October 22, 2006

We have been really dawdling for the past 3 weeks, including not updating our log. Sorry folks, the boating life is finally starting to sink in…leave no wake, smell the roses, take your time!

Since our last log update, we completed the New Jersey IntraCoastal Waterway to get to the Delaware Bay entrance at Cape May. The trip was a three day obstacle course in very narrow channels. We’re actually quite proud that we ran aground only twice on mud/sand bars. While Olga got into a snit about it, John Deere’s 375 HP came to the rescue with lots of torque and propeller wash. We either got off the bars or washed it forward of the boat. So, no harm done and just a practice for the rest of the ICW down south.

Crossing Delaware Bay was a long trek but we had good weather and the passage was relatively benign. That night, we anchored in Salem, NJ in a high current area. While we dragged a bit we had plenty of room. Friends of ours on sailboats anchored across the Bay at Reedy Island, the recommended spot, and had lots of problems with the weather and the current.

The Chesapeake-Delaware Canal (referred to locally as the C&D Canal) was a non-event: a straight line, no heavy traffic affair with 2 knots of favourable current pushing us the whole way through. We then made our way to the Sassafras River and docked at Georgetown, at a lovely marina. Olga even got to try out the swimming pool before a weather front brought lots of rain and much cooler temperatures. We spent the next few days sampling the restaurants, provisioning and, of course, buying more boat parts. From Georgetown, we went to a beautiful anchorage in Rock Hall and then on up the Chester River to Chestertown, a gorgeous old civil war style town.

The Chesapeake is a real boater’s paradise! There are so many inlets, bays, rivers, small towns and marinas to go to that we could easily spend months here. This is the first place where both power and sail boats seem to be fully accepted. Most other places we visited were either skewed towards one or the other. The only downside of cruising these waters are the endless lines of crab pots laid out everywhere. Still, our experience dodging lobster pots in Nova Scotia has come in handy and so far, we’ve avoided getting our prop tangled in any lines.

We crossed over to the western shore of the bay on October 11 th and tied up at the Anchorage Marina in Baltimore for a week. During that time, we spent two days at the Annapolis Boat Show when Paul and Patricia Light flew down from Halifax for a visit. The Nova Scotia Boatbuilders Association (NSBA) also had a booth at the show so, of course, we had to pop in there too to say hello to old friends (Tim and Chantalle were working very hard, on their feet all day with smiles only Nova Scotians can put on). The fact that they shared a booth with the folks from PassageMaker magazine who were giving out free espresso had nothing to do with it, honest! Anyway, we left more drool on those show docks than our two Xanadu’s ever produced in their doggie life time. Here are the weblinks to some of the boats we were the most impressed with at the show:

Elling E3 - http://www.neptune-marine-group.com/elling/elling.html

Nordic Tug 42 - http://www.nordictugs.com/42.cfm?showNav=models

Island Packet’s new SP Cruiser – http://www.ipy.com/Default.php?Page=SPCruiser

Selene 40 Trawler – http://www.selenetrawlers.com/NewSite/Yachts_40.html

Baltimore was interesting, but a really rough town. The inner harbour has been renovated and it is cruiser friendly but we were advised not to venture too far from there. Apparently, this is now the top crime city in the U.S. It’s not a pretty city either, so we had no regrets moving on from there.

We liked Annapolis so much that we brought the boat there on October 18 th and have been moored at the edge of a park in Spa Creek ever since. We have to wait another day or two for the order for our vaccination booster shots to come in and then we’ll continue south towards Norfolk, VA. Although the weather is starting to get noticeably cooler (we’ve had to run the diesel furnace a couple of mornings to warm up the boat), we can’t go too far south too quickly without invalidating our insurance coverage. Neither we nor the insurance company want to risk getting hit by a hurricane!

We keep running across Canucks of every stripe on their way south. It is rare that we do not see 4-5 other Canadian boats in our anchorages and we keep running into them in towns and villages. The majority are from Montreal with only one boat from Halifax so far.

On the technical side, our stuffing box seems to be working OK. We had to buy a new GPS from Raymarine as our old one started crapping out. Our main VHF radio is starting to act up and comes on only when you show it the expired Raymarine warranty and plead. So of course we had to re-wire the helm and amazingly I took out 10 meters of wires and everything seems to work OK (until the next time I guess!).

Next update in a couple of weeks. Cheers to all for now!

Andre and Olga on board m/v Mystic Bond

New Jersey to Virginia, October 2006

Coming on Atlantic City Rock Hall anchorage on the Chesapeake
NSBA at the Annapolis Boat Show
Paul & Olga figuring out the menu
After a long day at the Boat Show, some relaxation
Lighthouse museum in Portsmouth
       
   
Sharing the road with the big boys
Even the big boys need repairs at Norfolk, Virginia

November 7, 2006

Hey Canada, stop sending those cold fronts south…we’ve been freezing our “stern” down here and our winter clothes are all in storage in Ottawa!

We quickly got over the boat fever of Annapolis and made our way south to Portsmouth-Norfolk, VA. Along the way we met up a couple of times with Pat & Tutti on Keltic Kat. They are the only other Haligonians we have met so far. The last time we had seen them they were on our boat in Halifax Harbour getting bounced by the tugs and pilot boats at Bishop Landing. It was great to see them and we did share a few glasses and a lovely meal with them. Pat is a great cook on the BBQ.

We had some bad seas going down the Chesapeake when we crossed the Potomac River and a few of the other major inlets. Fortunately, we weren’t alone bouncing in the seas; even the sailboats were having a hard time what with the tides, river currents and wind all going at cross purpose. Coming out of the Chesapeake Bay, we stayed two nights at the entrance to Norfolk, at the Willoughby Bay Marina. Tell all your friends NOT to bother with that place. We got bounced around for two days at the dock and damaged the boat in the process, even though we were up most of one stormy, windy night tying up extra lines and trying to balance the pressure on all our fenders. To add insult to injury, the facilities were terrible, the promised WiFi service wasn’t available and you had to take your shower in a full wet suit to avoid touching the black mold that covered the entire stall. All that for $75 Cdn a night!

As soon as we could, we made our way across the harbour to Portsmouth. The Portsmouth Boating Center was a very different and much more pleasant experience. This was southern hospitality at its best, with free pumpout, WiFi, cablevision and some of the cheapest diesel for 100 miles. They even had planters full of vegetables around the picnic area, so you could help yourself to fresh lettuce and herbs to fancy up whatever you wanted to cook while you were there.

The Norfolk-Portsmouth harbour itself is very impressive and full of US military vessels of every type and size, including a couple of aircraft carriers. As a result, there are US Navy, Coast Guard and Norfolk police patrols on the water every hundred feet. You either feel very secure or very threatened with all those guns pointed at you. I have to say though that some of them waved and even smiled at us Canucks.

From Norfolk, we took the IntraCoastal Waterway detour through what they call the Great Dismal Swamp. There is nothing dismal about it. It’s a beautiful straight canal with lots of trees and color as you go along at 5 knots. We spent the night at the half way point, just past the state line at the North Carolina Welcome Centre. We were rafted up in three rows, five deep and took the whole width of the canal so no one else could go by. It was a beautiful clear cold night and everyone crawled over each other’s boat to have wine & cheese on the small dock. We met some lovely people from down south to up north.

Our next stop was Elizabeth City. This is a real “happening” place for boaters. The town folks volunteer to welcome you with roses and every nice evening they have a wine and cheese for boaters. Unfortunately, it was too bloody cold to have the nightly event, but all the town docks are free so who can complain. We caught up there with Paul and Lise from Nantelise, René and Lucie from Vagabond des mers and even Jacques and Sabine on Double Boggey, a huge catamaran which we first met in Matane, QC. They got to Elizabeth City after visiting the Gaspesie, the Magdalen Islands, Nova Scotia, Maine and the state of New York. It is amazing how small a world it is. A few days earlier, we had passed Jane and Brian on Pilgrim whom we first met at Ballantyne’s Cove, NS, last July.

After freezing our “sterns” for the past couple of days, we went to Belhaven, NC where it was marginally warmer. Thank goodness we invested in a diesel furnace! Most of the Canadians we have met had limitations on their insurance to stay above Norfolk, VA until after Nov. 1 st, so they are now on a fast track towards warmer weather. Since ours restricts us from going below the 35 th parallel until after Nov. 15 th, we’ll be dawdling around this general area for the next 10 days or so. We travelled yesterday up the Neuse River to New Bern, NC for some R&R, staying at the Sheraton Marina with WiFi and clean showers. The whole downtown core has gone through a renaissance in recent years so it’s a lovely place to walk around, with many historic properties and a good selection of restaurants as well. We’ve also finally found an authorised John Deere dealer here, so we’ll be able to use the time to get some scheduled maintenance done on our engine before we head out again. Although we always felt that, at 44’, our boat was a decent size, we’re a real small fish among the sharks here. You can barely see us squeezed in ahead of one 65’ foot sportfisher and the 85’ one just in front of us. No wonder we get royally “bounced” by the wakes of these monsters when they pass us by at 30+ knots!

Our next update will (hopefully!) be from Florida.

Andre and Olga on board m/v Mystic Bond

The Dismal Swamp to North Carolina, October 2006
   
The Dismal Swamp's Welcome Center, crowded but fun
The Dismal Swamp in all its splendor
Meeting Lise from Nantelise
Fancy washroom at a Bellhaven marina
Nice and clean compared to most
Outdoor art in New Bern - a great town
We felt little among the big Sportsfishers in New Bern, home of Hatteras
Old New Bern is very quaint
The Tin Man of New Bern or is it art?
Seven@Sea in Oriental, a young couple sailing with 5 kids under 14

November 21, 2006

OK, we know it’s not Florida yet, but we have a good connection…so why not an update! Since it is SNOWING here in Charleston, SC today, we thought of all our Canadian friends and family and hoped we’d make a plea for some sympathy (yea, right!).

The past couple of weeks have been interesting: we found the “American Dream“, Olga got more practice backing up the boat and we’ve learned how to give joy rides to dolphins.

After New Bern, NC (which we really enjoyed), we spent a couple of nights at anchor in Oriental, NC. Nice little town and very quiet. They do have a great marine supply store however, so of course we made a significant contribution to the local economy. We also shared the anchorage there with the sailing cat “Seven @ Sea”, skippered by a couple with 5 young children, seeing the world. The kids reminded us of the good old days, when kids made their own fun instead of relying on Fisher Price and Game Boys for stimulation. They were playing in the rigging of the boat (see picture) and having a ball. From age 2 to around 12, they must be a handful while underway.

On November 15 th, finally free of our insurance restriction, we made a bee-line for Hammock Bay on the ICW where we anchored for the night (which then turned out to be two nights). We received the blunt end of a major storm from the south with 50 knots winds in the anchorage. The other four boats and Mystic Bond all dragged anchor because of the strong winds. Just a few miles from us, people were not as lucky as 11 died when a tornado touched down in a nearby community. With the wind and rain it was a complete whiteout and we couldn’t see 50 feet around us. On the positive side…the boat got a really good wash and we didn’t have any leaks on the inside.

Hammock Bay by the way is part of Camp Lejeune, a major U.S. marine training base. When we pulled into the Bay, a monstrous hovercraft took off from the shore (see picture). It was amazing to see the water flying from this beast. It was easily 100 feet long and probably 50 feet wide. Despite the weather, there was constant military activity on the shore, in the air and in the bay. (Josh, you would have been impressed by all of the different types of rotary-winged aircraft that buzzed us before the winds got too high and they all returned to base.) The day we left, they were closing the part of the ICW we had just traveled due to yet another military exercise. We even heard the HMCS Halifax calling US military vessels out at sea so I guess the Canadians were out there as well doing some joint maneuvers. Interestingly, they use VHF Channel 16 like everybody else. I guess our Department of National Defence doesn’t have enough money to buy them fancy encrypted radios to communicate with the U.S. military.

When the weather improved we continued motoring down the ICW and tried to tie up at Southport, just past the mouth of the Cape Fear River. There was no “free“ space available so we continued on to the St. James Plantation and Marina. Talk about the American Dream! Over 6,000 acres of manicured, architecturally designed lots in a gated adult community with four golf courses, a five star marina and no kids running around. The adult part means over 60 years of age, I think. We were the youngest people everywhere we went except for the staff. Amazingly, prices were reasonable at the marina and restaurant we went to. The whole place was eerie. I saw more facelifts, old bodies with jewelry hanging everywhere and blue-rinse hairdo’s than most upscale seniors’ homes.

The next day we went to Myrtle Beach and stayed at a well maintained but very crowded yacht basin. Still, we met some nice folks there and again found reasonable prices. There were even some permanent live-aboards at the marina but, as usual, our boat was overshadowed by the huge megayachts everywhere.

We spent the 19 th at a beautiful anchorage called Minim Creek with some boats from Montreal which we had met at Hammock Bay. Both boats are homemade trawlers, one a 70 footer which looks like a barge with a house on it but they look very comfortable at sea and anchor. The two crazy Frenchmen decided to avoid swinging with the tide and current, which is strong, by anchoring their bows in opposite directions and tying their sterns together for the night. The theory was that when the tide and current changed, there would always be one boat facing it. It worked! They did not budge all night but it was quite a sight. Looked like two dogs mating.

Olga is finally getting comfortable using the bow thruster to point the nose of the boat in the opposite direction she wants the stern to go to. A single screw does not back very well unless you provide enough direction to your keel to go where you want. In both of the marinas, she did a perfect straight line using thruster and propeller without hitting anything. Everywhere we go, she still gets compliments on her docking maneuvers. Of course the monkey that jumps on the dock with the lines doesn’t even get a tip!

Now to the dolphins... They love us. It must be the Nova Scotia hull that attracts them. It seems that our bow wake at 7 to 8 knots is the perfect spot for them to get a joy ride. We have not seen other boats attracting the dolphins the way we do and when they get close to us, they marvel at the dolphins riding our bow wave. There have been up to five surfing with us, some as big as 10 feet. It’s a marvelous spectacle and we have been trying to take pictures, but they don’t do justice to the scene.

We are now in old Charleston. We will weather another Nor-Easter for the next couple of days in a nice marina (very expensive this time) and do some provisioning. We must get to Jacksonville, Florida by November 29 th to catch a plane for a planned week’s “vacation” in Freeport, Bahamas. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. This morning, snow and freezing rain was flying in strong north winds. Our diesel furnace has been working overtime and we are comfortable in our cozy cabin.

Bye for now. Hopefully the next update will really be from Florida.

André and Olga on board m/v Mystic Bond

South Carolina to Florida, November-December 2006

Dolphins on our bow in the ICW The Navy having fun at Camp Lejeune
ICW lawn ornament, a giant giraffe
Sunset in Mosquito Creek
Old Port of Savannah
Savannah waterfront
Savannah - a steep climb from the waterfront up to the city centre
Golfers of a bygone era in Savannah
Christmas Trees in Savannah aren't the best
But having flowering plants in December is great
Andre and the heroine of Savannah
Gerogia shrimper and its attendants
       
Sunset on St. Mary's River
A Mystic Bond look-alike with masts

 

December 24, 2006

It’s bloody freezing in Ottawa on this Chrismas eve. Unfortunately our plans had to change due to Andre’s mother passing away. So, instead of sunning ourselves in the Bahamas, we are visiting family back in Canada.

We made it to Jacksonville with no difficulties. It is actually a very nice cruise through Georgia and palm trees started appearing more and more often. As Canucks, one palm tree looks like all palm trees. However, we have been getting an education on the varieties of palm trees that exist and it is quite amazing.

Savannah was a wonderful stop. The city is very historical and tourist friendly. It is really worth seeing. Southern hospitality is great but they could use a few pointers from us northerners as to what constitutes a proper Christmas tree (see picture)

In Jacksonville, we rented a slip for a month. They even put on nice fireworks for us (see picture) to celebrate a college football game. Most of the boats in the harbour are wearing Christmas decorations. While gaudy describes the usual result, a few actually look good all lit-up.

On December 2 nd , we flew to Port Lucaya in the Bahamas to take advantage of a nice week of warm weather and visit with Olga’s sister Monica who joined us from frigid Stratford, Ontario. The marinas are full of Canadians and Americans who spend the winter in the islands. We met some interesting characters who share our lifestyle.

Upon our return we learned that Andre’s mom was failing and we changed our plans to go to Quebec City. She passed away on December 11 th and family and friends gathered to pay their final respects to this lovely lady. We also got a chance to spend some “quality time” with Andre’s cousin Denis who let us play with his enormous new flat screen TV/entertainment center and fed us the best food we’ve had since leaving Canada in September.

So here we are on December 24 th , in Ottawa, again freezing our butts off even though everyone who lives here is upset because it’s not cold enough and it looks like they’re not going to have a white Christmas. We will be returning to Jacksonville on Christmas day to continue our cruise. We now hope to cross the Gulf Stream in January and enjoy the Bahamas for a few months.

A Merry Christmas to all our friends and family

André and Olga (Soon to be back) aboard m/v Mystic Bond

 

Florida, December 2006 - January 2007

Jacksonville had fireworks for every occasion This time...the Gator Bowl
Florida ICW properties
And some had more money
But the place is getting crowded all along the ICW
And then some have no taste
 
More dolphins having fun with our wake
And a pod on our bow
West Palm Beach ...the beach
Louise and Andre from s/v JEM at West Palm Beach
Olga and Andre of Mystic Bond on the same beach

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