Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Post Loop Follow-Up

This post, is an epilogue to our Great Loop trip including some of the things we learned and what surprised us.

But for anyone contemplating doing the loop, it starts with the list below of the things we think are essential to have on your boat:

  1. A VERY strong relationship
  2. 2 sets of binoculars
  3. A powerful, tennis racket-style bug zapper (useful and fun)
  4. Screens on all windows, portholes and doors (we were swarmed 3 times)
  5. A Seagull brand water filtration system (eliminates the need for bottled water)
  6. A washer/dryer (allows you to keep up with shorts, t-shirts, towels...takes the pressure off the laundry thing - you still need big, commercial washers and dryers for big stuff like blankets)
  7. An oven, a microwave and a toaster oven large enough for a dinner plate
  8. A separate shower compartment in the head
  9. Built-in fans (in addition to A/C and heat) - one for each person in each stateroom; one on each side of the helm; and wherever else it makes sense to put one
  10. Generator
  11. Inverter
  12. 2 VHF radios
  13. AIS (at least a receiver)
  14. Boat cards (get them before you start and if you are going to do a blog, put the blog address on your card)
  15. Extra freezer
  16. Over-the-air TV antenna with signal amplifier 
  17. Satellite TV
  18. WIFI antenna
  19. A "Marker Minder" - it's a toy-like thing you can switch around to remind you when it's NOT red-right-returning (we had one that suction-cupped onto our throttle base)
  20. A #2 sticker on the left side of your chart plotter and a #1 sticker on the right side of your chart plotter to remind you of which way to go when a tow operator tells you to pass him "on the ones" or "on the twos"
  21. An Ipad with both cellular and WIFI capability and maximum memory so you can download both Navionics and Garmin charts with Active Captain and use it as a backup chartplotter as well as getting valuable info from Active Captain on marinas, bridges, and local hazards to navigation that can change daily.
  22. Windshield wipers and washer
Things that surprised us:
  1. How beautiful the East coast of Lake Michigan was - Caribbean blue water, huge sand dunes and beautiful small towns that look like Edgartown (big old, white houses with wraparound porches) every 20 miles;
  2. The frequent kindness and generosity of complete strangers - several times, we had people we'd met five minute before, hand us their car keys (amazing); and
  3. How little stuff and room you need to live very happily and comfortably.
Things we learned: 

1)  The War of 1812 was a big deal.  But since our schools don't cover it in their curricula in any detail, most Americans including us, know little or nothing about it. It played a HUGE role in practically everywhere we went on the loop. We can't tell you the number of War of 1812 Museums, museum exhibits, forts and battle grounds we visited.  Anyway, here's the gist (we think):

What prompted the War of 1812 was:
  • British attacks on American shipping
  • Impressment of American sailors by the British into their navy
  • Fomenting of Native American attacks on Americans by the British
  • Expansionism by the Americans, beyond the territory they had won in 1783 at the end of the Revolutionary War, into what the British regarded as their remaining territory (including Canada).
Turns out, the Native Americans were the biggest losers of the War of 1812. That was because: a) they had sided with the losing Brits; and b) the continuing expansionism by the Americans (Manifest Destiny) forced them off their lands and onto reservations. The infamous "Trail of Tears" was a forced march during which thousands of Native Americans died on their way to reservations.

2)  Canada is more beautiful than we'd ever imagined and Canadians are very friendly people;
3)  We loved doing the loop, but long-term cruising is not for us - too little exercise and too much food (bad lifestyle at least for us);
4)  The Great Lakes really are like the ocean; Chesapeake Bay also looks like the ocean in places;
5)  About half of Americans seem to subsist on fried food
6)  The big rivers can become boring because the levies with trees growing on them on both sides, block your view;
7)  The Florida Keys have great weather year-round;
8)  Nordic Tugs are wonderful boats;
9)  Box wine, especially "Bota Box," is great - Canadian wine...not so much;
10) Alligators like to swim around boats with dogs on them (wonder why?);
11)  It's not good to leave your cooler outside in areas where there are beer-thirsty teens; and
10) It's not good to leave your garbage outside in areas where there are raccoons and bears.

Best Take-Aways:

1)  Some new, life-long friendships;
2)  The satisfaction of having finished the loop;
3)  Having seen parts of this country and Canada we never would have seen had we not been on a boat; and
4)  Having had an incredible adventure and the time of our lives!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Delaware Bay, Crossing Our Wake and Back Home to Mystic

Delaware Bay is also huge
Since there aren't any places a boat that draws 4 1/2 feet can easily get off Delaware Bay, we cruised the entire length of the bay from Delaware City to Cape May, in one day.
Docktails in Cape May

While in Cape May, we took yet another, Trolley Tour, this time with Hiromi and Mike from "Off Leash."

On Cape May Tour

After Cape May, we went "outside" (the ICW) and up the Atlantic Ocean, past Wildwood with it's amusement park waterfront, to our next port of call, Atlantic City. There we docked next to Loretta and Bob on "Carol Anne" and directly in front of The Golden Nugget Casino.

 Wildwood, NJ's waterfront amusement park

Not to let a good spa go to waste, Loretta and I checked into the Golden  Nugget's newly renovated spa. They were having a June special - a one-hour massage for $99.00. How nice!

Docked in  front of The Golden  Nugget 

The next day was a REALLY long one - all the way from Atlantic City to New York Harbor - 85 miles "outside."

Approaching New York

We left Atlantic City at 6:05 am and arrived at The Statue of Liberty, where we crossed our wake (finished the Great Loop), at 5:00 pm.

New World Trade Center
"Off Leash," "Carol Anne" and "Humbug" all crossed their wakes at the Statue that afternoon. It was the first time 3 Looper boats have crossed their wakes at the same place on the same day, making us minor celebrities at AGLCA  (America's Great Loop Cruisers Association) headquarters.

We were met at Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City, by Larry and Lenore from Champ III. They are gold, and soon to be Platinum, Loopers (they're half way through their 2nd loop). As soon as we'd tied up, we took down our old, ratty, "in progress," white burgees and put up our new gold ones that signify we have completed the loop.

Out with the old, in with the new
Selfie of Gold Loopers congratulating ourselves

Of course, we had to congratulate ourselves that night by consuming a bit of champagne.

 Crossing our wakes called for Champagne  

The next day, Pete and I took the ferry over to Manhattan for provisions at a Whole Foods market and that evening, our group had a celebration/farewell dinner at Liberty House Restaurant which is right at the marina and has a fabulous view of Manhattan.

Liberty House congrats/farewell dinner

Reluctant to say goodnight to our friends from whom we would part the next day, we went outside to sit by the restaurant's warm fire pit.

Smooching by the fire pit

There, with the Manhattan skyline just across the Hudson, we toasted marshmallows and reminisced about the things we'd seen and done together over the past, amazing year.

Reminiscing by the fire pit
The next morning, Loretta and Bob and we, headed up the East River, they for New Rochelle where they used to keep their boat, and we, for Norwalk.
Chrysler Building

As we headed north, we passed the Manhattan skyline.

UN Building

We stayed in Norwalk one night and had breakfast the next morning with our good friends, Rick and Pam.  Then we headed up Long Island Sound toward Essex, CT.

Approaching Norwalk Harbor

We stopped in Essex to see the folks at Wilde Yachts from whom we had ordered the boat and with whom, we will list it soon. We'll be going back to a smaller, faster boat - the type we've always had before.

Saybrook Pt Light at the mouth of the CT River

Wilde provided us with a free slip, so we hung around Essex, delaying going home, for a couple of days.

Griswold Inn, Essex

Finally, on June 9, 2014, we headed for home.

Noank at the mouth of the Mystic River

We arrived at our dock in downtown Mystic 1 year and
12 days, 7,035  statute miles, 2,428 gallons of diesel and 833.5 engine hours after we'd left.

As we came up the river, we said hello to familiar sites like Abbots Lobster In The Rough restaurant and the Mystic railroad swing bridge.


 Mystic railroad swing bridge opening for us

Our neighbors were their to catch our lines and welcome us home.

Neighbors waiting to catch our lines

It was truly, a once-in-a lifetime trip and an incredible adventure. We saw a large part of this country and Canada from a unique perspective few people will ever see. We tested our navigational skills and our marriage and both, happily, turned out to be strong. We made some very dear new friends who we plan to keep in touch with forever. We also met many, many other folks we hope to see again. We'll miss the immediate circle of friends we had wherever we found other Loopers, and the astounding generosity of complete strangers. We're grateful for the opportunity to have taken such a trip and for the good health we experienced during it.  And, of course, we are most thankful that we and our beautiful boat made it home safely.

It's estimated that 25,000 people climb Mt. Kilimanjaro each year, but only about 125 -150 boats do the loop each year. And WE did it!

HUMBUG in our slip - taken from our deck

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Annapolis, Baltimore, Chesapeake City and C & D Canal

Big - but not dangerous, waves all day
The Chesapeake was just lovely the day we left St Michael's for Annapolis. 

BIG, ocean-like Chesapeake Bay

It looks, as did the Great Lakes, like the ocean. And, it can kick up ocean-sized waves. We try to avoid that kind of water, but once in a while we get a surprise dose.

Blue Angels over CAROL ANNE from HUMBUG
We arrived in Annapolis just in time for the Naval Accademy's graduation weekend. In honor of that, the Blue Angels put on an incredible show. We watched it from our upper deck.

Yacht Clubbers watching Blue Angels
We were docked right in front of the Annapolis Yacht Club where hundreds of members also watched the Blue Angel's show. They were all dressed nicer than we.

We had rejoined our friends, Loretta and Bob on CAROL ANNE, whom we hadn't seen since Daytona, in Annapolis. Since they'll cross their wake (finish the Loop) at the Statue of Liberty in a few weeks, as will we, we decided to cruise the rest of the way together. 

While in Annapolis, we took a Red Train tour of the city and gawked at all the beautiful, young people in town for the graduation.

Chicken statue on Red Train tour

Baltimore was our next port of call.
Us and friend approaching Baltimore Harbor

Both we, and Loretta and Bob, had people to visit  in Baltimore. One was Loretta and Bob's son, Travis who had graduated from Johns Hopkins and stayed there to work. The other, was David Ente, the son of one of Pete's roommates from Union.

Entering Balitimore

David Ente, frog man

Lucky for us, David is the dock master at the Baltimore Harbor East Marina. He got us slips there even though it was Memorial Day weekend.

 David has a dive service business in addition to being dock master. 

Baltimore is a foodies heaven, so the first night we were there, we went to dinner with Loretta, Bob, Travis and Travis's girl friend, Ti, to a fabulous, high-on-the-foodies-wish-list restaurant.  
David and Robin
The next night, we took David and his wife, Robin, whom we had not seen since their wedding 10 years ago, to another fine restaurant. Robin, works for Under Armour, which is headquartered in Baltimore. She is in the international department where she responsible for opening new markets.

Stop #1 on Food Tour
Continuing to eat our way through Baltimore, the next day we went on a food tour which took us to 5 different restaurants. 

Perogies on the Food Tour
Famous sign in Baltimore's Inner Harbor

We had a great time in Baltimore. But, we'd eaten far too much, so it was time to continue heading north toward home and...the looming diet.

Night in Baltimore from HUMBUG

Baltimore's Inner Harbor

Ft McHenry as we left Baltimore
Entering C & D Canal
To get to Cape May, NJ from Baltimore, you have to go to the very top of Chesapeake Bay to Chesapeake City, then transit the C & D Canal which takes you to the very top of Delaware Bay at Delaware City. That is where,I have spent most of this entire day, writing this and my previous blog post.
Delaware City

Tomorrow we make the run down the entire Delaware Bay to Cape May. There, we'll wait for a good "weather window" in which to venture outside (the ICW and into the Atlantic) to make our way to Atlantic city.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Yorktown to St. Michaels Via Chesapeake Bay

On May 9, Anne and Keith Palmer joined us in Norfolk and the next morning, I drove their car to Yorktown, VA where they and Pete met me with the boat. Keith was Pete's high school science professor at Loomis and they have stayed in touch ever since, so it was a great treat for us to explore some of Chesapeake Bay  with them.

The Palmers hanging out with George Washington
Since we had their car, we decided to visit Yorktown Battlefield and Museum. While we were on our audio-auto tour of the actual battle field, torrential ran began, so we contented ourselves with blurry vistas from closed car windows. Still, we learned a lot about that battle which ended the Revolutionary War when Washington and Rochambeau defeated Cornwallis.

Tangier Island crab shacks
Our next stop was Tangier Island, a place where time has, in part, stood still. The islanders drive only golf carts and speak an almost incomprehensible dialect left over from the original colonist settlers from south west England.

Tangiers' two restaurants

Keith, who is English, was the only one of the four of us who could figure out at least the gist what those folks were saying.

After Tangiers, which is on the east side of the bay, we crossed over to Solomons Island which is much bigger and far more sophisticated than Tangiers, on the west side. While there, we walked over to the Calvert Maritime Museum.

Calvert Museum's light house
The Calvert Museum has a restored example of the old style of Chesapeake Bay light houses, a "screw-pile, cottage-style" light house. The name is descriptive - they are cottage-like structures sitting on legs that were screwed into the sand/mud. There are still a few of them functioning on the bay, but are now automated.
 Ahab almost in the mammoth shark's mouth
In addition to maritime and fishing industry artifacts, the museum has a large collection of fossils from the ancient, lime stone Calvert Cliffs. One of the most unusual exhibits is of a partial skeleton of a mammoth shark.

Relaxing on the upper deck in Kinsale

Having had enough museums and tourists, we headed next, to Kinsale, VA a small town on a river off the mouth of Potomac.

Placid water in Kinsale
It looked just like a large lake from our boat in Kinsale - beautiful and quiet. We spent the whole afternoon reading and looking through our binoculars at the Osprey family nearby.

Full moon in Kinsale
All good things eventually have to end, so the next day, we backtracked down the bay to Delataville where HUMBUG was scheduled for a short hull to inspect the bottom and install new zincs. While Pete took care of that, I drove the Palmers, in an Enterprise rental, back to their car in Yorktown. From there, they went on to a B & B in Chincoteaque and I, to the Deltaville Market for groceries.

Lovely Oxford, MD
Because Pete, in preparation for cruising the bay, had read "Chesapeake," we had to stop in Oxford to eat at The Robert Morris Inn, where Mitchner reportedly outlined the novel. Oxford is on the quiet, east side of the bay and was our favorite port of call on the Chesapeake.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

After Oxford, we stopped in St Michaels, home of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and Acme (I kept looking for the Road Runner), Market.

Oystering exhibit

The Chesapeake
Bay Maritime Museum is very much like Mystic Seaport in our home town - lots of restored buildings and beautiful old boats.

Waiting for crab cakes in St Michaels

One of the things we found interesting at the museum were the "pusher boats". They have no steering mechanism on them, just an engine.

Pusher boat engine

Pusher boats were used to push larger boats and were steered by cables, from the larger boat they pushed.

Pusher boat pushing an old Skipjack

Ever onward, as my friend Loretta says, to Annapolis and Baltimore next!