Exciting & Emotional Times – Almost Ready To Leave Beyzano

It was never going to be an easy day, especially compounded by the unknown. Would Beyzano be sold whilst we are in the UK or would we return in late April or early May to see her again, launch and sail north? No answer to that question yet and it’s a matter of waiting. Our broker is very enthusiastic and optimistic, which is good but we would ideally like very special new owners for our boat as she has been so brilliant and deserves a good future, romping through the waves and visiting lovely anchorages! OK, so she’s not alive and not our child but she has sure felt like she is!!

Hand Polished To A Mirror Finish

Hand Polished To A Mirror Finish

Although I’m already dreading stepping off her on Monday, it is still a few days away and we have the last tasks ahead, mainly clearing and cleaning out cupboards and sorting out the lockup. That is at least a day’s work as initially we dumped everything straight in it, so now have to examine each box and bag and make some brutal decisions about what to keep. What is going with the boat has to be at the front so if she sells it can be easily picked up by the new owner but we also need to keep a lot of things we may want in case we return, including our diving gear, as its not beyond the realms of possibility that we will be in Bonaire again one day! Plans are written in sand and this time in the hands of others too.

Golden Teak Again

Golden Teak Again

We’ve kept busy, going through the project plan and ordering a new membrane for the watermaker (very expensive bit of kit at nearly 900 dollars), a new Outland hatch cover and more cleartone Semco to treat the teak deck. Looking around at other boats for sale, we are doing far too much but on the plus side, she can be launched in May with barely anything to do. The weather has been wonderful, warm, still and dry for weeks, so it is very easy to work. Having a stern view of pine trees, filled with squirrels and birds, is a pleasant change to the concrete yards we’ve been used to and this yard is also small and quiet, with few people around. A lot of boats at the far end of the yard are totally abandoned, due to be cut up after several decades of neglect. Always sad to see them, once someone’s brand new pride and joy but now utterly unloved.

Not What You Think!

Not What You Think!

For the first time we’ve had to winterise the boat. In the UK winters we carried on sailing, so there was no need but this time we’ve flushed out the sea water from engines, drained the fuel out of the outboard, sucked potable antifreeze through the fresh water pipes, emptied the 3 tanks and tried to empty every little hose and pump and filter we could think of or filled them with coolant. Bound to have forgotten something though and a split hose will show us what that was after winter.

How Fast Will We Go Without All This?

How Fast Will We Go Without All This?

We still escape the yard regularly, mostly to go to Hurd’s Hardware, the very best store I’ve been in for ages. We get everything there and at better prices than West Marine. For instance, we started trying to source some heating duct for our air heating system but it was nearly 200 dollars with shipping etc. and just as much from the UK. As a last resort Rob asked in Hurd’s, where the owner, Mr Hurd, still works at 101 years of age. Sure enough they got us some for 20 dollars! We also got window trim, another items we’ve looked high and low for. There is a local saying; if Hurd’s don’t have it, you don’t need it. I even bought some waterproof ankle boots there last week, in preparation for spending winter in the UK again. One sign puzzled me though, as shown in the photograph. Apparently they are just Chrysanthemums or fall flower as the assistant informed me. I had to ask! Mr Hurd started the store at the end of the Second World War and it is wonderful to see him still proudly surveying his empire and offering to assist customers. I asked if he knew where every item was but he admitted that he found it difficult when things get moved around, such as now in preparation for the Christmas stock but I guess it keeps him alert and focused.

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Familiar friends and new local friends have also kept us entertained and we spent a lovely evening with Jonathan and Anne at their home, along with others of Irish and Scottish descent. They lent us their car to enable us to get there too and cooked a delicious meal. Another evening Steve and Margaret hosted us at their waterside home, kindly ferrying us to and fro and serving up another tasty meal. Steve and Linda, from ‘Moondancer’ stopped in the bay for one night to see us too, on their way south. As they are returning to the Eastern Caribbean with the Salty Dawg Rally next month, it could be a few more years until we meet them again. We played a final Mexican Train dominoes game, interrupted by a BBQ and it was sad to say farewell but we promised them a stay on our canal boat in the UK, if we manage to develop that dream to fruition.

The First Day Of Our 6 Year Adventure - Hurtling Down The Solent In June 2011

The First Day Of Our 6 Year Adventure – Hurtling Down The Solent In June 2011

So, just 4 days left on Beyzano. Hard to believe after all these years and all the miles we’ve done together and I do hope Lydia or Bill are ready for some tears, as one of them is picking us up to take us to their house in Richmond on Monday, ready for our flight the following day. I’m hoping I can either convince myself she’ll still be here in the spring or have my mind taken off the parting by chat in the car but at the moment, I can’t say I’m looking forward to Monday afternoon in the slightest. I am really excited about being in the UK for Christmas again though, seeing friends and family and spending 3 months in the Lake District with a border collie, 2 cats, chickens and doves to care for. Hoping for snow already!

Posted in Domestic Info, Friends & Family, UK, USA | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Our Thoughts On Life In The Caribbean

We’ve been asked to give a list of tips regarding cruising in the Caribbean by some friends doing the ARC next year, so this is an initial brain dump and in no particular order. Rob and I will sit down and give it some more thought! Won’t be long Steve 🙂

The ‘Equipment’ and ‘Our Thoughts & Tips For Living Aboard In The Caribbean’ sections under ‘Cruising Information’ also has details of our previous thoughts.

1. Bring as much antifouling as you can carry. It is horrendously expensive in the Caribbean! In Guatemala we paid 400 US$ a tin.
2. Get a 15hp 2-stroke outboard and RIB once you arrive. Doing long distances in the dinghy are common and you will use it all the time. Get a long security cable for it too.
3. Don’t bother with bikes unless you love cycling. Most islands have supermarkets with dinghy docks or free buses to the shops for provisioning.
4. Don’t over provision before you leave your home port. You’ll be surprised at what you can buy in Antigua, St Lucia and Grenada. Waitrose products for one. In Martinique and Guadeloupe there are great French supermarkets and boulangeries. We’ve had full turkey dinners at Christmas, including sprouts!
5. Wine is not as expensive as we were led to believe, nor are labour charges so don’t be put off by that. Good work and expertise can be found in many islands, at good prices. We had our arch made in Trinidad and shipped in solar panels etc from Miami. The area is set up for thousands of cruising boats needing parts and services.
6. Make sure you have a good anchor with plenty of chain. Our choice is a spade. You will be anchoring a lot as some islands don’t have any marinas. If not, you’ll be missing out on some wonderful bays. We only used the first third of our chain, so swopped the ends around to extend it’s life.
7. Take time to enjoy the islands if you can and immerse yourself in local life, using the ‘chicken buses’ and talking to the islanders. They have a lot to teach us and are friendly and welcoming. We spent months in many islands and didn’t rush through.
8. Be sensible about security. We always but always locked our ‘doors’ and all but the hatch above our heads at night and lifted and locked the dinghy onto the arch once we had it installed. Dinghies got stolen all around us one night in Rodney Bay but they had been in the water, so easier to steal.
9. Having good solar panels and a water maker frees you up to spend lengthy periods at anchor. Our quiet, diesel generator was also great for topping up the batteries on night passages when we used the autopilot and for the hairdryer and toaster!
10. Don’t be afraid to go up to other boats to say hello. You will soon get a huge network of friends and after a year or so, we never went into a bay without meeting someone we knew. There is safety in keeping in touch with the community, listening to the radio nets and monitoring the Facebook pages, weather and security websites.
11. Customs & Immigration: Respect the rules of each country you visit. If it says ‘Knock and Enter’ on the Customs door just do it. You may well be ignored if you don’t and starting off badly usually ends badly. Enrol in SailClear and eSeaClear to expedite the procedures.
12. Get a smaller genoa than you are used to. We virtually always had a reef in the main when sailing the Caribbean chain but the genoa has a better shape without a reef. We bought a 120% genoa to replace the 140% one originally on
13. Join the Ocean Cruising Club, especially if you are heading for the USA. The hospitality and free docks are excellent. The OCC SSB net is a good way to stay in touch and join social gatherings.
14. To be continued …

Posted in ARC, Caribbean, Costs, Domestic Info, Guatemala, Maintenance | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Time Off – Richmond, American Football & Birthday BBQ

Although we have made some progress with our own list of tasks, waiting for the yard to epoxy the bottom of the keel enabled us to slow down, as we couldn’t paint the hull until it was done. We also had a treat to look forward to as Bill and Lydia had kindly invited us to join them for a taste of American football, first staying at their Richmond home before driving to Charlottesville the following day for the University of Virginia game.

Statue Of General Lee On Monument Avenue

Statue Of General Lee On Monument Avenue

Their apartment overlooks Monument Avenue in Richmond with statues of General Lee, Stuart, Arthur Ashe and Maury, amongst others. Maury is known as the Pathfinder Of The Seas and in 1847 he published charts of the currents and winds, assisting sailors to cross oceans more efficiently. We owe him a lot.

Thanks Maury!

Thanks Maury!

Unfortunately, another rally had been organised, similar to that in Charlottesville and the police weren’t taking any chances on this one causing trouble so they were busy cordoning off the road and turned up early on Saturday morning complete with cable ties and guns. Although everything else was banned, carrying guns is a national right and people did turn up with their guns and permits, as you do!

Tribute To Arthur Ashe

Tribute To Arthur Ashe

On Friday Lydia drove us around town, taking in the stunning homes and the view of the river. Richmond was named after Richmond On Thames in England, due to the stretch of the river looking so similar. As usual I was keen to visit the graveyard and Hollywood Cemetery didn’t disappoint. It is huge and beautifully kept with acres of historic graves. A map from the office helped us find a few of note, including former Presidents Monroe and Tyler, Confederate President Davis, the oldest grave which is of an infant and the dog statue, erected for a child. I found an obelisk with Japanese writing and a pyramid for the confederate soldiers. Many confederate flags flutter by the graves. History to me is just that, past. Right or wrong, it can’t be changed now and whatever we all think today is based on a different time and different values, although the victor does tend to write the history books. The setting, by the river, is lovely and the cemetery is well worth a visit, if you like that sort of thing!

President Monroe's Grave

President Monroe’s Grave

There are museums galore in Richmond but we only had a short visit this time and were off by 0900 to Charlottesville for the game. All 4 of us were kitted out in bright orange and so were all the other UVA/Hoos/Cavaliers supporters. Lydia and Bill had packed a delicious picnic for the parking lot before the game and we arrived in good time to join all the other orange people! Countless yellow buses dropped off the band and we found our seats for the noon kick off. This is a college team, so the stadium wasn’t full but we could see plenty of orange and virtually no fans of the Connecticut side.

The Band Took Up A Whole Section Of The Stadium

The Band Took Up A Whole Section Of The Stadium

It was a really fun afternoon and much more entertaining than I expected. A show in all respects, with the team mascot, a great marching band, cheerleaders and the ‘cavalier’ on a horse, galloping around the stadium. Between the halves they introduced a whole line of achieving sportsmen and women, a nice way to recognise them. We had checked out the rules beforehand luckily, as it would have been hard to follow otherwise. It seems to be more similar to British rugby than anything else. Our team got a huge lead eventually but then allowed the substitutes a go, for the experience I guess, so they gave a few points away at the end but we still won.

The Show Goes On!

The Show Goes On!

Getting back to the boat signalled time to work again and we had some major tasks ahead. The rubbing strakes and toerails were clean but needed 2 coats of teak sealer. The boat is so high up we can’t reach the top from the scaffolding, so had to stand on a step too. The difference between the finished teak and the deck is very obvious in the photo. but the deck is next. Tuesday was Rob’s birthday but we got the edges of Hurricane Jose, bringing us wind and rain and decided on Monday to delay his BBQ and just do some work instead. We only managed to get a few feet of the topsides cleaned of salt when the epoxy man arrived and we had to stop to let him work. I got the puff pastry out of the freezer and made Rob his favourite treat, after Toblerone, mince pies.

Hard Work But Worth It

Hard Work But Worth It

Yesterday we took the day off to get food and prepare for the BBQ. Bob and Lin made a big effort of getting to Deltaville for it, despite Jose lingering just off the coast and Phil and Monica are joining us along with friends from the yard here. It was lovely to sit in the shade and spend the afternoon enjoying catching up and the yard kindly refilled both gas bottles so I could use both BBQs. There was quite a lot to cook for 10 people but it was casual and relaxed and Rob had a good time. As I drove Phil and Monica back I noted the temperature on the board outside the bank read 93 degrees and it was 5pm by then. Definitely still warm here.

No Work Getting Done Today

No Work Getting Done Today

I had to put the photo. of the ‘tree insect’ in as it sat on our bright blue cushion all day, hardly camouflaged!

Beautiful Leaf Like Insect

Beautiful Leaf Like Insect

Today we are finishing the topsides, even if it takes all day. By tonight the final side will be polished to a mirror like finish with UV protection polish. Talking of which, our new mirrors are now fitted and look great. Using cheese wire to detach them from the heads cupboards makes it an easy job. Little things make the boat look much fresher and mirrors get that brown edge really quickly. This is the second time we’ve replaced them but I varnished the edges this time, hoping they’ll last longer. I am washing the deck off but we will plug up the deck drains to prevent the dirty water streaking down the newly polished topsides. We are angled well down in the stern, so much so that it feels like we are walking uphill inside the boat but it means the water will run off the stern quickly. Later in the day I want to mask up the hull for a coat of antifouling and then the outside will be pretty much done, apart from polishing the rest of the stainless steel and cleaning, brightening and sealing the deck teak. We haven’t treated the teak in a few years as it was easier to leave the teak grey but she’s getting a lot of TLC now and looks lovely again. Too good to sell!

Presents Too!

Presents Too!

Tomorrow afternoon we are playing dominoes again, hooray, on Bob and Lin’s boat and dining with them onboard. It will be good to be afloat again.

Posted in Domestic Info, Draft 2.1 metre/7 foot, Friends & Family, Techy Stuff, Tourism, USA, Weather | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Safely Ashore Whilst Irma Rages

We had such a nice trip back from the Corrotoman that we decided not to ruin our (possibly) last memory of charging along under full sail by going out in less than perfect weather or having to motor. It was also less emotional not to have known it might be the last sail at the time!

Lovely Sailing - Blue Skies & Making Over 7 Knots

Lovely Sailing – Blue Skies & Making Over 7 Knots

The weather didn’t oblige so we didn’t leave the marina dock again once we started on the task of clearing the boat for the broker to take photos. We just continued taking things to the lockup, marvelling at what we’d not used over the past 20,000 miles, spent time cleaning the cockpit teak and generally accepting that our lives had changed. Rob went up the mast to strip off the pipe lagging we’d put up in Las Palmas in the autumn of 2011. As the Atlantic crossing was a downwind passage, the mainsail can be pressed against the mast spreaders and constant movement will wear the sailcloth, so we put up the protection, taped around the spreaders. It stayed up well, hence the old glue took a bit of work to remove but we put up new lazyjacks at the same time. If Beyzano doesn’t sell by April, we’ll launch again and explore the rest of the Chesapeake and perhaps sail north to Maine, not a bad option as I’m still keen to anchor by the Statue of Liberty.

Cleaning The Foam Off The Spreaders

Cleaning The Foam Off The Spreaders

We tentatively took off the old mattress covers from the starboard stern cabin, aka ‘the garage’, hoping the new ones we had made in Guatemala last year would fit and they did. Both cabins look really nice now, all empty, huge and clean. The lockup is virtually full, despite it being 10 feet by 5 feet. Poor Beyzy had all that ‘stuff’ in the one cabin, fortunately balanced by all the food tins and generator on the port side. The logistics aren’t simple. We need to leave items on the boat that are included in the asking price and these range from the satellite phone to champagne glasses. She also needs to be clear for viewings and survey. We will create 2 sections in the lockup, 1 for our own personal gear, most of which will be dumped if she sells and a second huge section consisting of sails, BBQs, spares, a printer/scanner and right down to our hammock, Christmas decorations, fishing gear and cruising guides. We simply don’t see the value in shipping home lots of things we won’t need in the future, so are happy to leave them onboard. I don’t really want to contemplate how much all these cost but we will try to sell the very expensive portable freezer and diving gear separately.

As It Was - Soper's Hole, Tortola, BVIs

As It Was – Soper’s Hole, Tortola, BVIs

Nearing our booked hauling date, 5 September, Hurricane Irma was rearing her ugly head as she approached the Leeward Islands. As you will know, she devastated so many beautiful islands, fragile, tourist dependant islands that now have nothing. Social media makes it all too real, too immediate and horrifying to see and we hope life can return to some sort of normality soon. Many of our friends had boats in her path and somehow they have all survived intact. The photo of Soper’s Hole just shows the supermarket to the very right. It was badly damaged and looted. Anguilla always holds a special place in our hearts, with the British-loving Anguillans giving us such a warm welcome. They were badly hit. True to form, by the time our troops arrived, they had already started rebuilding their island. These places are British Territories and really need our help. Barbuda was another favourite, with the pink sand beaches and crystal clear water. Everyone had to be evacuated to sister island Antigua, as Jose threatened them again within a week but thankfully veered away in the end. St Martin was in chaos, as were the British and US Virgin Islands. Cuba’s north coast got a battering, with the area we stayed in being flooded despite being several blocks from the sea wall and then came Florida. Having visited all these locations, we found it especially sad to think of so much damage and loss of life. Bars, hotels, restaurants, docks, boats and marinas have all been swept away. Happily Brunswick Landing Marina survived but the photos of the dock ramps actually going up to the water rather than down was disconcerting. The water came to within 2 feet of the top of the pilings holding all the docks in place. None of our friends lost their boats.

No Longer There - Leverick Bay Marina, Virgin Gorda

No Longer There – Leverick Bay Marina, Virgin Gorda

So many remote islands were hit this time, damaging winds of the Category 5 hurricane destroying so many homes, livelihoods and lives. With all their neighbours similarly affected, help is harder to come by but the response has been amazing. Puerto Rico and Cuba, despite being in the warzone, sent aid straight away. For the first time, 3 major hurricanes were roaming the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico at the same time; Irma, Jose and Katia. Morbidly fascinating in one respect, with such unstoppable power and strength. Makes me realise how insignificant we all are in relation to natural forces.

All Our Old Haunts On This Island Are Gone

All Our Old Haunts On This Island Are Gone

Living in a hurricane zone is unavoidable for most of the islanders but we have the option of getting south or north each June 1st to November 30th and do so by mid August when it really kicks off. Nevertheless, some metrological models put the Chesapeake in the firing line for Jose, later changing but we keep watch daily at this time of year. Being ashore means there is not much we can do if we get a hurricane warning. We strip off all the canvas and remove all small items inside the boat, tying everything else down as well as we can. Many boats just get blown over in yards and there’s nothing we can do about that. We would then evacuate and have been offered many homes here to shelter in by people we barely know. It is good to find people pulling together in times of crisis and awful to see videos of the lootings and lawlessness in some of the islands. Desperation leads to desperate acts by some but on a small island with limited resources, stealing food and water from the vulnerable wouldn’t get you far for long.

'Things' Can Be Replaced But We Wonder How People Like Cynthia Will Cope Now Her Restaurant Is Gone

‘Things’ Can Be Replaced But We Wonder How People Like Cynthia Will Cope Now Her Restaurant Is Gone

Haul out was interesting this time. We first filled our tanks with diesel to combat condensation over the winter. It cost 55.5 pence a litre. Next we moved the boat to the dock just ahead of the lifting bay and let the yard guys take over from there. As we stepped off the floating boat there were some pangs of emotion and a few tears from me. It’s going to be hard to sell her when the time comes. The lift is quite small and I did wonder how they were going to get Beyzy out. Lee and his crew are experienced but even they had a problem with her. The normal way for her to go into the lifting bay is stern first so the machine can trundle along the sides up to her backstay. This time there just wasn’t enough space between the lift, the backstay and the solar panels and they had her at a bit of an angle as they worked that out. Rob and I were watching from the office and I was trying to remember what we’d left out on the slippery wood surfaces. Things like the glass fruit bowl and candleholders. I wasn’t expecting her to tilt at all but they were OK.

Not Quite Fitting In The Lift

Not Quite Fitting In The Lift

In the end they dropped her stern level again and she went back into the water. Then they manhandled her out of the lifting bay and back in bows first. Next they took 3 hours to get the forestay off (luckily we’d already taken the genoa down) before a successful lift. We went off to town for a coffee rather than make them nervous watching. By the time we returned she was washed off and making her way to the yard. This is a small but tidy yard, about 15 feet above the water level, so great in storm surges. It only costs 150 dollars a month to store her and our lockup is 50 dollars. Even if we do come back we’ll keep the lockup as its great not having all that weight in the boat. More room for guests as well.

Trundling Along To Her New Home

Trundling Along To Her New Home

We have water and electricity nearby although we had to use a special plug for the 110 supply, as we need 220. I bought a long extension lead and a sander so I could plug straight into power and get the hull sanded in preparation for painting. If you remember, we had to be dragged and tipped over the sandbar in Guatemala last December and it took off all the paint on the bottom of the keel again. The yard will redo this soon so I can get the antifouling done. We have a long list of work to complete by October 16, including cleaning and sealing all the teak so it is golden again, washing off 2000 miles worth of salt, polishing the topsides and winterising the systems, pumps, engines etc. It’s a very long time since Beyzano was cold and in the UK we didn’t leave her for more than 2 weeks. This time we don’t intend returning until April, so she’s in for a long, lonely and cold winter unless someone buys her.

Glad We Don't Have A White Hull!

Glad We Don’t Have A White Hull!

I’m concentrating on the maintenance that will be most obvious to potential buyers should we get any viewings soon. I used the wonderful ‘On Off’ liquid gel to get the ICW ‘tea stain’ off our wide white stripe, all 94 feet of it and have painted the part of our stern that sits in the water with hard white antifouling again. This really helps keep the weed off and is a more attractive option than a metal plate or blue paint, I think. The anchor has had the usual day-glo orange paint sprayed on as this helps us see it when we are dropping the hook. All of this work we do whenever we are hauled and if she doesn’t sell we’ll be making use of it anyway.

It's Not All Work

It’s Not All Work

It’s not all work though. ‘Charlie II’ is in the yard and we last saw them in Trinidad in late 2014. 6 of us meet each night to use the BBQs by the swimming pool and chat after a long day. Our friends Monica and Phil on ‘Miss Molly’ are in the sister yard and we hadn’t seen them since Grenada during the summer of 2014. You never know who will sail into a bay when you are cruising, that’s one of the lovely aspects. The hospitality of the Americans continues to amaze us and this week we’ve had the luxury of a car, lent by Laurie and John. They were going on holiday and just thought we could use their second car whilst they were away. Very thoughtful and kind. We escaped the yard one evening, picked up our friends from Stingray Yard and went over to Kilmarnock to the NN Burger joint. Then we took advantage of the car by stocking up at the huge Walmart where they sold guns alongside the cheese! Although the marina here lends out a courtesy car, it is limited to half an hour (or an hour if it is quiet like now) and only between 0800-1700 so we can’t go out at night. We also enjoyed our third Wednesday night meal at the Fishing Bay Yacht Club, with a nice group of people.

St John's, USVIs - Also Badly Hit By Irma

St John’s, USVIs – Also Badly Hit By Irma

Last Thursday we drove to Richmond, about 90 minutes away, to the airport to find Paul Amiss, the Customs Officer who could import the boat for a fee of 1.5% of the valuation our broker gave us. It was easy to find the CBP offices and Paul was very efficient, no questions asked. Annapolis Yacht Sales gave us a cheque (we did give them the cash) as we don’t have an American bank account. He also told us we could get a refund if the boat doesn’t sell or we change our minds. This was news to us but great if correct.

We were here for the Marina’s annual BBQ, with a pig roast and lots of food and beer. As it was a wet and horrible day, not that many people turned up so we had plenty to eat. It has turned cooler, a lovely temperature for working after so many years in the heat of Trinidad and Guatemala. We even dug out our brand new duvet, bought in 2011 and it’s nice and cosy snuggling down under it instead of just the thin cover. I’ve missed that!

Beyzano In Happier Times For Jost Van Dyke

Beyzano In Happier Times For Jost Van Dyke

After the Labor Day holiday on September 4th places here seemed to quieten down, so we 3 boats have the yard and marina facilities to ourselves. The laundry only has 1 washer and 1 dryer, so I’m glad it is quiet. It is easy to work here, we have lots of space around the boat for scaffolding and the town has several canvas, sail, mattress, engine and other boat related businesses, as well as the huge West Marine chandlery, so there is no excuse to stop work. The hardware shop is our first choice if possible as they have lots of boat items, including antifouling and the metric screws and bolts we need as well as the imperial ones. We’ve bought 3 gallons of paint but left them at the store until we are ready to use it as they suggested they should stir it all for us in their machine first. Nice service.

So, apart from a few social gatherings, lunches and the most incredible chocolate brownies from ‘The Table’ in town, we are working through our long list of minor tasks. Everything was working when we left the water and I hope it will do so when she launches. This Friday Bill and Lydia are picking us up to spend the night at their home in Richmond and taking us to our first American football game in Charlottesville on Saturday. We have to wear orange and navy as that represents UVA, the University of Virginia. Should be an interesting experience and a chance to see more of the State. On Tuesday Rob turns 63 and we might take a day off the work schedule to celebrate.

Posted in Costs, Domestic Info, Draft 2.1 metre/7 foot, ICW, Techy Stuff, Tourism, USA, Weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wonderful Days On The Chesapeake

Sorry this is a long post but we’ve been too busy socialising and exploring to attend to the blog, very remiss.

Plenty Of Space At The Free Dock

Plenty Of Space At The Free Dock

Leaving Coinjock we carried on motoring but with a stiff north-easterly wind blowing across some of the more open areas, it was quite bumpy. We also saw a barge with a tug coming towards us on the AIS and decided to slow down so we didn’t meet it on a narrow section of the ICW. We had a couple of bridges to call for opening but apart from that, no issues.

Looks Like We Lost!

Looks Like We Lost!

Being off season, the 2 long docks at Great Bridge were virtually empty, just us and another yacht spending the night there. You can stay for free for 24 hours and within a 10 minute walk you are at the small mall with bakery, fast food outlets and a big supermarket. We decided to tie up to the dock before the bridge as we had plenty of time to do the final few miles the next day and could time leaving the dock with the bridge, which was very close by.

Line Handling In Our First Lock

Line Handling In Our First Lock

A shady, pine tree filled woodland park is right by the dock and we saw lots of people enjoying the evening with their families. The bridge only opened twice whilst we were there, once for a barge and again for a powerboat, so it wasn’t busy. We took a stroll to the mall to get some basics and passed by several memorials to the historic battle that took place at the bridge. You need to tie up to pilings that jut out from the dock but there wasn’t a lot of current and it was deep enough for us at low water. On the opposite side of the ICW is a big marina and yard so you can get fuel there. No water or electricity is available at the dock but we didn’t need either and spent a quiet, calm night.

Two Bridges Open For Our 60 Foot Mast

Two Bridges Open For Our 60 Foot Mast

The following morning we called the bridge tender on VHF Ch 13 and arranged to leave the dock at 1055 for the 1100 opening, along with the other yacht. Next we had the excitement of our very first lock, visible from the Great Bridge. This opens in time for the northbound bridge boats so you just motor in and tie up to the southern side where a lock keeper was waiting for us. We both held a line and up we went until the next set of gates opened and we motored out again. Quick and easy.

From there we had a couple of fixed 65 foot bridges, a railway bridge which is usually open and a lifting bridge just beyond that. As we approached the railway bridge we could see it starting to close, so we had a half hour wait until the train went by and it opened again but the next bridge was waiting. The final bridge was very high so no problem and we passed the big navy ships and submarines, cargo boats and marinas until we motored over Mile Zero, the official start of the ICW.

Memorial To All Sailors

Fitting Memorial To Sailors

From there we went to the OCC Port Officer’s dock, lying alongside a short, high pontoon and tying our stern to a piling. They have an apartment in a block with several docks but not all are used by residents, so OCC members can stay for free there and enjoy the warm welcome and hospitality of Gary and Greta. Their reputation goes before them and we were pleased to see so many of our friends had entries in the Visitor’s Book. Busy people. They were so kind during our stay and invited another British couple, Andrew and Polly from ‘Drummer’, over for dinner on our first night. The next day we spent hours at the Nauticus Museum and on the neighbouring Battleship Wisconsin. Both were very interesting but it would have taken much longer than we had to listen to and read all the information. We picked up a few facts though. Norfolk is the only US port that can take the new super panamax ships, so it is well placed for the future. Something that amused us, given the current size of our forces, was this quote from the British Journal of 1875. ‘There never was such a hapless, broken down, tattered, forlorn apology for a Navy as that possessed by the United States’. How times change! The ship is huge, with several decks and inner areas you can explore and well worth a visit. It was designed for 1900 men but 2900 sailors squeezed into the cramped quarters to sail the world.

Immense Bow Of The USS Wisconsin

Immense Bow Of The USS Wisconsin

Downtown Norfolk is very close to Greta and Gary’s place, an easy walk to the historic areas, museums and houses. The Cannonball Trail is a good place to start using the tourist centre’s leaflets. The following day we walked over the pedestrian bridge to the Chrysler Museum of Art. It houses an amazing array of glass and objects from the ages and from all over the world. We recognised many from Guatemala and Mexico. Next to the museum is a glass studio where you can book glass blowing classes and take home your own Christmas bauble, for instance. We spent hours in the museum and had a tasty lunch in the restaurant before visiting an old house built by a successful Jewish merchant. All of these were free.

Huge Chain Links & 16 Inch Guns

Huge Chain Links & 16 Inch Guns

It is now getting into the busy time for hurricane season and we did see one disturbance approaching the east coast and monitored it for a while but it went offshore and was never a threat. There are 3 items to watch today though.

Glad This One Remained Offshore

Glad This One Remained Offshore

Another OCC boat arrived in Norfolk and turned out to be ‘Landfall’, the one we’d assisted the previous week after we left Oriental. Greta kindly took us to the supermarket to stock up, we were able to leave our rubbish and could have had water if necessary. We accepted a drinks invitation on board ‘Landfall’ so we could finally meet them and gave our thanks to Greta and Gary for their help before heading off the next morning.

Although we were out of the confines of the ICW we still had some excitement with the US Navy Warships heading out of port. Warship 60 radioed us to say they were going to be coming down the channel and we offered to move out of it, to port, to give them plenty of room. We saw lots of ships, including a hospital ship and a NOAA vessel. We use a lot of NOAA resources, most importantly their Hurricane website and are grateful for the work they do.

Thank You NOAA

Thank You NOAA

Our next stop was to be a small anchorage up the Mobjack Bay at Woodas Creek. We were the only boat there and had a lovely evening anchored in mud in over 4 metres of water. It was tempting to stay there another day to enjoy the tranquility but we had decided it would be best to sort out a boatyard and broker for selling the boat, sooner rather than later, so left before 0700 to do the 33 miles to Fishing Bay, near Deltaville. This was supposed to be where we left the boat in May, so we were a few months late. It was another motoring day, with little wind and we took half hour watches to make the time pass more quickly.

Active Boat Wash In Progress

Active Boat Wash In Progress

I was off watch as we approached the big, deep bay when I heard the engine revs mount up and thought Rob was either giving the coke a blast out of the engine, or it was going to rain. Sure enough a big, black cloud was heading our way and we just made the anchorage in time before the heavens opened, the thunder and lightning started and we began catching buckets of water for cleaning the boat. It had been forecast but they don’t always appear. One other boat was in the bay but we didn’t even get time to wave before anchoring in 6 metres and giving the anchor a quick tug to set it. The rain had just started as Rob finished setting the bridle and we sheltered under the bimini, watching it all. It didn’t get too windy but we faced all directions and had lightning hitting the sea quite close to where we were.

Pretty Sunset After The Rain

Pretty Sunset After The Rain

That over, we put out some more chain and dug it in harder so we had a good night. We got in touch with another OCC Member, John Koedel, the next day as we’d been emailing previously. He had offered his car and assistance finding the yards and drove us around, paid for a great lunch at The Table and took us to his lovely house to get his spare car, which we used to get some food. We met very professional yacht brokers to discuss the selling process and get advice on where to sell Beyzano. We had heard that Annapolis, as the big sailing centre, was the best place to sell and the brokers we spoke to there said the same (of course). One told me ‘nobody drives to view a boat’ but I disagree with that, especially in the USA where everybody drives. We drove all over the UK to find the right Beneteau 473 for us, so I really think if the right people are out there and they see the photos of Beyzano, they will drive to see her if she fits their requirements. We need quality rather than quantity viewings whilst we are away in any case.

View Of Our House From A House Ashore

View Of Our House From A House Ashore

The prices for leaving the boat in Annapolis are 3 times what they are in Deltaville and on top of that, they won’t allow us to live on the boat in the yard so we’d have to find a hotel for a month or more. Another big expense. They didn’t seem to care much either, another big negative for us. So, we decided in the end not to continue to Annapolis but to start doing some work in the water at Fishing Bay Marina and haul out mid-September in Chesapeake Boat Works next door. They were really helpful and accommodating and have a nice pool, laundry etc. Everything we need. Another plus is the number of people, both OCC Members and Yacht Club Members, who were offering us help in any way they could, from places to stay to carting our belongings to a lockup. We really are astonished at how hospitable the American people are, just so kind.

Beyzano On Bill & Lydia's Dock

Beyzano On Bill & Lydia’s Dock

John and his wife, Fay, invited us to the weekly dinner at the Yacht Club where a dozen of us had a lovely evening, chatting, drinking rum and coke and eating the lasagne and lemon sorbet 2 of the members had made. The town has several canvas makers, a big West Marine chandlery and enough shops and cafes to keep us happy. So, Deltaville will be our home until mid October and we can fly from nearby Richmond to Boston, then on to Reykjavik and on again to Gatwick with Icelandair. There are small and large storage units to empty all our gear into and plenty of expertise for anything the boat needs doing on her.

High Sided Wooden Family Pew

High Sided Wooden Family Pew

Before we start on the sale, we had arranged to visit Bill and Lydia Strickland, OCC Rear Commodores in the Corrotoman River, a side shoot off the Rappahannock. We managed to get full sail up for a few hours as we tacked up and down to within a couple of miles of their house, a lovely, gentle sail. We anchored past a sandy spit that looked alarmingly close to us as we went by in 6 metres of water. Around another bend was a perfect anchoring spot in 4 metres, totally protected from all directions. The forecast for the following night was poor though, with thunderstorms and squalls so we planned to take up Bill and Lydia’s kind offer of a place on their new dock.

As we sat in the cockpit a man on a jetski stopped for about an hour to chat. He wouldn’t believe we sailed the boat over the Atlantic at first but eventually did and invited us to his house for drinks. As we had a BBQ planned we had to decline but after we’d eaten Rob heard a lady shouting over from a different dock and she asked us to join them for cocktails. We got a great view of the boat from their house, wisely sited high from the water. It was a fun evening with them and their neighbours, all from Washington D.C. with homes in a piece of paradise.

The Steamboat Era Museum

The Steamboat Era Museum

The next morning we emailed Lydia and Bill, as our AT&T signal has worked well everywhere we’ve been. We dinghied over to meet them and check the dock would be OK for us to use. They are such a lovely couple and have a simply gorgeous home with water at the front and rear of their gardens. They offered us an air-conditioned room to stay in, given it was the hottest day of the year, use of their car, pool and laundry. They also fed us for 3 days and gathered other OCC members for a BBQ the first night. We all went to a superb Thai restaurant on Saturday night and we used their car to provision. The dock is brand new and a good height for us. It has the usual protruding pilings but we came in starboard side to and tied off our bow to a piling off the dock. There is 8 foot or more at low water, so no problem for us.

They drove us to a couple of historic venues, the Historic Christ Church and the Steamboat Museum in Irvington. The church was modelled on English Churches and built with private funds in the 1730s by Robert Carter. It is sited in the middle of the woods and still used for services. The high backed pews created a wooden pen almost, ensuring people weren’t distracted from listening to the sermons. The era of the Chesapeake Bay Steamboats only ended in 1962 having had a glorious past ferrying people and animals from Baltimore to Norfolk and many small ports in between. The museums at both were excellent, full of interesting facts, photographs and exhibits. We were completely spoilt this weekend and can’t thank Bill and Lydia enough for the wonderful time we spent with them.

Tomorrow we are heading back to Fishing Bay to book the marina, yard, haul out, lockup and broker. Then we need to do some work getting the boat empty and ready for photographs and compile the inventory. After that we can do some more sailing, hopefully visiting a few more towns and bays around the southern Chesapeake before we surrender our cruising license and pay the customs duty to import the boat for sale here. We are still hoping to meet up with Bob and Lin on ‘Ile Jeudi’ before then but if not, we can always meet on land, heaven forbid!

Posted in Domestic Info, Draft 2.1 metre/7 foot, Friends & Family, Maintenance, Tourism, USA, Weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Times On The Lovely ICW

Writing this last week onwards: We are now over that magic line, 35 degrees North and will be just pottering along on the ICW from now until we reach the Chesapeake Bay, except for a couple of sounds where we might be able to get the sails up. It is another 160 miles yet to Norfolk and the entrance to the Chesapeake but our insurance excess has dropped to 1000 pounds during a Named Windstorm and we will be insured for anything that comes our way! It has felt like a bit of a slog getting to this stage, as if we had changed our insurance company and paid 400 pounds more we could have stayed in Georgia in the heat and humidity. The cost of the marinas and fuel was much higher than that but I’m still glad we forced ourselves to leave Brunswick, as we loved Charleston, Beaufort, Oriental and passing through the Carolina countryside and can now look forward to exploring a few creeks of the Chesapeake and relaxing.

Another Lovely Anchorage

Another Lovely Anchorage

We left Harbour Village Marina at half tide and gingerly motored out of their channel into the ICW to make the bridge for noon. Being a Sunday it was busy with motorboats whizzing along and making a lot of wake for us but it wasn’t so bad. The wind was from the north/north-east and straight ahead, so it was slow going and cold. Glad we didn’t try to sail outside the ICW as it would have been miserable, in fact a delivery skipper joined us last night on the fuel dock as the conditions were so unfavourable offshore. We got to the dreaded New River Inlet at High Water and used the ‘dip’ route as best we could in the big current. We didn’t see less than 0.7 metres under us and were glad to get through it without running aground.

Motoring Along The Scenic ICW

Motoring Along The Scenic ICW

Just another mile further is a great anchorage in Mile Hammock Bay. It has a marked channel but we saw 1.0 metres (3.1 metres of water) on the way in and had to calculate the lower tide for the morning as we had a long day ahead and needed to leave at dawn. Roger and Dixie were in the bay too, so we anchored near them in 1.7 metres in good mud, which easily held us through the calm night.

The next morning we motored off again to make the 0700, the first opening, bridge and to get through the firing range area before they closed it. Flashing lights will warn boaters not to enter the 5 mile stretch and there is a lookout tower as well. Through all that, we carried on to the Swansboro Anchorage some 10 miles further on as we wanted to wait for low water to pass to go through some shoaling on a rising tide. We had the anchorage to ourselves and spent an hour drinking coffee before we set off. No issues other than seeing a foot of water under us at times in the known shallows and we rounded the south of Radio Island and into Beaufort before 5pm. This channel is also well marked and there is plenty of water right up to the town docks where we had booked a slot. The marina was pretty empty though as it is only for transient boats and it’s definitely low season. The dockhands helped us in between the pilings and pontoon, gave us the wooden nickels for a free beer and told us about the town.

Conveniently Berthed Next To Beaufort Boardwalk

Conveniently Berthed Next To Beaufort Boardwalk

The anchorage area is full of moorings and looks a lot smaller than in the photographs so I wouldn’t recommend it. Although it is expensive, at 2.55 dollars a foot per day for us, the marina location is great, right on the waterfront boardwalk with shops, restaurants and plenty to watch. One couple shouted over to us having seen the Welsh flag we fly, as one of them was from Tredegar. The shower block is a short distance away but clean and cool. We borrowed one of the courtesy cars to go to the Piggly Wiggly supermarket and explored the town on foot as it is quite small. The Dockhouse just next to the boardwalk had live entertainment for us one night, a singer/guitarist who wasn’t bad at all.

Everything Is Picture Postcard Pretty!

Everything Is Picture Postcard Pretty!

I got up early to take photos and visit the old graveyard and we had a coffee in the Cru Café. The graveyard is fascinating, full of history and sad stories. One family lost 4 children as infants, then 3 sons before their 40s, presumably in battle. Another area has a memorial to the settlers killed in their battles with the Indians in 1711. Many graves are numbered so you can use a personal ‘tour guide’ by the gate for more information. On a brighter note, we ate a cheap but good lunch in the Mexican restaurant and ice-cream one evening plus a wander around the shops took up one day and we also visited the excellent and free Maritime Museum with great exhibits and information. There is a lot of history about Beaufort and a whole section on Blackbeard, the pirate. I took a lot of photos of the beautiful houses but Rob says I’ve posted too many already. We also gave the outboard a run up and down the anchorage, then landed it on the beach overlooking the harbour. It is still hot and sunny enough for swimwear and a tan!

Getting My History Fix

Getting My History Fix

After 2 nights we decided to carry on north on the ICW to get over our line and call in on Oriental ‘Sailing Capital of North Carolina’ and home to Ann and Nev, OCC Port Officers. As we exited the narrow section, a huge barge being pushed by a tug came from the sound going south. Glad we didn’t encounter it on our way as there wouldn’t have been much room for us. The entrance channel to Oriental is quite shallow and we were told to avoid the final green by cutting the corner from G3 to R6 as there is no water near G5. The new free town dock is also too shallow for us with depths of 6 feet but it was sturdy and convenient, the only issue being its proximity to a large shrimper, covered with birds and the resulting mess on your boat. It is to starboard of the Fuel Dock, has cleats on the wooden posts and is painted blue and yellow. The marina is also too shallow for us but their Tiki Bar is a nice place to chill out. We anchored though, with a couple of feet of water under us, between the channel and the bridge. It was calm, secure and we had a neighbour, another blue yacht.

Oriental Marina & Dinghy Dock

Oriental Marina & Dinghy Dock

Ann and Nev, who is Welsh, were expecting us and within a couple of hours of arriving, we had been given a tour of the small town and great hospitality at their home with drinks, dinner and a load of washing done. We had a great evening chatting and left with a bag of tomatoes, pecans and squash from their garden. The town is super friendly towards cruisers and has the means of getting everything you need. The chandlery in town sourced us a new AB dinghy oar to replace the one we lost in 2014 and a spark plug for the misfiring outboard. The Bean café is the one to go to for delicious drinks and pastries, so we stayed an extra night to enable us to have a leisurely breakfast, get supplies and walk around the town. Naturally the houses are pretty, made from wood with open grounds. We hardly see fences around the plots.

Just One More!

Just One More!

One house had a gorgeous puppy and adult Australian sheepdogs. Adorable! Rob naturally got licked to death as usual. There is a beach, lots of walks and free bicycles at the chandlery. Further out is a West Marine and supermarkets but Ann offered to drive us anywhere we needed to go. We were told there are 3000 boats for the 900 inhabitants of Oriental and during the evenings we watched several small motorboats circling us trawling shrimp nets. The bigger, commercial ships went out regularly, returning with their catch to transfer to the lorries for distribution. Locally there is a shop selling fresh seafood and the chandlery has milk, fruit, vegetables and lots of storable items.

Sunset At Anchor In Oriental

Sunset At Anchor In Oriental

Keen to press on, we left without mishap and continued out east along the Neuse River and across Pamlico Sound to round Maw Point into Bonner Bay and west into Spring Creek. There was at least 3 metres of water right into the creek, another big, empty anchorage and well sheltered. We let the anchor settle into the mud for a while before digging it in hard and later we were joined by another British yacht. The following morning we left early and waved to ‘Landfall’ as we passed but they called us on the radio to explain they had engine issues and no phone signal, were also OCC and TowboatUS members and could we call Towboats for assistance once we obtained a signal. This we did and managed to let them know before we got out of VHF range. Hopefully Towboats turned up!

Spring Creek With 'Landfall' In The Distance

Spring Creek With ‘Landfall’ In The Distance

After crossing Bay River we went back inside the ICW and continued to Pamlico River where we had the genoa up for an hour until we reached another idyllic anchorage just off the Pungo River at G23. This is just before you enter a long canal and we were ready to stop and have a sundowner. A few pots are easy to spot and along the sides of the anchorage but we did see less than 2.6 metres on our way off the channel before anchoring in 3 metres near a fishing platform. Another navy blue sailboat joined us and we had a calm and peaceful night. The lightning I saw briefly stayed in the distance thankfully.

Pungo River Anchorage At Sunset

Pungo River Anchorage At Sunset

So, we continued at 0700 the next day along the Alligator/Pungo River Canal. 4 hours of straight lines, a couple of fixed 65 foot clearance bridges and a narrow channel with stumps from fallen trees along the edges. It is really pretty, heavily wooded both sides. Bank erosion from boat wakes is causing a lot of damage along the canal but the ICW channel is deep, up to 5 metres and we stayed dead centre. The other yacht was ahead of us but we didn’t see any other traffic and it was beautifully calm and quiet, good training for our canal boat life. Having a 60 foot mast has made it easy for us to use the ICW and our draft was only a problem for the stretch between Jacksonville and Cape Fear.

Tranquil & Empty ICW

Tranquil & Empty ICW

The Alligator River swing bridge opens on demand unless it is very windy and the bridge tender was probably glad of something to do so he stopped the traffic quite early and they had to wait whilst we motored through. We then turned east immediately and across the bay for more than 2 miles before anchoring nearer the shore, north of the Lodge, the only building. We didn’t see less than 10 feet right across but had to dodge lots of fish pots. It had been getting windy so we were glad it got calmer as we approached our chosen spot and we were well protected in the north-east wind which was forecast to switch to south-east during the night.

Straight Line Motoring

Straight Line Motoring

The next morning we awoke to the rumble of thunder. Not our favourite sound whilst sailing but we checked the radar, having full strength AT&T data signal there. It showed a lot of rain around us but a clear area where we were going, across Albermarle Sound. We were keen to get to Coinjock Marina, 50 miles from Norfolk, as severe thunderstorms were forecast for that night and following day. The rumbling continued and we anxiously watched a black cloud pass south of us but we sped across the 12 miles of the sound with our full genoa and got into the ICW again as fast as possible.

Another First - Alongside Protruding Wooden Posts

Another First – Alongside Protruding Wooden Posts

The ICW has been deep for this section, up to 5 metres or around 15 foot of water and very scenic. We stay in the visual centre of the channel and use the Navionics charts on our iPads, especially when it rained. Then we kept dry under the sprayhood whilst monitoring our position on the iPads and the ICW is just straight with a few turns so our autohelm, Cyril, can easily cope. The markers are all numbered and actually switched sides half way up the Pungo Canal, over to what we are used to in the UK, ie green to starboard. At times new markers are installed for extending shoals so we honour the markers, no matter how weird the position seems to be, or keep to the charted ‘magenta line’. Fishing pots are normally outside of this channel but not across Albermarle Sound. Here we had to dodge pots all along the route, not very relaxing with the genoa up.

Tired Puppy - Raven Is Not Playing Thank You!

Tired Puppy – Raven Is Not Playing Thank You!

By 1300 we were tied up at Coinjock, helped in by their friendly dockhands and against a wooden piling for the first time. We had seen photos of the marina, so knew it was all alongside and had posts that stuck out from the dock, requiring our fenders to be horizontal against them. Our teak rubbing strake is also useful in the US as they use pilings a lot and we can’t damage anything other than the teak rubbing strake if we do scrape against one.

The other navy boat in the anchorage was also at the marina, so we had a good chat with Jerry and Lynne in the restaurant later. They had done over 70 miles to arrive the day before us but we tend to potter along doing between 20 to 35 miles as we like to get in early and have a nice evening. The marina is family run and a great stop. Fuel, water, power, food, clothing and a small but really well stocked chandlery are on site, as are clean showers and a laundry. The loads cost 2 dollars each, in quarters, but they have coins in the shop. The bar and restaurant are nice and the famous prime rib was a must for Rob, so we booked it in advance. I had shrimp and Pollock, again delicious but their handmade crisps, given free as you choose your food, were amazing!

Tree Stumps Along The Alligator/Pungo River Canal

Tree Stumps Along The Alligator/Pungo River Canal

Last evening and during the early hours we had thunderstorms with high winds, making us very glad we were safely tied up here. Today it is just raining and between downpours I’m doing the laundry, cleaning the boat a little and doing some admin. The boat is a lot cleaner than in the past as there is no dust in the atmosphere and no swarms of insects that leave their wings behind. The water is now very brown though, like tea and the few inches of the stern that sit in the water is also brown. It will need a good clean once she is ashore.

Fishing For Breakfast

Fishing For Breakfast

We found, to our delight, a black Labrador and puppy sleeping in their bed in the shop. Tired out from playing all night, they enjoyed a stroke but didn’t want to play anymore. If the rain does stop, we will leave tomorrow to do just over 30 miles to the free dock near the lock. There are a couple of bridges which we will need opening for us but they don’t usually slow us down as we aim to be at them for the published opening times, on the hour or half hour. The railway bridges tend to remain open, just closing for trains. After that we have just 10 miles to the OCC Port Officer’s free dock in Norfolk and are looking forward to meeting Greta and Gary.

Posted in Costs, Domestic Info, Draft 2.1 metre/7 foot, ICW, Tourism, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On To Southport & The ICW North

We left Charleston City marina using the current to take our stern out and away from the dock. It was a good stay, if a little expensive. We investigated the prices for hauling out in the City Boatyard but having to pay 250 dollars for a simple jet wash and a too high to mention daily DIY charge just for us to do our own work, on top of the daily boatyard storage charge was just outrageous. There are yards on the Chesapeake where you can leave the boat ashore for around 100 pounds a month, as well as live on them ashore. Many don’t allow liveaboards afloat nor ashore, so it pays to find a small, friendly marina that understands the needs of the average cruiser.

South Harbour Village Marina

South Harbour Village Marina

Returning to the anchorage where we spent the first evening, we put plenty of chain out in anticipation of possible thunderstorms that afternoon. Sure enough the skies darkened and the wind direction changed, bringing the black clouds closer until the lightning storm was just above us. It got very windy for a short time but the boat didn’t move an inch in the thick mud and we had plenty of deep water all around us and no other boats. It lasted a couple of hours before settling into a calm night and we slept until the alarm went off for our dawn start out of the Charleston Channel. We had the current with us and were soon sitting reading whilst the autopilot, genoa and engine took us swiftly to the next inlet at Georgetown.

On The Fuel Dock - Easy Diesel Top Up!

On The Fuel Dock – Easy Diesel Top Up!

We didn’t go all the way up river to the town, although it looked really pretty in the guide but anchored near the junction of the southern part of the ICW, just between an island and the coastal mainland in 4 metres of water. Again the holding was great and just as well for the current was very strong. When it changed direction we heard a bubbling noise and saw a wavy band of disturbed water moving along the channel. Haven’t seen anything quite like it before. It was a really pretty anchorage but sadly we were off again at 0200, to make the 80-mile next hop in daylight and to arrive through the inlet with a fair current.

OK - You Go First

OK – You Go First

It wasn’t a very exciting trip, just a lookout now and then in the empty sea until we got close to land again. We saw a 1000 foot cargo boat waiting for the pilot boat and hoped we’d get in before the pilot got aboard but no, they soon caught us up and I pulled off the main channel to get out of it’s way and avoid a huge wake. There was a good depth of water both sides and he was way bigger than us! Once through the channel we had a very quick current with us, taking us north towards a known anchorage at 8 knots with very little engine. Trouble was we couldn’t turn fast enough through the minute entrance into the anchorage with the current dragging us along, so we opted to go to the South Harbour Village Marina a day early. We booked in for a week and were pleased to hear the rate was 1.50 a foot daily but even cheaper to book for a week rather than 5 days with our TowBoatUS discount. It is a nice little marina with very helpful staff, 2 restaurants, a laundry and clean shower rooms. Some reviews mention the wake, as the transient dock is right on the ICW with all the little weekend motor boats but we didn’t find it a problem as 80% of them slowed right down as they passed the marina. Several diesel pumps made it easy to top up the tanks for our couple of hundred miles motoring on the ICW.

It is a bit of distance from anywhere though, so we decided to hire a car for a day to visit Wilmington and the supermarket, through Enterprise. Although we had a firm reservation, when we rang to arrange the pickup an hour beforehand, the local office didn’t have a car and failed to get one all day. Totally wasted day and the Call Centre blamed the local office for not updating the car availability whilst the local office blamed them for making bookings when they didn’t have any cars. Didn’t impress us one iota. We spoke to their escalation team who forwarded it on to the regional manager for some kind of resolution but as I write 5 days later we are still waiting ….. Instead we used Uber for the first time and have to admit it was impressive. They were 4 minutes away immediately, so we had to rush to get off the boat and to the marina office! Being the child I am, I liked watching the driver’s car progressing towards us on the app.

Sand Dunes Bordering The ICW

Sand Dunes Bordering The ICW

Our next step was to get to Morehead City next to Beaufort in North Carolina. We had 2 options: ICW in 4 stages to take the charted shallows at high water and the bridges at their opening times, or go outside from Wrightsville Beach to the inlet at Morehead City. The tides weren’t right for entering the inlet late afternoon and if the winds were strongly onshore it would be rough. I rang up Towboat US to ask about the chance of us getting through the trouble spots on the ICW and they agreed we could make it at high water. This stretch of the ICW is very narrow for the main part, just a dredged channel through mudflats and we couldn’t see many places to pull off to anchor. There was a marina, Harbour Village 45 miles up, that could take us and a well protected, deep bay a mile after the most notorious shoaling inlet at New River known as ‘Hell’s Gate’. Two other less protected anchorages are 17 miles north but we would have added another night if we stopped at either of those. We worked out the tides and bridges and wrote a time plan for the 4 days to get us where we needed to be.

Swing Bridge Beginning To Close Behind Us

Swing Bridge Beginning To Close Behind Us

For the first night we anchored at Wrightsville Beach, a pleasant busy resort with a couple of large anchorages. The best channel in for a deeper draft like us is the southern one. It is hard sand though and it took us 2 attempts to set the hook. A British/American couple, Roger and Dixie sought us out in Southport and were also in the anchorage so we had drinks on Beyzy and discussed our plans. Both of us intend getting a canal boat in the UK so we had plenty to chat about. After a peaceful night without thunderstorms we upped anchor to catch the 0900 bridge opening so we could get the next bridge 5 miles and an hour later. This took us to the next shallows for high water and a midday entry to the marina. You can only dock overnight by appointment as all the slips are private, surrounded by beautifully designed houses.

The entrance is well marked by 6 posts but you have to line up dead centre and dead straight and the strong current was sweeping us past. On top of that a small motorboat decided to cut us off, as the marina camera clearly showed, so we had a bit of a scary struggle against the current to avoid hitting the initial starboard channel marker. It was also quite shallow where we ended up, seeing 0.5 metres under the keel and this was almost at high water. Once we were inside the current lessened and we were able to turn around in the basin and manoeuvre onto the long fuel dock. It is very sheltered inside and we were right next to the WiFi mast, office and showers. It costs 2 dollars a foot but includes electricity and water, neither of which we needed. Mike, the marina manager, sent us an email with photos of the entrance, a video and a plan with very clear instructions. Not seen such great information before. He welcomed us in with a compliment about my boat handling skills, being a woman! Thinking about it, we have never seen a woman steering a boat in the US if there is a man aboard. Not saying they don’t but we haven’t actually witnessed it. So perhaps Mike was surprised to see me on the helm. He was also shocked to hear we’d crossed the Atlantic in Beyzy but then we are the biggest and deepest boat in his marina and with about 200 slips there are only 4 yachts. He said that due to the shoaling of some of the inlets, the yachts have had to go elsewhere.

Yet Another Marina!

Yet Another Marina!

We had been expecting a bad thunderstorm yesterday evening with ‘damaging winds’ but fortunately we had a minor one at dawn instead. It hasn’t stopped raining yet but there is nothing to do here anyway as there are no towns nearby to walk to and no restaurants. A local Italian will deliver pizza so that’s our dinner tonight. In the meantime we are starting to plan the next few months, getting the boat on the market and finding storage for most of the items onboard. We have joined ‘Trusted Housesitters’ and found a beautiful house and pet sit in the UK for over 3 months from late October and are looking forward to spending time in the stunning Lake District with a dog, cats, chickens and doves to care for.

Tomorrow we continue north along the ICW but it will be a rush to meet the high water deadlines further up but also to get out of this marina without going aground. We need to go through Hell’s Gate just after 1300 and will anchor in the big naval bay just after before catching the next high water the following day to navigate the remaining shallows before reaching Morehead City for early evening. We have already telephoned the dockmaster at Beaufort for a couple of night’s stay as the town is said to be very pretty.

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Charming Charleston

Before we left Brunswick I had my first close up encounter with a manatee. It was just by the office, literally inches away and I hadn’t realised how huge they are! Wish I’d had the camera though. Our overnight passage went smoothly, with just enough wind on the beam to sail most of it. We encountered a couple of yachts and shrimping trawlers, the latter covered in well fed birds. The entrance into Charleston is a deep well marked inlet which we joined half way along as there was no need to add extra miles. We were waiting for a huge container ship to exit although there was room for both of us in the wide channel.

Birds Waiting For Their Dinner

Birds Waiting For Their Dinner

Our 145 mile trip came to an end anchored a couple of miles south east of the City Marina and we had a good night dug into the mud with 3 metres underneath the keel. We were the only boat but had 2 live groups to entertain us from the nearby yacht club. The next morning we chilled out before hailing the Marina for our reserved berth. Check in is after noon, hence the wait but as they had tons of space I’m not sure why we needed to. They have a megadock, a very long dock, for transient boats but ask for the inside if possible as it gets choppy from the wake of passing boats, especially at weekends. One night we had a big thunderstorm which also made it uncomfortable for our fenders, as we were pinned onto the dock.

Wedding Venue Next To The Marina

Wedding Venue Next To The Marina

The Marina isn’t cheap. We paid 101 dollars a night and stayed 5 in the end. Their washrooms are the other end of the dock, so quite a walk but they will pick you up in a golf cart if necessary. The best thing on offer was the free shuttle bus running you around. It became our personal transport as the Marina was so quiet and we used it every day to downtown and the out of town West Marine chandlery and Harris Teeter supermarket. You just phone again for a pick up.

The Famous Pineapple Fountain

The Famous Pineapple Fountain

I’ve always wanted to visit Charleston and it was a lovely experience. We started at the Visitor’s Centre to get maps and ideas, then planned our days from there. The city runs a free, air conditioned bus known as DASH around town, so we hopped on that several times. We visited the Charleston Museum and their 2 historic houses with tours of the houses being every half hour and very interesting. The museum was founded in 1773 and provides a good history of the city. The Heyward-Washington and Joseph Manigault houses contain beautiful furniture and you get a great feel for how the rich plantation owners lived in their summer homes. One cupboard was for a block of sugar, locked due to it’s value. They had dishes to rinse their wine glasses as even the rich could rarely afford more than one per person. There was also Wedgwood china on display in a rare purple-pink colour, totally different to the blue we usually associate with Wedgwood.

Beautiful Furniture Gracing Serene Living Rooms

Beautiful Furniture Gracing Serene Living Rooms

One great idea, as they moved from one house to another depending on the climate, was a chest of drawers split into 3, with 2 drawers having handles on each side. They could then be easily transported between homes. Unfortunately many got lost, so there are only a few rare examples left. We also learned how a few phrases originated, such as ‘hitting the sack’ due to the beds being sacks filled with hay or materials. Also the dining tables were originally just boards and only one person had a chair, the others being benches or stools. Hence the ‘Chairman of the Board’.

The Info!

The Info!

Outside the Charleston Museum is the first submarine to sink an enemy ship!

The Sub

The Sub

We also visited the Slave Mart Museum and stood in the courtyard where so many lives were sold. It’s a small but very poignant place. The homes along the cobblestone streets of the French Quarter were stunning and so well preserved. The Customs House, Market and parks are also beautiful. I could have walked around for days! You can also hire bikes from many locations, including the Marina, if you want to start early when it’s cool.

The Slave Mart Museum - Poignant Place To Reflect

The Slave Mart Museum – Poignant Place To Reflect

On Saturdays Marion Square hosts the farmer’s market from 0800, another brilliant place to wander around. The crafts are a really high standard as are the foods tempting Rob. Fresh local produce, jams, sauces and breads can be bought. Entertainers keep you there whilst you can sit at tables for breakfast or lunch.

There are endless shops, cafes and restaurants, antique shops and galleries, just not enough time to do even a tenth of it but we loved Charleston and would return anytime.

Which Sweet Shall I Have?

Which Sweet Shall I Have?

So we slipped off the dock at noon after a final wander to see the ‘pineapple fountain’, using the incoming tide to push the stern out and slip the bow. We are now anchored in the same place as last Thursday so we can head out at 0615 tomorrow for the 65 miles to Georgetown, followed by another, longer, day sail to Cape Fear. We will be leaving in the dark on Friday as we need to be underway by 0300. At least we only have 8 hours of darkness this far north, rather than the 12 we are used to. It gets light by 0530 and isn’t dark until gone 2100.

I have far too many photos of the buildings, gardens and graveyards around Charleston to publish, so here are just a few!

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Tennis Halts Progress But Leaving Tomorrow

It is a fortnight since we left the UK and we have settled happily back into life in this wonderful marina. We attended 5 social events in the first week and the July 4th Party went well. As the marina is pretty much full now, the Yacht Club was busy for a pot luck evening, followed by ‘chicken foot’ dominoes and the city fireworks at 2100. Fortunately they let them off just opposite the marina and we could see everything from our boat. Thousands of locals gathered here too, having picnics on the grass banks whilst they waited for the fireworks.

Visitors For The Fireworks Show

Visitors For The Fireworks Show

The first Friday of each month is open night in town. Many shops serve drinks and snacks and stay open late. There are specials in the restaurants, on top of the 10% we get off in most of them by showing our marina card. Good to see the town was very busy with a great atmosphere, as it can be quiet and a bit dead the rest of the time.

Being avid tennis fans, we lingered longer than intended in Brunswick just to watch the Wimbledon Championships, as it was so comfortable and easy for a change. Gone are the days we had to hike miles to sit on a hard bar stool outside in the heat. Here we wander up to the air-conditioned lounge for 0800 with a coffee in hand and sit on the plush sofas until the last match is over. With a choice of 3 big TVs, a popcorn machine and the bar, it is certainly a lovely way to spend the week and there have been some excellent matches. I could get the laundry done at the same time.

The Second Lounge With Laundry Room Behind

The Second Lounge With Laundry Room Behind

However, we do need to move on as our insurance is void if we aren’t north of 35 degrees by mid August and the clock is ticking. We can’t afford to be uninsured during the busiest hurricane months. Until then our excess is 14K. There have been a couple of tropical waves to excite the meteorologists but so far they haven’t come to anything significant here. We have been ready to leave for a week in reality but for the tennis. Our neighbours, Paul to starboard and Sylvia to port, have very kindly taken us shopping and given us a tour of the area in the process. We have everything we need on board so there is nothing other than our wish to see Jo Konta and Andy Murray continue their great Wimbledon progress, to hold us here.

Cheering On The Brits From Afar

Cheering On The Brits From Afar

Our plan is to leave tomorrow around noon to use the current out of the inlet. Then we head north towards Charleston overnight, a trip of 162 nautical miles. We will anchor near the town for the first night when we arrive and berth in the City Marina for a couple of nights on Friday, so we can explore. Marina charges aren’t cheap here and the 2 nights will cost nearly 160 pounds but we feel happier if Beyzano is safely tied up whilst we are ashore, especially in the strong currents of the river.

Next we head for Georgetown, a trip of about 80 miles but if it looks like we won’t make it before dark, we can continue overnight to Cape Fear instead, another 75 miles further north. Going 26 miles north on the ICW there to Wrightsville Beach means we don’t have to go out to sea 20 miles around the Frying Pan shoals off Cape Fear, so it’s a great shortcut. Our friends, Bob and Lin from ‘Ile Jeudi’ have recently done the same trip so suggested this route and they didn’t have any issues. After a night anchored at Wrightsville Beach we will go offshore again to Morehead City in North Carolina and get back into the ICW for a few days to Norfolk and the Chesapeake. Only a few miles from Morehead City, at Oriental, we will be over that magic line, 35 degrees N and our insurance excess drops to just 1K. Then we can take it easy, stop along the way and investigate a few marinas where we might stay during the autumn.

Leaving Our Boat Card Behind

Leaving Our Boat Card Behind

We have been in touch with several Ocean Cruising Club Port Officers, all of whom have been very helpful and welcoming. Many have free docks we can use, despite our draft and will assist with sourcing provisions, lending cars and finding boat items, not to mention entertaining us at their homes. We are looking forward to meeting the POs in Oriental, Deltaville and Norfolk on our way north. We are also keen to catch up with Bob and Lin as we last saw them in the spring of 2015 in Anguilla.

I’ll be sorry to leave Brunswick Landing Marina. It has been a very comfortable and friendly stop and we would happily return. If they ever installed a swimming pool it would be paradise! We left our boat card on the wall and guess it will get moved to the ‘Dearly Departed’ section in due course. We are off to the ocean once more!

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Back Afloat & Heading North

During the final week in the UK we managed to meet up with lots of family and friends, including Carol who was our ARC neighbour in Las Palmas in 2011 and who we last met in January 2012. 4 year old George took his mum, Sabrina and me to a soft play centre, a good introduction to what being a grandparent might entail. Tearful farewells once again reminded me of how much we miss people when we are away.

Visiting Ely, near Cambridge

Visiting Ely, near Cambridge

Our journey home to Beyzano was superb from start to finish. Steve gamely got up before 5am to drive us to Heathrow’s Terminal 5 where we had the luxury of the business class lounges for breakfast, using our penultimate batch of air miles. We had also been able to pre-book our seats on the Airbus A380, a plane I saw before she went into commercial use as the fuel and landing gear tests were performed at Filton, Bristol. I remember the gigantic wheels continually going up and down for months and the glee at work when the evacuation test was completed well under the required level.

British Airways has changed some of the rules lately, meaning we could only take 2 bags in the hold but they could weigh an additional 9 kgs. Who would want to lug around a bag of 32 kgs is beyond me though, so our 4 bags still weighed under 23 kgs, the allowance you would get in Premium Economy anyway. On top of that, despite the full cost of seats being thousands of pounds, you still can’t reserve one until 24 hours before the flight. This seems poor customer service to me as I wouldn’t want to pay another 85 pounds to book it earlier.

Anyway, gripe over, we had a wonderfully quiet and smooth flight. The upper deck business cabin was only a quarter full, so we had a steward to ourselves and could have sat where we liked. We both looked at one another in astonishment once we were airborne as there was no big power surge or seemingly any effort to get the huge plane off the runway. I have seen her take off empty from Filton and the pilot climbed very steeply and threw her around a bit, as she is clearly a very nimble aircraft. The cabin crew let me explore both decks and talked about how it is to work on board. A bit cramped in fact, as the space has been given over to the customer rather than the crew and they probably didn’t get consulted when the requirements were being written.

Even Our Banks Are Ancient!

Even Our Banks Are Ancient!

The food was top class as was the entertainment system but I could have done with another couple of hours to get some sleep. I was just too excited to finally get to fly on the A380!

We arrived early into Washington DC and as we had used our visa to enter the USA before, we didn’t need to fill out any forms. Immigration was quick and painless and he gave us 6 months as we showed him our cruising permit, valid to April. He told us we can extend for another 3 months in December if necessary. Customs was a breeze too as our bags were already in the hall awaiting us and there was no red channel to declare anything, not that we had brought any excluded items, even dumping our beef oxo cubes before we left the UK just in case. All our jars of chutney and marmalade survived the journeys too.

At the airport we planned to take the 5A bus into the city and then walk for half an hour or get a taxi to Union Station. As the bus barely has any space for luggage we weren’t looking forward to it. Then we saw a Shared Van sign and for just 10 dollars more than the bus and taxi, at 39 dollars, 3 of us were sped direct to the station in a van big enough for 15. Excellent. Only issue was that we then had 5 hours until the train left but again, brilliant service from Amtrak and we checked in our bags for the train to Jacksonville. With just backpacks, we spent time in the multitude of shops and restaurants at the station before sitting in the park for a while watching the commuters go by in the warmth of the late afternoon.

Tranquility At Ely

Tranquility At Ely

The train was big and spacious with lots of legroom and an airline style seat with a table, footrest and seat extension flap so it was really comfortable for the overnight trip. At Jacksonville our neighbour, Sylvia, was there to meet us and our baggage turned up too. In no time we were back on board Beyzano and she was just as we left her with not a trace of mildew or any water in the bilges. Brilliant!

We unpacked, then crashed out for a few hours, waking only in time for the social evening at 1700 so we could eat something and get back into USA time. A couple of glasses of wine later we were asleep again but woke at dawn to get the mainsail back on whilst there was no breeze. This is always a big job with the battens to go in and the 3 reefing lines to feed through the 6 blocks as the sail is hoisted and we needed to get them in the right order. Next the sprayhood and bimini went back on to give us some shade and protection from the rain showers and we washed the decks. It is very humid and hot in Brunswick now, so we quickly packed away the blankets and cold weather clothes for the autumn.

Our plan is to leave Georgia after the 4th of July festivities and head to Beaufort (pronounced Bewfort) in South Carolina on Wednesday, an overnight passage of 110 miles. Next will be Charleston, then on to Georgetown, Cape Fear and back into the ICW at Beaufort (pronounced Bowfort) and inshore to Norfolk and the Chesapeake. We have been busy getting Beyzano ready but still have a few tasks to finish off. The track needs lubricating before we hoist the genoa; the new steaming light bulb has to go in half way up the mast; the gearbox oil and engine fuel filters have been changed; I have a new tap in my heads; we are full of water, gas, diesel and petrol and Sylvia took me to the huge Publix supermarket to do a major restock. I have been cooking and freezing passage food, cleaning the boats and creating routes for our next month. Using parts we brought back from the UK, we have a new water heater element in place, a new life ring light, a new compass light and the ship’s clock works again.

Our Future??

Our Future??

Both the engine and generator worked straight away and even the outboard started, something that can be an issue after a few weeks idle. So all in all Beyzano has been wonderful as usual and we can head off as planned. Having said all that, we have made a big decision, one which we hoped being in the UK would help us make and we are going to put our beloved home on the market later this year or early next. It was certainly easier to leave for our adventure than decide when to give it up but we now feel we have done all we wanted to do, spent time in virtually every island in the Eastern Caribbean, sometimes many times and we had the wonderful season in the Western Caribbean and Cuba learning about different cultures and immersing ourselves in their ways of life. We contemplated going down the Eastern Caribbean chain one last time and spending a year diving in Bonaire but we don’t want to keep going round in circles and have other things we want to do, such as skiing, getting a puppy and seeing the cities of Europe. Once we have cruised the eastern coast of the USA and possibly the Bahamas, then we will be happy to return to the UK so we can spend more time with family and friends there. Not sure we will move into our house for a few more years though, as a canal boat life has caught our attention again and would make the perfect stepping stone to being back in a static home. We hired a narrow boat twice before for holidays in England and Wales and already know what type of layout and equipment we need and I have over 20 canal related websites bookmarked. A real plan but for now we will continue to enjoy Beyzano and exploring the USA.

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