Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Solomons Island, MD to Chesapeake, VA

   We have arrived on the Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICW), home of our friends the Coles and are looking forward to catching up and hanging out for awhile.  The trip down the Chesapeake was a whirlwind, we motored from Solomons to the Great Wicomico River, and stayed two nights in a nice secluded bay waiting for wind.  The entrance to the river was sketchy, with several uncharted fish traps to the north of the channel, we made sure we steered well clear, but it reinforced our decision to not travel the Chesapeake at night. We had a visitor, a boy and his dad paddled up in their canoe, complete with pirate flag, and demanded something sweet.  We obliged and learned that they were lucky enough to live on the point we were anchored just off.  Just down the river we had passed a stinky fish plant, and learned from our neighbor that it is the last Menhaden fish processing plant on the east coast, which manufactors fish oil...no wonder the smell!

   We battled a headwind the next day and had a fast sail, but only covered about 20 miles down to Deltaville.  Nice quaint neighborhood creek to wait out a passing front overnight and Kellee experimented to make bread in the pressure cooker with great success, definitely a recipe worth repeating, and super easy.  The next morning dawned chilly and we were anxious to move south.

   We had an awesome downwind sail under double reefed main all the way to Hampton Roads and made it in about an hour before sunset, covering 42 miles.  Our anchorage was a nice spot to watch the big ship traffic to go by and we slept well despite being right next to the entrance to the highway tunnel.  Monday morning we double checked our planning for the ICW, to make sure we would get through the bridges before the evening rush hour closures and headed into the ICW.  It was a busy Monday morning in Norfolk, we saw 4 different naval ships get underway and crossed several tug/barges traveling north

   6 bridges later, we arrived in the Cole's back yard. It's a perfect spot with the dock only a block away, we've planned several maintenance projects for this visit and are looking forward to catching up with our friends.  Please visit our videos page for a couple of new additions.
Downtown Annapolis, MD.
 Navigator has arrived on the ICW.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Baltimore to Solomons Island, MD

    After completing our three main tasks (plus some boat maintenance) in Baltimore, we departed the city with a north wind and made our way over the course of two short days to Annapolis, MD, the sailing capital of the Chesapeake.  We anchored in quiet Weem's Creek, just north of the city, and spent a couple days visiting the town and TOMKAT while waiting out the weather. We were also able to re-provision via bicycle from the local Safeway market.  It was interesting to note that our Safeway Club cards still worked from Alaska, 8 years ago.
    Once a cold front blew through on Wednesday, we departed and made quick tracks to the south, with a following wind, eventually anchoring near Solomon's Island, MD, for a brief overnight.  After topping off on ice, we'll be on our way southward to Norfolk, VA this weekend.
    You can definitely notice the chill in the air, the shorter days, and can watch the migratory birds moving overhead, reinforcing the thought that we should be moving south....

 Moored to a pier in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
 Fighting to see through a rain squall.
Checking the mast: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Passed Exams!

  We came to Baltimore for 3 reasons:
        1. Cheesecake Factory Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake.
        2. Roy's Lava Cake Desert.
        3. To take our USCG License exams.
   These exams had nothing to do with our jobs in the CG, but are required for merchant mariner qualifications.  Chris had gotten a license in Hawaii 5 years ago and it was time for renewal, and Kellee has always wanted to get a license, so Baltimore proved a convenient stop on our way south for testing, as we were both too busy in June/July to get it done.  All the prep work and administration had been done months ago, so all that remained were to take the actual tests.
  So, on Monday morning, we loaded up our pencils and calculators and walked over to the Regional Exam Center, about 1 mile away. Three days and 13 tests (between us) later, we are done - we passed each test on the first try, thanks to some serious studying over the past month.  It felt remarkably like taking final exams in high school or college - jumping from one subject to another with timed multiple choice tests every morning and afternoon. Our test subjects were: Chart Plotting, Navigation General, Deck General, Deck Safety, Sailing Endorsement, Rules of the Road, Navigation Problems (Terrestrial), and Navigation Problems (Celestial).
   Do we intend to use the licenses? Probably not, but its always nice to have a backup plan, right? As a 100 ton Near Coastal Master with commercial tow endorsement, Kellee can drive dive charter boats, ferries, water taxies, fishing boats, small passenger boats, salvage boats, do yacht deliveries, be a "lotion girl" on a Mega Yacht, etc etc.  As a 500 ton Oceans Master, Chris can do similar things, or drive sailing school ships (like Eagle but smaller).  Most importantly, we think it is probably a good idea for those who regulate an industry to be well versed in it's technicalities. All in all it was worth the time and effort to do - but not something we're planning on using for the near future.
   So now that that is over and we are licensed mariners, we can get back to being "people of leisure."  Time to head to the Cheesecake Factory!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Georgetown to Baltimore

You know you've arrived in the "south" when you eagerly await thunderstorms just so the air temp will drop even a few degrees.  The past week has been full of studying, memorizing formulae and testing hundreds of review questions in preparation for our merchant license tests starting Monday, all while doing our best to stay cool.  We spent four days in Georgetown on a mooring next to TOMKAT and made good use of the marina pool and wifi to spend the days studying and meeting up with TOMKAT for dinners.

On Friday we covered 35 miles toward Baltimore under bumpy conditions, motoring into the wind the whole way as we try to burn down year old fuel and clean out the tank..  We tucked into Rock Creek for the night and were serenaded with some terrible Karaoke from the waterfront bar as we studied into the dark.  Today we passed under the Francis Scott Key Bridge (so named for the composer of the Star Spangled Banner, which he wrote during the war of 1812, just about under the bridge...the actual spot is marked by a buoy painted like a flag, but we didn't see it on the way in) and motored the final 10 miles to Baltimore, arriving in the midst of the inner harbor dragonboat races, it was neat to see 20 paddlers per boat rowing to the beat of a drum.  

It's supposed to be stormy this afternoon, we are eagerly awaiting the temperature drop and wind shift.  Tomorrow is the final day for studying before the tests begin and we'll explore Baltimore in search of dinner.  Both of us have spent time in Baltimore while ensconced in the Coast Guard Yard, and are looking forward to visiting our favorite haunts.  Chris is stoked for the 3 story Barnes and Noble while Kellee is jonesing for some Cheesecake Factory cheesecake.  Stay tuned for a couple of pictures from the past week and our transit in.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cape May, NJ to Georgetown, MD

   We departed Cape May on a rising tide and motored through the Cape May Canal to Delaware Bay and more open water.  After sailing north through the bay, we arrived in the vicinity of Salem Nuclear Power Plan and took a 6 hour nap to await a fair tide.
   When the tide became favorable again, we continued the migration and transited the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, which is about twice the length of the Cape Cod Canal, and less scenic!  It was, however, interesting to see the southward exodus of all manner of cruising vessels (most of whom passed us).  It was less interesting to see the arrival of thousands of insects, all of whom required killing.  We were also overtaken by a huge car-carrier in the canal, and were promptly hit by a giant thunderstorm and zero visibility.  It was an interesting transit.
    However, after the canal transit, the skies cleared and we finished the day anchored at the head of the Sassafras River, in Georgetown, Maryland, right next to Tomkat.
   This place is very scenic, with a pool, internet, and showers, all for $0.80 per day (per foot), so about 25 bucks a night.  Not a bad deal.  We'll stay a couple days here and continue our studying for our Coast Guard merchant mariner license exams before we head over to Baltimore, MD on Saturday or so to take the tests.  After crossing the C and D canal, we definitely feel like we are making southward progress: the accents are changing, ya'll!

 Pondering the meaning of life.
Bailing the dinghy of rainwater.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cape May, NJ

   We had an awesome time in Cape May this week visiting with our friends Kathy and Owen Gibbons, and checking out the sights of Southern New Jersey & the Coast Guard's Recruit Training Center.
   At the CG Training Center, we were able to watch (from the shadows) as Echo Company got off the bus on their very first day and were greeted by some fierce Company Commanders. A few days later, we saw the same company (with haircuts) as they "formed" with their actual Company Commanders.  Both were very impressive, but the graduation of Alfa Company took the cake, as we were able to watch 50 or so recruits be advanced to E2/E3 in front of their parents, and head off to the fleet.   It was enlightening to see what 90% of the Coast Guard has as a common experience, and the folks at the training center do an excellent job.
   In Cape May, we enjoyed much eating and beaching, as well as some logistics runs that we needed for Navigator.  We also were able to get some much needed studying done, as we are taking our USCG Merchant Mariner exams next week in Baltimore, MD (for no reason other than it's something we've wanted to do for a while but never had the time).
   We are off today for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, and then a couple weeks visiting Chesapeake Bay, before we begin the Inter-Coastal Waterway trip to North Carolina in October.  The days are getting shorter: time to move south!

 Kellee enjoys the Jersey-Shore surf.
 Alfa Company graduates and heads to the fleet.
Chris hoovers the last of a chocolate raspberry trifle.