Posted by: rminchin | February 23, 2020

Heading Back East

WOW! That’s a good description of our month-long tour of California. I realize it’s a really big place but the diversity of the scenery and extremes of climate as we traveled around the state were just amazing. From the highest waterfall in North America, Yosemite Falls, to the largest trees in the world followed by miles and miles of fruit trees and don’t forget the endless slopes of vineyards and finally ending with a trip to the lowest and hottest point in Death Valley. We now know the difference between a Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and a Giant Sequoia (Sequoia Giganteum). The Giant Sequoias grow only on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains between 5000 and 7000 feet above sea level while the coastal redwoods grow below 3000 feet. An interesting fact about the coastal redwood is they grow new trees from the roots as well as by seeds from cones. Because of this, you will find clusters of younger trees surrounding an older tree or a stump left from a fallen tree. The groves of the coastal redwood are cool and damp as the fog blows in from offshore while the Giant Sequoias rely on mountain snow melt. The geology behind the mountain ranges and the former sea that covered much of the southwestern US has been fascinating to see firsthand while hiking the many trails.

We are currently in New Mexico in a campground tucked in against the rugged spires of the Organ Mountains near the White Sands National Park planning our eastward journey. This should take us southeastward through west Texas to Padre Island National Seashore (we can’t seem to stay away from water for very long) then follow the Gulf coast toward Louisiana and on to Pensacola for a visit with Kathy’s brothers before heading north back to NJ for the summer at CCSC.

 

Big basin Coastal Redwood

Golden Gate Bridge

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Yosemite

Death Valley

Death Valley

Sequoia National Park

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Posted by: rminchin | January 24, 2020

California Dreamin’

Well it’s not just a dream any more as we are in the midst of exploring the west coast from San Diego northward toward the Bay Area and beyond. Our California experience began after a tour of the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico with their cactus and rock formations and trails for hiking and biking. Snow in the high deserts combined with the brilliant sunshine and warm daytime temps are new to us coastal sailors. Our travels included a side trip north to the Grand Canyon and a bucket list item checked off as we rode in a helicopter above the canyon. Joshua Tree National Park served as our entry point with its unique and rare trees followed by a visit from grandson, Oliver, who brought his parents out to Los Angeles for a week. Also, we had the opportunity for a wonderful visit with Ron’s cousins, Sue and Charlie, whom we hadn’t seen in many, many years. Driving north along the PCH with stops in places like Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach with beach driving, and our current stay at Morro Bay’s harbor behind Morro Rock have given us the chance to check out the sailboats and the fishing fleets helping these ‘fish out of water’ feel more at home. The wildlife viewing has been awesome with sightings of coyotes, a road runner, jack rabbits, monarch butterflies, acorn woodpeckers, and our most recent encounter with a sea otter as he stole a screwdriver and brush from a dinghy at a dock to play with. Everyday we are amazed at the different flora and fauna of this area and are looking forward to checking off another bucket list item with a tour of the redwoods.

After the snow at Joshua Tree NP

Hiking at Sedona AZ.

Grand Canyon National Park

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Petrified Forest National Park

Posted by: rminchin | November 23, 2019

New Adventures

As we were leaving the beauty of Canada and the Rideau Canal behind us and returning to NJ, plans emerged for a new and different lifestyle for us. Earlier this past summer our son, Scott, purchased a house in Longmont Colorado where he had been renting for the past 2 years. Scott asked if we might be able to assist in a renovation project in the fall. Thinking about how to make this happen we hatched a plan to leave Stormy Petrel on the hard at CCSC for the winter and travel to Colorado. While working on Scott’s new house there would be nowhere for us to stay. The thought of staying in a hotel for a month didn’t sound too appealing so we came up with the plan for our new land-based existence. First, we needed to decide on our mode of transportation, motorhome, conversion van, or travel trailer. A smaller travel trailer and an SUV had the most appeal. We chose a new to us 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the tow package followed by a visit to the RV show in Hershey which resulted in us falling in love with a new 19 ft Flagstaff E-PRO which we bought on sight.

So, we are now, after 40 days of home remodeling, beginning a tour of the Southwest and on to the west coast. Today we are looking out at a fresh snowfall after spending the past few days exploring Pikes Peak and The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs as well as the Great Sand Dunes National Park. As we learn how to navigate roadways and campsites as opposed to channels and anchorages, we’ll make our way south to warmer climates of New Mexico and Arizona and see what adventures await us.

 

First snowfall Carter Lake

Our first real campsite

Scott’s house

Balance Rock Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Pikes Peak

Sands Dunes NP

Near Colorado Springs with the new bikes

Pikes Peak

Posted by: rminchin | August 2, 2019

The Rideau Canal

The Rideau Canal in eastern Ontario Canada claims the title of oldest continuously operated canal in North America. It was envisioned as a military route to bypass the St Lawrence River after the war of 1812 and the threat of a US blockade of the trade route from Montreal and Toronto. The canal was opened in 1832 and was the first Slack Water canal in North America. Earlier canals were designed for barges that were pulled by horses or mules and, therefore, had towpaths along narrow manmade land cuts like the original Erie canal. The Rideau was designed, instead, for the new up and coming mode of waterborne transportation, the steamboat. Since no towpath was required, the waterway was created by damming smaller rivers and connecting several lakes. The trip through the waterway consists of narrow land cuts opening up to beautiful tree lined lakes interconnected by a series of locks. Parks Canada, the national park system of Canada, recognized the historical importance of the canal and has maintained the locks in their original configuration which means the sluice valves and the lock gates are all operated by hand just as they were in 1832; also, most of the stone work is still intact. To supply all the manual labor, each lock station will have 5 or 6 summer student helpers along with the lock master. Transiting a lock on the Rideau consists of pulling up to the dock with the blue line and docking to await passage; then a group of people will descend on the lock and start opening or closing the valves by turning large cranks to prepare the lock for your entry. Once the water level inside the lock is at your level the crew will then move to a different set of cranks and crank away, opening the gates for your entry. Inside the lock they will help with line handling then crank some more to close the gates and open valves to flood or empty the lock chamber. This entire process happens without the need to call on the radio or the phone and happens very efficiently. Many of the locks are stair step locks in which the upper gate of the first ascending lock is also the lower gate of the next.  Two, three or up to the eight of the flight in downtown Ottawa are linked together in this way. Most of the locks have space for overnight docking though some of our best evenings have been at anchor off the beaten path in a treelined cove or bay of one of the lakes listening to the loons or looking off toward the stars of the Milky Way. Of course, there is a price to pay for the off the beaten path anchoring, and that is the grasses that grow throughout the waterway. The anchor holds well enough, it’s in the retrieval that it becomes challenging but with the coordinated effort of washdown and boat pole the huge ball of grass gets removed and once again we are off to find another peaceful cove or transit another fascinating lock. Time here slows down and schedules are forgotten as your daily log may record the progress of only a few miles traveled in a day and those few miles transport you from one adventurous stop to the next.

So far this has been an absolutely wonderful trip and we are so glad we put in the effort to make it a reality. Staying overnight at the locks gives us time to talk to the lock staff and visit the many museums and visitor centers housed in the old blockhouses as well as have interesting conversations with locals and other travelers of the Rideau. We are currently in the town of Smiths Falls working our way slowly back south toward Kingston and the return trip across Lake Ontario to the US and the Erie Canal.

Morton Bay

Poonamalie Lock

Jones Falls Lock

Kingston Mills Lock

Entering Morton Bay

Hand operated bridge at the narrows lock

Posted by: rminchin | July 20, 2019

The Thousand Islands

The Thousand Islands, wow are they named appropriately. Everywhere we go we are sailing between them from small rocks with just a single tree to large islands like Wolfe, Wellesley, and Grindstone. Some islands have a small house just barely above water while others like Heart Island are home to a huge castle, the Boldt Castle. Many of the homes date back to the late nineteenth century and early twentieth.  On the US side are the towns of Clayton with the wonderful Antique Boat Museum and Alexandria Bay the center of the tour boat business.  The International Bridge crosses the St Lawrence at the Narrows which we transited under sail on a Saturday with about a hundred other boats while passing a freighter headed up the river toward Lake Ontario. The Canadian side has the small town of Rockport and the Canadian center of tour boats at Gananoque. The islands provide countless opportunities for anchorage, many at parks. Parks Canada maintains a number of islands with docks, mooring balls and hiking trails. We enjoyed a wonderful two days at one such park dock on the island of Georgina under the International Bridge and hiked the island several times before moving on to yet another idyllic setting. The water temperature has been around 68o so while we are in the midst of a heat wave all we need do is jump overboard into the clear fresh water and immediately get cooled right down. We feel bad for all those back in NJ dealing with this heat. In a couple of days, we will be leaving these good sailing winds behind and heading to Kingston ON to have our mast un-stepped and start our trip up the Rideau Canal. Though we won’t be sailing we are looking forward to many gunkholes as we make our way along the historic canal built in 1832.

Sailing through the American Narrows under the International Bridge

Boldt Castle

Exploring the Thousand Islands

Loon

Exploring the Summerland Group in the Thousand Islands

Boldt Castle

Posted by: rminchin | June 27, 2019

The Erie Canal

Transiting the Erie Canal from the Hudson River begins with the flight of five locks at Waterford NY. Each of the five locks raises you up 33 feet to a total of 166 feet above the tidal Hudson and around the Cohoes Falls on the Mohawk River. When we left the visitor center at Waterford, we shared the trip through with six other boats, four of which were over 50 foot. Lots of fenders and holding on to the drop lines keeps the boat smoothly raising up to the top out of the darkness of the lock chamber. The original canal was created in the early 19th century under the guidance of Governor Clinton and nicknamed Clinton‘s ditch. There have been three versions of the canal throughout its first century, the first being only 4 feet deep the second just widened and deepened the canal.  The third completed in 1924 moved the canal to the Mohawk River where dams were installed to create pools of deep water while the locks allowed boats to pass around the dams so powered tugs could tow larger barges eliminating the need for a towpath.  During the canal’s heyday many towns and cities prospered along its banks. Most of these have docks along the canal where you can stop for the day or overnight to explore the architecture of the old mills, factories and homes or bike along the Canal Bikeway. Continuing westward you ascend through 20 locks before reaching the summit of the canal 420 feet above sea level at Rome NY. The highest lock at Little Falls has a lift of 40 feet to bypass the rapids on the Mohawk River where over many thousands of years the waters have carved out rocky cliffs around Moss Island leaving round holes called boiling pots. Leaving Rome, you begin the descent to Oneida Lake and, for us tomorrow, across the lake to the Oswego Canal then northward to Lake Ontario and the Thousand Islands.

We had the opportunity along the way to meet up with Ron’s sister and brother in-law and nephew. Another highlight was getting a tour of the onboard laboratory of the research vessel, David Folger from Middlebury, VT. Since the bridges on the canal are only 20 feet, we had our mast un-stepped in Albany and we are looking forward to having it back up and looking more like a sailboat once we get to Oswego.

Entering Lock E2 Waterford beginning the flight of five.

At the top of lock E2

At the wall Lock E8 waiting for the water to recede so the canal will open

Biking around Schenectady in the Stockade Historic District

Old Mills at Little Falls

At the bottom of the 40 ft lock

Tug Lockport along the canal

Along the Bike Trail

Posted by: rminchin | June 14, 2019

Beginning our 2019 summer cruise North

Missing my grandson but excited for this new sailing adventure north, Ron and I left Cedar Creek Sailing Center around 4 o’clock Thursday June 13 as soon as the gale warnings lifted. After a fabulous sail up Barnegat Bay through Seaside Bridge and anchoring in the Metedeconck River, we planned our next day up the coast and through New York Harbor.
An 8 am departure allowed us to go through the Point Pleasant Canal with a bit of current against us making it an easy ride and as soon as we left the canal, the current was in our favor. Thankfully the inlet is short and easy and the railroad bridge closed after we passed through.

We sailed about 1/4 mile off the coast on a beam reach with West winds of 20-26 knots and enjoyed the sandy beaches and watching a pod of dolphins swim alongside our boat with a youngster in tow.

As expected, the wind and rollers increased after we rounded Sandy Hook but with our enclosure we stayed dry until I fell asleep on my comfortable blue seat on the stern when a power boat went by too close and created a huge wake that slammed into the bottom of our dinghy and poured water over our transom drenching me!

Time to wake up anyway as we approached New York Harbor seeing the Statue of Liberty and all the tall buildings of NYC, the hustle and bustle of  hundreds of boats of all types and helicopter and airplane activity. Adding to the fray, unfortunately, there was a report of a missing swimmer near George Washington bridge with police on shore and New York City police boats and coast guard searching.

The Palisades are beautiful but very difficult to sail past because the wind was shifting from 5 knots on the nose to 25 knots on the beam to behind us in a short time. I had a ball standing on the port deck holding on to the shroud rollers and putting my foot on the mast as we healed over. The sky was blue, the clouds were gorgeous, and I walked 2000 steps back-and-forth from the bow to the cockpit and over the cabin just looking around and taking pictures, with my life jacket on of course.

A glorious 12-hour day ending with us now anchored close to the high reddish brown tree lined cliff of Hook Mountain in Upper Nyack NY just north of the new Tappan Zee bridge under a nearly full moon.

Posted by: rminchin | March 13, 2019

Heading back North

WOW! It’s already the middle of March. Seems like just the other day we were changing the calendar to 2019. Is that because we are just getting older (Ron turned 66 this year) or are we just busier being grandparents. Whatever the reason, we now find Stormy Petrel leaving the palm trees, beaches, and busy waterways of Florida and heading for the marshlands of Georgia’s ICW and beyond.

Since the new year our cruising style has been slightly different than in past years in that we spent about a month and a half on moorings in marinas. The first was a road trip from St Augustine to Pensacola to visit Kathy’s family, her mother is 94 and still hanging in there. Vero Beach aka. “Velcro” Beach has gotten this nickname since many boaters get stuck there for its amenities, free bus service to groceries and West Marine, great parks and beaches as well as the social atmosphere at the City Marina. This year Stormy Petrel was “stuck” there along with about a hundred other cruisers, however, we managed to escape for a road trip back to the frigid north to spend 2 weeks watching the antics of 17-month-old grandson, Oliver, as he grows up quickly. We also managed to catch up with a number of friends while in Vero Beach.

If everything works out, our plan for this summer’s cruise will include more of the Erie canal and up to the Thousand Islands but for now we’ll enjoy the wonderful trip up the ICW as Spring arrives chasing us northward.

Helping Grandpa shovel the snow

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

The beach Fort Matanzas

Rattlesnake Island Fort Matanzas

St Augustine

Posted by: rminchin | December 23, 2018

Merry Christmas

We want to just take a moment to wish all our family and friends

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Christmas

Stormy Petrel and crew will be spending the Christmas holiday with friends in Charleston SC while enjoying a video chat with grandson, Oliver, back in NJ.

We have had a great trip south this year helping out with hurricane repairs in New Bern followed by a trip back to see Oliver and celebrate his grandma’s 62nd birthday.  As we travel south, life onboard Stormy Petrel is a bit more comfortable this year with the addition of a cabin heater. Today we sailed through the Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina under clear skies and saw eagles and hundreds of birds and water fowl as well as a few dolphins.

Our plans include some of our favorite stops along the ICW, Beaufort SC, St. Marys and Cumberland Island GA before spending time along the coast of northeast Florida with maybe a trip through the Okeechobee Waterway to the Gulf coast.

The Waccamaw River

Lake Drummond

Dismal Swamp Canal

 

Posted by: rminchin | October 27, 2018

Chesapeake Reflections

Chesapeake Reflections, the name of a book by Ken Carter that Kathy has been reading as we work our way south down the bay, is an appropriate description of spending time on the bay. Though our time on the bay this fall pales in comparison to the time Ken spent gunkholing aboard his schooner, we still enjoyed some great sailing along with the serenity of the Eastern Shore, the historic charm of Annapolis and the friendly welcome of Hampton. Anchored in the Hampton river across from the town dock we have been watching as the boats start to gather for this year’s Salty Dawg Rally. The weather this fall has been a bit more challenging as there have been several gale warnings that we rode out safely at anchor. In one of these windy spells while anchored in Turner Creek off the Sassafras River in the northern bay we watched in awe as two days of 30 knot winds from the NW blew all the water out of our anchorage leaving wide beaches to explore where normally none existed. One local we talked to said he had never seen the water so low.

Leaving the open waters of Chesapeake astern we enter the next phase of our journey south on ICW and are excited to spend some time in one of our favorite waterways, the Dismal Swamp Canal, with the reflections on the root beer colored waters.

Kathy and I spent time enjoying the company of our grandson and celebrating his first birthday and seeing him take his first steps. Can it really be a whole year since he was born?  Rounding out our time in NJ was spent with friends on a powerboat tour of the Fulton Chain of lakes in Upstate New York on the weekend of the best fall foliage colors.

We are looking forward to visiting our friends in the New Bern area and lending a helping hand as they continue their recovery from hurricane Florence.

 

 

 

 

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