March 1, 2021 – Biscayne Bay
After two nights, we left the tropical anchorage at Long Arsenicker Island making our way up Biscayne Bay to anchor outside of No Name Harbor on the lee side of Key Biscayne. On the way up we stopped at Black Point for free water and pump out at the county facility and a good lunch at the Black Point Grill. It was a windy but sunny day. From there we continued north up through the Intracoastal Waterway with anchor stops at Lake Sylvia in Ft. Lauderdale, Pelican Harbor, and Lantana before an overnight stay at my cousin Henry’s dock, Mullet Run, on Sawfish Bay in Jupiter. That’s a favorite stop for us and we enjoyed the time with Henry and Kathleen and their son, Jason, and his fiancé, Barbara.
The next night found us anchored off the Marriott Resort at Hutchinson Island in a fierce wind as the storm came through. Our ground tackle was secure on 100 feet of rode in eight feet of water. It was a most uncomfortable night and the next day amid small craft warnings we continued onward into 30 mph winds to anchor at Pine Island and then onto a better anchorage in the lee of Pineda Causeway on the 8th. On the morning of the 9th, we tucked into Cocoa Village Marina for a week, a favorite stop for us. During our stay we got the safety inspection completed by the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
We moved on north on the 16th up to an anchorage just outside of the Titusville Marina. During the run we spotted a dead manatee and reported it to FWC. After setting the hook we launched the dinghy to meet up with some Loopers that we had seen and messaged with through the Nebo app. We had a great time with the crews of Panacea, Lucky Dog, Bears Den, and Ginger Gale and will look forward to meeting up with them again.
On the 17th we made it up to the New Smyrna Beach City Marina where I was able to wash the boat and we met with Jim Harper (one of my old crew teammates from Howey) along with his fiancé, Maryellen, for drinks aboard and dinner out. The next night was another bouncy anchorage at the Shady Place in Daytona as another thunder storm came through.
We were happy to not experience hail or a tornado that was forecast. It was an easy and short entry from there the next morning into the Halifax Yacht Club so we could meet Julie and my cousin, Roosevelt, for dinner. We miss Uncle Bert, but it was wonderful to be with them.
March was showing its teeth on the 20th as we plied our way through cold wind and rain from Daytona to Crescent Beach and docked at Lori and Hugh Cain’s place on the ICW. A good group of friends made the effort worthwhile. We would have had a really hard time docking in the high winds without the help of Eddie Bell, Roger Cox, and Hugh. Because of the weather, we stayed two nights. It was still blowing on the 22nd, but away we went to one of our favorite anchorages north of St. Augustine, Mile 769. The next day Sabbatical anchored by the Atlantic Boulevard Bridge in 25 feet of water. As we got to the St John’s River, Ginger Gale and Panacea continued on north up the ICW, but we took a left and steamed up the St. John’s to the Metropolitan Marina in Jacksonville. On Thursday, March 25th, we docked back in our old slip at the Marina at Ortega Landing. Over the next several days, there were a couple of day trips with some family and friends and included a chance to fuel up with 256 gallons from Mandarin Holiday Marina at the sweet price of only 2.26 per gallon.
Sabbatical stayed in her slip almost the entire month of April while we attended to the needs of real estate in Gainesville. We were back and forth, but during the month I was able to change the secondary fuel filters, waterproof the Bimini top, and change out the shift cable from the upper helm to the lower helm. Finally, on Friday, April 30th at 1545, Jane flipped the lines off the cleats and I slipped it into reverse so we could back out of slip C-104. Much to my dismay, nothing happened. “Jane! Grab a cleat! I got nothing up here! There’s no reverse!” Quickly, Jane had us secured as we had not moved. Jane shut down the engine and I went to work to adjust the shift cable I had installed the week before. I got it figured out and in less than an hour we were on our way, through the beautiful circa 1927 Ortega River bascule bridge, to continue downstream in the St. Johns back through downtown Jacksonville embarking on what seemed like the beginning of our second spin around America’s Great Loop. In reality, our second Loop began when we crossed our wake at the end of the first in Charlotte Harbor, but still, we were clearly excited to be underway again! We didn’t go far with such a late start and at 1915 we nudged up to the free dock at Sister’s Creek with help from some other boaters. one of which was Mick of Phantom. He has been around the Loop several times and is single handling alone.
May 1, 2021 – Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway mile 739
With Phantom and Lucky Maru just ahead of us, we were off the dock by 0802 greeted by a beautiful day of clear skies a cool breeze at 66 degrees. We passed by Fernandina and Cumberland Sound and by 1125 we hit the Georgia line. We decided that we should make a habit of taking turns driving while the other exercised in the saloon below. Who knew you could do Power 90 on a boat? It was rough crossing St. Andrew’s Sound, but we continued on past St. Simons and at 1928 anchored at Wally’s Leg (mile 666 – devil be damned) having made 73 miles on the day’s run. We normally wouldn’t want to cruise so far in a day, but we had made a plan to fly out of Norfolk to use the tickets that we bought a year ago so we could visit our son, Travis his wife, Rachel, and the twins Hazel and Beatrice in Portland, Maine. The flight we booked was for May 18th so we figured we needed to average about 45 miles a day to get there in time. We thought it best to make some headway early in case we ran into bad weather or equipment failure.
From Wally’s Leg we were out early and into a gorgeous sunny morning. We passed through Doboy Sound with a current push and got to St. Catherine’s Sound by lunchtime. It was breezy, but we made it through Hell Gate following Discipleship on the high tide at 1442. Approaching Savannah, we heard Aaron Bradford over the radio. We had met Aaron and Chrissy in 2019 at the MTOA rendezvous in Brunswick. Soon he was beside us in his runabout as we cruised along. We passed by Thunderbolt and across the Savannah River into South Carolina at 1812. By 1907 we were anchored at New River having gone 96 miles.
On Monday the 3rd the beautiful weather continued and so did we up through Calibogue Sound, past Hilton Head and Beaufort into the Ashepoo River, and through Watts Cut to an anchorage we knew at Church Creek. From there it was a short hop the next morning to St. Johns Yacht Harbor so we could arrive with the slack tide. We missed it by a half an hour, but docked without death or damage, cheating death again. We were only there for one night, but it allowed us time to wash the boat, refill the water, do laundry, get provisions from Harris Teeter, and go out to dinner at Wild Olive with our friends that we had met in Ortega, Ted and Amy of Who Knew.
Slack tide on the 4th was early and so were we. (May the fourth be with us!) We eased out of the slip at sunrise and made our way up through Elliot’s Cut and across the harbor at Charleston. The city was serenely beautiful at this early hour. It was another perfect day for cruising and we made it 84 miles to anchor at Thoroughfare Creek. It’s an interesting spot up the creek by a tall sand dune with a beach.
On the 5th we enjoyed yet another perfect day – sunny with a high of 72 and a light breeze out of the north. We arrived at Myrtle Beach Yacht Club early in the afternoon and took a long walk around neighboring apartment complexes and golf course before LynSue came and met us for dinner. Howey friends are everywhere.
May the 7th blessed us with another perfect day. It was beginning to be weird to have so many good days in a row. Yet this was mostly sunny with a high around 75 and a supporting breeze on our stern. At 0836 we crossed into North Carolina. At mid-morning, after we passed by Shalotte Inlet, reality struck in the form of a rainstorm. At 1115 the temperature had dropped to 53 degrees! Was this North Carolina or North Dakota? The rain quit and we made our way past Southport and up the Cape Fear River. We passed through Snow’s Cut and picked up a mooring ball in Carolina Beach.
After we left Carolina Beach, we anchored at Mile Hammock Bay (Camp Lejeune), and then Hardy Creek before we arrived at Dowry Creek Marina at Belhaven. They have a courtesy car, so we took it into town for groceries. The next morning we were planning on going to an anchorage at South Lake just below the Albemarle Sound. After we got through the Alligator River Swing Bridge, we angled off the ICW towards South Lake and remarked what another nice day it was. That prompted us to check the weather for the next day and then we made the decision to skip the anchorage and go on across the Albemarle Sound making our new destination the Albemarle Plantation Marina. Always best to get while the getting’s good. It was calm on the sound, but we were glad to have made it across on a good day even though it meant a ten hour day. We arrived at APM at 1640. It was a good decision as the 12th was a total slimy day – just cold and wet! APM made for a great place to layover for a rest day and since they offer two nights free, it was even better.
On the morning of May 13th we dropped lines off the dock and meandered over to the fuel dock for 247 gallons of diesel at 2.41. The rains had passed, but it was still cool. Leaving Albemarle Plantation we made sure to avoid the restricted area where the CIA and SEALS train at Harvey Point. We made our way over to the Pasquotank River and up to Elizabeth City and docked at the free dock at Mid-Atlantic Christian University. Shortly we were visited by Dan Smith and got to know him and about Maritime Ministries. We ended up meeting Dan and his wife, Kathy, for dinner at Toyama Japanese Restaurant.
The next morning was another beautiful day and our arrival at the South Mills Lock was timed perfectly for entry into the Great Dismal Swamp Canal. Near Miss brought up the rear and joined us for the eight foot lift. We stopped off at the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center to tie up for the night. Near Miss was going all the way through so did not stop. This is our third trip through the canal, but we’ve never stopped at the welcome center so we wanted to check it out. We were the only boat for a while, but finally a sailboat passing south stopped. We helped the guys on the sail boat dock. The older gentleman, Frank, had just bought the boat and his son, Mike, was helping him get it down to Washington, NC. They had forgotten to load their groceries so we gave them a jar of peanut butter and loaned them a pot to cook their Ramen noodles in. We enjoyed visiting the museum and walking the boardwalk and talking to families that were stopped at the rest stop. The following day, May 15th, our plan was to continue out north through the canal and the Elizabeth River, go through Norfolk and anchor in Willoughby Bay on the north side of Norfolk. We had arranged to leave our boat at the home of Kevin and Sandy Tucker for the time that we would be in Maine. Kevin and Sandy are friends that we met on our first Loop in 2018. From Willoughby Bay we could easily get to Tucker’s dock on the 16th, giving us two day’s leeway before our flight. Just as we were crossing the Virginia State line, we noticed that the steering fluid was leaking from the shaft at the upper helm station.
This was not looking good. Everything seemed to be ok for a while but after an hour it felt like I was unable to control the boat from the upper helm. I sent Jane below to take over and then I came down once she had control. We talked about what to do and if we would need to call on Sea Tow to drag us into a repair yard. The big problem about that was that it was Saturday and getting a mechanic and parts on the weekend would be nigh impossible. The Captain decided that as long as he could control the vessel from the lower helm, we should keep going and try to make it all the way to Kevin and Sandy’s in Virginia Beach. The Admiral agreed. We called and told them what was going on and he said he has a good mechanic who can attend to our issue while we’re in Portland. It’s an old boat and things wear out and break. We were not surprised that it was time for something new. When the steering goes out it’s a turn for the worse. Being the weekend, we encountered less commercial traffic going through Norfolk. I really did not want to have to declare a Pan Pan with lots of immense vessels around. It went fine and we crossed both the bridge/tunnels and headed for the inlet at Lynn Haven. Once inside there were lots of recreational boats to contend with, but the steering at the lower unit was working ok or well enough it seemed. We turned into their canal and that’s when the keel found the mud. We had the impeccable good taste to arrive dead low tide! Great! I backed off the shoal in the canal intersection and did a 360 degree turn using just enough speed to slide straight through the side of the shoal and found slightly deeper water once beyond it. We continued on down toward the Tuckers dock at the north end of the canal. Jane expressed in no uncertain terms that she was very nervous with boats just inches away on either side, but we made it and tied up with Kevin’s help at 1655. Just in time to change and go to a party. It was a lot of fun with their friends Grant and Pearl providing live music.
On Sunday, we got to watch Rachel’s graduation on Zoom to receive her Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of New England and found out she received the MSOT Outstanding Student Award! We are so proud of her.
Later, we all went out in Kevin’s bowrider.
Grant and Pearl came too and afterwards Sandy had cooked dinner for all of us. Grant and I played guitar together. We had such a fine time; we forgot the boat was broken. Monday morning, the mechanic, Tim came by to see about the steering. He wiggled the wheel and determined that just a seal kit was not going to fix it. I think his exact words were, “Oh, this isn’t good!” The bearings were shot and it would take a new unit and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to find one anytime soon. He said he’d get back with me, but not when. Oh, well. After he left, I changed the oil and filter and replaced the filter for the fresh water system.
We flew out to Portland on Tuesday and had a wonderful and long overdue visit with the Family McKinney. We went to LL Bean, dined out at great places, played games, went to the beach (the water was 50 degrees) and stayed dry.
We thoroughly enjoyed just hanging out with our twin granddaughters and watching their personalities develop, the roles their imaginations create, and their gymnastic moves.
On Friday, I got a text that Sabbatical was fixed and ready to go. It was joyously received. The bill was fair and the timing was superb. Our visit in Maine was too short, but on Sunday it was time to return.
The flights back were uneventful and Kevin met us at the airport and stopped by the grocery store so we could stock up. The high tide would be at 0800 so we’d be ready to shove off. Only problem was the weather forecast. A northeast wind and seas of 2 to 3 feet. It might be ok or it might be a total wipeout. The Admiral says we will try to get across the mouth of the Chesapeake and get behind the lee of the Eastern Shore.
Monday, 5/24/21 –We cranked up at 0654 and Kevin helped us turn the boat in the narrow channel by hand. I had no problem with steering or depth exiting the canals. By the time we got back to the Lynn Haven Inlet, we knew we were going to be in for a ride. No other boats were venturing out. It was three to four feet pretty soon. Even before we got to the shipping channel. The navy was escorting a submarine in, but they were well ahead of us and of no concern. We had to dodge one outgoing and one incoming ship before we could cross the shipping channel which we did between the first and second islands as we went over the tunnel. By 0900 I had Jane get out the mustang life preservers and we put them on in 5 to 6 foot waves. Sabbatical can handle more than we can, but safety on the water is paramount. Shortly we turned with our stern to and slowed to an idle so we could change to the lower helm. It would be a better ride from down there. We executed it well and no one died. By 1055 we returned to the upper helm as we approached the far side and anchored in the lee at Kiptopeke Beach behind the sunken concrete ships. I put out 140 feet of rode in 10 feet of water just for good measure.
On Tuesday we left Kiptopeke Beach early at 0555. The chain and anchor came up very clean except that I could have made a batch of shrimp etouffee from all the tiny shrimp that wanted to stowaway. I opted to let them die on deck and wash them away later. It was a little rough early as we made our way up the Eastern Shore, but by 1100 the ride was quite comfortable on a cool day of 65 degrees. We crossed into Maryland at 1231 and docked at the Tylerton Town Dock (Smith Island) at 1317. There is just not much in Tylerton. Only 56 full time residents. But there is the Drum Point Market. We had made it in time to get to the Drum Point Market and enjoy a good lunch. Everyone we met which was about 10 % of the population was very nice and accommodating.
From Tylerton we headed out Wednesday for Knapps Narrows Marina. Even though there are three channels going in and out of Tylerton, we exited the same way we came in which was the west channel through Sheep Pen Gut. The townspeople erected new stone breakwaters there at the entrance to the channel, so I figured it had to be the best way. We did bump the bottom in one spot, but it wasn’t bad. Once out in the bay, with the current running against us and the south wind behind us, we had a bit of a roughish ride early, but by the time we were on the approach into Tilghman Island it was glassy. In the “It’s a Small World” category: Just as we came through the Knapps Narrows Bridge, we were spotted by some friends we know that happened to be eating at Characters Bridge Restaurant. They noted this boat with the home port of Gainesville, Florida, but weren’t aware that it was us. They watched us dock at the along-side floating dock in the channel at Knapps Narrows Marina. It wasn’t until the next day that we made the connection. I gave Sabbatical a much-needed bath while Jane did laundry. Since a storm was coming in from the west, we had dinner aboard.
No need to leave early as we only had 21 miles to go to get to Annapolis. It was a very nice day for crossing the Chesapeake with northwest winds around 6 knots and waves less than one foot. Jane did a lot of the driving once we got out in the bay while I worked on polishing some of the stainless steel. By 1300 we were secure on mooring ball #11. We lowered the dinghy and it cranked on the second pull after having not been used since Titusville. We got some wine and snacks together and climbed in so we could make it over to Herb Seaton’s boat, Phanthom for “Porchtails”. When Herb puts on “Porchtails” it usually means a crowd and it was. All had a grand time with the crews from Shingebiss, Island Girl, Jackpot, Happiness Is, New Hope, Near Miss, Spirit, Nauti Jenny, Irrational Exuberience and Pearl. We felt like we have finally caught up with the other Loopers and all the long days were worth it.