Posted by: rminchin | August 14, 2018

Maine

Rocky ledges with waves crashing upon them, pine covered islands, quiet coves, eagles, ospreys, seals, loons and sharing the waterways with one-hundred-year-old schooners, lobstermen in their Downeast lobster boats; while dodging the millions of multi-colored trap floats, all while sailing in dense fog with visibilities of a couple hundred feet, is sailing the coast of Maine. With over three thousand miles of coastline and more than six thousand islands, and with anchorage names like Seal Cove, Long Cove, Winter Harbor, and The Basin you are never at a loss for a destination. One of our favorites, and it’s difficult to narrow it down to just a few, is Somes Harbor at the head of beautiful Somes Sound on Mount Desert Island. One morning while wiping dew off the boat, Kathy had a visit from a local seal that lifted several feet out of the water as if begging for food. In contrast to the busy Acadia National Park and its wonderful hiking trails many of the coastal islands of Maine are owned by, or are under the stewardship of, several conservation groups like the Maine Island Trails Association. These smaller islands provide peaceful hikes through pine, spruce, and oak forests many with a history of former habitation by fishermen and farmers and some of the first European settlers.

This year we visited some old favorites as well as trying a few new harbors. Horseshoe Cove on Cape Rosier was a delight being moored alongside a graceful yawl built in 1903. Staying on an inner harbor float in Camden watching the schooners taking passengers out for day sails and being surrounded by more gorgeous old wooden boats as the waterfall flows under the shops on Main Street down to the harbor was another highlight.

As the end of August is approaching too quickly,   we are now heading southwestward and looking forward to the month of September and spending time with our grandson, family, and friends in New Jersey before the cooler weather of October chases us southward.

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Posted by: rminchin | July 3, 2018

Stormy Petrel gets back to the cruising life

The writing of this first blog in a long time finds the crew of Stormy Petrel resting in the cabin while the gentle rain falls outside. On a free transient mooring in Port Washington NY we begin the journey to our summer of sailing the waters off the coast of Maine. Since last summer we had taken a break from sailing to welcome our new grandson, Oliver, into this world and allow his grandmother to relive the joy of watching an infant grow so quickly with every day. We also helped his Mom and Dad get ready for the new arrival by working with them to expand and remodel their home. Just before Oliver’s arrival, our son, who had been living in our house, announced he would be moving to Colorado for a new job. This left us with a house we didn’t want so that got fixed up and sold in the spring.

As is usually the case with sailing on Barnegat Bay, leaving Cedar Creek Marina yesterday afternoon we had a great sail north to exit the bay through Manasquan Inlet then on to Sandy Hook. Entering the anchorage around midnight brought back memories of a similar sail up the coast of NJ back in 1997 when our 10-year-old son was so excited to be up late helping his dad with the night time approach into Sandy Hook until he fell asleep in the cockpit with his life jacket and harness. It would be great to share some of the joy and excitement of cruising under sail with Oliver when he gets a bit older. For now we’ll settle for the frequent video calls.

 

Posted by: rminchin | April 26, 2017

The AICW Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway

We are currently heading north in South Carolina after returning to Florida by way of the Abacos in the  northern Bahamas with the iconic lighthouse at Hopetown and the little Bahama Bank. This year’s crossing of the Gulf Stream from Great Sale Cay to Ft Pierce inlet was uneventful. Anxious to be back in New Jersey, we are making fewer than usual stops along the way but still enjoying all the ICW has to offer.

The AICW or commonly referred to as just the ICW which runs from Norfolk Virginia in the North to Miami Florida in the South was an idea first discussed in the early 19th century. The benefits of a protected waterway for commerce back when most goods moved by water could be huge. As with many large government projects, the time from idea to completion can span many years until the final section, the land cut behind Myrtle Beach SC opened in 1936. The route consists of a series of canals or land cuts connecting natural rivers and sounds. With the change from manmade canal to river creates a great variety of scenery for the boater traveling the length of the waterway. With Florida’s highly populated coast you pass by huge waterfront homes and pass under many bridges, more than the entire rest of the way north to the Chesapeake Bay. North bound out of Florida there is a major change as Georgia and the southern portion of South Carolina is made up of many miles of salt marsh traversed by the deep rivers connected by shallow cuts with names like Little Mud River and Hell Gate. The many creeks winding through this area are home to some of the best anchorages and that is  good  since marinas are far apart. Due to the shape of the coastline in this area the tides are concentrated and increase from a mere 3 feet in Florida up to an amazing 9 feet in Georgia. At high tide you can see over the miles of marsh land while at low the river banks are covered with piles of oyster shells along the mud banks. As the tidal currents flow in and out they carry large amounts of nutrient rich sediment turning the water at times to a chocolate brown, quite a change from crystal clear waters of the Bahamas. Wild life abounds in this section of the waterway as dolphins swim alongside us, as eagles perch atop the tallest trees and wading birds search for food in muddy shallows. We have even seen deer and bobcats swimming across the channel. Since the original plan was for a commerce route, the waterway passes through many historic waterfront towns such as Beaufort SC and the larger cities of Charleston and Savannah. As you travel north and east of Charleston the route parallels the coast behind the beachfront homes again and the air smells like you are at the beach. The Wacamaw River of South Carolina is yet another variation as you pass through the fresh waters of this river where the banks are lined with Bald Cypress trees covered in Spanish moss and the waters are the color of root beer. The North Carolina section has great diversity of scenery, as well, with the southern portion, again a land cut paralleling the beach, as many small inlets lead to and from the Atlantic Ocean and then north of Beaufort NC the vast waters of the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds provide for wonderful sails punctuated with peaceful anchorages. Leaving North Carolina via one of two canals will get you to Mile Zero in Portsmouth VA across from Norfolk, home to the largest US Naval base.

I uploaded the rest of the pictures from the Bahamas to the 2017 Photos page check them out!

Sailing through the Sea of Abaco

 

Hopetown Lighthouse

The beach at Cumberland Island National Seashore

Shrimp Boat heading out to sea Sapelo Sound Ga.

Posted by: rminchin | March 27, 2017

George Town Exuma

Tomorrow starts our northward migration sailing back up the Exuma chain, with more snorkeling along the way, then jumping over to Eleuthera to visit the caves at Rock Sound and Hatchet Bay before heading westward toward Florida.

The past month and a half have seen us through the Exumas to George Town and also a quick trip over to Long Island. We cruised from George Town to Long Island in the company of Sandcastle and Paperbird and everyone agreed Long Island is a “gem” in these parts. The locals are friendly and relaxed. On 2 occasions, locals spent over an hour sharing their stories of life on the island. Touring the island by rental van with 6 of us on board allowed us to visit Clarence Town in the south and the Columbus Monument on the northern tip of the island with its spectacular views. The high point for Ron was the opportunity to talk with a local boat builder working on a Class A Bahamian Sloop which they will have ready in 2 weeks for the regatta – very cool!

George Town is the hub of cruising in the Bahamas with as many as 400 boats anchored here for the winter season.  When we arrived, the crowd was down to around 150 and it still seems crowded. The cruising community here runs a radio net every morning with all sorts of activities on the beaches from volleyball to classes for painting coconuts. Stocking Island that forms the Elizabeth Harbor has many trails for hiking over to Exuma Sound to watch waves crash upon the rocky shoreline as the spray flies 40 or 50 feet in the air and the salt mist blows over you while walking along the trails. Other trails take you to a beautiful beach for shelling and just enjoying a stroll along the tide line on the calmer days.

Though we will miss the clear waters of the Bahamas, it is now time to begin our slow journey back to the States. We are very excited for the arrival of our first grandchild due this September.

Monument Beach George Town

Hiking Stocking Island

Street sign in George Town

Hiking Stocking Island

 

Posted by: rminchin | March 9, 2017

Bahamas Pictures on the 2017 photos page

I just finished uploading a bunch of new pictures of the sights of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas.

Check out the 2017 Photos page!

https://cruisingstormypetrel.wordpress.com/2017-photos/

 

Hiking at Black Point

 

Posted by: rminchin | February 24, 2017

Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

Sitting on a mooring at the park headquarters at Warderick Wells, waiting out the weather, I thought I’d do a quick update. In the two weeks we have been in the Bahamas we have had several opportunities to wait out fronts with moderate winds and welcome rain showers. It seems every time we get the boat all salty, the next day it rains and gets all washed off. Between the frontal passages the weather has been perfect. This year’s Gulf Stream and Bank crossings were ideal including a night at anchor near the Northwest Shoal on the Bank with tons of stars and a full moon. As always, the Exumas don’t disappoint with the beautiful water colors for snorkeling and the wonderful opportunities for hiking along the rocky shoreline and among the ruins from a time when the Loyalists left the American Colonies and attempted to farm the rocky islands of the Bahamas. It’s unclear if it was the lack of good soil or the pirate activities in the Islands that brought an end to the farming but all that is left are piles of rocks indicating the former location of homes and rock walls.

There is a tradition on Warderick Wells at Boo Boo Hill where cruisers can leave signs with their boat names on pieces of driftwood in a large pile at the top of the hill. We hiked to the top of the hill and found Stormy Petrel’s board from the last time and brought it back to the boat and added ’17 to it and placed it back atop the pile.
This year we are again cruising in company with Tom and Sue onboard Sandcastle, a Catalina 42, and hoping to catch up with Scott and Donna onboard Saltine when they get a window to cross from Miami.

Ron and Kathy
S/V Stormy Petrel
www.cruisingstormypetrel.wordpress.com

Posted by: rminchin | February 2, 2017

Bahamas Bound

This year’s run down the ICW from New Bern seemed a little different. Maybe it was the fact that we were much later than normal since we returned to NJ for Thanksgiving and some doctors’ visits for Ron or maybe the difference is just the fact that this was our 15th trip and the sights are quite familiar. Our first night underway in December, anchored in Taylor Creek Beaufort, NC the morning temperature was 25o F as a drone watched Kathy raise the anchor. Few boats were this far north on the waterway and we had most anchorages all to ourselves and a quiet radio.

What we love to experience are the changes. Nature is ever changing with the weather, flora, fauna, and our spotting of wildlife. Over the years, we’ve watched derelict or abandoned boats slowly break apart and/or sink and have seen many changes including new bridge construction and updated town waterfronts.

Visiting friends along the way is always a high point for us and this year we added a new stop in the Wilmington NC area which led us to explore the Carolina Beach State Park Marina, a very nice park with hiking trails and a clean friendly marina.

Boat maintenance is an ongoing effort especially with the mileage we put on our 49 year old boat. As the days get longer and now being in south Florida, the project list Kathy keeps is getting smaller even with the added items for a few months of cruising the islands of the Bahamas. All the thru hull fittings, all hose clamps, the steering gear, the rig, and the engine have been inspected. The spare parts have been replenished with, hopefully, the only parts that will be needed. The varnish has a fresh coat applied and some painting has been completed. There is a saying that goes “Cruising is fixing boat parts in exotic places” and that describes us well.

So here we sit in Miami Beach, our grocery shopping is done, fuel and water tanks are full, while we wait for two fellow cruisers and a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream to Bimini and the resort of Bimini Sands to “clear in” then on to the islands of the Exuma chain for fun in the sun snorkeling and enjoying the beautiful colors that are the waters of the Bahamas.

Getting to the Islands of the Bahamas involves a 50 mile trip across the Gulf Stream current which flows northward at 3 to 4 knots. If there is a north wind blowing against the flow of the current, the waves can get quite steep and short making for an uncomfortable ride. The trip across the open ocean and the Gulf Stream gets you to the tiny 9 square mile island of Bimini. The island is known for its great fishing along the wall at the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream where the depths go abruptly from several thousand feet to the shallows. Sailors tend to use Bimini as a place to rest after what may be a rough passage and savor the wonderful colors of the water as it goes from a deep purple to turquoise to white in the shallows. The Bahamas consists of over 700 islands while most to

urists see only the resorts of Nassau or Freeport, the two largest cities, though some cruise ship lines have purchased a few smaller out islands. Most people don’t get to experience the friendly relaxed lifestyle of the out islanders. Those of us sailing on small boats can look forward to a 60 mile sail leaving Bimini in our wake and crossing the Great Bahama Bank where the depths average around 10 feet for miles as we wind our way around coral with no land in sight.  Leaving the bank we can choose to explore the Berry Islands or continue on to the Exumas, southeast of Nassau where many of the islands are part of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park and the rest are home to small settlements. Once we reach the out islands, destinations are no longer important and we begin to enjoy each day’s sail or dinghy ride, beach walk or snorkel trip with the pace that is “Island time”! This is where we plan to spend most of our time for the next few months, possibly making it to Georgetown or out to Long Island or Cat Island and maybe even looping around the Abaco chain on our way back toward the hustle of civilization on Florida’s east coast with happy memories of the quiet beauty left behind while at the same time looking forward to our own beautiful east coast and another sailing adventure north to reconnect with friends and family in New Jersey.

Christmas Morning on the Wacamaw River

Christmas Morning on the Wacamaw River

Christmas Morning in Georgetown SC

Christmas Morning in Georgetown SC

Sunrise over the South Carolina Lowcountry

Sunrise over the South Carolina Lowcountry

Heading for the beach at Peck Lake

Heading for the beach at Peck Lake

Ouch! On the beach at Peck Lake

Ouch! On the beach at Peck Lake

On the Wacamaw River

On the Wacamaw River

Posted by: rminchin | December 22, 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS

We wish everyone a peaceful and joyful 2016 Holiday Season and a healthy 2017 as we begin our sixth year of living aboard and cruising all the east coast has to offer.

We’ve been off the boat for a while. Ron had to go back to New Jersey for some doctors’ appointments; all is well now and we are back on board working our way south toward warmer climes. Being in NJ during the beginning of the holiday season we shared a fabulous Thanksgiving and many Christmas activities with our family.

Stormy Petrel waited patiently at our friends dock in Fairfield Harbor near New Bern, NC from November 2nd till December 13th. The waterway is quiet this time of year as most of the snowbirds have already reached Florida and points south. On the plus side this gives us plenty of room in the anchorages; on the down side we are using a lot of propane for our Cozy Cabin heater which does a good job of taking the chill off. Our first night out the overnight temperature dropped to 25 degrees but rose quickly as the bright Carolina sun warmed our cockpit enclosure.

Stopping at Carolina Beach we enjoyed the trails of the State Park and the wonderful company of good friends and a visit with Kathy’s cousin in Southport, NC. Making our way along the ICW behind the barrier islands of North Carolina, with views of the ocean and the surrounding marshes, we are looking forward to our next stop for a visit with friends in Charleston, SC.

Sunrise over Beaufort NC

Sunrise over Beaufort NC

Shrimping on Pamlico Sound

Shrimping on Pamlico Sound

Moon rise over Virginia Beach

Moon rise over Virginia Beach

Cypress Trees of the Aligator River

Cypress Trees of the Aligator River

Posted by: rminchin | October 19, 2016

Chesapeake Bay

Our New Jersey visit while docked at Cedar Creek Sailing Center seemed to fly by with our nephew’s wedding, hauling our boat to add more fiberglass to the quick repair we did in Lake Champlain, visits with family and friends, and the annual cruise on Lucky Charm this year cruising the western Erie Canal for five days.

Unfortunately, our plan to visit Washington D.C. by boat was cancelled due to Hurricane Matthew and our late departure. We are still hearing of closures along the ICW in North and South Carolina as those areas hardest hit by the storm quickly rebuild to be ready for the southbound migration of us cruising boats.

As I’m writing this, we are anchored in the Ware River off Mobjack Bay on Virgina’s Middle Neck in one of the multitude of peaceful, quiet anchorages for which the Chesapeake Bay is known. The largest estuary in the United States with over eleven thousand miles of shore line and one hundred and fifty rivers the Chesapeake Bay provides thousands of coves and gunkholes for enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Herons fishing along the banks, eagles and osprey soaring overhead, a cormorant flying away with its freshly caught fish breakfast are some common sights while we slowly motor out to the bay as the sun rises over the eastern horizon and the full moon sets astern. During our transit down the bay we had the opportunity to sample just a few of these wonderful stops, Worton Creek, The Rhode River, and Mill Creek off Ingram Bay near the fishing town of Reedville, Virginia.  The bay also provides you with a chance to get away from nature and visit places like Annapolis, the sailing capitol of Maryland, Baltimore, Washington D.C., one hundred and twenty miles up the Potomac River, and as you exit the Bay to the south, the bustling ports of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia. You could cruise the Chesapeake for a lifetime and not run out of places to explore and enjoy.

I have always been amazed by the size of the Chesapeake watershed. The Susquehanna River starts with the headwaters in upstate New York and flows through Pennsylvania and finally empties into the bay at Havre de Grace, Maryland. Entering the bay from the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal the waters are mostly fresh and as you travel south, the water becomes more salty, the bay gets wider and the tidal range increases as you near the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean between Cape Henry and Cape Charles on the eastern shore.

In the next day or so we’ll be leaving the bay and headed for the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and on to North Carolina and with any luck we’ll be able to take our favorite route through the Dismal Swamp Canal if the flooding from Hurricane Matthew has abated and the reported 60 downed trees removed.

 

Thomas Point Light Annapolis MD

Thomas Point Light Annapolis MD

A quiet anchorage

A quiet anchorage

Sharing the channel under the Chesapeake Bay bridge with the tug Elizabeth Ann

Sharing the channel under the Chesapeake Bay bridge with the tug Elizabeth Ann

At anchor

At anchor

Sunrise over Chesapeake Bay

Sunrise over Chesapeake Bay

Posted by: rminchin | August 17, 2016

Wrapping up our summer of Lake Champlain sailing

As I write this, we are sitting onboard Stormy Petrel hauled out and on land waiting to be put back in the water this afternoon. A few days ago while motoring up the Otter Creek to visit Vergennes VT I managed to find the only submerged rock in the creek. When you hit a rock in a sailboat going 5 knots, it stops very quickly; our cabinet door in the head opened and the sliding door slid forward a few inches. A quick check below showed no water coming in so with the help of a friendly Canadian sailor we heeled the boat over and were off the rock in no time and back underway to the town dock at the foot of the Vergennes falls. After sitting at the dock for a few days we saw a very small leak so I made the decision to haul out to see how bad it was. I found a section about 6×8 inches where the fiberglass had been damaged so I got out my grinder, epoxy resin, and fiberglass cloth and went to work. Now we are all patched up and ready to go back out to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the lake.

Lake Champlain is the valley between the Adirondack Mountains of New York and the Green Mountains of Vermont. The views as you sail up and down the lake are just magnificent. The sun rises over the Green Mountains and sets over the Adirondack Mountains and the water is clear, fresh, and a little cool. The winds seem to always be blowing gently and ideal for relaxed sailing. The anchorages all provide an opportunity to either enjoy the mountain views or get close up and enjoy the rocky cliffs of the shoreline. Lake Champlain is deep and in some spots you can sail right up to the rock cliffs and still be in 100 feet of water. Anchoring can be a challenge at times in the deep water sometimes anchoring close to shore and tying to a rock or tree. One of our favorite things about sailing in the lake is the fresh clean water is that if you get hot, and we’ve had a few 90 degree days, you just jump overboard into the 75 degree water and you are cooled off immediately. Hiking the trails of Valcour Island, biking the Burlington Bikeway to the Colchester Causeway and around Plattsburgh NY, as well as swimming almost every day has kept us active the past month and a half.

We had a nice visit with our son Scott and his friend Sara a few weeks back and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our daughter Dawn and son-in-law Juan this afternoon. They head back on the 21st and we will then begin our return trip down the Champlain Canal and the Hudson River back to New Jersey for a month or so before heading south again. We anticipate a stop in our nation’s capital in the fall.

Hiking Valcour Island

Hiking Valcour Island

Fossil in the rocks of Valcour Island

Fossil in the rocks of Valcour Island

Scott and Sara out for a row

Scott and Sara out for a row

Stormy Petrel at Otter Creek Falls

Stormy Petrel at Otter Creek Falls

Exploring Valcour Island

Exploring Valcour Island

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