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June 1 - June 27
Climbing to the Crow's Nest * Shredded Sail * Port of Savannah * Fort Sumter * Giant Tarpon * Pontoon Bridge * Gunboats on the Prowl * Marshes and Sounds * Tropical Storm Alison * Hoppy the Tree Frog * Rose Buddies * Dismal Swamp * Ponies on Chincoteague * Home of the Jet 14
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Day 315 - Friday, June 1
Sea Island, Georgia
Mile 660 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
When Dan and I got up early to leave our anchorage at Cumberland Island, we
passed a beautiful replica of an old wooden pirate ship. We sailed close to
get some pictures and say "hi", then we were on our way.
After awhile we noticed that the pirate ship was hot on our trail and gaining on us. Dan talked to the pirate captain on the radio and they arranged for a "surprise" pirate attack to wake up our sleeping kids. The pirate ship drew up alongside our boat and the pirate captain used a modern bullhorn to roust our sleepy-eyed crew.
The pirate captain was from California. He had bought the boat a year ago,
and it had been built as a replica of a pirate ship in 1969. It even had a
small cannon onboard. The captain was travelling with his thirteen-year-old
son. He graciously invited our kids aboard for a ride.
The waterway was calm so we were able to travel side-by-side long enough for the kids to board the pirate ship while we were moving. Then they pulled ahead of us and we followed them for several miles. Dan was watching the kids through binoculars when, to our amazement, they started climbing the rope ladders up to the crow's nest at the top of the mast. This was even better than Disneyland! When the wind would pick up in little gusts, the pirate ship would heel over far enough for the kids to drop straight down into the water (if they fell, which they didn't). After awhile we rafted up beside them again and we got our kids back from the pirates. They had entertained themselves on board by capturing a tiny lizard that had been hiding in the woodwork. We said thank you and good-bye and parted ways. They were heading out to sea because they had a seven-foot draft on their boat while we were continuing up the shallow rivers.
Today we received a proper introduction to the green-headed Georgia horsefly. They are over an inch long and they have a stinging bite. But they are slow and easy to kill. We kept the cabin doors shut and anyone outside had to be armed with a fly swatter.
We spent the day travelling through the beautiful salt marshes that line the Georgia coast. There are no sand beaches on the Georgia coastline, just miles and miles of thick green marsh grass. Every so often we go through a sound where the ocean comes into the marsh. The waters get a little rough in these spots. After the sounds we find ourselves navigating through a maze of little creeks and inlets that cut through the grasses in every direction. You can see for miles, so you can see boats that look like they are travelling through the grass far away. Egrets dot the edges of the shore, always solitary and stately, each one guarding its own stretch of grass.
Day 316 - Saturday, June 2
Ossabaw Island, Georgia
Mile 612 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
Nothing was boring about piloting today. The genoa was up because there was a brisk wind and we needed the extra power. Half of the time we are sailing against the current. The current changes with the tides, plus it changes as you pass from a downstream creek to an upstream creek.
With all the bends and twists in the waterway, the sail needs constant adjustment. And the wind moves a bit from side to side, with occasional gusts that send the boat shooting forward. We try to keep the engine adjusted so we are always travelling at 5-1/2 knots. We're still following the red and green markers, but with this twisty path they are not always easy to find. Sometimes they are not even there when the map says they should be.
Dan and Zion each mastered the art of being able to move the genoa from one side of the boat to the other by themselves. It takes a lot of muscle power. About 2:00 in the afternoon when the genoa was filled with a big gust of wind, it suddenly ripped in two. Right above the reinforced area of the clew, the edge of the sail gave way and the material ripped out in a neat square. The bottom corner of the genoa was now lying on the deck while the rest of genoa was flying wildly in the wind, like a giant white flag on the front of the boat. Luckily, the wind quieted just as quickly as it had gusted and Zion and I easily lowered the rest of the damaged genoa down to the deck. We spent the rest of the day motoring.
Day 317 - Sunday, June 3
Port Wentworth, near Savannah, Georgia
Mile 576 on the Savannah River
We motored all morning through more salt marshes and sounds, swatting flies along our way. Then we left the Intracoastal Waterway for a short detour up the Savannah River. Dan had a friend near Savannah that he wanted to visit.
Savannah is Georgia's big seaport city, but it's not actually on the ocean. There are no ocean beaches near it. It's just the first high ground after miles of salt marsh. But the Savannah River is deep enough for the big ocean freighters to enter, so it is a busy port city along the river. Our depth gauge says that the river is over 40 feet deep. We learned later that it's only clear for twenty feet. Below that there is a fine mud slurry, like a thick milkshake, that the big ocean boats can easily get through.
The downtown Savannah riverfront is a mixture of grand new hotels and
refurbished old brick buildings offering a variety of small shops and
restaurants. There is a brick riverwalk in a nice park-like setting. Since
it is a nice Sunday afternoon there are lots of people out and about.
There are several beautiful docks along the river, but we can't find the public dock that is supposed to be here. Most of the docks are empty. There is a water taxi to take people across to the other side, and there are two fancy back-paddle river boats waiting for their cruise time.
We stopped at one empty dock in front of a hotel. They charged $3 a foot to stay for the night. We couldn't believe it! No wonder their dock was empty. $1 a foot is what we normally pay. The only place we stopped before that was this expensive was Atlantis in Nassau, and there you got free admission to their theme park.
We continued our search for the public dock. We went to the spot where the water taxi worked. A dock attendant there said we could tie-up for four hours for $25. Too rich for our blood. No one else was tied up there either. We eventually tied to the seawall along the park with the help of some friendly people who were out for an afternoon stroll. The seawall was public property and it even had cleats for boats to use. There just wasn't any easy way to climb off of the boat.
Dan scrambled off to make some phone calls. He made arrangements to visit his friend, and he found out that the old public dock had been removed about a year ago. The city was still trying to decide what to put in its place. We decided to head further up the river and look for an anchoring spot.
As we headed past downtown Savannah we entered the busy port. We saw one
freighter come in that had an incredible number of containers stacked on it's
deck. The back row alone held fifty containers - ten across and five high.
We only went a short way past the port when we discovered we couldn't go any further. There was a low bridge blocking our path. It was a turntable bridge that could open up to let boats pass, but it was unmanned. The sign said that you had to give the town three hours notice if you wanted the bridge to open. There was a nice little park and boat ramp before the bridge. We stopped there and talked to the locals. They said the bridge only opens about three times a year. If a hurricane comes, all of the shrimp boats go through and head up the river for safety. The river was wide here in front of the bridge, so we dropped our anchor and spent the night.
After dark a big thunderstorm rolled through. The lightening was spectacular. You always feel close to the weather living on the boat, especially when the water drips through all of the hatches. And raindrops on the river are so much more dramatic than raindrops on land. You can see thousands of them splashing into the water and spreading their circles out in a constantly changing geometric show.
Day 318 - Monday, June 4
Port Wentworth, near Savannah, Georgia
Mile 576 on the Savannah River
We spent the day trying to meet Dan's friend, but they had car problems and complications from the thunderstorm so we were never able to get together.
The weather turned beastly hot, in the 90's and very humid. We spent the afternoon in the refreshing, cool river water. The current was very strong, so we had to hang onto lines that were tied to our boat. We all thought it was great to be swimming in fresh water again. When you get some in your mouth, it actually tastes good. In fact, Zion says it tastes better than the water in our water tanks!
Day 319 - Tuesday, June 5
Skull Creek Marina, Hilton Head, South Carolina
Mile 555 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
Dan woke up at 7:30 because the bridge was blowing its whistle. To our amazement, the turntable bridge was open and traffic was backed up. We watched it for awhile through the windows of our boat. After a few minutes it shut again even though no boats had gone through. Curious. Maybe they were testing it to make sure it still worked, but it seems odd that they would do that at morning rush hour.
Ten minutes later Dan went out on deck. The bridge opened up again. Was it opening for us to go through? That didn't make any sense. We didn't want to go through and we had never called anyone to open it for us. Dan tried calling the bridgetender on the radio, but he couldn't get any response. We just watched again until it went shut.
About 8:00 a dredging barge appeared on the north side of the bridge. The bridge swung open and let him through. Dan talked to the tug captain on his radio. They were both amazed that the poor bridgetender didn't have a radio. All he had for communication was his horn. The tug captain said he had called ahead to have the bridge opened and said he would be there between 7:30 and 8:00. You can never be sure exactly when you will arrive somewhere in a boat. We're guessing that the bridgetender showed up at 7:30 and since he didn't know which boat had called in for a bridge opening, he figured it was us. We were sitting there right next to the bridge and no one else was in sight. He must have been very frustrated when we didn't move!
After breakfast we pulled up anchor and headed back down the river. It was
bustling morning along the docks and we had quite an industrial show. We
passed a paper company where a crane was picking up loads of trees trunks just
like they were toothpicks and dropping them into the big grinder. The tree
trunks bounced like pick-up sticks even though they must have weighed a ton
apiece. There was a long line of semis waiting to be unloaded, each one
hauling a full load of new logs.
We also passed a big oil storage area. Some of the oil tanks were beautifully painted and we learned that Savannah had been the site for the yachting races in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Maybe that explains all of the fancy docks in downtown Savannah.
The unloading docks were very busy. We got a chance to watch the big
box cranes unloading containers from the freighters. It was a great show. It
made me realize that we've had the opportunity to see so many things from our
boat that most people never get the chance to see. It's like we're travelling
through people's back yards and we get to peek at what they are doing. We've
been in places that roads can't take you to. The road on the other side of
these loading docks is probably lined with fences and warehouses. If you pass
by, you don't see much. From our boat we get to wave to the guys on the dock
and watch what they're doing.
Soon we were out of the Savannah River and back on the Intracoastal. Our destination today was Skull Creek Marina on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Dan had called ahead and made arrangements for them to repair our genoa.
The marina was very large and very nice. It had a long gas dock that was easy to pull up to. The sailmaker came and took our genoa to start the repairs. Everyone on the dock was very helpful and friendly. The harbormaster told us to just stay tied up to the gas dock for the night. Apparently, we are at the tail end of all the boats heading north for the summer.
Zion gave me a treat and did all of the laundry for me. It took six hours because they only had one washer and dryer. I am very grateful for his help, but I suspect it had something to do with the fact that the laundry room was air-conditioned and he was right in the middle of reading a Clive Cussler adventure book.
I took advantage of my time off and went for a walk to get some exercise. This end of the island is Hilton Head Plantation, a planned community of 4000 homes and four golf courses. The different holes on the golf course run right between the homes. There are huge trees and shady waterways everywhere you look. There are no sidewalks along the streets, but there is a ten-foot wide asphalt path that winds through the golf course and it is great for walking and roller-blading. Many people were out in the cool of the evening to get their exercise.
Day 320 - Wednesday, June 6
Beaufort, South Carolina
Mile 536 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
We spent the morning at the marina waiting for our sail to be returned. It is definitely the slow season here. Only one boat came to the dock for gas this morning. Dan took advantage of the time at the dock and did some painting on the boat. He also cleaned the living things off of the bottoms of the hulls (again). Those nasty little plants and animals grow amazingly fast, and they slow our boat down.
Tricia and I took a walk around the marina and played our favorite marina game. We look at all of the boat names and pick out the one that we think is the most clever. Today the winner is NaughtiCat, the name of a 42-foot catamaran. Their dinghy is called Nice Kitty.
At 2:00 our sail came back, not pretty but definitely serviceable. We left the marina and headed north to Beaufort, South Carolina. We were told that they have a public dock you can use during the day and it's part of the downtown area. We anchored near the dock, next to about ten other boats.
Day 321 - Thursday, June 7
Coosaw River, South Carolina
Mile 516 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
The last few days have been hot and steamy. Today it was a little cooler
only reached 91 degrees. At night it cools down to 72. We've been buying ice
just about every day so we can have cool drinks.
This morning we toured a bit of downtown Beaufort. It is filled with beautiful old homes. Horse-drawn carriages wait to give visitors a tour of the town. We spent most of our time at the library, and also did the post office - convenience store thing.
At 3:30 we left the dock and headed north again. We passed through a few small thunder showers.
Day 322 - Friday, June 8
Price Creek, South Carolina
Mile 448 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
We spent the day twisting and turning through the salt marshes. In the
morning we got a good view of a big gator floating along the banks. We even
managed to get a fairly decent snapshot of him.
In the afternoon we reached Charleston. It reminded us of Chicago. The harbor was filled with sailboats on moorings. A class of young sailors was scooting around in their little boats. Lots of power boats were out for the beginning of the weekend. Dan needed to go to a store across the street from the marina to get some new charts for Delaware and New Jersey. They wanted to charge us five dollars an hour to stay at their dock, but Dan promised to come back within 15 minutes so they let us stay for free.
As we were leaving Charleston Harbor we passed Fort Sumter. It's an old brick fort on the end of a peninsula that reaches out into the harbor. It almost looks like its own little island. This is where the first shot of the Civil War was fired when the Conferates decided it was time to get the Union soldiers to leave.
When we anchored in a secluded channel for the night, we looked out and we
could see the marsh grasses stretching for miles around us. It felt like
being out on the prairie, but here and there in the flat grassland you could
see the mast of a boat piercing the blue sky.
Day 323 - Saturday, June 9
Georgetown, South Carolina
Mile 403 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
Today we did more sailing up the twisting, turning waterway. We stopped for the night in Georgetown. They had a nice little harbor that was small but deep. There was an island right in the middle. On the south side of the harbor was big industry - a paper mill and an iron refining plant. Ocean freighters were lined up along their docks. On the north side of the harbor was the downtown area. We could see the backs of all the old two-story brick buildings, and there was a charming little clock tower in the middle next to the dinghy dock. A new boardwalk stretched past all the buildings and it was filled with boxes of flowers.
We went ashore and walked along Main Street. It was one of those towns that still had an old-fashioned department store, along with lots of other small shops and art galleries. Their was a Rice Museum which told the history of rice in the area. It was the big cash crop in the 1800's. The marshland around here seems perfect for rice.
All of the stores were closed so we just did window-shopping. The restaurants were open and busy. We stopped for some ice cream cones. Then we walked down to the bubbling fountain at the end of the boardwalk. It actually had an upright conch on top for sending water into the air. The little park was dedicated to a local man who was the first African-American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives after the Civil War. There was also an old cannon on display that had been discovered in the muck when the new boardwalk was put in. No one knew why it was buried there. The whole town was lovely.
Day 324 - Sunday, June 10
Barefoot Landing at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Mile 354 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
When we pulled out of the harbor we took a ride past the industrial area
because it was so interesting. It was a beehive of activity even though it
was a Sunday morning and the rest of the town was asleep. First we passed a
fleet of shrimp boats. Next there was a pile of slag being cooled by water
jets and sending billows of steam into the air. A large freight ship was
sitting high out of the water and dumping out its ballast water while a crane
was filling it with freight. Some crew members on board waved down at us.
The heavy industry was so different from the charming little brick town that
was right by its side, but they went well together. It was a picture of what
it takes to make a whole, healthy town.
We travelled all day past hundreds of other boaters who were out enjoying the hot sunny weekend. Most of these boats were small, either for fishing or pulling someone behind on a tube. But they could go fast so they left behind good wakes to keep us rocking and rolling.
In the afternoon we stopped at a peaceful little country town called Bucksport. The little store by the docks sold a few groceries, including lots of local products. We got some brown eggs in unmarked cartons, a jug of honey, a bottle of cane syrup (a dark brown syrup made from pressed sugar cane) and some pork sausage made at the town's meat locker.
After loading up on ice we continued on our way until we came to Barefoot
Landing in Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach is vacationland for South Carolina.
Barefoot Landing in a huge complex that combines shopping and attractions for
the tourists. They have a long dock along the Intracoastal where boats can
stay for free for 72 hours.
We walked up to the stores and were surprised to find that the place was hopping at 6:30 on a Sunday evening. And the stores all stayed open 'til 11:00. This was our place to get new sandals for the kids and Father's Day gifts for Dad. We found a Waldonbooks and got the kids some much-needed new reading material in their favorite series. Tricia found the two new Little House books, and Zion has become a Clive Cussler fan.
Barefoot Landing is designed after a small fishing town, so the stores all look like little fishing shanties, and there are wooden rockers out front of each store so you can give your doggies a rest and watch the world go by. There was a carousel and a rock-climbing wall nestled among the shops, but the biggest feature was a huge lake that separated the two shopping areas. Three long wooden walking bridges let you pass from side to side. As we walked across in the dark we could hear a deafening chorus of bull frogs from the cattails along the water's edge. Lights under the bridges attracted groups of giant tarpons and a few turtles. We put our quarter in the machine to get some fish food and the kids had fun feeding them. Trish would throw one pellet in the water and a big tarpon would lazily swim up to it, slowly open its big mouth and swallow it in a gulp of water.
Going back to our boat I suddenly realized that we hadn't been bothered by a single bug all evening even though we had been walking through what was essentially a swamp all evening. I wonder what their secret is?
Day 325 - Monday, June 11
Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Mile 286.5 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
Dan got up at the crack of dawn and started us on our way. At 8:30 he
the rest of us out of bed so we could see a pontoon bridge - the only one in
the United States. It was amazing. The whole bridge only sat about ten feet
above the water. It looked like a long dock on each side. The middle was a
large rusty barge that had a piece of the road and a small house on it. Every
hour on the hour, the bridge tender would come out of his little house, start
up a big engine, and lower the ends of his piece of the road. Then some
cables would snap up from under the water and pull the barge out of the bridge
and swing it around to the side of the river.
This was an interesting but very slow process. The cars backed up for a good ten minute wait, even if there was only one boat going through. The traffic wasn't too heavy, though, on this country road so there were only ten cars in line waiting to get through. When the bridge was back in place, we learned that it was only a one-lane bridge. Traffic could only pass from one side at a time. Now we know why there is only one of these left. It is an amazing engineering feat, though, especially when you consider that the height of the bridge needs to change as the barge floats up and down with the tide every day.
We passed into North Carolina and found ourselves travelling due east for most of the day. It was dead calm so we didn't bother putting up the sails, we just putted along at our regular 5 knots.
About 3:30 we reached Carolina Beach. Some cruising friends had told us this was a good place to stop for groceries. We pulled up to the marina and they told us a big supermarket was only a block away. We could use their dock for a few hours for ten dollars.
The sign said that this was a Yacht Club, but we learned that it had recently changed into a boatominium. You could buy a docking space for $35,000, then you had to pay a $60 per month maintenance fee. The marina was practically full.
The grocery store was one we had never seen before - a Food Lion. They had interesting things like Dr. Perky and Mountain Lion soda. They have more kinds of pork sausage and dried beans here than you can imagine, but a small can of sauerkraut is a luxury item and sells for $2.79.
After loading our groceries onboard, we sailed away to anchor for the night. We tried a nearby spot, but the bottom was so soupy that our anchor wouldn't set. So Dan pilotted another eight miles to the next good anchoring spot. It was a beautiful, secluded spot behind a wilderness island. We anchored just before sunset and we could hear the whip-poor-wills calling from the trees.
We had a southern feast for dinner - fried pork sausage in milk gravy on
mashed potatoes (I couldn't make the traditional biscuits). To counteract the
high cholestoral we had fresh strawberries and blueberries with Cool Whip Lite
Day 326 - Tuesday, June 12
Camp LeJeune, North Carolina
Mile 244.5 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
After travelling all morning we stopped for a swim break. Actually, Dan wanted to scrape the barnacles off of the boat bottom. We anchored in a shallow sandy area off of the Intracoastal. There was a skinny sand island in front of us and the kids built some forts, but within an hour the forts were completely underwater from the rising tide. They named their complex Fort Atlantis.
As the tide rose, we had to move our anchor into shallower water so Dan could still stand in the water around the boat and work on the hulls. When he was finished he took a shower while the rest of us continued swimming. Suddenly a large power boat went by very fast, leaving a huge wake. Our boat bounced so high that when it came down the rudders pounded against the sand bottom. It was a sick feeling to hear the boat being pummelled and not being able to do anything about it. When we got there we checked it over and it seemed OK. We quickly pulled into deeper water and went on our way.
Scraping off the barnacles really helped our speed. Now we can reach 6
instead of 5.
In the evening we anchored near a U.S. Marine base. Three other sailboats
were also anchored there. We were near the Marine dock where three large gray
tugs were tied up. We saw some marines go out in a skiff that had a huge
machine gun mounted on the front. Were they just training, or were they
really going alligator hunting? All day we had seen military aircraft, planes
and helicopters flying overhead. On the beach were some huge green tents and
lots of jeeps, but we couldn't see any buildings. It was just wilderness
Day 327 - Wednesday, June 13
Spring Creek, Florence, North Carolina
Mile 162 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
We got underway early today. The other anchored boats did, too. On the morning news we learned that Camp LeJeune was in the middle of a three-day training exercise. The marines were going after a band of guerrilla drug terrorists. That explains all of the men with black-painted faces that we've seen. I'm glad to know they don't normally run gunboats up and down the river.
The winds were strong today and they were right behind us so we put up full sail. We had to cross the Neuse Sound and the water got very bouncy. A sound is a place where the river gets very wide as it enters the ocean. It's like a small bay. Tricia and I retreated to the bedroom where we read some James Herriot stories to keep our minds on the steady little farms in Darrowby with all of their charming animals.
Zion and Dan got a workout in the cockpit. The wind was shifty so they had to keep moving the sails from side-to-side. You would hear loud flapping, straining groans from the sails until suddenly they would give a loud crack and fall into place and peace would be restored. The flapping, straining sounds seem to last forever. From inside the cabin they are especially loud and frightening because you don't know what's going on and you can definitely tell that things aren't right at the moment. But the sounds are nothing more than indicators to the sailors up on the deck. Dan and Zion's efforts paid off, though, because we averaged 8 to 9 knots all day with occasional surges to 12 knots.
Even with all the twisting and turning on the water, our catamaran was still a lot steadier than the monohulls we saw. A couple from Pierre, South Dakota that we had met briefly the day before was close behind us on Dakota Sky. They had just picked up their new boat in Florida and they were taking it to Virginia. It had an extra-tall mast, 64', and an extra-deep keel, 6 feet. They only had up their jib and they were heeling over on their side while they were bouncing on the waves.
They followed us into a protected anchorage for the evening. We went ahead of them so we could check the water depth and get into water as shallow as possible without them getting stuck. We went up a finger of a river into complete wilderness. The anchorage was large and protected by trees on all sides and filled with hundreds of crab pots. We felt like we were navigating a benign mine field.
It was 8:00 by the time we anchored but the sun was still out because the days are so wonderfully long now. After a late dinner Dan and the kids went over to visit Dakota Sky. They lured the kids over with an offer of frozen Snicker Bars. They had a nice time visiting.
They came back to our boat just as the thunderstorm started. We went to bed in our warm and snug cabin while the thunder and lightning did its thing outside.
Day 328 - Thursday, June 14
Dowry Creek Marina, Belhaven, North Carolina
Mile 132 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
Rains came and went all day long. We went through a nice smooth canal, then crossed Pamlico Sound. It wasn't as bouncy as the day before, but it was very wet. Dan did most of the piloting and got soaked.
By afternoon he was ready for a break. We followed Dakota Sky into Dowry
Creek Marina. We were just planning to get ice and gas and move on, but it
was such a nice marina that we decided to stay for the night.
We arrived in the middle of a heavy downpour. We were greeted by a row of people in raingear ready to help us dock. The marina was only $1 a foot and it had everything you could want. There was a sparkling blue outdoor pool next to a building that was the nicest cruiser's lounge that we've seen yet. It felt like a little home with carpet, TV, couches, tables and a small kitchen. It was a great refuge on a rainy day.
The marina looked new. The buildings and wooden fences were all painted
white. Rocking chairs were lined along the porch and potted hibiscus were
blooming everywhere. The entire place was surrounded by wilderness, a mixture
of swamp grasses and pine trees. You didn't need a key for anything because
there was no one else around except the other boaters.
The marina was filled with boats that were part of a sailing club. They were on a summer vacation cruise together. They were from other parts of North Carolina and unfortunately their one week dream cruise was being spoiled by the wind and the rain. But they were still in good spirits, though, because it was vacation time after all. They had a big pot luck dinner in the lounge and invited us to join in. It made me realize how lucky we are that we can look forward to enjoying the sunny days that will be back next week while the rest of them have to go back inside.
The kids couldn't resist the pool and went swimming in the drizzle. They were joined by two other kids from one of the other boats. They all had a great time together. The four of them were the last ones still awake at midnight.
As Dan and I walked back to our boat in the dark, we marvelled at the chorus of noise coming from the surrounding swamp. There were so many different frog voices that it sounded like an orchestra. We could hear the normal throbbing ribit, ribit, ribit beat that we are used to back home, but on top of that there was a r-i-i-ing, r-i-i-ing that sounded like a telephone and an overpowering honk that sounded like one of those rubber horns on a clown's bike played into an amplifier. We couldn't believe it was really just frogs.
Day 329 - Friday, June 15
Dowry Creek Marina, Belhaven, North Carolina
Mile 132 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
We woke up early to cloudy skies and rain. We joined the other hopeful sailors in the lounge and watched the Weather Channel on the big screen color TV. From the big weather maps we could see that we were getting the end of Tropical Storm Alison which had just dumped 40 inches of rain in Houston. Now it was stalled out above us and it would stay there for the rest of the day.
A few of the more intrepid sailors decided to risk the foul weather and headed out but we decided that another day at Dowry Creek would be pretty nice. The kids had each found friends to play with, a brother and sister from Goldsboro North Carolina. McIver was 12 and Savannah was 9 and they were travelling on their sailboat with their Mom and Dad. They were just as anxious to be with someone their own age as our kids were, so the four of them spent the whole day together. They spent about ten hours in the outdoor pool and half of the time it was raining on them, but I don't think they noticed or cared.
The Yacht Club that was staying at the marina was very friendly. They were planning another pot luck for this evening and they invited us to join in again. I even got the chance to take a walk and play Scrabble with some of the other women. It was a relaxing vacation day for everyone.
Day 330 - Saturday, June 16
Goat Neck, North Carolina
Mile 82 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
By morning the rain had finally stopped. The inside of our boat was very damp from leaking windows and wet raincoats, swimsuits and towels. By noon the sun started to peak through and it felt like a blessing. The dock was even half dry when we left, the first time we had seen it dry in two days.
As we were travelling along I decided to make lunch. When I pulled the Tang out of the cupboard I gave a startled scream. A little bright green tree frog was calmly sitting on the white cover. Tricia came out and quickly named him Hoppy and made him a little home in an open jar. He wasn't much interested in the corn flakes we tried to feed him, so she decided it would be best to let him go. We waited until we were in a canal again, then we pulled up close to the swampy edge and threw him overboard. He quickly did some long, graceful frog kicks and propelled himself to a little clump of grass. We hope he made it safely home, wherever that may be.
We travelled until we came to a v-e-r-y long bridge. It was a bridge with scheduled opening times and we had missed the last opening for the day. We anchored nearby and waited for the next opening in the morning. Beyond this bridge was the large Albermarle Sound, the last and biggest sound that we would have to cross to get to Norfolk. We knew it would be long and it might be rough so we wanted to start out across it early in the morning.
Day 331 - Sunday, June 17 - FATHER'S DAY
Pasquotank River, Old Trap, North Carolina
Mile 62 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
We went through the first bridge opening at 8:00 and started heading out into Albermarle Sound. It was rough and the wind was against us, so we were only advancing at three knots. At this rate, it would take us all day to cross the sound and it would be a rocky ride so we decided to anchor for the day.
We turned around and went back to the bridge. There was a little marina/gas station/convenience store/restaurant on this side of the bridge so we stopped for some gas and water. We celebrated Father's Day by eating biscuits, eggs and grits at the restaurant. Back on the boat, we anchored nearby and then the kids gave Dad his presents. Zion gave him a tarp repair kit so he could fix the busted grommet on our shade tarp and a new pliers to replace the one that got rusted shut in the salt air. Tricia gave him a new plastic tool box. His old tool box was metal and the bottom has now officially rusted off completely. It's been sitting out in the cockpit for the last year.
While we were anchored Zion took the dinghy out into the surrounding marsh
grass for some exercise.
At 6:00 the wind died and the water was smooth so we lifted our anchor and crossed Albermarle Sound. The sound was covered with crab pots, even in the channel! Usually the crossing channels stay clear but apparently no one enforces that around here. We anchored as the sun set and were thankful that our crossing had been so smooth.
Day 332 - Monday, June 18
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Mile 51 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
We travelled all morning until we reached Elizabeth City. Elizabeth City is known as the Harbor of Hospitality for cruisers because it is the home of the Rose Buddies. Elizabeth City has some free public docks and it has always had a number of cruisers stopping by. It is at the southern end of a juncture in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. As you head north from this point, you either go up the Dismal Canal, easy but shallow, or you head out through the sounds which can be rough but are much deeper.
Some years ago after church one Sunday morning, one of the men in town,
decided it would be nice to give some roses to the women on the visiting
boats. So, he went to his friend's rose garden and they cut some roses to
take to the dock to show their hospitality. Well, they were so well-received
that they started doing it regularly. Now, they do it every day at 5:00 in
the evening. Several people are in the group of greeters and they are known
as the Rose Buddies.
The man with the rose garden passed away several years ago and to make the
whole process easier, they moved his rose garden right down to the edge of the
dock. Now they just give you a clippers and you can cut your own. Tricia and
I found the rose garden and it was full of a large variety of beautiful roses.
We eached picked out our favorite.
Elizabeth City lived up to its name of Harbor of Hospitality. Everyone in
town was very welcoming and helpful. The other cruisers there told us to be
back at 5:00 to get our roses. The Rose Buddies even sponser a little wine
and cheese party at that time so everyone can get to know each other a little
We found a wonderful library in town. They had the most efficient system for getting on Internet that we have seen at any library. Each machine had a card with a bar code on it. When you wanted to use a computer, they just swiped the bar code into the computer and it got a time stamp. Then they gave you that card and you could use the computer until someone else needed it. When all of the machines were full, they would just look in their computer to see which one had been used the longest, then that person had to give it up. There were lots of people using Internet, but there were also lots of machines so we each got our own and we got to use it for almost as long as we wanted. This was a great system because it took very little time for the librarians to monitor it and it was so simple we never even had to give them our names.
At 5:00 we went back to our wine and cheese party, and Tricia and I each
our rose. Fred picked us up in his golf cart and drove us from the party to
the roses and back. Everyone he met along the way was invited to the party.
The docks were right along the city park which had big, beautiful fields of
green grass. Zion got out his football and our family played a little game in
the park as the sun set. Zion and I against Tricia and Dad make some pretty
even teams since Zion is almost as tall as Dad now and he's a little bit
Day 333 - Tuesday, June 19
Dismal Swamp Canal, South Mills, North Carolina
Mile 32 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
Since the library was so friendly, we spent some more time there. Tricia
learned how to do her own web pages. When we were finished we did some
shopping at the Dollar Store. They have some incredibly cheap food. We did
some walking around town and we saw a classic old cemetery. It was surrounded
by the kind of wrought iron fence that you see in scary old movies. The
monuments inside were very old and ornate.
In the afternoon we started our passage up the Dismal Swamp Canal. This is
the oldest canal in the country that is still in working order. It was built
around 1800 to give the local landowners, including George Washington, a way
to get their lumber from the swamp out into the channels of commerce. It took
the local slaves twelve years to dig it by hand. The Dismal Swamp is a huge
piece of land. Digging the canal gave many of the slaves a chance to learn
the best hiding places in the swamp, so later it was often used as a haven for
Today the canal is a peaceful narrow cut through a huge forest. Both sides
the banks are lined with giant trees. A scenic road follows along one edge.
It used to be the road that the animals plodded along to pull the barges
canal. The waters are very still and you see yourself moving through the
reflections of the tree tops. The boat's movement pushes little ripples
through the picture. The water is as dark as coffee because of the abundant
organic matter that it contains.
We travelled until we came to the first lock. It was closed for the day. The last opening was at 3:30. So we anchored nearby and spent a peaceful evening with the bugs in the middle of the Dismal Swamp.
Day 334 - Wednesday, June 20
Mile 0 on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
At 8:30 we passed through the lock. It raised us about 8 feet. The
lockmaster was very friendly. After he had opened the lock, he had to drive
in his truck to the upcoming bridge and open that for us, too. It was just a
short little bridge and he beat us there.
The next several miles were a treat to the senses because the waterway was
with hundreds of fragrant wild rose bushes in full bloom. Right before we
border of Virginia, we stopped at the North Carolina Welcome Center. They had
a nice dock in the back for boats passing by on the canal.
We had to pass through one more lock to exit the canal. We had a little waiting time before the 3:30 opening, so we had the chance to stop at a dock just a block from the grocery store. We've been blessed with an abundance of grocery stores lately. Since I never know if I'll have one when I need one, I've learned to never pass on an opportunity to visit one when it's there. Even though we didn't really need any more groceries, we stocked up on some sale items and had a fresh fruit feast for dinner.
In the evening we arrived at Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk is a big Navy town
and the harbor was filled with one huge Navy boat after another.
We stopped at the marina for gas and we got a chance to look quickly at our e- mail. We learned that Loblolly was in the Chesapeake Bay with Moonraker. We were hoping to meet Loblolly in New York so we could travel the Hudson River and the Erie Canal together. Now the game had begun of trying to catch up to them. We knew we could get to New York faster if we stayed out of the Chesapeake Bay and went up the Atlantic Coast, so that is what we decided to do.
Norfolk was also the home port of Abientot, so we tried to find Tricia's friend, Jane, but we didn't have any luck.
We anchored for the night in Norfolk's harbor, right across from the Naval Museum. The building is painted battleship gray and it is designed to look something like a Navy ship.
Day 335 - Thursday, June 21
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
N 37' 52.0, W 75' 25.0
We started out early today because we had a long way to go. Norfolk is the
end of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, so we will be
travelling along the Atlantic coast for the next 500 miles. We will be
following the shores of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey until we
reach New York City.
The Atlantic was calm and beautiful this morning. There was a brisk wind so we put up our genoa and travelled at 7 knots for most of the day.
Since today is summer solstice, the longest day of the year, we started with our traditional Mr. Heat Ray celebration. On the eve of summer solstice, Mr. Heat Ray travels through the sky on his surfboard pulled by flying dolphins and he leaves pond toys for kids who have their own ponds. We've been celebrating this for years. We usually leave out some beer and potato chips for the guy, but we didn't have any available this year. He brought Zion a cool helicopter-kite thing and MAD magazine, while Tricia got a t-shirt, a CD, and Seventeen magazine. Tricia promptly took her CD and her magazine and retreated to her bunk and we never saw her again for the rest of the day. She doesn't like sailing out at sea.
In the afternoon the waves started kicking up. By dinner time we were all uncomfortable and no one wanted any dinner. We had no choice but to keep going until we got to the first inlet at Chincoteague.
We were lucky that this was the longest day of the year. It didn't get truly dark until 10:00. We were near Chincoteague by then, but the charts we had didn't help us much. They carried a warning that the shoals in the inlet were constantly changing and you needed to get local advice to make a safe entry.
God bless the Coast Guard! Dan hailed them on our radio and they gave us the GPS coordinates we needed to safely guide us into the twisting, turning harbor. They stayed with us for almost an hour on the radio and we were very thankful for their help.
We had to get out our big searchlight to find the markers in the dark. Suddenly, a bird appeared in our ray of light and it was flying full speed towards Zion, getting closer and closer at a rapid rate. Zion realized that the light was blinding the bird, so he turned it away. The disoriented bird veered off, hit our mast and tumbled onto our deck. When Zion shone the light back on it all we saw was a brown flutter of flapping feathers. It looked like a mockingbird. It came and sat in the light not knowing that Zion was only a foot away. Once it was feeling better, it took off and went on its way.
As soon as we got inside the harbor, the waves stopped and calm settled around us. It's amazing how quickly the nautious feelings evaporate when the waves stop. But we were still left tired and hungry, so we ate a quick meal at 11:30 and went to bed at midnight. Tricia even crawled out of her bunk to join us for dinner.
When Dan did the calculations, we found out that we had done 98 miles today, a new single day record for us!
Day 336 - Friday, June 22
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
N 37' 52.0, W 75' 25.0
Dan got up at 5:30 to check the weather. If the sea was calm, we wanted to go another 25 miles up the coast to Ocean City which is bigger and has a better harbor. But the waves were still rough out in the Atlantic and they were going to get worse throughout the day, not better. So he went back to bed and we all slept until noon.
In the afternoon we pulled up our anchor and decided to go several miles up Chincoteague Inlet to town. On our way we passed dozens of small fishing boats. It was a warm, sunny afternoon and lots of people were out enjoying it. We haven't seen this many fishing boats on the water since Tarpon Springs. We saw one angler pull in a flounder.
Everyone was very friendly and waved to us. We were a bit of an oddity. There weren't any other big boats around. There are so many shoals here that it is treacherous water for a monohull with a deep keel. A pontoon tour boat passed by and the captain talked to us on our radio. He told us we could tie up at the public dock by the bridge.
That's what we did and we were delighted. Chincoteague is a little town. The high school's graduating class had 42 seniors. But it was bustling with tourists. It was the perfect size for us. It had everything we could hope for - library, post office, grocery store, gas station, and laundromat - all within a block or two of the dock. We even treated ourselves to some ice cream at the ice cream parlor in the restored Victorian house.
We eventually caught on that this place was famous for the wild horses that roam the islands around here. In summer they celebrate the pony swim and somehow water cowboys on rafts herd the horses through the waters. My memory was jogged back to a book that I remember seeing in grade school, "Misty of Chincoteague Island". The woman who wrote it lives in this town.
The people are all very friendly here and we had several nice conversations. We learned that the commercial fishermen here catch whelk and conch! We were surprised to hear that. 95% of the catch is sold to Japan, so don't bother looking for it in the supermarket. They assured me that frozen conch is available in the U.S., though, so I might try ordering some when we get back home.
The public dock was only for day use, so we pulled out a little ways to anchor for the night. We hope to leave for Ocean City in the morning.
Day 337 - Saturday, June 23
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
N 37' 52.0, W 75' 25.0
We all woke up in the middle of the night when the dolphin chimes in our cabin started ringing wildly. The winds had kicked up and the tide was changing, so our boat was hit by waves from the side for awhile until we had swung around to our new position. I got up and tied the chimes together since we weren't in the mood for that much merriment.
In the morning the skies were grey and cloudy and the winds kept getting stronger. The radio told us that waves were six feet high out in the Atlantic on the other side of our nice protective island. We decided we wouldn't be heading out to sea today. Instead we would stay on the boat in the morning and maybe cross the river over to town again later in the day if the water calmed down. There were only a few fishing boats out.
We entertained ourselves in the morning by eating soft shell crabs for the first time. I had bought half a dozen at the fish market in town yesterday. They are in season now and they are a delicacy along the coast here. One of the locals told us they were the eighth wonder of the world so we had to try them.
Each soft shell crab looks just like a hard shell crab, with claws and legs and everything. But the shell is only paper thin and you can eat it. This is how they look when they crawl out of their old shell to grow a new, bigger one. I just fried them in some hot butter for a few minutes and put them in a bun to make a delicious crab sandwich. Dan and I enjoyed ours, Zion was brave enough to eat one, and Tricia passed on the opportunity. It was a bit unnerving to see the little legs sticking out of the sides of the bun.
Around noon we got a surprise visit from a Coast Guard boat. They asked us when we had our last inspection and we said it was a year ago. They said it was probably time for us to get inspected again. But a squall was moving in at the moment so they said they would come back later. Meanwhile we were supposed to find our inspection sheet from last year.
Dan searched all our boxes of paperwork and found the inspection sheet at the bottom of the last box, which was the obvious place for it since it was the first piece of paperwork we ever received on our boat. The amazing part, though, was the date of our first inspection. It was June 23, 2000 - exactly one year ago to the day!
The squall brought wind, waves, and rain. The Coast Guard never came back. Once the rain stopped, the tide changed and we went through our two hours of rocking and rolling again. But with the evening came clear skies and calm weather so we had a good sleep and high hopes for being able to continue our journey in the morning.
Day 338 - Sunday, June 24
Ocean City, Maryland
N 38' 19.2, W 75' 06.4
Today there was just enough wind for sailing, but not enough to make big waves. The ocean looked smooth, but it was actually rougher than it appeared. There were still rollers left over from the day before and our stomachs could feel them even though our eyes couldn't see them. We had a long, bouncy ride all day. We pulled into Ocean City, Maryland to anchor for the night.
Day 339 - Monday, June 25
Townsend Inlet, New Jersey
N 39' 07.3, W 74' 43.0
Today there was less wind so we couldn't sail. But the sea had calmed down and it was as smooth as it looked.
In the evening we pulled into Townsend Inlet. We were just behind a long, beautiful stretch of public beach. Since we had been on the boat for three days straight, we were ready to get off and take a walk. We anchored right next to the beach and got some exercise by walking for a mile or so.
The beach was still full of people. Some were fishing and many were just strolling like we were. There were remnants of forts and castles everywhere but we knew the tide would wipe them clean by morning. The shore was cluttered with clam shells. I found a good example of a razor clam, which is long and straight instead of round. Zion and I even found a live shark's eye shell. The animal inside looked a bit like a jellyfish and it had a big round foot which slowly moved across the sand.
When we returned to the boat we met a friendly New Jersey woman giving her dog a walk. We were thrilled to hear our first real "Joisey" accent.
In the middle of the night the current around our boat got very strong as the tide changed. In fact, it was the strongest current we have ever been in. Dan had to get up and turn the boat around in the dark. He moved all of the ropes around carefully until the boat swung into position and the constant slapping of the waves against the side suddenly became the peaceful sound of water flowing past. We began the evening with three anchors out to keep us in place along the shore. By morning we were swinging on one anchor.
Day 340 - Tuesday, June 26
Barnegat Light, New Jersey
N 39' 45.7, W 74' 06.9
When we got up in the morning to start our journey we found that our anchor wouldn't come up. Dan dove into the water and discovered it was buried under a foot of sand. The strong current during the night had carried sand along with it. Dan and Zion hooked up our boom vang, a four-rope pulley, to the anchor. Slowly, bit by bit, they were able to pull it up.
Today there was no wind at all. As we travelled out into the Atlantic we passed through a school of large bottlenose dolphin that were out feeding for the morning.
In the evening we pulled into Barnegat Light, New Jersey. The inlet was
of small fishing boats. It was a beautiful evening and lots of people were
out walking along the breakwater. A very distinctive lighthouse stood on the
inner point. It was very well cared-for.
The water in the inlet was wide, but the deep channel that we had to follow was narrow and twisty. We found a safe place to anchor for the night.
Day 341 - Wednesday, June 27
Metedeconk, New Jersey
N 40' 03.4, W 74' 04.2
We woke up surrounded by small fishing boats. We pulled anchor and went off looking for gas. There were many marinas around and they were all full of fishing boats. We pulled into a few but they didn't have any gas and they didn't know where we could get it, either. All they had was diesel for the fishing boats. We soon realized that this town didn't get many transient boaters like us. Everyone there got what they needed from their own marina and they didn't know much about anything else. We finally found a gas pump on the end of a dock, but the current and the narrow channel made it a tricky spot to pull into (and out of). We almost got stuck on a sand shoal while trying not to hit the dock!
After getting gas we were on our way again. We continued travelling up the coast but pulled in to make a special stop at Island Heights, the home of the Jet 14 sailboat. Our little sailboat at home is a 1956 Jet 14. It is the first boat that our family sailed on together. It was designed here in Island Heights. Dan wanted to stop and see some of the originals because he wasn't sure if he had his rigged properly or not. When he got his Jet 14, it came in pieces and it didn't have any directions for assembly.
As we sailed up the river to Island Heights our eyes were greeted by a lovely sight. Hundreds of small sailboats were scooting around the river in the sunlight. It was more small sailboats in one place than we had ever seen before. As we got closer, we saw that there were actually clusters of different types of boats. Each group was a little sailing class, or maybe a team. It reminded me of a large ball field where different baseball teams were all going through their individual motions. The smallest children were on little one-sail Optimists and they were sailing around in their group trying not to hit each other. Although sometimes it seemed that they were trying to hit each other! The instructor was patiently sitting in the middle in a rubber dinghy blowing on a whistle. We had no idea what the whistle was for and the kids didn't seem to be paying attention, either. But they were all having a great time.
The teens were in larger boats with a jib and a mainsail. They were racing hard against each other around small courses marked by big orange buoys.
There was a large two-story gazebo-like building on shore at the end of a large straight public dock. We pulled up and were greeted by many friendly people who had been watching the sailing classes to while away the time on a beautiful summer afternoon.
We were surprised and pleased to learn that we were only two blocks away from the small town library. The kids and I went there while Dan tried to hunt down a Jet 14.
While doing her e-mail Tricia realized that her friend, Natalie, was at the Brillion library sending her messages at the same time. What a treat! They whizzed messages back and forth to each other and it was just like being together again (almost).
We were also excited to get an e-mail from Loblolly. They said that they would be at Sandy Hook, New Jersey on the 28th or the 29th. We couldn't believe our luck. We could easily make it to Sandy Hook tomorrow and wait for them. Then we could travel through New York state together.
When we got back to the boat we were greeted by the journalist for the local newspaper. She took a picture of our whole family in front of our boat.
Our day did have two disappointments. First, we got a message from Sea Kids Six that they were in Norfolk. We must have passed them and never saw them. If we had known they were there, we would have looked for them because it would have been wonderful to visit them again and try to remember our French. Second, Dan never did find a Jet 14 to look at. But Island Heights was a delightful town and we're glad we stopped for the afternoon.