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!
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.
The next day we hoofed it right on down to the Rhode River, another long but wonderful day. It was very exciting when we caught our first sight of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge again for the first time in several months!
- The next day we took advantage of the bike rentals and had a little picnic lunch at the park beside the Methodist Church in town looking out over the water. By the way, thank you to the United Methodist Church of Oxford for the beautiful chimes that play every day at noon and 6:00pm. I’ll hum along and Frank will say, “Do you know that one?” And I’ll say, “It’s a Methodist Church . . . I’ll know ANYTHING they play!” There was a funny moment during our bike ride . . . it’s not going to SOUND funny, but it really was, so hear it the right way. We rode around the Oxford cemetery which overlooks the anchorage where EQ was parked. Neither one of us has any intention of being buried in an actual plot (not that we discuss it much, mind you, other than Frank saying “Put my ashes in a coffee can and throw me in the dumpster.”) We toured the whole place admiring how well kept it was and looking at the view. As we pedaled down the long road out, Frank looked at me and said, “You know, I don’t want to be buried in a cemetery, but if I did, this wouldn’t be a bad one to be in.” I laughed out loud and said, “I was thinking the EXACT same thing!” Great minds . . . I know, that’s weird humor.
As much as we love Oxford, Frank had a major setback there, however. . . the Highland Creamery (home of the finest ice cream) was closed for mid-week. He is still under treatment for depression from the incident. He had to make do with other ice cream options – and he did. Actually, on Monday we thought the Creamery was going to be open and planned to hit it on our way back to the boat . . . we had walked to the little market in town and while I was grocery shopping, Frank went to the ice cream counter inside the store and got a cone. Here’s the conversation that followed: