Month: April 2018

We’re Behind!

We are woefully behind on our blog but certainly not in our adventures!  We last posted from Southport, NC, where we were delayed for 4 days due to high winds, in Week 15 of our journey.  After our briefing from Hank and with one day of long awaited cooperation from the weather, we successfully navigated the Cape Fear River (Yes, I did buy a t-shirt!), stopped in the lovely town of Swansboro and got to Morehead City, NC where we were HAPPY to get off the boat for a week (we are SO over the unrelenting, high winds) to travel to the North Carolina mountains for our pseudo son’s wedding.  Jimmy has been a member of our family since he and Kristopher became best friends in Tiger Cubs (1st grade).  It was wonderful see this young man pledge his future to his bride.  They were both glowing with happiness as they exchanged vows and we were so honored to be part of the celebration.  We wish them decades of happiness together!

We got to do some hiking in the mountains, exploring Catawba Falls, Chimney Rock and Tom’s Creek Falls and reveled in the mountain laurel and other flowers that were in full bloom. The May Apples and Jack in the Pulpits were some that I hadn’t see since I was a child in NJ.

It was a great week away but we were happy to return to Morehead City and the boat when the week was up.   We explored, ate AMAZING seafood and did lots of appreciating the spring flowers.  Azaleas, Cherries, Dogwoods and lots of others were in full bloom and in an old town, where these plants have had time to mature, the sights were often breathtaking!

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We re-provisioned the boat and pulled out at dawn to a day of NO WIND!!!  As we pulled out of our slip, I happened to catch these photos of a couple of boats that prove that hoarders are not only found on land but on the water as well!  One didn’t survive the storm that happened while we were in NC!

We had a lovely day of cruising to end up anchored out near Belhaven, NC for the night.  The next morning we navigated the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal without incident and were really happily surprised to encounter little to no traffic on this narrow ditch of a canal.  Not sure what we would have done if a commercial vessel had been coming the other way as there was little room for forgiveness on either side, but we made it!

We have heard horror stories for months about how rough the Albemarle Sound and the Currituck Sound can be and we had tried to plan our approach accordingly, waiting for good weather but honestly I have to say we were lucky as well.  The day dawned amazingly clear and lovely and we were off at first light when we thought we would have the calmest conditions.  The Albemarle was unruffled by wind or waves and when we got the Currituck, it looked like a milk-pond it was so calm.

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WOW!  2 of our scariest crossings are now in the books and we only hope that Cape May will be the same way for us!

It turned into a very long day but we have learned that when the weather is favorable and the wind is down that it is a good idea to prolong the travel day and get as many miles covered as possible as the next day can blow up on you, regardless of what the weather man says!  We have become pretty good amateur meteorologists by utilizing amazing apps that are available like Windy (shows you wind direction and strength for any location in the world) and some others!


So, we continued up the North River to the Virginia Cut.  This was a really pretty trip, though again through a VERY narrow river.  This time we did encounter commercial traffic in the form of a tug and barge.  We followed them through a little swing bridge and then held our breath as we passed them, hoping not to hit any of the ubiquitous, submerged stumps or free-floating logs/trees that were everywhere.  I actually was up on the roof of the flying bridge to watch out for them! (Don’t tell my mom, please?)


Successfully passing a tug and barge is pretty satisfying until you find out that the lock that is ahead of you will take them first.  So, we and 8 other boats had to jockey in place waiting for the lock to open and then hold our tenuous positions as the tug and barge squeaked past us and into the lock.  Then we waited as we were each directed to take our place in the lock by a lock master who had obviously had the worst day of his life and was taking it out on all of us.

My captain is a master at putting our boat into challenging places that give me a heart attack just contemplating their size and the weather and current conditions.  But he calmly maneuvers us into spaces I would swear were too small as if we were destined to be there all along and this time was no exception.  He skinnied us in alongside the tug without a problem until the lock hand started berating us for not being 100% set up with lines on the port side of the boat (we had been sure we would be set up on the starboard side and then came the last minute directive to set up on the other side- typical!).  I was proud of Jerry for not throttling the guy.

We were fine until the sailboat behind us, captained by a crew of non-English speakers, got their vessel sideways in the lock behind us and had no clue how to remedy the situation.  The tug captain was up on his bridge watching and stifling giggles and the lock hand was having a full-blown screaming hissy-fit!  The poor people on the boat really had no idea what his problem was or what to do about their own problem.  Finally the tug captain was able to demonstrate hand commands that the sailboat captain put into play and they got the boat long-side against the lock wall and secured.  All of this to drop us a whopping 2 feet. I think the whole production took about 2 hours from start to finish!  Sorry no pix of this as it was stressful enough to prevent us from even considering that!


Once clear of the lock, we passed the barge again and after waiting on a train to cross the river on a train bridge, we cruised into the Naval Shipyards of Norfolk, VA! What a sight, all of these HUGE aircraft carriers and battleships are lined up along the river in various stages of repair or refurbishment (yes, you do see shrink-wrap on some of the tops of them).

Our guidebook said to stay 500 yards clear of any Naval vessel and there were intercept boats with machine guns that looked capable of taking out any boat that hadn’t gotten that memo!  We anchored off Hospital Point in Portsmouth, VA until we could get into our slip the next morning.  The sun was setting and the moon was rising and it was a glorious evening to be aboard a boat in a beautiful city.

The traffic through this port is amazing. We have seen big tankers and cargo boats in Savannah and Charleston but nothing like the commercial traffic that goes 24-7 through this port.  Even in the wee hours of the morning, you can see tugs moving all kinds of barges and ships through the dark waters, it’s really pretty neat to see.

We explored the city yesterday and I got to check an item off my life-list (no, I don’t use the term “bucket-list” – too depressing).  One of the first pieces of writing I had published was a unit study on lighthouses, which included lightships and while I have been in many lighthouses, I had never even seen a lightship.  (For more info on the history and highlights of lightships, click on:

When lightships were decommissioned in the 1970’s, the coast guard gave these ships away to any willing takers and the City of Portsmouth had one towed down here, dug a canal into the city for it, pulled it in and then cemented it in place.  Now there is an elderly gentleman who is the docent during the 3 days a week that this museum is open and he does amazing tours of the Lightship Portsmouth. It was so cool and I was SO happy we were here on a day when it was open!

So, I think this catches you up to where we are now.   We will head out of Portsmouth tomorrow, up the Chesapeake towards the Potomac – gotta do DC by boat!

We had a Y-valve fail in the rear head last week, which means that when you flush it, its flapper thingy doesn’t work and it recycles the contents of the black-water holding tank…YUCK!!! Fortunately, Jerry has replaced the one in the forward head so he knows how to do this AND we have the part!  We had the tank pumped out yesterday and did a very thorough job of flushing all the hoses in the process to minimize yuckiness of the job.  So, while I would rather continue writing, I feel that it is unfair to the captain to have to tackle this alone and so I leave you for an odiferous yet pressing duty that is part of living aboard!







Control is an illusion which is better preserved in my normal life than it is living aboard a boat.  Intellectually I know that control is self-delusion.  As a human, I cannot control what happens to me. I can influence it and I can set myself up for the best possible outcomes and yet still be surprised by what actually happens when push comes to shove!

In my day-to-day life I can schedule events and pretty much count on ticking the to-do items off as I work through a day, week or month.  From the first few months of this trip, I have learned that while we do have an intentionally vague idea of what we would like to accomplish as far as mileage and experience go, the reality is that we are totally subject to the weather to shape the ifs, hows and when’s of what really happens.

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Sometimes weather slows down our idealized schedule and sometimes it forces us to advance our timetables and while this can be a little stressful at times, we have learned to relax into it and trust the outcomes.  So far, as we look back, the changes in our proposed schedules have worked to our advantage later in the trip by allowing us opportunities that we would not have had if we had adhered to the original plans.

We pushed hard for a couple of days in anticipation of taking time off the boat for our pseudo-son’s wedding at the end of the month. Coming up the ICW just past Georgetown, we made a U-turn around the north end of Butler Island, near Pawley’s Island, SC and watched the sun set and wind die simultaneously as our anchor grabbed hold and we relaxed with a very refreshing drink.

The scenery had changed and we were in an area that looked more like a northern lake than the southern part of the ICW.  Lush forests of maple, oak and pine lined the waterway and birds were making the commute north.  We took that as confirmation that Spring really would arrive sometime this year as it had been unseasonably cold during the previous 3 months.  The cold had not stopped the Azaleas from blooming and we had just missed the height of their splendor in Savannah where only the white blossoms still clung to the spring greenery.  Unfortunately we have been following the height of the oak pollen season as we have moved northwards.

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The oaks were pretty much done spreading their eye-irritants at home when we left in January and were noticeably absent in the Keys but were back with the same degree of proliferation by the time we reached Melbourne and St. Augustine.  In Savannah, our berth positioning and the wind direction were such that we and our neighboring boats needed to sweep our decks twice a day in order to avoid semi-permanent staining that occurs once the pollen heads get wet.  It was a fruitless battle that we all engaged in with great zeal and a lot of laughter at how anal we all were about the appearance of our decks!

But I digress…back to our anchorage.  We enjoyed a night of star-gazing in an inky absence of city lights and slept to the music of absolute silence against our hull, lacking a strong wind or current.  We awoke with the plan of getting under way before sun-up, a luxury normally made impossible due to mine-fields of crab-traps that were noticeably absent in this area.

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As we readied the deck and helm we were awed by the absolute silence around us, there was no wind at all and the water was like glass, reflecting the stars but lightening as the sun began to crest the horizon.  The anchor came up easily and we were on our way, having to constantly clear our strata-glass of condensation so we could see to navigate.

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Mist hung in the fields and forests and the clarity and stillness of the water made it impossible to tell where the actual forest transformed into its mirror image in the water.

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The blues and greens of pre-dawn gave way to the roses and golds of sunrise and the mist cleared away leaving the mirror images on either side of the waterway.

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We moved from deep forests and farmland (that used to be rice plantations in the pre-civil war era) on either side of us into the more affluent and built up areas around Myrtle Beach.  The ICW sits much lower along this stretch and the intricate terracing and landscaping of the slopes from homes to private docks on either side was pretty impressive.

Later the view changed to dunes and we got peeks at the Atlantic as we moved further north past Calabash Creek and into North Carolina.  The current and wind were at our back, moving us along at a sprightly 10+ mph!  The sky was cloudless and it was finally warmish and gorgeous.  So, we decided to ignore our scheduled anchorage in favor of continuing on toward Cape Fear and Southport NC, our originally intended stop for the following night.  Sometimes you just have to go with your gut because there are no guarantees about what will happen tomorrow.  And so, we gladly turned a 5 hour cruise into a nine hour cruise to arrive here in Southport ahead of the oak pollen and at the height of the dogwood, cherry and azalea season FINALLY!!

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We know a little about Harbor Hosts, as Herb Seaton, a Looper and the Harbor Host for Tarpon Springs won “Harbor Host of the Year” for 2017.  Harbor Hosts are folks who live in different ports and who walk the docks in the afternoons, offering tips and advice on local sights and restaurants and even trips to the grocery store, Walmart and/or West Marine to Loopers.  Our Harbor Host here, Robert Creech, knocked on our hull, offering all of the above-mentioned services and also invited us to attend a talk this evening about navigating the Cape Fear River and the ICW all the way up to Norfolk.  We thought that attending would be a pretty good idea as we have heard some of the passages can be very tricky and we don’t want to end up like some of the vessels we have seen along the way!


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What we found was beyond our wildest dreams.  Hank Pomeranz is a boating enthusiast who now commits every night of his life for two months in the spring and two months in the fall to putting on a seminar about wind, weather, tides and currents and navigating the ICW.  He volunteers his time to do this and estimates that he has had 1500+ boats represented at his talks.

He is an amazingly warm and human guy whose sole motivation is “To improve the Southport boating experience for locals and transients alike, by offering outstanding new or improved services to both.”  His talk is replete with PowerPoint slides which are printed off in hard copy for each boat to keep and the detail of the upcoming trip is amazing!  He is a meteorologist by profession and he has extensive projections of what’s coming this way in the next few days for tide, current and winds.  Hank has a warm and caring teaching style that is anything but a lecture.  He shares war stories, interlaced with facts and statistics that make us glad we have a hard copy to refer back to later.

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If we hadn’t taken advantage of the great conditions to push on up here, we might have missed this talk and that would have been unfortunate.  We got a great view of the deteriorating weather (which we did know was on the way).  With the implications of tides plus currents, added by Hank, it made our decision a no-brainer to change our plans from anchoring out to actually delaying departure and sitting tight, right here at the dock.  We are expected to have near gale force winds and severe thunderstorms around midnight tonight.  So here we sit watching and listening to the weather come at us, I doubt we will sleep but at least we are safe!

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We are so thankful that we relaxed our control and ignored our schedules for arrival and departure so that we were able to take advantage of the wisdom imparted by a fellow sea-lover.  Thanks, Hank!

As you can see by the dating of the post, we lived through the night with no damage to persons or property, not much water incursion and we even slept some, though it was a little hairy as the winds, rain and thunderstorms started to rock and roll around midnight!



Sure, We’ll Make Room For Y’all!


40 years ago, I came to Cumberland Island with some school friends. I was the only female in the group but was happy to be included in order to see this island which had recently become a national park and protected seashore.  Even four decades later, it is largely undiscovered and is limited to 300 visitors per day, most of whom are delivered via a ferry from St. Mary’s, Georgia.


Often when one revisits a beloved memory, it disappoints, paling in reality to the memory which has many times been enhanced by loving recollection and the sharing of its highlights.  Cumberland Island doesn’t disappoint. If anything, my new memory builds on and burnishes the old memory, increasing its glow.  Both will now entangle themselves into an even deeper impression of a land that is lost in time.


Cumberland Island enjoys a rich history of inhabitants beginning with the Timucuan, who co-existed amicably with the French and the Spanish explorers and missionaries.  When the British arrived, bringing yellow fever, that was the end of the Timucuan.   The English were dispatched after the Revolutionary War and General Nathaniel Greene was granted a large part of Cumberland Island for his wartime contribution.  There were other settlers who made fortunes in rice, citrus and lumber on Cumberland Island and it later became popular when it became home to the Carnegie family during the 1880’s and so became a playground for the rich. Lucy Carnegie was a conservationist long before it became popular, willing the land to her grandchildren rather than to her spoiled offspring who she feared would sell it for the money it would command.  The eight grandchildren battled developers who wanted to build thousands of homes here and eventually donated the land to the United States government with the agreement that it would become a nationally protected seashore and park.  There remain a few private homes and the Greyfield Inn but other than those parcels, the island is largely undisturbed.

Cumberland briefly hit the headlines in 1996 when JFK Jr. was stealthily married at the First African American church situated on the north end of the island.  This church was the first church ever to be completely built by and for former slaves.  Earlier, John had come to the island as the guest of a friend whose family owned the Greyfield Inn and had loved the fact that the press couldn’t find him here.  He enjoyed running on the beach, which is the longest stretch of undeveloped beach in the United States.  He could run for hours and never see another human being, an unusual event in his press-beleaguered life.

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I had felt this same enjoyment four decades ago when I went to the beach during the day while my fellow campers did whatever college-aged boys do while camping.  I felt as if I had entered another world where I was the only human being.  I found bleached sea turtles femurs, brittle exoskeletons of horseshoe crabs, the skull of a large ray and shells of all kinds.  It was isolated and soul-nourishing in a way that I had never before experienced.

It isn’t just the beach that engenders these kinds of feelings.  Walking on the paths under majestic live oaks, swinging with Spanish Moss, the feeling is similar.  Sharing these experiences is a little intimidating.  There is no guarantee that the other person will feel the same way that you do or experience the same sense of awe that you do but I am not sharing this with just anyone.  My husband has a quiet appreciation of nature and a strong desire to learn all that he can about the natural world and so I am thrilled when he is as entranced by the scenery and its inhabitants as I am.

On the south end of the island the feel is tropical, with palmettos standing guard on all sides of the walking paths; while on the northern end of the island, the feel is more like mainland Georgia with towering Georgia Pines and blankets of pine needles on the sun-dappled ground.

We see wild horses from the boat as we approach Cumberland Island, grazing in the marshes and then again later as we walk the island.


They are wild but are not overly concerned with us, other than keeping distance between us and their young.  There have been horses on the island for a long time.  A few came over with the Spanish, many more came over with the British and then almost all of them were removed during the civil war.  Since then, more horses were introduced to work the plantations, citrus groves and sawmills and there were even 50 horses were stabled in the Carnegie carriage house.  According to a University of Georgia and University of Kentucky genetic study, today’s feral horses are descendants of domestic breeds such as Tennessee Walkers, American Quarter Horses, Arabians, and Paso Finos.  According to one historical account, there may also be blood from American Mustangs, burrows and maybe even retired circus horses.  They are quite territorial, living within about a square mile of where they were born so the genetic strain of the horses on the north end of the island is very different from that of the horses on the southern end of the island.

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Having walked the south end of the island the day we anchored here to explore the ruins of Dungeness,

IMG_2627today we decide to hike the more extensive north end of the island.  The ranger at the welcome station advises us that it is a 7 mile walk to Plum Orchard, Lucy Carnegie’s house which has been restored.

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We decide we can do that without a problem.  But after three or four miles the shiny-penny kicks in when we see a marker to the beach.  So, we detour off to the beach which is glorious in the early morning sun.  We see 2 horses way away down the beach and not another living soul.  We walk north on the beach for a while and find another path that leads over the dunes closer to where we are supposed to be.


The terrain changes appreciably, taking us through swampy lowlands, where we spy two baby gators sunning themselves among the bulrushes.  Thankfully, we don’t see mama anywhere and we continue to walk along the narrow boardwalk, detouring through a campsite with colorful hammocks slung among the pines and young people just starting their day.  Finally we are back on the path to Plum Orchard.


The day is heating up when we finally arrive at the grand mansion, a little too late for the start of one of the complimentary tours but luckily they allow us to join into the group in progress.  The mansion is amazing, all dark wood interiors, modern (for its day) indoor plumbing, heated towel racks and spacious bedrooms and baths.  There is even a fire suppression system, which would have been excellent to have in a largely wooden house.

IMG_2683.JPGThough the home was abandoned and left unattended for decades (our guide remembers exploring the home as a child by climbing through the glassless windows) the two Tiffany stained glass lamps still hang suspended in the game room.  They are gorgeous, appearing to be patterned after the scutes of a turtle shell but when I look at the underside, each leaded section looks exactly like an oyster, complete with a pearl.  It is amazing that they were never stolen or vandalized. Having been uniquely designed for this home, they are now considered priceless.


Done with the family’s portion of the house, we now explore the kitchen and servants’ areas which are also impressively large, bright and airy.  This is where we learn about doorknobs.  The doors where the family and guests would be welcome all have solid crystal, globe doorknobs.  The spaces where these same people and their personal servants would have frequented have the crystal globe doorknob on the family side of the door and a cut crystal doorknob on the valet and lady’s maid’s side of the door.  On the doors where the servants would be bringing in produce, coal, wood and other necessities there would be black doorknobs on both sides, as the family and guests never frequented such areas of the home.  This system was popular in all the houses of this social class so that the personal servants could travel to any home yet never embarrass their masters by being seen somewhere they were not supposed to be.  The doorknobs were the key to the social class system in homes from Cape Cod to Cumberland Island.


The tour finishes up with the indoor squash quart and indoor swimming pool and we are adjourned to enjoy whatever we  have brought for lunch anywhere on the grounds.  At this point our seven mile walk has stretched to 9.1 because of our detours and my feet are not looking forward to the walk back.  Jerry surprises me by asking the tour guide if they have room for 2 more in the van and his reply, made in a true southern gentleman patois was, “Sure, we’ll make room for y’all!”  And they do.  Much to our surprise, we are included in the rest of the tour which goes for 2 more hours and allows us access to places we wouldn’t have otherwise visited and also allows me to share much of the history that I have related here.  My feet are happily delivered back to the dinghy dock and we arrive back aboard Makin Memories in time for a refreshing drink and a gorgeous sunset.


Since then, we have met many people who anchored at Cumberland Island but they never even went ashore and I feel blessed that we had perfect weather and time enough to really do an in-depth explore of the island.  I know we will experience many wonderful people and places in the months to come, yet I am positive that this visit will always stand out as one of the most special.