Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 324 -Norfolk, VA

Wow, what an experience it has to been to arrive in bustling Norfolk after the serene ICW. The world's largest naval base is here. There are destroyers, aircraft carriers, submarines, jets, helicopters all around us. We stopped for a night smack dab middle of downtown Portsmouth, VA. The city provides free dockage in a few basins amid the waterfront skyscrapers. There is a great ferry that runs across the river to downtown Norfolk. It was a very nice place to explore and reminded us a little of our walks along the Boston waterfront. We are now anchored on the northern side of Norfolk, in Willoughby Bay and are being entertained by helicopters doing various training maneuvers near us. We plan to move to Deltaville tomorrow where we'll have the boat hauled for a few projects before heading back to New England.

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A lone tree in the middle of the ICW

Borealis in downtown Portsmouth, VA

USS Wisconsin in Norfolk

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 322- Coinjock, NC

Time is no longer marching by as fast as it did in the Bahamas and Caribbean.  In fact, the last week seems more like a month.  Probably partly due to the fact that we're motoring along day after day in the ICW.  Parts are very scenic but also fairly monotonous.  We are limited to traveling during daylight and often can not use the autopilot and thus are stuck at the helm for long periods.  Other than the surprise we get from the depth alarm every once in a while it is not overly exciting.  It gives us plenty of time to contemplate questions like 'How are the dolphins able to navigate in the brown, murky water here?'  They must have some keen sonar!  And 'Why do they hang out here?'  The abundance of shrimp is one reason we can understand and relate to.

Hurricane Irene did a fair amount of damage as it made landfall in this area, last fall.  We met a group of college guys salvaging a 41' sailboat that had been blown ashore.  It seemed like quite an adventure with a lot of boyhood excitement mixed in.  They were working hard in muddy, wet and critter infested conditions.  I wish we could have stayed long enough to see them get it in the water. 

The difference in the color of the water in the ICW and the water in the Exumas.

Shrimp boats along the ICW

Boat stranded by Hurricane Irene
Not sure what this 'Danger' sign was warning us of

Pablo always doing maintenance (or maybe just messing around)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 318- Oriental, NC

I'm happy to report that it has warmed up, thus we are no longer wearing winter gear. Unfortunately the water color is still brown and murky, but obviously water clarity of the Bahamas is unrealistic and a nice cherished memory. We've spent the past couple of days exploring parts of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). The ICW is a network of canals and rivers that connect the eastern seaboard from FL to NY. Many parts are too shallow or have low bridges that limit our travel so we have picked a only few sections to explore. The shifting depths of the channels require our complete attention. It is not unusual to come across a spot that is significantly shallower than surrounding areas. Tow boats are busy pulling off boats stranded in the area. After a day offshore between Wrightsville and Beaufort where we enjoyed setting the autopilot and leaving the helm, we anchored at Cape Lookout. We had the large anchorage almost to ourselves and watched seals and enormous loggerhead turtles surface all around us. The nearby Shackleford Banks are home to a herd of wild ponies. Remi is working on a report about them which I'll insert soon. We are now in a small town well-known to sailors on the Neuse River called Oriental. We are enjoying the slow pace but highly functional and friendly environment. This is cruisers paradise. There are trash bins for us at the dingy dock, there are courtesy bicycles for our use, and great low key restaurants. The locals have a great 'can do' attitude that make things happen. We needed a printer and fax machine and were directed to the offices of the local newspaper. The friendly secretary took time out of her schedule to help us for about half an hour and would not accept any payment. We are enjoying some of the benefits of being back in the US, like all the fresh snap peas we could eat for $4 from the local farmers market and some of the best peel-and-eat shrimp we have ever had, fresh off of the shrimp boats that are based out of the small harbor. We have had the fresh shrimp two days in a row and may stay one more day to enjoy more!

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One of the many Coast Guard boats we've seen in NC; this one was making sure we weren't a threat to the 500ft tanker nearby.

A nasty squall passing in front of us

Riding to the grocery store

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 314-Bald Head Island, NC

Bald Head Island, a barrier island two miles off mainland North Carolina, has been a very comfortable place to re-enter the US and decompress a little after our passage.  It is a planned community with very friendly people and a big emphasis on conservation.  There are protected salt marshes, estuaries, and 10 miles of ocean beaches where loggerhead turtles are currently laying eggs.  Very impressively, the newly opened Barrier Island Research Center ( $2.5 million) was entirely community funded.   But make no mistake this is first and foremost an upscale resort.
We were aiming to depart north along the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW) tomorrow and then offshore toward Beaufort, NC the following day.  Tropical Storm Alberto, slightly south of Cape Fear, may put a kink in our plans.  Pablo is keeping a close eye on all of his numerous weather sources.  So far the only affect we have felt are the below normal temperatures.  It was 56F this morning!  Needless to say more than a shock to our tropically tuned bodies, thus we had to turn the heat on.
We noticed that our position report hasn't updated to our current position.  There seems to be a problem at yotreps.  Hopefully it will be resolved soon.

The very protected marina at Bald Head Island

The primary transportation on the island is golf cart and bicycle

Spanish Moss lined golf cart boulevards

The croquet court; we didn't have our 'whites' so didn't partake

Note the hat and sweatshirt on the beach

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 312- Bald Head Island, NC

We're back in the States!!  Leaving the Abacos sooner rather than later worked out well for us.  We avoided waiting for another weather window and or hopping up the Florida coast.  The down side was lack of wind.  We motored most of the time.  We were aiming for Beaufort, NC but decided on Charleston, SC after seeing nasty weather moving down the East Coast. We made such good time once we hit the Gulf Stream (northerly current 2 to 4 knots) that we were moving at 10-12 knots and would of arrived in Charleston in the dark.  We decided to go a little further north to the Cape Fear area.  After calling 5 different numbers for Immigration and Customs we were cleared back into the States, AND without an inspection.  Good all around.  I was a little concerned that some of our fresh produce could be confiscated if we were boarded.  Of course we had way more that usually since I had just stocked up in Marsh Harbor thinking that we wouldn't be in the States for another 2 weeks.  Turned out the kids really didn't need to eat that whole bag of carrots, celery and 5 apples for breakfast...

We seem to have access to decent wifi and our cell phone (with data plan) is now turned on again so I plan to update the blog after a little sleep.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Day 310- Marsh Harbour, Abacos to Charleston, SC

We only spent a couple of days in the Abacos before heading off on a passage back to the States. Pablo didn't like the look of upcoming unsettled weather so we decided to leave rather than risk having to wait longer than we wanted for the next opportunity. Our current destination is Charleston, SC but that may change depending on weather. It seems like a good place to wait for favorable winds to head further north. Leaving the Bahamas is definitely bittersweet for all of us. It feels likes the fun part of the journey is behind us. The girls are excited about returning home but said they'd rather keep cruising (preferably in warm, clear waters).

After being in the Exumas for weeks, the Abacos seemed very populated. Marsh Harbour, though a little shallow for us at low tide, was a good place to provision, get fuel (in jugs since the depths at the fuel dock were questionable), and fill propane tanks. Wish we could of spent a little more time exploring the beautiful cays and numerous reefs, but also looking forward to returning to the US.

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The Mahi Mahi we had for lunch and dinner

Cruising at 12 knots thanks to help from the Gulf Stream

A visitor who slept in the salon overnight

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 304- Allen's Cay, Exumas, Bahamas

The weather has improved (no rain and air temps are back in the high 80's) so we've been busy spending A LOT of time in the water. With the turn in the weather the Bahamas is looking considerably better and we are glad we made the effort to spend some time here. The water clarity and colors continue to amaze us, although it will be nice to eventually get out of the very shallow waters. We enjoy the many uninhabited smaller Cays. The towns (called settlements locally) are small with minimal services, which are available sometimes. Gas stations are regularly out of fuel, grocery stores have few supplies, and when wifi is available for a fee, it isn't operational. We are really glad we have a watermaker, as getting drinking water can be a real hassle and expensive.

We enjoyed snorkeling the Thunderball Grotto, an under water cave with many colorful fish, in Staniel Cay. The swimming pigs, off Big Majors Spot, were a hit with the kids. The pigs act like dogs. They lie around on the beach until a boat comes along and then put on a good show begging for snacks. The Exuma Land and Sea Park at Warderick Wells was a highlight, with many scenic trails, lots of small isolated beaches, and incredible variations in the color of the water. The kids are in a groove snorkeling among rays, and fairly big nurse sharks without any consideration for them as they hunt for cool shells, urchins and sand dollars. Allen's Cay will be our last stopping point in the Exumas, as we plan to head North tomorrow to spend some time exploring the Abacos before crossing back to the States. We are definitely feeling the influence of States more and more. Being only 200 miles from Florida, we can pick up radio stations and hear the US Coast Guard on the VHF. We are also seeing more mega motor yachts; last night we were anchored next to an 80 ft yacht named "Hooter Patrol IV". American capitalism at its best.

Will post photos when we have wifi access again. It may be another week, or more. I also noticed that some of the videos posted to previous posts have stopped working, will try to re-post those also.

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The under water entrance to Thunderball Grotto

Our friends from sv Alexina checking out the swimming pigs

Borealis in Warderick Wells

Hiking in the Exuma Land and Sea Park

Pablo and Remi checking out sea life from the dingy as it floats in the current

A blowhole!