"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

October 21, 2013

2013 Season Wrap Up

I usually do a wrap up blog when we get home after a wonderful cruising year. Thoughts about our feelings of the places we've seen and how it feels to be home. This year I'm having more trouble with that. My thoughts and feelings at the end of our third cruising season are the same as the past two years. Our favorite places for the year are different, but our passion for what we are doing is the same. Maybe this year I'll just give highlights of the year instead. 

The first 3 1/2 months of our cruising season were spent in Charleston, which we thoroughly loved. Most of our days were spent on boat projects, although we did find plenty of time to enjoy the company of good friends and had fun exploring the city. The second part of our year was spent moving up the coast from South Carolina to Cape May, NJ. Except for a side trip to Manteo on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and a few weather delays, it was pretty uneventful. 

Our first real adventure of the year came when we decided to take the inside route up the New Jersey coast through the ICW instead of waiting on high winds and rough seas in the Atlantic Ocean. We don't regret making the trip and we got to see a little more of New Jersey, but I'm pretty sure it was a once in a lifetime event. After our long, very slow trip up the coast we spent a wonderful day in New York City. We had a lot of wet cool days this spring, but we got an absolutely amazing day to ride bikes around NYC and Central Park…definitely a highlight of the year. 

I felt our real cruising season began when we went up the East River into Long Island Sound and headed towards New England. What a great place to spend the summer and our friends on Amici made it even better. Their gracious hospitality while we were in their homeport of Branford, CT made us feel like we were home and we really enjoyed spending time with them on Block Island and in Martha’s Vineyard. The highlights of our visit to New England were Newport, Mystic, Block Island, Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod and Boston. As wonderful as New England was and despite the wonderful time we were having with our friends, our true destination for the summer was Maine. Luckily by this time the weather was finally giving us a break and we got to spend four wonderful weeks exploring this amazing state. We enjoyed the beautiful coastline, small towns like Camden, hiking on Mount Desert, picking blueberries, seeing the wildlife, eating lobsters and visiting with the local people. Four weeks were definitely not long enough to absorb all that Maine has to offer…we will be back.

As we departed Maine we made our way back down the coast and visited places we missed on our way up. The one true highlight of the summer was having Kyle and Brytanie join us for Labor Day weekend in New York City. We had a great time having them onboard and getting to show them NYC from the deck of The Pearl. An added bonus during their visit was having the Pianas (Bryt’s family) join us for a day of cruising and exploring the city. We truly enjoyed having family onboard and sharing our cruising life with them.

After Labor Day we made our way down the east coast and back to the Chesapeake, where we enjoyed three weeks in Baltimore. It was a great place to transition back into life on land…we had time to relax, do a little work on the boat, explore the city and catch up with friends before we headed back to Texas. It was another wonderful year on the boat and now that we are home we can see how blessed we are to have the opportunity to see so many unbelievable places, meet so many great people and spend so much time on the water. For now we will spend time catching up with family and friends at home…but we look forward to more adventures on The Pearl next spring!

2013 Travel Stats 2012 Travel Stats 2011 Travel Stats
3112 Miles traveled 2678 Miles traveled  3987 Miles traveled
1014 Gallons of diesel  808 Gallons of diesel 1085 Gallons of diesel
425 Engine hours 379 Engine hours 566 Engine hours
248 Days on board 209 Days on board 211 Days on board
70 Days of travel 68 Days of travel 96 Days of travel
11 States visited 10 States or providences 13 States visited
62 Towns visited 55 Towns visited 71 Towns visited
2 Locks traversed 106 Locks traversed 8 Locks traversed
170 Days at a marina 121 Days at a marina 146 Days at a marina
3 Nights at a dock 46 Nights at a dock 11 Nights at a dock
50 Nights at anchor 30 Nights at anchor 48 Nights at anchor
25 Nights on a mooring ball 10 Nights on a mooring ball 4 Nights on a mooring ball
0 Days on the hard 2 Days on the hard 2 Days on the hard 

This is a map of our New England and Maine stops
This map shows the travels of The Pearl since we bought her in March 2010. To see more details of the places we've been click here

October 11, 2013

Oct. 11 - Going Home

We had one last look around the cabin, locked the doors and then checked her lines one more time...our precious Pearl was ready for our departure. It's always a little sad to leave her sitting there all alone, but she's in a good spot and will be well looked after while we're gone. When we return she'll be cleaned and polished and will be ready for more adventures. In the meantime we will spend time catching up with family and friends at home.

Getting things tied down and ready to leave 

Our dock
The view from the porch of Osprey Marina
One last look at The Pearl

October 10, 2013

Oct. 9 - Myrtle Beach, SC

Osprey Marina

Today marks a mile stone with our blog…this is the 600th entry. That’s a lot of entries, a lot of days enjoying our life on The Pearl. We began the blog to chronicle our adventures starting with the hunt for the perfect boat, making The Pearl feel like our home and then all the wonderful places we have visited during our travels. We wanted a way to be able to share our adventures with our family and friends…so they would know where we were, but it's also a great way for us to remember where we’ve been.

We spent the day getting our Pearl ready for our absence…packing, cleaning and taking the bimini down. It still amazes me how much “stuff” we take back and forth from home to the boat and back again. We have double everything…it seems, but there are still a lot of things to pack. Usually stuff we don’t think we need anymore on the boat. Every year I say we will bring less, but it still is too much! I can’t imagine flying home. Tomorrow we will load the car, get fuel in the boat, finish up a few last minute things and be on the road home on Friday. I’ll give a wrap up of our cruising year in a later post.

The Pearl's new home
Greg and Leslie's boat Amalia 
Osprey Marina...looking towards the ICW
The red dot shows The Pearl's winter home
Visiting with Leslie and Greg on the deck at Osprey

October 9, 2013

Oct. 8 – Myrtle Beach, SC

Osprey Marina

Another rainy day on the water, not the way we would have liked to spend our last cruising day on The Pearl, but it only seems fitting to end this season on a rainy day since we had so much rain this year. Our trip today was completely in the ditch, as we call it. No large bays or open water, so the light rain and gusty winds were no problem.

The Pearl is tied up in her winter home in a well protected marina off the ICW. Osprey Marina is a small marina with a wonderful staff and we feel very confident we are leaving her in good hands. We will spend the next 3-4 days getting things packed up and closed down before we head home.

We were greeted at the dock this afternoon by old friends we haven’t seen since last fall in Baltimore and we spent the evening catching up and exchanging stories. It was nice seeing a few familiar faces as we ease ourselves out of our boat life and back into our home life.

A rainy grey day in the Carolinas

A little rough in the ocean today...glad we weren't out there! 
The only "real" photo op of the day
The ICW gets a little narrow near North Myrtle Beach
Glad we didn't see this guy a little earlier!

October 8, 2013

Oct. 7 - St. James, NC

St. James Plantation Marina

It rained and the wind blew hard last night until we went to bed and then the sky cleared and the stars came out. We were greeted with a beautiful sunrise this morning. The weather forecast called for heavy rain later in the day, so we left our anchorage before the sun actually came up. We wanted to make it through the Cape Fear River before things got too rough this afternoon. Most of the morning was sunny but windy. By the time we got to the river it had gotten cloudy and we were getting a light rain. It began to pour as we passed Southport Marina, but luckily there was a break in the weather by the time we docked at St. James. We were stuck in Southport last May for several days because of wind and rain...I hope that doesn't happen again. 

The marina we're at is part of the planned residential community of St. James Plantation. A beautiful area on the ICW with a large golf course, biking and hiking trails, parks and shopping. From the little we got to see this evening it's a wonderful community. If the weather was nicer we would have gone exploring on our bikes, but we did have dinner at a little restaurant overlooking the marina. We may have to stop here again on our next trip north and see a little more of the area.

A beautiful morning
A little piece of a rainbow
A quiet morning on the ICW
No matter how many times we pass the same places, there always seems to be something new to spot.
The weather is changing
Looking towards the marina from the Tommy Thompson's Grille

October 7, 2013

Oct. 6 - Snead's Ferry, NC

Mile Hammock Bay - Anchorage 

Today we treated ourselves to a relaxed morning and a short travel day. The one thing we've read a lot about before coming to Swansboro was the 50s dining named Yana's, so this morning we decided we'd check it out. 

Yana's Ye Olde Drugstore is an authentic 50's Restaurant featuring "made from scratch" specialties including Southern and diner food, and people line up early to get a table. A jukebox stands at the front of the restaurant, belting out favorite sock-hop tunes, and there's more memorabilia on the walls than you can take in during one visit. A large statue of Elvis greets you at the door and Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and more Elvis pictures and life size posters are everywhere...including the bathroom. Going here is as much about the experience as it is about the food. The staff is full of southern charm and makes everyone feel like they're a regular. 

After our lazy morning and early lunch we said good-bye to the friendly staff at Casper's Marina and traveled 16 miles to a little anchorage just north of Snead's Ferry. Our wonderful weather finally disappeared this afternoon...it began to rain as we were anchoring, light in the beginning, but by sunset it was pouring. We were both glad it was a short day. Two more days and we should have The Pearl tied up in her winter home.

Swansboro is a cute little town with antique shops and boutiques long Front Street...unfortunately most were closed this morning.
Yana's Ye Olde Drugstore
Welcome to Yana's!
It's a small place and the tables are squeezed in close
I think we had the best table in the restaurant...we were in a little corner where no one need to squeeze by.

October 6, 2013

Oct. 5 - Swansboro, NC

Caspers Marina

We were up early and had another long day on the water. We crossed the Neuse River and headed east on Adams Creek to Morehead City. There's a large inlet to the Atlantic Ocean near there and the area is full of large fishing boats, but all we saw today were small recreational boats darting around enjoying the beautiful day. This is our third time to come through this busy area on a Saturday, and it was a zoo. 

We've had three long days on the water so we decided to treat ourselves to a marina and dinner out. We've heard Swansboro was a quaint, friendly place to stop so we thought we'd check it out. After getting the boat secured and taking care of a few boat chores we relaxed on the deck watching the boats, the seagulls and the sunset. Later we walked over to the Icehouse Waterfront Restaurant for dinner. We sat in the bar and had a great meal and enjoyed visiting with the local residents. It was a very fun evening.

Adams Creek
There always seems to be something going on in Morehead City
Our dockmates!
Our sunset view
The Icehouse Restaurant

October 5, 2013

Oct. 4 - Mesic, NC

Bonner Bay - Anchorage

A big part of our day today was spent in the Alligator-Pungo Canal. This man made canal is twenty-one miles long. It connects the Alligator and Pungo Rivers, which in turn connect the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. It provides a protected waterway between these two large bodies of water which are known to be quite rough at times...today both were very calm. When the canal was dug in the 1950's its main purpose was to improve drainage for local farmland.  

The canal is 200 to 300 feet wide, running dead straight with only a slight bend in the middle. At the speed we go we can look down to the curve in the middle and know that we won't be there for hours. There is nothing on either side of the canal until you get close to the Pungo River and then there are only a few homes. There is also very little wildlife to see, although we did spot two bald eagles as we entered the canal. Boat traffic this year has been very light, we only saw two trawlers, two sailboats, one large yacht and one tug all day and we traveled over 80 miles. Maybe we're a little ahead of the crowd this year. 

We planned on stopping in Belhaven today, but it was early when we came close and such a nice day, that we decided to push on. The next few days look nice and then we will begin to get the remnants of tropical storm Karen...rain and stronger winds. So we want to get some of the big water behind us. Once we cross the Neuse River tomorrow we'll mainly be in the ICW and smaller bays...easier to handle in the wind and rain. Our anchorage tonight is a lot like last night's...quiet, dark and full of little bugs. I think they're mosquitoes this time, so maybe I won't have to spend the morning washing the decks off like I did today. The scenery in this part of North Carolina isn't very impressive, but our sunsets have been spectacular.

This was about it for boat traffic today.
Looking back at the canal as we were entering the Pungo River
Typical landscape from today's crusie
There isn't a lot of interesting scenery around here...so you get another pretty sunset.

October 4, 2013

Oct. 3 - Columbia, NC

Little Alligator River - Anchorage

We left AYB in time to make the 8:30 Centerville Bridge opening. The first one of the morning unless you're underway REALLY early (before 6:30)! We were one of eight boats when we passed the bridge, but we were soon left behind by the faster boats and we pulled ahead of the sailboats. These were the only boats we saw all day. It was a peaceful beautiful day on the water. The highlight of our day was seeing five bald eagles. 

We crossed the Albemarle Sound and anchored in the Little Alligator River. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset and complete silence...not a single sound could be heard. The only bad thing about this spot are the millions of little may fly looking bugs that leave green poop drops all over your boat. They may not bite, but boy do you have a mess to clean up the next morning. Just part of the fun of living on a boat.

Our morning view from AYB
The Centerville Swing Bridge
Two of the eagles we saw today
The Albemarle Sound was beautiful today.
Our wonderful sunset

October 3, 2013

Oct. 2 - Great Bridge, VA

Atlantic Yacht Basin

I really enjoy the view from our windows when we are in Great Bridge...very pretty and peaceful. The trees are beginning to change color and the morning sun really accentuates the colors. 

Stan rode his bike to the auto parts store, twice, to pick up oil he had ordered online. It's kind of funny, he saved $4 a gallon plus got a 15% discount from ordering online instead of buying it directly from the store. A little research pays off sometimes. While Stan changed the oil in the generator and engine I went to the grocery store and hopefully got everything we need for the rest of our trip. This will probably be our last opportunity to shop until we leave the boat and start home. The ICW is pretty remote in North Carolina and we anchor out most of the time.  

Sunrise reflecting off the trees and water...I love this view.

The fall colors are looking very pretty along the river
Every evening they come to practice 

October 2, 2013

Oct. 1 - Great Bridge, VA

Atlantic Yacht Basin

Our trip today was short miles wise, but still took a long time...lots of bridges. We were slowed down by the first railroad bridge past Norfolk, which messed up our timing for the Steel Bridge. So the agenda for today was hurry up and wait. 

Our trip across Hampton Roads and past Norfolk was easy. The wind and seas were nice to us and there wasn't much boat traffic. We are now back in the ICW at the Atlantic Yacht Basin. We'll stay here an extra day to run a few errands and give Stan a chance to change the oil in the engine and generator. Since this is our sixth time coming past Norfolk there really isn't anything new to report on, so I'll just share a few pictures.

Our morning view from the anchorage near Old Point Comfort
Sights around Norfolk
Once you pass Norfolk the ICW gets very pretty