Wednesday, May 30, 2018

New Radar Arch! May 31, 2018

New Radar Arch!
We have been here at the Atlantic Yacht Basin for the past couple of weeks.  We have LOTS of work scheduled, and part took place last week.  But, the first exciting part was just completed today (May 31, 2018).  The tubular style radar arch we purchased at the Miami Boat Show this winter is now a part of the Kittiwake.  It totally changes the look of the boat, from the old plywood/fiberglass solid arch to a much more modern, clean look.  Also, one big reason for picking this arch is that it can be folded back to allow us passage through two fixed low bridges on the Great Loop, one on the Erie Canal, and one near Chicago.
To this arch will be attached the new radar, TV antenna, and other electronics.  The old electronics have been removed, but the new stuff will wait until we return from a visit home.  While we are gone, we hope some work will get done which would have involved us moving off the boat anyway.  Not to get too graphic, all the sanitary hoses will be removed and replaced – should result in a much more efficient and smell-free toilet operation!  They will also pull the boat out of the water, clean and paint the bottom and install new ‘zincs’.
My main chore for this arch installation was the historian…so here is the product of my work!

I just wish Dan would get involved in these events....!!

A wooden support had to be built to support the arch while the height was adjusted.

Thank you, Mr. Crane - that'll do!

All done and sitting pretty!

Close up

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Albermarle “Loop” and back ‘home’ to Atlantic Yacht Basin, 5/10 – 16

Once we were told we had over two weeks to wait for service at AYB, we decided to use that time to explore the Albermarle Sound.  There are about 8 little towns around the Sound that have banded together and advertised to boaters.  They provided printed flyers about each of the towns and called it the “Albermarle Loop”.  This time of year, there are many many boats that are migrating from the south, Florida et al, back to the north.   These little towns want to become a destination for those boaters and their money!  Each one offers 48 hours on their city dock for free (my favorite price!).  Some have electric hookup for a nominal fee.
Many boaters had lamented their time on the Albermarle as ‘the worst day in their cruising history’!  I guess it can get pretty rough out there.  However, in the full week we spent in and around the Sound, we had perfect cruising weather.
Our first stop, coming out of the Dismal Swamp Canal, was Elizabeth City.  These folks are famous for meeting arriving boats with a welcome rose and providing snacks, wine and beer the first night.  Sweet! 
Dan and I are still new, as a team, to docking.  Based on recommendations from many boaters, we purchased ‘marriage savers’, that is, blue tooth two way headsets.  They do make life while docking or locking much simpler.  I just have to remember not to shout – it hurts Dan’s ears!  Just talk in a normal tone! 
Elizabeth City’s docks are a little different – they have slips of several different widths, and the widths are marked on the face of the dock….  Unfortunately, they are very hard to read.  So, with other boaters who arrived before us trying to help, we started backing into one slip.  Halfway in, I realized that the slip wasn’t just tight, it was about a foot too narrow!  “Abort, abort!”, I tried NOT to shout in the two-way.  So, he moved the boat down a couple of slips – unfortunately, this slip only allowed 6 inches on either side of the boat.  Yikes.  But, we did get her in there, tied down, fenders out.  The slip had big wooden pier posts about 25 feet from the dock, then very short ‘finger’ piers.  With the tight fit and fenders, we still scraped on the corners on either side.  We spent one night in Elizabeth City.  
Had a nice dinner at Grouper's right at the dock.  Next morning, we took a taxi (first time in recent history that no Uber cars were available!!) to Lowe’s for some supplies.  There’s a great museum there of the history of the Albermarle and Elizabeth City.  Once we toured the museum, we were ready to move on to the next stop, Albermarle Plantation.

The Albermarle Plantation is unique among these little towns.  It is not a town at all, but a golf/tennis/boating community.  It is lovely, with huge, pristine docks.  The only problem was that we were put waaaaay out on the docks, so that to get to any grass was quite a walk for our old guy (Max, not Dan).  The community is also pristine – kind of like a ‘Stepford Wives’ scene.  There was not a blade of grass out of place, lovely landscaping with not a weed daring to be present.  They provide a set of front loader washer/dryer for boaters to use for free!  Yippee!  We have a washer/dryer combo on board, but it only does small loads, and drying takes forever.  
At 6:30 the next morning, we were sitting near the tennis courts with Max while the Hispanic employee first squeegeed, then brushed, then painted new lines on the courts.  There are two restaurants there, one closed indefinitely for remodeling, one closed the whole weekend for a wedding – just our luck!

Next stop on the Loop was Edenton.  We were met at the dock with a welcome packet about the town.  This place was by far our favorite.  It is such a beautiful, charming little town.  Also, it was the only one where I was moved to take pictures – a lot of pictures!  We had a delightful time.  
We landed there on Saturday, and went for a very nice dinner at Waterman’s, just a few doors from the dock.  After dinner, we thought we’d wander around downtown.  About three doors down from Waterman’s was what looked like a resale home furnishings store.  A sign out front said “Vinyl Night”.  We could hear great and very loud music coming from inside.  We tentatively poked our noses in, and the owner said to come right on in.  “Would you like some of my wife’s homemade sangria, or wine, or beer?”  The music was in the ‘courtyard’, really a bricked alley between buildings.  It was very crowded with locals and visitors.  The DJ was playing all the great music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s – we were all singing along, some were dancing, some were passionately playing air guitars.  I’ll never think of Bohemian Rhapsody the same!  We had a hoot – were very disappointed when they had to shut it down at 11:00.
The next morning in Edenton, we thought we’d go out to breakfast.  The first place listed in their information was on Main Street – closed for Mother’s Day.  Hmmm.  The only other place listed was at a marina about a mile away.  So, we started out to walk there.  It was hot and steamy – and I’m a heat and humidity wimp.  So, when we were about half way there, I thought to check on my nifty smart phone to see if they were open.  Turns out, they’re not – they are permanently closed!  OK.  So we returned to the boat for our usual breakfast.  
We did stay for the rest of that day, had a delicious lunch downtown at a pub, walked all around to look at some truly amazing and beautiful and OLD houses.  The youngest one we saw was from 1910.  Most were from the 1700’s and 1800’s!  All beautifully maintained, with huge porches, lovely landscaping, American flags predominantly displayed.  There was a lovely park, with cypress trees out in the water.  There is a very cool lighthouse, the last one around with screw-type pylons to form a platform in the water.  It no longer serves as a lighthouse, but is open for visitors.  Here are some pictures of this great little town.  Again, not sure why, but the photos I took with my phone are long and narrow.  

lovely park
lovely home

lovely home #2

lovely home #3

This lovely home looked like a place I could call home!

Lovely home #5

didn't realize until later, I caught Dan in front of this home

This place is apparently related to Masonic Lodges

park by the docks

dock that seems to be used by many people in town in the mornings or at sunset

also from the park, beautiful tree at sunset

view from the park of the start of downtown

another picture of my favorite tree!

cool lighthouse on screwed in pylons

the Kittiwake at the dock

sunset picture of the lighthouse

downtown street

inside Waterman's restaurant

beautiful old building at night

the courtyard, full of music lovers

We saw this sign and had no idea of the fun we were going to have

The store through which we entered the courtyard

love the cypress trees

Visitor's Center

After Edenton, we decided to go to Columbia.  This dock is also right downtown.  This little town seems to be struggling a bit.  The downtown store fronts are very old, quite a few vacancies, with a few going concerns scattered in.  We ate at Sandy’s, run by a charming young woman who is a one person show.  She waits tables, she cooks, she serves!  Delicious food, including the best strawberry shortcake we’ve ever had.   She and her husband just bought this place this year – I do hope they make a go of it.  She, her husband, and their two young boys moved here to establish a boat yard where he manufactures high tech catamarans – the type that compete in the America’s Cup.  They received some substantial incentives from the town to locate there.  Good for them!

We had selected Columbia for our last stop on the Albermarle, because it left us with a shorter run across the Sound to the ICW, the North Landing River, and then the Virginia Cut – the alternate route back to our marina in Chesapeake, Virginia.   The day was perfect for crossing the Albermarle, not much wind, not much wave height – my kind of cruising weather!  This route was not nearly as interesting or beautiful as the Dismal Swamp Canal, but still interesting.  There were lots of twists and turns to navigate.  Along this route, we came to the marina at Coinjock.  I had been waiting to see what this oddly named place was like.  The name is a Native American word meaning a kind of berry.  The ONLY thing there was a long dock wall, a restaurant/bar, and a ship’s store.  This is also the only stop in this long passage.  The entire dock wall was filled with boats by evening.  Of course, everyone ate at the only restaurant.  Food was quite good – they are famous for their prime rib, but we both opted for something else.  I bought a shirt – had to do it!
By the time we were up and about the next morning, almost every other boat was already gone!  We left after coffee and breakfast, landing back at the Atlantic Yacht Basin in early afternoon.  Felt like coming home!
We arrived on Wednesday evening, as we had planned.  When we left Olverson’s Marina, we had left our truck, the new radar arch, and some equipment.  As I mentioned, Dan had intended to attempt the install himself.  Plan B – we got a rental car, drove the 2+ hours back to Olverson’s, retrieved the truck and equipment, and trundled back to AYB.  Now we wait….


One of the benefits of our spending so much time in southern Virginia on the boat is that we did get to see our son-in-law, Chuck, and two grandsons, Eric and Jared.  We took them for a ride two times this spring and once last Fall.  Last Fall, we were in Portsmouth, so the ride they got was past the huge docks where the Navy ships are sitting.  This last visit, we took them up the Elizabeth River, then down the Dismal Swamp Canal as far as the first lock.  They did get to go through the Great Bridge and the Great Bridge lock.  I think they enjoyed it – we certainly did!  Dan’s daughter, Annie, is in the Navy and was deployed during this time.

Eric, Jared, Chuck

riding on the bow, enjoying the view!

Jared, Chuck, Eric

Eric got to drive the boat!


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dismal Swamp Canal

We had heard so much about this canal!  Dan spent a few years in the Navy in Virginia Beach and other places.  He tells stories about riding up and down highway 17, which runs parallel to the canal – he remembers seeing those old rich guys in their big boats cruising up and down.  Well, hey, those ‘old’ and decidedly NOT ‘rich’ guys are us!

The canal has an old and interesting history.  Back in 1723, the swamp was first surveyed.  The idea was to dig a canal that would join the Chesapeake Bay and the Albermarle Sound.  One thought was to drain the swamp, harvest the lumber, and farm the land.  That turned out to be an impossible task.  George Washington surveyed the land for the canal and oversaw its completion.  Of course, it was improved and widened over the years.  We took a short walk on a boardwalk through a few acres of the swamp.  Just to imagine those men making their way through that swamp is overwhelming. 

The swamp and the canal were privately owned until 1973, when the land was donated to the Department of the Interior to form the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. All of the virgin timber was gone by the 1950’s.

All that said, our cruising down the canal was such a pleasure!  There are two locks, each fronting a drawbridge.  Each lock and bridge is operated by one guy!  So, he lets boats through the lock, jumps in his car, and goes the half mile or so to the bridge, opens the bridge, and repeats!

The first full day on the canal, we didn’t meet one boat.  We were leading two sailboats, who stayed way back.  I think they wanted to enjoy the uninterrupted view for themselves!  The water was so still, it was a mirror.  The canal is about 50-55 feet wide, wide enough for boats to pass, but not a lot extra!  Looking down the canal, it looked very narrow, because of the trees on each side reflecting their image on the water!  We saw lots of birds, turtles, several deer, but no bears.  Sometimes, the larger birds would take off from a tree alongside, soar along the canal for quite a ways, then light in another tree. 

After a full day, several hours, we came to the visitor’s center. We tied up for a quiet night, and then took a leisurely departure the next morning.  Towards the end, the dug canal ended to put us in the river and then to Elizabeth City.  There started our “Albermarle Loop”.

Here are some more shots of our time on the Dismal Swamp Canal.  The last two shots are from my phone - my talents on blogging can't tell me why these pictures are long and narrow....oh well!

Hard to pick the best one, but doesn't it look like we're cruising in the sky??

just a dock and stairs to the road

We could see the  bridge up ahead

inside the lock

bridge going up

you can see the water boiling into the lock to raise us up to the top of that wall!

just waiting for the water to start coming in....

I just love the trees' reflection in the water

At one bridge, we had to wait about 2 hours, drifting around, with our bow in the bushes!