Last Friday, almost a week ago, we thought we were leaving South Carolina behind us and starting our journey through Georgia. Our intentions were there but the weather gods had different plans for us. We arrived in Hilton Head, South Carolina on the Wednesday just before American Thanksgiving. Our plan was to stay just a few days at a dock to get water and diesel, to pump out our waste tanks and, yes, to get some laundry done. But, no, rain and wind kept us tied to the dock for several more days. We made the most of our time though. How? We finally installed our watermaker! Or, to be more accurate, all the hardware pieces of the watermaker are now installed, and the plumbing will follow in short order, once we can get a few parts from a hardware store. We won’t need to use the watermaker until the Bahamas so we still have a few weeks to finalize the set up but we are very happy with it all so far. It is a pretty slick install, if we do say so ourselves 😉.
We left Hilton Head on Monday and have been moving through Georgia every day since. This part of the ICW has been a wonderful surprise. Yes, we have to time our travels around the winds, tides and currents but the beauty of Georgia makes it all worthwhile. Throughout coastal Georgia are tidal salt marshes. Hectares upon hectares of golden-brown grasses that use the twice a day flooding tides to create a sustainable environment for blue crabs, oysters, shrimp and other fish. Certainly, the pelicans and other shorebirds appreciate it. It is common to see them plunge into the water and come up with a seafood snack. The other regular visitors around our boat are those playful dolphins. Not sure why they love to hang out with sailboats but we are really happy about it. Other than our coastal birds and mammals, most days it is just our pod of three sailboats, winding our way through the marsh. Occasionally we see another boat, but not often. There are also a few towns but they are not the norm. It is a quiet, calm and beautiful journey most days. We try to travel about 40 nautical miles a day and end with an anchorage that has some wind protection plus shore access for Ocean.
And each anchorage always seems to offer something unique. Since we have Ocean, we always go ashore to explore a bit. Sometimes that means a dinghy dock and a park, other times it is a beach that is perfect at low tide and almost disappears at high tide. Oh, those Georgia tides! They can be as much as 3 metres (9 feet) at high tide and as little as 1.3 metres (4 feet) at low tide. You can see how using the tides to our advantage has been an important part of not going aground. So far, so good! The currents in Georgia also run pretty strong. Since we sailed for many years in the Thousand Islands, and up the St. Lawrence, we have lots of experience with currents. Lovely 1, 2, maybe 3 knot currents. And that is about what we had encountered so far on this journey. Until Georgia. The current here can run 4 and 5 knots regularly. Depending on the timing, the current can stall us or make us zoom along. The other thing that stalls us are the Sounds. Huh? No, I don’t mean noise. I am referring to those little waterways that connect the ICW to the Ocean. Throughout Georgia, our ICW route passes through many of these Sounds so timing our crossing is important. The wind and current in these Sounds can be substantial!
Turning the calendar page to December, we are just about finished our journey through Georgia. We will be in Florida by the weekend and, if the weather cooperates, we should be in Miami before Christmas and planning our crossing over to Bimini in the Bahamas. We are currently at mile marker 677 so we just have a little over 400 more nautical miles on the ICW. But that is looking forward. Right now, we send a big thank you to coastal Georgia for its beauty and challenges. 😊
Leaving North Carolina, we knew that the next two states, South Carolina and Georgia, were going to offer unique experiences, but also very shallow waterways and, yes, lots of bridges.
So, lots of planning.
And I do mean lots! Somehow, we have to find a route for the day that meets the following requirements:
And, it is working. So far, the score board is: 0 bridges touched with our mast, 0 times gone aground, 0 times Ocean has had to cross her legs because we couldn’t get her to shore. 😊
But it isn’t just a slog of a journey. No, we have just about completed South Carolina and we have seen some truly wonderful places and sights as we motor down the ICW. Dolphins continue to be a real treat and, gosh, when they get really close alongside our hull…well, that is magic. We also see lots of bald eagles and pelicans and incredible terrain and vistas.
Having a dog, especially one that isn’t quite yet trained to do her business on deck, we need to go ashore. And this is where the beauty of some of our anchorages really gets uncovered. In towns, we get to see a bit of the local flare. Feral cats along the Waccamaw River, a beach made entirely of oyster shells, large plantation oak trees with Spanish moss hanging from them, and beautiful country homes. And always, I mean al-ways, people chatting with us about Ocean. We meet so many people who want to pet her, tell us about their dog or just give us a wave and say “that is one beautiful pup y’all have”. Incredible.
Most days are amazing but not all days are easy. Boat issues that spring up out of nowhere are our biggest stressor. Not only do we have to manage “the moment” i.e. getting the boat to a safe place where a proper assessment of the issue and cause can be done, but we actually need to solve the issue. Boat mechanics are not readily available so most fixes fall on us (i.e. Mike). Some issues are a constant worry (like our bow thruster or our alternator misalignment) but others pop up, are resolved and we move on (like our starboard helm suddenly becoming non-functional). We don’t have any specific expertise in this stuff but, man, Mike will be able to teach a master class when we complete this journey! He is a great problem solver and that skill has been key in keeping us going. He uses a unique blend of mechanical ingenuity, common sense, stubbornness and ego (will not be defeated) to somehow put us back in the forward position. Honestly, most days I am in awe.
So, yes, this journey so far has been a challenge but the rewards come daily. We are looking forward to getting to Georgia with its very shallow sections. Many sailors choose to go out into the Atlantic rather than deal with Georgia. Not us. Next week we will have Georgia on our minds 😊.
We left Beaufort, NC on Sunday with a great two week forecast ahead of us and a plan to make some serious headway south. And we are! We have been moving about 40 to 50 nautical miles a day, which allows us to do all of our maneuvering during daylight hours. For us, this is an important part of enjoying the trip. This stretch of the ICW is narrow, with lots of shoaling, meaning we could go aground even though we are in the middle of the channel (#notgood). Travelling during daylight hours doesn’t prevent this, but it does reduce our stress a bit since night time navigation requires heightens awareness no matter where you are. What does reduce our chances of going aground? Bob423.
Who the heck is Bob423? Well, he is an ICW aficionado who freely recorded his “didn’t run aground” tracks of the ICW and made them public and downloadable. Incredible. Sometimes these tracks mean doing some odd zigs or zags off the main channel. It seems wrong at times but it actually gets us around some pretty serious shoaling. The best part? It is up to date as of this fall. That is the challenging part of paper charts or rarely updated navigation tools. Shoaling happens all the time. Knowing what shoaling was present in 1989 doesn’t help much in 2022 (1989 shoaling info is actually included in our charts!!!).
The ICW, this part anyway, is kind of like travelling any big highway, like the oh-so familiar Canadian 401. It is narrow and, in-between towns, there is nothing to see. Well, except dolphins. That’s right! Dolphin sightings are almost a constant thing now. These social little creatures pop up regularly to play around our bow or give us a wave. It is an incredible experience and something I don’t think we will ever get bored of. We are grateful for each and every encounter, especially in the early morning hours. I mean, coffee with your best dolphin bud? Incredible!
We finished off our time in North Carolina with two great stops. One was the beautiful anchorage at Wrightsville Beach where we enjoyed a wonderful romp on the wide sandy beach. Ocean was in her element! Oh, and awesome pizza was devoured. In our minds, it was the perfect anchorage 😊.
Our last stop in North Carolina was meant to be a pit stop marina visit, just off the ICW, at Southport. This is a convenient stop that gave us a chance to fuel up, water up and pump out. Unbeknownst to us, it was going to be so much more than that. How? Well, in the morning, we planned a 0930 departure time with Sensai. All our pre-departure steps were going well until…we started the engine. Immediately Mike noticed that our tachometer wasn’t working. Huh? Then, that now familiar smoke and smell of burning alternator belt started (memories of Cape May). Yikes! We shut everything down and told Sensai to go on without us. The alternator alignment issue that we thought we had resolved had reared its ugly head. No mechanics were available to assist but, luckily, a Canadian sailboat docked alongside us came to our rescue. The wonderful captain of Esmeralda jumped on board and, with Mike, managed to realign our alternator. An hour and a half later, we were off the dock and headed to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Another testament to the amazing sailing community. Don’t worry, James, we will pay it forward!
Tomorrow we leave Myrtle Beach (with Sensai) and in a few days we will be in Georgetown, SC. Still chasing the warm weather!
Mike, Ocean and I love to be at anchor so there are very few things that will force us onto a dock. Hurricanes are one of those things. And we have had two experiences of this so far on our journey. First, there was Hurricane Ian while we were moving along the Jersey coast. Now it is Nicole. She was briefly categorized as a Hurricane on Wednesday but mostly has been a Tropical Storm. Whatever you call her, she packs a pretty good storm surge. Thanks to Nicole, we have had very strong winds over the last several days, along with higher-than-normal tides, minor flooding, and some rain. All of this was easy to manage while at dock.
We first saw that the weather was ramping up for a good storm this week while anchored in Oriental, NC. We religiously watch the National Hurricane Centre advisories along with various weather reports and all of them pointed to a pretty severe Nicole-fueled storm starting on Tuesday and extending through most of the week. All three boats in our pod (Wild Horses, Sensai and Brise) decided to secure docks in Beaufort, NC for the Monday, in advance of the forecasted strong winds. This is one of the best parts about having sailing buddies. Even when our boats are geographically separated (Wild Horses was in Belhaven and Brise and Sensai were further along on the ICW), we check in with each other, discussing anchorages, weather, tides, and routes. We also have other boats that each of us check in with regularly, crew that we have met along the way or know from back home. It is our own little crowd sourcing exercise to keep us all safe.
We had arrived in Oriental last Thursday and decided to stay put until we had to move to our dock in Beauport on the following Monday. It was a great break from the daily grind of planning, navigating, early mornings and food on the go. Settled in one place, we could sleep in, eat a hot, slow breakfast and go for good long walks with Ocean. The anchorage was only a 30 second dinghy ride to town where we could stroll along the waterfront and through charming neighbourhoods with warm (27 degree Celsius) sunny days. It was an incredible four days of enjoying the town.
But we also got some necessary work done on Wild Horses. We have continued to deal with water intrusion in the bilge area under our bed but had a new idea for the cause, and a potential fix. Sensai had suggested that the water could be coming in through the anchor locker seams. The caulking in there was old so the theory made sense. Once in the anchor locker, we did a thorough investigation. The seams were fine but some of the hoses and electrical tubing needed to be shored up. So far, this has made a difference. Fingers crossed that the water stays on the outside of the boat from now on 😉.
After several days in Oriental, we lifted our anchor on Monday and started the journey south to Beaufort. We had a calm day with a lovely sunny sky and very little boat traffic. Too easy for you Wild Horses? Should we up the level of difficulty? Let’s see, you are headed to a tight dock space in a crowded harbour, wouldn’t it be a great add-on to your day if your bow thruster wasn’t working? Yeesh. But, yup, our bow thruster was definitely not working. Truly our bow thruster (a motor that gives us control of our bow) has been rarely used on our journey. We only really need it for tight spaces when the wind is up and since we spend most of our time in wide open anchorages, the bow thruster has sat idle. Now it was beyond idle, it was 100% non-functional.
Of course, our expert captain wasn’t concerned. Under his care, Wild Horses was guided into her dock space with ease. Yes! Next was to disembark and enjoy the town!
We have now been at Homer Smith Marina for 5 days. In that time, the bow thruster has been, well, sort of fixed. Unable to find the issue ourselves, we brought in a mechanic. He checked this and that and one other thing, with no big cause getting highlighted. Finally, he asked us to try the bow thruster and, voila, it finally worked. The issue? Age and lack of exercise. Really? Yup. The contacts that turn the on/off switch had gotten sluggish with non-use. Apparently, the bow thruster, just like us, needs to move to stay in tip top shape. No worries, that is an easy step to add into our boat days.
On Sunday we will leave Beaufort and head towards Georgetown. It will take us about four days along a stretch of the ICW that is narrow with lots of shoaling and very few anchorages. By many accounts, this is a “get-through” section of the ICW. For us, it is another experience that we are happy to have aboard Wild Horses 😊.
These early November days mark two months of our journey. We left Trident Yacht Club September 8th but it seems like a century ago. We have seen a lot of places, met a lot of people and learned, learned learned, fixed the boat, and learned some more. There have been a lot of “ups” but there have also been some “downs.” Most of the low points have been centred around boat issues – a leaky bow thruster, a fried alternator belt, unexplained water intrusion in the bilge under our main cabin bed and a multitude of other little things. Some days, yeesh. The emotions range from disappointment and frustration all the way up to, well, fear and dread.
Yeah, not good.
But we are learning to ride the wave of emotions and to tackle the boat issues one by one. Sometimes that means getting outside help (when the issue is outside our wheelhouse) like we did with our chart plotter problems. Mostly, though, we try to tackle things on our own, albeit, with the sailing community you are never really on your own. A mention of a confounding issue (like the water intrusion under our bed) will spur lots of ideas and, even better, “that happened to me” explanations. YouTube University has also been a proud supporter of our DIY work for many years 😉. Those little videos have saved our bacon more than once.
Today, we can happily say that the boat is purring along. No boat work has been on our agenda of late. Yes!
Truly, though, most of our days are just chockful of special-ness, with the last few being particularly high points. Why? Because they remind us that we are “elsewhere.” We are exploring and discovering and when you combine that with being able to fall asleep in your own comfy bed every night…amazing.
The first of our “elsewhere reminders” happened at the bottom of the Alligator River, North Carolina. We anchored just off the ICW, very purposely near a spot that promised that a pet relief dock loomed within the reedy, shallow edges of the Buckridge Coastal Reserve. Research into this Reserve highlighted that it is a known habitat for alligators. Lovely.
Having anchored just before sunset, we had only 30 minutes or so of sunlight to get the dog to this dock and back to the boat. Doable, right? So, the dock was actually at the end of a very long, shallow and narrow access from the open water, winding its way through the marsh. The dinghy had to go dead slow, with the motor tilted, to navigate around multiple underwater hazards. And with the risk of an alligator sighting and looming darkness, all hands and paws stayed well within the dinghy. No alligators were spotted but we were treated to a close-up look at the beauty of the Reserve as we wound through the marsh. It was a spectacular and inspiring moment in the wilderness. And thankfully we got back to the boat just before darkness fully set.
Our other “elsewhere reminder” was in Belhaven, North Carolina. It is right off the ICW and is just a normal-type small town kind of place. Tiny and nothing splashy. What stood out to us about Belhaven was its people. My gosh, I have never met friendlier people. Anywhere. Walking along the road with our backpacks, a lovely lady pulled over and asked if we wanted a ride to the grocery store. Remember that we have Ocean with us. She was willing to take us to the store with our big old dog. Plus, she had just returned from dropping off another Canadian boating couple from the grocery store. That is beyond nice. We declined her offer (we needed to stretch our legs) and for the whole 30-minute walk to the store, every single car slowed down to give us a wave or a smile or a nod. Every single car. It was just extraordinary. The other really cool topper about Belhaven, for us, are its beautiful cotton fields. That is a new sighting for us and yet another reminder that we were somewhere that was delightfully different.
Tomorrow, we head to Oriental, North Carolina. We got separated from our sailing pod this morning but hope to catch back up with them over the next few days.
Here we are! Another big milestone for the crew of Wild Horses. We arrived in Norfolk, Virigina yesterday afternoon and are currently anchored just 5 nautical miles north of Mile 0 of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW or more commonly just “ICW”). This is the “inside route” that will take us all the way from Virginia to Florida, just over 1,000 nautical miles. Wow.
The past week has been spectacular. The weather has been favourable and the anchorages we chose along the Chesapeake have been divine.
We left Herring Bay and our dock at Herrington Harbour South almost a week ago and headed directly for Solomon’s Island, Maryland. This is a beautiful inlet off the Chesapeake that offers numerous options for anchoring, all of which were just as lovely as the next. Our buddy boat Brise was already anchored here, having arrived at Solomon’s Island a few days before us. Solomon’s Island also proved to be a great place to stock up on groceries and boat supplies, with a grocery store, liquor store and West Marine in easy walking distance. Yay! And, even closer? There was a veterinary office just steps from the dinghy dock. Don’t worry, Ocean is just fine (well, maybe a little spoiled but otherwise fine). We just needed to get a top up of Ocean’s allergy meds. We are chasing Ragweed season as we head south…
By Tuesday, we were ready to move on. Under dead calm winds, Brise and Wild Horses headed out together, bound for Reedville, Virginia. This little creek, nestled about 20 minutes off the Chesapeake, is a true gem. It houses an active crabbing fishery, a couple of small restaurants, a marina, and…well, that’s about it. We have heard that one of the restaurants (The Crazy Crab) can get pretty wild, but it is only open on weekends. Being there on a Tuesday night, we were treated to quiet serenity.
The next morning, we were off to our next anchorage in Deltaville, Virginia. We had a bit of a late start due to dense fog that had settled along the Chesapeake coastline overnight, but by 11am it had cleared brilliantly to allow us to make headway down the coast.
Deltaville did not disappoint. It is a lively, beautiful spot with the centre of activity being the Deltaville Marina. This place provides docking, boatyard and haul out services and, for a small fee, allows anchored boats to use their facilities. On shore we were happy to see a forest with walking trails (oh, how we miss our trail hikes) and a great marine nature centre. We tried to soak it all in quickly since it was only going to be a one-night stop for us on our way to the ICW.
Yesterday, we left Deltaville, hoping for a lovely sail to Norfolk with 15 knot winds. Uh, nope. The wind was up, yes, but WAY up and it brought the sea state with it. We rocked and rolled for over seven hours with 30 knot northerly winds and 4-6 foot waves knocking us around. Yeesh. It was a tiring day of hand-steering Wild Horses to keep her as balanced as possible. We did our best but the dog did land on the floor once or twice. I am quite positive I saw a few glares from the four-legged crew!
The sea state had calmed a bit by the time we reached Norfolk. When entering the area, the first thing you see is the Virginia Naval Base. I mean, you can’t miss it. The thing is huge! Acres and acres of frigates, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. It is quite impressive.
Our anchorage, in the Lafayette River, was just beyond the naval base. It is a lovely place to stay while Brise and Wild Horses wait for Sensai to catch up. Ted and Evelyn were able to fix their battery issue in Annapolis so have started the journey south to the ICW. We are hoping for all three boats to be together again in Coinjock, North Carolina, at ICW mile marker 50.
After leaving Annapolis, Wild Horses headed a little further south in the Chesapeake to Herrington Harbour South in Rose Haven, Maryland. This marina has been just what the (boat) doctor ordered. Here, we have had the opportunity to get some boat issues sorted out while also relaxing in a gorgeous marina/resort just a few hours south of Annapolis. It has been a real treasure hanging out here for a few days.
But why here? On our way to Annapolis a few weeks ago, a few boat issues crept up that we really wanted fixed in short order and the contractors we needed to do the work are affiliated with Herrington Harbour. If we could get ourselves to the marina here, they could do the work.
What boat work did we need done? First, after we had left New York City, we started experiencing some problems with our new chart plotter i.e. it decided to randomly turn itself off and on. Not once or twice, but almost a few times an hour. We have back up electronic charts on both our phones as well as on our tablet so this issue has been more annoying than critical in nature. Still, weirdly enough, we wanted it to work properly. Second, out of the blue, our AIS (automatic identification system) on the chart plotter stopped showing us other boats. Huh? The idea of AIS is that you have an electronic fix on other boats with AIS and they (those with AIS installed) have an electronic fix on us. Only having half the picture was less than ideal and if it wasn’t fixed before we have to navigate in the dark again (for example, when we cross the Gulf Stream in late December and need to leave in the wee hours of the night) it would be a BIG DEAL. As we learned when we left New York for Atlantic City in the dark, having AIS aided our poor night vision immeasurably. Not only did we know where other boats were relative to ourselves (especially the big commercial boats) but we also knew which direction they were going and if they were on a collision course with us. So, yeah, pretty important!
Our awesome contractor, Andy, fixed just about everything. The dude is a wizard with electronics. He rewired, he crimped, he connected, he repowered, he tested, and our problems were solved. At the end of the day, the AIS issue was a defunct motherboard. Thankfully, Andy was able to order in and install a workaround part that put us back in business. And the random on/off cycling of our chart plotter seems to be a power issue, partially caused by a poorly sized cable. Again, Andy to the rescue with a new cable. While moving the boat today, the chart plotter once again turned itself off and on, but it is doing it far less. That is something! There is one more undersized cable in the mix that we will look at replacing. The solution is out there!
While at dock we also took the opportunity to call in a professional sailboat rigger to tune our rigging properly. We have always tuned our own rigging (mast, mast stays, back stays, forestay) but we are hacks at this at best. Since we will be sailing A LOT once we hit the Bahamas, we wanted to ensure that our rig was set up correctly. Having professionals assess and correct the tuning was money well spent. In less than half an hour, our rig went from out of tune to being able to perform like an orchestra 😊.
What else? Oh man, our anchor light. When we re-stepped the mast way back on the Hudson River, we discovered that our anchor light had become non-functional. The anchor bulb is new and its wiring is fine so we figured it was just a loose fitting. Easy fix. Except, the anchor light sits on top of our 60-foot mast. And yours truly is the official Wild Horses mast climber. Yikes. We decided to attempt the fix here since it is a very protected marina with little boat traffic. Plus, we had a perfectly calm weather day on Friday. The last thing I wanted was to have the boat rocked by wind or waves while perched on top of the mast. And, yes, once I was up there it was clear that the anchor bulb had just fallen out of its connector. Yay! A two-second bulb replacement + one terrifying height = a functional anchor light. 😊
Ocean has had her own treasures here at Herrington Harbour. Not only does she get to play off leash on long stretches of grass but she found a ball, laying abandoned under some dinghies. After three days, she has yet to put the ball down except for sleeping. Hmmm, I guess sometimes the value of a thing isn’t related to money or popularity or need. Sometimes it is just how it touches your heart and makes you smile. Herrington Harbour South has been like that for us. Like I said, it was just what the boat doctor ordered.
Today we are on the move once again. We will be going further south in the Chesapeake to Solomon’s Island. Brise is already there and Sensai will be joining us in a few days.
Literally. We roll.
Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
Just over a week ago, we arrived in Annapolis and anchored in what is called “South Anchorage”. It is a huge anchorage area between Spa Creek and Back Creek (very popular inlets off the Severn River that run adjacent to Annapolis City proper). Our preference was to anchor in one of these creeks as they are “off” the Severn River so they are protected from the rolling sea state and from any boat wakes. Unfortunately, both creeks were full so we settled for a spot in South Anchorage, where we have remained for the last 10 days. We both love it and hate it. We love how close we are to the Boat Show and to Annapolis City (a 2-minute dinghy ride) but, wow, we roll. Remember about the protection from sea state and boat wakes that Spa Creek and Back Creek offer? Yeah, we have very little protection out here in South Anchorage. Boats fly by at close proximity and the sea state can get pretty agitated. We are safe from dragging anchor but getting used to the boat constantly rolling, from side to side and/or bow to stern, has been something. We constantly need to have one hand balancing ourselves to move about the boat, inside and out. The good news in this whole thing? We are getting a good abdominal workout without even trying! Plus, a weird thing has happened over the last few days – We got used to the roll. Ah, acclimatized bliss. This must be truly a thing because all the other boats in our anchorage have also stayed put and there is easily over 75 of us here, including a 120-foot sailboat.
Being that this is a new anchorage for us, one of the first things we did when we arrived is to get our utilities in order. What does this mean? Well, we are at anchor so we don’t have easy access to water tank fill ups, garbage removal, waste tank pump outs, and shore power. Power for Wild Horses isn’t an issue because we have ample solar panels and two big lithium batteries so shore power isn’t something we need to access. But, the rest of the list is pretty important. Our first stop was the Annapolis Harbourmaster. They were invaluable. We quickly learned that we could shower in their facilities (we don’t have hot water on the boat while at anchor), plus they have a place for us to dump our garbage and to get fresh drinking water. For waste tank pump outs, they run a mobile service. One quick call and they come right out to your boat for the tiny fee of $5 a tank. Nice! They also directed us to the closest grocery and pet stores. Extra nice!
As I mentioned, we have now been in Annapolis for over a week and the time has flown by. In addition to exploring historic Annapolis while walking Ocean, we got to watch the dismantling of the Power Boat Show and the set up of the Sailboat Show. This is no small thing. The show is huge and each and every part of the show crew seems to have a specific job. And they work with very intense efficiency. There is no time to waste! Watching the display sailboats arrive was also incredible. From our own boat, we could see all the beautiful and new catamarans, monohulls, sailing dinghies and vintage boats sail into the harbour and then get placed into a slip at the Boat Show. Incredible precision.
The other thing that happened over the past week is Canadian Thanksgiving. How does one celebrate such a thing when you are miles from home? You sit down to a great meal with your sailing pod of course! The crews of Brise, Sensai and Wild Horses set off for a lovely Thanksgiving grocery shopping extravaganza and then got together on Wild Horses for the evening meal. There was lots of laughter, wine, and some really great food from chicken pot pie all the way to a crustless pumpkin dessert. We definitely hooked up with a sailing pod that includes some amazing chefs!
We have also had the pleasure of spending really wonderful times with some of our Gananoque friends, who are visiting or working at the Boat Show. This has been such a joy. Touching base with old friends over a beer or a walk (sometimes both 😉) and, hearing what is new/crazy/interesting in their worlds, has been just what the doctor ordered. Speaking of what is new in the world – congrats to my niece Cassie and her husband Kevin on the birth of their beautiful boy Elijah just yesterday. Welcome to the family Elijah!
Another new beginning starts tomorrow. Wild Horses will once again weigh anchor and head further south. We have a slip waiting for us at Herrington Harbour South where we will get some much-needed boat work done on our navigation system. Thankfully we fixed our alternator belt problem on our own. The culprit was a missing washer that allowed the alternator to move out of alignment. Easy fix. Whew.
With the weather moving closer to 0 degrees celsius overnight we are happy to be continuing our journey to warmer temperatures.
Holy Toledo. One calendar month + one hurricane Ian + numerous boat issues after we left Kingston, Ontario, we have arrived in Annapolis. And we are thrilled. Scratch that. We are beyond thrilled.
Why is this particular stop so important to us? Well, Annapolis Maryland is THE place for boat shows. Twice a year it hosts both the United States Power Boat Show and the United States Sailboat Show. Each are several days long and have an attendance that is unprecedented. They are chock full of gear, ideas, info and, well, boats. So many boats. It is also the place where you can really start to dream about your own big voyage to the Bahamas, to Grenada, or across the big blue ocean to places afar. Our own dream of sailing south to Grenada solidified at our first visit to the Annapolis Boat Show so many moons ago. Only, back then, we drove to Annapolis by car. So, for us, it is a dream come true to arrive here in our very own Wild Horses. There are no words for how happy we are right now.
But let’s back up a bit, because it hasn’t been a soft pillowy journey to Annapolis. No, stuff broke and lessons were learned. Hmmmm, that could be the subtitle for this whole blog…
We left our protected harbour in Cape May last Thursday. It was a beautiful blue sky and the marine forecast called for light winds and a calm sea state. Lovely. Every boat that was hunkered down at our marina, to wait out Hurricane Ian, was ready to leave. Two boats left at the same time as Wild Horses and Brise and several more were to follow in short order. We were all headed out to the Atlantic and then up Delaware Bay with a destination of Chesapeake Bay.
Wild Horses was only 30 minutes into our 7.5 hour voyage when our alternator belt disengaged itself from the alternator. Now, a broken alternator belt isn’t a big deal. I mean, it isn’t a big deal when you have spares on hand (which we do) and mean DIY “fix it” skills (which Mike does). No, it just FEELS like a big deal in those first few minutes. Let me draw you a picture – engine alarm is ringing loudly and there is tremendous smoke coming from the engine room. Oh – my – gosh. In seconds, we had the anchor down, the engine off and Mike’s head was in the engine room assessing the situation. Once we knew it was the alternator belt, I retrieved one of our spares (we have several) and got it attached. We were up and running, albeit shaken, within 40 minutes from start to finish.
Like I said, it seemed like a big deal at the time but later, tucked away in our nice little anchorage at the top of Delaware Bay, we got news of another boat we have become friendly with in Cape May that put our little experience into perspective. The boat had arrived near our anchorage just after sunset and, with little light to work with, had hit the rocky underwater breakwater protecting the anchorage. It is in the charts but cannot be seen with the naked eye. Taking on water, the captain called a mayday (emergency coast guard call) for a rescue. The captain, a solo sailor, is fine but his boat had to be towed to safety and hauled out for repairs. Sigh, a big dose of perspective for the crew of Wild Horses.
The remainder of the trip to Annapolis included heightened awareness for possible risks. We chose easy anchorages, watched carefully for the many crab pots that litter the Chesapeake and stayed watchful for any and all hazards, big and small. This is normal operating procedures for us but it took on a whole new twist after our comrade’s unfortunate breakwater incident. It was a very real reminder of why risks always need to be minimized, extra care always taken.
But back to today. Here we are in Annapolis. We are anchored just a 2-minute dinghy ride to the boat show, in what is called “South Anchorage”. We have easy access to town and a beautiful view of the harbour. Oh, and a nice little kicker to what is already spectacular? We are close enough to the Annapolis Naval Academy to get treated to the sound of their sunset Ceremony. True bliss.
Also wonderful is that we got to see our good friends Paul and Andrea from Gananoque today. They were here for the boat show and, incredibly, were able to bring an important veterinary document for Ocean to get into Puerto Rico. The document had been ordered in July but had arrived after our departure from Kingston. We are so thankful that Paul and Andrea not only picked up the document in Ottawa but safeguarded it and brought it all the way to Annapolis. I know, very cool friends for sure.
We will be in Annapolis for the next three weeks waiting out hurricane season and also taking the opportunity to attend the boat show, pick up some extra gear and to get a few boat things fixed and then it is down the Chesapeake and onto the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).
With Hurricane Ian ripping up the Atlantic coast, we have had a lot of people ask if and how our location in Cape May is safe. We are at the South Jersey Marina and at least seven other sailboats sought shelter here from Hurricane Ian. Wild Horses and Brise arrived here on Thursday September 29, just in advance of the storm. Other boats had arrived a day earlier and a few more boats came in before the wind really picked up on Saturday.
Our marina is nestled within the Cape May inlet. It is well-protected from the stronger winds and swells of the Atlantic and it thankfully has floating docks that rise and fall with the tides. All forecasts had Hurricane Ian being downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time it reached the Carolinas, with our area being mostly affected by hurricane remnants, which covers a very wide area but has less force than an actual hurricane. We were expecting big wind and rain by late Saturday and through to Tuesday. Warnings about strong winds, rip currents, high surf and flooding, have littered our local forecasts. We are happy we made the choice early to get Wild Horses docked at a marina that is outside the strongest path of the storm.
The actual weather did not disappoint. The wind, reaching almost 50 knots, was the strongest we had experienced. From inside the boat, we could feel and hear the wind but it wasn’t uncomfortable or scary. Most importantly, we stayed inside the boat during the worst of the storm. There is a tendency to re-check lines and gear but the biggest risk is not from what is happening with your boat, it is debris flying through the air. We had already secured or removed any loose items from our boat deck and dinghy. We had tripled run our dock lines. We knew Wild Horses was safe and we knew we were safe.
Besides storm-dodging, we have kept ourselves fairly busy for the past week. We are in walking distance to a few marine stores so we were able to do some much-needed boat repairs. The first was our shore power plug that got fried during a power surge at Hop-o-Nose Marina. Since we have been on mooring balls or anchored for the last few weeks, we have relied entirely on solar power to keep our boat batteries full. But with a forecast of several days of rain and clouds, we needed to get our shore power plug fixed and operational. Once we had the parts, it took Mike less than an hour to get us back in business.
Then there was the newly found leak under our bow thruster. You read that correctly, we had saltwater slowly coming into the boat from under our bow thruster. Yeesh. Now, it wasn’t enough water intrusion to sink the boat but it was enough that we wanted to slow it down, or even better, stop it 😉. The marine store had the perfect solution – an epoxy putty stick that works under water. It took two full sticks to stop the leak. Whew.
But it hasn’t all been work for us. We have walked Ocean all over the pretty little town of Cape May and even took the Marina shuttle downtown to do some grocery shopping.
The last few days have turned a little chilly. We don’t mind pulling out our fall jackets for walks and our boat heater keeps the temperature inside the boat nice and cozy. The downside of the fall chill in a boat? Condensation. Boat hatches are not insulated so the cold-glass-meets-warm-humid-air situation means our hatches start raining.
It looks like the weather will cooperate for us to leave Cape May on Thursday Oct 6. We will finally head up the Delaware Bay and, within a few days we should be in Annapolis, Maryland, where we will stay until the better part of hurricane season is over.
One bonus side note - Remember the crazy swells on our journey from Atlantic City to Cape May? A tiny but important plastic piece of one of our boat hooks lasted the whole time on deck. We thought we had lost it to Neptune during the swells but, nope, there it was on deck, ready to be attached back on the boat hook. Wild!
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.