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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Posted by: rminchin | July 14, 2016

Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain! How did we get here?

That’s a good question. The Erie and Champlain canals are part of the New York Canal system that covers 524 miles of inland rivers, lakes and manmade canals including parts of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers and Cayuga, Seneca, and Oneida lakes. The canal system connects the Great Lakes of Erie and Ontario with Lake Champlain and the lower Hudson allowing travel by boat from New York City to Buffalo NY and on up to Canada. The sections we traveled brought us from Albany through the first lock at Troy then turning left to the Flight of Five locks at Waterford which is the highest lift in the shortest distance of any canal. A total of 169 feet in only 1.6 miles! The canal was first opened in 1825 and then in 1918 in an attempt to compete with railroads, the canal was rebuilt wider and deeper using dams on the rivers to create pools between the locks. This is the canal that is still in use today mostly by recreational boats, like us, as well as a newly created bike path along its entire length. When the canal was first opened, many towns grew up along its banks at locks and junctions. These towns, full of historic nineteenth century buildings, offer free docking along the canal with nice parks to walk or ride along the towpath of the old original canal and wonder at the effort it took with picks and shovels to dig that first canal. The early barges that plied the canal were not very tall so the bridges crossing the canal have an average height above the water of 18 feet which is too low for our 45 foot tall mast. For sailboats to be able to travel the canal marinas near the ends have gotten good at un-stepping masts, it took only 2 hours to un-step and re-step our mast. It’s common to see sailboats with their masts supported on deck as they pass under the low bridges.

Though the canals provided us with some wonderful cruising, getting there from New Jersey was a trip of varied experiences. Starting with the coastal inland sailing of Barnegat Bay, to a spirited sail in the Atlantic Ocean, followed by the busy Port of New York dodging ferries and tugs pushing barges in all directions having AIS onboard sure helps sort out the confusion. Leaving the salt water of the ocean behind and traveling north toward the brackish water of the majestic Hudson you pass under several historic bridges, George Washington, Bear Mountain, Poughkeepsie, and the Mid-Hudson. Beyond the wide Tappan Zee the river narrows as you pass through the Highlands region with Bear Mountain and Anthony’s Nose then on to the massive stone buildings of West Point.  As the landscape becomes more gently rolling hills you pass the river towns of Kingston, Saugerties, and Catskill with their lighthouses guiding you along the way and finally, after 130 miles, to the port of Albany.

Ahead of us lies a month of exploring the many wooded anchorages and cool clear waters of Lake Champlain that we enjoyed so much back in 1997 on our family’s year trip.

Erie Canal Tug Urger

Erie Canal Tug Urger

Taking a walk around Amsterdam NY

Taking a walk around Amsterdam NY

The Five Combines Old Champlain Canal Fort Edward

The Five Combines Old Champlain Canal Fort Edward

Working our way up the Flight of Locks Waterford on the Erie Canal

Working our way up the Flight of Locks Waterford on the Erie Canal

At the wall Lock E3 Waterford

At the wall Lock E3 Waterford

Saugerties Lighthouse

Saugerties Lighthouse

Bear Mountain Bridge

Bear Mountain Bridge

Lady Liberty

Lady Liberty

Posted by: rminchin | April 22, 2016

Carolina Dreaming

From the Low Country of South Carolina to the Cypress trees of the Waccamaw, Alligator and the Pasquotank Rivers to the salt marsh of the Outer Banks and the wide open Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, sailing the Carolina coast provides the cruising boater with a wonderful variety either enjoying a peaceful ride along a narrow canal or a spirited sail across the sound.  This year’s north bound transit for Stormy Petrel saw a fair share of Gale warnings as well as days of the beautiful cloudless clear Carolina Blue sky. The beaches of Cape Lookout Bight are amazing with miles of sand dunes and the horses of Shackleford Banks to the north of the anchorage. Beaufort SC and Beaufort NC, though as different as their pronunciations, are both great stops along the way. Many of the towns of North Carolina welcome boaters with free docks, such a contrast to Florida’s attempt to ban anchoring in several popular spots. Visits with friends along the way are always a highlight of our cruising life.

As we are getting ready to leave North Carolina and head for Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay, we look forward to our return next fall.

 

 

 

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Posted by: rminchin | March 22, 2016

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, from the wilds of Cumberland Island near the Florida border to the bustling port city of Savannah, provides a wonderful experience for the cruiser traveling the ICW. With the 8 foot tides creating vast mud banks and miles of open marshland wildlife abounds. The ICW meanders it’s way behind the Golden Isles that form the Atlantic Coast of Georgia alternating between wide open Sounds and narrow shallow cuts that were dug back in the 1930’s and now make it possible to enjoy watching the many waterfowl, including the rare white pelicans, dolphins swimming along or under our bow and the occasional alligator sunning on the nearby bank. Tonight we are anchored in the Wright River planning on visiting Savannah tomorrow. This is another awesome, quiet, solitary anchorage along the salt marshes with a beautiful full moon and clear skies.

 

Cumberland Island Anchorage

Cumberland Island Anchorage

 

Wood Stork at Plum Orchard

Wood Stork at Plum Orchard

White Pelicans

White Pelicans

Georgian Alligator

Georgian Alligator

Posted by: rminchin | February 27, 2016

Starting our Northward Journey

As February comes to a close, our sailing adventures begin the northbound migration.  The past several weeks have been filled with some good sailing, though most of it close-hauled made much more enjoyable by our new genoa.

Since our last post from Lake Okeechobee, we enjoyed the sailing of Pine Island Sound and the beautiful Gulf beaches of Cayo Costa and Don Pedro State Parks before sailing down the coast to the city of Naples, an often overlooked gem as a cruising stop. Moorings at $10 a night with a 4 night limit pretty much guarantees one will be available at the city marina, a short walk to the beach and a bike ride to several good grocery stores.  Cruising often reminds us of the power of nature. Leaving Big Marco Pass on an ebb tide with 15 knots of Northwest wind and 3 to 4 foot seas, we looked out and saw only breakers all the way across the inlet. Prudence prevailed and we turned around, anchored, and waited a few hours for the current to slacken then had a safe passage into the Gulf and a great sail down the coast to Little Shark River in the heart of the Everglades arriving at midnight.

Our time in the Keys was mostly spent with the visit from our daughter and son in-law at Key West while at a marina on Stock Island where our friend Justin lives onboard his Pearson 35. Leaving the pristine waters of the Keys we spent a few days at Black Point Marina to visit with Ron’s brother and sister-in-law and helped out with a few projects and Ron got to practice his welding.

Anchored quietly enjoying the sights of Ft. Lauderdale from Lake Silvia, the location of a tornado last week that capsized two boats; we are making plans for stops along Florida’s Atlantic coast and a road trip to Pensacola to visit Kathy’s Mom and her two brothers.

Heading toward Mallory Square for the Sunset Celebration

Posted by: rminchin | January 17, 2016

Okeechobee Waterway

January 6, 2016 begins our 5th year of cruising after retirement.  Every day continues to be an adventure.  Today, we listened to tornado warnings on the radio as we battened everything down and checked both our anchors.  The storm passed uneventfully except for a sudden wind gust pulling out our 2nd anchor and causing us to swing close to shore.  We’re anchored in Lollipop Lagoon (yes, it is shaped like a lollipop) near LaBelle, Florida.  It’s about 150’ wide giving us barely enough swinging room. During the heaviest rain, we watched a manatee eating vegetation along the shoreline. Last night at dusk, we watched three groups of about 20 egrets flying just above the water in v formation searching for fish, no doubt.  What a beautiful sight. It’s so hard for me to tear my eyes away from the continuously changing views of nature each day because I don’t want to miss anything. While locking through St. Lucie, I read a “Manatee Zone” sign then looked in the water and laughed to see a manatee locking his way upstream with us.

Crossing Lake Okeechobee with our new asymmetrical spinnaker challenged us to keep it full in the choppy conditions with Ron hand steering and Kathy constantly adjusting the sheet. But, hey, at least we were sailing across the lake.  Before Lake Okeechobee we had the opportunity to visit a welding shop in Daytona after one of the mounts on our new engine managed to crack. On the bike ride to the welder we crossed a train track with a train stopped about 100 feet from the crossing.  Just as Kathy rode in front of the engine they blasted their whistle and she nearly flew off the bike and screamed almost louder than the train whistle.

In a departure from our normal “continuous cruising” routine we spent a week on a mooring in Vero “Velcro” Beach enjoying the company of our good friends Linda and Tom vacationing to escape the cold of Pittsburgh. The week was filled with beach walks, checking out the area parks, and going to a few movies. After Vero, we stopped in Stuart and had a wonderful visit with Kathy’s Aunt Barbara as well as our friends Ed and Patty.

Having a shorter mast has given us the chance to cruise a variety of inland destinations which we really enjoy. The 140 mile trip up the St. Johns River was amazing, especially stops at the springs and the crystal clear water for viewing manatee and fish swimming past the boat.  It is so cool to see a cormorant swimming under the water!

As we exit the protected waters of the Okeechobee Waterway, we are looking forward to enjoying the sights and beaches of Florida’s west coast then on to the Keys where our daughter and son-in-law will be joining us for fun in the sun!

Snowy Egret sharing our little beach

Snowy Egret sharing our little beach

Sailing with Kathy's Aunt Barbara her brother Dick and Daughter Leslie

Sailing with Kathy’s Aunt Barbara her brother Dick and Daughter Leslie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The View from our Anchorage

The View from our Anchorage

The Sugar Train waiting to cross the Caloosahatchee River in Moore Haven FL.

The Sugar Train waiting to cross the Caloosahatchee River in Moore Haven FL.

Posted by: rminchin | December 24, 2015

MERRY CHRISTMAS

We want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2015

At Anchor Christmas 2015

Posted by: rminchin | December 10, 2015

The St. Johns River

The Georgia low country did not disappoint with some of the best sailing of the trip south this year as well as numerous wildlife sightings. A side trip up the Darien River and a stop in the quiet town of Darien was a nice break from the ICW. As usual, the Thanksgiving celebration in St. Marys Georgia was a great time with about 150 of our fellow cruisers in attendance. It’s real nice to see a town so welcoming to cruising boats with all the issues going on in south east Florida and the attempts to ban anchoring and close dinghy dock access. Leaving Georgia our first taste of Florida was at the Kingsley Plantation were we learned about life as a slave on a sea-island cotton plantation in the early 19th century.

For the past few years Ron has been contemplating the side trip up the St. Johns River about 120 miles into central Florida but with a 45’ fixed bridge near the beginning and our mast at 44.5’ he needed to develop a plan. So with all the expensive hardware off the top of the mast and measuring the mast height two more times we were off to give it a try. The tide board on the bridge read 44’ with an additional 2’ in the center so under we went. Success! The VHF antennae just tapped each girder. We are now at anchor behind a small island. Kathy sat on the fore deck this afternoon watching a heron flying back and forth building a nest.  The highlight of this anchorage was the dinghy ride to Welaka Springs and watching manatees swim all around and under the dinghy. One of them surfaced and blew at Ron. It smelled quite fishy. Last Tuesday was filled with the company of our cruising friends, Scott & Donna as we biked around the Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka FL. We are so glad we took the chance on the low bridge giving us the opportunity to enjoy all the wonder of this often over looked cruising ground.

Don’t forget to check out the Photos 2015 page. I just added 98 new pictures!

 

Visiting the Manatees at Welaka Springs

Visiting the Manatees at Welaka Springs

 

 

Our anchorage at Turkey Island

Our anchorage at Turkey Island

 

 

 

 

 

Horses on Cumberland Island

Horses on Cumberland Island

Stormy Petrel sharing the Darien docks with the shrimp fleet

Stormy Petrel sharing the Darien docks with the shrimp fleet

Posted by: rminchin | November 18, 2015

South Carolina

Tonight we are anchored in the Beaufort River enjoying the South Carolina Low Country. The rivers meander through miles of salt marsh as the tide rises and falls 8 feet twice a day exposing mud banks at low and almost covering the grasses at high while birds fly overheard and dolphins escort us on our way. Leaving the sounds of North Carolina in our wake with their brackish water and no tides we were greeted to South Carolina by the great cypress trees of the Waccamaw River and water resembling that of the Dismal Swamp.

With stops in New Bern, Washington, Southport, NC and Charleston and Beaufort, SC we had the opportunity to visit some new places and some familiar ones as well as visit friends and family along the way. This year we didn’t lose any anchors to the Charleston Harbor and had a wonderful time walking the historic streets and wondering what it would have been like to have been here in the early 18th century. With the gas lamps, wide porches with ornate iron railings and formal gardens you can just imagine the struggles as the colonists were trying to get established in a new world.

As we make plans to leave South Carolina behind and head into the sounds and rivers of Georgia we are looking forward to many more miles of salt marsh teeming with wildlife and then the cruisers’ Thanksgiving in St Marys, Georgia.

Gas Lanterns Exploring Charleston

Gas Lanterns Exploring Charleston

Exploring Charleston

Exploring Charleston

Second Eagle

Second Eagle

Posted by: rminchin | October 28, 2015

In the Wilds of North Carolina

 

It has been 3 weeks, 415 nautical miles, and only 38 engine hours since our last blog.   Visits include Cape May, Chesapeake City, Worton Creek, Annapolis, Solomon’s, Reedville, Deltaville, Hampton Roads, Hampton River, Portsmouth, then 6 slow days exploring the Dismal Swamp Canal, and Elizabeth City. We are now way up the Alligator River tucked around a bend anticipating 25 knot winds tonight.

There are 4 fighter jets circling around and banking above our boat.   As we arrived, there was smoke in the marsh then it dissipated.  Hmmm, I wonder what the jet may have dropped?

Leaving Atlantic City, heading off shore, we met our friends, Tom & Sue, onboard “Sandcastle” briefly before they continued on to Florida.  They are currently about 750 miles further south than us slowpokes.

The Chesapeake gave us the opportunity to play with our new sails using our asymmetrical spinnaker numerous times.  As you can imagine, Ron doesn’t sit still. In a few hours, he had tried 5 different combinations of rig.

The highlight of our Chesapeake cruise was the anchorage in Spa Creek and attending the Annapolis Sailboat Show.  Leaving the Chesapeake and heading into the ICW, our timing was perfect as the schooners from the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race (http://www.gcbsr.org/) just departed Portsmouth allowing us to stay at the free waterfront dock.  A walking tour of the historic homes ended with a visit to the Commodore Theater.  The Commodore is a restored 1940’s art deco theater where the rows of seats have been replaced with dining tables and comfy chairs and dinner is served while watching a movie, Bridge of Spies in our case. (http://www.commodoretheatre.com/)

Leaving the urban setting of Portsmouth/Norfolk led us to the peace and quiet of the Dismal Swamp Canal as two cruising rallies, one sponsored by Sail magazine and the other sponsored by the Waterway Guide passed through. We spotted an eagle overhead and encountered numerous turtles sunning on the logs while enjoying the fall foliage and the root beer colored water. The Dismal Swamp Canal is the oldest, continuously operating canal in the United States, originally surveyed by George Washington. We sat in on a talk of the history of the canal by Robert, the Deep Creek Lockmaster.  35 feet of peat filters artesian water filling Lake Drummond, the water supply for the canal, making it quite unusual. Due to tannic acid from the Cypress and Juniper roots, bacteria doesn’t grow and it is famous for being used on sailing vessels of old because it would stay fresh in barrels for many years.  (http://dismalswampwelcomecenter.com/)

While docked at the Visitors Center in the canal, our daughter and son-in-law, Dawn & Juan, drove down for a wonderful 2-day visit.

We are enjoying our time sailing as we anticipate further adventures and visits with our friends as we make our way down the waterway.

At the Deltaville Marine Mueseum

At the Deltaville Marine Mueseum

Thomas Point Light

Thomas Point Light

Reflections in the Dismal Swamp Canal

Reflections in the Dismal Swamp Canal

Historic Homes of Portsmouth VA

Historic Homes of Portsmouth VA

 

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