Two Bits Cruise from Boston Harbor to Adams Creek, NC

Hi all,  Welcome to our blog.

Barb & Dave

September 16, 2015 Boston & Gloucester, MA

We had uneventful flights (a good thing) aboard USAir.  Then we got to Boston.  Getting out of downtown was a nightmare.   Road signage is poor and directions from Google Maps was wrong.  Got on the wrong exit ramp and wound up going through a toll tunnel we didn’t want.  Half hour later got back to the airport and started again.  Did I tell you I hate Boston.  So we finally left Boston and traveled to Gloucester for a four night stay so Barb can get her full of lobster.   Okay we arrived at Bass Rocks, checked in and headed for a ‘lobsta’ dinner.   We had mussels and ‘lobstas’.  The last time we stayed at Bass Rocks Inn was over 30 years ago.  The place hasn’t changed very much.  Ocean is still there as are the rocks.

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Bass Rocks Inn

September 17

This was a spectacular day.  The weather was perfect.  We headed to Rockport Ma which is 5 miles north of Gloucester.  Quaint town with an interesting waterfront.  Lots of shops.  Barb wanted lobsta for lunch.  So we parked the cah and explored.

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Barb brought her own claw cracker and small lobsta fahk.  I just go with the flow and drink beeah.  [Got to love the MA. accents.]  For dinner we went to Lobsta Land (real name) for guess what?  Your right – lobsta.  We also had chowdah and more beeah.  Tomorrow is whale watching.

September 18th       Admiral there be whales here!

We had a great day.  The weather was perfect, seas calm and we got to see lots of Humpback whales.  Our vessel got within 10-15 feet of two that were logging (whale speak for sleeping).  When they woke they got quite active,  rolling on their side and then waving at us with their fins.  Quite an experience.

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After a wonderful dinner (of guess what?) we got to see a beautiful sunset.P1010527

September 19th    Played Tourist

We played tourist today and went to several museums and the John Hammond Castle.  Hammond was one of America’s greatest inventors, second only to Edison in number of patents.  For Lunch we headed to Rockport for you know what by now (2 1/2 pounders).  I sure hope the Lobsta industry recovers when Barb leaves.  Tomorrow we head to Boston and the boat.  Did I mention I hate Boston.  But now we are heading out for dinner.  Maybe Wendy’s — maybe not.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Day 1 of cruise.  Last night we got a call from Captain Bob that due to a nor’easter coming Monday, we could either leave Sunday or wait until Wednesday as the forecast was for 20+ knot winds, gusting to 30, and 4-6ft seas, with wind and waves in your face.  Not fun.  We elected to leave today.  We left at 12:05pm aboard the Miami Mermaid from Winthrop, Mass.

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LESSON NO. 1:  Plan, but be ready to adapt.

We headed for Cape Cod Canal to ensure we beat the nor’easter.  We passed the Boston Lighthouse, which is the first lighthouse in America, and the only one manned by the US Coast Guard.    P1010551

Along the way we practiced docking.  Per Dave, Barb was superb.  It’s easier docking a single screw trawler than our own twin outboard engine boat.  The goal was to make it through the Cape Cod Canal today, but because the tide was coming out (ebbing) it would have added too much time to the trip and it would have been about 9pm when we got through.  So, we entered the canal and docked in the Harbor of Refuge on the eastern edge of the Canal.

Monday September 21, 2015       Cape Cod Canal to Westport Harbor

Last night’s dinner was broiled salmon, green beans and butternut squash–fabulous!P1010575

We began our trip thru Cape Cod Canal at slack tide about 11am.  Winds continued from NE.  We travelled down the Canal, which took about 1 hr.  Following seas were 2-4′ making the passage comfortable.  We didn’t pass anyone in the Canal.  At the end of the Canal is a RR lift bridge.

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Things changed once we entered Buzzards Bay.  Winds increased to 20-25 mph, and seas 4-6′.  But the Miami Mermaid did a great job getting us thru.  Thank God for automatic pilot.  We originally thought we’d make Newport, RI, but decided to stop early at Westport Harbor.  NE winds will continue tomorrow, and our goal is to reach Narraganset Bay/Watch Hill, CT.  We tied up to a mooring in a calm cove.  Using a mooring is a first for us.  Just pull up the line and attach to your boat’s cleat.  Then cocktail hour begins.

September 22, 2015  Westport Harbor, MA to Watch Hill, RI

We left Westport 9am.  Last night temp was 50 degrees.  Tide was low when we left and there was a mud flat right beside us, but luckily we were afloat.  This is a very rocky coastline and extremely important to pay attention to the markers.  For example, here’s the edge of the channel:

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Considered going to Block Island, but NE winds, high seas, and “usually foggy conditions” deterred us.  So we set sail for Watch Hill in Little Naragansett Bay.  This morning, water relatively calm, 1-2′, maybe 70 deg., overcast.  Basically, we sailed point to point along the coastline, with some beautiful lighthouses.

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Still have following seas, increasing to 2-3′ with rogue waves of 4-6′ by 10:30am, and then increasing rogues to 6-8′ by 12 noon with 3 second periods.  We kept bobbing and zigzagging along.  Then by 1:30pm, seas calmed some and blue skies came out.  Pulled into Watch Hill, RI about 3:30pm.  Took dinghy into town and found most everything closed on Tuesday.

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However, it felt good putting our feet on land for an hour.

September 23, 2015  Watch Hill, RI to Charles Island, CT

We went 52 miles in 6.4 hours today.  Judi, this was your kind of day — very, very calm seas (1′ or less) and blue skies.  Upon waking up this morning, we were fogged in completely, but by 9:20 we were able to leave with good visibility.  But, before going too far, we need to show you last night’s sunset.

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We’re going thru Long Island Sound today,  It’s 18 mi. at its widest point.  Houses are packed along the CT coastline, and there appears to be a sandy beach along most of the coastline.  Some houses are small, some not so small.

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We’ve gone thru dozens of large balls of bait fish, which we really need in Adams Creek this year.  Generally, throughout our trip, we see less than a dozen boats per day, which is amazing when you think about how far we’ve travelled.  We saw a really different lighthouse. (June you would like the lighthouses as there are dozens and dozens).

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We passed a group of 25 islands along the CT coast called the Thimbles, created 10,000 yrs ago by glacial action, which has 100’s of pink granite rock formations located off of Stony Creek.  Captain Kidd used to hide his ships among the rocky cliffs.  We passed many wood stakes with red or white fabric tied to top, usually in groups of 2-4 sticks, and we found out they are oyster beds leased by the State of CT.  Also, on Charles Island, the State has leased clam beds denoted by little signs on the beach.  We’ve anchored behind Charles Island.

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Supposedly, Captain Kidd buried treasured on this island.  People have tried to get the City to give them the right to sonar the bay for the treasure, but so far no rights granted.  This was a truly great day to travel compared to the past few days.  Tomorrow we head to City Island in the Big Apple.

Thursday, September 24, 2015  Charles Island, CT west to City Island, NY

Today we travelled 42 miles in 5.5 hours.  We left Charles Island at 8:05am, blue skies (but not NC blue), light seas 1-2′, few white caps, following seas.  Temps are low 70s, last night 50+.  The oystermen mark their territories with white flags on sticks, which are very difficult to pick up when sailing into the sun.

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The oyster dredging boats look like NC’s small trawlers with a working davit arm that pulls up an oyster dredge that is a large metal box that scrapes across the oyster beds, and is dumped on a sorting table.

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We continue down Long Island Sound.  Homes continue to fill the shoreline of CT, but there are far less homes spread much further apart on the Long Island shoreline.  We spent a lot of time today during the trip determining how we were going to get through the East River tomorrow.  Going westbound, we need to catch the tide at the right time to carry us through.  The current in East River can be up to 5 knots.  It floods the opposite direction from Long Island Sound.  Since the Miami Mermaid makes 8 knots, if we caught it at the wrong time we’d only be making 3 knots.  Dave determined the high tide tomorrow at Throngs Neck Bridge will be at 9:20am, and we need to be there 1 hr. ahead.  Since we’re anchored 3 miles from the Bridge, we’ll plan to leave at 8am tomorrow morning.  It was amazing to see the skyline as we were approaching NYC.

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We’re anchored at City Island tonight.  City Island was originally a Dutch settlement in 1600s, sold to Pell 1655, and was sold to Benjamin Palmer (developer) in 1749.  Palmer’s plan was to develop the island to rival NYC as a world trade center.  While the trade hub did not materialize, a major nautical center did and it remains so today with shops to support boaters.  City Island actually produced 7 Americas Cup winning yachts.  Meals have been very good, but Captain Bob made us an outstanding lunch today — hot pastrami sandwiches with mustard and kosher dill pickles.  Thank heavens there is no scale on this boat.  We anchored on the N side of Minneford Marina, and we walked the quaint town with shops and eateries, dominated by restaurants.  Guess what Barb is thinking about for dinner.

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Actually, Captain Bob has made a great dinner and it’s waiting on board.  It’s been a great day.

Friday, September 25, 2015    City Island, NY to Sandy Hook, NJ thru NYC Harbor

Today we traveled 37 miles in 4.25 hrs running time, but we had a 2-1/2 hr. delay.  More on this later.

City Island, where we anchored last night, is across from Hart Island.  This island has an interesting history.  It was a prison during the Civil War, psychiatric center, TB hospital, boys’ reformatory, and now a Potter’s Field for NYC.  From our boat, we could see the gravestones.  We also learned it has defunct Ajax missile silos.

We start the day with a beautiful sunrise.

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What’s the old saying?  Red skies in morning, sailors’ take warning; red skies at night, sailors’ delight.  A hint of what’s to come.  We left on time at 8:10 am and soon passed under the Throgs Neck Bridge, which is the entrance to the East River through NYC.

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The NYC skyline is straight ahead.  We see a plane taking off from LaGuardia Field to our left, pass Rikers Island, and pass through Hell Gate Fixed Bridge.

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When we got to the N end of Roosevelt Island, which is the division point of the East River into east and west channels,

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the Coast Guard Auxiliary told us the west channel (where we planned to go) was closed due to the Pope speaking at the United Nations, but that the east channel was open all the way and the two channels would meet on the other end of Roosevelt Island.  So we proceed down the east channel. Captain Bob had Dave extensively research the tides and currents yesterday, and we’re right on schedule to catch the ebbing tide.   The Miami Mermaid broke its all-time speed record and hit 14 mph.  Captain Bob was ecstatic!  Then, 2 security boats stopped us because the Pope was speaking at the United Nations Building and they closed both the east and west channels of the East River.

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This was at 9:30am, and the Coast Guard was manning a 50 caliber, with hand on the trigger, told us the River was closed until the Pope was finished, maybe 11:30-12:00 noon.   So, because we’re drifting fast and trailing a dinghy, we needed to get the dinghy behind the boat before we returned to an anchorage area.  But it’s taking some time.  The Coast Guard says, “you need to get underway” (keep in mind we’re drifting down river very fast), and Captain Bob keeps working on the dinghy, then the Coast Guard says “I can’t let you go under that bridge”, and we continue to drift perilously close until Captain Bob gets the dinghy turned in the right direction and we begin going back upstream.  We anchored, and for the next 2-1/2 hrs we have an electrical class and a chart reading and reference guide class.  At 12 noon, the Coast Guard announces the east side of Roosevelt Island is open to traffic.   Within 5 minutes, the anchor is up and we’re underway.  The tide is still working with us.  We pass the United Nations building.

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To our friends in NC, this sign was directly opposite the UN building.

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as New Bern is the home of Pepsi Cola.  Following are skylines of NYC:

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This is the Brooklyn Bridge with One World Trade Center in the background.

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Another skyline with tour boat.  Note the State Island Ferry loaded with passengers:

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Ellis Island:

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Approaching the Statue of Liberty:

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Our symbol of freedom:

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and it’s our cruise, and we’re driving by — how awesome!

We leave New York through the Verrazano Narrows Bridge heading for Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

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with the New York City skyline in the distance.  And the first lighthouse one sees either entering or leaving NYC is

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When we passed through this bridge, we hit 4+ foot waves, 20 knot east winds (gusting to 25) (in our face), hitting waves head on, and getting the spray in our face.   What a great day this has been!

Saturday, September 26, 2015 Sandy Hook, NJ and Manasquan River, NJ

We travelled 28 miles in 3-3/4 hours to Manasquan Inlet and a total of 42 miles in 6 hours to Toms River.

Sandy Hook is a 9 mi. barrier peninsula.  Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest working lighthouse in the country (no picture, too rough).  There’s an active Coast Guard complex here, and Naval Weapons Station Erle.

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The generator stopped working last night; it stopped pumping water.  Captain Bob inspected impeller, which looked good, so he reinstalled it, tested, but still not pumping water.  He blew through the lines thinking the intake was clogged, tested, no water.  He replaced the impeller, then removed hose coming from impeller, reached in with needle-nose pliers and pulled out a piece of an old impeller.  He put it all back together and voila, success!  It was 9pm, he made an Asian chicken dish with pasta and we all went to bed.’about 30 miles and it is going to be very rough.  NOAA reported 6-9′ waves.  We were hoping they wouldn’t be much worse than yesterdays at 3-4′, 1-2 second period.  And we know the East wind is the worst for us — projected 20 knots with gusts to 25 knots.

On Saturday morning, we decided to go.  You’ve got to go out in the Ocean in order to get to the inland waterway in New Jersey.  The alternative was to stay at Sandy Hook for a week, which we weren’t going to do.

Captain Bob took the wheel today getting us out into the Ocean from behind Sandy Hook.  It was rough, windy, 3-4′ seas, head on.  Shortly thereafter, we were plowing through the waves, and taking waves (more than a spray) in our face on the flying bridge.

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We proceeded on.  Captain Bob took a break after that and Barb took the wheel for the next 3+ hours until we got to Manasquan River, NJ.

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The waves soon went from 3-4, 4-5, 5-6, and then we saw 6-9′.  Winds were East so we were hitting them abeam, which was slightly less severe then taking them at 45 degrees which took us further from shore.  Barb was doing ok, Captain Bob called his sister Linda every 30 minutes and gave her our longitude and latitude, speed, and destination.  This became very serious , very quickly. Thank you Linda for having our backs today.  We have no pictures until we got to the inlet.   It was just too rough.  The Miami Mermaid kept chugging at 8 knots, and the dinghy towed behind (named, “My Ding-a-Ling) performed admirably.  Barb drove for 3.5 hours. Dave handled all the navigation and made sure Barb didn’t fall.  Captain Bob took over and brought us into the inlet.  It was exceptionally, exceptionally, exceptionally rough with breaking waves approaching 8-10′.  It seemed like an eternity getting through the inlet.

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When we finally got through, over 15 people were lined up along the inlet waving and clapping at our success. One of the first buildings we see coming into the inlet is aptly named Shipwreck Point.

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If this particular experience was ever on Barb and Dave’s bucket list (which I’m not sure it was), we can definitely say:  Been there, done that, never want to do that again!!!  We travelled up the Manasquan River, which is Mile 0 of the Intracoastal Waterway, got fuel and water, and headed south until we entered Toms River around Mile 15.  We arrived at free dockage in Toms River at Island Heights, a picturesque waterfront community with Victorian homes that have been restored.

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The Miami Mermaid came through unscathed, although the interior contents were tossed about.

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Today we learned 3 things:  (1)  Barb and Dave can handle big seas; (2) the Miami Mermaid can handle big seas; and (3) we never, ever want to do this again!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2015   Toms River, NJ, to Atlantic City, NJ

We travelled 47 miles in 6-1/4 hours.  Because of the continuing off-shore big seas, we elected to travel the Intracoastal Waterway from Toms River to Cape May, NJ with an overnight stop in Atlantic City.  Our first good omen when we headed down the ICWW was P1010888

Good Luck Point Marina.  This was certainly a more welcome site than the previous day’s  Shipwreck Point.  It has been an overcast day and the channel just snakes along the NJ coast.  There was no way we were going out in the ocean with a 6-9′ wave forecast.  The passage weaved its way along communities with house after house, built closely alongside each other, and the ICWW got very close to peoples’ homes.

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NJ uses barrels to mark No Wake Zones in front of all communities.  It would be nice to have them along the ICWW in front of our house. NJ boaters respect the no wake zones, but outside of those areas, they rarely slow down for anyone.  We are approaching Atlantic City with its assortment of tall gambling casinos/hotels, and boardwalk shops.

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and just to the right of the City are wind turbines.  They look out of place.

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Captain Bob and Captain Apprentice Dave celebrated the successful navigation to Atlantic City.

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Barb toasted too, off camera.  We all went ashore to Atlantic City and passed large commercial oyster dredgers.

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Captain Bob did laundry, and Barb and Dave.walked the boardwalk.  We started at the famous steel pier but there was no diving horse.

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Atlantic City Boardwalk is wide, clean, and full of shops, casinos, hotels, etc.  We enjoyed some hot French fries as we walked along.  We stopped at the Trump Taj Mahal, but Don wasn’t in.

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Harrah’s Casino behind our anchorage flashed messages and pictures on the entire side of their building.

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At 9pm, we began watching the Total Rare Super Blood Moon.  We watched it from start

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through 3/4s

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and then the clouds moved in and obscured it.  The camera didn’t pick it up, but we did see the earth’s shadow cast a red hue.  It was a challenging day of navigating from one ICWW marker to another, but fun to walk the boardwalk.

Monday, September 28, 2015  Atlantic City to Cape May, NJ

We travelled 46 miles today in 7 hours.  It was slow going due to community after community with no wake zones.  Today was very similar to yesterday.  The ICWW snakes around marshes, bays, alongside communities.  It was almost a replay of yesterday.  There was a slightly higher fog around the hotels and wind turbines in Atlantic City.

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Barb saw another toy that she and Dave could really enjoy, a 2 bicycle catamaran.  Dave said something about “when pigs fly”.

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We went through numerous bridges where Dave had to call ahead to get the bridge raised for us (our bridge clearance is 16′).  On two of the bridges, the bridge tender had to come from his house and walk across to raise the bridge.

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We meander through marsh areas, mud flats, and small bays.  It has its own beauty with the grasses, egrets, and wildlife.

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All along the ICWW houses are right on top of each other.

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Here’s a section of the chart that Dave is navigating us through.

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As we get closer to Cape May, the tide is approaching low tide and numerous mud flats and shoals appear right adjacent to navigation aids.

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Right alongside the channel, a guy was raking for clams.  Dave still thinks they are much easier to buy at the store.

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The tide was 1/2′ below low tide and the Miami Mermaid’s keel hit bottom 3 times between markers 386-399 (churned up black mud) even though we were in the center of the channel.  We looked forward and said if we can make it 3 more markers we’ll be in deeper water.  The Miami Mermaid kept plugging along.  We had 2 other similar instances, but made it through.  We docked right along the US Coast Guard station in Cape May.

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One of the highlights was the lowering of the flag and playing of taps at sundown.  Tomorrow our goal is to get through the Cape May Canal, go up the Delaware Bay, across the C&D canal, into the Chesapeake Bay.  It should be interesting.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015.  Cape May, NJ to Fairlee Creek off Chesapeake Bay, MD

We travelled 91 miles in 11 hours today.  We left at 5am today to make sure we caught the ebbing tide through the C&D Canal.  We came through the Cape May Canal at dark.  There was a full moon which shined on the water giving us some visibility.  Dave brought us through using charts, Navionics program on an Apple IPad, Garmin GPS, and flashlight.  Dave brought us through great.  Several fishing boats passed us and it helped us to follow the path.  We came out in the Delaware Bay.  We were expecting 5-10k winds and 1′ seas.  It was overcast but good visibility.  The Delaware Bay is 25 miles wide, at its largest.  Seas were flat.  We passed a container ship, and later passed a sailboat that left our anchorage area 2-3 hours before we did.

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We’re doing 10 mph (with the help of the rising tide and trailing wind).  We passed the Ship John Lighthouse.

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Proceeding on, we passed the Salem Nuclear Power Plant

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To our friend and neighbor Jim, have you been here?  We didn’t travel too far before

entered the C&D Canal.  P1020013

The C&D Canal is 400′ wide, 35′ deep, and 14 miles long.  During the trip, a large 130′ yacht called Plan A passed us towing a 34′ Scout with triple 300 hp Yamahas.

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There are quite a few tall (135′ clearance) bridges over the Canal, but there is a lift railroad bridge with a clearance of only 45′ in the down position.

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They were doing maintenance on the bridge and it remained in the down position.  The Miami Mermaid motored through leaving Plan A and several sailboats who had to wait over half an hour for it to raise.  There was almost no traffic in the Canal.  We passed Chesapeake City, MD and remembered a restaurant where we took Barb’s Mom and Dad years ago to have lunch on the water.

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Upon exiting the C&D Canal and entering the Chesapeake Bay, we noted a new style of lighthouse being utilized, through not very attractive.

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We noted the foliage is just beginning to change.  In another 2 or so weeks, the view will be breathtaking.

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We anchored in Fairlee Creek, just opposite Middle River in the upper Chesapeake Bay.  Tomorrow, our goal is to reach Solomons, MD.  We are keeping a watchful eye on the weather as winds and high seas are expected at the end of the week.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015.  Fairlee Creek, MD to Solomons Island, MD

We travelled 64 miles in 8.2 hours.  We left at 7:15am.  Fairlee Creek had chairs, tents, and a whole point for the public to enjoy.

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We left in rain and fog.  We proceeded slowly.  There was maybe 1/2 mi. visibility.  The fog lifted at 8am, with SW winds of 5-10k.  It was about 75 degrees.  The water was like glass. We passed thru some rain cells.  We passed a Maryland crab boat washing the pots before returning them to the Bay.

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At 9:30am we approach the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Magothy River, our old stomping grounds.  Barb’s father’s parents and brother lived in the immediate area and we kept our boats here (for 20 years).  We especially remember Baltimore Light, just north of the Magothy River.

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Sandy Point Lighthouse with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the background,

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and, of course, the Chesapeake Bay Bridges.

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South of the Bay Bridge at the entrance to Eastern Bay is Bloody Point Lighthouse.

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It is amazing for as populated as the area is, and actually for our entire trip, we have seen such a few boats, a few going north, but hardly none going south.  A car carrier, the Canadian Highway, passed us going north.

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At the entrance to the Choptank River, just south of Tilghman Island, is this “abandoned lighthouse” per the charts.  No, the Miami Mermaid did not hit it, and no, the picture taker had not had several bottles of wine.  It really is leaning.

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We approach Calvert Cliffs, which is a 30 mile stretch of fossil laden strata and beach.  In some places the land rises up 100′.  Scientists have found proof that during Miocene times (10-25 million years ago) a consideration portion of this shoreline was submerged.

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We pulled into the Patuxent River on the western shore of MD to spend the night anchored at Solomons Island.  The first settlers came to Solomons Island for tobacco, but in 1865 Isaac Solomon bought the land for oystering, and then shipbuilding and repair.  Solomons is noted for having built more of the early sail-driven oyster workboats called “Buyeyes” than anywhere else.  At Solomons Island, the Cove Point Lighthouse is the oldest working light in Maryland, and is operated by the Coast Guard.

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We entered the Patuxent River

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and found good anchorage.  We went to shore for a refill of wine and snacks, and Captain Bob went ashore for more food and provisions.  The weather forecast is turning ugly for the first time during our entire trip.  There is a cold front sitting off the coast that is going to cause gale force winds and high seas for the next several days, coupled with Hurricane Joaquin which will also adversely impact the area.  Our safety is of paramount concern and we are following the weather closely to see what we do next.

Thursday, October 1, 2015.  Still in Back Creek off Solomons Island, MD

We checked the NOAA Marine Forecast last night and this morning for the lower Chesapeake Bay, south of Solomons.  It was not a comforting forecast.  Winds 20-25kt, gusting to 30kt with 4-5′ seas.  We decided to stay anchored in this protected cove.  The forecast for the next few days is even graver with increasing seas.  We’re just taking it 1 day at a time.  After lunch, we ventured into town.  We did laundry, got more wine, and went to the Calvert Marine Museum.  This was a true gem and we would encourage anyone near this area to stop in.  It contains exhibits, displays, and aquariums highlighting maritime history, estuarine biology, and paleontology. The paleontology section explained the beginning of life on earth from 600 million years ago to the present.  Upon rounding the corner, we came face to face with Megatooth.

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Megatooth cruised the oceans from 25 million to 2 million years ago before becoming extinct.   It was the ultimate underwater super predator, the T-rex of the sea.  It reached over 50 feet in length and over 50 tons in weight.  They ate whales, dolphins, seals, fishes, sea turtles, and anything else they wanted.

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For people that know Barb, she loves crabs and tends 12 crab pots.  We enjoy steamed crabs, Maryland style, every Saturday afternoon.  Barb wants to pay a special tribute to Benjamin Lewis, for inventing the crab pot.

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The museum has the original Drum Point Lighthouse that has been lovingly restored.  The screw-pile lighthouse was built in 1883 and moved to the museum grounds in 1975.

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We took a tour through the lighthouse and it was hard to imagine that a family of 5 children lived in this structure.  In the picture, the structure just to the left of the window is the outhouse — a one-holer with the opening to the sea, the original “poop chute”.  We’re safe and hunkering down for now.

Friday, October 2, 2015 at Solomons Island, MD still.  0 miles 0 hours.

Yesterday we had our class on buying or chartering a trawler.  We continue to be anchored at Solomons Island.  The forecast is still for high winds (20-30k) and high seas (5-6′) through the weekend.  The advanced forecast shows that everything clears up Tuesday morning and right now that looks like that would be our departure time.  Our goal is to reach the Dismal Swamp in two days with a stop at Jackson Creek off the Piankatank River, just south of the Patuxent River.  We spent the first part of the day planning our course.

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We use a combination of paper charts, electronic charts through Navionics using an IPad, Waterway Guides, and Skipper Bob’s Anchorages along the ICWW.   It’s very detailed oriented, challenging and fun.  The winds and rain  continued today, and it was a raw cold day.  We couldn’t turn any heat on until after we had our engine class.  But, after that, we turned the heater on and started happy hour.  “Happy Days” to all.

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After dinner each night, we play gin rummy.  Barb is whipping Dave’s butt.  She’s up $2.71.

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Captain Bob looked outside, saw the rain stopped, got in the “Ding-a-Ling” and left.  We don’t know if Captain Bob needed a break from us or was abandoning ship, or it may be the lure of the appetizers and happy hour at the Holiday Inn.  LOL

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But we know it’s the appetizers.

Saturday, October 3, 2015  Still at Solomons Island, MD   0 miles, 0 hours

Barb is still winning in gin rummy.  She’s up $4.07.  Dave is not happy, but Barb knows she should gloat while she can.

It’s still a windy, cold, rainy, did I mention cold, day.  It was 50 degrees last night.  High today was in the low 60’s.  The weather forecast turns favorable come Tuesday, and we plan to depart to the Piankatank River then.  Our goal is to make the Dismal Swamp in 2 days, and then home in 2 days, hopefully arriving Saturday afternoon.  We’ll see.  We had Saturday afternoon at the movies, watching The Holcroft Covenant with Michael Caine., an oldie that we hadn’t seen, but a goodie.  Captain Bob has over 200 movies and microwave popcorn on board.  We’ve been reading several books on board pertaining to trawlering:  Skipper Bob’s Cruising Comfortably on a Budget, and Seven Miles an Hour.  Both are enlightening about cruising the inland waterways and contain a lot of practical information for boaters.  Tomorrow the weather turns more favorable and we plan to go ashore.

Sunday and Monday, October 4-5, 2015    Still stuck in Solomons Island, MD  0 miles, 0 hours

We went ashore both days.  We had lunch at the Lighthouse Restaurant and Dock Bar on Sunday.  We had cream of crab soup laced with sherry, and Maryland crab cakes.  Soup was great and the crab cakes were good, just not as good as Barb’s (per Dave).  On Monday we hiked two miles to go to the Ruddy Duck Brewery & Grill,

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(the Ruddy Duck Restaurant in Morehead City, NC is a favorite with our friends in North Carolina)but it was closed, so we got fried chicken at KFC.  The forecast for Tuesday was favorable winds and seas, and we were anxious to get underway.  We learned from our neighbors that the water at our home (Adams Creek, NC) was flooding due to northeast winds.  The water was over our pier, and getting close to our boats.

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This caused a major rise in blood pressure and some lost sleep.  Fortunately, the water is not getting any higher and we hope the crisis has passed.  Lesson learned:  When you leave on a trip, raise your boats higher than you think the water could possibly rise.  It’s ironic or humorous that we prepared everything for a hurricane:  hurricane shutters on the windows, porch furniture in, outside furniture tied down, cars in the garage, tied the boats down, but didn’t raise the boats high enough.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015  WE ARE UNDERWAY AGAIN!  Solomons Island, MD to Jackson Creek in Piankatank River, VA

We travelled 59 miles and 7.4 hours.  We left at 7:45 a.m. in the SUN.

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We have not seen the sun for 4-1/2 days.   The winds were 10-15 with gusts to 20, waves 2-3′, growing to 3-4′ as we approached the Rappahannock and Piankatank Rivers.  But the winds were behind us and the waves were following, making for a pleasant ride.  We saw some interesting lighthouses, such as Point No Point:

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green top and red bottom.  Then Smith Point Lighthouse:

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A tug pulling a barge passed us, a container ship passed it. and a sailboat was going the opposite direction.

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We anchored in Jackson Creek about 3 miles inside the Piankatank River, VA (the next river south of Rappahannock).  It was a good day:  we were underway, the sun was shining, and our boats at home are high (or high enough) and dry.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015   Jackson Creek, VA to Dismal Swamp, VA

We travelled 58 km in 8.5 hours (we had to wait an hour for the lock to open).  We left Jackson Creek at first light.

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We were underway by 7am,.  No white caps, only 1-2′ waves, NE 10k winds at our back.  It was wonderful cruising down the Chesapeake Bay to the James River at Norfolk.  Houses have been extremely scarce on the western coastline until we reach New Point Comfort at the northern tip of Mojack Bay.  The houses are jammed close, just like NJ and Conn.  GOOD NEWS!  Bill Gamble, our neighbor, told us at 9am that the water levels were falling and our boats were safe.  The water was now 8″ below the pier.  We’re leaving the Chesapeake Bay and turn west to enter the James River heading toward Norfolk and Portsmouth.  Had we headed east, we would have passed Cape Charles (North) and Cape Henry (South) and re-entered the Atlantic Ocean.  Entering the James River, we saw 4 dolphins just off the bow, helicopters overhead, many ships and a Coast Guard cutter with a cannon on board.

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We entered Norfolk

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via the James River.  We turned into Elizabeth River and the Naval shipyards in a word are “awesome”.  It is miles of naval ships, support facilities, dry docks, commercial facilities, etc.  We’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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We pass the city of Norfolk with a cruise ship at its dock.

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The trip down Elizabeth River is picturesque with tall bridges.

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The second bridge is 145′ tall.  After passing these and leaving the Elizabeth River, we enter the ICWW.

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Along the trip toward the Dismal Swamp, Captain Bob saw a beautiful mermaid (remember, the boat is named Miami Mermaid), he wanted to go ashore, but Dave held him back.

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We reach the lock.  There is 8′ elevation.

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There are 4 schedules openings throughout the day:  8:30am, 11am, 1:30pm & 3:30pm.  We arrived at 2:30pm and anchored for an hour before opening.  This was called Deep Creek Lock.  The lock gates opened at 3:30 and we entered.  The blue heron was also waiting for the lock to open.

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Once inside the lock we tied off.

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There was a sign showing various distances to cities north and south.  Can’t believe Havelock, NC wasn’t included.  We’re shocked.

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The dock master was quite a historian with the history of the Dismal Swamp.  He was also a first rate conch player.

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The gates opened and we proceeded to an overnight anchorage 1 mile away.  We had to pass through a bridge that the lock master has to drive down and open.  He definitely gets his exercise.

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We’re docked 1 mile below the lock against a concrete seawall, within walking distance of a shopping area.  We went ashore and did some shopping at Food Lion and Captain Bob re-provisioned.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015.  Dismal Swamp, VA to Elizabeth City, NC

We travelled 35 miles in 7.5 hours with one-hour stopping time waiting for the lock to open.  We left at 7am this morning.  The canal is about 100′ wide and less when trees have fallen in.  There was a slight fog on the initial part of the journey

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It was eerie with the fog in the canal.  The reflections of the trees in the water provided a perfect path down the canal.  The Dismal Swamp has an interesting history.  In 1763 George Washington suggested draining the swamp and digging a north/south canal to connect the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and Albemarle Sound.  He formed a company with other prominent Virginians and North Carolinians.  They purchased 40,000 acres of swamp land and planned to concentrate on lumbering for shipbuilding and cedars for home shingles.  The canal is America’s oldest, continuously operated, hand-dug canal.  The venture by George Washington wasn’t successful, and eventually was donated by his heirs to create the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.  History has it that Edgar Allen Poe (from Baltimore) wrote “The Raven) from the Halfway House Hotel along this waterway.  And the route is the same followed by Jane Adams’ Floating Theatre, which inspired Edna Ferber to write “Showboat” (which we saw at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC years ago).  Dave is driving as we pass a work barge blocking half the channel.  We pass within several feet of each other.

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You may not be able to read this sign, but it says “Head Superintendent’s House”.

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We finally made it to North Carolina.

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Captain Bob was having a meaningful conversation with first-mate Wilma during the trip down the canal.  Wilma was not thrilled with the canal and was longing for the sunshine of Florida.

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As you can see, Wilma is decked out in her sailor’s cap, sunglasses, bikini, and permanent smile.  She’s the only member of the crew that keeps her cool.

We arrived at the end of the canal at the South Mills Bridge.  Here we encountered a small problem.  The dinghy line got wrapped around the propeller.  Captain Bob went overboard and cut away most of the line.  While performing the surgery, he ingested several mouthfuls of really dark brown and nasty looking Dismal Swamp water.  We will check on him in the morning to see if he’s moving or if he’s turned into the swamp monster.

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After freeing the prop, we entered the lock.

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Note the “wonderful clear water”.   The “green” layer on the surface was so thick it was sometimes difficult to determine the water from the land.  We continued onto Elizabeth City, NC and docked at the free docks.  Captain Bob went overboard once again to remove the remaining pieces of line from the propeller and shaft.

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Elizabeth City is known as the Harbor of Hospitality.

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We went ashore and met a 91-year old veteran.  He served in the Navy during WWII seeing action in the Pacific and in the Atlantic and was part of the Normandy invasion on D-Day.  He was a true joy to visit with and we thanked him for his service to his country.

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He and his friends spend most days in the park welcoming visitors and sharing stories (and yes, the one friend has a monkey on a leash).  The three of us had dinner ashore for the first time since we started our cruise over 3 weeks ago.  Tomorrow we head to Belhaven, which will be our last night on board.  Our goal is to arrive home on Saturday.

Friday, October 9, 2015.  Elizabeth City, NC to Belhaven, NC

In Elizabeth City last night, we learned it was the first commercial processing plant of soybeans in 1915.  And, if 5 or more transient boats dock at night (which there weren’t last night), someone brings roses, a bottle of wine and cheese as a welcoming gift, hence the title Harbor of Hospitality.  We got up early this morning and to our surprise Captain Bob was escorting Wilma out of his cabin.

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We travelled 77 miles in 10 hours today.  We left Elizabeth City, NC on the Pasquotank River at 7am.

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You know you’re not in the Chesapeake Bay anymore because instead of 20-45′ depth of water, in NC we now have 10-18′ depth.  The Pasquotank River has thousands and thousands of crab pots which we had to literally zig-zag our way through.  If there was a rhyme or reason or straight line in how the pots were laid out, we couldn’t find it, and this challenge continued into the Albemarle Sound, though less congested.  The issue with the crab pots went on for 2 hours.  Not a nice way to start the day.  It’s overcast with a cool breeze off the water.  The Sound is choppy, about 1′ waves.  A seagull is following right behind us over the dinghy for the longest time.  We passed something we have never seen before:  a blimp and a blimp hangar or manufacturing plant.  The building was huge; it dwarfed the surrounding trees.

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Approaching the channel to the Alligator River, green markers are now on our left.  We started out the day with the green markers to our right.  Since we are writing this at the end of the day, we can say that this change happened about 2 more times today.  It can be a little confusing. We had to call for a bridge opening as we approached the Alligator River Swing Bridge.  It’s at least 3 miles long and only 14′ vertical clearance.  You’d think they would have raised the center span.

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The water depth is now 7-10′.  At 11:15am Dave noted we are 100 statute miles from home (2 hours by car or 1-1/2 days by an 8kt trawler), and we have travelled over 860 statute miles.  There are no homes along the Alligator River.  There was an F-18 doing high-speed turns, rolls, loops, and vertical rises and dives.  He was having a blast.  We enter the Alligator Pungo Canal at 1:05pm.  This Canal is 21 miles long.

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We exited the Canal and entered the Pungo River and the wind was howling.   Look at the bush.

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After we anchored in a sheltered cove in Pungo Creek and cleaned up the fly bridge, we came down and were surprised by Captain Bob’s graduation celebration.

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We graduated!

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Saturday, October 10, 2015  Pungo Creek near Belhaven to Adams Creek (home), NC

We travelled 46 miles in 5.25 hours.  We left at 6:10am in the dark.  There was no moon or stars.

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We didn’t see any crab pots upon entering, so we were pretty confident our way out was clear.  We used flashlights to scan the water in front of us.  Dave was using the Garmin and the Navionics’ track-back feature to identify our route out of Pungo Creek.  Once in the Pungo River, it was very easy to navigate because it was 14′ deep and very wide.  There were numerous lighted blinking markers in the River, and Dave told us the seconds between the flashes and we counted until we found the correct marker to head toward.  As it grew lighter, it was very cloudy and overcast today.  We turned into the Pamlico River for a short distance and then into Goose Creek.  There were homes on the coastline around Belhaven, and on a few of the points of land, but beyond that the NC coastline is natural.  From Goose Creek, we enter into a canal (with no name) that emptied into Bay River.

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Fishing trawlers docked at Hobucken Flex Bridge where there was an inlet leading to Pamlico Sound or further to Hatteras Inlet.

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Further along the canal we probably saw NC’s smallest ferry.  There were two three or four-seated benches on deck.

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Black clouds are forming overhead.  We hope to beat the storm.  We have 19 miles to go, which is still over 2 hours at 8kt..  We proceeded into Bay River, which is a large body of water.  Two foot waves are beginning and there is no land in sight, other than what is behind us.  We enter the Neuse River.  Home is almost within reach, but we need to stop off in Oriental for Captain Bob to pick up our relief crew, his new clients Jerry and Betty, who will be travelling with him to Miami.

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Together, we cruised across the Neuse River to Adams Creek and then to our home.  The water was still elevated about 2′, so there was no problem with water depth for Captain Bob to take us right to our pier.  However, it ‘s never that easy docking  here, especially with a strong easterly wind.  We got the bow line on, and Dave got off the boat.  But we missed the stern line, the back end of the boat swung out, and we had to release the bow line.

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Dave waves goodbye as the Miami Mermaid with Barb still aboard floats down river.  After pulling the dinghy in for better maneuverability, Captain Bob brought the boat around again, we secured the stern line this time, and Barb got off with all our luggage.  We bid farewell to Captain Bob and the Miami Mermaid, with Jerry, Betty and Wilma aboard.

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Our adventure has come to an end, except there was one more surprise.  When we walked up to the house. someone made a “Welcome Home” poster for us, including some very special pictures from our cruise.

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How special was that!  But we’re still trying to find out who did it.  If someone reading this blog did this, please call us.  We’re leaving lots of messages, so I assume we’ll eventually find out who was responsible for putting one more smile on our faces.  We thank everyone for their well wishes along our journey.  We travelled 902 miles in 21 days.  This has been an adventure of a life time.

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