Okay, maybe “correction” isn’t the proper term, but rather “updated status.” Last blog I indicated that in 2015 we had lived in two countries, three states and four homes. Well, Frank is getting transferred … again. I was in Annapolis and he was working in Toledo when I got “the call” one afternoon. It started something like, “Do you have a minute and are you sitting down.” I KNOW what that means! I’d heard it before. And I really thought I’d never hear that call again!! Toledo was supposed to be the last rodeo. No more job hopping. But this turned out to be a very good call. The “commute” back and forth between Toledo and Annapolis is not an easy one. It requires an 8+ hour drive (well, 7 3/4 for me, but let’s not talk about it…) or a flight from Detroit airport to Baltimore. We managed – we got to see each other about every 10 – 14 days. But that’s not very often. And as my work schedule has gotten busier, finding windows of time to be together has gotten tougher.
So when Frank’s company explained that, due to a number of promotions and moves within the company, the job in Grantville, Pennsylvania (Harrisburg area) was going to be available and was he interested – well, we got pretty excited. Harrisburg – does that sound oddly familiar? That is the same job he had before he … uhm, er, eh-hem… “retired.” Yup – getting his old job back. Right up the road from Annapolis. Less than a two hour drive from our new house. That beats the heck out of 8 hours!!! We will have WAY more quality time together and we both love the Harrisburg area.
Hello Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course!
We had rented a small apartment in Toledo – those belongings will be moved straight to the townhouse that we’ll have in PA. His “official” start date is a moving target, but he’ll be back in the east by mid-December.
We enjoyed our short stay in Toledo . . . a very hospitable part of the country. But being closer together and Frank being closer to at least part of his brood is a very, very good thing. (Shout out to Frank the third – inside joke- and Nicole… the NJ branch of the family. Shout out to Andrea, but she’s still in California, so not closer to her…bummer.) He misses spending quality time with his peeps. And Eleanor Q is very happy, too! Perhaps she’ll see a little more action in 2016 now.
Meanwhile, Frank was at the Annapolis homestead this weekend. With him only being at the house once a month, the visit is more about chores than anything, sadly. Glad that will not be the case soon. The boats have been winterized – that part’s a wrap. They’re all settled down for a long winter’s nap. And after yet another move in the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be ready for a long winter’s nap ourselves.
Wow. I just reread the post from last winter. It promised of charming tales about “Life in a Northern Town,” the posts I thought we would put out during our time in Ontario. And now it is nearly September. All of our family and more than half of our friends know where we have landed since . . . but it was a real wake up call last week when I received very lovely birthday greetings from some people I consider very good friends who said, “By the way . . . where are you????” That was the wake up call, perhaps, that the blog needed an update and that I need to do a better job of keeping in touch with friends.
Well, the theme for us in recent years has been that we’re always on the move. The last six months have been no exception. So far 2015 has included 2 countries, 3 states and 4 homes. Yeah, just in 2015. Let me explain – as briefly as I can.
First, a wrap up of the “Life in a Northern Town” chapter. We had visions of sharing stories about sledding and snow shoeing and learning the sport of curling, but it didn’t really pan out that way. We were in Canada from January to the first week of May. The two weeks before we left were just about the first time we saw the grass anywhere in the area. No lie. It was ice and snow all of that time. We wanted to embrace winter. Frank had proudly proclaimed that “If I can survive winter in South Dakota, how much colder can it be in Orillia?” We found out the answer . . . A LOT! Frank had also proclaimed that, “Once it gets below 20 degrees, how much colder can it really feel? Cold is cold.” He answered his own question on that one, too . . . with the same answer. Minus 20 degrees does not feel anything like plus 20 degrees. There is a difference! There were days and days on end when the temperature never got above zero. That said, our motivation to enjoy any outdoor activities was severely stunted. Still, it really was a beautiful area and we enjoyed the scenery and the very friendly people. The job was challenging and kept Frank extremely busy, and I made regular trips back to the states for either work or to check on family or the house in NJ. Driving became my preferred way to travel . . . winter flying on Air Canada’s tiny planes to the states was unpredictable at best. The 10 hour trip by car was much better and gave me a more flexible schedule to work around the weather. We rented a GREAT furnished house on a lake with super neighbors – and from the nicest people. We stumbled into that ideal situation! The lovely surroundings made it easy to come home at the end of the day and just hibernate!! We became part bear, I suppose. I’ll put in a picture or two here to make your hot, humid day feel a little bit cooler!
Fast forward, the casino identified a new GM and Frank’s “interim” gig came to an end . . . but they had other plans for him. Staying in Ontario for a few years was presented as an option and we seriously toyed with the idea of bringing Eleanor Q up to Georgian Bay and hanging our hats in Ontario for a few years, but we both agreed that we missed our country (I’m not being trite there) and we missed being a little more accessible to family and friends. And perhaps, yes, it was a bit much to consider several more winters like that one!
While we had time on our hands during our evenings of hibernation, another plan was hatching. We have had it in our minds that our ultimate retirement location of choice would be Annapolis. Why Annapolis? It’s an easy drive to most of our family members, it’s right on the Chesapeake Bay and our favorite cruising grounds, and it’s a place where we’ve been hanging out for years on Eleanor Q. Hmmmm… the markets were up, interest rates looked like they were about to start moving up, the housing market was starting to pick up…was this the time to strike? I will spare you all the agonizing we went through re: “To Buy or Not to Buy,” but the moral of the story is that we (happily) purchased the home in Annapolis. It is a house that we had eyed up six months earlier, but we felt like the timing wasn’t right when we considered it the first time around. Here it was – our dream location – still sitting on the market. We didn’t walk away a second time – we bought the house. We plan to make that our home base for years and years to come. Being an older home, it has plenty of projects to keep us busy!
But wait! What about that work thing we’re supposed to be doing? Frank’s company had the “permanent” position in mind for him around the same time that we were dreaming up our Annapolis plans . . . Hollywood Casino in Toledo, Ohio. Yes, you read that right – Toledo. (Hey, it’ still not as cold as Orillia, Ontario, I promise you!) Some of you might be thinking, “I didn’t even know there were casinos in Toledo!” The Detroit/Toledo gaming market has become a big regional gaming area and Penn opened Hollywood Toledo just three years ago. It is one of Penn’s “Tier 1” premier properties and truly a beautiful facility. Our cruising pals from Magnolia (you blog followers have read a lot about them) had a family reunion in the area and visited us and the casino – and gave it two thumbs up!
So, we have become a two state couple. We have an apartment in Toledo and the house in Maryland and spend time in both. Frank gets back to the Annapolis home about once a month for several days and I have been getting to Toledo about twice a month, so we are together a good portion of the time, but I home base more out of Annapolis. Baltimore airport is only 30 minutes away making travel for work very easy. From door to door it is a 7:45 drive from the MD house to the OH apartment. (Hey – less than the 10 hour commute to Canada!) I’ve been driving to haul things back and forth and he’s been flying to maximize his time back. We’re figuring out how to make it work.
Frank had the month of May off between the Canada gig and the Toledo gig for us to move out of Ontario, move out of our NJ house in the “retirement community” that served us well during our cruising time and move into our more permanent home in the sailing mecca of Annapolis. A few weeks later, we packed some belongings up again and moved into the apartment in Toledo as well. Notice that some form of the word “move” was used four times in those two sentences. April, May, June and July are just kind of a blur at this point.
We will make our home in both locations until such time as Frank decides to do the retirement thing again. Eleanor Q is not getting as much use as she would like, but I keep a watchful eye on her and spend time on her at the dock so she knows she is still loved. We get her out when Frank is in town. When the time is right, we will pick up cruising with her again, although our plan will be to split our time between land and sea. We learned that we like both lifestyles very much and don’t want to give up one for the other. Meanwhile, we’ll enjoy visiting some of our old favorite haunts around the Chesapeake… a BEAUTIFUL place to be.
So between Ohio, Maryland and a variety of other locations required for work right now, when friends ask “Where are you?” the answer will still be a bit of a moving target. For now, Eleanor Q lies in wait to see what her next adventure will be down the road.
Our last post was . . . well, kind of a last post about our cruising adventures for a while. After all, we were headed back to work and what would there be to talk about. Of course, we still didn’t know where we would be working and living. And where, pray tell, would Eleanor Q’s new home be???
Well, there’s more to talk about than we thought! And some friends have asked if we would consider putting some updates out about our new adventures . . . so we’ll give it a go and see how it turns out. Hope you enjoy.
For this “series” of posts, I’ve created a new category. It’s called “Life in a Northern Town.” A northern town? What? Where? Who?
Here’s the story . . . so far.
In the last post we told you that Frank’s retirement was redefined (by him) as a sabbatical and that he was going back to work for his former company, but we didn’t exactly know in what location he would be working. Meanwhile, I’ve been picking back up on my consulting work. So when we got the call that his company had a “temporary assignment” for him, we were intrigued. Could we possibly go spend some time at their casino property in . . . Ontario, Canada! In the winter. It would probably just be for a few months . . . and something more permanent would come along later. They needed to start conducting a search for a new General Manager (or President, as it is called up here) and figured it would take a while to find someone and they didn’t want to leave the ship without a captain. (You think I’d pass up a nautical reference?) So being cruisers at heart, we’re open for exploring new places. A few months in Ontario? Could be interesting! And interesting it is.
Frank started in January . . . I joined him a couple of weeks later, flying into Toronto.
I only stayed for four days on the first trip up. The second time I drove up with a car full of stuff. As I was getting ready for the trip, the song “Life in a Northern Town” (Dream Academy – 1985) kept popping into my head. Okay, it was more than popping in my head, it was completely stuck there! I downloaded as many versions of the song as I could find. That and some Gordon Lightfoot (a native of Orillia, Ontario) and my iPod was updated and ready for the trip.
After an overnight stop in Buffalo, I came around the bend on Rama Road around midday to see our new home. For now, “home” is a hotel room at the casino resort. We figure we’re uniquely trained for this assignment – we’re used to being transient and living in a small space together, and the room is way more floor space than Eleanor Q and has unlimited hot water! Piece of cake! The casino is on First Nation’s land. (“First Nation” in Canada is the equivalent to saying “Native American”in the U.S in case you were wondering.) They are the Chippewas of Rama. (Rama is their town/land/property). And so the resort very much reflects the First Nations culture and is beautiful! Lots of stone and wood and fireplaces. Looks like a giant ski lodge.
Orillia is the closest town of size and is just about a twelve minute drive away. We are located about ninety minutes north of Toronto in Lake Country. (Notice that I am being careful to talk in terms of time instead of having to convert kilometers to miles!) We are told this is the Jersey Shore of southern Ontario. Lots and lots of water! It is difficult to picture right now, though, because the lakes are all frozen over and snow covered, but it is very picturesque.
Let me take you for a tour . . .
And now for a little tour around the surrounding area . . .
So far, people here have been tremendously friendly. The area is scenic. The culture is unique. There hasn’t been too much snow this year (relatively speaking) . . . but it is very consistently frigid! It doesn’t seem to phase anyone here too much. They just go about life dressed properly for the weather. It’s all about the layers for me!
We don’t know exactly how long we’ll be staying here, but it might be longer than we had originally expected. But for now, we’re just living life in a northern town.
‘Twas the week after Christmas and all through the boat,
Not a creature was stirring since she isn’t afloat.
The systems are drained of all water with care,
In hopes that no icicles will ever form there.
Eleanor Q is nestled all snug on her bed
With antifreeze throughout her, including the head.
With me in my parka and Frank in his cap,
Got Eleanor Q settled in for her long winter’s nap.
And so . . . our first round of cruising has come to an end.
We finished out the season in late September and October with some quality time in Annapolis and with a few hops around the Chesapeake.
But when the cold weather hit in November, we knew it was time to take Eleanor Q out of the water for a while and give her a well deserved rest.
We are diving back into the work waters . . . I have already had a couple of consulting gigs this month and have some more work scheduled in January. Frank is still in discussions determining where and when he will go back to work, so we are waiting for definitive word as to exactly where our next “port” will be. In the mean time, we have enjoyed time in our house in Smithville, NJ and have spent lots of time with family here. Christmas in the warm weather of Florida was an interesting change last year, but spending it with family this year was pretty special . . . and singing with my former church choir in Ocean City throughout the season has buoyed my Christmas spirit.
Yes, we occasionally have pangs about being on the boat in warmer climes about now, but we have also really enjoyed time with family, football season on our couch and the beautiful fall weather.
So . . . we are prepared to be transients again, just on land instead of sea for a while. We will return to cruising some day . . . it will not be a one and done deal for us. But we have lots of years left to return to the sea, God willing. We fulfilled our goal of cruising from Maine to the Bahamas and back and it was AWESOME! But for now, we’ll enjoy the stimulation that we both get from doing work that we really enjoy and having a few more land adventures for a while. We’ll let you know where we and Eleanor Q land!
And so we exclaim as we turn out the light,
Happy New Year to all and to all a good night.
It’s October. Our last post was early in September. We’ve been back in Annapolis for a couple of weeks. So we need to catch up with the end of our summer cruise.
“September Song” started running through my head. You know the song? It’s a classic that was written for a movie in the 40s and has since been covered by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and – our favorite version – by Willie Nelson.
Well the days notably turned shorter, but we certainly made the most of them!
After Newport, we only had a couple of other “must see” destinations and those were on the coast of Connecticut, an area we didn’t see at all last year. The really cool thing about cruising north this year is that we had made friends with a number of cruisers over the winter whose home bases are in Connecticut and who had invited us to stop in on our way through!
We had a good trip from Newport to Stonington, CT. What a lovely port. We were very fortunate to visit with cruising friends who ran us around for some boat errands, groceries and laundry – AND fed us a delightful dinner.
Our next trip was up the Connecticut River to Essex, CT. We grabbed a mooring ball at the Brewer Dauntless Marina – a very nice stop if you’re looking – and enjoyed the quaint main street of Essex with the upscale shops and specialty food markets. Not where you’d shop every day that you’re cruising, but a nice treat for a couple of days. There’s just something about New England. We also discovered the Griswold Inn (or “The Gris”) for food and drinks. They have a pub and a wine bar and we tried both! Enjoyed a picnic lunch with cruising friends and a really fun dinner in town with friends that evening! Thanks to all our Connecticut hosts!
We learned about the strong current in the river by watching the sailing club trying to come back in to port at max flood!! They came in dead sidewise, crabbing their way through the mooring field. A few had paddles off the side of the boat trying hard to keep themselves from overshooting their target. Great entertainment.
The last night in Essex was sort of the last night of “vacation” in some respects. Now our mission was just to get back to Annapolis post haste. We really liked our approach to getting here in August – make a longer trip and passage and get it over with. That was going to be our approach going back, too, but a lot of things have to align for that to happen.
1) The weather and wind have to be favorable, of course.
2) From Long Island Sound, you have to go back through New York City. Talk about a place where you really have to go with the tides . . . so timing the tide through “Hell Gate” (that’s the name, really) and the the East River is critical.
3) Once you get through there, what’s the tide doing at Sandy Hook at the top of NJ?
4) Okay, so now what’s the wind direction as you head down the coast of NJ? That’s the overnight part.
5) And after that, if you want to keep going, what’s the current doing past Cape May and turning north up into the Delaware Bay?
6) AND THEN, when you get to the top of the Delaware Bay, which way is the current going through the C&D Canal?
If the current isn’t in your favor in any of those places, you have to break the trip up into chunks and wait it out . . . or you can try powering through any of those places against the current and just about sit still in place and waste a bunch of fuel. That makes no sense and is not recommended. We used our Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book, the boater’s Bible for all things tide and current related, and found a window of about three days where all the tides aligned . . . if only we could get the good weather to go with it.
So we did a long but beautiful day down the Long Island Sound clear from Essex to Port Washington, NY just north of the city, passing right by Port Jefferson. We plotted the exact time we needed to leave Port Washington to start our trek which would be on a Sunday around 11am. That gave us all day Saturday to rest and prepare for the overnight trip down the coast.
And sure enough, the forecast looked great. We did a little happy dance (okay, I did a little happy dance . . . Frank just looked pleased) because everything was lining up perfectly. We departed Port Washington on schedule at 11:00am, had another exhilarating trip through New York City (never get tired of that), whipped around the top of NJ just before sunset and motor sailed, then just motored down the coast overnight in extremely calm, benign, comfortable conditions. Yes, some more wind to sail would be nice . . but for overnighters, we’re happy for really settled conditions so the one not on watch has an actual chance at sleeping. We were riding the engine pretty hard, too, to get us to the Delaware Bay in time to catch the changing current direction just right. There were a number of other boats who had the same idea and we found each other on the radio and suggested calling each other a few times during the overnight hours just to hear another voice out there in the dark and to “shepherd” one another down the coast a bit. We were not necessarily within sight of each other, but we were within a few miles. Always nice to have some company offshore in the dark.
Some of the boats stopped in Cape May, but a handful of us kept charging on. Another fleet of boats had been in Cape May overnight and were setting out up the Delaware. That was the most boats we’ve seen on that leg yet. It was fun! A virtual flotilla.
We zipped up the bay with the current (motor sailing), caught the current right in the C&D Canal and got to Chesapeake City, MD at the end of the canal by 5pm on Monday evening – 30 hours after departing Port Washington! Mission accomplished! The more overnights we do, the better we get at them. We did 4 hour shifts overnight and both got some reasonable sleep . . . but we did crash big time Monday night after a fun dinner with another cruising couple that we had met via radio and by waving as we passed each other in Ocracoke . . . finally got to talk face to face! Always a fun part of the adventure.
We enjoyed a lay day in Chesapeake City just wandering around town. I used the term “lay day” in an email to my family one morning . . . they were unfamiliar with it’s origins. It basically means a day when a vessel is at dock but the crew has no particular responsibility for that period of time. We were back in the bay!! Home waters! There is always a sense of comfort when we get back in the Chesapeake. We spent the rest of the week just enjoying short travel days and nosing around the bay. Stopped in the Sassafras River for a day. Visited Bodkin Creek the next. And then . . . we were back in Annapolis, back at Stella’s Stern and Keel. Back “home.”
Home. What will home be in 2015?
Well, we can tell you that we’ve decided not to go south on the boat this winter. We’re going to take a sabbatical from our sabbatical and go back to work for a while. What is that going to look like and where is that going to be? We’ll let you know just as soon as we’ve finished figuring that part out ourselves! Meanwhile, we just had ourselves a heck of an end of summer cruise and look forward to some fall time in the bay.
“Oh these days dwindle down to a precious few, and these few precious days I’ll spend with you.” You said it, Willie.
After being waylaid in Nantucket for an extra day due to fog and drizzle, we were ready to move on. Our ultimate goal was to get to Newport, but that would be a 60+ mile day. What’s the hurry? We need to enjoy our time in these parts. We chose to do a 30 mile hop over to Martha’s Vineyard which meant we didn’t have to leave at the crack of dawn. Good thing, because at the crack of dawn it was foggy again, but the forecast promised that it would burn off quickly. Happily, it did (we thought) and we set off. The series of pictures below shows the progression of the trip: clear passing the light at the exit of Nantucket Harbor, then some fog, then pretty limited visibility for quite a while! We have radar and that’s exactly what it’s for. We saw lots of fog last summer in Maine and, compared to that, this was child’s play. We’ve been unbelievably blessed with great weather for just about this whole month. The last picture is the bright sun shining on the lighthouse at the entrance to Edgartown Harbor on Martha’s Vineyard. We figured we’d stay for a couple of days before marching on to Newport.
Not much to say about our stay there. We arrived in the early afternoon, anchored, hopped off the boat and went into town. When we were in Edgartown last summer it was July, hot and crowded. We were looking forward to giving it another chance post-Labor Day. And this was the Tuesday after Labor Day. The weather was pleasant, the crowds were gone . . . this looked promising. And then we discovered that everybody who works on the island was burnt out. Okay, we’re familiar with seasonal business and end of season burn out from the years in Atlantic City, but even if you FEEL that way, a professional tries not to show it. Yeah, right. Servers and bartenders everywhere had no desire left to be kind to tourists. They were just done . . . and so were we. So instead of sticking around for another day of indifference, we decided to move on up the sound to wonderful Newport. Boaters’ paradise. Nautical Mecca. But first we had to get there.
So it should have been a sweet ride up the sound. The forecast was for quite a bit of wind, and that there was, and not downwind. What does all of that mean? We got slapped around a bit that day! If you’re not familiar with the term “fetch” (not as in what you say to Fido) it means, “a) an area where ocean waves are being generated by the wind; b) the length of such an area. There was a fair sized fetch meaning fair sized seas. Interesting that fetch rhymes with “retch.” Happily, we did not, but it crossed my mind once or twice. We could have bailed and stopped at a closer location, but we really wanted to end up in Newport and so resisted the urge. About six grueling hours later, we were in Newport. In my head I rate the comfort level of days as to “how would family members like being on the boat today?” As I told one of my sisters, NO ONE would have liked being on the boat that day. But . . . we were there, safe and exhausted.
Last year we were in Newport over Labor Day Weekend and in not such great weather – and still loved the place. We also got wise to the good anchorage there. Now we were going to see Newport in all its glory. Newport is a good sized town and there are blocks and blocks of eclectic shops, restaurants and pubs. There are museums and historic mansions. There’s tons to see and do. Go there if you ever have a chance.
Day 1 – Walked and walked and walked. Frank had a mission: we had determined an appropriate belated birthday present for me: a GoPro camera. Online, he had scoped out local retailers and we were going shopping. Long story short, after many miles and three stores, we finally got the camera and necessary accessories. A new toy! Scouted out the Midtown Oyster Bar for lunch and met Timmy, our MVP bartender for this trip. It would not be our last visit to Timmy.
Day 2 – Laundry Day and “time alone” day. Yes, we all need to have a little time alone, so Newport provides the perfect opportunity for us to go our separate ways for a while. I was stationed in the Boater’s Lounge laundry (GREAT facility for cruisers) with the plan to go actually walk IN some shops while the clothes were spinning around. Frank’s plan was to rent a scooter and see some other parts of town. Earlier he had asked me if I wanted to tour with him on the scooter. I pretty quickly answered a resounding no! I confess, I’m not a fan of open road two-wheel transportation. I did ride on a motorcycle with him a couple of times and lived to tell about it, but I was pretty much praying to come back in one piece the whole time I was riding. Yeah, I’m a chicken. Cut me some slack, I’m living on a boat, okay? So back to Newport – an hour after we’ve split up, Frank calls me and says, “I’m riding this scooter around and this is a GREAT way to see the place – it’s beautiful! Do you want me to come back and get you? You really gotta see this.” How nice was that? So I grabbed the last articles out of the dryers, we threw the finished laundry in the dinghy and off we went. I got over my nervousness pretty quickly and he was right . . . it was spectacular. And I managed to talk Frank into stopping for a tour of one of the mansions. A mansion tour is “something you should do” while you’re in Newport – at least that’s what people have told us. Ours was a self-guided tour that should take about an hour. Yup – we did it in 28 minutes.
It so happened that the scooter rental place was right beside the Oyster Bar, so of course we had to stop and visit with Timmy. It would be rude not to.
Day 3: Woke up to a foggy day in Newport. We weren’t going anywhere so we didn’t care, but there were a number of regattas planned for the day. It cleared up enough to watch some stunning boats go by on their way to compete. We went in to town and THIS time, we went our separate ways for a while. I did girl things like go in shops and look at clothes and flip flops and then went to the International Yacht Restoration School. We visited there last year and I wanted to see what progress they had made on restoring the 151 foot “Coronet” – the oldest wooden yacht still even a little bit in existence. It is being rebuilt/restored at the school – a project that will go on for years and years.
Frank went to boat yards. A couple of hours later, we met back up at – uhm, er – the Oyster Bar to hang out with Timmy on our last day in town. Yes, we’re in a rut considering how many cool places there are in Newport to explore. But the Oyster Bar was just that good.
Newport is way up on our list of favorite stops. Great town! And if you go there, please say hello to Timmy.
Our next stop was Hyannis, Massachussetts. Yup, THAT Hyannis. Home turf of the Kennedy family. The Kennedy compound. THAT Hyannis. It hadn’t even occurred to us to go there until some friends in this area said, “Oh, you should stop at Hyannis. It’s lovely!”
Well, why not?
So to Hyannis we went. It was a nice day trip from Cuttyhunk. I had lots of nice details about the trip when I started this post – except somehow the draft of this post evaporated into the blogosphere and I don’t think I can recreate it . . . so let’s just get to Hyannis itself, shall we?
We got a non-resident membership to the Eastport Yacht Club in Annapolis that has paid us back in so many ways in reciprocal privileges at other yacht clubs along the way, and Hyannis was one of those. We reserved a mooring ball at the Hyannis Yacht Club. I must confess, I was a little intimidated walking into the club to check in . . . it’s Hyannis for crying out loud. What we found was a very pleasant, welcoming place. A nice young man checked us in and then gave us a tour of the club. We enjoyed the facilities while we were there very much. Here’s what we discovered about Hyannis: there are the very high priced neighborhoods, yes, but when you walk into town, it looks like any fun, shore town you would find up and down the coast. It has tour boat companies hawking their trips. It has ice cream and tee-shirt shops. It was a classic shore town in the summer. We enjoyed walking around and quickly immersed ourselves in the Kennedy history so prevalent in the area. We visited the Kennedy memorial and the Kennedy Museum. Frank is currently on his second book about the Kennedy family dynasty and their rise to power. The museum was relatively small but had a great collection of family photos.
That night we celebrated my birthday at the Hyannis Yacht Club restaurant. We had a table overlooking the harbor. What a cool place have to have a special dinner.
The next day Frank was determined to see the Kennedy Compound. We had a rough idea of where it was, but weren’t sure exactly how far it was. Well, we started walking and more than two miles later, we found it! There isn’t one house that makes it impressive; don’t get me wrong – the “main” house is pretty big and sits right on the water. What is impressive is that, over time, they bought houses for the children and grandchildren, so there is now a COLLECTION of houses on many acres of land sitting right on a point in Hyannis, thus the term “compound.” Once we achieved our goal of personally eyeballing the compound, we started the long hike back on the warm, sunny day. If you’re out cruising, we recommend Hyannis. Cool spot.
Our next stop was a place on my personal “Bucket List.” For a very long time, I have wanted to go to Nantucket. It was on my list last year and we didn’t quite make it. Matter of fact, Frank heard about the fact that we skipped Nantucket for the whole rest of the year. I had two places on my “must see’ list and Nantucket was one of them. And we missed it. He had a mild interest in going to Nantucket last year, but this year he had a MAJOR interest in going just to shut me up!! Guess what? It ended up being on of his favorite stops yet. (Is it rude to say I told you so?)
We found ourselves there over Labor Day weekend. Although it was busy, it still was nowhere near the crowded feeling that you get in Ocean City, NJ during Labor Day weekend! What an amazingly beautiful place with an interesting history. High end? Upper crust? Expensive? Well . . . yes, it is those things. But beyond that, it is gorgeous and charming and interesting. Plus, it’s an island. Anywhere that you have to take a boat or a plane to get to is of great interest to me.
Here are a couple of tidbits about Nantucket and its history:
– It is slightly less than 50 square miles and it’s nickname is “Little Gray Lady of the Sea,” describing how the island appears from the ocean when shrouded in fog.
– The year yound population is about 10,000 which grows to 50,000 during the summer months.
– Native Americans first inhabited the island, and other native Americans would come visit the island seasonally. They had the idea of summering in Nantucket first.
– Europeans started showing up in the mid 1600s.
– Whaling became the major industry from the late 1600s to the mid 1800s and the island flourished.
– In 1846, when whaling was already in decline, Nantucket had “The Great Fire of 1846.” This left many residents homeless and really brought the first golden era of Nantucket to an end. Many people moved away from the island and it was a struggling settlement for the next 100 years.
– In the 1950s, several mainland developers started thinking, “Hey – there are a bunch of pre-Civil war structures sitting on this island pretty well untouched. Let’s buy up the property on the island, restore the old buidlings, build some new places that look old, make it seem exclusive and entice people from the mainland with means to build summer homes here.” Lo and behold, it worked and now Nantucket is a getaway for many people including a number of celebrities.
There is an endless stream of fast ferries that bring tourists to the island from surrounding areas. The downtown area close to the harbor is really quite large with many blocks of cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks with beautiful shops and galleries and restaurants and inns one after another. We enjoyed walking and walking through the town. We also went to a highly recommended place: the Cisco Brewery. Yes, Nantucket brews it’s own beer. At the brewery, they have an open air facility where you can enjoy their products, munch on samplings from a variety of food trucks and listen to some great live music. We enjoyed the brewery scene one afternoon and heard some good bluegrass.
Although we had planned to rent bikes to explore the island on the many bike trails it offers, we decided to use my Hertz points to rent a car to explore instead. We were thrilled to be offered a free upgrade to a convertible! For a whopping $8 plus gas, we toured the whole island in a Mustang convertible. Excellent! It was nice to see some of the outlying neighborhoods and to view the many beaches. What an amazingly beautiful place. It really does feel like you’ve landed in Ireland or Scotland. Here are some of the sights and scenes we captured . . .
We had planned to leave on Monday of the holiday weekend, but when we woke up that morning, the weather was quite dismal and wet. We COULD have left, but neither one of us was inspired to face that weather out in the sound, so we chose not to. Now, you’ve probably all heard the refernce to the limerick, “There once was a man in Nantucket . . . ” right? It is a ribald rhyme to say the least, or at least one version of it is. We report in to a Ham radio net most mornings to report our location or float plan. The net controller that day is a man who we have become friendly with who helped with the installation of the single side band radio on the boat. When Frank reported our postion that morning, he responded by saying, “There once was a man from Nantucket . . . ” which made me laugh a lot since he is usually pretty business-like on the radio. I couldn’t help myself but to send him an email later, with my own spin on the rhyme, to inform him that we had chosen not to leave. It went:
“There once was a man in Nantucket
Checked the current and thought he would buck it.
When it came time to go
There was rain and some blow,
So he and his mate said, “Ah f*&% it!”
Moral of the story, we stayed in Nantucket an extra day. By mid-afternoon, it had cleared and was gorgeous for another day of exploring the town.
Tuesday arrived and we really couldn’t postpone leaving any more. You can go bankrupt staying in Nantucket for any extended period of time, but gosh it’s pretty!
So we said a relucatant goodbye to one of our new favorite places and moved on up the sound in search of our next stop, Newport, RI.
I grew up in West Virginia. Not a lot of sailing there. But we did live a block from the Kanawha River and I learned early on that I felt more settled sitting by the flowing water watching the barges go by. I rode my bike along the banks of the river for countless hours growing up. I suppose I was more drawn to the water than I recognized.
By 2006, my sailing experience was limited to a couple of day sails. In a “previous life,” my in-laws had a sailboat that they kept not far from where we lived in Ocean City, NJ. On those rare occasions that we would go out, it consisted of my father-in-law yelling orders at my husband in an exasperated tone. And every time a nice puff of wind would fill the sails and the boat would start to really sail and, therefore, heel just a bit, my mother-in-law would panic and scream “Make it stop!! Make it stop!” And before the day was done my husband would toss his cookies. So my sailing experience was pretty limited and unenjoyable.
When Frank and I began seeing each other, he suggested our first major vacation should be chartering a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands – just the two of us. Talk about taking some seriously inexperienced crew!! It was a running joke that he was a water boy and I was mountain girl. And yet, that first vacation together was the clincher for me – in spite of the rough conditions we hit on that trip, I was hooked on sailing.
The first time I laid eyes on Annapolis was when I went there for my first sailing class – without Frank. As we started talking about making sailing a more serious part of our life, he needed me to know for sure that I loved it because I loved it, not because HE loved it. He needed to feel confident that I would consider moving onto a sailboat with him because I wanted to as much as he did. He was quite wise in asserting that, if I went cruising with him for an extended period of time without being there for myself, I would end up hating it and resenting him. That was some pretty smart thinking. What we didn’t know was that he was creating a monster. I think a good monster, but I just haven’t been able to get enough of this learning to be a good sailor stuff.
Fast forward to this spring. We have 4000+ miles under our belts. I’ve taken my fair share of shifts at the helm every day that we’re out. I’ve done hours overnight while he’s slept. I’ve been at this for a while now. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I don’t feel that I’m about to lose my lunch when I know I’m going to be docking the boat. I even started having the occasional dream where I’m taking the boat out by myself. I’m not looking to push him overboard or anything so don’t read too much into that statement. I’m just enjoying feeling more capable all the time. So last month when we planned to take the boat in for a bottom paint job, we had to plan the logistics of taking the boat to the marina. The place was about a 30 minute car ride from our slip in Annapolis but about a 2.5 hour boat trip down the bay to the West River. Just like when you take your car in for service, you have to figure out the logistics of dropping it off, right? So when I asked Frank how we were going to manage this, he said, “Well, you push me off of the dock (in the boat) and I’ll drive the boat over alone and you drive the car over and meet me.” So just to be funny (sort of) I said, “How about if you push ME off of the dock and I’ll take the boat over.” And to my surprise he said, “Okay.” I wasn’t quite expecting that! Later that night I brought it up again. He said he was in full support if I wanted to take the boat, but we talked through whether I was really ready for a solo trip. The plan we ended up with was a better one – still a big step for me, but a smarter one. Frank would take the boat over, but I would bring it back. For me to try to dock by myself at a marina I knew nothing about and had never seen didn’t seem to make the most sense for my maiden solo trip; HOWEVER, pulling the boat OUT of that marina, going the 2.5 hours back up the bay and into Back Creek and into the slip I’m familiar with by myself . . . now that seemed more plausible.
STILL . . . it was a plan for me to drive the boat alone!! Gulp! I was pretty excited over the prospect and Frank was excited for me and very encouraging of it. (I think some of our friends were shocked that he’d let me out of his sight in our precious Eleanor Q!) He had complete confidence. We planned this for weeks! As the day approached, I’d wake up thinking about it, sometimes in a bit of a cold sweat. But there was no turning back now. Come on – what’s the big deal. I was going to motor, not sail. I’ve been behind the wheel for that trip before when we had visited the West River. I’ve navigated up the bay from various points many times. I had docked the boat the last three times that we came in without incident and without coaching. There wasn’t ANYTHING in that day that I hadn’t done before . . . I just hadn’t done it without Frank standing there.
So the day came. We got up and left New Jersey, drove the three hours to Annapolis area and went to the marina where the boat was waiting in a slip for us. It was a large slip with lots of space behind it. I could quickly see that backing out of it would be no problem. So we readied the boat, took most of the lines off, talked about a couple of logistics, and Frank threw off the last line and waved goodbye to me! And started taking pictures of my big day.
And so, Ems’ excellent day began. There were just enough challenges to make it interesting, but nothing to make it too unnerving . . . the weather was calm and beautiful, I had a route on the chart plotter to follow, I was aware of the tanker coming up the bay and kept an eye on his progress on the AIS to know how to stay out of his way. There were enough other boats out that day to navigate around. It was Friday afternoon in the summer in Annapolis – there are going to be boats – but it was still early enough in the day that traffic was not too bad. I texted Frank quickly (and safely) to let him know when I was getting close. It was so strange not to have someone there to ask, “Hey, what do you think that boat over there is doing? Or, “Do I need to change course for that fishing boat?” No one there to bounce that stuff off of . . . just me to figure it out and deal with it.
I had put music on from the iPod during the trip, but I found myself replaying the same track over and over for the last ten minutes as I was about to pull into the dock . . . Three Little Birds . . . the soothing Reggae song that says, “Don’t worry .. “bout a thing . . . ’cause every little thing’s … gonna be alright.” I seriously just kept singing that over and over. I had docked before, but I had to get the boat very close to the port side finger pier and bring her pretty much to a dead stop so Frank could throw a line on. And that’s just what I did. Slipped her right in there pretty! (And for those who know our boat, I DID NOT use the bow thruster!)
To some life long nautical people, that trip probably sounds like a no-brainer day. To this mountain girl who remembers the moment we were shopping for the boat and I stepped behind the wheel and thought, “That looks like a really long way to the tip of the bow . . . how do you ever get comfortable handling this thing,” I know how far I’ve come. I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. If I were a girl scout, I would have earned some kind of badge for the day.
How cool is it when we can still find moments in life that push us outside of our comfort zone and we can feel like we really did master something we never thought we could? This was a big step for me, and it wasn’t just in my dreams. A most excellent day, indeed.
Last summer we spent a good deal of our time in Maine. We loved Maine. We’re thrilled we went to Maine. We have good friends that went to Maine this summer and are having a ball. But last summer in Maine was like eternal spring or early fall. We were in long pants more than shorts. The weather was sketchy a good 40% of the time. Even the Mainers were saying it wasn’t the best of years from a weather perspective. Our strategy for this summer: focus more on New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
And so far it’s been a great strategy! Pure summer. Delightful warmth. Eternal sunshine. 78 every day, 62 every night (plus or minus or a few degrees). Seriously – I can’t remember experiencing a stretch of weather this consistently nice. If you live in California, you’re used to this. Those of us on the east coast – not so much.
We’ve hit some great locations in the last couple of weeks: Shelter Island, NY (a favorite), Block Island, RI (we gave it another chance), Cuttyhunk, MA, Hyannis, MA and Nantucket. We’ve traveled on the Long Island Sound, Block Island Sound, Rhode Island Sound, Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound. It’s been a “sound” decision to be sure. We’ll cover the first three in this post.
If you’ve been following this blog, you might remember that we cultivated a very nice friendship with another Gozzard in Shelter Island. (Well, the owners, not the boat itself.) We have stayed in touch with them and visited several times throughout the year. They welcomed us back to Shelter Island again, and we had a ball being together. Here’s some of the fun we had while we were there:
For those of you out there who might watch the Food Network from time to time, there is a show called, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” I catch it on occasion. Last year I saw an episode, and Ina Garten – aka the Barefoot Contessa – shared that the best bolognese sauce she ever ate was from the Vine Street Cafe in Shelter Island. I read that they had a market where you could buy said sauce. So while we had the wheels, we went to the middle of the island to hunt. Sure enough – there was the Cafe – which was closed. BUT – there was a sign pointing around the back of the building to the Market. It was closed. BUT! There was, what appeared to be, one of the chefs walking by in his whites. He assured me that he could rustle someone up to open the market for us if we would pay by credit card and not cash. No problem!! And so, I got my hands on two containers of fresh bolognese sauce. I thought it was very tasty, indeed. I kind of forgot (or chose to for the moment) that Frank really doesn’t care for bolognese sauce no matter how good it is. So please don’t tell the chef at the cafe that I may be thinning out the second container of meat sauce with some extra tomatoes for Frank. Shhh. It’s just between us, okay?
Our last trip to Shelter Island included Frank joining our friend as crew in a Herreshoff doughdish race at the Yacht Club. The two of them won that race last season! Could they repeat??
After a year under our belt, I knew there were a few experiences that I missed out on last year that I didn’t want to let slip by this time around. One of those was on Shelter Island: I wanted to attend a concert at the performance tent at the Perlman Music Program. My fellow music geek friends from college will particularly appreciate this part as well as the other music geek friends I’ve made along the way. In 1993, Itzhak Perlman (world renowned violinist) and his wife, Toby, founded a program called “The Perlman Music Program.” It was initially a two-week summer camp in East Hampton, NY. Since then the program has expanded in time and reach, but its permanent home is a 28-acre property on Shelter Island. The goal is to offer unparalleled musical training to young string players of rare and special talent. It is led by a world-class faculty starting with Mr. Perlman himself. Their mission is to develop the future leaders of classical music within a nurturing and supportive community. Last year I missed the chance to see one of the concerts at the
camp. Not this year! I gave Frank the chance to do something on his own that evening, but he was interested in checking it out with me. And so we gathered in the “Performance Tent” that seats about 300 people. It is much more of a permanent tent-like structure that is somewhat open air, but permanent enough to support pieces that are necessary to have great acoustics. The camp had ended the week before – this concert was a thank you to the community of Shelter Island and was free to the public. And so, on a beautiful summer evening, we enjoyed 90 minutes of chamber music presented by a combination of students, faculty and alumni of the program. Mr. Perlman himself performed on two of the pieces. Special guest performers that evening were the accompanying cicadas and tree frogs. It was a very special evening. If you’re interested in learning more about the Perlman Music Program, go to http://www.perlmanmusicprogram.org.
After four great days, we reluctantly moved on to Block Island. Yeah, I kind of dissed Block Island last year. We were there close to 4th of July and it was crowded and noisy . . . and the weather wasn’t great . . . and we liked some things about it but didn’t feel the need to race back. But as the winds would have it, it really was the perfect location for our next stop along the way. So . . . we stopped again. This time we were smart and anchored instead of taking a mooring ball in the crowded field. The anchoring there is good and plentiful and it was quite delightful being on the edge of the mooring field. We only stayed one night, but enjoyed our afternoon taking a nice, long walk. The further away you get from the main harbor’s mayhem, the prettier the island gets. Block Island . . . you’re not so bad after all.
As we plotted our next stop, the winds and the currents had a big influence. We had thought we’d go straight to Martha’s Vineyard from Block Island, but alas, the timing of the currents was not in our favor. The current in Vineyard Sound can run around 2.5 knots against you . . . there is no point to do that to yourself. That’s going nowhere fast and it’s not much fun. So we adjusted our plan to head to Cuttyhunk – a stop we had made last year. It was a “middle of the pack” stop for us . . . . a beautiful place that is worth seeing once, but not a whole lot to come back to time after time. But the location was perfect. Here’s what made it perfect – we figured out that we could intersect with our buddies on Magnolia there!!! Excellent! They had set off for Maine this summer and were now on their return trip – and here was an opportunity for our paths to cross. We all arrived in the early afternoon and spent the day catching up, walking, eating, sipping and laughing. Good to be back together again!
We left Cuttyhunk the next morning to head to Hyannis. And once again, the day was warm and the night was chilly. And you know what the chilly nights in these parts means? It means that we’re sleeping “soundly.”
We left Annapolis on August 15th heading north. Our PLAN was this:
We thought we’d make about 5 stops and take about 7 days to get into the tip of Long Island.
That’s not quite how it went down . . .
August 15th: Depart Annapolis for the Sassafras River in the northern portion of the Chesapeake Bay.
August 16th – 8:00am: Depart the Sassafras River heading through the canal intending to stop and anchor for the night at Reedy Island located across from the Salem power plant in the Delaware Bay – a relatively easy travel day.
But not so fast. As we continued to study the weather forecasts, the winds were not going to cooperate with our plan. We wanted to go offshore to Montauk, NY, but the winds were going to turn and come from the north later in the weekend. North is NOT what you want for an overnight offshore passage from southern New Jersey to Montauk, New York. Wind on your nose is not comfortable. If we stopped in Cape May or Atlantic City to wait for the winds to change back around to the south, we were potentially going to be waiting for days. Nope, we had a pretty small window of opportunity to make a run for it. And we were really going to be pushing it to try to head straight to Montauk. Could we beat the northerly wind there or not? That wasn’t something we wanted to try. The timeline continues:
August 16th – 9:30am: After being on the water for about 90 minutes, the decision was made to make a run for it and just KEEP ON GOING! While I was at the helm through the C&D Canal, Frank bustled around and made his preparations for an overnight passage up the New Jersey coast, making sure things were secured tightly up top and such. When he took the helm, I bustled around making my preparations while he cruised down the Delaware Bay: pre-making a good dinner while it was flat calm so all we would have to do is reheat it later while on the ocean, putting together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the overnight munchies as well as trail mix and other snacks to keep in the cockpit overnight for the longer shifts.
Down the Delaware Bay and up the coast we went, passing Cape May at sunset, Ocean City in the evening to watch the ferris wheels rotating in the night, and Atlantic City around 11:00pm to see the lights that remain on in the city.
We were rounding Sandy Hook at the top of the state by 11:00am the next morning. We motored hard. Overnight the winds were so light we didn’t get much help from the sail, but the ocean was pretty calm because of it, too. When we made the turn around Sandy Hook, the wind picked up and we motor sailed like we were being chased!! (We sort of were – by the northerlies threatening to move in!) Then we caught the currents PERFECTLY and FLEW through New York City. That was just as thrilling this time as it was last September. At one point we were going 12 knots with the current. For a sailboat, that’s really, really fast! (Power boaters are snickering at that comment.)
August 17th – 4:00 pm: Arrive on the other side of New York City at Port Washington to grab a mooring ball and collapse after our 32 hours straight of travel! Whew! We patted ourselves on the back pretty hard for adjusting on the fly and deciding to just keep on going! The decision to go through New York instead of going further offshore and up to Montauk kept us in more protected waters if the wind should shift and would get us in the Long Island Sound quicker. We were happy with our sudden change of plans! Adaptability based on conditions is a good thing for cruisers.
August 18th: Port Washington to Port Jefferson – about a 6 hour trip up the Long Island Sound. We actually got to sail – no engine – for about a whopping 45 minutes before losing our wind again. Amazing how little pure sailing we get to do when trying to get from point A to point B.
August 19th – 7:30am: Leave Port Jefferson for Orient, NY. That was a long slog up the sound into the wind. The winds were turning on us, but better to be here in the sound. The wind wasn’t too strong, but it made for a choppier day. But that’s okay, because we were almost to the cruising grounds we were aiming for! Once we hit the fish tail of Long Island, we considered ourselves THERE! Everywhere after this for the next many weeks will be very reasonable hops around the area.
We tried something a little different on the overnight passage. Rather than having a strict schedule of shifts (we did 3 hours before), we decided to loosely aim for 3.5 – 4 hour shifts, but with the agreement that, if the person in the cockpit was doing still feeling wide awake, and the person down below was sleeping well, the person at the helm we keep going until they got tired. That allowed both of us to get a little more solid sleep than we had on previous trips, although I was the greatest beneficiary of this, falling SOUNDLY asleep while Frank drove from midnight – 4:15am when he finally came down and shook me (gently) awake from a sound, sound sleep. By 4:30 I was ready to take the wheel and he went down below and slept until the sun woke him up hours later. It worked well for us.
And so, we made it from Annapolis to the tip of Long Island in 5 days and 4 nights . . . ahead of the northerlies, and with the next 6 weeks ahead of us to relax and enjoy this beautiful region. Ahhhhh. It’s good to be back out on the water!