Where we at

Monday, September 28, 2020

Albemarle Plantation Marina

There's a joke that goes something like this: 

"Ask me what's the secret to good comedy?" 
"What's the secret to good--" 

It's also the secret to good boating. Always watch the weather, never be in a hurry, and never make plans. It's about timing.

Tucked in on the A dock.

Now that we're a bit more south, and dancing with temperatures in the mid- to upper-seventies we feel we can slow down a bit. We were looking for warm, but avoiding hurricanes. An area of exploration is on the Albemarle Sound. The locals call it the Albemarle Loop. We decided to check it out. Besides, if you register that your doing the loop each port will give you 2 nights free. Dandy for us!

Side story: our voting ballots were received by our club in Longboat Key last Friday. They are overnighting them us here, at the Albemarle Plantation Marina. But the soonest they could do that was Monday, so we'll get them Tuesday. Presumably.

The view this morning. Oh, yeah, GO DAY...
But we can't go just yet.
Given that, we left Elizabeth City bound for the plantation. The trip was just over 4 hours. We watched the weather and left around 8 am. The ride was absolutely placid, getting just slightly choppy coming into the marina. A perfect day on the water.

The marina is part of a golf club, complete with a couple of restaurants, a golf course, heated pool, condos, and, for just $25, our own golf cart. Which is handy, since it's quite a walk from the boat to anywhere on the grounds. Lizzie is quite fond of it.

The plan was to leave on Tuesdays afternoon, after getting our ballots. But a storm is coming and it might be a couple of days before we can leave. Comfortably, anyway. It won't be far, just a couple hours of travel, but... I'm a definitive fair weather boater.

"Ask me what's the secret to good boating?" 
"What's the secret to good--" 
Wee little frog wanting to share our pizza today.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Elizabeth City, town dock

"Take me down to Elizabeth City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty."

Okay, those aren't the real lyrics but it works.

I have to confess I wasn't sold on how fun or cool boating was until this very town. Last year we crossed the Albemarle Sound to get here, and it was our first bad water day on the loop. Looking back I don't know that it was so bad or that we were so green, but I seriously hated the trip. Once we got the E-City, the waters were calm. We sat outside on the bow under our bimini top, recovering. Just then Martha and John of As You Wish walked by. We chatted and they asked if we wanted to join them for lunch. While we'd met them on and off since Charleston, it was that encounter that started months of buddy boating together. (Seriously, guys, sell the house, buy a boat -- we really miss you!)

Breathe and us, waiting for the bridge.
The lock is just beyond it.
I mentioned that another boat, a sailing cat named Breathe, docked with us at the Visitor Center last night. We were both heading south. After a quick chat, we coordinated our trip for the bridges and lock we needed to go through. Everyone started engines at 9:40 am. The lock would open at 11.

Despite our slow pace we got to the lock around 10:20 am. A bridge needs to be opened before you get to the lock. The two of us did "standing station" maneuvers, waiting. Turns out they locked up 2 boats first. When the lockmaster opened the bridge the very first thing all four of us had to do was pass each other, us heading to the lock while the other 2 boats heading down the canal. We're talking a narrow channel. It was kinda exciting.

Once off the Dismal Canal high water was 
It all went well. We arrived around 3 pm. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Dismal Swamp

While crossing the Dismal Swamp can be done in 1 day there's a wonderful visitor center about mid-way. When we did this route last year on the loop there were 6 or 7 boats here. Today there are 2 of us -- I had originally written "just us" when a sail catamaran pulled up minutes ago.

The Dismal Swamp Canal is the product of an idea started by George Washington. You may have heard of him. It's not the way most boats like to go because it is narrow and very thin. We noted depths consistently between 7 and 3 feet (below our keel, which is about 3 1/2 feet). That makes trawlers with exposed props or 5 foot drafts nervous. 

The lockmaster's house, but I don't think he lives
there anymore. He collects conch shells. If you
come by, bring him one!
But it is one of the best waterways on the ICW. Peaceful, calm (as you can only travel around 5 knots), and lush. We love the Dismal.

It is a man-made canal, so there are 2 locks that bound it. Going southward, the first lock is Deep Creek. It's run by lockmaster Robert. Robert has been the lockmaster there for over 25 years. He loves his job.

Perfectly still waters makes for a mirror-like
reflection on the water. Kinda eerie.

He's chatty, helpful, and informative. Out of the blue he mentioned that just passed his bridge there's a dock, and from there you can walk to a Waffle House, an autoparts store, and a Food Lion grocery. Interestingly, we needed a grocery, Russ needed to unload some used engine oil, and we're always up for a 2nd breakfast. So we did just that -- pulled over just passed the bridge. Russ took his oil to the auto parts place, I went grocery shopping, then we had waffles. After, we slowly headed out down the quiet swamp, just as the rain hit in earnest.

It was a lovely day.

Early signs of fall are in the leaves.
Yep, good time to head south.

Thursday, September 24, 2020


A couple of hours into our voyage across the Chesapeake Bay I started to wonder if I had anything to write in the blog. Skies were overcast, a little breezy causing 1 foot seas, and moderate temps. Was looking pretty boring. The only bit of radio excitement was they were doing some live-fire exercises near the mouth of the bay. We weren't headed that way, so no bigs.

As we approached the York River, and the channel that leads out of it, we noticed a fast boat. It didn't have an AIS signature, but we watched it since being on our right he had the right of way. As we got close I thought we had enough space to cross in front without impacting his course. At that moment, he hailed us. He was a navel vessel escorting a submarine (!) out of the York River. He asked us to stop and wait. Which we immediately did, of course. It was incredibly cool watching this thing go by at over 14 knots, the wake of which rocked our socks off. Still totally cool.

An hour later we left the Chesapeake and entered the Elizabeth River, waterways of various shippers, the Navy, and Norfolk. Boats and ships were everywhere today, making us both have to watch various maps and charts to dodge and weave all the traffic. We also saw dolphins for the first time in months.

We ambled through Norfolk which is the start of the Intercoastal Waterway. Just beyond the city is the more industrial area, full of shipyards and barges and factories that load vessels with coal and whatnot. The ICW winds a bit here. Then we make one last turn passed the dreaded "Railroad Bridge #7". I say dreaded because the sucker sees me coming and promptly closes. Today was NO exception. We saw it up as we approached but by the time we got here it was coming down. It closes about 10 minutes before the train -- of which there were 2 today -- then opens about 10 minutes after. The whole delay was about 45 minutes. I hate that bridge.

The closest one we can get under, it's the
second one that always closes with I'm near it.
Note to fellow boaters: If you want to call about it's status DON'T call bridge #7. You need to call bridge #5. This is experience talking.

At last we reached Top Rack marina where we fueled up. We didn't need to fuel up, but this is the cheapest gas on the ICW so we take advantage! Last time we were here was when we put diesel in our water tank. We felt pretty good not to repeat that incident. Just as we finished another boat sidled up to fuel up as well. We started talking (because we both knew we'd seen each other somewhere before) and his fuel fill clicks off. And he realizes ... he put diesel IN HIS WATER TANK! Clearly there's some kind of vibe in the place.

Eerie sunrise this morning.

Gloomy skies but decent boating day.

I took this pic to explain "new fangled" life boats.
It's the orange thing way up high on a track
that leads off the back then ends. Yes, you free fall
into the ocean. You can see it in action on YouTube.
That sucker had better be sinking before I'm getting into that!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Deltaville, anchorage

Yesterday we said goodbye to Maryland. Olverson's Marina was in Virginia. With the exception of out time in DC, we'd spent all summer in that state. They still have the best flag, albeit very weird liquor laws. Also, goodbye to the crab cakes Maryland is so famous for -- and with good reason!

Maryland state flag. Tell me that's not cool!
Today we said goodbye to the Potomac. It clearly didn't want us to leave since the water was, well, intense. This wasn't the plan, leaving today. We wanted to stay another night at Olverson's and do some shopping (use those courtesy cars when you can!). Last night when we went to bed, that seemed dandy -- calm seas on the Chesapeake Bay were forecasted for Thursday and Friday, which is all we need to leave the bay for the season. This morning, however, harsh winds are forecasted for Friday, and today seemed "doable." So we dashed.

On the hook in Deltaville
While not particularly strong, the winds were coming from the North West. If you look at a map you'll notice that the Potomac lays in that direction, which means that the more fetch the wind has the larger the waves become. Thankfully, this was all on our stern. The ride started out with 1 footers, then increased to 2s. By the time we reached the Chesapeake, they were 2 - 3 footers. Mostly the ride was fine, but every now and again a larger wave would pass us. We'd pitch hard to one direction, then the autopilot would correct hard to the other. It's unnerving more than anything.

Dinghy Dog!
On the plus side the tide was going out and taking us with it. We bounced around near 10 knots (you'll see red patches on our map track). With the extra speed we only had to deal with the waves for about 90 minutes. After that we made a slight turn onto the bay, and quickly got land between us and the wind. The last few hours were quite wonderful.

We also said goodbye to our friends Jayne and Jonathon Gorham, crew of Bella Gatto. They're having some family board and will take a small cruise up the Rappahannock River over the weekend. We'll keep in touch in hopes to cruise with them a little more for the south migration. Besides that, we hope to spend time in the Bahamas this coming Spring.

Pandemics willing.

Olverson's Marina

Not often do my posts mention the marina we stayed at. But there isn't really a town nearby, and it's actually the marina that is the destination. There's a boater organization called Marine Trawlers Owners Association, or MTOA, and it was started at this very marina! As MTOA members we get 1 night free. \o/

The trip there was pretty good. Winds and waves on our stern so a good ride for us. Once here the first thing we did was laundry. While it has only been a couple of days since we did it in DC, we've been wearing much bulkier clothing due to the temps. The last few days the highs have been in the low 60s and the lows in the upper 40s. As a result, we fill up the laundry sack quickly.

The trash was left open and the 
vultures came for breakfast

Bella Gatto
joined us a couple hours after we docked. We all went into town (with one of the courtesy cars) and sat outside at Portales, a Mexican restaurant that had TACO TUESDAY specials.
Gratuitous Pug shot.

The C Dock at Olverson's. We were on the t-head.
We tried to ignore the wiring...

Monday, September 21, 2020

Cobb Island (not the plan), anchorage

The crew of Bella Gatto had been on the hook for over 10 days. They seriously needed a marina to get some chores done. We were almost convinced to join then since we're going to have yet another cold night. But our plan is to be in Olverson's tomorrow, which is a marina. Our plan was to keep bopping down the south side of the Potomac and anchor in Colonial Beach.

Not the best water today. Thankfully it was 
following waves, so the ride was fine.

However, just after we crossed under the Gov. Harry Nice Memorial Bridge we were hailed by a range boat, telling us to hug the Maryland side (just like we did when we came up the Potomac last week). We didn't see any activity now or then, so I think it's a hoax. But that small adjustment added about 40 minutes to our travel time and, well, since we already on the Maryland side... we just went back to Cobb Island.

Easy to do since we could just follow our bread crumbs. We even knew exactly where to drop the anchor!

Why our cold weather? Hurricane Teddy
is sucking it down from the north.

Russ struggles with the grass on the anchor
while Bella Gatto float in the distance.

Lunch at Scuttlebutt's. Not great food but
they have a handy dinghy dock.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Sad day in DC

The new view. We're on an mooring ball.
When news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg hit our news feeds we were heartbroken. This nation needs more strong women leaders, not fewer. That on our minds we took a walk to the Supreme Court. We weren't the only ones.

Yesterday other loopers we knew. Kathleen and Michael of Apres Sail, live in Virginia (long story, that) and took a road trip to have lunch with Jayne, Jonathon, and us. We accidentally discovered an amazing Mexican restaurant, Mi Vida. If you get here order the TatoNachos -- maybe the best nachos we've ever had.

Temps yesterday were in the 70s. Highs today just in the 60s, and the lows in the low 50s. We went from mid-summer to late fall temps in a single day, totally missing any perfect boating weather.

Crowds for RBG

The Capitol, empty for a Saturday

Looking across the park from the Capitol, 
Washington Monument in the distance.

A bunch of hoopla going on today.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Washington DC (!)

Throughout the loop there were some destinations that really hit some chord for the "we live on a boat and travel" lifestyle. New York (especially the Statue of Liberty) and Chicago come immediately to mind. But seeing the Washington Monument and Capitol building in the distance definitely plucked the heart strings. No matter where you fall in the political spectrum this place means something to us all.

We realized that, since we were going to fuel up first thing, there was no reason to walk the dog right away. I could walk her at the marina while Russ filled the tanks. So we hoisted the dinghy and brought the anchor home, a bit of a challenge since the Mattawoman had a lot of floating vegetation, all of which balled up on the anchor and bridle lines.

Jayne shot this while Russ
struggled with the anchor,

The day went perfectly. Crossed the Potomac to Belmont Bay Harbor Marina and arrived at 9:02 am (they opened at 9). Walked the dog while Russ fuel us up FULL, then made our way up to DC. Against the current again today but we weren't in a hurry. We arrived around 1:30 pm.

We're in a yacht club tonight, largely because we need to do laundry and we had some packages sent here, so we felt obligated. It's an awesome location and amazing facility. Just a bit pricey. We plan on moving tomorrow to an mooring ball just on the other side of the waterway for the next 2 nights. 

Anyone know why the bottom is a different
color than the top? I do!
Once we started talking about all the thing we needed to do and wanted to do and thought maybe we should stay another night. Then we saw the weather. Right now we're getting rain from remnants of Sally. Once done, we'll get another cold front coming through. The lows are projected to be in the mid to upper 40s.

Oh. That's definitely a sign to start heading south.

Mt. Vernon, home of Washington

Fort Washington

Just some cool plants with white leaves
and perfect orange star flowers.

"I'm just a bill, I am only a bill, and
I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill..."

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Mattawoman, anchorage

Longer day today. Based on mileage it should have been a 4 1/2 hour run. But we had an outgoing tide most of the day, and in the narrows of the Potomac, that made for a formidable current. We were only making 6.5 to 7 knots. And, since we don't have tons of fuel, we didn't want to push that. The trip was closer to 6 hours.

Despite that the day was wonderful. Cool in the morning which turned into moderate temps midday. Calm waters. Little wind. The only bother was the persistent haze that dimmed the skies, looking overcast when it really wasn't. This is nothing compared to what they experienced in San Francisco, another past home city, so I can hardly complain. They've had terrible summers for the last 3 years.

Perfect waters. Bella Gatto's in the lead.
Bella Gatto led the charge today. Which I'm so grateful for! Just as we were leaving our anchorage a navy range boat hailed them. They gave Jonathon explicit instructions as to how to proceed through the area, moving us out of the main channel to follow labeled buoys through shallow waters. Apparently, they were going to have live fire exercises and, for some reason, wanted us out of the way. We just obediently followed the leader.

Mattawoman is wide, but very thin. We intended on anchoring in front of a little marina not too far up the creek. As Bella Gatto near it, however, they hailed us and said they were aborting, finding depths around 4 feet. We both dropped anchor in a deeper section, but it's a bit farther from the dinghy dock.

We passed a bay full of sunken ships,
called the Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay.
No tragedy, just vessels used as target practice by the military.
Apparently, they like to blow things up on this river.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Cobb Island, anchorage

We had a very short day today and, technically, a small craft advisory was still in affect. So, we decided to stall a bit and went out to breakfast with the crew of Bella Gatto. I had sweet potato pancakes, which really reminded me of the Red Dog Diner in New Orleans. Then I recalled Hurricane Sally is on their doorstep. I wish them all well.

Hazy sunrise in Leonardtown.
This is from the fires.
People, we're in MARYLAND!

We eased off the docks around 9:45 am. Russ took the helm, me the lines. Our destination, Cobb Island, was only an hour away and just around the corner from Leonardtown. As Russ piloted, however, he realized our Navionics (the "google maps" of the boat world) took us between and island and the shore. We did some quick research and, while getting there looked deep enough, it looked pretty shallow on the other side. Our charts said 5 feet. We draft about 3' 6". So, yes, it was doable. BUT. The ride was short and the day lovely. We changed course and went around.

Back behind Cobb Island it's also a bit shallow. Given our fuel situation we decided to get some at a little marina here called Shymanski's. To get to the pump, however, we had to follow very strict instructions: Go to the bridge, make a U-turn to the right, come up along the pier, then hard left, and turn sideways to get to the pump. We did. 5 feet under the keel the whole way. I spent equal time watching both where I was going and our depth gauges.

We were joined by 2 sailing cats, LabMariners and Mojo.
The Cats have arrived!

It went well. Got a little gas to get us to the cheap gas (because this was NOT THAT), then followed the same quacky path out to anchor. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Leonardtown, City Docks

I didn't sleep well last night. When we went to bed the weather predicted a small craft advisory in our area starting at 10 am Monday morning. I've learned that weather is just chaos, and such predictions could be wrong. Could be sooner, could be later. And since we went to bed with a "we'll see how it is tomorrow" agreement, I tossed and turned. I am a fair weather boater. (Okay, there are a couple of side stories that added to my frustration.)

Despite the SCA, reasonable water

As luck would have it the advisory started at 8 am. We got up at 5:30, largely from my tossing, and went back and forth about going, not going. The trip wasn't far, only 3 hours, and most of that time would be on the protected bays leaving and arriving. The last bit of information was that the winds would be northerly, and we are traveling west with a north coastline. At 6:45 we had anchors up and made the run.

...and it was awesome. Mostly 1 footers or less. About mid trip, when we were farthest from the north shore, 1-2s. Comfortable all the trip. Worth doing.

Parked at the new free dock of Leonardtown
Russ read up on the little town and discovered they have a new free city dock. FREE!!! So, that's where we ended up.

Side story #1: Back in Solomons, when Russ used the hooka to clean our running gear, we had a small pet incident. Lizzie, we learned, is terrified of the compressor. It's noisy when it runs, but I think what gets her is when it stops -- it gives off a very loud hiss. I found her shaking on the steps while Russ was under. I was nearby to help manage the air tube, but picked her up and held her for a while. She stopped trembling. Russ came to the surface, so I went to see if I could help. She followed me, right on my heels, out the back and down to the swim platforms, and she NEVER does that. Moreover, they're slick for her and I really didn't want her to take a swim. I put her in the master bedroom and closed the door while I gave Russ a hand. Much later that night we noticed a large wet spot on the bed. She NEVER does that either. Because I didn't discover it until bedtime most everything was soaked. We bagged all the bedding in plastic bags and stuck them in the shower while I put on a second set of spare sheets (thankfully we had a spare set). After some quick research we discovered a laundry fairly close by in Leonardtown. And I REALLY wanted to get them washed (mostly the blankets) because this cold front -- the one that brought on the SCA -- will be dropping night temps to the low 50s. So added pressure to go on a day what might be a terrible day to go. (We did the blankets, all good now.)

While doing laundry I noticed this... vehicle.
Side Story #2: New boat, new gadgets, and, wouldn't you know it, we're low on fuel. Finding a marina that a) we can get into and out of and b) carries enough fuel for us (no, we aren't planning on filling the tanks but 100 would be good) and c) nearby so we can reach it without the aid of SeaTow has been a challenge. So... what if the guages are more wrong than we think and while on crazy rough waters we run out? (We'll get fuel first thing tomorrow.)

Oh yeah. Bad night's sleep.

Tonight will be a GREAT night sleep.

Sunset in Leonardtown