EAGLE ONE HAS LANDED, back at Prince William Marina, K Dock, Occoquan, VA

As we mentioned yesterday, our return was more than we ever expected and we are blessed to have had both family and friends at the dock to catch our lines and welcome us home!

Now we are home and getting settled, and already missing the routine of waking up each day to read the Great Loop Forum, check either the weather and tide apps or the Trip Advisor “Top 10 things to do and see in ______”, and make plans for the day.    Here are a few stats:    We traveled 5400 Miles, put 590 hours on the engines, and went through 107 locks.  We left Virginia on May 21, 2018, crossed into Canada on June 22, returned to the  USA on July 30, FINALLY made it to Florida on Jan 16, 2019 and arrived HOME on May 4, 2019.  (252 actual days aboard as we left the boat for family weddings, the Captain’s health issues and EAGLE ONE’s engine health issues!)   We stayed at 109 marinas or town docks/ walls, and anchored 6 nights.

WILDLIFE:   Bears (ZERO), Turtles (A FEW), Gators (A few more), Eagles (A LOT), Dolphins (SO MANY!), Pelicans (Too many to count; Penguins ZERO!)

GUESTS who joined us as crew from 4 days to 3 weeks:   Rick’s brother Phil, our son Matt, Kris’ college roommate, Kay Dickison (who joined us twice!), Rick’s Navy friend Gray Morrison, our friend of over 30 years, Eric Morton and our nephew, Greg Petros.

There is a Looper Toast often heard during “docktails” – “There are good ships and wood ships and ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships, and may they always be!”    Shout out to our BUDDY BOATS (AKA Friends for Life!)….Ron & Karen (Kara Mia), Mike & JoAnn (Rula Bula), Rick & Deedy (Rejoice), Ron & Faye (Perelandra),  Kermit & Katherine (Good Karma), Bill & Bobbie (First Forty), Jim & Justine (Knights Kingdom), Dan & Jodi (Done Diggin’).

For all of you who followed our blog, thank you for joining us on this adventure!    As another Looper commented at the end of their loop – “it seems strange not to take photos of everything we do and write about it!”   We will miss taking the photos, writing the blogs and sharing them all with you!

As the great Dr Seuss once said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” or to put it another way, a la Maxine:  “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOOHOO what a ride!”

And finally to go along with the Jimmy Buffet tunes that are often heard playing aboard EAGLE ONE, here’s Something ‘Bout a Boat…..

 

 

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Home, Sweet Home!

After a choppy 3-4 hour ride we docked at Coles Point Marina on 5/2…..our very first stop last May when we headed out!    We crossed our wake today as we entered the Potomac River.    Went to the beach, took a bike ride and had dinner at Tim’s at Cole’s Point (our favorite boat destination at home is Tim’s Rivershore), where we had our favorites once more – crab dip, peel and eat shrimp and fish tacos!

On Friday, 5/3, we traveled just 20 miles to Colonial Beach, VA…..another favorite getaway destination from home.    We were met here by the Rear Commodore of Prince William Yacht Club – Vicki Carr and her husband, Bob, who drove over.    They are the same couple who drove to Coles Point last May to deliver our dinghy cover as we headed out, so were the last to wave goodbye and the first to welcome us home!   We had lunch and spent a leisurely afternoon at the beach.

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Saturday, May 4th at noon, we docked at our home port – Prince William Marina, in Occoquan, VA.    We were surprised by about 30 people – family, friends and dockmates, with a dinghy escort, water salute, confetti, champagne, posters, flowers and cheers!!     It was a fabulous homecoming!     We changed our white Looper flag to a Gold Looper flag, meaning we have completed America’s Great Loop.    Tomorrow we will write a final blog with some summary statistics and more photos…..for now we’ll call it a day!    (It’s Looper midnight!)

 

 

 

 

AICW – done…On to the Chesapeake Bay and HOME!

On Saturday, 4/27, we left Belhaven and traveled on the ICW to the rough waters of the Alligator River.    Went slowly through parts of the canal where we looked for bear, gators, turtles – but the only thing we saw were turkey vultures circling overhead!!   We tied up at Alligator River Marina in some heavy winds, and ordered our fried chicken at the gas station/convenience store/take-out restaurant which closed at 6 pm (the only thing around)!    We had dinner at a picnic table with a fabulous view of the water.

Sunday we left the dock at 6:15 am to try to beat the winds on Albemarle Sound -it was still pretty rough with 3-4 foot seas at the worst for the 15 mile journey across.    Our destination was Coinjock, NC – an American Indian name for mulberries (which are no longer found there but the name stuck).   The marina is one long wall and by the end of the day it had about 15 boats tied up.   There is no town here, just the marina, so we rode bikes up and down the road a bit just to stretch our legs.    The big attraction at Coinjock is the restaurant.   We listened to live music on the patio and then went inside for the famed prime rib dinner.    You can get a 16 oz or 32 oz cut!    We opted for the 16 oz which we shared and had leftovers for lunch the next day, and it was delicious!

Monday 4/29, we left at 8 am in 15 mph winds and COLD (down in the 50s after being 80 the previous day!)    Carrituck Sound was somewhat rough in the winds but not as bad as we’d anticipated.    The challenge for the day was navigating the four low bridges that had to open for us to pass (clearance heights of 4 to 10 ft).   Timing for each bridge opening requires some math calculations (you can use this in math class Molly…..if the bridge is 10 miles away and we need to be there for the opening in 30 minutes, how many miles per hour do we need to travel?)    We also went through our final lock of the loop (# 107), which dropped down a whole 12-18 inches!    The last railroad bridge was having some maintenance work done and when we called the answer was “it will open when maintenance clears it” with no idea if we were looking at minutes, hours, or days.  Four other boats waited with us for 50 minutes until finally we heard the siren indicating that the bridge would open!   En route today we crossed from NC to Virginia waters and ended at Waterside marina in downtown Norfolk.    We have never been here by boat, but did attend the Great Loop Association Spring Rendezvous here last May, just days before we set out on our adventure.  It’s hard to believe we could drive home from here in 3-4 hours (but will take another 3-4 days of travel by boat!)   Norfolk is mile marker ZERO on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.  The AICW has been challenging as you are having to consider winds, waves, currents and tides each day in your plans, so we are relieved to be at the end!

Navy friends Tricia & Bob Boyer came by to say hello.    Kris relieved Tricia as the Navy Nurse at the Atsugi Clinic in Japan in 1992; and Bob is also a retired Naval Aviator.   It was great to see them again!    Then we joined other Navy friends, Kevin & Kathy McNamara, (who were also with us in Atsugi, Japan) for dinner at the Freemason Abbey.   They are now grandparents to 6 with #7 on the way!    We so enjoyed catching up with old friends.

Tuesday, 4/30, brought a 30 degree increase in temperature as the winds shifted to the South, back into the 80s this afternoon.    We did some walking/ biking, bought a few last groceries, and met friends Ellen & Chris Tolton at Stripers on the water.   (Ellen was a Navy Nurse with Kris in Pensacola, so friends for many years)!   Post retirement, Chris is now an accomplished photographer, so we were privileged to have a “photo shoot at the dock”!

On May 1st we left Norfolk, passing the Navy ships moored at Norfolk Naval Base, and entered the Chesapeake Bay, travelling to Deltaville – a very small town but nice marina (Doziers Regatta Point)!   Only 2 days from home now and hoping that weather will cooperate with our plans!  Today (5/2), at the mouth of the Potomac River we will “cross our wake” completing America’s Great Loop!!

Southern Hospitality in North Carolina

On Easter Sunday we left the dock early for a 5 hour trek to Topsail Island Marina in Surf City, NC.    This was probably not the site mentioned in the Beach Boys “Surf City” song, but a really beautiful North Carolina beach nonetheless!    We took a long walk on the beach (yes, we are wearing jackets again – 62 degrees), and found an Asian/ Sushi restaurant for dinner.    To celebrate Jodi’s birthday, this was followed by a stop for Thai Ice Cream at “Snow Factory” – something none of us had ever experienced.    Behind the counter was a round metal pan that was chilled to minus 20 degrees.   Ingredients were poured onto the pan and spread out into a rectangle where they instantly froze, and then were scraped up into little rolls of ice cream!    Really tasty!

The following day we again untied at 8 am and headed 58 miles to Beaufort, NC (pronounced BO-fort).   En route we passed by Camp Lejeune marine base, where live fire exercises sometimes close the ICW waterway for 1-4 hours.   Luckily we called the range officer and found it was open all day.    Also passed a guy digging for clams, lots of small boat traffic, and a house on the water that we might be able to afford (see photo)!   Walked around this quiet, peaceful little town with beautiful historic homes from the late 1800s.     We found Ribeyes steak restaurant that had TVs in the bar for game #6 of the CAPS versus Carolina in hockey playoffs (sadly, they lost, so will go to game #7).

On Tuesday, 4/23 we rode bikes around town, Rick did some boat love, Kris got some sun, while Greg rode a bike to the beach and went swimming!   Greg left for New Bern to fly home tomorrow am.   After docktails we went to dinner at City Kitchen with Dan & Jodi – truly one of the best meals we’ve had on the loop, with a sunset view as well.   We are all sad that our “Buddy Boating” (3 weeks of traveling together) has come to an end.    They have been great travel mates (Danny graciously leading the way with his charted routes from last time), and so much fun to hang out with!    Hopefully we will meet up again in the future (just not on the loop!)

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On Wednesday, 4/24, Dan & Jodi untied our lines and we headed north as a solo!   Luckily we had lots of open water and it was calm, so we were able to travel several hours on plane and make it the whole 68 miles to Belhaven in about 4 hours.    So many dolphins today…..still no photos (but I tried!)   This poor shrimp boat has seen better days.

Got into Belhaven marina and made the decision to wait out predicted thunderstorms and winds on Friday here, so will stay for 3 nights.    We went to the Chamber of Commerce and walked the downtown area (took about 20 minutes!!).   A small town with lots of Southern Hospitality.    There were 2 other Looper boats here so we gathered in the gazebo for drinks and all went to dinner at the acclaimed “Spoon River Artworks and Market” – a cool place with a lovely owner.    Game #7 for the CAPS did not end well – they are out of the playoffs in the 2nd overtime.  So sadly, no CAPS games for us when we get home…..but there’s always next year!

Thursday was warm (89 degrees) and there were a lot of annoying little flying bugs – they look like mosquitoes (“Mayflies”) but apparently don’t bite.   We moved the boat back to where we could get WIFI reception and a bit more out of the wind.    Then went for a bike ride around town and were able to take a private tour of the River Forest Manor, a century old Southern colonial mansion with 9 bedrooms.   Built as a private residence by John Aaron Wilkinson (President of a local lumber company and VP of the Norfolk and Southern RR) it is now an event venue.   The carved plasterwork and medallions were sculpted by the same craftsman as the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.    After docktails with several other boaters who arrived today, we had great pizza at “The Tavern at Jack’s Neck” (the town of Belhaven was originally called Jack’s Neck in the 1890’s).    We were seated at the “Captain’s Table” in the window!

Friday, 4/26, the predicted winds arrived (up to 25 mph).   We took a quick walk, got haircuts from “Miss Polly”, and then hunkered down in the boat for the day after putting on extra lines and fenders…..the boat was rocking and rolling like crazy!    We plan to depart tomorrow (Saturday) for Alligator River Marina, and then hopefully Coinjock on Sunday, only 50 miles from Norfolk.   Still aiming for a return home date of May 4th, so lets hope the weather cooperates…

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Survived the shallows, one state to go till Virginia!

After much debate and route planning with various people/ sources of information, we opted to head out at dawn (6:30 AM) on Tuesday, 4/16 from Charleston.   We passed by Fort Sumter, where the first shot of the civil war was fired in 1861.   Also passed a large container ship heading out the inlet to the ocean, and a dredge, trying to deepen the intracoastal waterway (photos below).    It as close to high tide, so we got through the initial shallow areas with no problem.    We made it to McClellanville, where there is 3-4 miles of shallow water, about 10 am (mid tide).   It’s preferable to arrive at mid-tide rising so that if you hit the mud, the tide is coming in and you’ll soon be floating, rather than mid-tide falling, so you’d be stuck for 4-5 hours, but we all crossed our fingers and held our breath and actually never saw less than 7 ft (which is 3 feet under our keel).    WHEW!    That’s a relief.    Then we continued to Georgetown, SC where we docked for the night at Harborwalk marina.    There were 4 Looper boats so we all gathered for docktails on “Done Diggin'” – we had met “Soul Mate” in Peterborough, Ontario last June!   Out for dinner in this pretty little town, and ready to move the next morning.

On Wednesday, 4/17 we traveled to Myrtle Beach where we tied up at Grande Dunes marina.    An hour later our nephew, Greg Petros, arrived from the airport!    He’s been traveling for the past couple of weeks and decided to join us for a boat ride.    Our friends from Prince William Marina, Nate & Tracey, moved here in January.   Nate picked us up in his deluxe golf cart and we went to their beautiful new home, complete with a backyard pool!     Had drinks and drove to the beach, then to dinner at a local dive bar, with great fish – oysters, shrimp.    Great to catch up with them.

We initially planned to stay 2 nights in Myrtle Beach but with big storms predicted for Friday we decided to keep moving north while we can.    Thursday am we went to Southport, crossing into North Carolina after making it through “the rock pile” – an infamous 3 mile stretch where there are rocks on both sides of a narrow channel.    We had to announce on the radio, “Securite, securite, Eagle One is a north bound vessel entering the rock pile” so that no barges or other large ships would enter going south.    Because so many transient boats had the same idea about beating the storm, we couldn’t get into our first choice, Southport marina, but got a slip at Harbor Village Marina just 2 miles away.   Great people, decent facilities and well protected from the winds.    Kris did laundry while Rick and Greg took an UBER to the grocery store.    Then we all caught a ride to Southport marina in town where our friends, Dan and Jodi, are.     After drinks on Done Diggin’ we went to hear a nightly briefing about the route north to Norfolk from the local expert on the ICW, followed by dinner at “Fishy Fishy”!

We knew we weren’t going anywhere on Friday – high winds and thunderstorms all day, probably extending into Saturday.   Hung around the boat, fish and shrimp tacos for lunch, 3 person cribbage (Rick is not a good loser)! and a fabulous Italian dinner at Joseph’s Bistro on site.

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On Saturday we took an UBER into the town of Southport where there was a weekend arts and crafts festival, walked around town and went to the Maritime museum, then stopped by Good Karma (Kermit & Katherine) on our way to Done Diggin’ (Dan & Jodi).  Still VERY windy but supposed to calm overnight.    We had planned on dinner and then Easter Vigil Mass since we are traveling on Sunday am, but there are 3 UBER/ LYFT drivers in town and none were available this afternoon, and the taxi said she could get to us in 1 1/2 hours, so trying to get to and from the church wasn’t feasible.    Great dinner at Frying Pan and found a ride back to the boat.

Charming Southern Cities – Savannah, Beaufort, SC and Charleston

I forgot to mention that we saw our first gator swimming past EAGLE ONE on the ICW this week, in what was otherwise a rather boring stretch (except for the dolphins along the way!)   Then on our way into Isle of Hope Marina we saw our first “Human No Wake Sign” – a guy on a dock waving a large flag to tell us to slow down (even though there were no official “no wake” signs)!   He was looking through binoculars at our boats and talking to someone on the phone but we haven’t been arrested yet!

Monday 4/8 – we woke to swarms of No-see-ums (called “flying teeth” by my friend Shirley), so sprayed ourselves with DEET, and took an UBER into historic Savannah with Dan & Jodi from “Done Diggin”.    We spent a wonderful day as tourists staring with the hop on hop off trolley for the history and to see most of the 22 park squares in the city – it is truly a beautiful place.   When the colony was established in 1733 there were 4 prohibitions….No alcohol, no slave owners, no Catholics and no attorneys!    We walked through Forsyth Park, toured the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, sometimes called “Sistene of the South”(built in 1853, with beautiful stained glass windows, a massive pipe organ, and wooden stations of the cross carved in Bavaria).   Then we had lunch at Leopold’s Ice Cream (famous homemade ice cream – per our tram driver, # 5 in the WORLD!!!!).   After lunch we walked the riverfront for a while, by the statue of the waving girl (Florence Martus, a Savannahian, who from 1887 to 1931 greeted all ships entering Savannah by waving a cloth from the lighthouse, with the legend that she was waiting for her long lost lover to return from the sea).   We had peach sangria (it is Georgia, after all), Kris sang “Moon River” next to the statue of Johnny Mercer (and we passed the actual Moon River on our way in!)   Enjoy the famous Andy Williams version of Moon River!!

Dinner was at the Olde Pink House restaurant which had just reopened that day after a fire.   There was a line around the block but we were there when they opened at 5 pm and went straight to the cellar bar and got a table.   The food was fabulous!

Meanwhile while we were away, a local diver cleaned the bottom of our boat.    The past few nights we heard a strange tapping noise and decided it might be from fish or shrimp eating the algae on the bottom of the boat – last cleaning was 6 weeks ago in Sarasota.

Spent an hour on Tuesday morning looking at various weather apps and radar pictures and decided not to risk heading into “thunderstorms (may be severe)”, even though it was a beautiful sunrise from the boat.

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So one more day in Savannah…..the four of us took the loaner car to Bonaventure cemetery for a self guided driving/ walking tour (with a phone app).    The cemetery is lovely and peaceful with all of the live oak trees.   A few photos are included below.   The sculpture of the little girl is Gracie who died of pneumonia in 1889 at age 6.   The Victorian symbolism in her sculpture shows a broken tree stump to indicate a life cut short, ivy representing eternal life and flower buds for innocence.     Johnny Mercer, the hometown favorite entertainer and his family are buried here.    We had hoped to find the famous Bird Girl statue from the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” but after 50 years in the cemetery it was moved to a local museum.

In the afternoon Rick did oil changing and other boat maintenance while Kris did some inside cleaning and reading.    The thunderstorms never materialized.   Oh well, as Jodi says, “better to be at the dock wishing you were on the water, than to be on the water wishing you were at the dock”!

Wednesday, 4/10 was a beautiful 5 hour travel day to Beaufort, SC (Port Royal Landing Marina).  This town is pronounced like “BEAU-ti-ful” not to be confused with Beaufort, NC pronounced “BO-fort”!   It is listed as one of the “best small towns” and “best places to retire” in the country!   We passed Parris Island with it’s water tower that proclaims “We Make Marines”; there is also a Naval Hospital and a Marine Corps Air Station here.    Tied up, did laundry, enjoyed a long hot shower, and borrowed the courtesy car for a run into town for a great BBQ dinner at “Q on Bay” (don’t worry – Rick had surf and turf – Shrimp and Ribs!)

Thursday was tourist day via the loaner car, with Jodi & Dan.   The first stop we knew we had to make was to visit the only kazoo factory in the U.S.!    The kazoo was invented in the 1840s and introduced at the Georgia State Fair in 1852, called the “Down South Submarine”.    In the 1970s Paul McCartney played a kazoo riff toward the end of “You’re Sixteen”.    Rockers Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and Queen all played songs that included the kazoo!    The factory produces 1 million kazoos a year and ships them all over the world!   We toured the factory, leaned about the history of kazoos, and how they are made and then each made our own kazoo to take home!

Then we drove to Port Royal and walked a loop through the wetland swamp where we saw hundreds of birds, turtles and 2 gators swimming by!   From there we drove to downtown Beaufort, through the historic area called “The Point” with beautiful antebellum homes.    We walked along the waterfront and ended our day with a fabulous seafood dinner at Dockside restaurant.

On Friday, 4/12, we headed out early (7:30 am) as it was over 70 miles, so a 7-8 hour day on the water.     Heavy rains JUST as we untied from the dock at Beaufort, and again JUST as we came into the harbor in Charleston!   Luckily both were brief and had stopped by the time we got to the dock.   And we did see rainbows in the morning!    The rest of the day was uneventful, traveling through the “low country” – marshes and mudflats, though we did get a personal air show by one F35 circling over our boats for about 30 minutes.

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We landed at the huge Charleston City Marina, and in less than an hour our Navy friends, Joe & Kim O’Donnell, joined us – having driven 2 hours from Camden, SC.     Kim & Joe met and dated in Pensacola about the same time as we did, so it had been MANY years since the 4 of us had been together.    We went out for dinner at Blossoms in the historic district, and they spent the night in our Eagle One guest room!    Saturday am Kris & Kim went for a long walk about town while the guys continued to catch up on people they knew in common!

Saturday at noon, Kris’ friend Deb Marrington picked her up to go to Poogan’s Smokehouse for a Southern BBQ lunch.    Deb was a Navy Nurse on Labor & Delivery with Kris on Whidbey Island back in the early 80s and we had not seen each other in over 20 years!    Great to catch up as she is also a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and founded a medical mission in Haiti.   We joined our buddy boat, Jodi & Dan for a carriage ride on Sat afternoon, then a walk along the waterfront and dinner at a fabulous small Italian place called Fulton Five.

On Sunday AM we again met up with Dan & Jodi for a walking food tour (Savor the Flavors).   Our guide was fabulous as we tasted Southern biscuits, pralines, shrimp, hush puppies and Cajun rice, and pork BBQ with corn pudding.     Afterwards we walked 4-5 miles along the battery and back to the boat and watched the sailboats coming in from their races (they liked the high winds today).    Saturday night our neighbors from Virginia, Steve & Beth Adams, arrived in Charleston for a 5 day mini-vacation.   They picked us up and we all enjoyed dinner at Fleet Landing Restaurant.

If it sounds like all we did in Charleston was EAT, you might be right!    Despite the long walks, our calories in definitely exceeded the calories out!    We had planned to leave Charleston on Monday am but tides and winds were not in our favor (this is becoming a theme), so we are here for one more day.    So we took advantage of being parked right next to the pump out boats, note their names in the photos below!   Then met our former buddy boat, Good Karma (Kermit & Katherine) for breakfast – YUP, more food!

New plan is to head out tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday, 4/16) on a rising tide……hopefully will get through the shallows before McClellansville, dock for the night and make it to Myrtle Beach on Wednesday.    We have now traveled over 5000 miles and are about 600 miles from home!

 

 

 

Georgia on my Mind

Our plan was to leave St Augustine after 4 nights, on Tuesday, 4/2……but we woke to rain, heavy at times.   Looking at tides and currents we just couldn’t find a good plan for the day.   We watched a couple of boats try to dock in the current and both hit docks or cement poles causing some damage, which made us less eager to try to leave when it wasn’t slack tide.   We ended up paying for just one more night, and were so glad we did.  We discovered that Looper buddies were arriving in St Augustine that day…..Ron & Faye on Perelandra (our buddy boat in Canada, who we last saw in Sarasota 6 weeks ago) and Jim & Justine on Knights Kingdom who we met last May, saw at our friends house for New Year’s Eve (by car) but had never connected with by boat!    At this point there were 12-15 Looper boats in the marina, so there was a big docktail gathering with friends new and old.    We had so much fun catching up and going out to dinner together.

So on Wednesday, 4/3 (RICK’S BIRTHDAY!) we finally left St Augustine at 9 am, crossed under the Bridge of Lyons, and headed toward Amelia Island, Florida, following our new buddy boat – “Done Diggin'” – Jodi and Dan.    It was a 7 hour day with some shallow water spots along the way and 2.8 ft under the keel as we entered the channel to the marina.       We tied up, took at cab into Fernandina Beach (the town) for dinner at Brett’s Waterway Cafe (really good seafood).

Thursday AM we again followed Done Diggin’ out at 8 AM, for a fairly easy ride to Jekyll Island (Jekyll Harbor marina).    We arrived in 4 hours, even with having to wait while a Trident submarine (and it’s “parade of boats”) passed in front of us near Kings Bay, GA.  Once we tied up we went for a bike ride – the island has 18 miles of bike paths – we rode to the beach and to the historic district, where the Jekyll Island Beach Club is located.    We had docktails on Done Diggin with 6 loopers and then dinner on the boat.

Friday’s forecast was for thunderstorms…..it ended up being windy but very little rain and no storms…..by then we had decided not to move.    So again off on the bikes to ride to “Driftwood Beach” and back – about 12-15 miles.   Bike paths are amazing – feels like you are riding through the enchanted forest with massive live oaks covered in Spanish moss.   Driftwood beach was surreal – have never seen anything like it!     Then back to the boat to find Ron and Faye anchored off our dock – they came in by dinghy and the 6 Looper boats here gathered for happy hour and food at the onsite restaurant.

On Saturday, 4/6, we headed out behind Done Diggin….. 62 miles to Kilkenny Marina (if you can call it that….some pretty rickety docks to tie up to with power), but also a great seafood restaurant on site!    Stayed one night to stage for a rising tide going through Hell Gate the next morning!   This is the lowest water spot on the ICW.    Luckily with our timing we never saw less than 13 ft of water, so not as scary as it sounds.    Only 25 miles on Sunday to Savannah (Isle of Hope Marina).    Got in just after noon, walked to lunch, took photos at the entrance to Wormsloe Historic site (an old plantation) because this is the road that “Run, Forest, Run” in the movie Forest Gump was filmed on!    We then used the courtesy car for a Walmart run (our microwave quit this week, so needed a new one), and shared drinks and stories with Dan & Jodi and a younger couple from a sailboat who work in the movie industry.     HOWEVER we were unpleasantly surprised by the millions of swarming gnats that bite!    Despite spraying ourselves with DEET we weren’t totally immune….guess we didn’t really want to live in Georgia, though the lives oaks are incredibly beautiful!

Today (Monday, 4/8) we will enjoy downtown Savannah and see what weather brings for moving onward.

 

We finally made it to St Augustine, but now can’t leave! (Darn rain and wind!)

Our original plan was to head to St Augustine on Wednesday, 3/27.    Unfortunately that day had intermittent rain and some CRAZY strong winds, so we stayed put.    Walked through the mangrove paths around the marina, spent the day trip planning, catching up on The Voice and This is Us (Kris), catching up on the blog and trip log, soaking in the hot tub and had dinner at an onsite pub.

Revised plan was to head out on Thursday, 3/28.    We woke up to check weather and found this:  “wind advisory from 8 am this morning to 8 pm this evening….NE winds increasing to 15-20 mph late this morning and into the afternoon with gusts to 25-30 mph.   BOATING ON THE INTRACOASTAL WATERS IS NOT ADVISED”.    Dang!    So we went for a lovely long walk on the beach, watching the surf and all of the washed up jellyfish.   They are Cannonball Jellyfish, which don’t have tentacles and don’t generally sting humans.    They provide food for sea turtles AND they are a delicacy in Japan IF prepared properly…..don’t think we’ll be eating any!     Next we took a bike ride to the jetty where we saw dolphins, a sea turtle and a crane who flew in and posed for photos!

INFO about the INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY –  the Atlantic ICW opened in 1919 as a safe passage for commercial traffic to protect them from rough seas and enemy subs.   The route crosses sounds and bays, utilizes rivers and manmade canals.   The original plan was for 200 ft wide and 10-12 feet deep.   By the 1970s there was far less commercial traffic (highways and trucks were carrying the load).   Funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge and maintain the the waters dropped.   Since the ICW intersects 100 rivers, creeks and ocean inlets, coastal storms move sediment inland from the sea and cause “shoaling”.   Some spots are as shallow as 3 ft at low tide so all of our travel for the next few weeks has to take into account the tides for departures and arrivals.

Finally a beautiful calm day for travel on Friday to head for St Augustine marina where the current runs swiftly, so they recommend arriving at slack tide…..which wasn’t until 5:30 PM.     We walked the beach, saw a sea turtle and dolphin in the marina, and had a great 5 1/2 hour ride to St Augustine.   We timed our arrival perfectly and had no problem getting into the slip.   Once tied up and checked in we walked to Prohibition Kitchen for dinner – great food, and live music.

On Saturday we rode the trolley around the city for an overall tour.    St Augustine was founded in 1565 as a Spanish military outpost and is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the U.S.  We went by the Castillo de San Marcos, a house ordered from a Sears catalog!, the street lined with live oak trees, and Flagler college.  At noon friends from Prince William Marina in Occoquan, VA (the “old days”) came to meet us for lunch at AIA Ale House.   Mary & Greg Davis moved to Jacksonville, and Liz & Roddy sold their boat and their house and bought an RV and have been traveling for the past year.   It was so good to reconnect with all four of them!    That evening we walked across Ponce de Leon bridge with Jodi & Dan from “Done Diggin” (Loopers we had met in Ft Lauderdale) and had dinner at the Conch house on Anastasia Island.

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Rick, Kris, Mary, Greg, Liz & Roddy – Prince William Marina friends

Sunday morning we attended Mass at the Cathedral of St Augustine, the oldest Catholic parish in the U.S.   The original church was destroyed by fire in 1887 and restored in 1888.   We then did our own walking tour past the statue of Ponce de Leon who landed in St Augustine in 1513, searching for the Fountain of Youth.   We toured the Castillo de San Marcos, which is over 345 years old.   It was constructed in 1672-1695 by the Spanish as a refuge for townspeople and a military warehouse.   The soldiers were able to defend themselves with cannons which fired up to 3.5 miles away.    The British took over the town and the Castle from 1763-1784, until the 2nd Spanish period, 1784 to 1821.     We then walked to the Nombre de Dios Mission (America’s most sacred acre) where the first Mass was celebrated.   In 1615 the Chapel was built to house the shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, dedicated to the Blessed Mother with the infant Jesus.   Women visit to ask protection before, during and after  childbirth.   The chapel was destroyed 3 times by war, pirates and storms.   It was last reconstructed in 1918.    We also saw the Rustic altar built in 1565.   We continued on to Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth.     You may not recognize us when we get home!    Finally we headed for the St Augustine Distillery where we had amazing cocktails and delicious brunch food!   Of course we also made a quick stop at the Whetstone Chocolate factory just to look (yeah, right?!?!)

On Sunday night we toured Done Diggin’ – a catamaran from Massachusetts, had docktails with Dan & Jodi and then went to dinner at Harry’s Seafood, Bar & Grille across from the marina – great dinner and company!   Though the rain started up before we walked home.

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With Jodi & Dan from “Done Diggin”

Once again weather is dictating our travel plans.   Today (April 1st) is rainy and windy all day long, so we are staying here in St Augustine for another night and hoping for better skies tomorrow.   Today was laundry, grocery shopping, boat cleaning, log and blogging, and tonight an A-6 buddy of Rick’s (Jerry Maroon and wife Helen) drove down from Jacksonville to meet us for dinner and reminiscing (we forgot to take a photo).

 

Movin’ on up the East Coast of Florida

We left Stuart after the rain let up on Wednesday, 3/20… a rather chilly morning.   It was only 20 miles to Fort Pierce, but we wanted to get in at slack tide rather than fight the current.    Our friends from the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers, Kermit & Katherine (boat Good Karma) met us and grabbed our lines.    After fueling and pumping out we got into our slip across from them.    Lunch was at the “original Tiki Bar” restaurant on site, which is being demolished next month.     Katherine & Kris went for a walk across the bridge, while the guys went for groceries!    Later we all had Happy Hour on their back porch, just like “old times” and enjoyed hearing about each other’s adventures since we last traveled together.

The next day we joined 3 Gold Looper couples for a tour of the Triton submarine company followed by lunch.    The Triton is a luxury submersible for superyacht owners, researchers and explorers ($$$$).    16 of them have been delivered.    3 passengers can go to a depth of 3300 feet for up to 12 hours and the plexiglass bubble is 7 inches thick.    Owners also need a “tender” vessel to transport and launch/ recover the vehicle.    Guess we won’t be buying one anytime soon!

Docktails were on Good Karma again while we watched the full moon rise.    The next morning we walked to an early Grand Slam breakfast diner with Kermit and Katherine before we left for Eau Galle Yacht Basin.    Eau Galle is on the other side of the Indian River from Melbourne beach but part of the City of Melbourne.   It was a small, family run marina of mostly sailboats at a cost of $1.00 a foot (cash or check only!).    We rode bikes around town, and then walked back to Squid Lips Beach Bar for a great dinner and live music by an old guys rock band.

FUN FACTS:    No current photo of the American White Pelican but we have seen a lot of them.    They are one of largest No American birds, at a length of 50-70 inches, weighing 11-20 lbs.   The white pelican does not dive for it’s food like brown pelicans; instead it catches its prey while swimming and eats more than 4 lbs of food a day.

Another favorite bird of Kris’ is the anhinga – a dark, duck like bird.   It has a yellow pointed beak to stab fish as it swims underwater.   The neck is very thin except when expanded to swallow a fish.   They have no residual oil in their feathers, so need to dry their wings after diving in order not to sink (see photo above!)

We left at sunrise on Saturday am to travel 38 miles to Titusville in the Space Coast area.   It was calm water, and easy cruising other than slowing for slow passes of many sailboats, fishing boats and kayakers.   When we are overtaking a slower boat we call on the radio and request a “slow pass on their port side” – this prevents the slower boat from having to deal with large wake waves from our boat.   At Titusville there was a manatee at the dock – referred to as Florida’s “gentle giants” or sea cows.    We had arranged for an Enterprise rental car, and then met Kris’ sister Vicki and her husband Mike for lunch at Dixie Crossroads, famous for their corn fritters and shrimp.   They had just spent a week in Daytona Beach and were driving down to West Palm Beach to see our nephew’s opera before flying back home to Wisconsin.     It was a brief visit but great to see them!  (You may note in the photo that Mike is allergic to shellfish!)

Sat afternoon we drove to Orlando to meet with Miyako and Ray Thiele.    Miyako was the executive assistant to the Admiral in Atsugi, Japan during both of our tours (92-92 and 97-99).    She retired and they moved to Florida in 1999.

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Dinner at a Chinese Restaurant in Orlando with Miyako and Ray Thiele

Sunday, 3/24 – We toured Kennedy Space Center for the day.  The KSC visitor center is a great place that showcases America’s space program from conception in the 50s to the present and the future.  We made a plan for seeing as much as we could that afternoon.  It started with a bus tour of the massive Vehicle Assembly Building where the Shuttles were mated with the huge fuel tank and boosters — and then we followed the transporter/crawler tracks 7 miles to the launch pads 39A and B, where the shuttles and the Saturn V Apollo launches were conducted.  The sheer size of everything is awesome! Next was the Apollo/Saturn V center.  You enter into a large projection room for a 10 minute film about the program, and then enter the actual launch control room for the Apollo missions, and the Moon mission launch is re-created.  When the doors open you are looking at a Saturn 5 rocket  – all three stages and the Command/Lunar Module.  Each Apollo mission is detailed on the story boards.  We ate lunch under the rocket…Back on the bus we returned to the main Center and toured the Space Shuttle Atlantis building.  Once again, an introductory film and then the screen goes up and you are looking at the Atlantis Shuttle mounted as if it were in orbit with the shuttle bay open.  Photo opportunities abounded.  There were iMax presentations on the future of spaceflight, a look into the competing next generation Space Launch Systems by Boeing and Space-X, and the Rocket Garden and Astronaut Hall of fame.  Unfortunately, there were no launches scheduled during our time on the Florida coast, but you can buy tickets to the bleachers to watch the launches from the Apollo Saturn V exhibit – only 3 1/2 miles from the launch pad.

On Monday, 3/25, we cruised to Ponce Inlet, south of Daytona Beach, to meet Rick & Deedy, from “Rejoice”.     We last saw them in Grafton, Ill in October.   They drove us around Daytona Beach, stopping for lunch at  Boondocks restaurant on the water where we ate fresh shrimp and fed the shells to the swarming catfish!    We had happy hour on their condo balcony and went out for an Italian dinner.   The next day Rick found a mechanic to look at a water leak in our rudder assemblies.    He replaced the rudder packing and it seems to have solved the problem.    Rick and Rick changed the fuel filters and the four of us headed to Daytona Speedway for a 90 minute tour.    Rick loved the speedway tour – the place is huge.  We had dinner at North Turn, named for the original racetrack on Daytona beach.   In between rain showers we hurried to “Rejoice” to photograph Rick & Deedy’s Looper flag ceremony.   They crossed their wake in December but waited for us to change their white flag to gold and celebrate with them.   We had planned to stay 2 nights, but on 3/27 a squall came through with rain and strong winds, so we stayed where we were tied for another day.

Hoping winds will allow us to travel to St Augustine tomorrow where we will spend several days.

Mini-vacations from our voyage!

With the time change, Kris actually got up to walk in time to see the sunrise at Old Port Cove marina in Palm Beach!    Then we headed out on the AICW (Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway) for Stuart, Florida.

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Here are a few photos of our travels on 3/12……the first 2 show crab pots for those unfamiliar with what we talk about watching out for.   They can be different colors, sometimes the white ones turn out to be birds and fly away!   They are much harder to see in waves than calm water.    The 3rd photo shows the actual bridge height when you get close enough to read it through binoculars.   The books and charts give an estimated clearance but it changes with the tides, so we always make sure it’s at least 18 feet before going under.  Next are photos of the multiple and sometimes confusing signs about how fast you can go (though sometimes we seem to be the only ones complying with the slow or idle speed directives).   The red and green markers indicate the dredged channel, so you want to stay between them.    Red are on our left and green on the right, going north on the ICW.   This changes when you get off on an inlet or to enter a marina, where it’s “red right returning”.    The small triangles and squares inside the markers reassure you that you’re still on the ICW and haven’t taken a wrong turn, following other markers by mistake.

Approaching Stuart we went by the Jupiter lighthouse and watched an amazingly talented paddleboarder ride our wake!     We docked at Sunset Bay Marina, walked the river walk into downtown Stuart for haircuts, and then our friends, Eric & Renee Morton, showed up in their boat with other friends to meet us for dinner.

On Wed, 3/13 we did laundry, boat stuff, trip planning and then joined Eric & Renee at a pool, and back to their house for Manhattans, Moscow Mules and dinner.

On 3/14, Eric drove us to West Palm Beach airport……Kris flew to DC and Rick flew to Portland, ME for the week-end.

Son Matt picked Kris up at the airport and drove her home for a family dinner.    Kris caught up with a few friends and coworkers on Friday but spent the weekend getting reacquainted with grandson Wyatt, who has changed in 3 mos!  He’s now ON THE GO!!  We did some Costco shopping, spent time at Molly & Cooper’s new house, and had a St Patrick’s Day dinner at home with niece Becky and her husband Andy, who announced that we will have a great niece or nephew in October!

Meanwhile, Rick made his way from Portland to his brother Phil’s house at Sunday River, Maine for a week-end of skiing with friends and family.   Usually the second weekend in March, he nicknamed it “Boys Weekend”.  Its Phil, Rick, friend Julian Hart from Virginia, brother-in-law Mark Calderan, nephew Greg Petros,  and Wine group friend “Knob” Moses left to right in the photo below.  The ladies present were Sandy Moses, and Rick’s sisters Mary and Ellen.  We had 3 days of great snow despite some icy conditions — but no injuries.  We shared the Prime rib  Special at the Funky Red Barn in Bethel,  Pi day pie for dessert, Bloody Marys at the Peak lodge on the mountain, a fabulous Steak dinner on Saturday night. and Knob’s famous Frittata and Cinnamon French toast on Sunday morning.  All four of the McHarg kids (Rick & his 3 siblings) were there on Sunday, which was great.

We both flew back on Monday to West Palm Beach & got another Eric UBER back to the boat.   Windy and rainy now, not like when we left.    On Sunday night we joined Eric & Renee at a benefit dinner for the American Cancer Society.    We are keeping our fingers crossed for the rain to clear tomorrow to allow us to travel 30 miles to Fort Pierce.