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.
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.
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!
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.