Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Long Time Coming

Ok, things are finally returning to what passes as normal these days and so I've managed to carve out a little time to catch the blog up on what has been going on the past couple weeks.

As you know we decided to head to a marina after arriving here in the Chesapeake Bay.  We were looking for a place to get some work done because...well...we own a boat and the list if things to fix never seems to end. My original goal was to replace our soft bimini with a fiberglass hard top I can walk on.  In addition to having a great place to mount much needed solar panels, the top could be set up to collect rain water and provide for a safer access to the boom should something go wrong while underway.

Of course the top wasn't the only problem.  I've had another seacock freeze and, in fact, I was able to break the handle off of it while trying to open it during our trip up.  So, the idea that I should just replace all the through-hulls (that I originally wanted done when last in Deltaville but the yard failed to accomplish) is back near the top of the list.  And that project requires that the boat be hauled out of the water again.  In addition, we have a variety of other problems that we have discovered need attention,

Not having much luck in finding a yard that could both haul our catamaran (the 21' 3" beam limits options) and allow us to do our own work (my experience thus far indicates that yard work is often expensive and below my quality expectations...if you can get them to do any work at all), we decided to alter our plans a bit.  We were able to find a regular marina that was nearby and not overly expensive.  This would allow us to get some in-the-water repair work done on the boat and could tick another task off the list.  You see, my parents have never seen our boat or gone sailing with me and if we could stay put for a little bit, they could come out for a visit.

So, after confirming space at the marina, my parents were able to set up a trip to come see us.  About this time the "unusually hot" weather I previously mentioned started up.  We were able to get some things done, but it always seems to go slower than you expect on a boat.  When I owned a home, the most pesky repairs always seemed to involve plumbing, where I would have to run to the hardware store at least three or four times to get parts I either didn't foresee I would need or that were different than I anticipated.  Boat projects all seem to go the way my plumbing projects did.  Even having cars at our disposal, a project you think should take a couple hours seems to take all day.  Still, I managed to get the AC pump, an electrical plug, and our spinnaker halyard replaced.

While I have had internet access, I've been researching options for building that hard top. I seem to have new ideas on structure and materials every day.  One of my biggest problems so far is finding good engineering data so I can construct a lightweight top that will support my weight. I even considered building the top on the boat right at the marina, but decided that building a 10 foot by 8 foot top in place would be tricky at best and a potential disaster at worst.  I am confident I can build the top for a much friendlier price than the pre-built option, if I can only get the engineering right.

My parent's trip would encompass both Father's Day and my dad's birthday so I also tried to set up something for him.  I know he likes fishing, so I tried to see if there was something I could do to take him both sailing and fishing during his visit.  Unfortunately, I just don't have the knowledge or experience and after a couple days worth of looking at equipment and supplies, I threw in the towel on that idea.

New pressure tank and water filter

Then a day before my parents were to arrive, my usual luck with things crops up. Our galley sink had a Brita drinking filter attached to it and it started leaking, spraying a stream of water backwards and in the general direction of the microwave.  Thinking it was just a simple seal problem and knowing that electric appliances don't like taking showers, we went to the hardware store to find a replacement gasket.  Two hardware stores later we managed to find the washer, only to discover that didn't solve the problem.  Using a bright flashlight and magnifier, I was able to find out that the leak wasn't with the gasket but a pinhole that developed in the sink spout itself...and our attempts to fix it have only made it worse.  So, I ended up having to replace the entire faucet.  Three trips to three different stores to find a faucet that could be made to work.  Adding an under-sink filter to the cold water supply because no faucet we found would support the old filter, and replacing the water system pressure tank because it was old and rusting and if I was going to have to do all this other work anyway, might as well fix that too.  About 12 hours spent collecting the various parts needed for the fix and two hours actually installing the parts, and the sink worked once again.  No more filter hanging off the faucet, a larger filter hiding under the sink, and a pull out faucet that fits well with the boat so I'm happy with the results.

New galley faucet

Then we found some bugs in one of our food storage bins.  Not ants, weevils, or roaches but a bunch of small moths...and moth larvae.  Fortunately for us, we keep our food stores in a variety of plastic bins and the moths seem to have been limited to one bin, with a few escapees in the locker itself.  Best we can tell the moths hitchhiked their way in by hiding in some boxes of cake mix that we were gifted.  Yep, we broke the rule of no paper/cardboard boxes on the boat and the result was a few dozen unwanted guests.  We pulled everything out of the locker, cleaned up the locker, cleaned up the storage box with the moths, THREW AWAY the paperboard boxed cake mixes, and then put everything else back together.

New halyard for the spinnaker.

We completed the fixes and cleanup as my parents got to town.  And I still had other things I wanted to get done.  We needed to actually clean up the boat some (it always seems to be a mess and two dogs currently shedding isn't helping the situation) and we were due for an oil change before I take the boat out again (which I wanted to do with my parents).

Then this past week we've been playing tourist and tour guide...but more on that next time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


I'm sorry.  It's been over a week since I've posted anything and I haven't been that slow in a long time. It has been just a little crazy here and by the end of the day I just haven't had the time or energy to make a post.

Trying to figure out the hard top, where to get the boat hauled for the through hull replacement that should have happened last year but did not, Fathers day, "unseasonably hot" weather, a kitchen sink faucet that decided to start spraying water in directions other than the sink, one of our food stores going condo for some rather pesky moths, and my parents coming for a visit and to see the boat for the first time has eaten up all of my time.

And, unfortunately the lack of time will probably happen again today, so all I can say is stay tuned for more. On the bright side, the plan is to take the boat out for a sail least until the heat index of 100 tells us we have spent enough time baking in the sun.

Monday, June 15, 2015


Well, we apparently chose a good time to head to a marina.  The last several days it has been HOT. Unseasonably warm the locals say...and I guess a record or two has been in jeopardy the past week. A good time to be hooked up to "the grid" so the air conditioners can run.  And they seem to be running nonstop and not quite keeping up...but keeping the boat cooler than outside none the less.

We have been getting some things done as well.  Our first task was to go retrieve our cars. We ended up renting a car to go pick up the one we left in Hammock Beach, a two day trip.  Then we drove up to my friends house near Baltimore to get the other car out of his way.  With the heat it was nice to be in air conditioned cars even if it meant a lot of time sitting in cars.

One of the first items after we got back to the boat ended up being the raw water pump for one of the air conditioning units. It had been having some issues and finally died before we left Hammock Beach. I had even picked up a replacement at Sailor's Exchange in St. Augustine as part of a trade deal we did for my old CQR anchor so I was prepared for the job. With the heat, getting it installed quickly climbed up to the top list.

Another water leak was discovered during the rains while we were at anchor and the leak managed to short out an AC electrical outlet so we got that replaced as well.  I also worked on my eye splices again as I had to create one for a replacement spinnaker halyard that had started fraying during the trip north. My wife washed the boat one morning and ended up getting a bit of a sunburn in the process. We have been trying to keep to more indoor tasks until more "normal" temperatures return. I've been watching the local pawn shops to see if I can find some fishing gear at more reasonable prices.

We've been researching options for building the hardtop as well. This is the item that has my brain spinning at the moment.  Trying to figure out what materials to use to build the top at a reasonable price while producing a quality result. Do I use marine plywood as a core, or balsa, or something more exotic.  And what thickness is needed to produce a top I can walk on.  And what substructure is needed.  Right now I'm leaning towards marine plywood core for cost and availability encapsulated with a biaxial cloth epoxy fiberglass.  The top will be load bearing itself, bolted to the arch at the back and using four "legs" to hold up the front end. At least that is the current theory.

Some rough mockups of the top

So, that is what we have been doing the past several days, and I'm sure it will continue for the next several days as we try to hide from the sun and oppressive heat for the next couple days.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Phrugal Phones

I've previously written about changing our cell phone service to one we hoped would be more budget friendly. We had been with T-Mobile, and our two smartphones were costing us around $115 a month including taxes.  Given I know of folks that pay upwards of $200 a month for similar service, it wasn't bad...but I wanted to do better.  So, with some specific requirements in mind, we made the switch (for more details on the requirements and decision making progress, check out these posts). We have been with the Ting cell service for over 3 months now (3 billing cycles) and have traveled up the coast, so I figure it is time for an update.

So far we are very happy with the service. Our theory of having one phone on each network seems to have paid off as at least one phone has had service any time we have wanted it...including a few spots where I didn't expect any signal at all. The best part though, is that our bill has been $31.36 a month (including all taxes and fees) for the last 3 months. That means we have saved $250.92 since we switched. If you include buying the one new phone (we didn't have one that would work on the Sprint network), we are still ahead by about $80. I consider this to be a big budget win for us.

To consistently get this low of a bill, we have made some changes to how we use our phones. If you recall, our provider bills based on actual usage. Understanding how our phones work and slightly adjusting our phone usage habbits, we have been able to reduce our usage in most categories. In case you are interested in reducing your phone bill, keep reading and I will highlight what we have done.

For basic phone service, you are charged for the minutes of conversation used. We used to use around 500 minutes a month. We now seem to use 250 to 400 minutes a month (and did a lot of calling to marinas and boatyard this past month) putting us into the $9 "medium" charge group. To reduce our minutes usage, we try to utilize VOIP solutions when we have access to reliable, reasonably fast, and free WiFi service. For our newer Android phone, the Google Hangouts Dialer (part of Google Voice) usually works well. We also use GrooveIP with a RingTo number on both phones (and have a "local" Florida number in addition to our Colorado numbers).  Using VOIP for longer conversations with family and other calls can really save some minutes. I've made calls using WiFi at marinas and restaurants with success. The typical downsides with VOIP are delays and dropouts when Internet connectivity isn't good...but it is similar to a bad cell phone connection and you can always call back using minutes if needed.

We never used to do much texting, but now do use it from time to time for shorter messages. We have been in the $3 "small" message charge group. The key with messages is to avoid a lot of back and forth "conversations" that can result in 25 or more messages for one interaction.

Megabytes of data has been the place we seem to have saved the most. We used to have an unlimited plan and I think we were between 500 and 600 megabytes a month. So far we have managed to stay under 100 MB in the $3 "small" data charge group. To reduce our data consumption, we typically try to connect the phones to WiFi signals when they are available and do more data intensive tasks only on WiFi (including blog posts). We changed the phone update settings to manual and only do updates when on WiFi.  We also turn off the cellular data connection (not WiFi but 3G, 4G, LTE) when we are not actively using it since there are a lot of applications that regularly communicate over the Internet (it is how your phone knows you have new mail and that your Facebook friend just "liked" that you had spaghetti for lunch).

One big data hog we used to use was the Google integrated navigation app that supplied turn by turn directions. This application is constantly downloading map images and data and can run up your usage.  We still need navigation help, but use an application called Navmii that allows you to download navigation data (by state) while connected to WiFi. When searching for places, it helps to be connected, but the downloaded data includes some street addresses and has been able to get us where we needed to go. This is a great app to have even if you are not trying to reduce usage if you happen to go to places with bad cell phone coverage.

So, there you have it. So far so good. I still expect our bill to occasionally go higher when we aren't near any free WiFi, but even then I expect it will be a lower bill than before. In the meantime, I'll enjoy the 2/3 savings.

If you are interested in giving Ting a try, this link should give you a $25 credit on a device or your first month's service (and it helps me out too):

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Driving Next Door

Well, the plan didn't change in over a day, so it actually stuck. We left the anchorage next to Ft. Monroe for a marina we found that felt like it was right next door.  You know...kind of like that scene from...I think it was a Cheech and Chong movie...where they drive next door. Our destination was the Salt Ponds Marina in Hampton Virginia.

Old Point Comfort Marina and Ft. Monroe

Why did we decide on a marina?  Well...there are a few reasons. First, we currently have two cars scattered across the east coast that we need to retrieve...and hopefully sell. We also have some work we can do inside the boat, and that is a bit easier at a marina or yard (and living aboard is far easier in the water). My parents also want to come out and see our new home, and that is also easier with a fixed location. We were able to find a marina with a very reasonable monthly rate, so it seemed like the best solution.

We hauled up the anchor and made our way out of the Elizabeth River around 10 am. The clouds were disappearing, and it was turning out to be a nice morning for a sail.  Well, it would have been if there was any wind to speak of.  The wind would pick up, I would decide to raise the sail, and the wind would disappear.  I'd wait for a bit, give up and drop the sail...and then the wind would mystically appear again. Mother nature and I would play this little game 3 or 4 times before she finally gave us some wind...directly on the nose, of course. No matter, we didn't have far to go and had all day to get there, and this crew could always use a little practice beating to windward.  So we spent the next couple hours sailing along at 5 knots or so, with a VMG of 1 to 2 knots.

Shipping containers arriving at Norfolk

Even with the slow progress, we arrived at the marina between 2 and 3 PM. The entrance into the marina is via a somewhat narrow and shallow channel.  The reason it was narrow was actually due to the fact it was shallow.  Parked at the side of the channel was a bunch of dredging equipment, so my guess is the 5 foot depths will soon read more...not that 5 foot is a problem for a catamaran. The width wasn't too bad, enough room for my 21 foot plus beam...until you add in the large power boat that rounded the corner when I was in the middle of the channel. We were able to squeeze by one another, mostly because I could venture out of the channel and into the 4 foot depths.

I guess our stack pack stands out at most marinas.

We got the boat tied up to the dock and poked around the facilities a bit. The marina sits in a nice area, but the facilities themselves are starting to show some age and need for maintenance.  Still, not a bad facility, particularly for about $325/ month with electric. The marina stretches about 3/4 of a mile along the east shore of the "pond". We contacted family and started firming up plans for the month. We got the WiFi hooked up and I was able to resume publishing posts. True to most marinas, the WiFi is a bit spotty...but workable most of the time.

The long walk from our slip to the marina office.

The last two days we made the marathon drive south to retrieve the car we left at the marina in Florida a few weeks ago. One thing I can say, keeping a car while cruising is a pain. I hope the hassle is worth it for dealing with the upcoming maintenance tasks. Once those are complete, we should definitely sell the cars.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Rainy Hampton Roads

It was time to give up our nice free spot in Portsmouth to some other deserving cruiser. Unfortunately, we hadn't come up with a better plan so we really didn't have a destination in mind.  I looked around and found a small anchorage in Hampton that claimed to have free WiFi and a nearby dinghy dock.  This sounded like as good of a place as any to hang out for another night or so as we continue working on the plan for the next couple months.

An interesting replica ship we ran across at Hampton Roads
The past few days have been sunny and hot, but we awoke this morning to overcast skies.  It is interesting, but the last time I was here it was nice when I arrived and rainy when I was departing north.  In any case, we untie the lines and, after determining that the tugs playing around the battleship across the river were not going to be in our way, we departed.

Small Anchorage. Image from ActiveCaptain
It was a short trip down the Elizabeth river, across Hampton Roads, and up the Hampton River. When we got to the anchorage location, we found a very small area with a string of crab pots going through it.  Even though it was a nice location, we decided there just wasn't enough room for our catamaran. We decided the other options that were marked up in this river were likely not any better and decided to go to an anchorage we heard of near Fort Monroe.

Fort Monroe Anchorage - Image from ActiveCaptain
This anchorage sits between the Hampton Roads beltway and Fort Monroe so we didn't expect much quiet but it actually was.  It was also pretty well protected from north through east winds, but some waves seem to sneak in from the south.  Just after we dropped the anchor, the rains started.

Wall of Rain Approaching
It rained on and off for the next 3 days...mostly on.  But we were still able to launch the dinghy and take the dogs exploring at Fort Monroe.  This was the first time the dogs had been in the dinghy, and I'm not sure they enjoyed the ride.  Maybe they just hate the life jackets, I'm not sure.  They did enjoy getting off the boat and roaming around the fort.

Ft Monroe Lighthouse

Dogs exploring the fort with us

View of the Chesapeake from the fort
We were able to come up with a new plan as well.  We have decided to go to a marina here in Hampton Virginia for a little while so we can sort out our cars (and maybe get them sold), have family come visit, and get some work done.  Then we will make our way to a yard to get the last few bigger items done.  At least that is what we have scribbled in the sand for now.

Three Days in Portsmouth

The primary goal of our stay in Portsmouth was to determine where we would be taking the boat in order to get some work done.  In addition to the hard top bimini replacement that I've been wanting for a long time, the trip has demonstrated a few more items that could use some attention. We had hoped that our extender would find a WiFi signal we could use from the boat, but that wasn't the case, so we ended up spending a little time at coffee shops and other places that had the access we needed.

Rover's home for a few days in Portsmouth

One big help was having the Active Captain companion application on my tablet.  Since you can download the database and use it in an offline mode, we were able to search through a large number of marinas and boatyards in Virginia and Maryland and contact them without internet access while sitting on the boat.

Oh, did I mention that the neighbors at the High street dock can be a bit noisy?  I guess it takes a lot of noise to build or maintain battleships and aircraft carriers. It seems like they run crews nonstop while working on these big gray boats.

Noisy Neighbors across the river.

It wasn't all work though.  We managed a couple of touristy things as well.  Adjacent to both free docks are tourist information centers, and I've found those can be great resources for finding things to do.  We got a self-guided walking tour pamphlet and wandered around some of the Portsmouth historic district, later going back and riding more of it with our bicycles.

The Portsmouth ferry just steps from our door

There is also a ferry service that goes between the docks in Portsmouth and downtown Norfolk, and for $3.50 you can get a round-trip ride.  Or better, for $4 you can get an all day pass that works for the ferry as well as the local buses.  On Sunday, after exhausting the limited possibilities for boatyards open that day, we took the ferry over to Norfolk to check things out.  I'm not 100% sure why, but we ended up taking a rather expensive tour of the battleship Wisconsin.  It was interesting to see some of the areas not open to the regular tour, but I'm not sure the price is justified.

The Battleship Wisconsin from the bow

...and from the side.

Don't want to be captain...but the chair is pretty comfy

The tour guide looks nervous with Anja as Tactical Officer
After the battleship, we had a late lunch and returned to check on our furry crew (since we figured they wouldn't be allowed on the tours).  We ended up taking them on the ferry back to Norfolk so they would have the experience of riding on a public transit ferry.  In Norfolk we decided we were thirsty and the mission there was to find a smoothie shop...which we did after a little effort.  I think the dogs liked getting out and checking out the area.

As for our goal...well...we think we found a place to get some of the work done, but it doesn't tick all of the boxes so we are reworking the plan again.  We need to get up to Maryland to retrieve my car (unless my friend has sold it...which at this point I could only hope would be the case) and we need to find a "stable location" where family can finally come visit and see the boat.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Return to the Land of Big Ships

After spending the night at Great Bridge (Chesapeake, Va.), the next leg of this little adventure was a short the Free dock at Portsmouth. They have two docks that sit downtown right along the waterfront. There are restaurants and attractions as well as a Dollar General for any emergency provisioning. Last time I was there I was even able to find a WiFi signal...something that has been scarce on this trip. It seemed like the perfect place to regroup and and try to find a boatyard.

The new dock at Great Bridge

We left the dock just after 9 AM (yes, just after the scheduled bridge opening) to slide across the canal to Atlantic Yacht Basin for some diesel, to top off our water tanks, and a pump-out. AYB has some of the cheapest fuel prices I've seen on this stretch of the ICW and this day was no exception. We used just  over 32 gallons of diesel since we left Southport...and other than a couple hours worth of generator to recharge batteries while sailing, it was all motoring along the ICW. Since I'm still trying to get a better idea of the fuel burn of the boat, it is good to get the tank topped off and do the calculations.  If my numbers are correct, the engines seem to burn a little under 0.8 gallons per hour at 2500 RPM.

Between taking our time getting underway from the free dock, adding fuel, adding water, and pumping out the holding tanks, we just barely made the 10 AM Great Bridge opening.  But we did make it.  Of course the next obstacle was only a few hundred feet away...the Great Bridge Lock. This would be my 3rd time through the lock, but it would be the first for my wife.

The Great Bridge bridge and lock

Going through the lock is really no big deal. You rig long dock lines at the front and back of the boat, find a couple boat poles, and put out a couple fenders. You motor into the lock and and pull up along side the lock wall. There you throw (or for this lock drop onto the outstretched boat pole) your rigged dock lines to the lock worker on shore who loops the line around a cleat or bollard and gives the rest back to you. Then all you do is keep your boat parallel to the dock wall without touching by using the line and pole. Every time I've been through this lock the change in elevation has been a foot or less, so you really don't have to do much and before you know it the gate at the other end of the lock opens and you are on your way.

Not long past the bridges and locks, the wilderness scenery that borders the ICW starts to fade, slowly being replaced with the industrial "scenery" that makes up the economies of Norfolk and Portsmouth.  Large docks with pipelines or conveyors or cranes line the waterway and the depths of the channel that were under 12 feet now are showing 35 foot or more. We are in big boat country.

Gilmerton Bridge with the railway bridge in front.

We pass under a bascule bridge that has a closed height of 65 ft (enough clearance for my mast) as a barge on the other side waits for the next opening.  We arrive at the Gilmerton highway lift bridge, our last obstacle on the trip. Even in as populated place as this, the bridge opens on demand. does when the adjacent train bridge isn't closed. We had to wait for two trains to pass before this lift bridge would grant us passage to Portsmouth. This bridge lifts it's section of highway 135 feet in the air...much farther than I need to pass and as soon as it gets over 65 foot or so, we continue our journey.

Naval Shipyards

Wonder how often they have to haul these out?

The commercial shipping docks soon give way to docks for more menacing looking boats. Norfolk has one of the largest U.S. Navy shipyards and the huge gray steel ships start to dot the docks along the channel as we arrive at the free docks.

Free dock in the heart of Poirtsmouth

We were able to tie up at the high street dock, where we would spend the next couple of days checking out the town, reprovisioning, and trying to find a boatyard for or next destination in the Chesapeake.  Of course, could I find the internet that was here last year...nope.  And that is why these posts are behind.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Long Run Through the ICW

We awoke in the Alligator River pretty much where we had left the boat, the winds were still from the southeast...albeit at a lesser velocity than the night before.  Checking the anchor alarm, it showed we were 31 feet from where we had set it (with an accuracy of 14 we could very well be in the exact same spot). The goal today was to try and make it to the Great Bridge Lock, about 62 nautical miles away. This meant we needed to get an early start so we would have a little time buffer to deal with the 3 bridges that would need to open so we could pass. Of course the Alligator had different plans.

As we started to haul up the anchor, I discovered why I should have paid more attention to the length of the trip line. Instead of our anchor being stuck, it appeared that the trip line had caught something and at one point the anchor rode and trip line were pulling tight in opposite directions. I guess the boat swung a bit during the night after all. I had to attach another line to the trip line so I could use one of the sheet winches to help break the trip line free. Although we considered cutting the trip line, we were eventually able to work it free by applying tension on the line and rocking the boat back and forth with the motors. After freeing the initial snag, in our excitement to retrieve the trip line I accidentally ended up hauling the anchor up with the trip line. We pulled up the remaining anchor chain, secured the anchor and we're on our way.

After dodging several lines of crab pots (why do these genius fishermen use black, blue, and dark green for the buoy can barely see them in the water even on a bright and sunny day), we made our way to the Alligator river bridge. This bridge has always fascinated me because the road on either side of the bridge spans quite a distance before it reaches the shore. It is a long stretch of highway on stilts hovering about 20 feet over water. We call the bridge tender and he has the bridge opened for us as we get there so we don't even have to slow down. As we clear the bridge, I thank him for the opening and we head out into the Albemarle sound.

The Alligator River Swing Bridge

The forecast from the night before seemed accurate as we were only getting light winds from the southeast and at best one foot seas.  Not the greatest conditions for sailing (unless you want to go really slow), but a much more comfortable ride and that is a good thing. We sailed some and motor sailed some so we could keep on schedule on this long leg of our ICW path.

After crossing the Albemarle, we were forced back into the narrow winding streams and man-made trenches that would make up the rest of this day's leg of the trip. We were able to motor sail some, which added a knot or two to our single engine cruising speed.

Unlike the Alligator bridge that opens on demand, the next bridges as well as the lock operate on a fixed schedule. And as usual, I arrive at the next bridge in our trek just about exactly mid way between the scheduled openings. Fortunately the two engines on a catamaran that make it maneuverable, also make it easy to keep a fixed station in a current while waiting for the North Landing swing bridge to open. The bridge opens on schedule and we are on our way to the next bridge.

The Centerville Turnpike bridge is just over 4 nautical miles from the North Landing bridge and opens on the half hour.  That means we need to do better than 8 knots to make the next opening (unlikely without a good wind...which you don't get in a tree lined man-made channel) or throttle back to about 4.5 knots and resign yourself to make the opening in an hour. And, since it was 5pm and there would be no 5:30 opening anyway, we settled in for the lazy 4.5 knot trek to the next bridge. We arrive at the bridge with about 5 minutes to spare and are ushered through at 6pm. From there it was a short trip to our destination for the evening.

Our destination was one of the free docks that surround the Great Bridge bridge in Chesapeake, Virginia. Since I had stayed at the one on the north side of the bridge when I came through last fall, I opted to try the brand new one on the south side of the bridge. 

The dock is brand new and in very good shape and can fit 5 to 7 boats, depending on size. It is attached to a nice park with a walking path and currently has a porta-potty in case you are in need of one.  Both docks are within walking distance to restaurants and a grocery store. It is a great place to stop if you are in the area. The only bad thing is the park has some marshy area and the mosquitoes come out in hunting packs around dusk and dawn.

We tied up took the dogs for a walk, did a little reprovisioning at the store and treated ourselves to dinner at a reasonably priced local Mexican restaurant before calling it a day.

P.S. Sorry for the infrequent posts, but internet has been quite spotty of late. The signals aren't that reliable and it has taken me several days to get this to post.  I promise more are coming.  In the meantime, I have some better success getting small posts out to Facebook, so you can always check out the page there.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Bellhaven and An Alligator That Eats Anchors

We didn't exactly get up early that morning in Bellhaven, but we did get some much needed rest. This day's trip would start with a long stretch of man-made ICW ditch known as the Alligator - Pungo canal. It is a few hours of very straight and wind less canal with only a single turn. After that is the Alligator river and Albemarle sound.

As we motored up the canal with the drone of one engine slowly depleting our diesel supplies, we listened to the weather reports. It sounded like the strong winds would be returning again in the afternoon.

The Albemarle isn't a place you want to be in strong winds as the shallow depths and long fetch can make for very rough conditions. The one automobile bridge that crosses the Alligator river won't even open in strong winds. Add in the fact we got a pretty late start and it was a sure bet that we would be anchoring out in the Alligator river this evening.  And that is exactly what we did.

I figured we might end up anchoring here and had scouted out several locations on both Active Captain and Skipper Bob's publications. What I found is that the river is known for a lot of submerged stuff that, as one site mentioned, could be hazardous to your anchor system. I guess some people drop anchor and then are never able to pull it back up. To try and avoid that issue, or at least help, I rigged up a trip line using a fender and some old dock line.

We checked out a couple different anchoring sites. With the large number of dead trees that surround much of the shore of the river, I can see why anchoring might be a bit hazardous to your anchor and chain. After a bit of debate, we finally decided on a location that was protected from the south-southeast winds but not from anything I hope the winds don't shift. We dropped the hook and settled in for our first night together "on the hook".

I even managed to play with the remote feature on our new camera and got a picture of us at anchor.