Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Departures, Bad Omens, and Bad Internet

I know it has once again been a while since I made a post.  Sorry, but it has been difficult to find time or the motivation.  Then when I had the time, other things conspired against me.  So, to catch everyone up with what is happening…

After getting the cushions done, I wrapped up a little outstanding maintenance and we finished cleaning up the boat so it would be presentable for sale.  I think it now looks better than anytime we have owned it. Our broker made the trek up from St. Augustine and took some pictures and videos for the listing. He seemed very impressed with the current shape of the boat. We met with and hired Carolina Yacht Care to watch over our boat in our absence.  We divided up everything we owned into things we wanted to keep and things we could give away or donate (we already sold a few things like the folding bikes). After finding homes for the donations, we packed up all but a couple of the boxes of stuff to keep into the two cars. The extra boxes were taken to the post office and shipped back to Colorado.

Ready for her next owners.

A couple days before we left, our eldest dog started getting sick. We put her on a bland diet and that seemed to help. We departed Southport on the 17th, despite the threatening potential ice storms that were predicted to block our path.  Fortunately, we left late enough that we missed most of the ice and only found heavy rains. Unfortunately, this was when one of the clips holding the driver’s side windshield wiper blade on my car decided to fail. I noticed it was at an odd angle and pulled over in the rain to investigate.  Finding the failed clip, I managed to tape the broken wiper clip to the arm and it held until we could find a replacement blade in the next town.

That evening at the hotel, our eldest dog got sick again.  This was a pattern that ended up repeating itself pretty much every evening for the remainder of the trip. The driving marathon ended up taking 4 very tiring days of getting up, getting in the car, driving as far as we could manage, find a hotel, and repeat the next day.

After arriving in Denver, the very next morning I was hit hard by a nasty chest cold.  For those that don’t remember, pretty much the exact same thing happened the last time I was in town. If I were a superstitious sailing type, all of these things might be telling me this might be a mistake.

There was a bit of a communications snafu with the broker, but the boat listing should be up shortly. That is if the spotty internet we have where we are currently staying will manage to work long enough to work out the details with the brokerage company. 

The path ahead seems quite clouded and the sea and warm breezes continue to beckon to me.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Much Improved Salon

Well, like most projects, the settee cushions took a bit longer than I anticipated. After getting the foam cut and test fit, I started cutting out the fabric. The wood burning tool I used to cut the Sunbrella material worked well, but it is a slow process. Not having the material unravel is well worth the effort.  I used a permanent marker to trace around the plate (top and bottom) patterns of the cushions. The straight boxing (side pieces) were just measured, but patterns were used for the curved boxing of the back cushions. Although the fabric doesn't have stripes per-se, it does have a pattern or grain so care had to be taken while positioning the patterns to make it all look right.

The old, cracking salon cushions.
Sewing the pieces together to make the cushion covers is fairly straight forward and there are plenty of tutorials at Sailrite on how it is done.  The trick was getting the zippers installed along the seams the same way it was done on the original cushions. The trick I found that worked best was to sew the boxing together, then starting about an inch from the end of the back seam, sew a couple inches of the boxing on, placing marks on the material.  I would then temporarily sew the gap in the middle where the zipper would be using the largest stitch possible.  From that, I could position and add the zipper without things moving around too much.  Once the zipper tape was attached, I would install the slider, rip open the seam and sew across the ends of the zipper to lock everything in place.  From there, I could sew the remaining boxing to the plate.

Making new foam inserts for the cushions.

The Sailrite machine works very well for sewing heavy materials and zippers together. Although not a fancy, computer controlled machine, I have no doubt that these machines will last a lifetime even under pretty heavy usage. I think we will be holding onto it even after the boat is gone.

I applied polyester batting to the foam using 3M 77 spray adhesive.  Then began the process of wrestling the foam into the covers.  Since the covers are actually a bit smaller than the foam itself, this can be a bit of a process, but having the foam fit tight makes the cushion look a lot better.

After the bottom cushions were done and test-fit on the boat, I checked the patterns for the seat back cushions. The original back cushions didn't line up all that well, and I hoped to at least improve upon the alignment.  I adjusted the patterns a bit and went to work on the seat backs.  Sewing the large curved cushions was the most difficult as there are no corners to align.  The front plates are longer vertically and shorter horizontally than the back plates.  I had to make center marks and pre-pin the pieces together before sewing them up.

The new cushions. I think they are a vast improvement.

So, it was a bit more time consuming than I thought, but I think the result was well worth the effort.  The new cushions look far better than the old cracked vinyl ones and I think are quite a bit more comfortable too.  Hopefully the new owners of the boat will appreciate them.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Finally Putting the Sailrite to Work

One of the bigger tasks (ok, two) that we needed to get done was upholstery on the boat. We bought a memory foam mattress with the intention of modifying it to fit the "owners" berth and that requires a new mattress cover. The salon cushions are the original blue-green vinyl and, as vinyl tends to do with age, is cracking and needs to be replaced.  So, one of my bigger tasks recently was to resolve these two issues.

The mattress required an angle be cut in the foam so it would fit and then a new mattress cover be created to fit the modified foam.  Cutting foam is a relatively straight-forward process.  Sailrite and other outlets sell a special cutter for foam that is a bit pricey, but a simple electric kitchen knife does exactly the same thing. Going to the local thrift store, we found an electric knife for $4...saving over $100 for that tool. Carefully measuring the angle and marking lines on both sides (adding just a bit of size for a better fit once in the cover), it was an easy matter for the two of us to cut the foam by guiding the knife along the line. The result is a nice fitting memory foam block for the cushion.

Cutting the new mattress to size

For the cover we found a nice charcoal gray Sunbrella material.  It is recommended that, to prevent raveling, Sunbrella be cut with a hot knife.  Just like cutting synthetic rope, a hot knife fuses the edges of the cut fabric to prevent it from coming apart. Naturally, Sailrite sells a hot knife for this purpose and, naturally, it is a $100+ tool. Not wanting to spend that much money and since Sailrite even mentioned this alternative in their videos, I bought a wood burning tool at the local big-box hardware store at a savings of over $80. The wood burning tool is essentially a soldering iron with a flat blade tip. Using this tool and a metal ruler (for straight lines) or freehand (for curves) the knife does a great job of cutting the material. It is a bit slower than using scissors, but not having to worry about the fabric coming apart at the edges is worth the effort. I used a large metal ruler as a backing to cut against and it worked well.  Sewing up the edges and adding the zipper were very straight forward when using the tricks outlined in several of the Sailrite how-to videos.  We are very happy with the result and now the boat has a nice, new, comfortable master berth mattress.

New owners berth mattress in place

I'm working on the salon cushions now. It started by copying some patterns that a fellow Leopard 38 owner had.  Unfortunately, these patterns didn't quite fit our boat (I would have thought that the boats would be the same but these patterns would have left a couple inch gap in a couple places) so I had to modify the patterns to improve the fit. I again used techniques outlined in the Sailrite videos, except I used normal brown paper instead of the fancy fiber-reinforced plastic sold by Sailrite. With the seat cushion patterns complete, we cut new foam for the seats and did a test fit and they look good.  We found another Sunbrella upholstery material that looks good and I'm now in the process of cutting the pieces to make the seat cushions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

An Anchor is Hard to Digest

I've been trying to figure out what to write for a while now.  It isn't easy these days. When someone stops cruising and moves back to shore, they call it swallowing the anchor. Having not done many of the things I had hoped we would, I'm finding this process rather difficult.

After weighing our options, we decided to stay in Southport and put the boat up for sale here. It is probably not the ideal scenario, but neither was hurricane Matthew. Finding a place to stay further south just wasn't a financially viable option.  Maybe after more of the area rebuilds and more dock space is available we will reevaluate the situation. If so, maybe I can get one last sail on her.

In the meantime, we have been working on plans to move off of the boat, finish a couple of projects, and clean up so we can put Rover up for sale. In order to clean up the boat and finish the projects, it made sense to get another place to stay so we rented a furnished condo. We have partially moved off the boat and have been staying at the condo while we work on the boat.

A presidential election has come and gone since my last post and it only serves to make me question if selling the boat is the right thing to do.  Part of me certainly wants to sail off down through the islands and stay there for the next four or more years. The cruising community is far more appealing than all of the silliness happening on that spec of dirt that was once my home. Of course, being a Caucasian male, I can imagine a great many others in the country find this sort of exit plan to be more of a necessity. But I'm pretty sure I would rather spend the next years among cruisers than integrated back into what passes as U.S. society these days. I guess if anything, this whole thing may have increased the value of my boat.

Meanwhile, the work continues.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Back in Southport Again

We departed Beaufort for an overnight sail to Southport just before 4 PM in order to make the Beaufort bridge opening (saving us a little time having to backtrack and take the other route through Morehead City). The drawbridge opening had us and a couple fishing boats heading out for the evening.  I don't know exactly what it is about the Beaufort inlet, but for the second time in as many passages, it was a rough ride.  I guess the outgoing current combined with the easterly swell to make for a choppy entrance.  We bounced our way out and after turning on course, the sea mellowed out...somewhat.

The forecast was for 1 to 2 foot waves on a 12 second period and light winds from the Southwest.  While the winds would be directly on our nose, the seas should make for a fairly comfortable ride.  Of course, what to weather forecasters know about the weather.  The actual winds were around 15 knots, but it was from the south-southwest. There was a swell from the east that was probably a foot or two on 12 seconds, but the higher winds were also creating waves from the south that were also a couple feet on a six second period.  Not quite as smooth as forecast.

Still, the winds gave us an opportunity to sail, just not directly toward our destination.  We were making about 5 knots, with 2 or 3 of those in the actual direction we wanted to go (VMG). We sailed all night and by early in the morning we had made it a little over half-way.  At that point, we decided to fire up an engine and motor sail to get a better angle.  As the wind shifted around to be right on our nose, the sails came down and the other motor was started so we could make it to Southport before nightfall.

Our planned route (blue) and our actual course (magenta).
Tacking across the Onslow Bay danger area.
We arrived at the Masonboro inlet around noon, a couple hours later than planned...but at least we got to sail some so it was worth it.  The down side of being late was that we missed the ideal timing window for the trip through Snow's Cut and on to the Cape Fear river.  In an ideal case, I would have liked to have been at Snow's Cut at high tide so there wouldn't be a lot of current and then we could ride the falling current down the river.  Since we were late, we found we were fighting a 3+ knot current from the Carolina Beach inlet through the entrance to Snow's cut.  Something very noticeable when you are only traveling at 6 or 7 knots to begin with.  After only making 3 knots over the ground as we approached the cut, we did pick up another knot in the cut.

Once into the Cape Fear river and heading downstream, our speed was up to a brisk 8 or 9 knots even though the waves and wind were (as usual) directly on our nose.  It didn't take long until we were in Southport.

Normally I would stay at Deep Point marina as I like the combination of amenities and price.  Unfortunately, the number of cruisers heading south combined with the damage caused by Matthew and they didn't have any space available.  Fortunately, they did have one space left at their other marina, Indigo Plantation.  We made our way there, found the one last space for a wide-beam boat, and we were tied up and secure in Southport.

The following days we retrieved the car left at Dowry Creek, met some friends for dinner, met a couple fellow Leopard owners that were in the area, and started looking into what we should do about the remaining trip.  With all the damage in St. Augustine, dock space is at more of a premium than it is here and that comes with a premium price. At this point, we are considering leaving the boat here in Southport.  We have a dock at a reasonable rate and it is fairly well protected for the area. The down side is that it is a bit far from our broker and we will need to see about finding someone to keep an eye on the boat.

We haven't made any decisions yet, but we are running out of time so we will need to come up with a plan soon. Meanwhile, we are enjoying this charming town.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Day in Beaufort (N.C.)

Well, as much as I hated moving on this time around, it was time to leave my friends at Dowry Creek marina outside of Belhaven. The storms have passed (for now) and we have a few places we can stay as we continue south. Still don't know what our final destination is since Matthew did so much damage, but we will figure it out.

Bright and early Monday morning we untied the lines and motored away from the dock, heading down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), another step toward the end of our cruising journey. We left pretty early in hopes of making it to Beaufort, North Carolina.  In case there is any confusion, there is a Beaufort in both North and South Carolina and both are reported to be boating friendly towns.  To distinguish the two, I guess someone decided they should be pronounced differently.  So we are going to the one pronounced like "Bow-fort" and not the one "B-eww-furt" (sorry, I don't do phonetic spellings, but you get the idea).

Docked in the harbor north of Beaufort.

With the recent storm and flooding, we were concerned about two things on this trip.  First was what might be floating in the water, washed out by the storms.  Small debris we can probably deal with, but we definitely don't want to run over any partially sunken trees or house parts or whatever your imagination might come up with that could poke a hole in a fiberglass boat. Fortunately we only had one minor thud as a 2x4 that wasn't visible above the water bounced off the hull.  I was actually a bit surprised, but thankful, for the lack of debris we encountered.

The second issue is getting under the two fixed bridges that cross the ICW in this area.  They are supposed to be 65 feet above mean high water, but that doesn't take in to account for rives and canals that are inundated with the runoff from the storms.  We could see that the water was a foot or two higher than normal at Dowry Creek and I scoured the internet for any reports of water levels along our route.  I found that Oriental was a couple feet high and didn't find much else.  Since our mast is just under 60 feet above waterline, and the radio antenna puts us at 60 and change, we figured we should be good to go.  Most of the time bridges have a gauge at water level that tells you how much clearance you should have.  Since these areas aren't subject to normal tides, I guess the bridge builders decided this was unnecessary.  When we got to the first bridge we looked at the shoreline for indications of how high the water was relative to "normal".  The adjacent docks were above water but we couldn't see a normal high water line on the shore.  Needless to say, we went very slowly and luckily had no problems clearing the bridge.  Just after we made it through, a boat behind us called us on the radio. He watched with binoculars to see how we did and then called to ask how high our mast was so they would know if they should try it.  I guess we had at least three feet of clearance (what I had estimated), so they proceeded and no masts were damaged. The second bridge had a gauge and we were comforted to read 65 feet on it.

The historic main street shops in Beaufort, N.C.

It was a long day of motoring down the ICW.  There were two places where we could have sailed, but the wind was generally on our nose.  There were short segments where we put out the head sail and gained 0.3 knots or so, but it was our Westerbeke engines that kept us moving along.  We made pretty good time thanks to an out-flowing current from the second canal and arrived in Beaufort around 5PM. A little confusion with the entrance channel thanks to a new high-rise bridge they are building, and again with our slip at the marina, and by the time we were tied up we were beat.

One of the historic houses spotted on our walk through town.

The next morning, we did do a little exploring in town.  The marina we are at is on the north side of town and most of the touristy shops (and the more expensive docks) are on the south side of town, but it is a nice 4 block walk. Beaufort seems like a nice little town, far less industrial than its neighbor Morehead City.  It is a bit more of a tourist trap with waterside cafes and tee shirt shops, but still cute. The few people in town we met were quite nice.  We decided to go out for breakfast and the employees at Homer Smith's marina even let us use one of their cars to drive to the cafe.

Later that afternoon we continued our journey south.  Instead of risking possible issues with the ICW along the North Carolina coast, we departed for an overnight hop on the outside to Southport.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

More on the Albemarle Loop

This post is out of sequence thanks to the interruption of hurricane Matthew. I don't believe any of these facilities were damaged by the storm, but please call if you think you might go there sometime soon.

After a nice stop at the Albemarle Plantation marina, our next stop was Edenton, NC. It was less than a half day trip up the Albemarle to the dock at Edenton. The Edenton town dock is a relatively small facility with about a dozen slips and one small face dock (which is the only place a boat our size will fit and has a power pedestal).  The marina is protected by a sea wall that also serves as a fishing pier and was reportedly created with some old sections of a local highway bridge that had been replaced.

Edenton from the water.
The impressive part of this stop is what you get for free.  Two nights dockage is the norm in the loop. This marina also includes electricity in the offer, mediocre internet access, and has a courtesy car in case you need to go somewhere (like the grocery store) that isn't within walking distance. Like many courtesy cars, this one isn't the best vehicle but it does its job well enough.  The dash lights didn't work, but neither did the speedometer, so I guess the light isn't really needed.

The dock is adjacent to a public park, but there is a building that contains the dock master's office, public restrooms, and locked shower facilities reserved for boaters.  The facility is basic, but I've paid for marinas that have had much worse. The historic main street dead ends at the park, so the dock location for access the downtown shops and restaurants is ideal.

Edenton is a neat little town with a fair amount of American history.  It had a number of historic buildings including the oldest courthouse in North Carolina. The ladies of the town in the late 1700's were politically active and formed their own Tea Party (not to be confused with the current so called political group of the same name). The old Roanoke river lighthouse has made its home in the harbor right next to the docks.

The lighthouse and our boat at Edenton.
I really liked Edenton.  I've always heard Oriental was a great boating town, but I have to say that Edenton was more of what I had envisioned of Oriental and is certainly giving them a good run for the money as a boater friendly town.

After two nights in Edenton, we were on to our next stop.  Unfortunately, bridges deny us access to a couple of the stops on the loop as they are not 60 foot tall sailboat friendly. The next accessible port of call for us was Columbia. It was another half-day trip or so and is located across the Albemarle from the Albemarle Plantation marina. We arrived late on Sunday and Columbia is known to be pretty quiet on the weekends.  There was just enough space on the face dock to fit us (after a small motorboat that didn't use a slip left the spot). After looking around we found an after hours number posted on the bath house and were able to get the WiFi password so we could check on the weather and the status of Hurricane Matthew.

The Columbia Docks.
It didn't take us long to decide that we would have to cut our visit to Columbia short and seek a more sheltered location for the potential storm.  We walked into town and found a winery that had a coffee and sandwich shop for a quick dinner. As we walked back to the boat we noted a sign at the dock that marked the height of the water, a good foot and a half above the dock, from another hurricane that had visited the area in the past. Similar to Edenton, the dock is situated at the end of the old main street.  Unfortunately most shops were closed and we left early the next morning so we didn't get a good feel for this particular town.

View of Columbia main street from the docks.
We left early the following morning in order to make it as far south (and inland) as we could before the storm was to possibly arrive in the area.  We headed out of the Abemarle and into the Alligator river, through the bridge (that doesn't open if the winds go above 35 knots), down through the Alligator-Pungo canal and down the Pungo to Dowry Creek marina near Bellhaven.  As you have already read, this is where we ended up weathering the storm.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Dealing With Hurricane Matthew

As I previously mentioned, we were exploring some of the stops of the Albemarle Loop when we decided that hurricane Matthew was likely to become an issue for us.  We were at the dock in Columbia, North Carolina with internet access when we looked at the weather, and forecasts seemed to show that Matthew was likely to come up the coast and make landfall in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  The Albemarle is known for being unpleasant in bad weather, so we decided we should try to head a bit more south and inland.

We made a run south, through the Alligator River Bridge (that closes if the winds go over 35 knots), down the Alligator-Pungo canal, and into the Pungo river.  We stopped that evening at Dowry Creek marina with the intention of making our way on to Oriental where we had a car waiting for us.  We figured a car would be a good thing if we needed to evacuate.  When we got to Dowry Creek, we kept an eye on the weather and by the following morning the forecasts seemed to be turning to follow us. We decided that Dowry Creek and the Pungo river were better protected (and a bit more inland) than Oriental, so decided this is where we would stay.

One of the live-aboard residents was gracious enough to give us a ride to retrieve our car from Oriental.  Then we began preparations for the potential storm.  We gathered up important paperwork and packed enough that we could leave for a few days if necessary.  The winds at the dock were not cooperating and were blowing up to 30 knots across the beam of the boat.  On a slightly less windy day, we ended up tying bow-in to the face dock so we would point into the wind and could remove the sails and stack pack.

The marina we were at, as is the case with many fixed-dock marinas in the area, does not allow boats to remain if a hurricane is expected to hit. There is normally no tide here, so pilings are not all that tall, and a large storm surge could easily cause problems. Instead, a number of the boats chose to anchor in one of the more protected creeks in the area. We watched the forecasts and, for a time, it appeared the storm may veer off to the east before it was this far north.  Then the last couple days, the forecast started creeping north again.

On Friday we decided to anchor the boat as far up Dowry creek as we could, bring the dinghy back to the marina, and then take the car to a hotel well inland. We left the dock and motored up the creek, keeping an eye on the depths as we went.  We found a spot we thought would work and then circled around to verify the depths anywhere the boat might swing during the storm. We dropped our anchor in about 5 feet of water. Since the storm surge was expected to be around 5 feet, we decided a bit more than a 10:1 scope for a 15 foot depth would be the best we could do and still allow adequate swing room. I know that some use multiple anchors for a storm, but lacking multiple Mantus anchors (I have a Bruce and small Danforth along with my Mantus primary), I decided a single anchor approach would work best.  After watching a video on Youtube of a Leopard in the Bahamas swinging wildly at anchor during Matthew after its bridle broke, I did use two dock lines to rig a backup bridle that would take up any slack if the main bridle failed.  We secured everything as best we could and then bid Rover a temporary farewell and headed back to the marina in the dinghy.

After securing the dinghy at the marina, we drove to Raleigh to a hotel we had booked several days before. After a long day, despite the nervousness of leaving the boat, we crashed soon after arriving at the hotel.  The next day it rained like crazy in Raleigh. Apparently Matthew was interacting with a local front to create an obscene amount of rain inland.  In a bit of irony, when we called the marina they reported that the weather was reasonable and they were getting last minute preparations done. That night was a restless night for us. The storm grazed the area, with peak wind gusts around 70 knots and sustained winds in the tropical storm force range. When we checked the weather on Sunday morning, the storm had passed by and was finally dying as it head out into the Atlantic.

The weather was nice that morning, almost eerily nice. The problem was that all the rain was now causing severe flooding in between our location in Raleigh and our boat near Belhaven.  We called the marina to see if everyone and everything was OK. We were told everyone and all the boats, including ours, were doing fine. It would just be a day or two until we could get back. We ended up making a trip up to Virginia to retrieve our other car and from there were able to find clear roads to get us back to the boat.

Approaching Rover after the storm.

When we arrived back at the marina, we drained the water from the dinghy (it was left upright so it would fill with water and hold it down when the winds picked up) and reattached the motor.  We made our way back to Rover and found her where we left her.  One of the lifeline gates had come loose but the netting held it secure enough.  Otherwise, the boat was in great condition!  We removed the secondary bridle (it was never actually used) and fired up the engines.  It took a bit to pull up the anchor as the winds apparently helped it dig in pretty well.  When we deployed the anchor, I added a trip line with a float attached (to mark the anchor location in case any other boats thought about anchoring near us after we left) and used that line to help coax the anchor out of the creek bed.  It came up with a good amount of mud and some decaying wood branches on it. I used about 6 buckets full of water to clean the mud off of the anchor and chain as we pulled it in. I'm very happy with the performance of my Mantus anchor, it has held the boat everywhere I've put it.

A short motor back to the marina and we were once again tied to the dock and plugged in.  Everything turned out about as well as it could have regarding weathering the storm.  What happens next is still up in the air.  With all the destruction to the south of us, we are wondering if it makes sense to try and continue going south.  Will we be able to find marinas and fuel along the way?  Will there be new shoaling or missing markers?  We simply do not know at this time.  So, it is unclear if we will be continuing the trip south soon or if we will need to stay put a while longer.  These are the questions we will need to answer in the coming days.

But for now we are just happy that everything is well and we are once again back on the boat.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Plate of Matthew Spaghetti

From my aviation days I've learned not to trust the local weathermen and their presentation of the weather.  As a result, I tend to look at the raw data myself.  Until I moved onto a boat, I never looked at hurricane models, but I can completely understand why they are called spaghetti models.

Plot from the website.

With a plate like that, all you need is a little marinara. I guess some of those are what the NWS uses when they come up with these charts.

[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]
National Weather Service current forecast for Matthew.

No wonder those "uncertainty cones" can get so large.  On the bright side (for us), the forecast is looking a little better.  Feeling sorry for the Bahamas, Florida, and Georgia as well as all of those that have already been hit by this storm.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Running for Cover

Sorry for the lack of posts...I'll get back to writing about the Albemarle Loop when I have more time. We made a bit of an early departure from the Albemarle when Matthew started looking like it might come up the east coast somewhere and figured we did not want to be in that particular sound if we might encounter a storm.

Current Forecast of Matthew from NOAA/NWS.

We are a bit further inland right now, near Bellhaven, North Carolina.  Naturally, that now seems to be right in the crosshairs of Matthew so we are busy preparing for the storm.  Most of the marinas in the area do not allow boats to stay during a significant storm, so we will likely be doing as many others around us are and anchoring the boat out in the best hiding space we can find.  We will prepare the boat as best we can to ride out the storm, anchor her in as safe a place as we can, then leave her there to ride out the storm as we seek shelter inland.

It is a bit of a nerve racking time and we are quite busy, but I wanted to put out a quick note as a number of folks have already inquired.  With good preparation and perhaps a bit of luck, we should be back to normal in short order.

Stay tuned...more to come.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Starting the Albemarle Loop

Tuesday morning I get up and check the local weather on the radio and local TV broadcasts.  It sounds like there is a good chance of rain and thunderstorms, but most of it would be in Norfolk and north....good thing we were going south.  After breakfast we prepare to depart the free dock at Great Bridge.  Apparently everyone else had the same idea as two boats were already gone and the rest departed along with us.

The Centerville Turnpike Bridge was the first bridge south of Great Bridge and is closed between 6:30am and 8:30am. Those of us that departed together made our way to the bridge and rejoined those who had left a bit earlier as we all waited for the post-rush-hour opening of the bridge. We had about a 10 minute wait and made it through the bridge.  From there it is about 5 nautical miles to the North Landing Bridge.  This means if your boat can do better than 10 knots, you can make the next opening in half an hour.  For a trawler, 3 sailboats and us, a semi-leisurely 5 knots will get us there in time for the 9:30 opening.

The North Landing Bridge has some ongoing mechanical issues and has some opening restrictions.  I guess they are currently unable to raise both spans of the bridge at the same time, so most of the openings are of only one span.  For larger ships, there are specific times where the bridge tender will raise (or partially raise) the other span.  9:30 was one of the latter openings and there was a barge sitting on the other side of the bridge waiting to head north.  As soon as the first span was open, all of the southbound traffic proceeded through, and we passed the barge just as the other span was opened enough for the barge to proceed. It actually worked out pretty well...almost like it was choreographed that way.

Approaching the North Landing Bridge.
Once through the bridge, everyone resumed a normal cruise speed as there were no more time restricted bridges in the near future.  The trawler at the head of the group (which happened to be docked next to us the night before) headed off at what was probably around 8 knots.  We passed one monohull sailboat in front of us and made way at a comfortable 7 knots.  The other sailboats lagged behind us just a bit, probably in the 5 to 6 knot range.  It definitely isn't a NASCAR race on the ICW.

We all make our way down the North Landing River and out into Currituck Sound. We bid farewell to Virginia and enter North Carolina.  A little after lunch we passed by the town of Coinjock and the two marinas that, as best I can tell, are the only businesses in the "town". Some folks like to stop here, but I find it to be a bit overpriced for what it is.  I guess the restaurant at the Coinjock Marina is supposed to be decent, but I've never tried it so I don't know.  If you need provisions, you might be able to find some basic staples at their store. Since we didn't need anything and wanted to make it a bit farther this day, we kept moving on.

We made our way down the North River and headed west just before reaching the Albemarle.  Broad Creek is a well protected anchorage, and that was where we intended to spend the evening at anchor.  When we arrived at the mouth of Broad Creek, we found the gentleman in the trawler, which was docked behind us at Great Bridge, anchored just outside the mouth of the creek.  We made our way into the creek and quickly realized why he was anchored outside the mouth of the creek.  The light wind that could be felt at the mouth of the creek was completely gone in the protection of the creek itself.  We decided that a little breeze would help keep things cool and hopefully less buggy, so we went back out and anchored near the mouth of the river, giving as much room as possible to those already there.  Good thing we did as the wind died during the night.  The boat stayed cool enough but was covered in bugs in the morning.

We pulled up the anchor and made our way to the Albemarle. Our original first intended stop along the Albemarle Loop was Elizabeth City.  Since we couldn't take the Dismal Swamp route and have stayed at Elizabeth City on two other occasions, we decided it wasn't worth backtracking up the Pasquotank River for a third visit. Instead, we planned to make our way to Albemarle Plantation Marina.  As we entered the Albemarle, we found the forecasted 5 to 10 knot winds from the east were at the light end of the scale. Even with the spinnaker up we would only be able to make 2 knots.  So again we motored along.

The Albemarle is littered with crab pots.  The lines and marker floats dotting the waters surface make for an interesting navigation challenge at times.  You definitely don't want to wrap one of those lines around a propeller. I do wonder about the fishermen sometimes. I understand that they are just trying to make a living and supply the world with crab, and I don't begrudge them for that.  But when they use black, dark blue, or other low-visibility floats, you have to wonder what they are thinking.  In addition to the damage it can cause a boat, losing their equipment when it gets entangled in a boat and has to be cut away can't be cheap for the fishermen.  Or when the wind or currents cause the equipment to move from the original location I can only imagine that these nearly camouflaged buoys are impossible to find. Yet it seems that at least half the fishermen use these hard to see markers.

Orange floats work...but can you see the other two?
The other issue with fishermen is placement of gear in known narrow boating channels.  This seems to happen a lot in the Albemarle.  The two ICW routes are charted and yet I've seen numerous lines of crab pots criss-crossing the route and, yes, sometimes with the very difficult to see floats. The rather narrow and shallow entrance into the Albemarle Plantation Marina had several crab pots littering the navigable part of the channel.  This behavior makes me seriously rethink the idea of adding line cutters to the prop shafts.  Originally my thought was that fishermen were just trying to make a living, but now my thought seems to shift to the idea that, if you are mining a known boating channel, then losing your pot when the float and line is cut off to protect a prop shaft seems reasonable.

In addition to the crab pots, we found the channel leading to the Albemarle Plantation Marina to be a bit narrow and shallow.  Luckily it wasn't too bad, and we were able to maneuver our nearly 22 foot beam through OK but did see depths around 5.5 feet in spots. I know the Albemarle has a bit of a reputation for being rough when the winds pick up so I probably wouldn't want to navigate that channel in my beamy boat on a rough day.

When we arrived at the Albermarle Plantation Marina, we docked at one of their T-heads and were met by their dockmaster Richard, a very nice and accommodating fellow. He helped get us tied up and situated.  The power pedestal was a bit away from the T-head so he let us borrow a power cable to use as an extension.  After we got settled, he gave us a tour of the Plantation on his golf cart.  As a guest of the Plantation, you have access to the bathhouse (with a free washer and dryer), WiFi, clay tennis courts, the swimming pool, and the restaurant at the clubhouse. The only issue is that the facilities are rather far from the boat, with the pool, golf pro shop, and restaurant being around 2/3 of a mile away.  The plantation has golf carts and they used to be free to use by loopers, but some bad apples apparently made a mess of a couple carts so they now charge $25/day.  Given dockage is free and 30 amp electric was only $4.25, even if you go with a golf cart, it is still a reasonable place to stay for a day or two. There is no place to provision in the area, even with the golf cart, so you need to plan accordingly.

The Albemarle Plantation T-head dock.

The restaurant at the club has a main dining area and a "grille".  The main dining area is probably a bit more formal than the average cruiser as slacks and a nice shirt are required.  The grille allows for casual dress and serves many of the same items, if not exactly the same menu.  We did have lunch at the Grille and found the prices to be reasonable with sandwiches and salads in the $8 to $10 range. The posted dinner menu appeared to be in the high teens and up, and they have an early bird special on Wednesday and Thursday that included a selection of several entrees, salad, and desert for $16.

Albemarle Plantation Marina docks. The harbormaster
office in in the distance on the right.
Overall this has been an interesting stop.  Other than a place to do some laundry or to drive around and see the mostly-retirement community, there isn't a lot to do.  It is more of a relaxing stop for when you need a day or two off (or to catch up on your blog posts. :-) ).  Today we should be heading to our next stop, the town docks at Edenton NC.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Making a Break South

Well, the Dismal Swamp route has been closed for about a week now.  Announcements could be heard daily on the VHF radio that the "South Mills Lock is closed due to high water levels". We decided to take the more heavily traveled Albemarle-Chesapeake canal route.  While we wanted to stop at the Dismal Visitors center, the real highlight of that route is Robert. We have always enjoyed visiting with the lock and bridge tender at the Deep Creek lock. If you ever decide to give the Dismal a try, coffee and a chat with Robert is not to be missed.

We left the marina at York River on Sunday. We were actually able to sail...for a little while.  A close reach, then beam, then broad before the winds finally calmed and we were left motoring the last bit into the Hampton Roads area.  One more time by the big gray military ships at the military docks and Naval Shipyard in Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Ships of old and new in Norfolk.
We stayed at the free docks in Portsmouth once again.  Although the wooden docks of the north landing are not in as nice of shape as the south location, we chose it. The north landing docks are a couple inches higher so don't tend to go underwater as often at high tide.  The north landing is also closer to the public restroom at the visitors center, the water spigot, and free pump out.  It amazes me that more people don't take advantage of this dock.  The only reason I can think of is that they are scared off by the "No overnight mooring" signs at the entrance...that I think only apply to the dolphins and structure around the entrance to these locations (newer signs with the rules about overnight docking are now posted in various locations inside the basins of each of the free docks). The only negative is that all the local hotels have finally secured their WiFi so we only had limited internet access via our phones.

The Portsmouth North Landing free dock. Plenty of
free space at this location while we were here
The next day was a very short trip with the goal to re-position for better timing of the next few legs and to give us plenty of time to make it through the gauntlet of bridges south of Portsmouth and Norfolk. I remember my first time through here I overlooked the Gilmerton bridge and arrived there sometime around 5 pm. I didn't know the name of the bridge (I still don't understand why they are not posted in charts or on the actual bridge, but they usually are not) and it was just dumb luck that there happened to be a commercial tug with an opening reservation. Monitoring the name during the radio conversation, we were able to get through with the opening for the tug.

We left the free dock late enough that we wouldn't have an issue with the typical urban area rush-hour closures. But the craziness in Norfolk didn't disappoint.  Not long into the trip we came across one of the "normally open unless there is a train" bridges.  Was it open...nope.  Was it closed....nope.  This was a lift bridge that was about half-way up.  Now, I know some pretty large boats come through here and there is a good chance that half-way up was over the 60 feet of clearance I would need...but from the boat it can be really hard to tell, particularly when everything around the bridge is of a larger scale than you are used to (remember those big, gray, military boats). I had to look up the name of the bridge (in a list I had downloaded from Blue Seas a while ago) and try to hail them.  I was successful and found that the bridge was at 80 feet...plenty of room to pass.

Not a lot of clearance under one of these when closed.

Two bridges later I found another lift bridge that was not completely closed.  But this time it was only a few feet from the closed position.  I definitely could not get through it.  So, once again, the search for the bridge name in my list of all the bridges of the ICW and give them a call.  No response. Then I remember reading somewhere that one of the bridge operators doesn't tend to respond to current name of the bridge, but instead responds to it's old name.  I look it up in my offline Active Captain database and find that sure enough, the "Norfolk and Western" bridge was the one that apparently prefers to be called "Old Virginia" so I give it a try.  They immediately responded that they were running some tests and the bridge would be opening in a few minutes.

The final bridge issue was my old friend the Gilmerton.  Funny how I don't need to look this bridge up, it has been ingrained in my memory since that first encounter. As we approach, I see a boat waiting but it is farther away than most usually wait.  I give the bridge a call and they tell me to come to the closest day marker and they would open up.  Of course, about the time we get the mark I see the railroad bascule bridge that is just on the other side of the Gilmerton start to close. I knew what was next before the bridge tender even made the radio call.  She said that the railroad bridge was closing and she would open once the train bridge went back up (no point to raising the Gilmerton if you cannot pass due to the train).  No train, just a railroad work pickup crosses.  I guess it must be maintenance time for all the area railroad bridges.  Oh well, it was only another 20 minute delay or so.  Once the railroad bridge and the Gilmerton bridge opened, we were on our way.

The last obstacles are the Great Bridge lock and bridge.  A short wait for the lock to open (and only one powerboat that had to push his way past everyone else to be at the head of the line) and we were in the lock.  The Great Bridge lock is the least eventful of the locks and it seems sometimes it only raises or lowers a boat by inches. So, before you know anything happens, the gates at the opposite end of the lock open and you are on your way...the few hundred feet to the bridge.  Fortunately the lock operates in concert with the bridge so there really isn't much of a wait.

The free dock at Great Bridge.
There are two free docks at Great Bridge.  One is on the south side between the bridge and the lock.  It was empty.  The other is on the north side just past the lock.  We couldn't see it before we passed under the bridge, but once through, we found that it was pretty full.  There was enough space for us, but only if a boat that was already there moved down a bit.  So, after pulling over toward the dock, I spin the catamaran around.  I think a large boat spinning 180 degrees in a channel gets a little attention, and the owner of the one boat figured out I wanted to dock and offered to walk his boat down a few feet so we would fit.  After getting our boat tied up, I went down and thanked him for moving down.  There was still enough space for about a 25 foot or smaller boat, but otherwise the dock was full.  I can understand as this new dock is definitely the nicer of the two.

Boats at the Free Dock and Atlantic Yachts at Great Bridge.
Tomorrow the plan is to make our way south, past Coinjock, and then on to an anchorage just north of the Albemarle.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Too Dismal for Dismal

Well, at the end of my last post I mentioned that we were waiting out a little bad weather.  It's not a lot of fun to sail in the rain without a cockpit enclosure and there didn't seem to be any reason to do it when sun would return in a few days.

The sun returned and we were making plans to head out on Friday.  Then late Thursday I saw a notice posted on Facebook that the ICW south of Norfolk was closed.  Both the Dismal Swamp Canal and Albemarle-Chesapeake Canal routes were closed.  If you follow my Facebook page, I did re-share the post on the closure. I tried finding confirmation that evening and wasn't able to confirm the closure until I called Robert, the lock and bridge tender at Deep Creek, the following morning.

Image accompanying the Chesapeake Bay Magazine's
Facebook post on the closures.
That rain that we were waiting to pass was apparently worse just south of us and caused a bunch of flooding.  Now, you would think that flooding wouldn't be a big issue for a boat, but it apparently is for the various draw bridges and locks along those routes. The Dismal Swamp route locks couldn't be operated with waters as high as they were. Apparently the already problematic North Landing bridge, and possibly one or more others along the other route, could not be opened for fear of damage due to the flood waters.

Image from the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center's
Facebook page.
So, we continue to wait.  The Albemarle-Chesapeake route has been re-opened, but the Dismal swamp route remains closed.  Given how we often encounter floating logs and other issues in the swamp, we are rethinking taking that route as I can only imagine what flood waters have washed up (not to mention it isn't expected to be reopened until next week).  We are altering our plans to take the more heavily traveled route.  In order to try and avoid some of the heavy weekend traffic (and hopefully let that traffic help clear anything that might be in the way), we hope to continue our trip south tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Down the Chesapeake

After our stop in St. Michaels, we started making our way down the Chesapeake. Our first stop was in Solomons MD.  This is the same place we stopped on the way up.  We chose to go to Calverts marina again since they only charge $1/foot for dockage and that is a bargain by just about anyone's standards.  The transient docks are good quality floating docks and they have an on-site pool and restaurant.  One convenient feature of the marina is a courtesy car and, although it is not in the best shape, is enough to get you to nearby stores if you need provisions or something for the boat. The bathhouse closest to the transient docks are also the ones closest to the boatyard and what I could only describe as "boatyard rustic" with painted concrete walls and floors and a hodgepodge of fixtures.  I don't mind the rustic facilities, but wish they were a bit more clean.

We used the courtesy car to pick up a couple things from the grocery store and stopped by a local BBQ place for lunch.  Courtesy cars are always an interesting thing.  I was first introduced to the concept as a pilot.  Smaller airports in smaller towns would often provide a car to allow people passing through to visit (and spend money at) local businesses.  Many marinas, especially those that are a bit out of town, also provide cars as a perk as those traveling by boat don't usually carry long-distance transportation any more than those in small personal aircraft.  The car is provided for free (other than you are generally expected to replace the gasoline you use) so they are often not the greatest of vehicles and not in the greatest of repair. I've learned to test basic things before taking a courtesy car very far.  Quick check of forward and reverse at slow speeds and brake effectiveness and function of the lights if we might be out in other than sunny daytime conditions.  Despite their limitations, they are very handy resources to have and are often greatly appreciated.

Courtesy cars can be looks nice from a distance.
At Solomons, the courtesy car is an old diesel Mercedes sedan.  The car runs OK, the suspension is a bit loose as is the steering linkage.  With 200,000 plus miles, the worst part of the car are the collapsing seat cushions, failed air conditioning, and failed drivers side window.  Very minor inconveniences and definitely better than walking the mile or two to the stores.

Although we didn't spend much time looking around, Solomons appears to be a touristy, weekend vacation sort of town. Thanks to the weather we decided to spend two nights here before continuing our trip south. The second morning we departed Solomons (and Maryland) for Ingram Bay Marina across the Potomac in Virginia.  As with most of the trip thus far, what little wind we have had has been pretty much right on the nose so not much sailing has happened.

Ingram Bay marina is a small marina guessed it...Ingram Bay. When we arrived we found a rather narrow channel, but it was wide enough for our boat.  The reported depths of over 6 feet must have been at the middle of the channel, but we found around 5 feet of water under our hulls as we crossed the breakwater into the marina basin. Once inside the basin the depth increased and we tried following the instructions for where to dock.  When we got to what we thought the marina had said, we found a slip that was about half the width of the boat.  We ended up tying off to the fuel dock instead.

The marina is a smaller facility, with covered and open slips for mostly smaller boats.  The fuel dock and one other end finger pier are the only places where larger boats can dock and I'm not sure if anything much larger than our boat can be accommodated, but we did fit.  It is in a nice setting and the marina owner also has a bunch of the surrounding property.  On it he has a couple cabins for rent as well as a lot of open area that our dogs really enjoyed.  The bath house is again rather basic, but here it is in better repair and cleaner than the last stop. This marina is again a bit out of the way, in fact, it is over 12 miles from the nearest town with stores. The owner, Captain Billy, offered to pick up something for us when he went into town later or we could use his work truck as a courtesy car. We took him up on the offer of the truck and went to town.  The best part of this marina was the WiFi though.  WiFi seems to be a common problem at most marinas but this one worked pretty well.  My guess is that it may be the quiet location and lack of users, but it was nice to have a more consistent connection (guess I should have worked on a post there...but didn't have a lot of time...sorry).

We left Ingram Bay the following day and made our way to the York river, just south of where we were when we built the hardtop.  This was intended to be a longer stop as it was where we had repositioned one of the cars. We arrived at the marina and I called them on the radio and they gave me instructions to a slip.  This was interesting since they said they would likely put me on a face dock.  I re-confirmed my beam and directions to the slip and made my way in.  As I approached the slip I could tell we wouldn't fit but the employees still seemed to think we would.  Since it had adequate rubber edge protection, I slowly moved the boat back until it touched on both sides.  We were a good foot wider than the slip, two or more if you include fenders.  After seeing the obvious evidence, they moved us to a face dock.

Rainy day on the York river.
Since our arrival, we have spent time re-positioning cars, re-provisioning, meeting with friends, and  other mundane tasks (I really did need a haircut). We are preparing to move on again, so naturally the weather seems to be deteriorating and with the rain I finally had a little time for another post. In the next few stops we are going to make our way through the Dismal swamp and the Albemarle loop before stopping again in Oriental, North Carolina.

Friday, September 9, 2016

St. Michaels...or Bye Bye Baltimore.

Finally...yesterday, we finally left Baltimore.  It was starting to feel like we were stuck in the mud.   Baltimore harbor is typically mud colored (or at least that is what I keep telling myself as the other options for that color are less appealing) but I know boats can move on it.  With some plans made and storms out of the way, it was well past time to go.

We departed in a morning with fair weather but not much wind.  Oh well, moving by motor is better than not moving at all. The temperatures were expected to be "above normal" and "near record breaking"...two phrases we have heard far too much in the time we have spent here.  We motored along and a light breeze picked up from the southeast...naturally the direction we were heading.  I have to admit the high temperatures, having wind on the nose is better than having no wind at all.  The wind made the temperatures bearable.

The bay bridge as we head southbound leaving Baltimore.
As we approached St. Michaels, my wife decided that she wasn't all that keen on anchoring out in the heat and about 30 minutes from arrival, she started calling to see if any marina's could handle our boat.  Smaller towns, particularly the further north you are, tend to have very limited options for boats as wide as ours.  She was able to find one and, after a little confusion trying to get directions from the marina, we where parked at their face dock.

I forget who told me or exactly how the warning went, but it was something to the effect of: the more times 'yacht' is found in the name of a marina or boatyard, the less likely you will actually find something worthy of the name 'yacht' and the less likely the facilities would live up to the standards of someone who owned a 'yacht'. The place we spent the first night lived up to that reputation. It is a combination marina and boatyard.  The most notable problems were the WiFi signal that didn't make it out to the docks and the restroom (that was described in one review as basic) I would describe as boatyard rustic with rusting fixtures, exposed plumbing  and flaking paint over cinder block and concrete construction.

Part of the St. Michaels Harbor
While it wasn't really all that bad, I had hoped for better at this charming little town. Oh, and did I mention that they only had room for us that one night and we wanted to stay two?  So, after getting settled in, I did a little searching and found that another marina across the way had a Friday special of $1.50/foot (plus a $29 resort fee that includes resort amenities).  This is a very good rate for this area, so we moved across the harbor the following morning.

Rover at the new dock...from near the old one.

After getting the boat over to the new dock, we took a couple of the resort bicycles and toured the town. It is a cute older town with lots of historic buildings from the boat building and fishing days. There are a couple museums including the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. This is a tourist town, so the main street is also lined with lots of stores and restaurants.

Buildings near the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
Waterfront homes were a bit different back then.

We had lunch at an overpriced gourmet pizza place that could only survive in a tourist town (high price and less than mediocre food doesn't make for many repeat customers). Fortunately our ice cream stop later in the day proved to be a much better option and a welcome respite from the heat. The St. Michaels museum was an interesting stop and a chance to tour historic structures and see how people lived long ago in St. Michaels.

The main street in St. Michaels
Cannonball house.  Called this not because it stored cannonballs or was some important
part of the war of 1812, but because a cannonball came through the roof  and scared the

The town is definitely worth a stop.  If you are here on a Friday, I would even recommend the Harbour Inn Marina and Spa (even though I won't know how the free continental breakfast is until tomorrow) on a Friday. Stop by the St Michaels museum for a peek into the past and a map for a walking (or biking) tour of the town. Might skip the pizza place though.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Waiting Out Hermine

We think we have a basic plan for making it down the Chesapeake. We even plan on doing some of the Albemarle Loop. Of course, Hermine (just upgraded from a TS to an H) also seems to be planning to visit everything we will on our way south.  So, for now we will sit here in what we hope will be a bit safer location to wait out the storm.

The forecast "cone" seems to change a bit as we go, but so far Baltimore seems to be outside of it. The worst of the forecasts are showing winds no more than 30 knots or so in the area.  We have doubled up on dock lines, added extra chafe protection, and removed most loose items from the cockpit.  Tomorrow is supposed to be the calm before the storm, so we will continue to watch the forecasts and make appropriate preparations.

To all our friends and acquaintances in the path of Hermine, we hope you stay safe and secure.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Two Days at The Mall

Naturally, if you are in the Washington D.C. area playing tourist, you need to spend some time on the National Mall.  Many of the nations iconic monuments reside here (you know, the ones the aliens or other bad guys always destroy first when attacking in the movies?).  The Capitol building, White House, National Archives, Washington Monument, Jefferson Monument, Lincoln Monument, memorials for several of our wars, as well as many of the museums and holdings of the Smithsonian Institution are all nearby.

Washington and Jefferson monuments.

Getting to the mall from Baltimore and finding parking was expected to be a chore. We decided to drive to a park-and-ride and then take the Metro into the city. During the week, parking is a little over $5 but it is free on the weekend. To use the Metro, we needed a reloadable fare card ($2) and then could put money on it to cover the $3.60 fare to the mall. Once on the mall there is a D.C. Circulator bus that does laps around the mall and monuments. It costs 1$ to ride, but was free as a transfer from the Metro since we had the card.  With the card it seems that rides within a couple hours are considered transfers and are free or a discounted rate.  In the end, it cost us right around $18 to ride the train and a few laps around the mall with the circulator.

Thomas Jefferson Statue.

Washington Monument, Capitol, and gold dome of the
Natural History Museum.

Over the weekend we visited several of the monuments, visited the National Archives, National Gallery of Art, and toured the Smithsonian Institution's Natural History Museum, American History Museum, and the Air and Space Museum,

Statue at the Lincoln Memorial

Vietnam Memorial

A residence I would never want.

A few VanGogh paintings from the National Gallery.

And a couple from Renoir.

The Smithsonian "Castle"
visitors center.

Bert and Ernie at the
American History Museum

A "flash mob" style picnic at the mall.

Hopefully I will find some reason to be back in this area with more time to explore these national treasures.