2017 Summer Cruise Overview

Trent-Severn / Georgian Bay overview

Just a bit of geography for readers who might not be familiar with the cruising grounds referenced in these posts. Above is a general overview of the Great Lakes. Well, the ones closest to the areas we’ve been traveling these past few months.  Georgian Bay, highlighted in green, connects to Lake Huron to the  west, and is the southern edge of the Canadian Shield. It’s similar to the well-known Thousand Islands area of the St. Lawrence to the east, and is known as The Thirty-Thousand Islands because of all the islands, about 30,000. Who knew??

To the north and west, lies the body of water highlighted in blue known as North Channel that also connects to Lake Huron.  Also lying along the southern part of the Candian Shield, it’s more remote and less developed. Both areas are wonderful cruising grounds with virtually unlimited anchorages. North Channel and Georgian Bay connect through a channel at Little Current. The maroon highlight is the Trent-Severn Waterway, and the violet depicts the route from the terminus of the Erie/Oswego Canal at Oswego to Trenton, Ontario, where the Trent-Severn Waterway begins.

Our route will be up-and-back, retracing our steps. We discussed a loop that would take us from North Channel south across Lake Huron, down the St. Clair River and across Lake St. Clair, past Detroit to Lake Erie, then east across Lake Erie to the Welland Canal then north to Lake Ontario and back to Oswego. Alternatively, the Western Erie Canal from Buffalo east to the Oswego Canal junction would be an option, but very low bridge clearances and high water levels would require more than just laying our mast back to gain adequate clearance. Either route adds over 200 miles more than the retrace return trip. Given our time frame, we’re choosing a slower pace.  We prefer cruising with a very loose itinerary.

Location Map

Individual posts are geo-coded so they correspond in date to the location map. The location map categorizes the posts based primarily on the general area of the cruise, showing the route followed on that cruise. Clicking on a location pin on the map will open the post that corresponds to that location.  The icon on the top of the post or the sidebar will take you to the map or the link above.

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Meet Hartmut Scholl

As we moved north after our week in Georgetown, we thought a stopover at Lee Stocking Island, the site of the abandoned Marine Research Center, would be interesting since it had been a few years since our last visit. Not much has changed, there are new, larger “No Trespassing- Keep Off” signs that are largely ignored, most cruisers are simply curious. The island is quite interesting, and affords abundant hiking opportunity on the roads which have yet to be reclaimed by overgrowth. In fact, it’s clearly evident that someone is actively maintaining at least the grounds of the facility. Most of the buildings are falling into disrepair, recent hurricane activity a large contributor to that decline. It’s also evident that there has been activity that has likely prompted the posting of the signs, as much of the infrastructure has been vandalized or scavenged for scrap. Aluminum high voltage cabling removed, transformers stripped of copper, wiring stripped from buildings. Abandoned. As night fell, the silhouette of the buildings melded eerily into the dark, not a single point of light visible from the island. Only the sound of the water slapping the ironshore.
Since the winds were creating a bit of a washing machine in the anchorage, we decided to have a short morning hike then continue north. As we prepped the dinghy to lift it for our open water travel, we saw a fellow approaching on a paddle board, or SUP as they’re called. He was a bit out of breath, and as he approached we could tell he was just tuckered. Some quick conversation and we invited him to come aboard, he wanted to take a break from his paddling and replenish his diminishing water reserves. He had come that morning from Brigantine Cay or thereabouts, a distance of over 5 miles, all against wind and current in some rather sloppy conditions.

Meet Hartmut Scholl.

Meet Hartmut Scholl!
 
 

Meet Hartmut Scholl!

Gear on board
 
 

Gear on board

Hartmut is from the north of Germany, he is in the Bahamas on what might be characterized as an adventure vacation. He thought it would be a great experience to travel in the Exumas on his inflatable SUP board, camping style. His experience turned out to exceed his expectations. He had all the gear he needed, he didn’t expect it to all be wet. He didn’t anticipate the currents he would encounter, as currents across the banks and around the cays can be formidable, particularly if you’re the only power source! We invited him aboard to catch his breath, have a shower, coffee, replenish water, and as our conversation evolved, we extended an invitation to bring his gear aboard and travel with us northward where he might have less challenging conditions. He happily accepted. We brought the SUP board and his gear on board, stowed it in the walkway, and as Hartmut rinsed and organized his gear and had a warm shower in the cockpit, we lifted the dinghy and prepped to get under way.

SUP board on board
 
 

SUP board on board

Hitchhiker!
 
 

Hitchhiker!

Once underway, we settled into cruise mode and lots of conversation sharing family details, learned of Hartmut’s interesting business and how his trip keys into his philosophy and business concept, and shared some quick cruising education regarding weather, currents, tides and how that relates to the SUP endeavor.
Hartmut flew into Atlanta from Germany, then a flight to Georgetown. He booked a room in Georgetown, and a ride to Barraterre where his SUP travel began. His plan was to travel northward along the cays to perhaps Staniel, then retrace his route back to Barraterre and home. It seems he was unprepared mostly for the currents, and the degree to which the winds impact the waters. His paddling was limited to kneeling, so progress was slower and required much more energy. When he encountered us, he was about tapped! We admire his perseverance! We discussed how the currents and weather in general can hamper his efforts, and offered some of what we’ve learned in our time cruising. Perhaps not expert counsel for his particular endeavor, but experience that he could draw on to his benefit. He was in awe of the comfort in which we travel on the ocean, no small wonder coming from a SUP board in 18 kt winds!!
We learned he camps at night with a tent and air mattress that fits on his board. Carries a stove that can generate heat as well as a small amount of power for USB charging. He has a solar charger, but has determined that it has limitations. There’s also the issue with saltwater and those devices. He set up a charging station to take advantage of our power to charge up all his devices during our run. He has enough pre-packaged food for his trip, it’s prepped with hot water, and apparently is not gourmet. He was quite willing to accept a roast turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato on toast! A small oasis on his journey!
He accompanied us to Black Point, and bid us farewell as he headed for the back side of the cay for his overnight. Staying on board would be antithetical to his purpose, however tempting! Armed with some fresh insight on how to time his progress with tides, he determined he would become acutely aware of slack! We wished him safe travels, and offered our phone number if he needed any backup. We also discussed bailout options, and that he could likely find a source for a boat ride back to Georgetown if the weather soured and he ran short of time to make a safe return. Refreshed, he pressed on! What an interesting visit!

Epilogue-

Hey, doesn’t that look like a paddler coming our way? We’d been at Black Point for two days, doing Black Point stuff- laundry, easy dog walking sans sand! And just enjoying the location. In the distance, we spotted a form paddling, “think that’s Hartmut?”
“Who else would it be??”

It's Hartmut- again!
 
 

It’s Hartmut- again!

Well, it was. He just wanted to stop by and thank us again for the lift and the help. He did indeed cross Dotham Cut, one that can be quite challenging for even blue water trawlers, but he timed it at slack, and it was a huge difference! He related camping on the beach where he had company from a big iguana, and then spent a night at Staniel, visited the Yacht Club for a beer, and is now planning to head south for his remaining 8 days. We reviewed some charts, highlighted where civilization might be encountered, and Hartmut was on his way, flashing us a thumbs-up and a huge smile! Zupah! We wish him safe travels and high adventure!! We’ll follow his blog to see how the story plays out, and look forward to hearing from him after he returns home!

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Norman’s Cay

Norman’s is still under construction, we took a dinghy ride into the basin, it’s HUGE! It appears that there are piers planned all around the perimeter, there are three or four piers completed with pedestals, a few center console boats tied up, all fixed piers. The remnants of the Lehder years have all been demolished, not much remains of that era other than the stories! A few new active construction sites dot the perimeter of Norman’s pond. It’s an interesting dinghy explore.

Stranded dinghy! High & dry!
 
 

Stranded dinghy! High & dry!

Hanging out on the beach.
 
 

Hanging out on the beach.

We dinghied up to one of the shallow bights, and went ashore for some beach time. Well, LOTS of beach time. We miscalculated the tide and ended up stranding the dinghy, so we had time to kill while we waited for the water to come back. At a little over 300 pounds, dragging isn’t an option! The dogs were perfectly happy to spend the day on the beach, a packed lunch would have helped! We arrived about 11 AM, our departure almost 6 hours later. A group of folks exploring the sand bars gave us a lift to get the dink back to the water and we were on our way back for supper! It was a fun day, despite being stranded. No sunburn, a little thirsty, but a day on the beach, nonetheless!

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Crossing & Arrival in Bimini

We crossed on Tuesday, March 12. We’ll start watching weather predictions a week ahead of our anticipated crossing, and forecasts showed favorable conditions for Monday, better conditions for Tuesday, although the dreaded northern component was present. The winds were out of the NNW as we departed, but were light and variable. Seas predicted one foot. The window was short, Wednesday’s prediction was not crossing-worthy, with winds kicking up, so off we went. Anchor up just before 0530 hrs, Oh-dark-thirty! The crossing was smooth, without incident; no discernable difference entering the Gulf Stream other than the crabbing that is clearly evident on the chart plotter! Our bearing on our 40 mile leg is about 94°,  the heading the autopilot steers to compensate for the Gulf Stream current goes to about 132°! Quite a correction for set.

We arrived in Bimini just after 1315 hrs, in plenty of time to clear Customs & Immigration when they were not busy. It’s nice to be back! Some cruisers dislike Bimini, but we enjoy it. Our typical crossing has us in Bimini in about 8 hours, then we’ll hang out at Blue Water Marina at a buck a foot for a weather window to make the two day hop to the Exumas. An overnight run straight through is an option, but one we are less likely to exercise than we would in the past. Fortunately, we’re looking at a splendid window at the end of the week, so we’ll be able to take a leisurely two day hop across the Bank. Time in Bimini allows us to set up our Bahamas (BTC) cell service. Vastly improved since our first trip 10 years ago, we are able to get LTE cell service in all but a few locations, so it makes it much easier to stay in contact with family.

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University Cove

We spent the weekend at University Cove, just inside Baker’s Haulover inlet. It’s a good staging area for crossing to the Bahamas. The state park is delightful, lots of trails to walk. The weekend was very busy, the Baker’s sand bar as well as the cove are a popular weekend destination, LOTS of boats! No problems. We’re fueled, provisioned, have our dog paperwork in hand, and will up anchor at oh-dark-thirty as soon as we stir and get moving. Despite the weather prediction containing a northern component, we’ll still make the crossing. Winds are predicted to be light and variable, seas at “0” feet, and the northern component doesn’t come into play until the afternoon, by which time we should be in Bimini checking in! We considered crossing today, Monday, but decided to hold out for the calmer forecast. A narrow window, but predicted to hold. We’ll see!

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Good grief!

So, over the past holiday week or so I’ve been given grief on at least five occasions about not having updates. I could offer lots of excuses, but there’s an old saw about those… So I’ll just get to it. I’ve been pretty regular with posting photos, and since we’re clear that a picture is worth a thousand words, I figure I’ve done the equivalent of a whole bunch of posts. But I know it’s not the same, and it falls back to the excuse thing. Truth be told, I’m a slacker. But it’s at the same time gratifying to know that someone is actually reading; besides, who wants to write stuff nobody reads?

I’ll catch up those backdate posts and fill in some details of our cruise up the St. John’s River. It was uncharted territory for us, so there’s some fresh material there. Thanks for coming along!

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Holidays in north Florida

Ortega Landings holiday lights
 
 

Ortega Landings holiday lights

Happy Holidays from Jacksonville. JAX has become our December destination at the Marina at Ortega Landings. It’s a secure setting if we need to travel, there’s a Publix within easy walking distance, and home of UF Health, for all those annual checkups. There’s even a vet within walking distance! This year we did Christmas there, and traveled to St. Augustine on the 27th. We’ll spend some time in St. Augustine until after the New Year when we’ll continue our southward migration.

St. Augustine holiday nightscape
 
 

St. Augustine holiday nightscape

St. Augustine is wonderful over the holidays, despite being a bit crowded.  The buildings in town are outlined in lights, the night view from the harbor is beautiful, very festive. LOTS of people!

St. Augustine holds a special importance for us that came about on our first trip south on the ICW back when…  As neophyte cruisers, we were pressing south  intently, and that, coupled with the stress of our first trip and every day presenting unfamiliar circumstances, we really weren’t enjoying the trip very much. We joined an experienced cruising couple for cocktails in St. Augustine that first year, and they quickly made the observation that we were stressed. They made a convincing case for us to stay long enough to enjoy the experience. We took their advice and stayed a week. It was excellent advice from experienced cruisers, and we’ve taken the advice to heart. Rather than pursuing a delivery, we now stop for a few days at various locations along the route. It was good advice, and we pass that advice along to new cruisers we meet in our travels. Not to say we never push to travel, but we’re aware that pushing has its price, and we make the effort to stop and find the ice cream shops. Since that adjustment in cruising  philosophy, St. Augustine has become one of our favorite destinations!

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Family in Savannah

Some discussion months ago resulted in a plan to meet up with family somewhere along our route south. The choice filtered down to Savannah. It’s one of our favorites, it’s a destination that our daughter and family had not visited, and a marina we’d visited before was an option at reasonable cost. Plans were made and a date chosen. Now arriving at a chosen destination on a particular date by cruising boat is always tricky, and the complexity is proportional to the number of miles between the destination and the starting point. As a result, we rarely commit to a specific arrival date.  There’s not much on board a cruising vessel that’s more treacherous than a schedule!

So, the unscheduled approach of hurricane Michael added some uncertainty to our plans, but our approach to planned travel is to get to within a couple of days’ travel of our destination and spend time close by to minimize the potential for traveling in bad weather. As it stood, our reservation was scheduled with a two day buffer, so even with the passage of a hurricane within a couple days of our arrival, our travel worked out without the need for travel in poor conditions.

Coffee Bluff pack
 
 

Coffee Bluff pack

At Grandma & Grandpa's
 
 

At Grandma & Grandpa’s

Hardshells ready for the table
 
 

Hardshells ready for the table

1st dip in the Atlantic - Tybee
 
 

1st dip in the Atlantic – Tybee

We had an enjoyable visit. Coffee Bluff Marina is owned by the City of Savannah, and is a small, friendly place. Very dog-friendly, and our crew enjoyed joining the pack on the pier during our stay. The marina is off the beaten path south of Savannah, but our rental worked well to shuttle between the kids’ lodgings and the marina, since toddler bed times required them to be back at an early hour. We saw lots of sights around Savannah, despite some rainy weather. Our grandkids had a great time at their Air BnB that had a kid-friendly yard. They enjoyed getting feet wet in the surf, a contrast to their experience with the Pacific cold water! And they had a great time exploring the odd house in which their grandparents live! We treated son-in-law David to some Maryland style steamed crabs, enjoyed on the patio of the marina, and he was able to experience a few of the myriad dining experiences Savannah offers. Grandma & grandpa had a great time with the grandkids while mom & dad had a quiet night out at the Pirate House restaurant. We had the luck to see a few dolphins in the river, even if they were a bit further away than we’d have asked for!

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Wow! Ten years!!

Holy cow! How time flies. We started our first trip up the Hudson and the New York Canal system in August of 2008. We’ve been cruising for over ten years! In that time, we’ve logged  35,880 nautical miles (that’s equivalent to 41,290 statute miles).  This trip south on the ICW marks our 9th trip down “the ditch”. Some other factoids…

  •  We cruised the Bahamas 7 times, and plan to travel to the Bahamas after the 1st of the year, our 8th trip.
  • 4 trips on the Hudson River & New York Canal System.
  • 249 Locks transited
  • 2 trips to Florida’s west coast.
  • 3 cruises into Canada
  • 6041 engine hours accumulated
  • 19,720 gallons diesel fuel
  • 30 Main engine oil changes (about 120 gallons)
  • 3,830 Generator hours accumulated
  • 3 refrigerators purchased (We have a bad track record with expensive marine refrigerators!)

No drownings, no shipwrecks, towed once, no crew lost. I’d say our cruising time was a success! It certainly has been an enjoyable ride, and we still love our small ship. There’s simply no other place we’d rather call home!

Thanks for cruising along!

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Southbound ICW

Our 2018 summer was mostly unremarkable, the bulk of our time spent at our “home” base at Stansbury, tending to aging parents, enjoying crabs from Frank’s crab outings, lots of dog swimming, Mexican Train, and enjoyable times with good friends. We planned to depart Sept. 15, much earlier than our typical end of October departure, but delayed our departure date due to hurricane Florence, knowing that the areas we’d be traversing would likely experience damage given the dire forecasts. That indeed turned out to be the case, and there were travel problems. So we ended up slipping lines on Sept. 25. Although there were some problem areas due to Florence, in particular the Socastee swing bridge that was out of commission for several weeks. We were blessed with favorable weather and were able to make several ocean runs and bypass those problem areas.

Oriental- post Florence damage
 
 

Oriental- post Florence damage

Storm damage debris
 
 

Storm damage debris

Of the areas we typically transit, North Carolina was hardest hit, particularly New Bern and Oriental. Our original plans considered a stop in New Bern, but with one marina destroyed and another sustaining significant damage, we put off any thoughts of a visit. We did stop in Oriental; the public dock sustained only minor damage, however most of the structures in town had damage on the first floor. The curbs were stacked with brush and construction debris awaiting disposal. It was quite a mess.

As if Florence wasn’t enough, as we made our way south we watched as Michael developed. Although hurricane warnings weren’t issued for our area, there’s never a clear-cut prediction. Understandably, contingency planning parallels our daily travel plans in those circumstances. As the storm progressed, we decided to stay put at Beaufort, SC. Our stopover began on a mooring ball, but we opted to move to the marina. It would enable us to stow the dinghy and have shore access for the dogs rather than try to dinghy to shore in gale conditions. The latest predictions were for gale storms for our area, so we doubled up on lines, fenders, and taped up the pilothouse doors. Storm ready. We had some 40-50 kt gusts, lots of rain, and the Beaufort River got pretty snotty, but we were secure. No storm-related damage, and the storm passed without any significant local impact. On to Savannah.

Riding out Michael in Beaufort, SC
 
 

Riding out Michael in Beaufort, SC

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Back to our “Home base”

Just an update to make up for some lost time.

Our trip to Canada, Georgian Bay and North Channel was memorable. Cruising the canals is such a laid-back experience. No real weather worries, you cruise when you want, travel short distances without any real concern about where to stay. If a little town looks interesting and there’s space on the canal wall, you stop and tie up for the night. It’s a very relaxing pace, it’s nearly universally pond-calm. Lots to see, and the folks along the waterways are interesting and friendly.

We returned to Maryland to our “home” marina at Stansbury Yacht Basin. Our original plan to visit Great Kills was waylaid as a consequence of hurricane Jose, and instead we stayed at Half Moon Bay at Croton, NY. About 40-some miles up the Hudson, we were reluctant to venture closer to the anticipated path of the storm. All weather-based decisions are a crap shoot, and staying worked out OK, although no clear advantage had we moved to Great Kills. The storm pretty much was a non-event.

With still more crappy weather predicted to follow Jose, we decided to make a run for it. We left Croton by mid morning on the 21st with intentions of traveling to perhaps Barnegat, contingent on conditions. As it worked out, conditions weren’t too bad, so we continued without stopping, transiting most of the lovely Jersey coast after dark. Rather than transit the Cape May canal in the dark at low tide. we made our way around the Cape and headed up the Delaware Bay, passing the canal cutoff just about daybreak. With favorable winds and riding the flood tide up the bay, we made excellent time, getting almost a 2 kt. boost from the tide at times, all the way to the C&D canal. We entered the Canal and picked up a boost there as well, and yet another boost from the ebbing tide when we hit the Chesapeake and the home stretch to Stansbury.

As we left the canal, an engine check revealed a new noise. Uh-oh. Not supposed to hear that. Oh, it’s the alternator. Maybe it’ll hang on for just another 2-3 hrs to get us to the slip. Well, ALMOST! At the Bowley’s #2 marker, had to shut down. Well, I’m not changing out an alternator with 3 miles to go! A call out to TowBoat/US, time for a welcome shower while awaiting his arrival. He towed us the last couple miles of our 36 hour run from the Hudson. The belt squealed its dissatisfaction as the Cummins came to life just long enough to back us into our slip! Frank had dinner going on the grille as we tied up! What a great welcome home! Other than the unceremonious end with failed alternator bearings, the trip went exceptionally well, our quickest trip yet from 40 miles up the Hudson to Middle River in just 36 hours. Our typical transit of that route is 4 days! Secure in our slip on the 22nd September. 260 nm in 36 hours. It was good to be safely home!

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