Let me start out by saying that WE ARE HOME. I am catching you up on the second half of our trip in this post and the next, but we are snug as a bug in a rug at home, so no worries about us dodging storms in the boat – just in case it crossed your mind.
So there are TWO major sailing meccas in the U.S. – Annapolis and Newport, Rhode Island. And if you asked Frank two of his favorite harbors, he will answer with those two places in that order. Newport has more LARGE sailing vessels, and more vessels of all types overall, but Annapolis has that pure sailor kind of feeling. Of course, the America’s Cup did start in Newport… well, you get the idea. For us, they’re both pretty spectacular. So when we got to Newport, we were in no rush to leave.
Having found an excellent spot to anchor on a Tuesday (right outside of the New York Yacht Club, a VERY impressive looking building), we were poised to stay through the weekend.
We do a LOT of walking around the place. The last visits included a scooter ride around the cliffs, one mansion tour and a visit to the Tennis Hall of Fame – all things we would recommend. This visit we wanted to change it up a bit. No mansions, no scooter. We can be pretty easily entertained just sitting in the cockpit and watching all the yacht eye candy float by which is one of Frank’s favorite past times.
We did revisit one place – the IYRS or International Yacht Restoration School. This is a place that keeps the art and craftsmanship of boat building and restoration alive. We wanted to see how they were coming along on Coronet – a historic American schooner restoration project. It is a LONG TERM project, but we could see her progress as they meticulously and lovingly bring her back to her former glory. Here are a few shots of the work that’s been done. Even just looking at the massive pieces of rigging and furnishings that are waiting along the sides of her hull, waiting to be the final pieces of the puzzle reassembly one day…well, they look like their own pieces of art. Even the old piano was still sitting there waiting. I remembered that piano from our last visit.
Okay, I may have mislead you. That wasn’t our FIRST stop as we wandered around town…
Newport has some beautiful architecture and historic mansions. We enjoyed strolling and peeking inside some of the gates at the gardens and buildings.
Now, if you’ve read some of our previous blogs, you know that art galleries and museums aren’t always the first places we’re drawn to, but there are definitely exceptions to that! These signs piqued our interest and we had to go check it out. We do love music and musicians! The exhibit was photographs of musicians – jazz and country – spanning decades. It was a nice exhibit. This is the home of the Newport Jazz Festival after all.
After many hours of walking, we had to find a place to have a pint. Within that category, we had a couple of goals: 1) To check out the place that our new friend, Frances, recommended (the lady we met at the bar in Watch Hill… ) and 2) See if Tommy, our #1 bartender from last trip, was still in town. So first we went to Frances’ recommended place: 22 Bowen’s Wine Bar and Grill. And, we found a seat at the bar. And we found our NEWLY CROWNED #1 Newport bartender, Rachel. Who is Irish. (That automatically ups your rating.) We had a GREAT meal at the bar visiting with Rachel who has convinced us that we must visit Ireland some day! And although we did not go on one of Frances’ regular nights, as soon as we brought up her name, it brought a big smile to Rachel’s face. Of COURSE she knew who we were talking about! Frances, we’re sorry we missed you in Newport, but your spirit was there with us!
Now, there was one museum that we wanted to see… the Herreshoff Museum in Bristol. We had toyed with the idea of taking Eleanor Q up there, but there isn’t a lot else to do in Bristol, and frankly, we didn’t want to give up our prime anchoring location before the weekend, so we opted to take Uber there instead – only a 15-20 minute ride. Herreshoff made beautiful boats back in the day – we wanted to check the place out. And it was lovely.
We returned to Newport and stopped in to see our old buddy, Tommy, at the Oyster Bar. He was still there and we still enjoyed chatting with him, but somehow it wasn’t the same. The place has become very popular (congrats on that) but it didn’t have the same feel. It was cool, but no longer the place where Tommy would have two Narragansetts sitting on the bar waiting for us before our bums hit the bar stools. (Don’t gag because we like Narragansett… especially if you like Yeungling – then you DEFINITELY should not be judgey!! Just sayin’.)
We hunkered down for a day of rain the next day. We happily sat in the cockpit with the enclossure zipped up and were amazed as the tour boats and sail expeditions that continued to buzz in and out of the harbor, undeterred by the weather.
Then Saturday brought us some fun in the form of our friends Kevin and Dee from Marblehead. They were gracious hosts to us when we passed through Marblehead with Eleanor Q in 2013, and we were delighted when they made time to drive the 2 hours to come join us for the day in Newport! It was a true summer day, so we started with some quality time on the boat! Kevin rarely passes up an opportunity to swim!
They took us to lunch afterwards and we had a delightful day together. Thanks, Kevin and Dee!
I had a nature moment on the boat… one of those, “Ahhhh, aren’t they cute” spectacles that caused me to run for the “good” camera!
Yeah, not so cute any more…followed by….
Ems cleaning the bird dirt off of the bow. Sigh. Followed by…
Me totally stealing another boat’s idea to tie an extremely tacky looking plastic bag to the rail providing just enough flapping in the wind to make it a less peaceful place for our feathered friends to frolick.
And just a couple of other sights around Newport to close us out here…
So being away from Annapolis makes us a little homesick, but being in Newport is the next best thing! But it’s about time to think about heading back…
We’ve made some really good friends along the way while cruising and a couple of them happen to be from Connecticut, so we were thrilled at the change to reconnect with our friends from Cutting Class and spend a little quality time around their neck of the woods. When we pulled into the anchorage in Stonington, Dan and Marcia were there to greet us as we pulled up to the dinghy dock, scooped us up and took us to their home in nearby Mystic for catching up, laundry and a yummy dinner. Apparently we have “reciprocal privileges” at their house! Stonington is a lovely area and we took a little walk around town after dinner before returning to Eleanor Q.
We said our goodbyes and got back on the boat thinking we would head to Newport the next day… but we have been in this area before and not spent much time. What was the big hurry? So in the morning, we changed our plans and decided to head right around the corner to Watch Hill and see what it was all about. Hey, if Taylor Swift bought a house there, then it had to be okay, right? Maybe we’d stop in and say hi to her during our stay. We mosied the 3 miles up a very winding and skinny inlet to Watch Hill. Although it was only three miles, somewhere in that short route we had crossed into Rhode Island. It took us half of the afternoon to figure that out… it was when I saw a t-shirt in a shop that said “Watch Hill, Rhode Island.” Duh. I said, “So, we crossed into Rhode Island today?” Frank said, “Guess so!” You know, Garmin Blue Charts doesn’t really show state lines!
Side note: one of the things that really does change as you go north… VHF radio etiquette. It starts in NJ – that’s where we heard the first F-bomb dropped at a fellow boater. It got progressively worse in NY and in CT – and approaching RI, it’s really a doozie. We heard an unbelievable exchange of name calling between a couple of captains – all on VHF 16, the emergency and hailing channel. Someone finally broke in and said, “There is no civility in New England any more.” The Coast Guard kept coming on reminding folks that it is a hailing and emergency channel only… but they don’t know who’s on the radio or where they are, so nothing they can do to enforce that – even the guy that called another guy a “homo.” No lie. And even FRANK commented on it… and he worked in the fishing and casino businesses in NJ, so that’s coming from him, if you know what I mean. Some of it you have to laugh at, but really people, JUST CHILL! People squawk at each other a bit in other locales, but not quite so, uhm, colorfully as this section of New England. Okay, side note done.
Anyway, back to Watch Hill. It was an interesting place to visit… a busy, upscale shore town – but very scenic and a nice stopover for a night.
We went back in that evening looking for dinner in a pretty crowded town. We stuck our heads in the Olympia Tea Room Restaurant. I don’t know why it is called that – there is nothing about the place that resembles a tea room. The place was packed, but two seats at the bar opened – our preferred seating, anyway. GREAT food and where we met Frances. She was an endearing soul sitting by herself, and we struck up a conversation. (I know – shocking.) She is a Rhode Island native and she gave us a great tip on a good restaurant in Newport. She told us which nights she goes there and sits at the bar, and that we should ask for “Uncle Joe” when we go. Would we run into Frances again in Newport? You’ll have to wait and find out! So cute that Frances. I enjoyed saying, “Frances, meet Francis!” (Frank, you know.)
We were carefully instructed that the last launch would be at sunset… so we made sure we were back shortly before, but Donna the launch driver said, “You’re going to need to wait a few minutes. I have sundown duty.” No problem, Donna. Sunset duty means setting off that proverbial canon and lowering the flag. There was a small “bang,” and I said to Frank, “That’s a pretty wimpy can—-” and before I could finish, the real canon was fired. When I regained my hearing, I shouted to Frank, “Oh! They have a real canon!” The flag was lowered, properly folded and stored all while anyone anywhere close by stood in quiet respect. How nice. We like this New England tradition. Call me old fashioned! See, there is plenty of civility in New England.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Connecticut… oh yeah, and in the first little bit of Rhode Island, too. Please tell Taylor we’ll catch her next time.
(Hey Fred, were there enough pictures of me this time?)
If you ever watch Jeopardy, then you’ll understand that the title of this blog would fall under the category “Before and After”. The clue would be something like, “Movie set on the 110 mile tidal estuary with Connecticut to the north, and Long Island to the south where the Von Trapp Family children pick Edelweiss and are taught their Do Re Mis by a problem like Maria.” “What is ‘Long Island Sound of Music’ Alex?!” (If you don’t know The Sound of Music, none of that made sense to you – move on.) Well, it seemed fitting because there was music intertwined heavily through this part of the trip!
We pulled out of Pt. Washington, looked to our left to wave goodbye to the city in the distance, then turned hard to starboard and headed east on the Long Island Sound.
Our next stop was Pt. Jefferson… the next logical stop when you’re headed that direction. We’ve never paid “Pt. Jeff” any mind… just used her and discarded her. It is a very nice, secure, protected place to anchor and that’s what we’ve done – anchored, stayed on the boat, gotten up the next morning and run without so much as a “how do you do.” And yet we’d heard people talk about what a delightful little town it is. It was time to stop dissin’ Pt. Jeff and go see what was happening there. We knew we’d be tucked in for two nights because weather was moving in, but the afternoon we arrived was beautiful! So we took off in the dinghy and went to Pt. Jeff. What we found was a vibrant little shore town with restaurants, shops and live music. We’ll remember the live music – some in a good way and some not so much.
The bad live music: Okay, we’re not even sure where this was coming from, but somewhere there was outdoor karoke that could be heard for blocks. And some unfortunate soul who had clearly had a few adult beverages too many was belting out (VERY badly) Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”. You can hear it, can’t you? I mean, people for blocks were cracking up at this guy, and I’m sure he had no idea just exactly how far his voice was being amplified. We passed a very cool looking older dude who was shaking his head – and we shook ours back – to which he responded, ‘Hey, at least he’s trying!” Good point, my man.
The good live music: We landed at an outdoor bar to sip a brew and listen to a guy singing and playing acoustic guitar.
This man had a challenging assignment: perform music that would appeal to ALL the age groups in the audience which ran the gamut. When we tell you this guy could play/sing songs from every decade since the ’50s, that is no joke. That’s impressive and he was good. And when he had two sides of the audience facing off about which decade to cover next, he killed two birds with one stone: He sang a song that was a hit in the 60s and then redone by Pearl Jam in 2000, and it is the world’s most depressing song ever. Okay, I won’t make you guess at this one: “Last Kiss” was made a hit in 1964 by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers – then the Pearl Jam success. For some reason, Frank knows every word to that song. Every single one.
“Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She’s gone to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.…”
Uplifting, right? Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed listening to this guy sing.
The best kind of live music: Frank playing guitar in the cockpit. Except that he had this depressing song stuck in his head now, so he of course had to pull a guitar tab up for it and (since he knows EVERY word) I listened to the tragic story of the car wreck and his baby going to heaven for quite a while. Apparently, birds like sad love songs, because they started showing up. Now, when we were last in this same anchorage, Frank made friends with the swans. He named them what he names all animals that need a name: Bubba. (Ask my great niece who now calls Frank “Uncle Bubba” after a lengthy discourse about everything being named Bubba.) So how many years has it been since we’ve been in this spot? And guess who comes up to the side of the boat… Mr. and Mrs. Bubba! They heard Frank was back in town and knew that meant good eatin’!!
When he tired of hand feeding the Bubbas and getting his finger nibbled on, he went back to the guitar. Seagulls gathered.
The next day was supposed to be a washout, but when we woke up, we looked at the radar map and discovered we had a couple of hours of dryness, so we explored a different dinghy dock that dropped us in the less touristy town of Setauket. After about a 5 block walk to Main St., we explored the store fronts and restaurants.
And even better, we found a barber shop!!! (Sorely needed if you ask me.) It was the classic, throw back barber shop – and Frank got a mighty fine hair cut there!
Afterwards, a quick trip to a local deli for lunch and then – oops – we didn’t quite make it back before the precipitation. Hey, that’s what foul weather gear is for. We got a little soggy on the walk/ride back, but no big deal.
We were back on the boat for the rest of the day enjoying the down time after our hectic travels so far. A day of reading, cards and a little dinner on the boat in the middle of a rainy, peaceful anchorage is quite delightful. I actually really like those days peppered into our other experiences. We did get a little break in the clouds later!
Next day we were back out on the Sound heading to Shelter Island – one of our favorite places. We have friends there who we met on our first visit – we have the same make of boat which automatically makes us cousins. We always look forward to meeting up with them. One of the things we MOST enjoy is playing music together, as our friend is an outstanding guitarist and all around musician and likes to rock out. We have a blast playing classic rock, folk and a little country together and were able to have two jam sessions at their house while we were in town.
And Shelter Island Yacht Club is a beautiful place to hang out! Oh, did I mention we are back in the land of the canon? The yacht clubs from NY north seem to share the tradition of setting off a canon at 8:00am and sunset – and also observing “colors” which is the lowering of the flag at day’s end while everyone stands quietly at attention. It is actually a very cool tradition that is observed all over NY and New England.
And our friends were very generous to let us use their second vehicle to get around the island a bit, so we took advantage and did some grocery shopping and – went to a concert!! Yay – more music! The last time we were in Shelter Island, I was able to convince Frank to come with me to the Perlman Music Camp. Itzak Perlamn and his wife started this camp for gifted young musicians. Only the finest up and comers get into this camp and they offer frequent concerts throughout the program. Last time was a special concert that Mr. Perlman performed in as well – that was unique! This time we saw a “Works in Progress” concert – performances by a number of the campers. Most of them could go pro now. UN. BE. LIEVABLE. We will be interested to see how their careers take off! The setting is basically a tent that holds about 200 people with a stage up front, so the sound of crickets and cicadas is part of the accompaniment, too.
It is truly special. Great concert.
On a completely separate side note – we were happy to find that Frank’s #1 Choice for best milkshake can retain its titile… The Islander Cafe – hands down.
One morning we decided to take the short walk from the dinghy dock to the Greenport Ferry and have breakfast in that cool little town. Love the ferry ride. Found “Crazy Beans” for breakfast again – just as tasty as last time – then expected a typically pleasant and uneventful 15 minute ferry ride back. Instead, we got a really crappy ride – literally. Look what they loaded onto the ferry with us.
Now understand, this ferry is SMALL! It does take vehicles, but not many – maybe 20? And the pedestrians or bicyclists just stand around the cars – not like there is an inside cabin to sit in – it’s very bare bones. So when we saw this trailer full of cows being loaded on, it made us wonder: should we wait for the next ferry? And the cows were NOT HAPPY about being rolled onto a boat which agitated them greatly. They truly were trying to kick their way out of the trailer. Now here’s the difference between Frank and I, ’cause you might remember, we’re different in some ways… he walks TO the trailer and I walk away from the trailer.
You know what happens to those who peek their heads up to the trailer air holes to see what’s going on in there? They get an earful of shit, that’s what! (Okay, maybe a whole earful is an exaggeration, but he did scrape cow dung out of his ear.) There were several bicyclists boarded who were told to stay at the stern of the boat. After we explained to them where the stern was, they parked themsleves as told – which happened to be right behind the cow trailer. Yes, they went to their assigned spot dutifully – or should I say – doodie-fully. Yup, they got the brunt of the flying cow pies when the bovine beauties freaked out. You know who was also bummed? The guy in the Porsche convertible parked right next to them. You want to see a top go up on a car quick? I “hoofed” it to the bow of the boat so as to avoid any more of the flying feces. That was the stinkiest ferry ride I imagine any of us has experienced… so literally, it was a crappy ride. But it sure made for a good story around town that day! You know, one of my favorite songs is “If I Had a Boat” by Lyle Lovett…
“If I had a boat, I’d go out on the ocean… and if I had a pony, I’d ride it on my boat. And we would altogether go out on the ocean, me upon my pony on my boat.”
Just change “pony” to “cow” and that was sort of our day. Kind of a stretch on the musical reference? Fine.
So for now I’ll just say, “So long. Farewell. Auf wiedersehn, adieu.” Thank you Long Island Sound of Music.
We’re definintely in a New York state of mind as we have been cruising through the state for the last week. Of course, that started with the Big Apple last Friday after stopping in Sandy Hook for a brief rest following our overnight trip up the Jersey shore. We have blogged about going through New York before, so I’ll just hit some highlights, mostly through photos, because the views NEVER get old! This was our fourth time through the city and it was still thrilling. We’re transiting waterways so you think boats, right? What’s the deal with “De Planes” subtitle? Well, ALL types of watercraft, commercial and personal, fill the waters around NYC, but we seem to have interesting encounters with aircraft on these trips!! We see planes coming in to land at LaGuardia… MULTITUDES of helicopters coming in to the business helipads… the SKIES are full of traffic as we transit the area. You’ll see….
So as we approached The Battery where you have to choose if you’re going up the Hudson River or the East River, Frank reminded me that this is where Sully Sullenberger landed USAirways Flight 1549 back in 2009.
By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie, “Sully,” it is VERY interesting. Okay, moving on…
So a LOT of visual stimulation happens in this next part (because there hasn’t been enough already)…
I was fascinated by these strange looking towers! I sent the picture to my family and I don’t remember the EXACT quote, but my sister Christine thought they looked like hugging Gumbies, I believe it was. I had to find out… they were designed by SHoP Architects who also designed the Barclay Center… and they are apartments. The 2-story sky bridge houses a – get this – LAP POOL. No thank you.
Okay, so I’ll post a flashback from our last transit going the other direction in 2014. That was when we passed port to port under a bridge with an NYPD helipcopter – that startled the %&#! out of us! Yup, he flew under the bridge. Hard to forget that one.
So when you think that can’t be topped, Frank looks up and I hear something like, “What the hell am I’m looking at?” DE PLANE! DE PLANE! That’s the same bridge where we saw the police helicopter! (Bonus for getting the classic TV show reference…)
Yes, THIS time through we got to pass starboard to starboard with a sea plane! And 3 minutes later, we had another one!! Note to self… stay out of the middle of the East River.
And then there’s all size and nature of water vessels to dart around. Large cargo ships are anchored here and there…
No picture could possibly tell the story of how busy the waterways are. At one point a small herd of 10 jet skis whizzed by going top speed! That’s a little crazy if you ask me. (Frank thought that looked fun…we’re different that way.)
So it was another exciting, memorable and successful trip through New York City. On the other side of the city is Pt. Washington (Long Island) – a very cruiser welcoming harbor! We have stopped there before and it did not disappoint this time, either. We had a couple orders of business there….
First order of business…. okay, anybody notice something important missing in this picture?
At one point I went to take a picture over our stern, framed with Old Glory, when I realized “GASP” where’s our flag? Our offshore trip wasn’t bouncy enough to lose the flag… except for the 20 minutes that we turned around into the wind to await sunrise – and then we bounced real good! Apparently our flag gave up the ghost in that part of the trip… drats. That was a nice flag pole.
We had an extra oversized flag aboard… rigged a broom handle that fit nicely into the holder… this will do in a pinch, but we’re going to need to look for a more stable answer.
And of course, ice cream (or in this case, Italian Ice) is in order.
We found a new favorite for dinner… Finn MacCool’s. First – it’s Irish so what’s not to love. Good advice from a local… the further up Main St. you walk, the food gets better and cheaper. Good tip!
Next day we walked town and, upon advice from a friend, went to check out the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club… beautiful!
We walked BACK to Finn MacCool’s with nice folks we have met in our past cruising whose travels we’ve followed ever since! Good to see you, S/V Ullr!! (Yes, that spelling is correct.)
And so, after a very restful and fun stay in Pt. Washington, we said goodnight and prepared for our next leg… on to Pt. Jefferson – hopefully without meeting any aircraft on Long Island Sound along the way.
Do you know that famous literary quote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry?” Since we have no mice aboard that I know of, I’ll alter it to say, “The best laid plans of sailors often get revised.” Such was the case for us last week when we set off for our cruise to New England. After watching and waiting for a weather window, we left on August 1st at 6:11am. (My best time of day – note the sarcasm).
Truth be told, we both were a little verklempt as we pulled away from the dock. We have been having such a good time in Annapolis, we kind of wondered if we had made the right decision to take off for a while. Frank uses an expression from his former fishing days to describe a moment like this: “You don’t leave fish to find fish.” But Eleanor Q has been sitting there staring at us, pleading to go out for more than a day sail or an overnight trip. “Let’s GO,” we could hear her saying. And she’s right. So off we went.
Plan A was to travel most of the day up the bay, proceed on through the C&D canal and anchor up on the Delaware side at Reedy Island. The next day we would transit down the Delaware Bay, up the NJ coast, through NYC and into Pt. Washington, all without stopping. We’ve done it once before – it does knock a big chunk off of the trip early and we wanted to get to Long Island Sound rather quickly. That second part would take about 1.5 days straight. We were set. Right? Day 1 executed as planned.
Day 2 we headed down the Delaware and made it to Cape May in record time with favorable current. We rounded the tip of NJ in sunshine and a nice breeze, threw up the sails (unfurled them, not upchucked them), turned off the engine and stared at Frank’s home town, admiring the beach-goers, the light house and Cape May in all its glory.
Yeah, 6am – not my best time of day…
We were just about to set up the coast on this beautiful day when we thought, “Hey, let’s take a quick peek at the radar map.” Good plan.
Okay, bad plan. Ah crap. Really? But it’s sunny and we’re sailing. It’s perfect (we whined, admittedly). We, of course, are the blue dot. Now, not that we haven’t been in thunderstorms on the boat before, and she can handle it… but there were more up the coast as well. When given a choice, do we really want to be in the ocean, overnight in thunderstorms? No, not really. There are very few “bail out” points on the NJ coast, but Cape May is certainly one of them, so we turned on the engine, took down the sails and made a hard turn to port and into the Cape May Inlet to settle in for the night. Sigh. The best laid plans… As it turned out, Plan B turned out to be a better plan in the long run. We had been running pretty ragged getting everything ready to go, so a decent night’s sleep and a better frame of mind to do our first overnighter in a couple of years was not a bad thing. Plan B was better than Plan A. Based on our NEW plan and timing the currents in NY, we didn’t have to leave until 11am the next morning. There is not much of an anchorage available in Cape May right now due to dredging equipment taking up a good portion of that space, but we found a little spot right beside the Coast Guard station, and right beside a piling with an osprey nest…
That osprey made a serious “thud” when he landed… and didn’t look like he knew how to get off. We finally scared him enough with our incessant picture taking that he landed with a splash all splayed out in the water. Kids. He finally gathered himself and managed to take off out of the drink.
Day 3 we set off for the 25-30 hour trip up the coast and through New York. That was truly one of the best pure sailing days we’ve had – definitely in the top 3. Perfect beam reach and sunny skies. Then we noticed this big, dark area forming in the sky in the distance. One again, the trusty radar map revealed another set of classic summer storms popping up all over, but still a ways away.
We had time to make a call… bail in Atlantic City? Bail in Barnegat – an inlet that has been rumored to have shoaled up pretty badly? Shout out to my friend Hank for helping to get us some intel on Barnegat. In the end, we decided that we can’t run away from EVERY chance of thunderstorms or we’ll never get there! So we kept going and had EXCELLENT storm karma. We watched storms all around us, but other than 30 seconds of rain around Sandy Point, we got nuthin’. Nada. Zippo. Yippee. When we lost our wind in the evening, we turned the engine back on and had a blissfully uneventful overnight motor up the coast taking 3.5 hour watches. Got to Sandy Hook ahead of schedule, so pulled into the anchorage by – well why not – the Coast Guard station to take a 4 hour break to wait for favorable currents through NYC and to take a well deserved nap. All was well. We did not have to go to Plan C. (Shout out to cruiser friends, Loretta and Jim, who aptly named their boat “Plan Sea.” I get it!)
Here is a collage of the sights going up the Jersey coast…passing by Atlantic City, sunset over land, the night time lights of Seaside Heights, then dawn close to Sandy Hook, the storms darting around us, and then a little bit of sunrise just as we were pulling in to anchor for a few hours.
And one last poetic picture with which to end this episode…. (I had to use proper grammar there so the grammar police wouldn’t strike – aka my sisters)…
Yup – sailing past Atlantic City and his old office from many years ago. Poetic, don’t you think?
Think I’ll stop writing for now and crack open a beer – excellent plan. Next post: NYC, baby!
Don’t pass out… but the blog rides again!
Quick catch up… and most of you reading this already know this, but Frank retired in March. No really. He means it this time. So he is not living out of state for work any more – he is really, really here in Annapolis with me full time. This is truly home now.
It has been quite a while since we posted about our move to Annapolis. We celebrated two years of home ownership here in May. And how do we know when we moved in? Because it was the same week as the Blue Angels Show! Their demonstration is an annual event here during commissioning week at the Naval Academy. It is something you put on your calendar 6 months in advance and make sure you don’t have any out of town commitments on those days! And it is SPECTACULAR! That leads us to our first Chesapeake favorite…
CHESAPEAKE FAVORITE: BLUE ANGELS
And of course, one of the main reasons for moving here is the amazing sailing! Eleanor Q lives with us now which means staying on top of boat projects all the time. But it also means taking her out on a more regular basis!
But Annapolis also means Frank gets to race! He has been testing the waters (literally) by crewing on different boats. So far he has raced on J-30s and J-24s. Although he makes 61 look good, he’s trying to decide what race boat makes the most sense for him at this stage in the game. Lately he test drove a Laser which is a one-person racer. (That also means he’s the captain which suits him.) Stay tuned as his racing career evolves. I promised myself that I’d race this year to help with my sailing skills… perhaps next year. Stay tuned on that one, too.
CHESAPEAKE FAVORITE: SAILING
But our latest love is anything related to Blue Crabs. We both read “Beautiful Swimmers,” a wonderful book that gives a peek inside the business and culture of crabbing and crabbers on the Chesapeake including detailing the reproductive life of the blue crab in more detail than you ever thought you wanted to know! Frank has his crabbing license and is perfecting the trot line method of crabbing. Let’s just say, we have had some AMAZING crab feasts on our deck this year! We have come a long way from our early days of using weights and twine on floating water bottles (although that was pretty effective some days, too).
CHESAPEAKE FAVORITE : CRABS
We have a lot of visitors to our house, and not just the two-legged kind! There is WAY more “nature” here than we would have ever imagined. Critters of all kinds like to hang out around Lake Ogleton (where we live). By the way, “lake” is a misnomer. It is more of a harbor than a lake in that it has an inlet to the bay as opposed to being self contained. Anyway, we have critters and they’re fun to watch.
CHESAPEAKE FAVORITE: NATURE (a) Critters
Still in the nature category is just the scenic nature of this entire area. Nicole said to me this morning (during our latest crabbing trip), “Pictures just can’t do this place justice.” She’s absolutely right… but here are a few anyway.
CHESAPEAKE FAVORITE: NATURE (b) The Scenery
But our #1 favorite part of being here… sharing it with friends and family.
The adventures of Eleanor Q will continue! We will be sailing north for about a month and visiting some of our old favorite haunts in New England as well as exploring a few new places, too. Stay tuned!
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.
‘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.