Saturday, May 19, 2012

It's Dyna's Birthday!

Today is Dyna's 14th birthday. That's, well, really old in dog years. The hearing is shot. The back legs are weak. Sleeping is the favorite pastime. But let Dylan bark about some looming danger or Mom and Dad grab the leash and she's right there. Dyna ain't gonna miss any of the action.

It's been quite a year since Dyna celebrated her 13th birthday. She spent a leisurely summer back at her land-based home in Castine, Maine.

She ensured the boat and its crew came through Hurricane Irene unscathed.

The biggest change for Dyna came in September. She had life saving surgery in Richmond, VA to help her breathing. Although she is no longer allowed to swim, she still is up for a good romp in the dog park.

She put a few more overnight passages under her belt. Checked out new marinas and anchorages and always found the breezy spot on the boat.

And of course, helped keep a watch on the dolphins.

Thanksgiving was spent with family in Tennessee.

A quiet Christmas onboard but there was no way she was sharing her Christmas treat.

Most of the winter was spent at Ortega Landing in Jacksonville, FL were there were plenty of dog friends.

And even more dog friends.

She supervised aCappella's electronics refit and even endured a week in a La Quinta hotel.

There were two trips up the St. Johns River, one requiring her to entertain two Garmin engineers and a magazine writer. A visit to the Outback Crab Shack. An invite to a fellow cruiser's house for dinner. A visit from Castine friends Sue and Bob when aCappella was in Fernadina Beach to attend an MTOA Rendezvous. Almost daily visitors to the boat wanting to say hello.  And two different stops at Cumberland Island.

No wonder this old girl gets tired sometimes.

As we started heading north, another generation of Dyna offspring entered the world as Dyna's great-great granddaughter had her own litter of 7 puppies. What is cuter than a puppy?

A few more stops at marinas and anchorages heading north including several days at Dowry Creek Marina...

and this season's cruising has come to an end. Dyna supervises the projects needed to be done before aCappella can be given a rest for the summer.

Soon Dyna will travel back to Maine for a few months of R&R while she dreams about her next adventures.

Happy Birthday, Dyna!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Using the new Garmin electronics while underway

Here's an introduction to the new electronics and Garmin setup in aCappella's pilothouse.  We'll shoot more videos over time showing specific functions, how they work, and what they look like.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

From the Depths of Hell Straight to Heaven

Jeff has this theory that doing an overnight every so often is good for keeping our skills sharp. He's probably right but even in the best of conditions I find it wearing. It usually takes a day after we get in to get back to normal.

So our habit is to simply drop the hook after an overnight and crash. We catch up on sleep, shower, put on clean clothes, and ready ourselves to re-enter civilization.

This trip we would be stopping in at Dowry Creek Marina, ActiveCaptain's number one most consistently highly rated marina. We wanted to be at our best when we met Mary and her crew.

Our plan was to anchor off the Neuse River relax, nap, catchup on emails, have a quiet dinner, sleep in, have a good breakfast, cleanup, and be at Dowry Creek by early afternoon. Well that was the plan.

Our offshore travel gave us an extra push of current throughout the entire 24 hours. When we arrived onshore we realized that we could go another 40 miles and reach Belhaven to reduce our travel on Saturday (notoriously bad due to weekend small boaters). Anchoring in Belhaven would put us less than an hour away from Dowry Creek and even with sleeping in and a leisurely breakfast, we'd be there before noon. It was the perfect plan. Well, almost...

We pulled into Belhaven just before 5 pm having been underway for 36 hours. It's a good anchorage and we had no problem securing the boat in for the night. Right away the heat surrounded us. We looked forward to it cooling off when the sun went down.

By 8 pm the temperature had barely budged below 90 degrees and the mosquitoes began to converge due to the lack of even the slightest breeze. The mosquitoes were tiny, bigger than no-see-ums but smaller than the Maine variety. There were hundreds that left huge welts with each bite and caused a deafening buzz. Our night of hell had begun.

We quickly closed the doors above and retreated below where we had screens on the hatches and tried to settle in for the night. None of the crew was sleeping. Dyna lasted until midnight and then demanded to go above and out on the cockpit looking for relief. The heat was unbearable so we threw open all the doors certain the monsters would eventually recede with the night. We were so naive.

We alternated between huddling under a sheet to avoid the mosquitoes and enduring the bites to cool off. And through it all was the constant buzz. I don't know which was worse the bites or the sound.

By 2 am we were using every tool we could find to waste those little blood suckers - flyswatters, hands, even the vacuum cleaner.

My twin brother is the sort who believes in killing no living thing and will carry spiders, ants, and other creatures out of the house rather than swatting them. I am fairly certain even he would have been swatting and yelling, "Die sucker!"

At some point we all fell asleep from pure exhaustion. Sunrise had never looked better. We hastily ate some cereal and gulped some coffee and prepared to haul the anchor.

So much for arriving at Dowry Creek refreshed and cheerful. 

Fortunately, we were greeted at the dock by very experienced dockhands who knew which way to walk when I asked for a forward spring line. We were quickly snugged into the dock, met Mary, and heard about the Cinco De Mayo dinner that evening.

We've been here 24 hours and it's clear to see why boaters love this place. There's a strong boating community led by Mary and her crew. We've met so many terrific folks. Every night is a party, tonight the boaters are meeting for take out Chinese. We're happy to stay for a few days while we wait for the winds to die and the Norfolk Railroad bridge to open again.

Right now it's heaven on earth!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Slowing Down

Our previous impression of the ICW through Georgia

aCappella draws nearly 6 feet so cruising through parts of the ICW are challenging. We need to depend on tide to get us through numerous shoal areas, carefully planning our departure time and the speed we travel. So we've fallen into the habit in recent years of just heading offshore for certain portions.

Cruising offshore definitely has its charms. On a really good day you glide along on autopilot enjoying the beauty. The person not on watch can read or nap or more likely work on ActiveCaptain data. And we can cover quite a lot of distance quickly. But when NOAA lies (excuse me, when predictions don't prove to match reality) it can be anything but fun.

The last time we cruised the ICW all the way through Georgia and South Carolina was 2005. This cruise we planned on doing another hop from Fernandina Beach, FL to Charleston, SC, an approximately 20 hour overnight. You know from our April 20th post that on our first attempt we didn't even make it out of the inlet. On our second, 5 days later, we found the "predictions didn't match reality" so we bailed out at Brunswick, Georgia and spent the next week traveling the ICW, stopping at ActiveCaptain Sponsors along the way.

Morningstar Golden Isles

First, we stopped at Morningstar Marina Golden Isles. They have a fantastic, long, face dock. It's the perfect thing for entering and leaving easily. We ran into some fellow MTOA'ers and got to meet Harbormaster Chris and Dockmaster Chick, both true professionals. We had a great dinner at the Coastal Kitchen at the top of the dock. And in the morning we found muffins and a newspaper on the back deck. We still can't figure out how they managed to elude our crackerjack security team.

How'd they get through our security?

We then spent a night at anchor so we could time the tide to go to Isle of Hope Marina. What a quaint and beautiful town.

Isle of Hope Marina - another long, easy face dock for transients

The marina facilities at Isle of Hope are great. They have a loaner car so off to the grocery store we went and even mailed some hats. We just happened to arrive on the night of the weekly boaters' potluck supper. We met tons of other boaters and ate really good food. Dyna and Dylan got to have a play-date with the other boat dogs and Dylan met his new love Tillie - see the previous post.

Beaufort, SC - a wonderful place to explore

Our next stop was the Downtown Marina of Beaufort. Beaufort, SC is a town we had visited previously and loved. If anything it was even better than we remembered. Another long face dock for easy access. We met up with several other boaters for a terrific dinner at Emily's where the waitress exuded southern hospitality. Dylan had another tryst with Tillie. We loved just strolling through the town.

Charleston Harbor Marina - Wow

We finally made it to Charleston on Saturday, a week "late." We're staying at the Charleston Harbor Marina which is a beautiful resort marina. Every boater deserves a little pampering now and then. Of course, we love Charleston and have been here many times. But the Charleston Harbor Marina is a real step up from the others. A beautiful pool, whirlpool, nice grounds to walk on, and easy access to Charleston with their free shuttle or the inexpensive water taxi. We've been having a great time.

We left each place with the feeling that we wished we would have stayed longer. So we've been asking ourselves. What's the hurry? Moving inside is fine with the right information - thank you ActiveCaptain contributors - and a small amount of patience. We're rewarded with many wonderful destinations and fun times with other boaters.

So while offshore still has it's charms, we'll also be planning more travels "inside" with longer stops and more destinations. Hey, when you're on your boat, it's all good!