Rinse and Repeat

It’s not whether you are going to get wet, it’s when.  Living aboard and moving about means getting across the water.  We make every effort to plan our trips during good weather.  Rain isn’t a factor as we can stay dry inside or under the bimini up on the bridge, if the wind is playing nice.  But sometimes the best laid plans . . .they just don’t work out.  Our luck has held out on the open ocean.  And frankly, being the ocean, it takes a good while for it to build into anything ugly if we start out in good weather.  Not so for sounds, and bays. 

Waves over the Bow

Our best plans have on occasion found us on our way and conditions going utt buggly on us with nowhere to duck in.  In the many sounds and bays along the coast there is typically a deeper area or channel one must adhere to based on the vessel draft.  We like to stay in at least 10-12 feet of water whenever we can.  This means ducking into what looks like a comfy oxbow or bay isn’t always an option.  With nearly 5 feet of draft, hopping up and down on four foot waves in a six foot deep bay brings us a bit too close to the bottom for our comfort.  So we stay out and plug along in seas that break over the bow.   Continue reading “Rinse and Repeat”

The Circle of Life

Back to the start.  In the beginning. . .it all began at Atlantic Yacht Basin.  I remember asking my boss to see if she’d run by and give a boat the sniff test.  One we’d found on-line that met our list of must haves.  She lives nearby.  That started it all.  Today we’ve been back here in Chesapeake, VA at that same marina for two weeks now.  Greeted at the dock by our brokers, Chuck and his wife Kelsey, along with some of the familiar faces we came to know when we were getting ready to begin this journey.  Hugs and hello’s.  Great to see you!!  And it is.  

I’ve written already about the many wonderful people we’ve met in our 22 months on-board Shangri-La.  But to think we’ve stayed in touch with so many right from those first moments.  It is an amazing circle.  Text messages while we’re crossing Lake Okeechobee from a thousand miles away.  “How you doing?  How’s the crossing going?”  Phone calls, text messages and emails on a nearly daily basis from a dozen people scattered across the western hemisphere.  It’s crazy.  We meet a couple in Southport who are now in Belize and we’re staying in touch.  Never knew them before The Boat.

A couple who joined us tagging along from Fernandina Beach, FL to North Carolina.  They’ve since moved back home to the west coast and yet we see their faces on line and stay in touch.  It’s such a diverse group.  Always interesting conversations catching up.  Our little spell of Deja Vu here in Chesapeake was confirmation, we love this life.

The three day trip up here was varied in so many ways.  We are now veterans on our new home.  The day was beautiful as we motored up Adams Creek from our slip in Beaufort.  The adrenaline pumping as it always does when we start another journey.  There’s nothing quite like turning into the open water trusting our boat, our planning and our evolving skills to complete the day. 

Neuse River Crossing

Jan had connected with a couple on Facebook who are Harbor Hosts for the American Great Loop Cruisers Association in Oriental, NC .  They graciously offered their personal dock for our first night.  A smooth crossing on the Neuse River took us up to Pamlico River.  Just off the river is Campbell Creek.  As we pulled into the creek on dead calm water we realized we were being knit into this boating community in ways we could never have imagined.  Slowly, we idled up to the dock in front of their home and were met by Beth and Rip. 

For the next several hours we were guests in their beautiful home where we shared our adventures and misadventures.  Always with the water, the sea in common.  We were one.  As we walked back to Shangri-La we could not help but smile.  Here we were, tied to a remote pier with some incredible people in a place so quiet – it was like time stood still.  Day one is put to rest.

Campbell Creek ICW
Campbell Creek Hosts

Day two began differently.  We crossed Pamlico Sound to the Pungo River on our way to the Alligator River.  Light winds and a bit of mist now and then made for a gloomy ride.  Destination, Sandy Point just north of the Alligator River bridge.  Here we spent the night anchored a quarter mile from shore, all alone. In this beautiful expanse of the river, nearly two miles wide, we felt the darkness wash over us as we sat outside enjoying the chilly evening.  It had been a long day and yet we were invigorated by our travel.  With our home gently rocking at anchor we called it an end to day two.

The Albemarle.  On our way south, this was our first large body of water.  It showed off with heavy winds in our faces and a good 2 foot chop.  Today, she mixed it up a bit.  No chop, but rather a quick rolling wave of around 2-3 feet.  Every 4th or 5th one would wash over the deck depending on our angle of attack into the face of the wave.  The temperature began to plummet.  And then came the rain.

Throughout the day we really didn’t have much wind, but the conditions continually deteriorated to the point we both said, “Lets get downstairs.”  Ironically – the last time we drove from the lower helm was crossing Albemarle Sound.  Moving inside changed everything.  We’d been running the generator since leaving the anchorage and our furnaces were keeping the cabin toasty warm.  We both wondered why we hadn’t thought of leaving the bridge sooner.  Of course back inside, Jan is distracted from her navigation duties by – THE STOVE.  “Yeah, I could be baking something WHILE we’re moving if we’re both down here!”  is written all over her face.  She keeps glancing about.  Cake?  Brownies!!  But alas, she returns to her First Mate role and begins checking maps and keeping us on course.

Finally we’re entering the North River.  Where we will complete the circle.  We eased up to the face dock in Coinjock, NC looking forward to a hot meal in the cozy restaurant at the docks.  We’d gone a different route south in 2016.  This time we came in from the west so this was now indeed ‘full circle’ when we tied in to spend the night.  Eerie?  You bet. 

Day three we make the trip up the North River and the Virginia Cut over to AYB.  And this is where I have to chuckle.  There’s a few bridges that we need opened.  On the way down in 2016 we were in freakout mode.  “Do we call them now?  Now?  When? What if we miss the opening?!?”  This time Jan has it down to the minute.  At one point I said, “Not sure if we are going to make that 2:30 opening.”  Boy, did I get the EYE.  She cocked her head and said “When was the last time I got this wrong?”  And she nailed it.  As we made the last bend before the bridge and hailed them for the opening the bridge tender replied “I see you coming, just bring it on and I’ll have it open when you get here.”  Which, in the world of waiting for draw bridges, is like winning the lotto.  We have exactly 4 miles to the next bridge to catch the opening at 3:00PM.  And again we nail it, just like Jan said we would.  We may even get good at this some day.

Here at AYB we’re led to a covered slip where we can work on Shangri-La regardless of weather.  We have a lot to do.  We will practice lowering and raising the mast to be sure we can handle it. Jan is painting it and we’ll replace the navigation lights while it’s down.  We’ll also install a new Davis weather station at the top of the mast to replace one ruined by hurricane Mathew.  Jan said it today.  “What ever did we do before we had so much to do?”

And it’s here, where it all began that Jan moved up to the next level.  Sunday, we had decided to leave the slip and go around to the river.  There, we would tie up to the fuel dock.  We’d top off the diesel and fill the water tanks in preparation for the next leg of our trip.  This time Jan would drive.  I know she can do it.  I also know how I felt leaving the slip from here that first day.  Pretty much freaked out.  Pins and needles is JV compared to what it’s like.

Our slip is deep.  Inside this barn is a 50′ Trumpy in front of us, circa 1953.  We have 60′ of dock behind us on both sides.  She will need to keep Shangri-La in the middle as she backs out the lane.  At low speeds, we can only maneuver with the transmissions.  “Working the sticks” we call it.  Jan backs out perfectly.  She then performs the perfect pirouette and Shangri-La is now fully lined up in the back channel.  Awaaaaay we go!

Mixing the Sticks

Docking seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world.  It’s not.  In this realm it’s all about momentum.  And we have plenty to spare.  Jan makes the turn across the river and working the sticks, idles us up to the dock like a true pro.  Shangri-La barely kissed the pilings.  Perfect.  Her deck hand, not so much.  I was so excited for Jan I failed to prep the deck lines.  Doug the dock master is holding his hand out and me, I got nuthin.  Scramble to secure the line, run it through the port and finally pass him the line.  Epic fail.  But I was so happy for Jan and her perfect docking, she forgave me. 

As always, today we Eat Life.


The Loop

What on earth is The Loop?  Better if someone else describes that.  You can learn about it here and more here. We’d not heard of it until we began talking with other boaters on the docks.  It seemed interesting enough.  After all, we really never envisioned ourselves in a dockominium – a boat that never leaves the marina.  So we began digging.  We learned all we could and made the decision last summer.  We’re doin’ The Loop baby!!  Our plans are set and now we’re even more convinced this will be an amazing journey.  One we will likely only get one chance to complete.  And now it’s getting close to lift off.

For six months now we’ve been tuning and tweaking Shangri-La.  Lot’s of little things including, fridge repair, varnishing the bridge, varnishing steps to the bridge, new sink fixtures, new huge round bright red fenders (for locking and rafting) new Continue reading “The Loop”

Marina Life

Ok, yes we love to travel.  And we have moved around – a lot.  But where do we stay?  What’s it like parking in a marina?  Is it like a floating RV park?  Are there clean bathrooms, a lounge, sushi bar?  What else is involved?  For folks who have camped in nicer campgrounds such as state parks or privately owned parks you have a hint of what goes on.  You live in your camper or tent and spend most of the time outside if you can.   When nature calls you go to up to the log cabin bathhouse.  Here you can enjoy a hot shower with your camping friends.  Then there’s bonfires at the campsite and hopefully a beach nearby.  Our family did it for many years and we loved camping.

Marina View
Ft. Pierce Marina

Being in a marina has many similarities.  With some twists.  First we have hot water, 2 heads and showers on the boat with fresh city water from the dock.  Our power comes from a pedestal supplying 50 amps to run A/C, washer/dryer, TV, computers and ice maker as well as keeping the house batteries charged.  Most of the boat such as head pumps and lighting, is on a 12v system.  So, not unlike a camper, once we are plugged in we’re good to go.   Continue reading “Marina Life”

Okeechobee Gone

Destination, Clearwater Florida.  Our goal is to make it up the west coast of Florida and visit friends in the Tampa area.  There are three routes.  Down through Key West and up across the Gulf of Mexico, coming in near Naples. Or, with a bit of luck, one can sneak through the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and hug the Everglades around the bottom of the mainland.  The third option is the Okeechobee Waterway.

Okeechobee map
Okeechobee Waterway Map, click to enlarge

At over 150 miles long, with 5 locks and a massive lake in the middle, it’s unlike anywhere we’ve been so far.  We’ve driven down by car to the St. Lucie Lock to see how it works and talk about how we would enter, maintain control and exit the lock.  We got to see a few boats go through and this helped alleviate some of the mystery.  With this excursion under our belt we begin the trip.  South from Vero Beach to Stuart FL, where we take a hard right off the ICW and head up the St. Lucie River.  Away from the ‘big water’ boats on the ICW.  We’re feeling rather out-of-place at first.  Lots of runabouts, water skiers and small fishing boats zipping about in all directions.

The channel through this area isn’t all that wide and we have to concentrate a bit harder to be sure we don’t get distracted.  After several hours, the river narrows and we begin the actual trip across.  Our goal is to make it to that first lock before they close at 4:30 PM.  If we don’t, we’ll spend the night anchored out below the lock and dam.  Jan nails the schedule and before 4 PM we are nudging our way into a cavernous box.  It is a bit intimidating.  Shangri-La has a lot of momentum and my worry is keeping her ‘quiet’ while getting close enough to the lock wall where we will grab the lines hanging down over the side.  I leave the girls (Pam and Sarah, our pet names for the Port and Starboard engines) idling, in case we lose control. Continue reading “Okeechobee Gone”