In September we finally left the marina and started working our way south, heading towards our third warm winter.
This month we had to haul out to put on more bottom paint, and we also had to travel to Connecticut for medical appointments. Those two things alone constituted 70% of our expenses this month. Knowing that we were going to be spending a lot on maintenance and travel, we made a point of trying to be conservative with everything else for the rest of the month.
After a short haulout at Cobb’s Marina in Norfolk where we gave Pegu Club two fresh coats of bottom paint (please let this paint last for two years!), we shoved off on a windless day. After the shitshow that was our trip from Mobjack Bay to Norfolk, that was more than fine with us. Dolphins entertained us as we motored towards mile marker zero on the ICW, and we cheered as we passed it for our third trip south.
It might be because we have finally gained the experience to pick our weather windows, but the trip so far has been our smoothest and best one yet. The Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds were calm, and we’ve seen tons of wildlife – bald eagles, turtles sunning on logs, a huge snake swimming through the water (I thought it was a large branch at first until I saw it undulating), and a small Kermit-green frog even hitched a ride until Jeff discovered him on the side deck as we were leaving the anchorage and used a winch to poke him back into the water.
This will sound like sacrilege to some, but I’ve decided that New England is far superior for sailing compared to the Chesapeake. And that’s saying something given that we have only sailed in southern New England. We haven’t even gotten to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Buzzards Bay, or Maine which is renowned for incredible cruising grounds.
But the Chesapeake? Meh. Yes, there are plenty of anchorages. But they are generally up rivers so it can be a pretty fair distance off of the Bay. You don’t have to go five or ten miles up a river to get to great anchorages in New England.
You can’t swim in the summer in the Chesapeake because of the plethora of jellyfish unless you head up to the far northern part of the Bay where the water is more fresh than salt, and the visibility in the water is lousy. The water in southern New England is too chilly for swimming until late June/early July but the clarity is significantly better, and while there can be jellyfish, there are about a tenth as many as we saw this summer. Continue reading “The Chesapeake Giveth, and the Chesapeake Taketh Away.”→
August had us tied to the dock with the exception of an escape to a well protected anchorage for Tropical Storm Isaias. We have a few larger annual expenses due each August: boat insurance, Chris Parker subscription, and mailbox rental. Those three items alone were over 1/3 of our expenses this month. Additionally, we’ve been taking advantage of the convenience of the dock to focus on small boat projects and maintenance, so a fair amount of money was spent on boat stuff.
In September we’ll toss off the dock lines and start heading south again with a one-week break when we drive to Connecticut for medical appointments. The appointments were supposed to happen in August but again, Isaias.
September 3rd marked exactly two years since we cast off the dock lines in Groton, Connecticut and headed out on this adventure. It’s been amazing, sometimes boring, and occasionally scary, but not once have we regretted doing it. In fact, with Covid currently turning cruising plans upside down for so many people, we are glad we left when we did. Although I feel confident that eventually things will return to normal, if we decide to swallow the anchor before it does then at least we will know we had a heck of a year and a half before it all went haywire.
Anniversaries being what they are, I’ve found myself reflecting on the past two years and how much easier the second year was compared to the first.
The first three months of cruising was hard. Books, blogs and videos can’t adequately convey the mental stress of each day being a new experience on the boat. For the first few months our brains felt like they were on hyper alert every waking hour.Every mile under the keel was an area we hadn’t seen before – a new route, a new anchorage, a new town.Not that we weren’t having fun.But there was certainly an underlying level of stress that was constantly percolating in the background.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve been here for six weeks already. It’s even harder to believe that in another week we’ll start slowly moving south. Our travel plans have been a bit topsy-turvey since Isaias messed up our timing, but we think we have a rough outline now.
Originally we were going to drive up to Connecticut for medical appointments while we were docked in Cambridge, but we had to reschedule everything when it was clear that Isaias was going to show up while we were away. With appointments moved to mid-September, the next plan was to leave the marina a few days early and park the boat on a mooring ball in Annapolis while we were gone. Then we had the bottom of the boat cleaned last week and based on the report from the diver, our hopes of getting another year out of our existing bottom paint were squashed.
At least once a month there are questions on the cruising forums or one of the Facebook pages about alcohol stoves. Invariably people will chime in about how dangerous they are, how slow it is, how it doesn’t burn hot, etc. I try to dispel the myths, but I figured it was time for a blog post on the subject. Perhaps it will help people who Google the subject but don’t necessarily participate in the forums or use Facebook.
We bought an Origo stove for our Bristol 24 and Pegu Club came with one, so we have been using them now for the seven years (wow!) we’ve owned a boat. Given that we did a complete refit on Pegu Club and touched virtually everything on her, it would stand to reason that if we weren’t satisfied with an alcohol stove we would have taken the refit opportunity to switch to propane or gas. But I can honestly say that the subject of switching never came up because we were 100% satisfied with using an alcohol stove.
We had debated spending the summer in Vero Beach, FL, then Beaufort, SC, rejecting both because of the hurricane risk. Not wanting to travel as far north as southern New England this year, we settled on the Chesapeake with the rationale that it rarely gets hit by a hurricane. Well, by the time Isaias arrived in Maryland he wasn’t a hurricane anymore, but he was a strong tropical storm. And wouldn’t you know it? Cambridge, MD was right in his crosshairs.
Our friends on S/V Minx are cruising in New England and several days before Isaias’ arrival they had kindly offered us their slip located in a true hurricane hole in the upper Chesapeake. We debated taking it but the slip was 75 nautical miles away and we foolishly thought, “What are the odds?” Ultimately it turned out the odds were very good, but by the time we figured that out it was a bit too late to make the trip. With that option off of the table and the marina wide open to the Choptank River, we decided to take our chances in a local anchorage.
July saw us wrapping up our 2019-2020 cruising season with a short few weeks of travel from the Dismal Swamp Canal, VA to Cambridge, MD. We’ll be staying in Cambridge for two months taking care of some boat projects and making a few trips to Connecticut for medical appointments.
Financially it was also a quiet month which is good given that I’m still trying to psychologically recover from the watermaker purchase!
After leaving Oriental we made steady progress north. We reluctantly decided to skip our beloved Belhaven, which is the first time we’ve missed it. Unfortunately Covid cases were increasing in North Carolina and from what we could observe on Facebook, Belhaven residents weren’t fans of masks. Sadly, if that attitude remains Belhaven will have to be a pass for us until Covid is somehow resolved.
We had a sporty ride across the Albemarle (it’s a large, shallow body of water so every time a gnat farts a nasty chop kicks up), spent several days sweating it out in the Dismal Swamp Canal, and rode out the Fourth of July weekend anchored at Hospital Point by Portsmouth, VA.