Sunday, May 31, 2015

Why Can't We Have Boat AND Car?

Delmarva Pennisnula
This morning we stopped at the Dismal Swamp Canal Welcome Center. It felt like home. But we were homesick for traveling the canal by boat rather than driving along side with a car.
But we have been having fun. We had lunch with our cruising friends George and Carol. That was fun because the four of us enjoy swapping stories when we get together.
Last night we went to Rocky Hock Campground near Eadenton, NC. That was a pretty site and a beautiful clear night. We left the top cover off the tent so thst we could sleep under the stars.
Next, we are goin to spend two nights as Assateague National Seashore. Carol told us that is a lot of fun. Maybe no Internet, so so long for 48 hours.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Fresh Perspective on Storms

Zebulon, NC

The other day, a severe thunderstorm suddenly approached Dave's house where we are staying.  I was sitting out on the porch.   I realized that the experience was very different on land, as opposed to scrabling to meet an approaching storm on a boat.   We've been on the boat so long that it felt like a fresh experience.

I just sat on the porch and observed.   The wind got stronger and stronger.  Thunder and lightning could be seen to the south.  I watched the tops of the trees swaying, and I saw it as a big branch broke off and fell.   But down at ground level, there was nearly zero wind.  The trees and the house sheltered me from the wind.

In the end, the storm never struck us.  It was a near miss.  The potential hazards are very different.   Falling branches and trees.  Lightning hitting nearby trees or buildings.  Water runoff after the rain.  All that in exchange for anxiety about the anchor dragging.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Places Tarwathie Can't Go

Zebulon, NC

On the way here, Libby and I stumbled across something unexpected.   We found some locks far far upstream in the Cape Fear River.   It appears that the river must be navigable by medium size vessels nearly to Fayetteville, NC.   Wow.  We had no idea.

That sight was a reminder of where our heads are.   You see, after 10 years on the boat we have become true nomads and explorers.  We don't explore places that no man has seen of course, but places that we haven't seen before.   Unfortunately, there are many such places awaiting but where Tarwathie (or any other large sailing vessel) can't go.   In 2012, and again this year, we will see some of those places by car.

But our true passion is to explore natural places, not man-made places.  I suppose the ideal would be to become dirt bikers; but we're 50 years too old for that sort of thing.  Travel by water suits us well, but how could we do that if Tarwathie can't go?  Many sailing cruisers switch to trawlers, but that doesn't appeal to us.

An experience that we can't put out of our heads was the meeting with a man at lock 16 of the Erie Canal.  He had a 16' aluminum canoe with an outboard motor on the back.  He said that he can cruise all day at 15 knots.   With a rig like that, tens of thousands of miles of rivers in North America would become available to explore.

We downsized once from a house to a sailboat.  Could we downsize again from a sailboat to a canoe?  Not full time, but part time perhaps.  We could tow a trailer with two canoes and then launch them for week long explorations.  I don't think we'll give up on Marathon and Tarwathie for winters, but in summers.  This idea is very appealing.

Not this summer, but something to think about for the future.

Friday, May 22, 2015

USS North Carolina

Zebulon, NC

Dave and I just returned from a round trip to Florida (more on that later).   Along the way, we took the 5 hour grand tour of the Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington.   I toured the ship 10 years ago by myself, but is was much more fun to share it with Dave.  Someday, I expect that Dave can share it with his son Bobby.  Bobby is currently a sailor in the USN.

The North Carolina is by far the best of the warship museums I've seen around the country.  They allow you to see almost all of the spaces above and below deck.   Dave and I both marveled at the amazing number of details designed into the ship to make it operate, even under battle conditions.  The 1930s engineering was very impressive.

Below is another youtube video I made of our tour.  Watch it; you'll like it.  You'll be especially impressed if you have never been close to 16 inch gun munitions.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Woke Up In A Cold Sweat

Zebulon, NC

I'm sure this has happened to you.  I woke up suddenly in a cold sweat.  Somehow when I was sleeping, I thought of a real life thing.  I remembered that when Libby and I stepped off Tarwathie and drove away, I forgot to move and secure the solar panels in a place secure in case of a hurricane (or even a severe thunderstorm for that matter.)   Damn.  That's a serious error.

What to do?  I could call the boatyard and ask them to do it.  I could call our friends Chris and June and ask them to do it.  But I need it done in a particular way.  I need the panels plugged in and operating (we leave the refrigeration running all summer or else the collant leaks away.)   I also need the panels located out of the direct force of the wind, and very securly tied against winds up to 100 mph.

So here is the plan.  Dave has Wednesday and Thursday off from work.  he and I will drive down to Green Cove Springs and take care of it.  We'll also have fun travelling together.  Hopefully, we could manage to get in a side trip to the battleship North Carolina.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Brookgreen Gardens

Zebulon, NC

In Myrtle Beach, our friends Bo and Joyce took us to a nearby place called Brookgreen Gardens.  It was delightful.  It was created from rice plantations that bordered along the Wacamaw River.  But it was turned into a massive botanical garden and sculpture garden.

What fun it was to roam those grounds because hidden everywhere are these marvelous sculptures.   Libby and I are sure that this is a place that Jennifer would really love to visit.

It is also a place that we have passed by on Tarwathie many times. The upper portions of the Wacamaw River pass through cypress swamps.  We have written about them many times.  They are second only to the upper Pasquotank River for beauty.  But alas, there is no public access to the Brookgreen Gardens from the river.

I made a little video of my photos from that day.  Enjoy.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Too Busy To Blog

Carolina Beach State Park, Carolina Beach, NC
34 03.03 N 077 55.14 W

I must apologize, it has been much longer than usual since my previous blog post.   We have been too busy to post.  Here's a summary of what we did.

  • We spent two days at Gold Head Beach State Park in central Florida, and we really liked it.  That's a lovely spot.
  • We drove north, avoiding all major highways, through Florida and Georgia.  The bad part about that is that we missed a stop in Fernandina Beach and a chance to visit our friends Charley and Mary.  That's unfortunate.  Next fall hopefully, Charley.
  • We found that all campsites along the coast to be probitively expensive ($50/night for a tent).  We also found that most inland sites in GA, have converted to 100% RVs with concrete pads and electric shore power.   We finally found Magnolia S;rk gs State park which had 4 of 40 sites reserved for tents.
  • We visited cruising friends Penny & Richard from Viking Rose, in Port Royal.  They are now CLODS, and they moved in only 2 months ago   Their new home and the location are wonderful.  Thank you Penny & Richard.
  • We spend the night with other cruising friends, Brian and Jan from Wind Chaser.  They too had moved into the Beaufort, SC area two months ago.   Their house and location too are wonderful. The took us to neaby Wishing Island for a walk on the driftwood beach.  It was great fun.  Thank you Brian and Jan.
  • The next day we drove to Myrtle Beach to spend two nights with still other cruising friends, Bo and Joyce, on Dream Catcher.  They took us to Brookgreen gardens (more on that later)   Thank you Bo and Joyce.
  • Today, we are on our own at Carilina Beach State Park which is one of Libby's favorite places because it has the best pine needles anyplace.  Alas, ALARM ALL BLOG READERS, the park staff has systematically destroyed all the dwarf pine trees with the best needles.  To me it looks like a program to keep controled burn fires awary from the roads.   Outside the park, on the far side of the bike path, there is still a stand of those luscious trees; just not nearly as many as before.
  • Tomorrow, we will be with Dave and Cathy in Zebulon.  We'll stay there a couple of weeks.
Whew, we have quite a chain of friends to visit (and sponge off of) between here and Marathon.   Few such however from here north to NY.

I'll post pictures soon.


Saturday, May 09, 2015

Camping Shakedown

Gold Head Branch State Park, Keystone Heights, Florida

Before cruising in a new boat or a new plane, it is customary and prudent to go on a shakedown cruise to discover the bugs. That's what we're doing here. We left Tarwathie yesterday and drove only 30 minutes to this site.

The first bug we found was a big one. Since 2012, we have been carrying the tent from our 2012 western trip on the boat. We have used it in that time. Yesterday, we discovered that we don't have the fiberglass rods that hold the tent up. They are in Dave's garage in NC. Oh well, I had to drive an hour to a Wal-Mart to buy a whole new tent.

But it would be very wrong to call this camping a work day. It is wonderful here. We especially loved the song bird seranade in the dawn hours. Bird songs are one of the things we miss most on the boat.

More: I just returned from a swim in the lake. The water in this lake is shallow, and the lake appears to be shrunk to 1/4 normal size. But the swim was delicious and the waters were cool, sweet and crystal clear. It brought back a childhood memory of the glass bottom boat at Silver Springs, which is not far from here. This afternoon when it is hot, I'll take another swim.

A feature of this state park seems to be tha 100 foot deep ravine. To someone who just returned from Utah, a 100 foot ravine sounds laughable. But then I thought, "This is Florida." In most places in Florida you can not have a 100 foot ravine unless the bottom is 96 feet below sea level. Come to think of it, on the drive here, the road had some up/down slopes that Floridians could call "hills." Yep, to a local this place is exotic and special. That's fine by us.

We are trying to meet other people, but is it more difficult than in a harbor. There is only one other tent in this park, and the tent's people are nowhere in sight. Everyone else is camping in RVs. During the hot daytime hours, they go inside their RVs, close the door, turn on the air condiitoner and TV, and can't be seen. The RVers who don't do that, take their vehicles and disappear until dinner time. It's lonely here for Libby and me.

p.s. I'm going for another swim this afternoon.




Thursday, May 07, 2015

Ready To Go, No Plan

Green Cove Springs, Florida

OK, Tarwathie is up on the hard.  Our work is done.  We have wheels.  The car is packed with camping gear.  We are ready to start heading north.  The only problem we discovered was that we didn't have a plan.

We had thought that it would be fun to visit a camp site near Savannah, GA that we enjoyed 30 years ago.  But alas, there's a tropical storm heading that way.  It would be better to wait.

So, our improvised plan is to hang out in a camp ground about 10 miles west from here for a couple of days.  Then we'll head north.  We have friends in Beaufort and Myrtle Beach that we would like to visit.  Then we'll head to Dave & Cathy's in Zebulon, NC.

Ready to haul
Midge, the german shepard tried to bit the lines and pull to be a part of the team.
OMG, look at all the slime on her bottom. No barnacles though.
My prop is still amazingly clean after two years in the water.
As they pressure wash, you can see the layers of paint.  The gray was the top layer, then blue, under the blue is red, green, and black layers.  Probably none of those layers have any copper left in them.
Tarwathie sits in the yard, as we will leave her for the summer.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Green Cove Springs

Green Cove Springs, Floida

What a nice place this is! Many other cruisers knew about Green Cove Springs long ago, but it is new to Libby and me.

The lounge and facilities at Reynolds Park Marina are the best I've ever seen.  Holland Marine, who will haul and paint Tarwathie for me is reputed to be a top notch business.  However, we are avoiding Green Cove Springs Marina on the advice of Dave & Pam (long time blog readers).

The river naer here is great for day sailing.  The surrounding area is very nice.  The only caveat is that you need a car to enjoy thonse surroundings.

We are scheduled to be hauled out Wednesday morning.  Until then, Libby and I are preparing to leave Tarwathie for the summer.  That feels very strange.

Historically, this place was a navy base.  The extrmely long and solid docks were designed for the largest of US Navy ships.

Unfortunately, there is a 45 foot bridge only 1/2 mile from here that prevents us from going further on the Saint Johns River.  We understand from our friends Jeff and Wendy that the upstream region would be a pleasure to cruise.

By the way, this is the only river I can remember that flows North.  It has totally fouled my internal compass.  I pride myself with having a very strong sense of place and direction, but it is messed up here.

By the way, another curiosity of this place is a gigantic space shuttle external fuel tanked parked nearby. It is a unique sight. It's probably for sale if you need one.

Friday, May 01, 2015


Jacksonville, FL

We are in downtown Jaxonville.   Since Tarwathie is tied up at the JAX public dock, I thought that might make a good blog post on a subject that I've never touched before.

Libby and I are big fans of Skipper Bob cruising guides.  (We don't like The Waterway Guide; we owned one but gave it away.) Our favorite words in Skipper Bob are FREE DOCK.  (Probably the favorite of most others too.)

Below is a list of all the FREE DOCKs that I can think of, arranged North to South.  I do not list many "dock and dine" docks, nor docks that enforece "No Overnight".    Here's a chance for some fun.  I suspect that my list includes less than half the actual number on the USA East Coast.  Blog readers who know of others are invited to post comments to this post.

  • ME, NH, MA, RI, CT (can't think of any.)
  • Vermont: Vergennes city docks.  On Otter creek at the base of Vergennes Falls.  This is our favorite.  You can't find a prettier scene.   Free 15A power, free water.
  • NYS Canal System.   90% of the locks and 50% of the non-lock facilities offer free docks for 48 hours.  I'll mention below our favorites.
  • Whitehall, NY  on the wall above the lock.  Free showers.  Free 30A power (on again, off again).  
  • Lock 11, idyllic green and serenity
  • Lock 9, idyllic green and serenity
  • Mechanicville, on the wall downtown, free 30A power & water & showers.
  • Waterford,  30A power ($10) free water & showers.  Loaner shopping carts and nearby supermarkets.
Erie Canal
  • Lock 7, idyllic green and serenity. Free 15A 120V power,
  • Lock 11, Amsterdam, Free 15A 120V power. urban, noisy.
  • Lock 15, Canajoharie, Free 30A power & water.  Neraby Arkel Museum!
  • Lock 16, Fort Plain, green & nice.
  • Lock 17, Little Falls, landing in the canal above the lock, good to take a walking tour of the historic town.
  • Floating Dock, General Schuyler Mansion.  Tie up for an hour and tour this revolutionary era mansion.
  • Lock 20, Marcy,  Free 15A power & water.  Pavilion beside the dock has concerts Thurday nights.
  • Rome NY, urban, noisy, but close to Fort Stanwix
  • Sylvan Beach,  next to and amusement park, nearby restaurants.  Avoid weekends!!!!
  • Lock 23, green & quiet.
  • Palmyra Public docks.  Go there to see the Mormon Pagent, outstanding experience.  Also tour the museums downtown.
  • Newark canal wall.  Free 30A, water, showers, nearby clock museum and Wegmans and ice cream stand.  Great place!
  • Medina canal wall.  Visit the great RR museum.
Hudson River & South
  • Athens Public dock.  Says "no overnight" but not enforced.
  • Mariners restaurant docks, Poughkeepsie.  Not pretty, very very noisy train, but the only place to stop or anchor in nearly 50 miles.  Another dock and dine across the river that we have not tried yet.
  • Cambridge, MD public dock.  Sailing the Choptank is nice.  No facilities here, but nice.
  • Porstmouth, VA basins.  Two basins downtown.
  • Elizabeth Docks, on the DSC side of the Deep Creek Lock.  Nearby Food Lion, and Auto Parts stores. Visit with Robert the lock tender.  He has great stories.
  • NC Welcome Center, Dismal Swamp Canal.  One of our favorites.  Water, no power, WiFi.
  • Elizabeth City Public Docks,  Famous for the Rose Buddies hospitality and wine & cheese parties.  Water, no power, nearby showers $5.  All kinds of stores.
  • Oriental Public Docks,  A favorite for everyone.  No facilities.
  • New Bern, Union Point Park.  No facilities.  Says "no overnight" but not enforced.  Downtown New Bern is a jewel.
  • Provision Company, Southport, NC.  I think these docks are no longer available.
  • Sisters Creek.  Brand new.  Just 200 yards north of Sisters Creek Bridge, 300 feet of excellent docks.  No facilities.
  • Jacksonville Landing, where we are tonight.   No facilities. 
  • New Symrna Beach, floating docks and piling lined walls.  No facilities.  Nearby charming downtown.
  • Cocoa FL, Public Dock.  Says "three hours only" don't know if that is enforced.
  • Okeechobee Waterway: Labelle City Docks.  Brand new.  Free 30A power & water.  Close to Log Cabin BBQ - yummy.
Readers, please comment with descriptions of your favorites. I'll edit them into the list above.