Jun 22/23, Days 206/7 Lockin’, Dockin’ & Rockin’

 

6-23 mont
Sunset on the St Lawrence. The current is ripping through here at 6 knots morning, noon and night!

We left Montreal early to fill up the “gaz” as they say here and still make a 10AM lock opening with a gaggle of other boats transiting at the same time. Hitting that timing was important as the locks on the St Lawrence are commercially focused and the lockmasters have no problem with pleasure boaters waiting 5 to 6 hours to pass when there’s commercial traffic.

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We all waited at the “staging” dock for the lockmaster to give us the green light.

Our relatively large group and light commercial demand meant we “sped” (the term is used loosely here as there is a SIX knot speed limit over the 9 miles between locks) through the two big locks.

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Green light on and we headed in. N likes the Sabre there in front of us.
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Here we are rafted with our friends Margot and Jerry from Tennessee!

Between waiting, locking and transiting the whole ordeal took about 4 hours. What the heck, it was sunny and we were boatin’! There are worse things in life!

After the second lock we took a right out of the commercial zone and back into the recreational boating arena as we headed out of the St Lawrence and into the Ottawa River via yet ANOTHER lock.

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There’s B lost but not forgotten amongst the fiberglass!

We decided to stop on the free wall for the night just before the St Anne lock. Very cool little town with a great boardwalk and tons of little restaurants along the lock channel.

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Very peaceful evening “on the wall” at St Anne.

Today, we roared off at 11AM in hot pursuit of a group that had left at 9AM. We had our first experience rafting with French Canadians in the lock. Communication was fine as B used her Sprench and N spoke slowly and loudly! The Canadians were amazed we’d coaxed our boat 6,000 miles around the loop so far (that’s right we have officially cleared the 6,000-mile mark!).

 

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Here’s where we were the last two nights on our way to Ottawa.

 

Nothing like 25mph+ when trying to catch trawlers! We caught ‘em and passed ‘em and shared the next lift at the Carillon Lock and Dam.

 

6-23 wave
OK, so the crew was not as excited about playing catch-up, but they hung in there over some rough patches in “Lac du Deux Montagnes”.

 

 

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Last off the dock…. first to the lock! You go Bayliner.

 

At 65′, the Carillon Lock has the biggest lift in Canada (it does in one chamber the work of 8 earlier locks…yay!) and is the only lock in North America where the lock doors go up and down versus swinging open and shut. The thing is a cavern!

 

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The lock is WAY deeper than anything thing we’ve seen recently, but notice all we had to do was tie-up to a floating dock and then float up with it.

 

From the lock we headed up to Le Chateau Montebello, which happens to be in the town of Montebello; the site of Canada’s biggest annual rock festival (which we learned was underway as we came up the river). Not the kind you throw, but the kind you attend in a black t-shirt, piercings, and boots. This little town of 1,200 has 80,000 to 100,000 people in it! There were tents all over the place and lots of LOUD music.

 

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Dude! We were stoked! Unbelievable people watching as we walked around town sticking out like sore thumbs with our light colored boating attire.

 

Seems like everyone’s got a black t-shirt on and they’re listening to bands like Wu Tang Clan sing songs the extent of which are lyrics like “M…’fer, uh huh, uh huh” while prancing around on stage! Those are the ONLY lyrics! Sorry, what IS that? Oh wait, our age is showing.

 

6-23 hotel
Fortunately we stayed at the marina associated with this hotel. B observed it was thataway to the lounge and a peaceful after dinner glass of port.

 

 

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A nice redoubt after a day on the water and afternoon rockin’.

 

 

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Evidence of Canada’s initial raison d’etre…. there’s beaver amongst them thar’ trees!

 

OK, won’t bore you here with the travails of internet and Verizon’s definition of “unlimited” data in Canada, but suffice it to say we gotta’ post when we have Wi-Fi, or it isn’t getting done.

 

Jun 17/18, Days 201/202 You Lockin’ Me Crazy

Bonjour mes amis! Comment allez vous? Yes, greetings from French-speaking Canada. After more than 5,800 mile We have now entered the reputational “money shot” part of our Loop – the part everyone says is the BEST! After two nights at Gaines Marina enduring occasional rain squalls and up to 40 mph winds (a 40’ sailboat was blown ashore overnight), we steamed out under fair skies and headed three miles north to the Canadian Border en route to the Chambly Canal.

 

6-18 border
So this is the border with Canada. It’s a very small wall….basically a floating stick! You’ve go to be pretty incompetent to not get around it. Canadian customs only concern was whether we were carrying guns, mace, pepper spray, knives or other forms of offensive or defensive weaponry (our Swiss Army knife was allowed).  

 

Once through the border we headed up the Chambly Canal, the entirety of which is a national historic site. The canal covers only 19km (OK we’re switching to euro measures…… aaagghh can’t do it, I meant approximately 12 miles!) with an 80’ drop, but includes nine locks, multiple swing and drawbridges and requires about four hours to transit (in part because the max speed limit is 10kph).

 

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B getting our permits from the lockmasters at the first of nine locks we transited on the day.

 

 

6-18 canal 3
Are you kidding me!!? N on phone to Bank of America fraud squad explaining the bank’s inability to process a Visa charge is holding up Canadian shipping (we were in the lock at the time pending the payment getting processed). We now have a “hot line” to the bank on these issues so no more phone trees of obnoxious questions.

 

At one point we went through three locks structured like stairs for a total drop of 30’. We literally exited one lock directly into the next and then into the next. Tons of people watching, so we worked hard to look like we knew what we were doing! You might think the whole process would be maddening, but it was fun. What a completely different boating experience. This waterway handles up to 150,000 boats per season, but fortunately we’re here pretty early so we “zipped” right through.

 

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Coming out of one lock directly into another and there was another after this one!

 

The canal was built in the early 19th century to increase trade by linking Montreal and New York.

 

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Believe me, there was no overnight delivery from NY to Montreal using this route! Cool though. Cars to port, runners and cyclists to starboard!

 

The locks themselves opened in 1843 and remain basically as they were originally built. The lock chambers are small (could only handle our 30’ boat and our friends 44’ at the same time), have small lifts and drops and are manually operated by literally cranking on a hand crank to open and shut the doors.   

 

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In the lock with our friends. They let us pass after this lock so we didn’t have to eat diesel fumes for the next 4 hours.

 

 

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How about this for a summer job? Crankin’ lock handles in 90 degrees all summer long!

 

 

 

6-18 canal 2
The lockmasters and bridge guys call ahead so each spot is ready for you when you arrive. This bridge was going up for us as we cane around the bend. In this case, the same guy then jumped in his car and drove ahead to open the next bridge (we saw him go by us on the road!).

 

Of course, the most interesting part of the experience is dealing with the language (“ecluse” is French for lock) when approaching the lock…. I mean ecluse. N simply speaks English slowly whereas B likes to chatter along with the lock operators in her Franco-Spanish. Unfortunately for N, he’s the only one willing to go on the radio!

 

6-17 map
Whoa, we have seriously run aground! Nope, we’re on the Chambly Canal route rocking along at 7.8kmph!

 

 

6-18 canal 4
These were the first series of locks where N had to get involved with the lines (except cutting them that one time) rather than barking orders from the bridge. The latter role was left to Z.

 

The good news for us is Canada is celebrating 150 years of lock and canal operation this summer so all our lockage is free and a permit allowing us unlimited mooring at state parks was only $200. By comparison, that cost could have easily been $40/night! 

 

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By the time we reached Chambly we were so hungry we could “eat a horse”…. no wait… I thought it was a figure of speech! Bienvenue au Canada!!!

So we are really on the international leg of our journey now. The St Laurence Seaway and Montreal will be next up. A toute a l’heure!!!    

 

June 10-13, Days 194-197 Headin’ North in Freshies with Frenchies

We were starting a leisurely breakfast on board when N spotted some friends of ours across the lake steaming northward…. OK, they were going about 10mph, but that’s steaming in a trawler! We’d gotten ahead of them a few days before and planned to meet up in Burlington, VT about 30 miles up the lake, but since we go closer to 30mph there was no rush; drink coffee, do some laundry, chit chat on the dock and then power up about 11:30 and still nearly beat them there!

 

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OK, this was actually the evening before, but N spotted our friends on that far shore the following morning

 

Lake Champlain is a mammoth lake separating NY and VT. The north end of the lake has NY’s Adirondack mountains on one side and Vermont’s Green mountains (home of the Green Mountain Boys of revolutionary war fame). As a North westerner you gotta call these things HILLS rather than mountains, but it’s nice to see some elevation and they are very pretty on both sides of the lake. Of course, we’re totally in all fresh water now, but while its super clear, it’s also super cold so no swimming for us.

 

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A view to NY from Burlington

 

It turned out last weekend was the Burlington Jazz Festival so there was a lot of live music around and the docks were packed; so crowded we had to take a mooring ball on Saturday night rather than tie to the dock.

 

6-13 street
All sorts of little bars, restaurants and shop on this walking street. Burlington is home to the University of Vermont so plenty of breweries around too!

 

Interestingly, much of the crowd on the water was Canadian and French-speaking Canadians at that. Sacrebleau! We’ll need to brush up on our high school French to get through these locks coming up…. We have to translate boat names now too.  

 

6-13 dock
Sunday at 9AM the marina wasn’t sure they’d have room for us at the dock that day. This was the scene by noon! Yeah, there was space!

 

 

6-13 golf
N got a chance to play some golf. He characterized his game as having flashes of brilliance within a round of abject mediocrity.

 

 

Again, we found ourselves in a largish town, reasonable marina, and NO internet. What is up with that!? We’ve consumed all our 4G data on our phones and jet pack hence the blog delay. It is painful to do this stuff at slow data speeds! C’est la vie…. Whoa, the conversion is on!

 

6-13 ding
When you’re on a mooring ball you need to dinghy to shore. Not sure why our friends left a banana on our seat… maybe they were glad to see us… or at least the dinghy!

 

We left Burlington on Monday to explore some islands on the lake and get ourselves staged for a border run this weekend (we need to consume some of our alcohol to meet the limits into Canada).

 

6-13 inlet
There were several of these artificial peninsulas running parallel to the lake. Turns out they used to be railway bed now converted to private use.

 

First stop was for an overnight at a state park on Burton Island. The park had slips for 100 boats! The ranger told us they fill up on summer holiday weekends including many French Canadians enjoying “le weekend” as one says a bit further north. As it turns out there were only four other boats when we were there.

 

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Of course Z is delighted to be off leash and running wild…….

 

 

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….. N maybe not so much!

 

 

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We did have a nice walk around the circumference of the island.

 

 

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Z enjoyed running this strip!

 

 

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Sunset at the dock

 

 

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… had a cocktail, opened the wine and things got hazy!

 

Next day we were off to explore multiple little islands and possible anchorage spots. Of course, ANY stop must be a “Z-certified access” pee stop (although B has had some recent success with Z peeing on the mat on the swim step) so not every spot is good after closer inspection.

 

6-13 hero
We stopped at the Hero Island general store for a sandwich. It’s called Hero Island because the land had once all been given out in 60 acre parcels to individual Green Mountain Boys as compensation for their fighting during Revolutionary War.  

 

 

6-13 bed
Faithful readers might wonder what happened to our red bedspread. Well, Z peed on it!!!!! N refused to sleep on it again even if it got washed, so we found a new cover at the General Store….. and we take no more chances on bladder control. 

 

We had every intention of anchoring tonight and found several nice spots along the way, but rolled the dice one too many times as the last place we checked out just was not going to work for Z so to the nearby marina we went.   

 

6-13 hero2
OK, so the North Hero Marina is perfectly great and we’re here for the night.

 

June 5/6, Days 190/191 Albanian Rain Game

UPDATED ROUTE MAP ON HOME PAGE!

So, some Albanian (isn’t that what you call someone from Albany?) comes up to me on the dock and says “gee, doesn’t it rain a lot in Seattle?” I said, “Whaddaya talkin’ about!? The rain here has been relentless!” The only bright spot is B discovered a heretofore unrealized electrical engineering skill; her careful placement of sponges in combination with our newly re-waterproofed bimini top has kept all our power on throughout the deluge. We used to trip out the breakers on one side of the boat after about 30 minutes of rain while at the dock, but no more (touch wood). That’s the good news. We still have mysterious leaks we have yet to figure out, but at least they don’t impact general operations, other than the occasional drop on N’s side of the bed! Still can’t figure out how that can possibly happen!

After a day of errands (and watching streaming video on blisteringly fast internet… yes there was some redemption) in rainy Albany we were up early and headed north on the Hudson under once more leaden skies.

6-6 rain 3
Going crazy on the dock! This looks wet, but we were dry under our freshly waterproofed top. I guess we could have driven from inside too.

The Weather Channel app’s radar seems to be remarkably accurate around here so we knew it was going to rain before we got to our next destination, but gee, you gotta’ keep moving.

6-6 channel
This would look so much nicer in sunshine, but we are now getting into NY banjo country!

There are a few big course decisions you make when doing this Loop. Stuff like taking the Mississippi versus the Tom Bigbee Waterway (we did the latter), or crossing Florida at Lake Okeechobee versus rounding Key West (we did the latter) and now we have another; taking the Erie Canal to Lake Erie and points west, or heading north through Lake Champlain to Montreal (we’re doing the latter). The Big Y was ahead of us today (it’s the header photo for this post). Most bigger boats take the Erie because of the 17’ air draft limit on the Champlain route, but we laugh at 17’ and only begin to slow when we see 14’ clearance.

6-6 dinghy
Did I say most “big” boats do the Erie? We finally ran into “Dinghy Dave”. He’s doing the entire loop in THIS boat! He started in Grand Haven, Michigan so he’s nearly done. It’s a super nice inflatable, but it’s still basically a dinghy!

All this rain impacted the canal system as well and parts of the Erie are closed for a few days so several large boats were tied to the wall at the entrance to the first lock on the Erie. As for us, we were onto the unaffected Champlain route and back to rockin’ and lockin’ up the canal…. and there are a lot of locks; we had to clear four over about 5 miles to get to our next stop in Schuylerville, NY.

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B gettin’ her lock on. We bought some gloves at Home Depot after reading these canal locks are kind of “gooey” and get your lines all gross.

 

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Here’s the approach to one of the locks…..

 

6-6 lock
…oh wait, did I say it was raining?!!! Put the camera outside the window!

 

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Rain or shine, you cannot keep B down! And she was doing all the outside work. Notice how the boat is secured to the lock wall by running a line around a fixed cable. Something new! B has a life jacket on here versus shot above after realizing how slippery decks were with all this rain (nearly fell in at one point).

The good news is the lockmasters radio ahead so each lock is prepared for your arrival and there’s not a lot of waiting around. Also, this year the NY and Canadian canal systems are celebrating 200 years of canal operation so all our locking is going to be FREE on these upcoming legs. BTW, while these canals were originally for commercial traffic (the kind that traveled by barge pulled by a horse on the shore), these locks are nothing like the locks on the bigger rivers today. Traffic is primarily pleasure boats and/or much smaller barges.

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Red arrow marks where we are and the green line shows where we’re going over the two months or so.

 

6-6 dock
After a wet and cold ride it was nice to tie up. Oh yeah, and we’d been running on fumes so it was good to find some gas too! Gotta’ be more careful with fuel monitoring as there are fewer and fewer marinas along the way.

 

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Despite sustaining a nasty bruise/cut nearly falling off the boat, B still whipped up some tasty warm food when we hit the dock.

 

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Z was also delighted to be inside!

 

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Not the canal we’re actually traveling on, but the old canal with the horse track next to it.

 

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…but lo’ there is HOPE on the horizon… well at least two days worth!

 

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It’s a UFO! No wait, it’s the SUN…. we’re off today in sunshine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 31 & Jun 1, Days 186/7 Start Spreadin’ the News

It’s unbelievable, but as we approach bigger and bigger cities the internet coverage gets worse and worse so we burn through our 4G data about one week into the four-week cycle doing this blog. N called Verizon to try and buy more 4G, but no go. Seems cell providers are the last bastion of socialism and you can’t get unlimited data 4G speeds (if you know different please let us know) at any price without buying another device. OK, OK, I know, enough of the technology rant!

Most of the boats on the dock at Delaware City planned to leave around 5:30AM to catch the tide and associated currents in Delaware Bay (it’s what you do on a seven-knot trawler or sailboat), but the morning started really foggy and many delayed their departure. Those that did leave got yelled at by commercial traffic over the radio for being dumb. Our plan was unaffected; leisurely breakfast, walk dog, leave by 10 and still beat everyone to the next stop!

Delaware Bay can be really nasty weather wise and there is a hopping tidal current, but the morning was nice by the time we left the dock, turned the corner and headed down the bay to the Atlantic. We now had New Joisey (not a typo…. accent) on the port side and the tidal push had us thundering down the bay at 30+mph towards Cape May. We passed everyone that had left before us.

6-2 wake
So when you’re alone up top looking for things to do, you notice things like this cool reflection of our wake on the front screen!

Upon reaching Cape May “we” decided to take advantage of the “calm” seas and head north on the outside to make some time. It might have looked calm, but it’s still the North Atlantic now and N had his hands full between negotiating swells and addressing the needs of a near-mutinous crew. After an hour we took the opportunity to change course and dive back onto the ICW to partake in a far calmer journey (both on the water and on board).

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Yeah baby, nearly 28mph in big swells on the North Atlantic. That little black boat shaped thing is us 5,300 miles into the journey!
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On the dock at Atlantic City. Those are casinos on the horizon, but we spend our dough at a different kind of one armed bandit…. a fuel pump!
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Foggy start for our run to NYC

From Atlantic City we’re within 40 miles of NYC! Of course, we could do it the “hard way” (on the ocean), or the “easy way” (on the ICW) although you MUST do some ocean either way. We opted for the hard/easy way with some ocean and some ICW.

 

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Not sure why New Jersey gets a bad rap. Pretty nice journey up the ICW.

 

We started with the ocean, cut into the ICW at Barnegat Point then went back to the ocean at Manasquan to Sheepshead Bay on Long Island.

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This seemingly benign looking shot of the Barnegat Lighthouse from the ICW is in no way representative of the hair raising ride we had coming in the cut off the ocean through mammoth waves against a huge current. You know it’s a hot spot when BoatUS and SeaTow are just hanging around the opening waiting for action! Would probably not opt to go through that again at tide change….. but we DID make it!

 

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Could not understand why this was such a popular fishing spot until you zoom in on the beach!

 

 

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Believe it or not, this beach scene is right outside NYC!

 

 

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We took a mooring ball at Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club (a little rustic, but super nice people)

 

 

6-2 diner
You’ve been running ocean swells and now you’re moored in Brighton Beach outside NYC. What do you do? Find a Russian restaurant for some pickled herring and potatoes then wash it down with a shot of Russian vodka and Russian beer!

 

You might wonder what N does alone on the bridge while the crew’s below on these ocean stretches. Here’s a sample to the rhythm of Commander Cody’s Hot Rod Lincoln.

 

Have you heard the story of the great boat race                                                                    When trawlers and sailboats was settin’ the pace.                                                                 That story is true I’m here to say                                                                                                       I was drivin’ a brand startin’ with Bay.

A mercruiser sterndrive gives her “some” pop                                                                     Comes with a flybridge so you can drive on top.                                                                        It’s got eight cylinders; uses them all                                                                                            It’s got trim tabs, don’t porpoise at all.

With fuel injection and underwater exhaust                                                                          With stainless duo props you can really get lost.                                                                        It’s got a dinghy on the back, but I ain’t scared                                                                          Life jackets are good, and we got flares.

Pulled out of Cape May one early ‘morn                                                                                     Fog was liftin’ a new day reborn.                                                                                                  We was boatin’ through the tidal cut                                                                                         Passing fishermen comfortably sat on their butt.

All of a sudden in a wink of an eye                                                                                                  A big ‘ol trawler passed us by.                                                                                                            I said, “crew, that’s a mark for me!”                                                                                               By then the transom was all you could see.

Now the crew didn’t mind bein’ behind,                                                                                     but as for the cap’n he was out of his mind.                                                                                Put his hand to the throttle and man alive,                                                                            Power came on with a list to port side.

Wound it up to nearly three times ten                                                                                          My speedometer said that I hit top end.                                                                                        My hand on the throttle like lead to the floor.                                                                        That’s all there is and there ain’t no more.

Now the crew all thought I’d lost my sense                                                                               And those channel markers looked like a picket fence.                                                         They said, “Slow down! I see a wave!”                                                                                      Cap’n said just go below and try to be brave.

Took a roller; waked a boat,                                                                                                    Throttle on just stayin’ afloat.                                                                                                        My boat was sprayin’ the portside cans.                                                                                    Crew yelled out stop being a “man”.

Roostertail was comin’ from out of the back                                                                          When I started to gain on that trawler hack                                                                           Knew I could catch him, thought I could pass                                                                             By now the crew was callin’ Cap’n an ass.

We had waves comin’ from over the bow.                                                                                 Feel the tension. Man! Super wow!                                                                                                   I said, “Look out, crew, I’ve got a license to fly!”                                                                         And that trawler slowed down while we passed portside.

Now all of a sudden she started to knockin’,                                                                             And down in the troughs she started to rockin’.                                                                              I looked ahead; a monster roller a comin’,                                                                                      Kept power on ‘cause my motor was hummin’

The wave caught us across the bow,                                                                                          Bikes stayed put, not sure how                                                                                                       Crew came up from down below                                                                                                 Said that’s enough, can’t we just go slow?

 

 

 

May 23 – 28, Days 180 – 185 Topless in DC

Oh yeah! That got your attention. Now you know why we haven’t been blogging. Seriously, our bimini top has been something less than water impermeable and we’ve been watching little gaps of light getting ever bigger on the seams (I think that happens when you cruise at 25). At the same time, N has become increasingly frustrated he “cheaped out” and didn’t get the front plastic windows re-done during the last canvas job so we decided to get some work done while we were in DC. In another “technology is amazing story”, N googled canvas repair guys in DC while we powered up the Potomac, found one, scheduled him to meet us at the dock and had the project underway while we enjoyed DC.

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We haven’t seen the boat without a top since we shipped it to Pittsburgh. Seems weird.

DC was the ONLY stop we pre-planned on this entire journey. We’d booked a spot at the Washington National marina last October to be sure we had a berth. Believe it or not we had our little Bayliner tied up where Carly Fiorina and her husband normally dock their 60’er.

2017-5-22 marina far side cropped
Blow up this shot to see our boat at lower right. Seems like we only had rain and clouds all week!
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Helicopters like this roared up the river every few hours. Not sure why, but cool to watch.

I kid you not! The marina was really not that fancy, but we were in the shadow of the Washington Monument and an easy walk to everything.

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This turtle seemed to be on this log at this spot every morning. At least he wasn’t mooching power.
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So it wasn’t Seattle’s Pike Place Market, but this fish market was two minutes from the marina and they cooked the stuff you bought on the spot!
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N gets his seafood on.
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The Jefferson Memorial. All of this stuff was within an easy walk from the boat.
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B insists on having Z in every shot!
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Some will remember how controversial the Vietnam War Memorial design was when it was first installed, but it is an unbelievably powerful monument.
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I’ll show you mine if you show me yours! Apparently we agreed to swap deactivated ICBM’s as part of the SALT Treaty so here we have a Russian missile on the left and a US missile on the right. The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum was awesome!
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How about this? Edith and Archie’s chairs from All in the Family! There was so much random cool stuff at the Smithsonian. You can easily spend days going through the various buildings.
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Lest you think it was all fun and games, N and Kaj went to a Congressional Hearing just to do it. Session was as unimpressive as N imagined it might be!
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The Supreme Court building seemed to have the most gravitas in DC. Just amazing to look at the edifice from the street.

 

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We also had fun meeting up with Nick’s friend Kirk (from college days!) and his wife Lisa. Amazing how many old friends you can find nearby when traveling 6,500 miles.

 

Of course, the BIG reason to come to DC was to attend son Kaj’s graduation from graduate school at Johns Hopkins SAIS (school of advanced international studies).

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N and B celebrate with Kaj together with his friend Paola, our daughter Kyra and her friend Kamil.

Kaj will be starting a job in Shanghai later this month so it was good to spend some time with him over this past week.

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N and B having fun hanging out with Kaj and Paola. We had lunch at this place that hosted George and Martha Washington together with Jefferson’s inaugural party!
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We went to watch the Mariner’s play the Nationals. They played the full nine innings, but we got rained out at the end of three and retired to a brew pub! Oh… the Mariner’s lost 10-1!!!
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We were all “museumed” out so took Kaj and Paola out for lunch on the boat. Cute couple!
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Kaj and Paola came down to see us off after our week in DC. N’s new objective is to get a picture with B that does not include Z!
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The parting shot as we leave DC to continue our journey.
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After leaving DC in a blaze of glory N became concerned over oil pressure so we made a mid channel filter adjustment then powered on up the Potomac and made the turn North on the Chesapeake.

OK, so there wasn’t much boating this past week so we went with pics. We’ll go back to more narrative as the journey continues. From this point forward we have no dates to hit or places to get to so your guess is as good as ours where we might end up each day!

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Last pic…. very proud… our trip pales in comparison!

  

May 16/17, Days 173/174 Gettin’ Crabby with It!

The weather finally broke on Tuesday so we hustled (left by 10:30AM) off the dock at Crisfield and headed for Smith and Tangier Islands. It was great to return to good weather with sunshine and calm seas. It’s amazing how quickly stuff can change on the water. We didn’t really have a specific plan other than wanting to explore each spot. Both are tiny islands about six miles off-the Eastern Shore in Chesapeake Bay with Smith Island being part of Maryland while Tangier is in Virginia. The economies of both islands are very reliant on the crab and oyster business and most residents work as “watermen” (what we would call fishermen in the PNW). From our previous post, you’ll know that Crisfield was a huge seafood processing community on the Eastern Shore…. well, much of that seafood then and today come from the watermen on these islands.

We arrived at Smith Island first. The island was first charted in 1608 and settled in 1686. It’s clearly seen better days.

 

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On the dock at Smith Island. We were the only pleasure boat there.

 

There’s only 190 residents across three separate small towns all within about three miles of each other. Our first stop was Ewell. While B thought it might be a great place to stay and write the great American novel, N was less enthused. The island “wakes up” for the season on Memorial Day (primarily because the tour boats only start visiting then) so there was not much going on…. in fact, there was nothing going on except a bunch of clean-up.

 

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The islands are fairly low with lots of marsh. You can imagine how “buggy” this place must get. Fortunately it was windy when we were there.

 

The hurricanes hit these low-lying islands hard and there’s not a lot of money for recovery so these past few days we’ve been feeling compelled to spend some money in each of these struggling communities; both on the Shore and particularly the islands. Before leaving we found the only restaurant open and had lunch. What do you eat for lunch in a Maryland seafaring community? Maryland crab cakes!   

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Of course we had to have some Smith Island cake as well. It’s from the island and  the official dessert of the State of Maryland. A proper Smith Island cake has ten layers of cake separated by chocolate icing. This one had only 8 layers, but we got the idea. 
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From Ewell we went to Tylerton. It’s still part of Smith Island, but Tylerton is not connected to the main island by land. Only 50 people in this town, but it seemed a bit more well cared for.

 

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Even so, Tylerton’s docks were pretty dilapidated. If you look closely you’ll see a pleasure boat tied up at the same dock. Not only is it another Looper, it’s a 25′ C-dory from Washington State! WHAT?! What’s the probability of two WA registered boats docking next to one another at some random island in Chesapeake Bay? 

 

We then headed the short distance to Virginia(!) and Tangier Island.

 

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Whoa baby, that was a tight turn (blue is BAD)!

 

Seems like every community has their own claim to some kind of #1. In Tangier’s case, they were once the #1 seafood producing community in the world…. measured by lbs produced/capita. Tangier Island also has the distinction of being the place from where the British launched their attack on Fort McHenry in 1814 one result of which was the penning of the Star-Spangled Banner. Now THAT is a fun fact!

 

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Heading up the channel into Tangier. Little shacks on either side are “shedding huts” where watermen bring crabs in the process of shedding their hard shells and growing new ones. The sheds have big tanks with flowing water and watermen monitor the crabs a few times a day 24/7. The crabs are harvested at the point they shed their shell, but before the new one hardens. The latter happens quickly which is why they need to be monitored. The result is a soft shell crab!   

 

 

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When you’re at a place with lots of little shedding huts, what do you do? You eat the result! Whoa, these soft shell crabs were GREAT!

 

Tangier’s population was once over 1,200, but has now dropped to 500. Even so, it was significantly livelier than Smith Island in part because boats from the mainland visit throughout the year.

 

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Religion is big on both islands.

 

We stayed at Parks Marina; the only marina in town and owned and operated by 87 years old Mr. Parks. B was delighted with his flirting as we secured our lines. The mind reels at what might happen to N should he be caught one day in a similar repartee with a woman nearly 30 years his junior!

 

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Parks Marina as the sun went down. We’re getting used to these fixed pier docks, but they’re not our favorite.

 

Very cool vibe on the docks, but there was ZERO internet and ZERO cell coverage.

 

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I think we found one of the “white zones” on the Verizon map! Standing right next to the Verizon building and basically holding onto the microwave tower and ZERO signal. Are you kidding me!

 

In the words of Joni Mitchell “…. you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone….” Made us realize how much we depend on technology for info this on trip. Charts and stuff were fine, but we were blind on weather as we couldn’t get a clear radio signal either. The wind picked up again in the morning and we were hesitant to leave without wave and weather news so N paced the dock talking to watermen about the sea conditions as they returned from that morning’s crabbing. We really didn’t want to do a 20-mile crossing in four foot waves.

 

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N watched for these guys coming in to go chat. Looks calm, but it was blowing. Notice the crab shedding huts.

 

 

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Today’s catch! This is a bushel of male crabs that sell for $90. Same bushel of female crabs sells for $30(!)….please, no politically incorrect comments! 

 

 

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Famous Blue Crabs! In this case their shells have already been ripped off in advance of “picking” the meat for crab cakes.

 

 

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If there was any doubt crabs are important here… check out these cool chairs!

 

One might imagine Chesapeake Bay as a benign “bay” but it’s a massive body of water where you can’t see one side from the other with currents, shallows, shoals, and some very big waves when the winds are going.

 

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B wants to get the “do” right before a pic on the way out of Tangier, but geeez…. N has to watch the NARROW channel too!

 

We need to be vigilant in paying attention to our charts and depth sounder…. N has tried to cut the occasional corner miles off shore around some point just to see the depths spool down and force us back out to the middle!

 

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It was a bit rougher crossing than we’d expected (I guess watermen in heavy 45′ boats don’t have the same perspective as those of us in 29′ Bayliners), but we made it back across to Deltaville, Virginia  (B and Z were down below) and are staged for our run to DC.

 

Next, we’re going up the Potomac and on to DC!