Monday, November 1, 2010
Solomons, MD to Charleston SC (Sep 19 to Nov 1)
As it turned out, Joe and I were separated for almost three weeks. Since Alex was not born until September 18, I delayed my departure from Charleston for a few days to give Meredith’s mother a chance to visit with him. Lynn and I had a great time touring around Folley’s Island and Charleston before I left. Since I was driving, I decided to detour a bit and went to visit Caitlin and Andy in Atlanta. While I was there they were in negotiations – which eventually ended in a contract - on a house they wanted to buy. I didn't get to see it, but we're happy it's working out for them. It was a short visit; just overnight on her one free weekday evening. With all of her school obligations – teaching and attending – Caitlin just doesn’t have much spare time. It was good to see them both, though. I finally arrived in St. Petersburg shortly before Alex’s one week birthday. As you might expect, he’s the cutest grandson anyone could hope for. John and Meredith were often bleary eyed in the morning, but insisted that they weren’t considering sending him back yet. I stayed nearly two weeks while Joe whined about being cold up in Maryland. While I was gone, Joe tried to amuse himself with boat chores and the local activities. The Catholic Church he attends when in Solomons had built a new church since our last visit. Unique interior! One day he attended a boat docking competition. Speed was the most important factor in the competition – which isn’t always so good for the boat or the dock. Another cold rainy day the area hosted a race for go-fast boats. Or maybe they should be called go-noisy boats. Two years ago we’d met the Potter’s on Alfie while we up in the Rhode Island area. Joe’s kept loosely in touch since then and was happily surprised when Ed called to tell him he was anchoring nearby for the night. Ed was by himself, too, except for the dog, Charlie. Joe picked them up and they shared a casserole, wine and conversation on Carolyn Ann. For our last night in Maryland we moved back around to Jim and Judi’s dock and enjoyed perfectly cooked steaks – thanks, guys! The dinner was preceded by happy hour on their porch overlooking Helen Creek. A perfect setting. The next morning as Joe was trying to get a good picture of a bald eagle, a flock of Canada geese flew over. Guess that was our cue to get moving south. This year we’ve been trying to visit some of the towns we usually just zip by. First on the list going south was Portsmouth/Norfolk, VA. We’ve overnighted at the free ferry dock previously; usually arriving near dark and leaving near dawn. This time we spent three nights.
We’d been told to try out the Commodore Theater in Portsmouth and were lucky to find Secretariat playing. The Commodore is an art deco theater that was built in 1944 and restored in 1990 after years of neglect.There are more pictures on the picasa site: http://picasaweb.google.com/joseph.pica
The theater seats have been replaced with comfortable chairs surrounding small tables. From a telephone on your table you order dinner and drinks and then watch the movie. It was great fun and we enjoyed the movie – how can you get so tense watching horse races when you know the outcome ahead of time? We also took the ferry across to Norfolk and toured the USS Wisconsin and Nauticus.But we made it to Charleston and had a good visit with my sister Lynn and cousin Ronnie and his wife Susie. Also, we got to see Col. McCullough - Daddy Mac. When I was young the McCullough's lived in a house sort of behind ours - coincidently owned by the Fahey's, whose son Patrick is now married to Joe's sister. The McCullough children were the same ages as my sisters and I and our families became friends. Being military, they eventually moved away to California - where we visited them - and subsequently moved back to a different neighborhood near us. Joe's family ended up living across the street from the McCullough's new house, also becoming good friends with them. Col. Mac retired to Columbia, SC and his daughter Betsy, who lives in Savannah, is still friends with Lynn. Before we got our boat we had visit Col. Mac in Columbia and he - although in his 90's - expressed interest in it and has followed our travels on the blog. He is one of the most interesting people you could ever meet - a mechanical genius with a memory like a steel trap. At any rate, while we were in Charleston, Betsy brought him down from Columbia for a visit and to finally see Carolyn Ann in person. We had a marvelous day visiting with them both and hearing more of his stories of his time in the Air Force, followed by a nice dinner (thanks again!) at the marina restaurant.
Our next stop wasn’t a new one, but one we always enjoy, Elizabeth Dock at the north end of the Dismal Swamp Canal. This time we ended up staying four nights. Windy weather was causing a back-up of boats in Elizabeth City at the other end of the canal, so we and several other boats just stayed put. There was a sociable group at the dock and we ended up eating at the Mexican restaurant twice and having a pot-luck one night. There was a young couple from NY there – actually she was Korean/American and he was Irish – who had recently quit their jobs and sailed off together. They were excited to finally feel like part of the cruising community with their first pot-luck dinner invitation.The rest of the trip down to Charleston was fairly uneventful. Except for the inverter problem. As I understand it, the inverter takes the power from whatever the available source is - engine, generator, or ac from a dock - and makes it into a form that the systems on the boat can use. As you may have gathered, I totally don't understand what the inverters do. All I know is we have two that are capable of doing amazing things but one of them decided not to do them anymore. The bottom line is a reduction in usable power and battery charging. Since we're not needing air conditioning or heat it isn't causing huge issues, but we can't use our cook-top or water heater either - an inconvenience. Joe's working on it.
Robert, the conch-playing lockmaster/swamp historian, now offers tours of the canal and Lake Drummond that feeds it. He takes care of the history lesson and has an associate who describes the flora and fauna in the area. We didn't take the tour this time, but we may on a future trip.We decided it was time to get back on the water and continue moving south with the hoard of snowbirds. We had a nice overnight stop in Carolina Beach at a restaurant that would let us tie up at their dock overnight if we'd eat dinner there. It was $1.00 taco night so it turned out to be cheap dockage. The regular menu looked good, though, so we might have to stop again next spring. We arrived early enought to walk to a small grocery store nearby and then I still had time for a long walk on the beach. Great day! When we came up on the deck for dinner some folks at a table commented on the boat. One thing led to another and we joined them at their table. One of the women, Peggy, is especially friendly with the chef - she comes in and makes the coffee for breakfast - and insisted that we join them for breakfast the next morning. We did, and are hoping to get together with them this winter when they visit Sarasota.
After an overnight at Elizabeth City, we went to Edenton where my sister Jean met us for dinner. Joe and I have docked there before and spent time visiting family, but this time we took a walking tour of the town. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable. Her family had owned a farm in the area since the 1750’s. There are always so many interesting stories behind the houses and the families that lived in them. One house - the Cupola House - was built in 1758 with amazing woodwork in the first floor rooms. The same family occupied the house for more than 140 years, but as time passed their fortune disappeared. The last family residents had gone so far as to sell the moldings off the walls and fireplaces. One whole room was sold to a museum in Brooklyn. The house has now been restored by craftsmen who copied the original moldings that are on display in Brooklyn.
While we were in Edenton, Brooke and Dee (East Passage) came to town to visit with Roger and Jacki Arrowood (Pelican) and take a pre-arranged tour of the Regulator factory. We extended our stay and joined them on what turned out to be a fascinating tour. Carolyn Ann is the smallest trawler Mirage makes and East Passage is the largest model - a moving house!From Edenton we took a short trip to the southern banks of Albemarle Sound and visited Columbia, NC. Our guide book suggested we visit the hardware store and the wine store. The hardware store was packed full of all kinds of things you don't normally see in hardware stores and the wine store is beautiful inside. The store specializes in wines made of Scuppernong grapes which are a type of muscadine grape. After tasting several of the wines, we asked about touring the vineyard which is owned by a couple who also own the wine shop. The next morning, the wife picked us up and drove us to the nearby vineyard. She had been a realestate broker and her husband was a developer. They had purchased the river-front property with the intention of developing it. While working on the layout of the development they fell in love with the property - and the bottom fell out of the real estate market. They built themselves a nice house on the water and planted grapes! They now bottle about 5000 cases a year in a labor intensive process. Not the retirement they'd planned on, but when life hands you lemons - or grapes...