile trek through a slow-going route on the ICW.

Jekyll Island, GA – Wednesday, 11/6
We slept in a bit this morning, but that didn’t stop Denise from going for a long walk (and some running) to the village downtown to see what had changed since April.  As expected construction of the “Homes2” hotel has been completed and is now available for guests.  She walked around and took some pictures, including of the fog out on the Atlantic Ocean.

Shortly after returning back to the boat the marina office had opened and the dockmaster (Terry) wanted to move our boat back to one of the many slips that had opened up.  With little fanfare we were repositioned without having to turn on the engine.  It helped that the tide was coming in and the fast current helped to push our boat along.

IO in 2nd spot at JI Marina

IO in 2nd spot at JI Marina

After this, we spent the morning doing work for clients, client calls, cataloging pictures and starting the last blog update. We also captured some pictures of the marina, so you can see why we really like it here:

After lunch we noticed boats had started coming into the marina and were tying up behind and in front of us. We were not really paying much attention to any of them, but did notice one that appeared to be flying a Gold Looper burgee.  Later in the afternoon Denise went for a walk up to the marina office and saw this boat which had been positioned on the fuel dock in the very spot we were last night. As she approached the boat and saw its name (“Velomer”), she immediately knew who it was.  On board were Bob and PM Amidon whom we had met in 2015 in Port Orillo, Ontario on the Great Loop, and who also were gracious hosts to us in Portland, Maine in 2017 (see post from 2017 here).  Denise text Mark to come join her and he did.  We then spent a bit of time talking with Bob & PM, then agreed to get together for dinner in town later that evening.

"Velomer"

“Velomer”

At 6:00 we met on the dock and walked together into the Village of Jekyll Island and to the Wee Pub for dinner.  We have never eaten at this Irish pub/sports bar, and found the food quite good and very reasonably priced.  We talked for a long time with Bob & PM, getting caught up and learning of their plans to cruise to Jacksonville this winter, then put their boat on the hard for a year. They wish to spend time visiting their kids in Colorado this spring, and then they are going to walk the Camino de Santiago (de Compostela); the way of St. James through France and on to Galicia, North-West of Spain next year. This is something Denise would like to do some day, and has a friend (Doreen) who completed it this past April.

We stayed in the restaurant talking for a long time since it was not crowded and they did not need the table.  We walked back to the marina and said “good-bye”, promising to keep in touch – and forgetting to take their picture.  They are staying on the island a few days, but we are headed south in the morning, trying to beat bad weather expected to hit on Friday.

St. Augustine, FL – Thursday, 11/7
Compared to some prior days, we did not have a long way to go, but it would still take us at least 4 hours to get to St. Augustine.  We left the docks at Jekyll Island at 7:35 am with excitement knowing that we would be spending tonight in a Florida marina; the first time since April.

We entered St. Andrews Sound and only half paying attention to where we were headed, we mistook one set of channel marks for the ICW when in fact it was for a different channel.  Right away we realized we had made a wrong turn and were able to reverse course and locate the proper set of marks. Back out on the sound we found the waves a bit bouncy, but it only lasted about 10 minutes.  We entered the ICW where we should have originally, losing only a little time and a little pride.  Even with all our experience, it is easy to get confused as the channels off of the ICW in Georgia are like a maze; when complacency sets in it is easy to make a mistake.

We rounded the northern tip of Cumberland Island, wishing we could again anchor here like we did in 2017. We were hoping to see the park and go on the tour; it was closed due to damage by the hurricanes at our last visit. But now this will have to wait for another adventure as the weather has not been cooperating again and we need to get to St. Augustine today.  As if a consolation, we were able to spot a few wild horses on the north beach.

We continued on the ICW, paralleling Cumberland Island and eventually turning into St. Mary’s Inlet. Here we saw the familiar sight of the USCG Station with a few boats in port, and the familiar US Navy degaussing structure.  And right after that at 8:55 am, we crossed the state line into Florida.

Denise was still smiling as we passed along the WestRock paper mill and downtown Fernandina Beach, where they were actively doing repair work on the marina.  Hopefully they will open soon and the town can once again benefit from all the cruisers who usually stop there.

South of town we saw the Rayonier paper mill in full production, and continued as the ICW begins its narrow winding path southward, happy to not have any boats to pass in this area.  We did get to see workman doing work on the railroad bridge near the Amelia Island Bridge and the Downunder restaurant.  This is right at the entrance to the Amelia Island Marina where we stayed on our way north in the spring.

Eventually, we came to the St. Johns River and cruised across it without issue, seeing lots of dredge activity east of us in the river.  We hugged the westbound side of the ICW channel as instructed in the warnings on Active Captain and had no issues with shoaling. And it was here that the clouds seemed to disappear and it turned into a beautiful day.

Continuing south we passed many boats all the way until we went under the J Turner Butler Bridge; always a landmark as we used to live not far off of this highway during our Jacksonville days. Next were the luxurious houses of Ponte Vedra Beach and the not quite as luxurious, but still nice homes of Palm Valley. Although not posted as a “no-wake” zone, there are numerous docks behind all the houses, and a USCG boat held us to 9kts. We took advantage of the slow down and ate our lunch while underway, but things had turned really hot in this narrow area, and we actually turned on the air conditioners while under way. This was a first since July on Lake Champlain.

Finally we arrived at the Palm Valley Bridge and entered the Tolomato River. For the next hour we cruised through the Guana River Wildlife Management Area until we came to Vilano Beach and the bridge that connects this area with St. Augustine.

Just after this we crossed the St. Augustine inlet, and entered the Matanzas River.  Up ahead we could see the cross at Our Lady of La Leche, the fort (Castillo de San Marcos), and the skyline of downtown St. Augustine. We cruised under the Bridge of Lions and continued south until we reached the San Sebastian River, where we turned and headed to the Rivers Edge marina; our home for the next 3.5 days.  It had taken us 6 hours to complete the 84 miles, but we were happy to be in St. Augustine.  We have a fun weekend planned (again) with Claire & John as they are driving over from Tallahassee so Claire can run in a half marathon on Sunday. Unlike in Bar Harbor, Denise will not be joining her for this race.

After checking in at the marina office, we went back to the boat and spent the afternoon doing work for clients and working on the last blog update.  We ate dinner on the boat and spent the evening watching tv.  We tried to have a quiet evening, but we were put on a dock right by Hurricane Patty’s restaurant and the musician playing in the bar was a bit loud. Since he was a solo guitarist, it was tolerable, but it had us wondering what it was going to be like on Friday & Saturday nights.

St. Augustine, FL – Friday, 11/8
Today was a day to hunker down in the boat, at least for a good bit of the day.  The wind picked up and it was stormy.  We were happy to do client work and a few boat chores while waiting for Claire and John to arrive, which they did around 5:30 pm.  We visited for a while on the boat, then we went to dinner at one of our old time favorite St. Augustine restaurants, the Gypsy Cab Company.  Getting there was a challenge as it is on Anastasia Island and required us to navigate through downtown rush hour/tourist traffic and over the Bridge of Lions (BOL). However, we had a great meal and a terrific time and planned out the rest of the weekend.

After dinner, they took us back to our boat and called it a day. Once again there was entertainment at Hurricane Patty’s but it was much better than last night, and with the inclement weather the windows & doors were closed up, so it was not as loud for us.  We got a good night’s rest as the wind continued to blow.

 St. Augustine, FL – Saturday, 11/9
In the morning, we ventured off the boat and found the entire parking lot at Hurricane Patty’s was under water and the route to the marina office required us to walk through the restaurant’s porch.  The winds had blown all the water from the northeastern side of the river to the marina and the fixed docks were only a few inches from being flooded.  Fortunately, the boat was tied to a floating dock but the gangplank now required us to walk up it to get back to our boat.

Denise had plans to meet up with Claire at the race expo so she headed out for a walk to do so. However, Claire did not stay at the expo very long and before Denise could reach the venue, she and John picked her up in route.  Together the three of them headed back over the BOL to the farmer’s market located at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre.  Meanwhile, Mark stayed behind to wash the boat.

The farmer’s market was getting crowded and we could understand why once we arrived.  There was a large variety of vendors selling produce, cheeses, beef & beef jerky, pottery, candles, maple syrup, jewelry, crafted clothing and baked goods.  We spent a good hour there walking around, buying a few things and talking with some of the entrepreneurs about their businesses.

After the market we went to Claire & John’s hotel and then back to pick up Mark so we all could go to lunch.  We opted for Sonny’s near our marina so Mark could enjoy some much-missed barbeque and so we didn’t have to get caught up in all the craziness of downtown tourism.

After lunch Mark helped Claire with a technical issue on her computer as she was trying to get an iPhone video transferred to her notebook computer.  They were able to get it resolved in a short period of time and she was very happy for his assistance.

Solving techie issues

Solving techie issues

After this, we visited the St. Augustine Distillery, located about a half a mile from the marina.  We had seen it when we were all here in May of 2018, but ran out of time then to visit it.  Additionally, Denise had read an article about the business and was now really interested in checking it out.  When we arrived, we were told that there would be a 45 minute wait for the next tour (free).  While we were trying to decide if we wanted to wait, one of the guides came up with 4 tickets that someone had just turned in for the next tour, starting in 10 minutes. We were delighted that we would not have to wait and spent time reading about the history of the old building in which the distillery is housed.

Once the tour started, we got an education about how their whiskey, gin and vodka are made, and how the business utilizes every byproduct of their production to be a truly sustainable enterprise.  In addition to the distillery (production room) and the labeling room, we were taken to a special tasting room where we were offered 3 different products to taste. From there, in very “Disneyesque” fashion, we were escorted to the gift shop and bar where we were afforded unlimited small tastings of any of their other products.  It was really a lot of fun, and even though we all purchased something, it was a very reasonable fun afternoon adventure. We even got to meet the CEO (Philip McDaniel) and get our picture taken with him. You can learn more about the St. Augustine Distillery here and here.

After the distillery tour John and Claire took us back to our boat so we could shower and get ready for the evening. Later they picked us up to attend the 5:00 mass at the St. Augustine Cathedral, and from there our plans were to dinner together. Here are some of the pictures of the church.

Our dinner was two blocks away from the Cathedral at Old City House Inn & Restaurant, right across from the Lightner Museum.  We arrived early and had a drink in their bar area, then were seated at a table outside in the courtyard. While the weather had turned cool, the heater kept us warm…that was until it ran out of gas and none was replaced during our visit.  Our food was delicious, but our server was young and inexperienced and made our visit less than stellar.  However, being together was the primary purpose of our visit, so we focused in on that.

After dinner we were taken back to the boat and retired for the evening, not even aware of any music coming from Hurricane Patty’s. It had been a fun-filled and full day of activities, and we were tired.

St. Augustine, FL – Sunday, 11/10
Denise got up very early and walked to downtown so she could cheer Claire during her race. Since she had run this race before, she knew the course and knew that after the BOL there was less than a mile left in the race. Strategically placed for maximum viewing, she was able to catch Claire after she came down the BOL and made a turn towards the fort.  She jumped in and ran most of the way to the finish line with her.

Claire running the St. Augustine Half

Claire running the St. Augustine Half

After the race and rendezvousing with John in the car, they dropped Denise off at the marina. Here Mark was waiting in the parking lot and we were able to say our goodbyes.  We were headed south in our Island Office and they were going to head back to Tallahassee as soon as they checked out of their hotel.

Here are some other pictures we took of the marina and St. Augustine:

It took us no time to ready the boat and we left the dock at 10:15 am.  We headed out of the San Sebastian River and back into the ICW for the 60 mile cruise to New Smyrna Beach. Almost immediately we passed by the Trumpy Yacht “Angelus”.  Denise is such a fan of these boats and loves to learn about them.

Tumpy "Angelus"

It was a mostly uneventful day for most of the trip, with the biggest excitement coming when we had to negotiate a very close passing around the dredge and shoals at Matanzas Inlet.

We made our way through the narrows at Palm Coast and got through the Knox Bridge without incident, and then the ICW opened up around Ormond Beach.

Along the way we did encounter a large number of pleasure boaters of all types (it was the weekend after all) and had to negotiate around each of them.

Although we probably could have made it safely all the way to our home port on the fuel we had, we decided not to cut it so close and stopped for fuel at Halifax Marina in Daytona Beach.  We added the bare minimum of diesel as the boat is going to be hauled and put on the hard for maintenance in 2 weeks, and we didn’t need the extra weight on board.

At Halifax Harbor Marina

At Halifax Harbor Marina

Finally, we made our way past Ponce Inlet, went under the North Causeway Bridge and into the slip at the New Smyrna Marina. We had stayed here before with friends in their boat, but have never brought Island Office here.  We tried to get into the New Smyrna City Marina where we usually stay and is closer to the downtown and area restaurants, but we were not able to get in there.  This marina is slightly more expensive (comparatively), but is set in a very nice complex of townhomes, a restaurant (Outrigger’s) and close to the home of our family friends who will be meeting us.

We finished settling the boat and took quick showers in time to meet our friends (Pat & “Skirt” Skrtic) who came to the marina to pick us up.  We headed over to see the renovations of their “beach house”. This is not their primary residence, but rather a rental property that Denise and her family would sometimes stay at when at NSB with this family.  The house was a “kit” home (aka “Montgomery Wards”, “Sears” catalog order) and was built in 1909. It has been in their family for 50 years and their 3 sons want it kept it that way. So they have undertaken a major renovation to replace windows, update the kitchen, redesign/remodel the bathroom and a second bedroom, among other things. But mostly they had to level the floor and that required pilings and leveling jacks; not an easy task.  But the inside has beadboard walls that are all original wood and the memories shared in the house makes it a special place.  Here are some pictures:

After the “tour” we went to dinner at the “Gill at the Riverview”; a restaurant that is attached to the old Riverview Inn and overlooks the New Smyrna Harbor.  The food was excellent and we were treated to a wonderful sunset.

Of course the time together flew by and before long it was time to take us back to the marina.  We said goodnight and made a promise to get back over to the beach before long. We then readied the boat for tomorrow’s departure and went to bed.

Here are some other pictures of the buildings around the marina:

Harbortown Marina, Merritt Island – Monday, 11/11
The day started early with a bright and beautiful sunrise.  We both were up early and although we didn’t have far to go and were not going to leave until 8:00 am, by 7:30 we had already finished breakfast so we untied from the dock and left New Smyrna Beach.

It was slow going at the start as there were many boats in the anchorages and at the New Smyrna Yacht Club, but we were able to pick up speed for a little while.  We made our way through Edgewater, passing the Boston Whaler boat manufacturing plant and the Lathrom’s Landing RV Park as we headed through Mosquito Lagoon.

This is one of the prettiest parts of the ICW in Florida. It is part of Canaveral National Seashore and is a year round “no-wake” zone due to the manatees. And we spotted a few in the water, but there are far less this time of year than in the spring where they are plentiful.  We also had dolphins around us all over the place, which added to the beauty of the place.

The channel stays narrow through most of the lagoon, but the small islands give way to the east opening up the view so as to clearly see the Kennedy Space Center in the distance. It was a beautiful day and we had good visibility on the VAB (vehicle assembly building) and the launch pads. We were trying to time our arrival for a Delta Rocket Launch scheduled for the morning, but because we left so early, we were through this area sooner than expected.  We confirmed with a friend that the launch was still a “go” but had time to make it to the Indian River, where viewing would be good there as well.

So we followed the right turn of the ICW, through the Haulover Canal and out into the Indian River, negotiating the small fishing boats along the way.  Here we were delighted with the number of dolphins frolicking all around us. We were able to capture a few of them running in the bow of the boat for a good way, before they broke off.

Entering Haulover Canal

Entering Haulover Canal

Dolphins in our bow

Dolphins in our bow

Cruising south on the Indian River was a pleasure as the weather was great and the water very pretty.  It was a perfect day on the water and the best way to end our adventure.

We passed through the NASA railroad bridge, and the town of Titusville, where there were lots of cruising boats at the anchorage outside the marina.  As we passed under the Max Brewer Bridge we had a good view of the launch pads and calculated our time with respect to the launch.  We slowed our progress so we could stay in this part of the river in order to see the launch.  But we were not sure which of the launch pads the rocket would hoist from, and we had visibility to several.  So we waited patiently until 9:51 when we saw the smoke and the rocket launch. It was very fast moving off the pad, but we had a terrific view and caught these pictures over the next few minutes:

Falcon 9 Rocket lift off

Falcon 9 Rocket lift off

Falcon 9 Rocket lift off

Falcon 9 Rocket lift off

And just like that it was all over; the launch, and soon thereafter our 2019 Down East Loop.  Within 15 minutes we turned left and headed up the Barge Canal, returning to our homeport marina “Harbortown” in Merritt Island.  Along the way we noticed more cleanup of the old marina and final construction of the Cape Cove Resort & Marina complex, and happily cruised under the SR 3 Bridge.

We turned into Harbortown and parked our boat in the assigned slip on E dock.

Approaching Harbortown Marina

Approaching Harbortown Marina

In 117 days we cruised over 4200 nautical miles. We saw all types of wildlife: eagles, osprey, gannets, porpoises, dolphins, fish, seals, & whales. We encountered people and places of many different origins and nationalities, and learned a lot about each.  But most of all we met new cruising friends, connected with old friends and had a wonderful adventure.

Who knows when and where our next one will take place as we have none planned right now.  You will just have to stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office.

Cruising the Carolinas!

Alligator River Marina – Columbia, NC – Tuesday 10/29

Poquoson to Alligator R

Poquoson to Alligator River

We left Poquoson very early and just as the sun was coming up. Our plan today was to get as far south as possible, but that would depend on how long we would have to wait for (restricted) bridge openings and a lock. There was also the expected slowdown for the numerous slower boats (sailboats & trawlers) we would have to pass as all are migrating south for the warmer weather.

Sunrise over Poquoson

Sunrise over Poquoson

We left the Whitehouse Cove marina, cruised around Cow Island and the Poquoson Flats, and entered the Chesapeake Bay. It was a little bumpy at first, but as we continued turning more south things settled down and we had a calm ride.  We passed by the Old Port Comfort Lighthouse and the Fort Monroe, eventually entering into Norfolk Harbor and heading east along the Elizabeth River.  We saw many Navy boats in port for maintenance, upgrades and/or repair on both sides of the river, and we even saw a pink container ship.  In not time we were making our way past Hospital Point and the downtown area of Norfolk.

 

We took a right and entered the ICW, where we will cruise for the next two weeks and 895 statute miles until we reach our home port of Harbortown Marina, in Merritt Island.  Our hope was to get past Coinjock and hopefully to an anchorage on the North River, just before crossing the Albemarle Sound.  Because of the bridges and lock with their restricted opening schedules, it makes it difficult to predict where we would be able to get to.

Our timing was good as we easily passed under the first two raised railway bridges that were in the UP position with no trains coming.  We had our fingers crossed about the next set of bridges, however as we have gotten stuck here in 2017.  Sure enough, as we approached the Gilmerton Highway Bridge we saw the queue of boats that were already waiting on its opening.  For us, this bridge has a clearance we can get under when closed, but the Norfolk-Southern Railroad #7 Bridge immediately afterwards does not.  This means we had to wait with all the others including sailboats, trawlers and sportfish boats.

 

After motoring in place for 40 minutes, the bridges opened and boats were allowed to pass through. Fortunately, the boats with low clearance were given the ok to go ahead first as the railroad bridge takes longer to open.  This was a bonus for us as it meant all the slower sailboats would be behind us and we would not have to pass them, at least for now.

Once through the bridges we were able to cruise at top speed for a few miles. However, we had to stop and get fuel, and Top Rack Marina was only 5 miles away. The good news is that because we were ahead of most all the other boats we arrived ahead of others who also wanted to get some fuel. This allowed us to fill our tanks and be on our way in no time.  Unfortunately, we had to pass several of the sailboats that had now passed us from the Gilmerton Bridge queue and this slowed us down so that we missed the 11:00 opening schedule for the Great Bridge Lock and Great Bridge Bridge openings.  After another 40 minute wait we were able to get in the lock for the noon bridge opening and were on our way in 15 minutes.

Once through the Great Bridge Lock and the Great Bridge Bridge, we kept our fingers crossed hoping to arrive at the North Landing Bridge (one notoriously known for breaking) for the next opening.  But first we had to pass all the boats that were in the first lock through that passed us when we stopped for fuel.  Our timing worked out such that we hit the North Landing Bridge and did not have to wait long for an opening.  Now we could cruise comfortably on the North Landing River leaving VA behind and entered into North Carolina.  We also were done with locks for the rest of our trip.

Waiting on the North Landing Bridge

Waiting on the North Landing Bridge

We entered and cruised through most of the Currituck Sound without issue, until we came to its southern end. Here there were a handful of boats already stacking up as they made their approach into Coinjock Marina.  We had to slow down a bit to allow these boats to get positioned along the 1200 foot dock, and to slowly cruise past the marina.  It was 2:30 pm and we were happy to be NOT stopping here for a change.

Although we had been going for 7 hours, we wanted to press on and at least get across the Albemarle Sound because the winds were forecasted to increase tomorrow and that would make for a bumpy passing.  We had considered trying to go to an anchorage on the south side of the Alligator River Bridge south of the Sound, but once we calculated the distance we realized that we would be arriving too close to dark.  So we called the Alligator River Marina to see if they had a spot for us for the night, which they did. The marina is north of the bridge but on the south side of the Sound, and we stayed there on our way north in April.

We crossed the Albemarle and headed to the marina, arriving just after 4:00 pm.  We settled the boat and then went to check in at the marina office.  This marina has nothing around it and it is just off the highway that goes over the Alligator River to the NC Outer Banks. The Marina Office is really the gas station, convenience store, souvenir shop, and grill rolled into one.  They have a reputation for their southern fried chicken which we had never tried. However, tonight we decided to give it a try as we were too tired to cook onboard. We put in our order and Denise went back to pick it up just before 6:00 pm while Mark rinsed the salt off the boat.

By the time we were back on the boat to eat our dinner, the mosquitos had come out and the marina got really quiet. It was quite different then when we were here in the spring with all the Loopers heading north.  Aside from the early sunset, the majority of the boats were heading south to flee the cold weather of north, so there was no “docktails” organized or much socializing.  We watched a little tv before crashing early; tomorrow was planned to be another long day and we needed our rest.

Beaufort, NC – Wednesday 10/30

Alligator River to Beaufort

Alligator River to Beaufort

As soon as it was light enough we left the Alligator River marina and made our way out of the marina and through the Alligator River Bridge, and headed south in the river.  We got treated to a beautiful sunrise, and eventually a rainbow, even though it wasn’t raining.

The Alligator River is wide-open, but it has a narrow channel for boat travel and you must be careful so you don’t get out of the channel and run aground. Captain Mark took us safely through this area and around a few boats, and then we entered the Alligator-Pungo Canal. This is a 10 mile stretch of nothing but trees on both sides and the only part of the ICW where there is no cell coverage.  It can be beautifully peaceful, but all Captain Mark kept thinking about was how the tannins from the trees that color the water dark would create a coffee-like stain on the bow of our hull.

Alligator Pango Canal

Alligator Pungo Canal

Soon we exited the canal, and entered the Pungo River, eventually passing the town of BelHaven (a place we stayed in 2017).  Here the river opens up wide and we were able to pass several boats without having to slow down as there was plenty of distance for our wake to settle down before reaching them.  We also passed a barge going the other way. By 10:15 we entered the Pamlico Sound, another large body of water which can be rough to cross if it is too windy. Today the wind was light and it was an uneventful crossing which took only 15 minutes to transit.

Leaving the Pamlico Sound

Leaving the Pamlico Sound

We entered Goose Creek which led to the Pamlico River and entered this canal-like river. Here there were more homes along the water and we passed some now familiar sights along the way: USCG Hoboken and the Hoboken Bridge and the RE Mayo Docks.

After this area, we were once again in wide-open waters of the Bay River.  On the west side of the river are a handful of large homes, and one in particular is a standout right at the point where the Bay River leads into the Neuse River.

This is really the largest open body of water we would encounter today.  Here we found that the wind had picked up and it was very bumpy at first, but only for a short while. Once we turned more west (yes) the waves were behind us and it was a more comfortable ride.

The Neuse River is a wide river and there was lots of room to pass other boats without having to slow down. We made our way west to Adams Creek and then turned south and entered another fairly narrow area of the ICW.  Here we found a very populated area, with homes lining the shoreline and a few marinas along the way. This no-wake area slowed our progress, but it is not long and opens up again allowing us to go back to cruising speed.

Homes on Adams Creek

Homes on Adams Creek

We cruised down the ICW towards Beaufort, and as we approached the channel we watched an Osprey Helicopter fly in front of us and then land nearby. They look so much like drones.

We made our way towards the Home Smith Marina in Beaufort, were we had stayed in the spring on our way north.  We settled the boat and checked in at the marina, asking about extending our stay should we need to. The weather forecast for Friday was going to be very windy and it was going to begin to get stormy in the afternoon on Thursday (tomorrow).  We inquired about staying for an extra 2 nights (until Sat), but they could not guarantee it as previous reservations had them full up.  This is the downside to heading south along with the “fleet” making their migrations south.  We decided to go to dinner and make the call about staying in the morning.

The walk from Homer Smith Marina to downtown is about a half mile, and it provided a good chance to get some exercise.  We went to dinner at Aqua, a restaurant that had been recommended by Back Cove friends the Argosy’s (“Seabird”) whom we cruised with from Southport in the spring.  The food it was great and we would highly recommended it.  We walked back to the boat and called it an evening, knowing our plans were up in the air for the coming days.

Aqua Restaurant

Aqua Restaurant

Wrightsville Beach, NC – Thursday 10/31

Beaufort to Wrightsville Beach

Beaufort to Wrightsville Beach

Denise was up early and decided to throw in a load of laundry since it was free, knowing it could be washed and dried before we would leave (if we chose to).  It was dead calm in the marina and the threat of high winds from the south were not forecasted until later in the afternoon.  Our biggest concern was the Cape Fear River; it is wide open for the last 15 miles before Southport and very exposed to the South. We would be trying to cruise down it at the time the wind would be the strongest.

We battered around the idea of leaving and going only part of the way, knowing it meant staying somewhere for 2 days (until Saturday).  We also had to stay in a location where we could get to a Catholic Church as tomorrow (Friday) was All Saints Day; a holy day of obligation in our faith.  We had identified that Wrightsville Beach had a church we could attend, and it was a place that we had never stayed before.

As we were finishing up the laundry we could see the marina was trying to figure out which confirmed reservations were still coming in, while everyone at the marina was trying to extend for the weekend.  They were trying to accommodate everyone’s request and we could see it was getting to be a challenge.  We made the decision to leave and head to Wrightsville Beach and when we told them they were very appreciative for releasing our slip.

It was just before 9:00 when we got off the dock and headed out to the ICW.  We easily cruised around the docks at Morehead City and into Bogue Sound. This area is wide open and we were concerned with the wind here, but it was still calm and we had an uneventful passage through this area.  We did however, have to pass a number of slower boats, requiring us to slow down each time.

We easily made progress through Swansboro and miraculously we arrived shortly before noon for the restricted opening of the Onslow Beach Bridge.  After a short wait, we made our way through the bridge and Camp Lejeune, happy that there were no live-fire exercises this time, unlike in 2017.   Side Note: we had verified this before the start of today’s passage and were grateful there were none; last week and next week they were scheduled and would have made this a very long wait if in fact they were taking place).

Mark had found a cheap place for fuel just south of this area, so we stopped at the New River Marina to fill up.  The current was running very fast through this area, but the Captain did a great job docking the boat.  We were here for 40 minutes and as we were leaving the USCG had a queue of boats coming in for their fill-ups as well. It is good to see they are trying to maximize the value of the US Taxpayer dollars for fuel.

At New River Marina Fuel Stop

At New River Marina Fuel Stop

We continued down the ICW south, passing the towns of Surf City and Topsail Beach, as well as the barge the “RL Enterkin” whom we had passed in the Alligator River.

We went under several bridges and passed by houses on shore that have now-familiar statues and sculptures in their backyards.  Eventually we came to the Wrightsville Beach Bridge, which was opening for a sailboat in front of us, but we could scoot under even if they didn’t open.

Immediately thereafter on our right side was the Bridge Tender Marina, and our stop for the night. By this time the wind had picked up and the current was running fast, but once again Captain Mark parked our boat on a side-tie dock, negotiating around several boats. We were met by two dockhands from the marina who helped secure the boat and gave us a warm and friendly welcome. Our friends on “Argento” had recommended this stop and we were glad when they said they had room for us for two night’s stay.  All the other marinas around us were full for the night as tomorrow’s weather was keeping everyone in port.

IO at Bridge Tender Marina

IO at Bridge Tender Marina

We had arrived just after 3:00 pm and had some time to catch up on emails and do a little bit of blog writing in the afternoon. We decided to eat on the boat and settled in to watch some tv.  It was Halloween and we had no costumes, party or trick-or-treaters to even consider for the night.

Wrightsville Beach, NC – Friday 11/1
We spent the morning on the boat doing office work, cataloging pictures, and talking to clients.  We had already done research for where to attend church, and at 11:30 we took an Uber the 1+ mile for noon mass at “St. Terese of Liseure”. Normally we would have enjoyed the walk and time to explore this new-to-us area, but as forecasted, the weather became very windy and a bit cool.

The church of St. Terese of Liseure is located right on the beach, sandwiched between homes and condominiums. It is a small church but has terrific facilities, including a small parish hall the backside of which has a large deck with grills for barbeques.  The entire property is located directly on the beach, and they have a viewing tower that affords a fantastic view of the Atlantic Ocean.  After mass we walked around the property and climbed up the tower to take a few pictures.

After mass, we were able to bum a ride off of one of the parishioners who was at mass and going back over the bridge to the mainland.  Once again, we are always appreciative of the kindness of others that we experience when we go on these cruising adventures.

In the afternoon we hunkered down on the boat, and continued with work and blog writing.  We did some research and made a decision that tomorrow (Saturday) we would blow past Southport and go all the way to Georgetown, SC. We like town and the marina there, and we knew there was a Catholic Church we could attend on Sunday.  This meant staying two nights there, but as it would be a long day on the water, we were ok with staying two nights.

We had made reservations for dinner at “Jerry’s” a local restaurant recommended to us by the dockmaster.  We stopped by the marina office just before we were going to walk down to the restaurant, and had the chance to meet the son of the marina owners.  Jay Baker was very friendly and he gave us a run down on his parents various businesses in the area; 2 restaurants and a gift shop in addition to the marina. He was very personable, and ended up giving us a ride to the restaurant.  Along the way he pointed out his house, as well as his mother’s house (his father is now deceased).  It was pure southern hospitality and we enjoyed talking with him and getting to know more about the Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach area.

The restaurant was not very big, but they had delicious food and very fresh seafood. We enjoyed our meal and then walked back to the boat along a road that was lined with cute homes.

In addition to the Bridge Tender Marina, there are several other marinas in this area.  There are also several nice restaurants and several cute shops within a mile.  But all of these will have to wait for another visit for us to explore as we are leaving tomorrow and won’t have any more time to explore them.  Here are some pictures from the area around the marina:

Georgetown, SC – Saturday 11/2

Wrightsville Bch to Georgetown

Wrightsville Beach to Georgetown

Knowing we had a big day ahead of us, we left the Bridge Tender Marina at 7:30, and just after several other boats had left surrounding marinas. Eventually, we would pass some of them along the way.  It was partly cloudy and cool, with a warming trend expected.

We headed south and immediately encountered several sailboats and trawlers that we had to slow down to pass. It was slow going and took us an hour to go 10 miles to the Carolina Beach area.  Finally, however we were able to get passed most of the boats and through Snow’s Cut, where we entered the Cape Fear River.  We were so thankful that we had not been on this body of water yesterday; it would have been miserably uncomfortable.  But today it was mostly flat and we were able to travel past the Army Terminal at Sunny Point and around any slower boats with ease.

Army Terminal at Sunny Point

Army Terminal at Sunny Point

We approached the Southport area and cruised past the restaurants and boats in the marinas without any issues.  It was just after 9:00 am and although we usually stop here, we were pressing on to take advantage of a good weather day, and make up for those bad weather days that have held us up on our trek home.

The next few hours were slow-going as much of ICW in North Carolina is lined with houses that have docks and boats that may or may not be in the water; requiring us to “watch our wake”. Add to this the sailboats and trawlers that we once again had to pass, many of whom had leap-frogged us while we stayed a second day in Wrightsville Beach. We continued south and through the town of Holden Beach where we are amazed that an old boat and dock area still has not been cleaned up, even though it is an apparent eye sore and hazard to navigation.

Wreck in Holden Beach - still there

Wreck in Holden Beach – still there

Finally, just before 11:30 am we traversed the Little River Inlet and entered the state of South Carolina. Here too this inlet has an abandoned wreck, areas with shoaling, and small fishing boats. Today we also got to see a casino gambling boat heading offshore through the inlet.

Once through this area, we approached the North Myrtle Beach area which was crowded with many pleasure boats. It was tedious and challenging, and is a primary reason we try not to travel on a weekend day.  It had also started to get hot and Denise changed to shorts and a short sleeve t-shirt.  We approached the New River Swing Bridge and was able to get through it without issue as it opens on demand.

Little River Swing Bridge

Little River Swing Bridge

Finally, the congestion died down for a little while and we were able to cruise through an area known as the “Rock pile” easily. Here we passed by the Grand Strand Airport with the only identifier is the large antennae for the airport that sits right on the edge of the ICW.

We continued south through Myrtle Beach, passing the Barefoot Marina one side and Lulu’s at Barefoot Landing on the other. This area continues with the redevelopment and has really changed since our first time through here in 2015.

South of this area the shoreline on both sides becomes residential with many new houses and developments now established that wasn’t here 4 years ago.  Needless to say it was slow-going again and this is why Captain Mark would prefer to take the “outside” route in the Atlantic Ocean. However, the seas were not conducive to this today.

Once again we had been shopping fuel and decided to stop at Osprey Marina on the south end of town, and just off the ICW.  But first we had to get through the Socastee Swing Bridge, which fortunately opens on demand.  Once past this bridge we headed to Osprey for a fill-up and a free pump-out.

It took no time at all before we were back on the ICW, and entering the Waccamaw River. Here the ICW is mostly rural and is one of Denise’s favorite parts of the ICW.  There are only a handful of structures between here and Georgetown, including the Bucksport and Wacca Wache Marinas.

Soon we approached Georgetown and hailed the Harborwalk Marina on the radio.  There were several boats arriving at the same time so we were asked to hold off until they were able to get them docked.  Eventually, we got the approval to dock and Mark backed us into a tight slip right next to a Fleming yacht. It was 4:30 pm and it had taken us 8+ hours to go 106 miles. We were tired and hot and couldn’t wait to get showers.

Approaching Georgetown Harbor

Approaching Georgetown Harbor

We checked into the marina and returned to the boat for showers and a much deserved cocktail. On the way we noticed there was another Back Cove (’26) in the marina near our boat. We stopped and talked with them for a bit to talk about our travel adventures this summer, and Back Cove/Sabre boats.

We originally were thinking a pizza dinner, but did not find anything that looked attracting to us. We had also learned that today was the annual “Taste of Georgetown” festival, which ended at 3:00 pm.  It was too bad that it didn’t last until later in the day or we would have participated.  So, we decided to return to “Alfresco Bistro”; a place we ate the very first time we were in Georgetown. At that time we found it to be superb, but on this visit we were quite disappointed. While the service was good, we found the food to be mediocre at best.  The waiter had told us they had been slammed all day in the restaurant, even though they had a special tent for the festival. Perhaps we will have to give them another chance the next time we visit this great little town.  One positive note was there was sufficient food for us to take some back to the boat for another meal.

Alfresco Bistro

Alfresco Bistro

We walked back to our boat and watched a little tv before calling it a day and retiring for the evening.

 Georgetown, SC – Sunday 11/3
Our morning started with attending the 8:00 am mass at “St Mary Our Lady of Ransom”, a church we had been to before. It is a small church just a half mile from the marina, so it is very convenient for us when cruising. The pastor is terrific and we enjoyed interacting with the entire community who we found warm and welcoming.

Mark had wanted to go to a diner for breakfast, and we were having trouble finding one that was open on Sunday. As were walking back towards the marina, and while searching for such a place, we discovered another couple from church in the same situation.  We ended up meeting David & Pat (“Blue Moon”), who were sailors from Ft. Walton Beach and who were headed home for winter. Together we discovered “Aunny’s Country Kitchen” was open and we went there for a delicious and inexpensive breakfast. We got a chance to get to know each other and chat about boat-life and then we went our separate ways afterwards.

Aunny's

Aunny’s

Once back on the boat we decided to do a single load of laundry, which will probably be our last one we will need to do until we get home.  We also downloaded and cataloged pictures in order to try and stay on top of this time consuming task. This helps facilitate the blog updates as it is easier to remember pictures when they are fresh in our minds.

Very nice laundry facility at marina

Very nice laundry facility at marina

We had been in touch with our Looping friends Anne & Jeff Timmons (formerly on “Harvest Moon”) who spend a few months every fall in Murrells Inlet, SC.  They agreed to come visit us in Georgetown, and stopped by on their way back from Hilton Head. We went to a late lunch at the Old Fish House restaurant and spent time talking and getting caught up on our lives.  They spend winters in Cape Coral, FL and are headed there again this winter. As they have a son with their only grandchild, they are now looking for a permanent home there, and we hope to see them again there soon.

We really like Georgetown as it is one of the small towns that seems to be doing so many things right. It helps that they do have some industry here (Liberty Steel), but more importantly they don’t expect their town to survive on just restaurants and shops.  They always have some type of community events  going on to draw people in whenever we have been here. This weekend it was a ½ marathon and 5k race on Saturday morning, the Taste of Georgetown all day, and an Oyster Roast in the evening.  We have also been here during their music festival weekend (see May 2017 post), and they have other cultural events here as well.

Also, this particular marina (Harborwalk) continues to improve itself. Since we were here 2 years ago they have put in more dockage space, moved the marina office to the fuel dock, and converted the old marina office to a nice cruisers lounge.  They continue to maintain a first class facility and it is located right in the heart of downtown.

Hilton Head, SC – Monday, 11/4

Georgetown to Hilton Head

Georgetown to Hilton Head

We set out from Georgetown early as we were wide awake earlier than planned; still adjusting to the time change on Sunday morning.  We knew it wasn’t going to take long for us to get to Charleston, and we really were not in a hurry, but since we were up, we figured we would head out.  Most of the boats around us had already left, so it made leaving our spot easy to exit the slip.

It was a nice day on the water and although we had a few boats to pass, they did not delay us as in previous days.  Initially the ICW is part of the Winyah Bay and affords a sufficiently wide enough channel to make passage easy.  Soon thereafter the ICW turns right and for 5 miles runs along a narrow channel that is very rural.  The most exciting thing here is passing the “Miss Ellie” Bridge Barge which acts as a swing bridge (officially called the “Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center Bridge”) used when cars are needed between Cat Island and the mainland.

Here the ICW then continues for miles through the lowcountry of South Carolina. It is rural and not well populated, but still beautiful in its own way.  There are spots along the way that are known for shoaling and it is not uncommon to encounter dredges just as we did in McClellanville.

Close quarters passing McClellanville dredge

Close quarters passing McClellanville dredge

Not long afterwards we approached Isle of Palms and saw our friend Brian Donovan’s boat (“Corporate Approved”) docked at the marina.  It looked all closed up and after a few emails back and forth confirmed he was back in New York closing up his Shady Harbor Marina for the winter.

Isle of Palms

Isle of Palms

"Corporate Approved" at Isle of Palms

“Corporate Approved” at Isle of Palms

About this time we were reconsidering stopping in Charleston. While we love this town and are fortunate to have free dockage when we wish to stay, it was still early in the day we would be at the dock by lunch time.  We really didn’t want to spend half the day at a dock when we could be moving south with great weather.  We decided to continue on, cancelling our Charleston accommodations and calculating how far we could go.  We had figured we could easily make it to Beaufort, SC and compared our options for staying the night, including anchoring out.  After some discussion and weighing pros & cons, we made a reservation at the Lady Island Marina, just across from Beaufort, SC (not to be confused with Beaufort, NC).

Having decided not to stop in Charleston and after we secured dockage for the night in Beaufort, we pressed on.  We cruised through Charleston Harbor, passing downtown Charleston and the city marina, and turned left heading south on the ICW.

How nice it was to have large bodies of water and no weekend boaters to contend with for most of this section. For the next few hours we cruised uneventfully on the ICW with nothing but more low country and beautiful scenery to look at.

Meanwhile we kept debating if we should even stop in Beaufort as we still would have a few more hours of cruising available.  When planning our itinerary and where to stop we try to consider the weather over a 3-day window. In some cases this means changing our itinerary to get somewhere safe before bad weather, or in other cases to bypass an area to take advantage of a great weather day. Today was one of the latter days.  We were now sure we could make it to Hilton Head and get across the Port Royal Sound before upcoming windy weather would make it an uncomfortable passage.

As we approached the Beaufort area we had to make a decision.  We had reservations in Hilton Head at Windmill Harbor Marina for Tuesday night, so we called to see if we could move it up a day instead.  They were more than happy to change our reservation, which was great news. Unfortunately, it meant we would miss the opportunity to dine at the South Carolina Yacht Club (SCYC) as they are closed on Monday nights. We cancelled the Lady Island Marina in Beaufort and made the slow no-wake passage through downtown Beaufort.

Downtown Beaufort, SC

Downtown Beaufort, SC

Captain Mark steering us along

Captain Mark steering us along

Within 30 minutes we continued south under the McTeer Bridge and headed around Parris Island (USMC Recruit Depot).

Once past the marine base we entered Port Royal Sound and made our way across it in no time.  We picked up the ICW on the south side of the sound and cruised past the Skull Creek Marina on Hilton Head Island.  From here it was a short cruise under the Hilton Head Bridge, around the corner of the island and lined up for entrance through the lock at Windmill Harbor Marina.

Port Royal Sound

Port Royal Sound

Approaching Windmill Harbor Marina Locks

Approaching Windmill Harbor Marina Locks

We contacted the marina on the VHF and awaited for their approval to enter the lock.  We exited the lock and took our first left up the fairway that led to the assigned slip. It was almost the exact same location as when we were here in the fall of 2017.  It was just before 4:00 pm and we had traveled 133 miles in 8.5 hours.

IO at WHM

IO at WHM

Once the boat was all situated, we went to the office to check in and review our options for getting a dinner delivered. As this marina is in a security controlled development, there are no restaurants nearby except the SCYC, which was closed.  We could have taken an Uber to a local restaurant, but we were tired and didn’t feel like going out.  However, the marina has a listing of restaurants that deliver, and with some local knowledge input we ordered a pizza for delivery from Bella Italia Pizza.  It was good, but the driver accidently picked up the wrong order and had to turn around go back to the restaurant, then return with our order. It took way longer than expected and by the time we finally got our dinner it was late.

We really like Windmill Harbor and it is our 4th or 5th time staying here. Because of that we rarely stay at another marina on Hilton Head.  Because of the nice surroundings, first class service and many amenities we would very much like to come back here for a stay of at least a week.  Many of our cruising friends all stay here, especially those who live aboard and can take advantage of the pool, tennis courts, great running/walking areas, and nearby golf courses.  Unfortunately, because it was dark, we did not take any pictures.

Our plans are for another long day tomorrow, in hopes of getting all the way to Jekyll Island, GA. However, we will not be able to leave until late as Denise has a conference call with a client in the morning. With a little luck we will be under way by 10:30, but …..once again we will have to stop for fuel along the way.

Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office

Sole Sisters Sabbatical!

Poquoson, VA/Washington DC – Saturday 10/26
It was just after 8:30 am when Denise left the Whitehouse Cove marina to drive up and meet her running buddies (aka “Sole Sisters”) in Washington DC. Mark would be staying put and enjoying time in his (temporary) “floating man cave”.

Although there are more direct routes from Poquoson to Washington DC, Denise’s travels would take her on a circuitous route through the backroads of Virginia, as she had an errand to complete while on her way; the large orange fender balls had to be returned to Jon & Lynn (“Zendo”).  Their boat was located at Olverson’s Lodge Creek marina in a rural community off the Potomac River, and we did not want to lose an entire day to go there and back by boat. Driving from Poquoson was the fastest path and it made more sense for Denise to do this on her way to DC.  Plus, she wanted these off the boat as they hog up space especially since one of them cannot be deflated.

Once the fenders were stowed in their dinghy as instructed, Denise was back on the road for another 2 hours.  A trip that should have taken just under 3 hours, ended up taking 4.5 hours. In addition to the stop at Olverson’s, there was a short stop for lunch in Maryland before entering into DC.

Before the hotel, Denise had to go pick up her race bib at the expo, located in the Gaylord Convention Center at Grand Harbor. The place was a madhouse and after pick up of the bib, shirt and a short walk around, she left.  It took another 30 minutes to get to the Hyatt Hotel on Capitol Hill, where most of the other girls were staying. Once at the hotel, Denise checked into her room and then caught up with her “Sole Sisters” in the shared suite that several had booked for the weekend.

That evening, a casual pre-race dinner was hosted by Teresea, sister of running buddy Susan S, who lives in Arlington. She cooked up a race-friendly meal that was delicious. Although she lives away from us, she usually joins us on our runs when visiting her twin, and we have had her onboard Island Office when we were in DC in 2017. It was a fun affair and everyone enjoyed talking and sharing what was going on in their lives, comparing notes, and discussing potential future races together.  We headed back to our hotel in DC and wished each other good luck for tomorrow’s race.

Sole Sisters

Sole Sisters

Meanwhile, Mark spent the day doing boat chores (new engine zincs, sump pump clean-out).  He found an Italian restaurant (Mama Mia’s) and ordered his usual chicken parmesan. Naturally, he had to try their garlic knots, and naturally, none have compared to those back home at Antonella’s!

Poquoson, VA/Washington DC – Sunday 10/27
As forecasted, it rained during the night and it was threatening to rain as the Sole Sister’s made their way to the starting line(s).  As the marathon started in a different location than the 10k, we were not all together but we were with Victoria and Melissa in spirit. Running the 10K with Denise were Aileen, Lisa, Susan M, and Doreen.  Susan S and her sister Teresea had completed a half-ironman race the previous weekend and were the transportation & support crew for the day.

Pre-race Sole Sisters

Prerace Sole Sisters

It started to rain as we were waiting for the race, then it stopped for a while.  But after the start, it rained off and on, (mostly off) but poured just after Denise finished.

At the United States Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial)

At the United States Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial)

The walk after the finish is a long path, especially when it is raining and the other 10k-ers were ahead of Denise.  Eventually, she was able to meet up with them and all decided to go back and get cleaned up.  We knew it would be hours before Victoria and Melissa would be finishing and we needed to get into dry clothes.

Once cleaned up and after eating some food, we then were able to be there for Victoria and Melissa after the Marathon finishers shoot. It had stopped raining, the clouds cleared up, and in fact it got hot!  We spent some time celebrating with them, then crammed into a cab to go back to the hotel.

Since it was Sunday, the three Catholics in the group (Lisa, Aileen and Denise) still had to get to mass.  Through previous research, St. Peter’s (Capitol Hill area) had been selected as they have a 5 pm Sunday mass, which fit perfectly with our weekend plans.

Our final group event for the weekend was a dinner at the Capitol Grill.  Aileen had made reservations and we had a great meal celebrating each other and our many years of friendship. We celebrated our most recent accomplishments and the many miles we have all run (or run, biked & swam) together.   All of us are marathoners, half marathoners and runners, and some of accomplished more than others. But we are all “Sole Sisters”, and this trip was good for Denise’s soul.  In the morning, we would be all going our separate ways, but will be back together to enjoy future events together.

Meanwhile back in Poquoson, Mark attended St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church (no pictures); a place we went to in 2015.  In the afternoon Mark went to the movies and saw “Angel Has Fallen” and started a new book “Lethal Agent”; the latest in the Mitch Rapp series (started by Vince Flynn).

Poquoson, VA – Monday 10/28
Denise was wide awake very early so she decided to get on the road sooner than planned. She figured since she was awake she might get ahead of the DC traffic.  She checked out of the hotel, and while waiting on the car to be brought up from the valet, ran into Aileen who had an early flight out. After a short chat and hugs, both said goodbye and were on their way.

Taking the direct route back to Poquoson was almost all interstate, and fortunately it was in the opposite direction of the usual rush-hour traffic.  Northbound was a nightmare, but southbound on I-95 was not bad and in 2.5 hours Denise made her way back to the boat.  Earlier than expected, but we were grateful as we had a lot to do before the 2:00 pm deadline to return the rental cars.  We also had to allow time to prep the boat for an early departure tomorrow morning.

First we returned one of the rental cars, then went to Stein Mart to return a jacket purchased last Friday, but not needed (nor wanted).  Then we stopped at Kroger in order to get groceries for the boat, and had to take them back to the boat and get them stowed.

Meanwhile, we had been in touch with John & Cathy, who were also on a tight schedule for the day, coordinating grandkids activities with their own.  But they managed to carve out time for a late lunch.  We met at Longhorn Steakhouse and enjoyed one last meal and a beer together before our final goodbye.  We have so loved being able to see them twice this year and hope we can visit again soon.

We dropped the rental off at Enterprise and got a ride back to the marina.  We then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening getting the boat ready to leave. Mark took care of a pump-out; made easy by the fact that the hose could reach and we didn’t have to move the boat to do this. We had a quiet dinner of leftovers from the freezer and watched the last episode of season 3 of “Victoria”.  We will now be ready to watch season 4 when Masterpiece Theater airs it in spring of 2020.

Tomorrow we will leave Poquoson with hopes of getting past Coinjock and hopefully to an anchorage on the North River, just before crossing the Albemarle Sound.  It all depends on the bridges and timing for the bridges and the Great Bridge Lock.  We also have to stop for diesel along the way at Top Rack Marina, where it is always considerably less than others and where we almost always fuel up.

Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office

Partying in Poquoson!

Poquoson, VA – Saturday 10/19

Solomons to Poquoson

Solomons, MD to Poquoson, VA

Before leaving the dock at Solomons Island Yacht Club (SIYC) we were going to stop at Solomons Yachting Center for a small amount of fuel; just to get us to Norfolk (Top Rack) where it will be much cheaper to fill up. However, they would not answer our calls even though they claimed they would be open at 8:00 am.  Not wanting to waste any time, we instead moved over to Calvert Marina fuel dock as their price was comparable. We were not there long before completing our fuel purchase and then left their dock to be on our way.

Meanwhile Chuck and Victoria (“Argento”) had gone for a pump-out and finished up about the same time.  We met up at the channel and exited into the Patuxent River, passing the UofM – Center for Environmental Science as we left.  There were a parade of boats as the nice weather provided the best day to move south, and many boats had been held up from moving for several days.

Many boats on the Bay

Many boats on the Bay

We entered into the Chesapeake Bay and found very favorable conditions for the 80 mile cruise to Poquoson.  Along the way we passed several lighthouses, including the Smith Point Lighthouse at the southern end of the entrance to the Potomac River. Many of these we have already photographed before so no additional pictures were taken.  Also because we were too far away from them for a good shot.   We also passed several tug-pulling barges and lots of sailboats and trawlers.

Smith Point Lighthouse

Smith Point Lighthouse

Following most of the way was “Argento”, and we talked periodically throughout the morning. They were headed south to Norfolk and we were headed a little more towards the west to Poquoson so our course headings had us slowly separating.  As we approached the Rappahannock River the separation became well over a mile so we bid each other farewell and hope to see each other in FL this winter.

"Argento"

“Argento” following

We continued south for a little while longer, crossing the York River and entering into the channel around Poquoson Flats; part of the Plum Tree Island National Wildlife Refuge. This is a really pretty area and reminds us of parts of LowCountry – South Carolina and Florida.  We entered the Poquoson Inlet and slowly cruised to Whitehouse Cove and the preassigned slip at Whitehouse Cove Marina.

As we approached the marina we noticed the boat “Overdraft” was docked on the end of the first set of docks, where our friends on “YOLO” had been last spring when we were here.  We wondered if Russell (“Overdraft”) was home, but didn’t have to wait long to get our answer as he had already made his way around the docks and was there to assist us with the tie up.  Once the boat was secured we got handshakes and hugs and we were happy to see him. Russell had assisted us with our dinghy in 2017 when we were here and then we got to see him again on our way north this spring.  He left us to get our things settled and we agreed to connect up later.

In the meantime we had been in communication with Denise’s brother John.  We made plans for him to pick us up later in the afternoon and we would be spending a few days at their home in Seaford (near Poquoson).  But before he would come we needed to prepare our boat for the bad weather coming over the weekend. We put out extra lines and tied up our burgees, as well as secured things below in case the boat got a little tossed while we were away.

We also went over to see Russell and thank him for his help earlier, and to find out where he went this summer. We met his girlfriend “Linda” and his son (“Rob”) who was visiting.  We talked for a little while and discussed the fire last spring at the Surf Rider Restaurant here at the marina (see post here). We could see they are making fast progress at getting the restaurant rebuilt, and Russell told us they intend to open by Christmas, but it will most likely be after the first of the year.

Surf Rider Restaurant rebuild

Surf Rider Restaurant rebuild

We then returned to our boat, packed our duffle bag for a few days’ stay.  John came to pick us up and we went to their lovely home.  They have made much progress on the new yard and decorating since we were here in the spring, and we had a chance to take showers in a BIG (e.g. real) shower.

After some time hanging out and just talking, we went to dinner at an Asian restaurant called “Wonderful”, and it was.  It offered a complete Asian menu where Denise was able to get sushi and Mark got a delicious teriyaki salmon entrée.

We returned to our wonderful accommodations for the evening and ended the evening watching the movie “the Laundromat”; it starred Meryl Streep and ended up being a political propaganda piece.  We were glad we had not paid for it in a movie theater.

Poquoson, VA – Sunday 10/20
During the night the forecasted rain and wind started and when we woke up it was still raining.  We borrowed John’s truck and went to Church at St. Joan of Arc, where we had attended in the spring.  It is a wonderful parish with a priest that is blind, and on this day they had 2 baptisms during the mass.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out with John & Cathy, getting caught up on each of our lives.  In the evening, their two (twin) daughters (Shannon & Christen) came over with their families (husbands Shawn & Chris; 4 kids combined) for dinner.  Of course we would have liked to think it was to see us, but in reality it was to also celebrate Colton’s 9th birthday (son of Shannon & Shawn).  Cathy’s mom Joan, was also there. Everyone enjoyed the pizza party and family fun time, and it was great for us to be able to see these kids again. Even though we just saw them in May, they grow up and change so fast that it was wonderful to spend time with them again.

After all the kids left, and it was just the four of us again, we settled into watching the movie “The One I Love”, before retiring for the night.

Poquoson, VA – Monday 10/21
It was still overcast and not great weather, and it looked like it was going to be like this the rest of the day. Denise & Cathy went for a little “girl time” and got a manicure & pedicure, while Mark stayed at the house and did some work, before enjoying some relaxation time.

Originally we were going to go back to the boat in the early afternoon as one of the grandkids had a baseball game in Poquoson, and John and Cathy would take us back there when they went to their game. However, due to all the rain, the fields were flooded and their game was cancelled. So we ended up staying all afternoon, having dinner with John & Cathy, and then then they took us back to the boat. Once back at the marina we were happy to see that the storm had no impact on the boat while we were gone.  We unpacked our overnight bag and settled in for the rest of the night

Poquoson, VA – Tuesday 10/22
This was our first morning in the marina, so it wasn’t until today that we woke up to the banging of hammers and the sound nail guns as the construction crews were busy working on the rebuilding of the Surf Rider Restaurant. It was good to see the progress, but the noise kept Mark from sleeping in as long as he would have liked.  Denise was up early and went for a walk around the houses near the marina. Since this is an area she has run through before, she felt comfortable going out when the sun was just coming up.  It was interesting to see the landscape in the fall as the trees are losing their leaves and more of the houses and water views are more visible.

We had a busy day planned and a long list of things to do on the boat. First, however we had work to do for our clients and several conference calls that took up most of the day.  We also did some maintenance on our floating home, including completely cleaning and polishing the galley (appliances, sink, etc.).

In the afternoon Denise began working on this blog update and cataloging the handful of pictures we had taken.  She also mapped out our planned itinerary that would take us through Charleston, Hilton Head, Jekyll Island, and St. Augustine, and arriving in our home marina by 11/15.  Of course all this is weather dependent and based on several days of long (100+ miles) on the water.

Plan to get home

Plan to get home

When we got to John & Cathy’s on Friday, we were able to pick up several packages we had shipped in advance of our arrival. One of them was the screw for our flagpole, which we lost while on our way to Cape May.  Today, we were able to once again fly “Old Glory” and secure it with the new screw.

We also spent some time working on the ice maker. Over the last few weeks we noticed that it was making less and less ice per cycle and the cubes it did make were not big and full like they used to be.  Mark completely cleaned the unit and was on the phone with the ice maker’s tech support several times, trying everything they have suggested. But, it was not having much of an impact, and now it looks like we will need to have the Freon charged.  This was determined when Mark was talking to Russell (“Overdraft”) who had a refrigeration guy working with him on his boat.  So, Mark called and scheduled an appointment for the guy to come on Thursday morning.

Once again the weather was forecasted to turn to rain and high winds in the evening; the storm that brought a killing tornado to Dallas.  John & Cathy had offered for us to go back to their house, but all afternoon we watched the radar and eventually it looked like we would only have to endure the bad weather for a short period of time, so we decided to stay put on the boat.  We still had some shrimp in our freezer and after defrosting, Denise whipped up a garlic scampi dinner with angel hair pasta that we both thought was delicious.  As we watched another two episodes of “Victoria” we kept waiting for the big storm, and by the time we retired for the night we had only had a few sprinkles.

Evening at Whitehouse Cove

Evening at Whitehouse Cove

Poquoson, VA – Wednesday 10/23
Sometime during the night we did get some rain as there were puddles on the docks when we woke up.  Again the construction crews were working, but not quite as early as yesterday.

We spent a good part of the day doing work for our business and working on boat chores.  It was a lovely day outside and although a little cool, we had the hatches and door open on the boat.  We also went through the task of taking the ice maker out of its cabinet for easier access by the repair guy in the morning.

In the late afternoon John came by to pick us up for dinner at their house. Justin, their son had flown in from Minnesota with his son (Jase) and we wanted a chance to see them before weekend plans had us all going in different directions.  We enjoyed a wonderful time getting to see our nephew and his son, as well as niece Christen and her boys (Colton & Cooper) again.  Then John took us back to the boat where we retired for the evening.

Poquoson, VA – Thursday 10/24
Today was another gorgeous day and it was so peaceful in the marina.  We so enjoy being on the water on days like this, and our only regret is that we are not making progress south.  That won’t happen until next Tuesday after Denise’s weekend in Washington DC with her running “Sole Sisters”.

As expected, the repair man came for the ice maker which took up all of the morning, and part of our afternoon.  Long story short, after draining the old Freon and charging it with new, there was no improvement on the ice.  Mark was again on the phone with the tech support people and it looks like we have done all we can do for this unit.  It will take a trip to the repair facility in Ft. Lauderdale and probably will have to be replaced. These are not cheap units, but this one is 6 years old and is most likely at the end of its life.

When the repairman left, we went for a walk around the marina to check out some of the boats in the covered slips section.  Here we saw a Sabre yacht and the Grand Banks “Red Eagle”, whom we had seen when we were here before, but still had not a chance to talk with the owner. This boat was flying the AGLCA, DECL, and MTOA burgees (like us) and we know we have met them before.  We also ran into “John”, a man who has been working on the repair of the “Linda Carol“ buy-boat that was burned in the Surf Rider fire.  He showed us his own boat (also in the covered slips) that he has been rebuilding a piece at a time.

During our stay here, we have been frustrated with the marina’s wi-fi which has been mostly not working.  Mark has been working with Craig (marina manager) and was able to identify the problem and present a resolution. However, this helped everyone else in the marina except us: since we were behind the under-construction restaurant the antennae could not reach us.  The construction manager (who is using the marina management office for their construction site) said he would elevate the box, but had not done this as of this blog writing. We continue to use our hotspot in the interim, but are rapidly burning through the data plan.

We ate dinner on the boat and wished the Surf Rider was still open, as we would have loved their crab cakes tonight.  Maybe the next time we visit here, we can enjoy them again.

Sunset over the marina

Sunset over the marina

Poquoson, VA – Friday 10/25
Our morning was busy with work and getting some business tasks completed.  We also took note that the roofers were making great progress on the roof on the Surf Rider restaurant.

Putting on the roof

Putting on the roof

After lunch we went to pick up our rental cars in Newport News, with Enterprise picking us up at the marina. Yes, we got two cars: one for Mark to use during the weekend, and one for Denise to use to take to Washington DC for the weekend.  We took advantage of the deep weekend discounts at Enterprise, and cashed in points for the second one from Hertz.

Once in our respective rental cars, we split up and went our separate ways.  Denise found a Stein Mart and went to find an outfit for dinner in DC.  Meanwhile Mark went to pick up a few items at Costco and Home Depot, where he ran into John & Cathy.  After some discussion and few phone calls back and forth, we made plans for a dinner meet-up in Poquoson. But first we had to return to the boat and drop off our purchases.  We then joined John, Cathy, Shannon (back from her conference) and her two girls, as well as Jase (Justin’s son) at El Rancho. This Mexican restaurant had good food and the freshest guacamole ever, but their service was so slow that it had us getting back to the boat much later than planned.  Tomorrow, Denise will leave for DC and we will report on the weekend in a separate post.

And throughout this very busy crazy day, we forgot to take pictures!

Stay tuned for more of our adventures on Island Office