Belhaven to River Dunes

Tuesday 11-26
We’re in Belhaven. . . a very, VERY small town in the dogleg of the Pungo River. . . Belhaven Waterway Marina The town calls itself the birthplace of the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) and they have a celebration in September that brings thousands of boaters. It would be great fun to come and check it out!
We’ve hunkered down here due to “weather.” This is part of THE major storm that disrupted so much of the Thanksgiving travel this year, with ice, snow, heavy rain (VERY heavy rain, we had 2.5” last night) and wind. Mostly in other parts of the country, from Texas to New Hampshire, thankfully, but we are getting our share, and it is NOT BOATING weather.
The wind is really what has pinned us here, as it whips up waves and makes travel difficult, uncomfortable. We are an elephantine, lumbering, rocking-and-rolling trawler. Imagine rolling your living room 15 degrees left. . . pause. . . then 15 degrees to the right. Or 20, 25 degrees. Sometimes there isn’t a pause, sometimes it’s a “snap,” and you are rolling back the other way. Things fall, including things that you were sure were tied down, wedged in, secured. As for us, WE are more fragile than the boat. So we just don’t care to be out in it.Belhaven Marina 2
We came into Belhaven early afternoon Tuesday with winds and waves urging us on. It’s a tiny spot, interesting, friendly. Les the dock master is passionate about wooden boats, their history, construction, preservation, reconstruction, appreciation. And is very happy to talk about it all, with a lot of knowledge and experience.Belhaven Marina
A very bouncy overnight and day, with driving sheets of cold rain coming through periodically. COLD! Les took us to the Food Lion which was a couple of miles away. If the day had not been so nasty (cold, very cold blowing rain!) we would have walked the three blocks up to the local museum. Evidently among other things in their collection there are fleas dressed in wedding attire, and a button collection that boasts 30,000 buttons. I truly regret missing these things. . . they sound as if they make a return trip worthwhile!! (Have I said COLD??)
We decided to go to dinner “in town” which is literally three blocks long, and boasts several restaurants. Our choice was “Spoon River” which gets rave reviews, but we discovered it closed. Almost directly across the street was “The Tavern at Jack’s Neck.” Our decision was made. This is a restaurant built in a space which dates back to the 1930s. Open with a full menu for only three weeks, they were doing a good business on the night before Thanksgiving. The space itself is beautiful, with a variety of rich woods milled locally. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, the staff welcoming and attentive. Dinner was not “perfect,” but the experience was, and it too was worth a return visit.
Thursday 11-28
We traveled on Thanksgiving Day down through a canal from the Pungo River to Bay River, passing through an area that was home to some of the local shrimpers. These are huge boats, and I cannot imagine them quietly tied up during the NON-shrimp season, but there they were.Sharon Nicole
Out into the Pamlico Sound and then in to River Dunes. This is a resort about which we have heard rave reviews from everyone. EVERYONE. I don’t think anyone has given it 4 stars. And we agree, it is worth 5 stars. Inexpensive for transient boaters, it’s extremely protected, has floating docks, and the amenities are amazing.River Dunes merge A swimming pool, a clean and incredibly inexpensive laundry, an exercise room with all sorts of major equipment, a beautiful “clubhouse,” with pool table, and free wifi. The showers . . . we have a bathtub on Aqua Vitae, but the showers at River Dunes get bigger raves than anything else about the place, so I had to try. Four small shower heads aimed just above the belly button, and a rain shower above, then you press the button for steam . . . OH MY!River Dunes 4
There is quite a contrast between Belhaven and River Dunes.Contrast
We took the loaner car into Oriental, which is about 6 miles from here, had a disappointing lunch at M & M’s Restaurant, which we had remembered as “good,” bought some cable Hans needed for a repair to one of the engines and back again. Loaner car – wow! Check this out: http://www.riverdunes.com and you’ll see what I’m talking about.River Dunes 3River Dunes 2
Tomorrow we are off to Morehead City, North Carolina. I wouldn’t mind staying here for “the duration,” but onward, ever onward. . . . Our goal is Marathon, Florida. In the Keys. Sometime.

Stuck in the Cold and Wind

We left Solomons, Maryland after being there almost a week, thanks to our wonderful friends Nancy and Ted. Our trip to Deltaville, Virginia went smoothly, always the best kind, and we had a peaceful night at the Deltaville Marina.  The area is quiet and picturesque.ImageImage

Getting in and out of that little Creek is “interesting.”Image

The first time we did it was about 6 or 7 years ago, and following an overnight there I was driving the boat, exiting the creek. Somehow I missed the last green mark at the dog leg (I’ve marked it with a green circle here), where it turns right to return to the Bay. And ran aground. (Hans has never let me forget this. . . ) So leaving there on Friday morning I was driving the boat. And yep, somehow I missed the last green mark at the dog leg, and ran aground AGAIN. For SURE Hans will never let me forget it, and from now on, when leaving Deltaville I’m going to let him drive!

It’s always an interesting ride through Portsmouth, with all the military stuff going on. There was a supply ship coming in from the Atlantic and we sort of crossed paths a couple of times getting situated. Interesting stuff! And of course we passed several aircraft carriers. They are huge!

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We pulled into Top Rack Marina in Chesapeake Virginia at about 2:15, fueled up, and got our slip assignment. Image

We are next to a 60 foot Romsdal boat. It’s gorgeous, although Hans says the inside is “tight,” with narrow doors and passageways. It was built in 1960 or 1961, and the people who own it are permanent liveaboards.Image

This is not a glamorous or picturesque place, but it’s “relatively inexpensive” and we knew we were going to wait out the coming gale force winds here. Monday morning we will go through a bridge and then the Great Bridge Lock at about 7 am, continuing on our way south. In the meantime, after a lovely Saturday, Sunday has been about 30 degrees, blowing 25-30 knots with gusts of 40. It’s cold. The groaning of the lines holding us to the dock is unnerving, and we’re running out of bread and milk. . .

Although Top Rack Marina has about a dozen transient slips (and invites visits with promise of free dockage with dinner at their very good Amber Lantern Restaurant), it is primarily for smaller boats. There is a humongous building with stacks of little “cubbies” that hold boats up to about 30 feet. Instead of having a home slip, these boaters simply call up and ask that their boat be launched, and the fork lift takes them out of the cubby and deposits them in the water.Image

We’ve been watching a number of them being winterized and put away until spring. . . on a day like today, I think that’s what I would prefer to be doing.

On Our Way South!

We’re under way!
We left the dock at 7:05 on Friday morning, heading south.
This is the Francis Scott Key Bridge, about 45 minutes from our slip (at our normal speed of about ten miles an hour). We feel that going under this bridge signals either the end of our voyage, or the beginning. So here we are, beginning a new season.FSK Bridge
We had smooth seas, just the way we like it.Leaving Patapsco
Our fingers were crossed that the next three days will continue this way, as the Chesapeake Bay is the part of this trip that can get “really interesting.” The average depth of the Bay is 12 feet and for such a huge body of water to be so shallow, the waves that can kick up with any wind will be short and steep. Trawlers don’t like waves anyway, but short and steep can be extremely uncomfortable.
This little gadget is our “SPOT.” When we turn it on it sends a signal every ten minutes showing our location. I’ve put a permanent link on the front page of the blog in the column on the right so you can check it out. If you save it to your favorites you can watch our progress.Spot
There weren’t many people out there, but this Bay built boat named “Shameless” passed us heading north. He was definitely loaded down with all of the equipment needed for his trade, which is crabbing. He’s probably heading home for the season from the looks of it.Shameless Crabber
Niya was in her accustomed place for the day, guarding my feet. She gets up every time I do, just to make sure she’s not missing anything, but this is how she generally travels when we’re under way.Niya guarding my feet
About three hours out of Baltimore we realized that our generator was overheating – it kept shutting down after running for only a short time. Almost immediately we also realized that our inverter/charger wasn’t operating properly either. These two pieces of equipment are key to our AC power when we aren’t plugged into shore power. Without them we knew that there would be no anchoring out tonight, as we would have no heat, and hey, this is November!
We called our friends Nancy and Ted, who have a lovely condo – and a slip that they were not using – in Solomons, Maryland, about 65 miles south of Baltimore. They are very generous friends, and we are grateful to be tied up at their dock and plugged into shore power. Monday morning at 8 am we are due at Zahniser’s Yacht Repair Yard, just down the creek from where we are. In the meantime we will have an opportunity to get ourselves more organized. I will NOT post the photo I took of what the inside of the boat looks like. Nothing is put away yet!
But look, wouldn’t you agree that if you are “stuck” somewhere, this is the place to be?AV at Solomons Landing
Unfortunately our stay here has lost us our “weather window.” Monday and Tuesday are supposed to be unpleasant on the Bay, so we will stay put until things calm down.

It’s the KEYS!

Note: I’m back-tracking here, I know. We arrived in Marathon on January 25th, and left on March 30th – just over two amazing, interesting, short, months. We met many new people and made many new friends. We stayed at Sombrero Dockside Marina. . . one of those “interesting” places!  This post is a combination of what I started “back then,” and what I’ve added since we left. . . pardon any dis-jointedness!!Image

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It’s been way, WAY too long since I’ve posted on our blog, and I’m sorry about that. We have discovered that down here, with 9 days out of 10 being sunny and 75 degrees there is a sort of easy ripple of days rolling one after another with the tides and the breezes. (If it takes a day or two more to do something, well, that’s okay, right? Or a week or two, okay?) On that tenth day we get “partly sunny,” and maybe a 20 minute shower. That’s the day we’re supposed to get work done. It goes quickly. . .

It’s definitely the Keys. No frills. I’ll bet there are places here that are fancy, but we haven’t found them (and by the way we aren’t looking). When I think about the fact that I brought two “nice” outfits and three necklaces I laugh. T-shirts, shorts, capris, sandals, that’s the order of the day. And sunblocking shirts and big hats or visors. There’s no pool. The water under the boat is 78 degrees and clear, the beach is 2 ½ miles by car from here (with the winds we’ve had problems with Portuguese Man-O-War jellyfish, not to be fooled with. But the winds have finally died down for a day or two. . . We’ll see.)  Image

The Tiki Bar was closed a day or two before we arrived on January 15th. The bar was sinking. . . Yellow tape is draped around. For the first three weeks we were here there was some beeping timer alarm going off in there. But finally someone turned it off. It’s the Keys. . .

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We are across the street from a golf course. Niya and I walk in the bike lane next to their fence (I’ve decided every community should have a bike lane!) every day.

Here is a sign next to one of the gates in their fence.Image

This is the pond where the crocodile has been seen. I tell Niya that if we are not going to feed the croc we need to hurry past! You can see our boat beyond the pond at the 10th hole.Image

Last year the croc decided to make its home in one of the golf carts and they had a tough time helping it decide otherwise. Why they didn’t just relocate it is beyond me. Niya and I hurry past. (Two days before we left Marathon there were two crocodiles spotted at the far end of the golf course near Sisters’ Creek; one was 13 feet long, the other about 7.)

There is a mooring field in Boot Key Harbor and even though we are in a marina, we look out on the mooring field. Here are a couple of views of it. We had amazing sunsets over it almost every night as you can see. . . stop me when you’ve had enough.ImageImageImage

Some of the folks in there are living on little or nothing, some just like not to be attached to land. Some are there for a week or two, some have been there for years. Every morning there’s a “Cruisers’ Net” on VHF Channel 68. It’s an amazing community resource, with a different moderator every day. People are hailed hello as new arrivals or farewell on their departure; people list their buy/sell/giveaway items; people list their questions or problems about engines, electronics, health care or whatever; people talk about doings: yoga, pick-up softball, the cheese man from Pennsylvania is back, don’t miss the new show at the local theater. . . It’s wonderful stuff! When you’re “on a mooring ball” (much less expensive than being in a slip at the dock) you come into a dinghy dock somewhere to do the laundry, or do some shopping, or commute to your job.Image

There are definitely Keys Characters here.Image

My theory is two-fold: 1.) if you don’t fit anywhere else, go to the Keys, and 2.) if you have nothing, nor any means of getting anything, go to the Keys. Here is a photo to prove #1.ImageThis man, who I have dubbed “Thor” for obvious reasons, has a vision. He’s living his vision, and I can tell you that others have just lapped it up, for there were several evenings when we saw him passing the stern of our boat with one. . . or more. . . young lady in gauzy white dresses fluttering in slow motion in the breezes of the Keys. . . Yep, it almost looked like the cover of a lusty romance novel!

And here is a photo to prove #2.ImageThere was a man who lived in the mangroves across the street from the Tiki Bar. He was quite possessive about his home, and chased Hans off one evening when he was walking Niya just a bit too close.

In the afternoon/evenings we often gather on the dock (there are always several gatherings on the dock) to talk about the day, the fishing or plans. Or war stories or boating fables.Image

Once a week there’s a potluck. And occasionally we do “field trips” like this one, where a number of us dinghied over to a restaurant on the other side of the harbor.Image

While there is the occasional dolphin this far back in the harbor, the manatees visit almost every day. One day there were seven of them! We never had that many come right to the dock — those were grazing along the shallows by the mangrove island behind us. But often we would have three or four, which would make their way, munching slowly along. They are UGLY! Gentle giants, most have prop scars along their backs where they’ve been struck by boats. They love (need) fresh water, so are enticed with a hose or rainwater falling off the boat. Deliberate coaxing is frowned upon with a $5,000 fine (they don’t want the manatees to become too comfortable around boats, which cause injury or death to these slow moving creatures.) Except there was one manatee named Scotty who has been entangled so horribly in discarded fishing line that we’ve been asked to get out the water hose for him in if we see him, and to call any one of several authorities to come for him. They’re afraid that without surgery any other attempt to remove the line he would bleed to death.

Here’s a sequence of photos that shows one that came to our dock coaxed by one of the boaters there. Much as I disapproved, I had to take pictures. You can definitely see the prop marks on this one, but some are worse. Did I say ugly??ImageImageImageImage

There are other critters in the Keys. We have a lot of little lizards. They skitter along like dried palm fronds blown in the wind, and you usually have to be quick to see them. I believe that they are Anole Lizards, but Hans thinks they’re geckos. (We’ve brought two of them back on the boat, a bright green one, and a slightly smaller brown one. They no doubt boarded the boat via the dock lines somewhere.) This one was in K-Mart. . .Image

The bigger lizards (MUCH BIGGER!) are Iguanas. They are not native here, but they’re everywhere. We’ve been told not to get too close, as they will lunge at you with claws out and they are reported to carry salmonella. They move fast, YIKES!ImageImage

The pelicans are lovely/ugly, and are all around. . .Image

. . . as are the White Ibis, who I think look like little old men with long noses.Image

Some of the people in the marina go out to the reef and fish, but we see fish in the marina as well. The water is very clear on days when there is little wind. This is a Needle Fish that visited us one day, and there’s a young barracuda that comes for table scraps at slip B-1.Image

This is what grows on the pilings supporting the dock. Oysters of some sort, sea anemones, and I’m not sure what the orange stuff is, but I think that’s a critter too!Image

There’s more, a lot more. . . I’ll save it for another post.

 

 

Jew Point Dawn on Card Sound

ImageThis was a spectacular dawn on our first night out. . . as you can see we shared the anchorage with one other very distant boat.

Yes, we’ve left Marathon, and are on our slow way back north. Our Marathon winter was wonderful, and we’ll be doing it again.  I’m afraid our blog has suffered while we were there. It’s been over two months since we’ve posted, and while I have a lot of photos and thoughts I’ve put into the blog folder on my laptop, that’s where they remain.

I’m going to try to pull together what I have and post new entries in the next week or two, but for now we will tell you that our Jew Point anchorage at the bottom of Card Sound was about as perfect as you can get for the first night on this part of our journey.

On to the Keys

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We left Ft. Lauderdale Monday morning, finally on our way to the Keys, our goal. The winds had subsided — not entirely, but enough, and we both wanted badly to be at our final destination.

We had planned to leave on Wednesday of last week, and ended up staying five extra days due to winds and waves down that way. . . call us “wuss,” when we’ve never done it, never seen it, never experienced it, Biscayne Bay looks GIGANTIC on the charts, and open to the weather! We were pretty sure that at the other end of it we would say, “What were we THINKING! We SHOULDA JUST GONE. . .” But we didn’t, and the week in Ft. Lauderdale was great. It’s a happening city, worth a visit, and we were located beautifully at the municipal marina.

More amazing boats lined the waterway of course. . . Image

South of Ft. Lauderdale is Hollywood, with many incredibly tall condo buildings. 

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Miami. Whew! What a sight.Image

This is one of the many bridges we went through. Most of the bridges are “just bridges,” but a few, like this one have character.Image

And the cruise ships, all lined up ready to go!

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Then we were in Biscayne Bay, Image

and below that several much smaller sounds, divided by incredibly narrow cuts through the mangroves. ImageImageYep, we had some wind and waves, in fact the boat was covered in salt at the end of the day, when we anchored off Key Largo in Buttonwood Sound. This is where we chose to anchor:Image

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We’ve learned that Key Largo is really, REALLY long! And that the Keys are many, many, MANY small islands. Duck Key, Nest Key, Whaleback Key, Shell Key, Butternut Key . . . and on, and on, and on!ImageMost of these little islands are uninhabitable, but some of them of course house the rich and famous. In fact they are so exclusive that they (reportedly) have armed guards at the docks, in case you should be foolish enough to want to go ashore. We didn’t try. . .

In the meantime, we were traveling through the Everglades National Park. It looks like you could go forever — but DO NOT STRAY off the path! Although the water is very wide, the channel running through it is very narrow, and the water on either side is very shallow. We could see birds standing (NOT floating, STANDING) nearby as we passed. And IN the channel in some places we had just 1 foot of water under the boat . . .  in those places we went very slowly. You don’t want to hit bottom very hard.

When we got into Florida Bay, that large body of water between “Southern Florida Mainland” and the big swooping curve of the Keys, the color truly turned to turquoise.Image The sky held scattered clouds, and the sun playing on the water left dark areas that were opaque, then big streaks of brilliant aquamarine (golly, I wonder where THAT word came from!!) and crystal clear. ImageWe could see the bottom as we cruised over it at our 9 or 10 miles an hour. Again, it was very shallow, our depth sounder showing only two or three feet of water under us, and . . . there were CRAB TRAP FLOATS. ImageImageWhen I say there were crab trap floats, they were everywhere, as far as we could see, crowded together only 50 or 60 feet apart. It was a challenging maze as we worked our way through them.

In the photo below, you can see the white sand trail we kicked up from the bottom in the super shallow water. The curve is because the channel actually turns there.  Image

Finally, we could see the Seven Mile Bridge! ImageThe Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight’s Key (part of the city of Marathon, Florida) in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. It is one of the many (MANY!) bridges on US 1 in the Keys, where the road is called the Overseas Highway. The old bridge was built by Henry Flagler, a hotel tycoon who built a railroad to attract people to his fancy hotels in Key West. The tracks were heavily damaged in a hurricane in 1935, so he sold the span to the US Government who turned it into a public road. A new bridge was completed in 1982, and the old bridge is still there and is used as a fishing pier. We haven’t walked out on it yet, but I understand that you can see many fish, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles when you look down from there!

We went through the bridge and were in the Atlantic Ocean.Image

Image The winds and waves were very much in evidence — as were the crab pots — as we made the eastward turn to our left — Marathon and Boot Key Harbor ahead!ImageOur friend Robin was on her kayak as we came near, and she took these photos as we passed her at the entrance to the harbor.Image

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The “Mooring Field” takes up a massive amount of space in the middle of the harbor, and is occupied ­by many more sailboats than power boats — and is designated as “International Waters.”Image

And finally to our slip at Marathon Marina Dockside. This is what’s in front of us. . . Image

and this is looking off the stern. . . Image

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We have arrived!

 

 

In Ft. Lauderdale

We stayed at the Las Olas Municipal Marina at the foot of the Las Olas Boulevard bridge. 01 Las Olas Marina 401 Las Olas BridgeJust two blocks to the beach, convenient to all the restaurants and dives of the “boardwalk” area, 01 Las Olas Marina it’s a beautiful marina, clean (no bird droppings on the docks — WOW!!) with security, scenery, an amazing laundry facility (don’t laugh — this is a cruiser’s priority!), recycling (we’ve found that a rarity in marinas, believe it or not) and a really great place to walk the dog. We were rubbing shoulders with The Big Boys there: “Bookends,” which seems to be permanently waiting with her 8 person crew for any command from the owner, is 163’ long.

One of the "Big Boys!"

One of the “Big Boys!”

The Lazarra (perhaps the world’s fanciest yacht, and very likely the most expensive) that was at the end of our dock was at least that big, and the one that replaced it was over 200’ long. So we’re not one of the big boys, we’re a little guy, very, VERY little, at 43’. We were certainly the dirtiest, still carrying some of the Baltimore grime, and the most loaded down with evident “stuff,” like bikes and kayaks — the Big Boys all have garages for their “stuff.”
We discovered that the piper who greeted us on our first night here does a regular performance on the on the other side of the bridge just before sunset. It was wonderful!01 The Piper
We walked every day to the “Boardwalk” area, really just the retail area across the street from the beach, and saw the sights.
A1A, this is "the main drag"

A1A, this is “the main drag”

Bars, restaurants, shops and people. Sitting with “2-4-1” drinks (buy one drink and get the other free) Bloody Mary and Mimosa, or with a little snack
Yummm!

Yummm!

(these were awesome!) the people watching was fabulous. You cannot imagine who believes they can wear a bikini. You would not believe who thinks they are still some young thang because they can still fit into it, whatever “it” is. There is a point in aging when “slender” turns to “scrawny,” and it is just as scrawny when blessed with a tan as not. And because you were once a young buck with long hair, a tan, a fancy fedora and a stogie, does NOT mean that you can carry it off today!
The two gentlemen sitting on the wall over by the beach . . . one is Peter, the other is Pan. Pan is the one with the fedora and stogie.

The two gentlemen sitting on the wall over by the beach . . . one is Peter, the other is Pan. Pan is the one with the fedora and stogie.


This wonderful sculpture is made of empty plastic bottles — what a great way to recycle! — and it is lit with LED lights at night.
Ft. Lauderdale Fish

Ft. Lauderdale Fish


On Sunday, our last day there, we stopped in at our favorite ice cream place. It’s a “pump your own,” sorbet, low fat yogurt, soft serve ice cream, and everything in between. Lots of flavors. . . pistachio, red velvet, cookies and cream, vanilla, peanut butter, cake batter, peach mango. . . you get the idea. In case you can’t decide which to choose, the guy behind the counter comes out with these little paper “pill cups,” and an offer to let you taste whatever flavor you might like to try. Gotta tell you, taste ‘em, pump ‘em, and you are in possession of delicious flavors worthy of a return trip.
Ice Cream and People Watching

Ice Cream and People Watching

All yummy! But WAIT! There’s MORE!!! Sit on the shady bench outside the ice cream place to savor your choice, and just watch. . .