Chesapeake

I was talking to a fellow boater the other day. I told him my wife and I took off for a year to do the Great Loop and explore the eastern half of the United States.
“That’s such a short amount of time,” he said. “Heck. I’d like to have a year just to explore the Chesapeake!”

Hampton, VA. Our first port in the Chesapeake.

Yorktown, VA. Free giant mooring balls to tie up to.

In Yorktown, a ship goes through the largest swing bridge. Two sections swing at the same time.

The same bridge at twilight.

Yorktown water scene.

Horne Harbor. Docked in a covered slip.

Painting Salty’s bottom at Horn Harbor VA.

I’m supervising the paint job. It’s going very well.

Docked at Parks Marina in eclectic Tangiers, VA.

 

Tangiers workboat.

The XO pilots Ginger Lee through Virginia into Maryland. And looks good doing it.

Sunset at Sommers Cove Marina, MD.

Sommers Cove Marina, MD. The day before, this dock was full of loopers. We were the last to leave.

Idyllic Flag Harbor Yacht Haven in Maryland. One of the most protected harbors I’ve ever seen.

Under way. Leaving Flag Harbor. I could live there. Hated to go.

Docked in Knapps Narrows, Tilghman’s Island, MD. This beautiful sailboat happens to be Hinkley’s fiberglass hull number one.

Knapps Narrows draw-bridge.

A Chesapeake Deadrise. The most common working boat around here.

Another example of a Chesapeake Deadrise. They’re like the pick-up trucks of the watermen. I’ve never seen them anywhere else but the Chesapeake.

A skipjack working boat and its pusher. These historic sailing vessels are unique to the Chesapeake. This is one of several in Tilghman that is still in use.

Close-up of a skipjack pusher. Basically, it’s a large diesel engine in a tiny dory specifically designed to push the skipjack. I want one to bomb around in.

On a Tilghman’s Island dinghy ride.

Chesapeake Bay scene. This bridge crosses it.

 

Anchored in Still Pond Creek, MD.

Watching a storm approach at the Havre de Grace Yacht Basin in Maryland.

Storm a comin’! About now we are securing the hatches and everything else.

Looks ugly. Rained like hell. Thunder and Lightning too. Glad we were tied to a dock.

A real Italian Restaurant in Havre de Grace, MD.

On the way to Chesapeake City, MD. this huge car transport hailed us on the radio and asked us to give them the whole channel. We gladly complied. This picture made the weather look worse than it was. It was a little rainy but the seas were flat.

He needed the whole channel!

Anchored in Chesapeake City, MD. on a rainy day. It is our last port on the awesome Chesapeake.

Interesting rug at city hall.

Based on our experiences in the short amount of time we’ve spent here, I’m inclined to agree with my fellow boater. I would love to take a whole year just to explore the wonderful Chesapeake Bay. Maybe someday. SOCOBO 5/20/18

Kooky Crabcake Island

It’s so difficult to describe Tangier Island in Virginia. Unique comes to mind. Generations of watermen have eked out a living from the sea. Mostly crabs and oysters.
The island is very small. About a mile long.
There are no cars, only golf buggies, motor scooters, and bikes.
They bury their dead family members in the front yard.
Shacks and docks that the working watermen use are not connected to land.
They park their working boats there and dinghy to shore.

It’s a little bit like Cuttyhunk, MA, only stranger. The natives speak in an accent reminiscent of down east Maine, but with more marbles in their mouth.

They have a small airport, a market, a dump, and a few restaurants. We ate at one and the crab cakes were delicious. Maybe that’s why XO describes it as a kooky crab cake island. SOCOBO 5/12/18

Derelict Boats of the South

There is something horrific about a sunken boat. It just rubs me the wrong way, and saddens me too. I grew up in New England, a place where a derelict boat is a rare sight. Every once in a great while you may come across a vessel washed up on shore, but never one that is washed up on shore and abandoned for what looks like years. We started seeing them in Alabama. Not a lot. Maybe one or two. Storm damage, we reasoned. Must be. But when we got to Florida not a day went by that we didn’t see at least a dozen.
They are everywhere. In the anchorages, the mooring fields, docks, and even in the marinas. They line the shore, marring its beauty.
In most states, boats must be titled just like cars, they have hull identification numbers similar to vehicle identification numbers, and they must be registered and display registration numbers and a dated sticker, also like cars. Ownership can be easily traced.
In a perfect world, the authorities would contact the owner and order them to deal with it. But what if they can’t deal with it?

It’s such a shame. No wonder so many residents of the state of Florida are against anchoring in open waters.
I was talking to a fellow boater about this problem. He pointed across the waterway to a small sailboat that was half underwater.
“When I was younger, that was my dream boat. Not that particular sailboat but one exactly like it. I saved for many years until finally I was able to buy her. It was a banner day in my life and I enjoyed her for many years. I actually sold it to buy this boat. I look out my window and see that poor vessel just wasting away out there. Part of me is outraged. There must be someone out there who could take that beautiful boat and return it to sailing condition. Look. It still has all of its rigging.”
He was upset. I could see it in his eyes. How could you not care? I don’t even live here and I care too. Maybe changes in the laws are needed. I don’t know. I don’t have the answer, and until there is one, I’m afraid derelict boats will remain part of the southern waterway scenery. SOCOBO 4/27/18

The Great Loop

Ever since I found out there was such a thing, I wanted to do it. But it just seemed so impossible, a far away dream, unattainable by mere mortal working folks like the XO and I. But I never thought it was only for those who were wealthy. I did figure one had to have some sort of plan to be able to travel a whole year with the seasons. All you need is money and time. Only two of the most precious commodities known to man! Thanks to my wifes dogged determination, it took only several years to bring our plan to fruition. But don’t be discouraged, you don’t need a heck-of-a-lot of either when you consider what you would normally pay for living on land in your house or apartment. Food, fuel for heating, cooking or driving, electricity, cable, etc. And when you think about it, one year out if a whole lifetime is minimal.
A surprising amount of folks we’ve met along the way sold their house to do the Great Loop. Sort of an open-ended plan. In a way I admire the gumption, the devil-may-care approach, throw your fate to the wind. There’s a certain amount of romance attached. Being the romantic guy that I am, I do approve. It’s not for us, but still very cool in my book. Others have retired with pensions, social security, or IRA’s. That would definitely cover the cost of looping as long as one was not too extravagant. We’ve also met people who have worked hard creating a viable business, and then sold that business to buy a nice boat and cruise on it. Why not? You can’t take it with you. And then there are the few lucky people who can afford a beautiful boat, and just loop continuously full-time. The platinum loopers. My idols. Very rare. After nine months we have not seen one platinum burgee. But they are out there. I know they are because the AGLCA says they are, and I want to believe. SOCOBO 4/15/18

Homeward

“You seem so melancholy ever since we swung north. Are you okay?”, the XO asked.
“Oh, I’m fine”, I answered, trying hard not to sound too much like Eeyore. “It’s just that we’re heading home. It’s bittersweet.”

Old dragger at anchor in St Augustine, FL.

I made a mental note to keep my spirits up. With way over a thousand miles to travel, there are plenty of adventures to be had on this trip.
Ya know, I feel better already. I’ve always been able to talk myself into a good mood!

Ginger Lee and Rogue Angel at Marker 8 Marina in St Augustine, FL. Two boats from Massachusetts.

I’d love to think we would find ourselves looping again. The second time around, knowing more of what to expect, revisiting the ports we enjoyed, (and bypassing the ones we didn’t) free from the angst of the unknown, just seems so much more enjoyable.

But It took so long to save up for this first trip that time may be against me. That’s a hard fact to admit to oneself, but there it is. Oh yeah, nobody knows how long they’re going to live, but I’ll take a wild guess and say I have a heck of a lot fewer years than when I wasn’t a senior citizen.

A trail on Cumberland Island.

Of all the long-term cruisers we’ve met, many of them seem to be about my age or maybe a bit older. Most, like myself, are in reasonably good physical health. By that I mean, able to do routine things on a boat, like docking, handling lines and kinda heavy stuff like batteries, dinghy motors, fuel tanks, water tanks, anchors, and all the not-so-heavy stuff that has to be hauled to and from the boat.

Lee from M/V Breeze. I took this shot right after the XO and I returned his dinghy that somehow got loose.

And then there’s financial health. There are people who cruise full-time. We’ve met plenty of them. Some are obviously wealthy, some you just don’t know. I wonder how they do it, but it’s just not cool to ask. Most cruisers will only say they’re retired.

Two old salts?

As far as full-time cruising, the way I see it, comes down to three questions. Is this the life you want? Are you heathy enough to do it. Can you afford to do it? SOCOBO 3/31/18

The Heights of Canaveral

One of two space launches we saw from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The other one, from a private company called Spacex, was just after midnight. We set our alarm clock to watch it.

We visited the Explorer Tower. Billed as seven storeys of adventure.

View of Port Canaveral from the top.

Another view.

Cruise ships abound here.

Clowning around on an old launch console at the Space and Missile Museum.

We took our first helicopter ride. Jeez! It looks so small. No I am not wearing a fanny pack! They made us wear a flotation device in case we crash into the water.

Jeez! The pilot looks so young.

The helicopter dashboard.

Pre flight jitters?

Strapped in.

The flight was smoother than expected.

Flying over our marina.

Another view.

A huge cruise ship.

Notice the shoaling.

This is the note we left on our boat in case we died. P.S. We didn’t.

I want one!

Best coffee cup ever! SOCOBO 3/16/18

North

On Monday February 26th 2018, after crossing the state of Florida on the Okeechobee Waterway, we met the Atlantic Ocean and pointed our bow north. For the first time since July 2017, we are on a homeward course. Every time we move Ginger Lee we will be that much closer to Wareham, our home port.

The XO greets the Atlantic Ocean.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, we will be happy back home in our little house, driving our little Jeeps, resuming our little lives. But on the other hand, this awesome adventure of a lifetime will be coming to an end.
“How will we ever go back to normal life?” I have written in this blog about looping and coming home, but the funny thing is, after so long afloat, life on this boat has become the norm! So the question has changed to: How will we ever go back to land-based life? Probably just fine; we have, after all, more experience there, but I think the allure of the boating life will forever be tugging at our heart-strings. Will we succumb to its calling? There has been some discussion on the topic. Why wouldn’t there be? It’s a viable option for many. Viable for us? Well that’s another thing to discuss someday.
Perhaps it’s too soon for such talk: we have well over a thousand miles to travel at an average speed of seven MPH. The trip is hardly over, I don’t know what will happen in the future, nobody does. All we know for sure is we have reached the Atlantic Ocean and turned north. We are heading home. SOCOBO 3/3/18

Friendly Fort Myers

We spent a fortnight in lovely Fort Myers, Florida.

We docked at the Edison Ford Marina for a week.

Then hung off a mooring ball for 4 days at the Fort Myers Yacht Basin.

A snow-bird friend from Winthrop, Massachusetts dropped by to say hi. This is Cal Cali. He spends his winters in Punta Gorda.

This handsome young man is my son Jason who lives in nearby Cape Coral. We spent lots of time together.

We enjoyed cigars and brandy at the Cigar Bar.

We hit the beach at Sanibel.

He and his girlfriend Yvonne had us over for dinner twice.

We met Lincoln, my 4-year-old grandson.

 

We scraped Salty’s bottom on a deserted island.

And saw “The Parade of Lights” in downtown Fort Myers.

It was wicked pissa!

 

Florida Pictorial II

I now understand why so many New Englanders migrate to sunny Florida. This is their winter and the weather is near perfect.

M/V Ginger Lee and fellow looper M/V Breeze in Tarpon Springs.

Sponge boat in Tarpon Springs.

The only boat at Caladisi State Park.

Caladisi State Park scene.

There are miles of trails to hike.

Small Sarasota cottage.

Sarasota street scene.

Sarasota mooring field sunset.

Exploring one of the many canals in Florida.

More dinghy exploring.

Palm tree surfing on a deserted island.

At anchor near the Cortez Bridge.

At anchor in Pelican Bay, Cayo Costa.

Questions Asked

How do you feel about travelling for a whole year in your cabin cruiser?
The short answer: wonderful. Beats workin’. At first I was apprehensive about certain little things, like where will we put our boat every night, but after 3800 miles, I realize that doing the Great Loop will probably be one of the nicest things I will ever do in my life.
How do you occupy your time?
Contrary to popular belief, boat maintenance is not all time-consuming. There is a lot of free time. But is that such a bad thing? My wife and I can usually find something to do. There are so many books on board Ginger Lee that we had to position them correctly in order to balance the boat. The XO inhales them. I like mechanics, and fixing stuff. I have a garage full of tools and parts. She swims and kayaks. I walk and tinker about. She likes good rum and ginger beer. I like good cigars and brandy. We both like cooking and eating out, and when we eat out, we prefer sitting at the bar. We like dinghy adventures and exploring. Basically, it’s doing the same stuff we do at home, but now we do it in new places.

Exploring Shell Island at the entrance to Crystal River.

In Tarpon Springs Florida, this is what the Greeks consider a light lunch for two.

What’s it like to be with somebody in such a confined space?
This question is usually asked in different ways like: You haven’t killed each other yet? Aren’t you sick of each other? You get the idea, but the answer is: I feel closer to my wife than ever before. I enjoy her company, but we often do separate things.

The XO is off on another kayaking adventure.

What do you eat? How do you cook.
We eat normal food. Meat, potatoes, rice, vegetables. Cooked on a stove or on our barbecue grill. I love the electric crock pot that we can use while cruising long distances. It runs easily off our 1000 watt inverter. The XO fills it with meat and things and a couple of hours into a long trip the whole boat smells wonderful!
Pressure cooker, electric skillet, toaster oven, we brought ’em all and we use ’em.
Food shopping has not been a problem. We have a fridge/freezer combo and another separate freezer that we like to keep filled with the things we enjoy. Pretty much everything one would find in any non-vegetarians refrigerator. We also like fresh fruits and vegetables such as apples, cukes, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, squash, ya know, normal stuff. We don’t eat a lot of canned goods. It’s the same stuff we usually eat at home in Massachusetts. For some reason lettuce doesn’t keep on a boat, spoils after a day. Bananas don’t do well either. We freeze the bread because it stays fresh longer.

You don’t live on the boat all the time do you?
Yes we do. It’s our home away from home. The boat is set up that way. In port we hook up a special drinking water hose to the town water supply and plug in a 30 amp power cable so we have hot and cold running water and plenty of juice for our electrics like coffee-maker, microwave, heater, TV, etc.
When we anchor out, 12 volt deep-cycle batteries connected to 120 volt inverters keep everything going. The batteries are continually recharged by 5 solar panels. We hold 70 gallons of fresh water, enough to last a week, two if we conserve. It’s just very comfortable and livable, and the view is always beautiful.
How do you know where to go?
The Great Loop is a well-known and well published route that we follow. And we have paper charts which are like road maps for the waterways. We simply travel from place to place in small jumps. Usually 20 to 50 miles. Always in daylight, and mostly in good weather if we can help it. Sometimes we get caught in the rain but that’s not so much a problem. Wave height is the worst problem. With radar, fog is not so much a problem either as long as the waves are small. We also use cruising guides–books that tell you about all the places you could go–and the internet has Active Captain, a free service that tells you pretty much everything about anywhere in the world. It’s an invaluable tool for all boaters.
How do you get mail?
We use a mail service that specializes in helping cruising boaters. We forward all our mail to them, they get rid of the junk, and process all the other stuff into email if we want, or they can send it to us at any port.

Do you tow that dinghy?
We get a lot questions about Salty, our 12 foot aluminum friend. A hard dinghy is a rarity. We never see them outside of New England. All loopers have inflatables and nobody ever tows them. They’re lifted onto the boat or hung on davits. People are surprised to see us tow. My answer is always the same: This is the equipment we’ve had for years. We didn’t buy a boat or a dinghy to do the Great Loop. We’re just using the stuff we already have.

Towing Salty through the Intracoastal Waterway.

Heavy-duty shackle and thimble with 5/8 floating tow line.

The other end of the tow line slips through a bridle line connected on port and starboard cleats.

Are you scared?
Well no, not really. I don’t feel our lives are in danger or anything, but there were some exciting moments and I’m sure there will more to come. Running over the dinghy tow line and sinking poor Salty was fairly exciting. Hitting a tree floating in the Connecticut river was breathtaking as well. The wicked current on the Mississippi river would wake anybody up, and the tornado on Lake Cayuga was also concerning. Life is not perfectly safe no matter where you are.
Most of the time being underway is boring. In fact, we have a saying: if you’re cruising and you’re bored, it’s a good thing.
Why are you doing this?
¬†We were hanging around the dock one day with some other loopers. That question was put out there and people answered in turn. I don’t recall exactly who said what except for one young man who was doing the loop solo. He said: “I hope someday to find the answer to that very question”. It just stuck with me. Everyone has their reasons, mine are not so profound.
I love boating. I love the challenge of it all. The excitement of seeing new places, meeting new people, and doing new things in a boat. And I want an answer to the three questions that I’ve asked myself about this voyage.
Am I physically able?
Am I a good enough mechanic to keep all the systems working?
Can I figure out all the things that need to be figured out?
That last question is the key. I know I can navigate anywhere. I know I can make this boat do what I want it to do, go where I want it to go, but if I can find the answer to that last question, maybe, just maybe, I can do the same in my life. SOCOBO 2/2/18