Today, Orenda and crew are traveling NNE along the Florida Keys to Florida’s east coast, then north to somewhere near the Georgia border. Our insurance requires we be north of Cumberland Island by June 1 because of hurricane season. So, reluctantly, we untied our lines, hoisted the fenders onto the boat and began our journey. It feels like the end of summer. I know it is the middle of May. We zoom and talk with our family and friends, all who have remarked about the cold and snow and wind during the last six months and that finally, the weather is warming up and the red buds are blooming and yard work has begun! But leaving Key West feels like summer is over.
Perhaps this confusion is associated with being retired, full-time boaters. We take our home where ever we go (or our home takes us where ever we go?) We travel, not really knowing where we will wake up in the morning a week from now. Since we began our adventures on Orenda in Gloucester Point, VA last August, we have not experienced any change. Flowers continue to be in bloom, temperature stays the same, trees are green, Scott continues to wear shorts and sunglasses all the time. No change of season, no change of wardrobe, no change. So now that we are changing direction, it feels like summer is done. But.. I know it is May.
We arrived in Key West on April 6 after a 26-hour over-night run, (weather dictated) from North Palm Beach. Since we were traveling during the night, we chose a route that took us outside of Hawk Channel into open ocean.
We reserved a slip in Stock Island Marine Village for the month of April. First thing we noticed was the color and clarity of the water. Turquoise, a beautiful shade of turquoise and so clear you could see the bottom!
Key West struck us a fun-loving, free spirited community. Maybe a little quirky even! The southernmost city in the Continental US, Key West comes with a colorful history, or a ‘farce’ to be reckoned with, (he he.) This is how I understand it all went down: In 1982, the U.S. Border Patrol set up a roadblock and inspection point on US1, the Overseas Highway that connects the Florida Keys with the mainland. Vehicles were stopped and searched for drugs and illegal immigrants. This created a major inconvenience for travelers to and from Key West. Well, legal stuff happened with no results. Frustrated, since the U.S. federal government had set up the equivalent of a border station as if they were a foreign nation, the Key West citizens thought they might as well become one. So, they seceded from the USA on April 23, 1982, becoming a ‘micro-nation’ and took the name Conch Republic. Reasonably silly?
Shortly after we arrived in Key West, my sisters, Robin and Julie flew in for a visit! Being fully vaccinated, they felt comfortable shedding their sweat pants to go someplace! The day they arrived, Scott and I were scheduled to get our first vaccine at the CVS pharmacy about a mile from the marina. So we unfolded our ebikes and rode to the pharmacy.
We were so happy to have Robin and Julie on-board again and the four of us began exploring Historic Key West! We toured Ernest Hemingway’s home on Whitehead Street. During a 30-minute guided tour we learned that Hemingway was an intriguing individual having been married 4 times, the second marriage to his first wife’s best friend! In addition to being a famous writer, he was a boxer, a very enthusiastic drinker and an avid marlin fisherman. Throughout the grounds and the two-story house are cats, Polydactyl cats which have six toes on their front paws. We were told there are about 50 cats that live there today, all descendants from Hemingway’s first cat, gifted to him by a sea-captain. All the cats bear the names of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe or Humphrey Bogart! My sisters and I agreed that having a beer and chat with Hemingway would have been very entertaining!
We walked to the southernmost point in Key West had a beer at the Southernmost Point Bar, aptly named.
During the few days they were with us, we explored and found a few gems!
Well, the plan was devised and agreed upon before Robin and Julie arrived. While in Key West, we would all get Tattoos! Yep, tats or inked! We are all 60 years + so it was time. Scott lead us to a Tattoo shop, the Groovy Rooster and we inquired. Of course they can ink us, how about tomorrow? We sent our “designs” to them late that evening and the following day, after a quick glass of courage, we arrived at the Groovy Rooster.
Scott went first as he was the most motive source to get a tat. He chose the compass rose, believed by sailors that it would bring them good luck and ensure they would find their way home.
I was very reluctant, and not really thinking tattoos are for me, I chose my right back shoulder where I couldn’t see the tat all the time. Again, Danielle did a great job, adding a little color. Julie decided her design needed more time to fully develop. As she said, its permanent, forever and it must be well thought out! Robin, well, her idea was hilarious (Kiss my…. on her bum) but also decided to wait. Next time sisters!
The wind waves on the ocean outside of our marina prevented us from comfortable dinghy exploring, but we did get out one day.
We cruised around some, took a dip in the turquoise water, spotted the “elusive”manatee sunning, and marveled at the clarity of the water.
All good things come to an end and Robin and Julie needed to get back to life. Robin kitchen re-fit. Julie, yard work and family. So sad to see them go.
Scott and I spent the rest of the month sightseeing, scuba diving, exploring, and visiting the “gems” we had found with my sisters in Key West. I was also reading Shadow Divers, a non-fiction book by Robert Kurson recounting the discovery in 1991 of a World War II German U-Boat 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey. Fascinating read, deep sea exploration dives and the eventual identification of U-869, lost in 1945. So, my diving desires were peaked! We packed the dinghy with all the dive gear; tanks, BCs, wet suits, fins, regulators, and cooler (apres-scuba?) and headed out to Sand Key, about 6 nautical miles southwest of Key West. The trip was a success, we blew some bubbles and figured out our weight needs. But…. dinghy diving proved difficult for me with space constraints and climbing into the dinghy from the water!
We visited the Key West Aquarium. The aquarium is an “open-air” aquarium and it only contains species of fish indigenous to Key West Florida.
The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory was very cool. We were told it has 50 species of butterflies and 20 species of exotic birds. The butterflies flutter freely in the climate-controlled conservatory.
We discovered a sandbar just outside the marina channel where locals would toss out an anchor and the Tiki bar would hang. We took the dinghy there a few times to swim in the water and get cooled off.
Near the end of the month, we departed Stock Island Marina for the Dry Tortugas, about 70 nautical miles west of Key West accessible only by boat and sea plane. The Dry Tortugas is the most remote US National Park which actually covers 100 square miles of water, includes seven tiny keys and Fort Jefferson which sits on Garden Key. The area is known for bird and marine life and ship wrecks. I was thinking Shadow Divers, right? No, the water is really only deep enough to snorkel!
Fort Jefferson, the largest all-masonry fort in the US was built between 1846 and 1875 to protect the nation’s gateway to the Gulf of Mexico along one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Fort Jefferson featured some of the largest and most advanced weapons of its age. But in 1862, while the fort was still under construction, advances in weapons technology, specifically the rifled cannon, which could blow through the masonry wall, made Fort Jefferson obsolete.
During the Civil War, the fort served as a Union military prison for captured deserters. It also held four men convicted of complicity in President Lincoln’s assassination in 1865.
During the day, the Yankee Freedom Ferry and sea plane bring passengers to the park. So we used the daytime to snorkel and swim in the warm clear water. We found the Bird Key Wreck or Brick Wreck on the Bird Key bank. I had fun snorkeling around the wreck until a barracuda, who seemed to be guarding the wreck made his presence. Was he guarding or expecting food? Whatever, he looked ferocious from the water and followed the dinghy around the whole time!
We returned to Stock Island Marina for two nights. We made plans to see Popa Chubby at the Green Parrot Bar in Key West. The additional day also allowed us to stock up on a few things for our cruise north.
As I write, we are cruising NNE on Hawk Channel, a channel which runs between the islands of the Florida Keys and a line of reefs. We can see the bottom! The water is absolutely turquoise and clear! Perhaps when we get north of the Florida border and decide to stay someplace for a few days, I’ll do some ‘Spring Cleaning.’ Maybe that will help straighten out my brain, that summer is actually just starting!
We posted our last blog mid-December, 2020 from Fort Pierce, Florida. We were scheduled for a mid-December haul-out and maintenance at Seminole Marine Boat Yard in Palm Beach Gardens. However, winter is a very busy yacht maintenance time in Florida, especially this year with COVID restrictions, so our haul-out date was delayed. We spent the holidays at Dockside Marina and Resort on the Indian River in Fort Pierce and made the most of the time.
On the 10th of January we said farewell to Fort Pierce and cruised to Palm Beach Gardens “on the outside” via the Atlantic and anchored in Old Port Cove for two nights before heading to the yard.
Jay Flaherty with Yacht Tech – Boat Service was with us when we hauled-out and the yard work began! So, there’s ‘yard work,’ right?
And then there’s ‘yard work.’ Seminole Marine and Yacht Tech were super!
We chose to change the bottom paint color from blue to red, serviced the thru-hull valves, the bow thruster was checked out and the underwater lights replaced. The hull was buffed and waxed while she was out of the water as well.
We were back in the water a week later and went to Safe Harbor North Palm Beach Marina to have the rest of the boat detailed, minor gelcoat repairs, schedule the life raft service and work on our high priority “TO DO” list. This is winter maintenance time, right?
Scott and I created a prioritized list of projects ‘as long as me arm!’ as most cruisers do and decided it was time to get some things done while we waited for others to complete their work. I think we exceeded our expectations, sweating almost daily to get the projects crossed off our list and waiting longer than expected for others! Included were new Stressless recliners for the salon. We chose a marine blue to add color to the salon. I love them!
We refinished the aft cabin teak rail. This involved removing the varnish finish with a heat gun, sanding and then applying a teak sealer finish much like we did on our N47. We cleaned all the canvases and salon carpet, sent the Swiftlik Life raft in for re-certification, and did oodles of little detailing chores. We ordered a threshold boarding mat from OBA canvas. Orenda is embroidered on the mat. Nora and Karl on N63 Bravo in Fort Pierce had a boarding mat. We stole the idea because it is awesome!
Scott installed a new pre-filter and UV filter on the fresh water system. As part of this project, the entire basement area was finally cleaned up and organized to create more usable storage. Scott said we now have plenty of room for beer storage. Yesssss! And of course, a great place for canned goods and bottled water.
We picked up our new Highfield 390 Sport Tender after having it rigged with our almost new Yamaha outboard from the old tender. Nautical Ventures Marine Center did the re-fit. The new tender required a new lifting harness to safely and properly lift her with the crane. Scott called Altitude Yacht Rigging and they came the next day, made the harness in the parking lot and we were good to go! Note that the Highfield tender has a ski pole! We have an inflatable tow tube on board. Anyone game for water sports? The new tender is SWEET!
Scott hasn’t been satisfied with our beach tender storage arrangement that we brought over from our N47. So we sold the almost new Suzuki 9.9HP motor and replaced it with a 6HP that is half the weight. Now we store the outboard on a boat deck rail and the beach tender vertically making more room on the boat deck.
We also cleaned and sealed or teak decks with a DiTEC treatment that is supposed to work well and last on yacht decks. This was a lot of work so we will see how well it does.
Scott added connections and hoses to our dive compressor which is located in the lazarette. We can now fill the tanks on the swim deck which will make diving so much easier!
As I mentioned, we have worked most days but have also had some fun! We purchased new Lectric folding ebikes with a 500 W motor which can reach ranges of up to 45 miles. The bikes have greatly helped with our errands, both time and distance. Our new favorite store is the Boat Owners Warehouse. Similar to Fisheries in Ballard, WA. They have just about everything.
We are very fortunate for the weather here in southern Florida; did we mention winter is often hot here! One day we were the warmest location in the continental US. Because of the pleasant weather, we can visit establishments and sit outdoors. It is nice to get out and the ebikes have been great! 5-levels of pedal assist and a throttle, weigh 62 pounds each, fold in half for transport, need only periodic charging, BUT require bravery and sobriety to ride over the many bridges.
One of our new favorite establishments is the Twisted Trunk Brewery but there are number of on-the-water venues as well. We frequent the Yard House, Duffy’s and the Draft House, not too far away. We had lunch at the Waterway Café with the crew on Beverly S, N46, Sue and Larry whom we had initially met in York River, Virginia. They have shared so much information on the many anchorages and marinas on the east coast.
Florida marinas seem to be filled with lots of Sport Fishing Yachts and we have enjoyed watching them use and take care of the boats. The sport fishing yachts fish for sailfish and when they return to the marina, have flags to indicate how many they caught! These yachts move around the crowded marinas at “warp” speed compared to us. Always backed into the slips, captains drive from the upper level, facing the stern, steering the boat with the throttles/shifters behind them. We had previously noted this skill demonstrated by a friend on a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island, B.C. Rock on Vince, but it probably doesn’t work too well on your new boat, Last Arrow, N60, huh?
It is now almost mid-March, with most projects complete! Yay! We are looking forward to a month and a half cruising in the Florida Keys with several planned stops along the way, Marathon, Key West, Stock Island, Dry Tortugas, who knows? We are looking forward to family and friends planned visits as well! Our Orenda is ready and so are we!
From St Augustine, FL, we decided to jump back on the ICW because hurricane ETA was predicted to make landfall and the weather on the Atlantic looked nasty. For this section of the ICW, we contacted experienced cruising friends and watched the tracks of other boats while docked at the marina and decided Orenda could also handle the shallow water. Scott used well-known Bob423 downloaded tracks and Aqua Map overlaid with Corp of Engineers recent ICW surveys. Jay with Yacht Tech was also heading south ahead of us on N62 Zarpe to West Palm Beach and provided input as well (thanks Jay!), so we felt pretty confident, as long as we were cautious. We headed to Daytona Beach, planning to anchor a couple of nights. When we arrived at the anchorage, the wind was blowing and the water had white caps and was very shallow. Scott was anxious about the unfamiliar shallow water with all the wind. So we contacted the nearby Daytona Municipal Marina and they had one transient slip available! We took it and tied up. It seems curious we always get the last slip, or so we are told (an on-going joke between Scott and I), but we were glad to be safe in the wind and predicted storm regardless! We added extra lines and fenders to the boat and hunkered down. The night was comfortable, although we both had one ear open for problems.
We had an awesome time in Daytona Beach. Walked the boardwalk, shopped for Daytona Beach BikeWeek Tee-shirts, enjoyed a micro brew or two at McK’s Brewery.
AND Scott experienced a “NASCAR ride-along” with professional driver, Jim Clash on the Daytona International Speedway! He drove over 150 miles per hour! 6 laps and they were done in less than 6 minutes! Exhilarating! Super fun!!
Our last night in Daytona, November 11 was the SpaceX Dragon shuttle launch. We watched the news coverage on TV, then stepped out to the cockpit and saw the shuttle!
We continued on the ICW to Titusville. To describe the ICW, it is an immense body of water 6 or 8 miles wide at times with the navigable waterway or channel running through it. We navigate from buoy marking to buoy marking. Scott compared it to our trip through the Wrangell Narrows which is a 33-mile channel. The Wrangell Narrows is referred to as Christmas Tree lane because of all the red and green navigational lights, 46 in all. Well, the ICW is that density of channel markers but for many, many miles!
So why am I looking for Manatees? So far the entire ICW from St. Augustine is posted as a ‘slow’ zone to protect the manatees, West Indian Manatees. We have seen turtles, white herons, seagulls, blue herons, brown pelicans, white pelicans, alligators, bottlenose dolphins, osprey, cormorants, ducks, but for me no manatees. Scott said he saw a few but I remain skeptical! You would think I could spot them, they can be 10 feet long, weighting 800-1200 pounds. Impossible to miss, right? Described as elusive, and I guess they are!
We are accompanied by many boats all heading south on the ICW. Radio communication between the boats passing and those being passed is polite and friendly. “Orenda, requesting pass on your starboard.” Scott responds that he will slow down to allow a “slow pass.” Meanwhile, we only cruise slow because we are in the MANATEE ZONE! Not the Daytona Speedway!!
Our arrival in Titusville Municipal Marina was windy. Our dock hands were a great help, but Scott has the docking down pretty well now. The wing stations we have on Orenda are amazing for docking and boat handling. Scott spent the majority of the week preparing for our boat maintenance activities at Yacht Tech in North Palm Beach next month. I enjoyed one of my favorite pastimes, walking and listening to audio books. Warm weather and lots of wild life.
We visited the American Space Museum, well kind of, from the outside! and the Space View Park Monuments honoring the space program with monuments, mission plaques and bronze hand-prints of six of the original seven astronauts. Titusville is a town on the ‘Space Coast’ a region of Florida around the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
On November 23rd we were up early to cruise to Melbourne Harbor Marina where we had a slip reserved for a week. Upon arrival in the channel, we radioed the Harbor Master. The channel is reportedly dredged to 8 feet, our draft is a little less than 7 feet. The Harbor Master suggested we hug the red buoys entering the marina. At one point our depth read 0.0 feet! Yikes! We did not touch bottom but we sure get anxious with these shallow depths.
We had fun in Melbourne. Lots of shops selling “Vintage” clothing, art galleries, and antiques. We window shopped! We visited the Hell n Blazes Brewery a couple of times which had a pleasant outdoor seating area.
We celebrated Thanksgiving in Melbourne. Simple meal but a heartfelt and fulfilling day connecting with friends and family!
We got underway early on November 29th to take advantage of the one foot tide! He he.
We arrived in Fort Pierce, FL at the Dockside Marina around noon. The Dockside Marina is on the Indian River or Fort Pierce Inlet with tidal currents averaging 3 to 4 knots. Docking proves difficult for most boats unless they are able to dock at slack. Cammie and Joe Ward at the Marina were a great help to us in the current, which we managed to time perfectly at 3 knots! The docks are stationary, built at a fixed height which is about four feet above Orenda’s cockpit. Exiting and re boarding the boat is a small climbing challenge!
We plan to be in Fort Pierce, FL for most of the month. We have a haul-out scheduled at the Seminole Yard mid month. Unfortunately with Covid-19 we will not be traveling home to our kids for the holiday. So, Merry, merry Christmas from the crew of Orenda!
Postscript – I did see a manatee munching greens near the dock!
Following our midges nightmare and major clean up in the River Forest Marina in Belhaven, NC, we continued on our last stretch of the ICW to Beaufort, NC, a quaint marina and port with historic homes and many antiques stores, shops and restaurants.
We planned to stay a few days in Beaufort, NC, then continue south via the Atlantic Ocean. We were apprehensive of more midges and the shallow depths on the ICW. We thought off-shore would be safe from groundings and the ghastly bugs! We contacted our weather router shortly after we arrived in Beaufort and he recommended we go soon, our best weather window was the following day, so we untied early the next morning for Charleston, SC. It would be a 200 nm overnight ocean cruise, our first overnight on Orenda!
The cruise was enjoyable and being in deeper water, easier than traveling the ICW!
We arrived at the Charleston City Marina at the Mega Dock late morning, but due to fast currents on the Ashley River, we hung in the harbor for a couple of hours until currents decreased and docking could be safely accomplished. On the Mega dock, we were one boat in a fleet of Mega yachts, 100 to 250 foot yachts also tied up to the 1530 feet dock! We were the little guys! The Mega yachts had people – boat washing, boat cleaning, chefs, servers, captain crew, matching Yacht logo shirts and they were all beautiful! Fun and friendly also! Well, Orenda has crew, Scott and me. We share cleaning, cooking, skippering and swabby duties!!
Charleston, SC is full of history dating back to 1670. Hundreds of historic buildings designed in a range of period styles such as Colonial, Georgian, Regency. We enjoyed a horse and open carriage ride through the historic district and a lesson on building architecture. One interesting fact was that the houses are built sideways on the lots. We learned that when the city’s first streets were laid out in the mid 1600’s, the residential lots were long and deep and had little street frontage. Placing the house sideways on the lot made the best use of space and also allowed the home to take full advantage of the prevailing southerly breezes, much needed in the hot summer climate.
We wandered the City Market, an outdoor market selling a variety of goods such as jewelry, purses, ceramics, artwork. We purchased fun face coverings for our grand-kids!
From Charleston, SC we day cruised off shore to Beaufort, SC a very southern-like port with old colonial homes, built in the 1800’s. Lovely and just old southern. Huge oak trees lined the streets and are just magnificent in size and shape.
Our next stop along the Atlantic coast was Hilton Head, SC, a very modern resort I had spent time in with my siblings and Mom. My mom loved the ocean! We have wonderful memories! We stayed in Harbor Town Yacht Basin, a half circle basin with shops and restaurants. Sea Pines Resort is laced with bike and walking trails!
We left Hilton Head and continued south along the Atlantic coast to Jekyll Island, GA and anchored for a couple of nights. We caught up on boat chores, cleaning and laundry and enjoyed the solitude of being on the hook.
Our next stop was St. Augustine, FL the oldest city in the United States. So much history! Our slip overlooked the St. Augustine Bridge of Lions that opens on the hour and half hour. We walked to the Fountain of Youth, a park that memorializes Juan Ponce de Leon and his landing in 1515. I was actually looking for the fountain of youth…… We spent time on St. George Street, an 11-block pedestrian street with shops, restaurants and galleries. We found a super interesting brewery called Auggies Draft Room, a self-serve brewery on St. George Street.
We did some provisioning in St. Augustine. Grocery stores were not easily within walking distance, so we made the 4-mile hike to Walmart, then Ubered home. The Uber driver dropped us on the street. We collected dock carts and hauled our goods to the boat. Then we find spaces in the boat to store the goods! Provisioning is exhausting!
Just a note: COVID-19 has had an impact on our travels on the East coast. We feel confident that if one of us gets COVID the other will also get COVID. If Scott needed outside medical care, me on the boat alone worries me. So our port visits are like “window shopping”. Fun stuff to do but we don’t want to go any place where we could be at risk for COVID, (inside restaurants, museums, aquariums, historic homes). Perhaps paranoid, but being far from our normal medical care providers and with only us on board, we are being very cautious.
First, it’s “intra” not “inter” coastal. Intra meaning within, inter meaning between. The intracoastal waterway (ICW) is a 3000-mile inland waterway running from Boston, Massachusetts, southward along the Atlantic around the southern top of Florida, then following the Gulf coast to Brownsville, Texas. It consists of natural inlets, salt-water rivers, bays, sounds and artificial canals. Its history dates back to late-1700s.
Not unlike the West coast, we are a part of the migration of boats traveling south in the late fall to southern Florida, Florida Keys, Bahamas, Caribbean, or Jamaica. Our migration, starting from Gloucester Point, VA to Norfolk, down the ICW to Beaufort, NC, Charleston, SC to Fort Pierce, Florida in hopes of finding sun and warm weather. Our route is a combination of the ICW and open Atlantic Ocean cruising. The migration puts stress on the marinas and facilities. We call ahead and often get a giggle from the marina dock master because we are calling a little late to reserve a slip, especially this year with the COVID-19 limitations.
We left Waterside Marina in Norfolk on Friday, October 9 after an awesome visit from my sister Julie, nephew Matt and Chelsea, his SO.
We delayed our departure one day and spent the majority of that day studying Dozier’s and Skipper Bob. Kind of like Waggoner’s and Charlie’s Charts. I’m glad we spent the extra time because within the first 20 miles we encountered five bridges and one lock. A lot to grasp at the start of the cruise.
We have been introduced to: Bridge Architecture 101. We contacted the bridge operators to open two vertical bridges, two swing bridges and one draw bridge. The Gilmerton Bridge (vertical) operator had a little fun with Orenda. With two boats ahead of us, the bridge raised and the operator radioed for each boat to proceed. We held back thinking the operator would also radio us to proceed. Instead he said “Hey Capt, you want to come on through? It’s at 90 feet, think you can squeeze under?” So ok, we need to put on our ‘east coast’ pants, or what Scott said!
The Waterway Guide explains that the first 200-mile long stretch of the Atlantic ICW consists of locks, canals, rivers, land cuts and open water sounds. It also states that some of the open water has long fetches and shallow depths. The Currituck Sound at mile marker 42 is one large open water sound. It can span from 3 miles to 8 miles wide. The center channel is supposed to carry 11-foot depths. We experienced less than one foot under the keel most of the way, our shallowest moment was 0.4 feet! I googled the Currituck Sound and was amused with one question “Can you swim in the Currituck Sound?” The answer was of course, but swimming was difficult because the water is only knee to waist high! I did not know a sound could be so shallow.
Our first day on the ICW we made good time, often traveling at 7.5 knots, watching the depth constantly. At the depths we were traveling, on the West coast, we would have slowed to ‘crawl’ speed to make sure we had time make adjustment before going aground. But folks we have chatted with say “you’ll get use to cruising in shallow water”. Our first night, we anchored in 4.3 feet under the keel or 11.3 feet of water. Who anchors in 11 feet of water? Who would have known?
So the water in the ICW is often brownish. The brown color is from tannic acid. Tannic acid is released from decaying vegetation which happens to be a characteristic of the inland canals of the ICW. Tannins are released from the roots and leaves of decaying cypress and juniper trees. I understand the tannic acid can give boats a brown “Mustache”. We will find out when we haul out to have work done in Florida!
There is this “canal effect”. I didn’t know. It’s the tendency of the stern to swing toward the bank in narrow waters. We experienced “the effect” at the Punga Ferry Bridge when the operator encouraged us to ‘speed her up’ as they were waiting for us so they could close the bridge. The “effect” was quite scary!
Other things I didn’t know – what is – ‘no tidal rise and fall’ and ‘hurricane holes’. And insects, look like mosquitos, but aren’t. When we woke in the anchorage, the entire boat was covered with insects, hundreds of thousands of billions of insects! The insects turned out to be Chironomidae, or non-biting midges, locally and not affectionately known as muckleheads.
We picked up the midges at an anchorage called Cypress Swamp on the Alligator River. The following day during an all-day rain, we traveled the Alligator River – Pungo River Canal. The canal, or often referred to as ‘the ditch’ is scenic, heavily wooded and relatively narrow. Hoping to make progress on insect control, I spent the majority of the cruise on the boat deck spraying water and trying Pinesol and dish liquid in an attempt to discourage the midges. In the end, we lost the battle, emptied the water tank and succumbed to a couple of beers at anchor in the head waters of the Pungo river, within earshot of the River Forest Marina in Belhaven. And so, the following morning, we limped into the marina. We were met by Henry Boyd, Dock Master who took one look at Orenda and said, “Oh you got into the muckleheads, you must have been in the Alligator River! You got it bad.” Yep. No mention in the cruising manuals about insects, no mention from fellow boaters who have traveled the ICW. I just didn’t know.
We spent the entire day cleaning the boat and just past sunset we declared good enough. Today we are cruising to Beaufort, NC via the Neuse River and Adams Creek. Our plan was to moor in the channel near Beaufort, but we are both wary of another mucklehead attack!! So we contacted Beaufort Docks on the historic Beaufort Waterfront and were able to secure a slip a day early.
We are enjoying Orenda and learning so much, and I still have so much to learn! To be continued……
Our last blog, Bashing It! describing our Baja cruise north to San Diego to sell Epoch was posted from San Diego, CA 238 days ago, on February 8, more than half a year has passed. What a year it has been! For all of us, I’m am very sure!
Epoch sale started in mid-February. We were moored in Chula Vista, California Yacht Marina and moved everything off the boat and into a “POD” delivered to us by PODS.com. EVERYTHING moved. On February 18, we took a last look at little Epoch and flew out of San Diego to Savannah, GA to meet our N5536.
Exciting time! We met Don Kohlmann at the airport and the following day, James Knight and Jay Flaherty were on April K with Paul and April at Thunderbolt Marina in Thunderbolt, GA.
Following the survey and sea trial, Scott and I flew to Ohio, to my childhood home in Strongsville to help care for my mom, 93 years old, still living at home, who had fallen two days before Christmas and fractured her hip. Scott spent a week in Strongsville then flew home to Washington state while my siblings and I spent long days with my mom in the Skilled Nursing Facility. We all stayed with my mom in hopes our encouragement and cheering would help her heal quickly. Mid-March, we were greeted by COVID-19, Ohio, California, and Washington all implemented social distancing or stay-home orders, boat sales became protracted and my beloved mom passed away. All in the same week…. Oh my gosh.
My siblings returned to their lives and to quarantine and I stayed at my mom’s home, too apprehensive to fly. March passed. And April. And most of May. Initially my flights were cancelled, but finally mid-May, I reunited with Scott in San Diego. I joined his “camping” on Epoch. Remember, we had moved EVERYTHING off Epoch in early February into the POD.
Early June, buyers drove from Westport, WA to inspect and survey Epoch. Steve D’Antonio a Marine Consultant was coming! Steve’s knowledge of Nordhavns and reputation for detail and buyer advocacy is well known which made me a bit anxious; Steve was absolutely outstanding and a nice guy to have onboard ! Mid-June the new buyers accepted the condition of Epoch with one stipulation; replace the exhaust muffler!
The muffler replacement was a big deal. Scott worked with Harco Manufacturing to have a new muffler fabricated which involved trading lots of email correspondence, measuring and developing a design drawing. The Marine Group Boat Yard crew installed the new custom muffler in a day and a half. The factory muffler insulation was built by Temptech and arrived a week later. We installed the custom insulation ourselves in about 30 minutes, sweet fit with built-in fasteners.
During our time at Chula Vista, some of our Taco Runners returned to San Diego from Mexico. We visited with Mike and Elaine on Pardita, Linda and Vince on N60 Last Arrow, Michele and Hugo on N55 Gitana, and our special friends, Max, Zoe on N55 Red Rover and their humans Alison and Kevin! Very fun times and wonderful to catch up!!
We also happened to be assigned the slip next to the very first Nordhavn trawler built, N4601 named UUB V. Colorful Captain George purchased her on the East Coast and after extensive cruising now lives onboard in Chula Vista, CA.
The Epoch sale closed in mid-July, uneventful with only Scott, I and Mark Gilbert on-board. A few miles offshore, a couple of pics and Epoch was no longer ours. We docked our little Epoch, bid farewell to her for the last time, and headed back to Washington state via a 19-hour road trip.
Scott’s comment on the way home was he has never been so boatless in his WHOLE life. Well, I said, you still have the roll-up beach tender in the POD. Oh my gosh, you’re right he said.
So, meanwhile there’s actually more to Adventures of Little Fish. Paul Smith on April K, N5536 on the east coast and Scott had become email pals (per se). Paul and April cruised April K during the summer and eventually ended up in York River Yacht Haven Marina in Gloucester Point, VA a good location for us to move onto April K. So Ok! We flew to Norfolk, VA mid-August. We met Paul on a spotless, mechanically maintained and well-equipped yacht ready for cruising! Paul spent most of the day with us doing ownership turnover; so patient and helpful.
Our POD traveled across the US, west coast to east coast and arrived at York River Yacht Haven Marina on August 25. We placed the POD in the nearby boat yard. We rented a U-Haul pick-up truck and in 90-degree weather, 85% humidity, we unloaded the POD packed up 6-months ago into the U-Haul, drove the short distance to the marina and loaded into dock carts and then onto the boat. We only had a day and a half before the POD was picked up!
We have been busy unpacking and making the boat ours, transferring licenses, reprogramming electronics, getting various subscriptions converted and even replacing SIM cards.
Two of my best friends, sisters Julie and Robin drove in from Pennsylvania and we had a wonderful fun first visitors onboard!
We are expecting the name and hailing port graphics installation any day now. We have named her Orenda, which loosely means a supernatural force believed to be present, in varying degrees, in all objects or persons, and to be the force by which human accomplishment is attained or accounted for.
Where are we going next? As it is nearly October, we will likely start heading south. Of course, it depends on COVID-19, marina availability, weather and studying the cruising manuals to learn about this new and exciting east coast. Oh my gosh, what a year it has been!
Bash, a verb (strike hard) or a noun (a bash on the head or birthday bash). Or the term I kept hearing about, the Baja Bash. My study of the Baja Bash revealed that it is a West Coast phenomenon, usually left to paid delivery captains or unfortunate cruisers who need to get out of Mexico before hurricane season because of insurance policies. It is the inevitable return trip from Los Cabos to San Diego. Or the flipside of the downwind Baja Ha-Ha rally which takes place in the fall. I believe the Baja Ha-Ha is called just that, because it is fun. The bash, not so much, traveling against prevailing winds and seas along 800 miles of open coastline! Reading the Baja Bash II, by Capt. Jim Elfers, Rule #1 – Plan your return to the U.S. for July in an attempt to avoid the typically strong onshore northwesterly winds. So, it’s now January and we are starting the bash!
This is how it all began:
Epoch traveled to San Jose del Cabo with the Nordhavn Taco Runners, a noggle of 7 Nordhavns. We were leap frogging the Baja Ha-Ha rally. The Baja Ha-Ha is a cruiser’s rally, mostly sailboats that travel from San Diego to Los Cabos in the fall every year. And it was so fun. No schedules, no hassles, no deadlines. Just cruising, fishing, cervezas, margaritas and laughs. And beautiful sunrises and sunsets, everyday! After a couple of days stay in San Jose del Cabo, we traveled with Red Rover across the Sea of Cortez to Puerto Vallarta, then on to La Cruz. Fun times in Mexico with warm mornings, sunny days, wonderful food, and a community of boaters who are the definition of “happy.” Ahh, wintering in paradise!
Scott, enjoying conductivity in La Cruz, his internet surfing happened on a Nordhavn 55 which perked his interest. Located on the US East Coast in South Carolina, he began his inquiries. And the domino effect commenced! An offer was made on our little Epoch N47, Scott made an offer on the N55, the buyers of little Epoch sold their N40, and so it goes, one event setting off a chain reaction of similar events. Schedules for surveys, sea trials, and haul-outs were established. We departed La Cruz on January 20, 300 miles across the Sea of Cortez to San Jose del Cabo. After a quick trip to Seattle, we consulted with our weather guru, Rich Cortney, and began our “bash” on Monday, January 29. Adios beautiful Mexico…. So much for wintering in Mexico!
Tradition dictates that boats headed north should hug the coast to avoid a thrashing. They say run when you can and hide when you have to (sounds like an active shooter drill, eh?), and don’t even try to keep a schedule. We left San Jose del Cabo at 8:15 AM after getting 1000-liters of fuel and waved adios to our friend Alec on Audrey Mae N57. We came around the notorious Cape Falso in 3-5 foot seas at a 10-second period. Cape Falso is known for incredible wind sea conversions and is the determinate for permission to pass and proceed northward. 3-5 foot seas at 10 seconds was awesome!
Rich recommended we run the rhumb line which we did for a long while until the seas got too rough and bumpy; 8-10 feet at 10-12 seconds with nasty wind chop. Moving about the boat required us to use the walls and railings for support. Opening the refrigerator was out! It was Thursday afternoon when Scott decided to get closer to the coast to get into calmer seas. About 30 miles south of Abreojos, seas calmed down; 2-4 foot at 12 second periods. We made water, did laundry and caught up on overdue boat chores. Seas were a gentle swell, 19 knot winds. A pleasant night cruise.
12 miles south of Bahia Torugas (Turtle Bay), the NE wind picked up to a steady 25 knots with gusts of 35 knots. Our closest place of refuge was Turtle Bay and needing rest entered the bay at 5:30 AM and anchored with an east breeze at 6-8 knots. The lugger main engine was shut down for the first time in 72 hours. When we woke around 9:30 AM, I had a text message from my friend in the Tri-Cities who was following our progress, “36 mph winds with gusts of 40 mph.” Included was an emoji squinting face with the tongue protruding! Yep, unfortunately she was correct, our winds were fierce. The anchor held but with the extreme force of the wind, we destroyed our anchor snubber.
We showered and began our departure preparation from Turtle Bay after consulting with Rich who gave us the thumbs-up to continue north. Scott was inside the anchor locker checking things out when the wind blew the anchor locker lid and it whacked Scott in the head. Ouch! Minor injury, thank heavens. I wanted to get a photo but Scott said no! We weighed anchor at 1:30 PM in 20 knot winds, traveled north around Punta Eugenia and entered a very calm sea state of almost no wind, 1-2 foot seas on a long period. We continued east of Isla Cedros in calm seas, 2 – 3 feet at 10-12 seconds. All night long we had calm seas.
Around 5:00 in the morning I woke to the United States Coast Guard weather warning, “Securite, Securite” pronounced sea-cur-i-tay, suggesting we switch to 22-Alpha. What? “Gale force winds … San Diego and 60 – 150 n.m. offshore… Urgent marine weather message, NW winds 30 -40 knots, gusts to 50 knots, seas 19 – 23 feet, exceptionally dangerous sea conditions. Precautionary measures should be taken immediately…..” But we were in calm seas with little wind!
We estimated we would be in Ensenada by 3 or 4 AM. We increased the throttle to 1850 RPM which got us to about 7.5 – 8 knots. With the increased speed we would be in Cruiseport Village Marina only a couple of hours earlier than we had predicted. The Coast Guard weather warnings continued and were unnerving. We contacted Rich for consultation. Rich confirmed the approaching weather. We discussed the run to Ensenada, landing in Cruiseport Village Marina at the same time the storm was predicted to arrive (hello storm!), in the middle of the night, and tired. The run to Ensenada was changed to seeking anchorage in Bahia San Quintin to let the weather blow through. We cruised to Bahia San Quintin, traveling 5.5 knots to anchor for the night. This cruise was enjoyable, calm, hardly a breeze (complex and confusing to be seeking anchorage now) but obviously the safest and smartest decision.
It was Monday, and we woke to high overcast skies with the sun promising to peak out. The night was very rolly, 16 knot winds from the NNW, 2-foot wind chop. Our 10:00 AM consultation with Rich revealed a big ridge of pressure over San Francisco which was not moving very fast and causing weather off San Diego; 35 knot winds with 20-25 foot seas. Our 18-hour run to Ensenada would be delayed until Wednesday. Our predicted initial weather when departing late Wednesday afternoon would be 5 -7 foot seas at 10 seconds; and as we continue north, hugging the coast, we would get into a 2-4 foot sea state with a 12 second period. Ok. Arrival into Ensenada was planned for Thursday, February 6 around noon.
We woke to flat water on Wednesday which was nice as the previous two days were very rolly. Outside was sunny but we turned on the heat pump for heat instead of cooling as we had been air conditioning for the last few months. Mid afternoon we weighed anchor for our last overnight cruise for a while. 109 n.m. to Ensenada.
Rich’s forecast was spot on with 5-7 foot seas at 10 seconds. He suggested we run the rhumb line. But at Punta Colonet, seas picked up to 8-10 feet on a short period, very rough and uncomfortable, so we moved closer to the coast to find calmer water. We cruised into Ensenada just after sunrise, calm seas and an easy run into the marina. I stepped onto the dock with lines in hand just about 192 hours after departing San Jose del Cabo. Land!
Friday was reserved for checking out of Mexico. Cruiseport Village Marina provides check-out services. Anna in the marina office prepared the paperwork; printing, copying, stamping, signing, stamping, copying! Then Alberto took us to the Health Department, then Central Services to visit immigration and the Port Captain. Our only involvement was to pay a fee to leave Mexico, 480 pesos. Alberto said “bap, bap, bap, we do it, just like that!” Later in the day we traveled to the Banjerito with Alberto to cancel the TIP (Temporary Import Permit) for the boat. We were extremely appreciative of their services. We can’t imagine figuring out all the paperwork and location of the offices on our own.
We departed Ensenada at 6:00 AM, and as Rich predicted, 1-2 foot seas with a long period. Calm. We never saw more than 9 knots of wind. We crossed into the United States at 3:00 PM and checked into US CBP on ROAM App and were cleared to return to to the US. We tied up at 4:00 PM in San Diego at the Police Dock, where we started this adventure. Bitter Sweet.
Approximately 770 nautical miles and 350 gallons of fuel, eleven days (8 travel days and 3 stay days), weighed anchor twice for a total of 72 hours, one day in a marina, 12 conversations with our weather guru, Rich Cortney, 24 degree water temperature change, 34 degree air temperature change, one injury requiring first aid (you remember the anchor locker lid?), one radio contact (there was nobody out there), one major spill inside the refrigerator, one hitchhiker, three audiobooks, 11 sunrises and 10 sunsets, two people at the beginning and two people at the end.
I am an anthropomorphizer. Or so I have been told by my daughter and niece. I love our Epoch. We have worked on her insides, beautified her surfaces, and lovingly brought her back to life. We named her. She beams when we bath her! She took us to the west coast of Vancouver Island, to Alaska, she kept up with the “big kids” down the US coast to the Baja, then mainland Mexico, and brought us back safely. She is royal and she is mighty. And I thought she would be with us for all of our retirement dream, our “epoch time.” But [we] are letting her go. I am sad and I am a little mad. I will miss her.
I do not relish in the buying and selling of things as Scott does. He is euphoric with the sport of hunt and capture! This is his time. So much to plan and coordinate and talk about! He can’t wait to meet the N55 on the East Coast. He knows so much about her already; her previous care takers, her performance, her features, her travels. He corresponds with her seller who has shared so much information. Paul has been super! We had the opportunity to meet Epoch’s buyers in Seattle, Gary and Christine. They are very nice and knowledgeable and excited. They have kids. And a puppy named Ida! I think they will be awesome.
So, ahoy my Epoch N4717 See Ya! Safe travels my friend.
Ahoy N55. I look forward to meeting you. I do hope we grow like each other. My friends and family, wish me luck! New boat (to us), cruising the east coast of the US, new friends we haven’t met yet. Change… A new Adventure! We plan to cruise the east coast but will cruise home to the west coast someday. As they say, life is good now but the best is yet to come. Humm….we’ll see.
Saturday, June 1, 2019 was the day we began our Alaska bound trip! One of our dream trips, bucket list item, a promise made long, long ago. It is now December and the trip is only wonderful memories, but I thought I’d share some of our adventures, photos and the fun people we met along the way.
So here we go, welcome aboard! We departed from Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle and cruised to Drayton Harbor, Semiahmoo Marina (Blaine, WA) to visit our friends who are making a life change for the summer months (selling their 44 DeFever Aft-Cabin and purchasing land in Concrete, WA). Semiahmoo Bay is beautiful with walking trails along the bay and a spectacular Mt.Baker back drop. Marilyn and Bill Hoober (Zula and Zeek are their traveling pups) have been boating friends for a very long time and we have enjoyed both cold and warm water diving with Bill. We will miss them on the water but are excited for them and their new adventures as dirt dwellers!
We spent a couple of nights anchored on San Juan Island, Roche Harbor and Sucia Island in Echo Bay. We departed Echo Bay early in the morning. Mid-morning (I was taking a nap in the pilothouse and Scott was at the helm) Scott yelled, Ab, Ab, get up! We have someone here!! I woke quickly and looked out the pilothouse confirming that we were in the Strait of Georgia. Somehow, “we have someone here” just didn’t make sense. Scott slowed our boat down and opened the pilothouse door. A large inflatable boat with US and BC police markings came along side and asked us some questions – did we own the boat, what was our destination and how many crew were on board. Our answers must have been satisfactory or we weren’t who they were looking for so they thanked us and took off! Very strange.
We checked into Canadian Customs in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The process required we dock at the Customs Dock and call the Customs telephone number. After a 15-minute wait on the phone, they cleared us. We anchored that evening off Newcastle Island and dinghied to the Dinghy Dock Pub on Protection Island for supper and of course, cold beer. Very fun!!
From Nanaimo we continued to the upper end of the Strait of Georgia to Discovery Passage. Discovery Passage and the channels above Desolation Sound, known for their rapids, is the beginning of the wilder and less traveled wilderness of the north! We anchored in Gowlland Harbour, a large protected bay with considerable log booming activity. We planned a 12:45 pm entrance the following day into Seymore Narrows.
Seymore Narrows is the narrowest portion of Discovery Passage. Mariners are advised to navigate Seymore Narrows only at or near slack water. I read currents can run 16 knots on the flood and 14 knots on the ebb, flooding south and ebbing north. Interesting. Almost in the middle of the channel is Ripple Rock, an underwater mountain which had two peaks. It is known to cause considerable turbulence when tidal streams are running at strength. In 1958, the top portion of Ripple Rock was blown to smithereens in the biggest non-atomic explosion of that time. The explosion is still considered a major feat of engineering.
We continued on to Johnstone Strait. Johnstone Strait extends 54 miles and has a mean reputation for strong currents and choppy seas. And we experienced some choppy seas. We started the strait with 5 knot winds which picked up to 20 knots and some chop, so we ducked into Port Neville to anchor for the night. The following day the strait was “behaving nicely” so we cruised to Port McNeill enjoying sunshine and calm seas. Port McNeill is described as a small modern city with grocery stores, liquor store, auto parts, restaurants, banks and recycling! We were assigned a slip in the Port McNeill Municipal Harbour for a couple of days. We visited with Neil and Dianna on Plamor N50, cruisers we know in Anacortes Marina and the crews of Starina and Car’d Away.
Traveling with Plamor, we traversed the Queen Charlotte Strait and anchored in Blunden Harbour. From Blunden Harbour we rounded Cape Caution to Fury Cove. Cape Caution is known to be a fearsome barrier to exploring the remote northern areas of British Columbia and on into Southeast Alaska. In fact, we have met experienced cruisers that were resolute that this is the last time they would round Cape Caution. We had flat conditions and safely anchored in Fury Cove at the southeast entrance to Fitz Hugh Sound.
We anchored two days in Pruth Bay at the head of Kwakshua Channel. The entire area of Pruth Bay is part of the Hakai Beach Institute which is used for research – Archaeology, Ecology, First Nations Culture. In 2010 the area was a luxury fly-in fishing resort! We hiked the beaches with the Dianna and Neil and enjoyed a late afternoon happy-hour.
The north end of Fitz Hugh Sound divides into two channels. We continued to Fisher Channel which is a continuation of the “Inside Passage” route then to Lama Passage into Shearwater Resort and Marina. The day was nasty, rainy and cold and we were fortunate to get a slip in the marina. We enjoyed a happy hour with Neil and Dianna on Plamor, Park and Carol on Akeeva N50 who we also know from Anacortes, and new friends Toru and Chizuru on Chisato N40, and Larry and Monica on Gryphon N46. A Nordhavn gathering of sorts!
The following day we said our good byes to Plamor and headed to Rescue Bay via Mathieson Channel. We saw lots of whales and tried to get photos, Scott yelling “Get the tail. Get the tail!”
A note about “Get the Tail!” I have read that humpback whales are known for their aerobatics. They may grow 50 feet in length and reach 45 tons. Humpback whales cruise at 5 knots, but are capable of 10 knots. Faster than Epoch! When sounding (diving), it raises its tail flukes high. Once you see the tail, the whale will be under the water for a time. So the tail sight is usually the last of the whale sighting. Until next time!
It was a sunny day in Rescue Bay and we were visited by Gryphon crew and Chisato crew on kayaks.
It is around the 21st of June, the sun is rising at 4:15 am. Sunset is after 10 pm so we had plenty of daylight cruising. We weighed anchor early and set out to Klutz Inlet on the east side of Graham Reach. We took Finlayson Channel to Klutz Inlet. Klutz Inlet has very steep rocky walls, snowcapped mountains and waterfalls. Gryphon and Chisato where also anchored in the inlet near the waterfall. We put a crab pot down at the suggestion of Gryphon as they found the spot to be a good place for crabbing. Later in the evening a sailboat entered the bay and decided to anchor between Epoch and Gryphon, a little close we thought. First the gal on board tossed the anchor over the bow. The anchor didn’t grab. Then the man on the sailboat pulled up the anchor and saw the anchor rope tangled. He tossed the anchor over in frustration and went inside the cabin. The following morning (we slept with one eye open in case they drifted) we had a giggle. As Gryphon weighed their anchor, the sailboat began moving closer and closer to Gryphon. The man on the sailboat came out and tried to hold his sailboat off Gryphon. He was in his skivvies! I clicked a photo or two. The name of the sailboat was Dazed and Confused. And indeed they were!
Our cruise up Grenville Channel, part of the main Inner Passage route leading north to Alaska was spectacular. The channel is very narrow at one point, only 0.2 miles wide. The channel is deep with steep mountainous sides. We encountered white sided porpoises swimming on the bow. For dinner we ate our fresh crab caught in Klutz Inlet!
The following day we entered Chatham Sound to East Dixon Entrance and ALASKA! It was in East Dixon Entrance Scott began his “Rig for Sea ” command when the sea state became unsettling. The Dixon Entrance is the second of the two main bodies of open water to be crossed on the Inside Passage and can develop nasty chop or breaking waves. When we “rig for sea,” I pad the cabinets with towels and empty cardboard egg cartons, secure the coffee maker, install the refrigerator rails, lock cabinets, freezers and lay the rocking chair over. This is when I remember the saying – The difference between adventure and adversity is Attitude! Right? We anchored in Foggy Bay for the night after traveling 78 n.m. We were looking forward to a couple of days rest once we got to Ketchikan. Our clearance into Alaska from BC was performed by Roam App.
Tongass Narrows is the transition from crossing Dixon Entrance to arrival in Ketchikan. As we got closer to the city, changes from remote and unspoiled to civilization began to appear. When we arrived, 5 cruise ships were moored in Ketchikan. Cruise ships are an imposing sight, towering 10 stories high and dwarfing the city. The cruise ships can carry 2000 passengers each. You do the math, that’s a lot of people! We were assigned a slip in Bar Harbor South, not too far from town. We stayed 3 nights, visiting the town in the afternoons, after the cruise ships departed. We enjoyed exploring town, shopping for t-shirts, and visiting with the locals. We also made a trip to Safeway to stock up on produce and liquor store for beer.
From Ketchikan we crossed Clarence Strait into Kassan Bay, a very small village on the east side of Prince of Wales Island. I read that the Kassan village had a cannery and some boom and bust periods with a population of 500 when the cannery was operating years ago. We tied up to a Public Dock and headed up to investigate how to pay for the moorage. Here we were, back to remoteness. We finally located someone who told us moorage was free and to be sure to visit the longhouse and cemetery along the boardwalk. We walked the boardwalk, past the Trail Café, open only on Friday and Saturday, to the long house, totem poles and the cemetery. The first tribal Chief of Kassan, Chief Sonihut is buried in the cemetery. Returning to the boat, a man sitting on his front porch yelled a greeting to us. We stopped and chatted for a time. “Skip” built his home many years ago, by hand, out of materials he brought by boat to Kaasan. His little home was decorated with crabbing buoys and driftwood he found on the beach. He invited us in, insisted we listen to his Bose Speakers, and gave us a tour of his garden. He had “wacky plants” growing in his garden along with tomatoes, lettuce, squash, beans. Skip was certainly living off the grid, but looked forward to the infrequent visitors he encountered. Thank you Skip for your hospitality!
We anchored a couple nights before heading to Wrangell. In Wrangell we were assigned a slip in Heritage Harbor. Wrangell has the feel of the Alaska Frontier. The dock hand at Heritage Harbor, a young man, was very helpful and provided suggestions for taverns and food. Fewer cruise ships call at Wrangell and compared to Ketchikan, the town appeared more laid-back and less commercialized. We quickly learned that Wrangell is known for its 4th of July celebrations so we decided to stay a few days and enjoy the celebrations.
We signed up for a jetboat tour on the Stikine River. The Stikine River has its source in a small lake in BC and is about 200 miles long and flows through glaciers and gorges. During our adventure in the jetboat we saw so many eagles and got close up to a glacier but the bergs were more interesting to me with their beautiful turquoise coloring.
The 4th of July activities were quite interesting. A greased pole contest, lumberjack contest, axe throwing. In between contests Scott and I would walk to the Elks Lodge for Moose Drool! Like I mentioned, Wrangell has the feel of the Alaska Frontier! We spent time with Toru and Chizuru on Chisato, Monica and Larry on Gryphon and our new friend Frank on IslandGreeter.
From Wrangell north to Petersburg, our next destination, we traveled the Wrangell Narrows, 21 miles in length. Essentially all water traffic (ferries, cruise ships, barges, commercial and recreational boats) must pass through the Wrangell Narrows which connects the lower and upper portions of Southeast Alaska. Wrangell Narrows reportedly has the highest concentration of navigational aids in the world with 67 lights and buoys. The passage is jokingly referred to as Christmas Tree Lane for its red and green blinking lights.
Petersburg is famous for its Norwegian heritage. Also known as the halibut capital of Alaska. Its economy depends on its fishing fleet and seafood processing plants. In the marina, we were surrounded by fishing vessels. The town is quaint and we spent two nights enjoying the company of Jan and Tom on their Defever Sunchaser and Darlene and Jeff Gidley on their Krogen 44 Mana Kai.
From Petersburg we cruised Clarence Strait. We were enjoying the long days, beginning the day at 5:00 am, docking at Thorne Bay by 7:30 pm. Still day light! We read that the city of Thorne Bay was once the largest logging camp in the US and used by cruising boats as a communication and supply center along this part of the Inside Passage. Fun and maybe supper in town! So we tied up to the dock and started the short walk into ‘town’. We were greeted by the Liquor Store owner who barked “You are late!” And I guess we were. The town was closed up tight! Supper on the boat.
From Clarence Strait we decided to circumnavigate Revillagigedo Island via Behm Canal. Behm Canal was magnificent! Remote wilderness, hemlock, spruce and cedar growth on vertical granite slopes. Waterfalls and wildlife! So many whales! We anchored one night in Saks Cove, another night in Manzanita Bay. Both anchorages in the Misty Fiords National Monument. Just beautiful scenery! We explored Rudyerd Bay, Punchbowl Cove. Amazing steep gorges!
We spent two nights in Prince Rupert located on Kaien Island. Prince Rupert is the first port of entry from Alaska into Canada. We enjoyed some shopping and the Wheelhouse Brewery.
We cruised the 45-mile Grenville Channel. Grenville Channel, similar to Behm Canal has steep, granite mountains, snow-covered peaks and waterfalls that tumble thousands of feet. We anchored in Baker Inlet. To enter Baker Inlet, a large, sheltered anchorage, we needed to travel Watts Narrows. Watts Narrows is reportedly 200 feet wide and surround by overhanging trees which restrict maneuvering room. The cruise manual said the tidal streams can be turbulent and suggested boats wait for slack water. Our afternoon navigation through the narrows was uneventful but we thought very beautiful! The next morning, we were fogged in. The sun came out and finally at 9:00 am we weighed anchor and began our ‘adventure’ though Watts Narrows. Scott had me on the bow with the video camera. Gosh, I thought, now the water is running scary fast and boiling and ……here I am on the bow videoing the whole journey! When we successfully maneuvered the narrows, I came back into the pilothouse. Scott said “that was scary!” What an understatement and for Scott to think scary! Yikes!
We traveled Grenville Channel, Wright Sound, McKay Reach, Ursula Channel to Bishop Bay and the Hot Springs! Air temperature 71 degrees F, porpoises, whales. Around 8 pm we tied to a buoy in 100 feet of water and ate a late dinner. The following morning we dinghied to the hot tub, hiked around some and relaxed in the tubs.
We traveled Fraser Reach and Graham Reach and saw so many whales. We continued to Finlayson Channel, Oscar Passage, Mathieson Channel and hit huge seas coming around Ivory Island.
We continued to Seaforth Channel and into Shearwater Marina where we provisioned, recycled, disposed of garbage, and Scott changed the oil in the lugger. Scott invited most of the dock over for cocktails and we met Bob and Maria on their Seahorse Pilot Trawler, XTRA Tuff.
We traveled with Bob and Maria the following day to Fury Bay, then weighed anchor the following morning very early to get around Cape Scott. We were heading to the west coast of Vancouver Island, Bob and Maria were planning to cruise the Queen Charlotte Strait, the more traditional passage. The seas were so calm, we could clearly see Cape Scott this time; last time it was so foggy. Since the seas were calm, we headed around Brooks Peninsula to Columbia Cove and anchored for the night. This was our longest day of travel, 111 n.m., 16.5 hours.
Our next stop was Tahsis, Westview Marina. We spent two nights, caught up on laundry and talked with John Falavolito, the marina owner. We stayed at Westview Marina last summer and used a photo of our boat docked at the marina for our Christmas card. John thought the photo grand!
We anchored at Hot Springs, then cruised to Bamfield for a night. The boardwalk in Bamfield is always delightful. We also stopped in Port Renfew for a night before heading to Victoria.
We had an easy cruise to Victoria. We spent two nights taking in the sights and celebrating my birthday. We visited with Mike and Jenna on R Lil’ Ship, N40.
We were back in Anacortes on July 29, in time to visit with my sister Julie from Athens, Ohio who was visiting her daughter Molly in Seattle.
Thanks Scott for a super, awesome, spectacular trip! You are “Captain Extraordinaire!” Or as my brother Joe would say – a very excellent driver!
Our cruise from Magdalena Bay to San Jose del Cabo, Puerto Los Cabos was another overnight cruise down the last part of the Baja. We traveled with four of our Taco Runners, Igloo, Audrea May, Red Rover, Partida and Pairadice, a Selene MV we met in Magdalena Bay. Our entry to San Jose del Cabo was spectacular! Kevin, on Red Rover tossed his drone up and took a video of the group in formation! Although in the video we don’t appear very close together, on the water I thought we were very close (I could see the whites of Alison’s eyes at the helm of Red Rover!) We all radio communicated abort plans if something went amiss. Epoch was to peel off to port. To see the photo, take a look at comeonrover.com
Our stay in Puerto Los Cabos was shorter than planned because of a storm predicted to be coming from the south. Partida left for La Cruz the day after we arrived. We left with Red Rover for Puerto Vallarta two days later. Our visit to Puerto Los Cabos was enjoyable, our last weekend with Igloo and Audrea May for a while. We will truly miss Shannon, Jeff, Alec and Lisa!
We all went to Flora Farms one evening. Flora Farms is a 25-acre organic working farm in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains. The location was beautiful and the farm was beautiful! Flora Farms has a Field Kitchen, Farm Bar, Grocery, and Culinary Cottages & The Haylofts which are hand-built straw-bale luxury homes for the culinary-inclined. Our cocktails and dinner were spectacular. We would have liked to tour the luxury homes, but our time that evening was limited.
Sunday was football day! The Seahawks (for Alison and Kevin), the Steelers (for Jeff and Shannon) and the Browns (for me, of course). We traveled to a Sports bar in District X by Uber and gosh, didn’t they have a television for each of the games! Pick your team! We had hot wings and sliders, the all-American Football tailgate stuff!! Yum!
The marina had about 240 slips. They offered a water-taxi to get around the marina which you contacted by VHS radio. Scott and I had a laugh one afternoon when we requested a water taxi to get to the Marina Office. As we traveled in the taxi to the office, there in the water, sunning itself, was a barracuda. The taxi operator gaffed the barracuda in route to the office, yelling Ceviche! Ceviche! He was quite pleased with his catch!
So, about 850 Baja nautical miles! Well done Taco Runners! It was a blast!!
Ensenada at the head of Bahia de Todos Santos is a Port of
Entry into Mexican waters and is about 65 n.m. from San Diego. Marina Coral
greeted the Taco Runners with a banner and provided convenient International
Arrival or Entrada Internacional at a small location near the marina. They presented a streamlined clearance process
where all the representatives from all the required port authorities come together
(Centro Integral de Servicios). The Taco Runners gathered at 9 am to
apply and pay for visas, arrival and exit paperwork and Pasaporte de la
Conservacion (Conservation Passport), all mandatory for entry. We were unfamiliar with the Conservation
Passports. Further explanation told us there are 182 protected biosphere
reserve areas on Baja California that the Conservation Passport allows access
to. All visitors who are in these areas
for any recreational activities are required to have the passports. We were
also told the passports can be difficult to obtain unless you are at a Port of
Entry so we purchased extras in case we have visitors on board. Just a few more
Marina Coral is about 2.5 miles NW of Ensenada harbor. The slip in Marina Coral gave us access to the resort swimming pools and hot tub. Although we did not take advantage of these niceties, we did visit the ATMs to stock up on pesos. We stayed two nights in Marina Coral and then moved to Cruiseport Village Marina inside the Ensenada harbor and adjacent to the cruise ship docks. Cruiseport Marina was closer to the downtown area and stores. We needed some major provisioning, so we Ubered to the Walmart Superstore with Alison and Kevin on Red Rover. We knew this would be the last port we would be visiting for nineteen days. We needed to stock up on BEER and a few other items. We estimated our probable beer (and visitors) consumption and calculated we would need four 30-packs or ten 12-packs to make sure we would not run low. We purchased milk, cheeses, lunch meats, fruits, vegetables and a few other items. We also bought Pepsi Cola, candy and Lucky Strikes. Why? We heard that these items could be traded for services in the small villages. Scott proudly held up his 10 packs of Lucky Strikes and proclaimed “This is the first time I have ever bought cigarettes!” Our Uber driver helped us load all the groceries (and beer) into the trunk of a Kia! The poor Kia was almost dragging bottom back to the marina!
We spent an afternoon with Alison and Kevin on Red Rover
on the boardwalk. Many little shops
selling handmade trinkets, outdoor restaurants, produce and fish stands. Alison was a great guide taking us to Lily’s
Tacos for lunch where we ate “the best fish tacos in Ensenada” and sampled
toppings ranging from hot to killer hot! We went to Mexico’s oldest cantina
called Hussong’s and had a cold cerveza.
Vince and Linda on Last Arrow organized an adventure to a local boutique winery called Misiones de California Vinicola. We enjoyed a lesson on wine tasting and a 6-course gourmet meal served family style including oxtail sopecitos, asparagus cream with jamon crackling, grilled octopus with new potatoes con chili olive oil infused, fish tiradito, New York steak with demiglass sauce and potatoes, fish of the day with herbs and risotto, and sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream. Vince hired a van and car for transport to the winery. We all dressed in our “Liveaboard best” and had an awesome time!
We departed Ensenada in the afternoon of November 1st for an overnight run to Bahia San Quintin. Adios Ensenada, we will be back!