Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Charleston, SC to Hampton, VA (June 2013)

When we got to Charleston we decided to try out the Charleston Harbor Marina, which is actually outside Charleston in Mt. Pleasant, where my sister Lynn lives.  The marina is part of a resort with a hotel, pool and free trolley to downtown Charleston.  We arrived just in time for Spoleto, so Lynn, cousin Ronnie, Joe and I enjoyed checking out all the artists and their wares.
On Monday, we met up with Brooke and Dee (GH47 East Passage) and Richard and Shannon (N37 Esmeralda) for lunch.  Brooke and Dee are currently docked in Charleston long term and Richard and Shannon were just passing through.  We had a good visit - in spite of the rainy weather - and again forgot to take a picture.
While there we managed to run lots of errands and even completed the paperwork for the sale of our lot near Pensacola.  We now own no dirt in the US - only that lot on Little Abaco that we've never seen.  It's a nice feeling - always being home on Carolyn Ann.
With tropical storm Andrea approaching, Joe put on a few more lines and then spent the afternoon with Brooke talking camera stuff.  Maybe we'll remember to use one sometime.  Dee and I took advantage of the trolley and had a ladies afternoon out downtown.  Doesn't happen often, but we sure had a good time.  That night Ronnie and his wife Susie had us over for dinner and in deference to Andrea, Joe and I spent the night at Lynn's.  And another photo op was missed.
While we were at Charleston Harbor Marina, we kept seeing the huge container ships go by on the Cooper River.  As we left we got to see one up close and personal.  They are really intimidating as they glide by.
Joe soon realized that the auto pilot wasn't working.  That's not a really big deal, although it's a much more relaxing way to steer the boat most of the time.  As the day went on, though, he noticed that the manual steering was also not right.  He could turn the wheel almost a full turn before getting any response from the rudders.  We kept going but our wake looked like a drunken sailor as Joe had to saw at the wheel..
We anchored after a long day and the next morning only took two hours to get to Osprey Marina near Myrtle Beach, where we got the traditional turtle greeting.  We like the marina, the price is right, we really needed some air conditioning, and the steering issue needed to be addressed.  We probably would have stopped there anyway to see old friends, Chris and Joan, and their amazing talking parakeet.  They took us to all of Joe's favorite stores - West Marine, Bass Pro Shop, Sam's and Costco - then Chris helped Joe bleed the steering system and add hydraulic fluid.  It's all working fine now, but the mystery is why did it need hydraulic fluid.  No leaks have been found.  Where did it go?
We left Osprey after three days and spent the next two nights at marinas.  It was hot and muggy.  Sleeping without a/c wasn't an option.  Seemed more like August than early June.  Finally, on the second night a storm came through.  Well, they were predicting one and Joe told me there was one - thunder, lightning, high winds, rain, hail - but I slept right through it.  What a change in the weather, though.  Much cooler and low humidity.  That's why we came north.
After anchoring for a night, we arrived in New Bern, NC.  Since our son decided to move to Cary, NC (outside Raleigh), we're looking for dock space within reasonable driving distance.  We'd heard good things about New Bern so we decided to cruise up the Neuse River to check it out.  Grand Marina is nice, with easy access to the downtown area.  There are lots of shops and restaurants and some historical sites in the downtown area.
We started out with the trolley tour to get an overview of the town.  As we've found in other towns, there are claims of "first" and "oldest" that need plenty of qualifiers.  This sign is a good example:  south and east of Baltimore.  Check a map and see how much land is included in that description!  But the historical stories are interesting - whether totally true or not.
The following day we toured Tryon Palace, which claims to be the first (often disputed) colonial capital of NC, and the former homes of George Dixon and John Wright Stanly.  We had a particularly informative docent at the Stanly house.  The family has such a colorful history that we were sorry she had to try to get through it all in only a half an hour.
The Palace itself was completed in 1770, though all but the stable burned in 1798.  In the 1950's a group  had it rebuilt using the original drawings.
The term "palace" seems a bit much once you see it, but there are some wonderful gardens on the site.  In the kitchen building, period costumed docents present demonstrations using period equipment and foods and herbs that are grown in the kitchen garden.
We were surprised at the variety of crops in the kitchen garden - including artichokes!  Forget the artichoke - I like the flowers.

New Bern, founded by Swiss and Germans, was, of course, named for Bern, Switzerland.  We were told that "bern" translates to "bear" - which translates to many bear statues and interesting word play, ie. Bearer of Rights, pictured here.
There was bear everything - except at the Cow Cafe, featuring "gourmoo" food, and claiming to be the only 4 "hoof" restaurant in Moo Bern.
Speaking of restaurants, Joe's been whining about wanting good crabs for weeks.  We stopped in at MJ's for lunch one day and found that they were very proud of their crab cakes.  Crab cakes outside of MD?  A risky choice.  So, we ordered the crab ball appetizer - then came back  a few days later for Joe to get the lump backfin crab cake dinner, complete with a lightly dressed coleslaw and fresh cut fries-which cried out for vinegar. Wow, a real Maryland style crab cake dinner. Surprise - the  owner of MJ's is from Baltimore go figure.
New Bern's big claim to fame, though, is being the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola.  It started out as Brad's drink, sold at the pharmacy for medicinal purposes in 1898.  They even post the original recipe - it starts out with 7500 pounds of sugar.

All that sightseeing kept us in New Bern a few extra days, which was convenient because the weather service had posted small craft warnings.  Finally, the prediction was for light winds and we started our trip down the Neuse River.  The prediction was wrong.  With winds at 20 to 25 knots coming straight at us, we bounced and weaved our way down the Neuse.  Not a pleasant cruising day.
After re-joining the ICW and getting into calmer waters, we anchored for the night.
The next day we headed to Edenton, NC.  The Albemarle Sound can be a problem at times but we had the wind to our backs this time which made for a relatively pleasant ride.  It had been a long day, though, so we put off any visiting until the next day.
Roger (N37 Pelican) lives in the area and showed up for a visit the next day.  He asked if we needed anything and mentioned a hardware store that has everything - Nixon's.  Joe needed a new rubber flap to cover the engine exhaust and Roger was sure they'd find something there.  Sure enough, Nixon's came through - and will probably be a "must visit" from now on.
Later in the day my sister, Jean, came and took us to her house in near by Hertford for dinner.  Her husband, Rich, again broke out one of his well aged bottles of wine.  This one was a mystery bottle, as the label was missing, that turned out to be a 1982 Pomerol.  Wonderful!
After an overnight at Elizabeth City, and a fun visit and dinner with our good friends Ewa and Greg, we continued north through the Dismal Swamp Canal, the oldest artificial waterway still in use in the country.  It was a beautiful trip up the canal with bright sunshine - and stifling heat! While we waited for the Deep Creek bridge to open, the sailboat rafted up to us.  They had no real shelter from the sun and the woman had long a long sleeved white shirt on, along with long pants to protect her roasted skin.  Once she found out the water was clean and only brown from the tannic acids, she was ready to jump in - willing to have her white shirt died brown.
Instead of staying at Elizabeth's Dock and visiting with our favorite lock tender, Robert, we decided to continue on.  We detoured about a mile down the Va. Cut - the alternate route for those who don't take the Dismal - to Top Rack Marina for the cheapest fuel around.  They also offer free dockage if you eat in the restaurant.  Actually, you're supposed to spend $75 in the restaurant, which is more than we like to spend for dockage.  But it was soooo hot and with dockage we'd have power which would mean air conditioning for the night.  Our alternative was to be on a wall with no power.  So, we tied up, plugged in, showered and went up to the Amber Lantern for dinner.  Spending $75 was no problem as entrees tended to be in the $20 range - more or less - add a salad and a bottle of wine and you're there.  It was great!  I had one of the best steaks ever.  Locals we talked to there said a few people had recommended it, but it was there first - not last! - time there.  It's evidently not easy to find from the road.  We'll definitely be stopping there again.
The next day was a short eight mile trip up to Portsmouth where we tied up to the wall in the south ferry basin at the end of High Street.  We bought tickets for the evening Commodore Theater presentation and dinner and went across the street for lunch at the German restaurant.  Another boater had said they always eat there and then go to the movie.  Now we know why.  We'd never eaten at a German restaurant before, but it was really good - and the Commodore food is nothing to brag about.  The Commodore experience is what we like.  It's like sitting in your living room watching a movie on a huge screen with a great sound system.  The movie this time was Man of Steel, which we found to be disappointing.
While we were in Portsmouth, I happened to walk through a gallery shop that was right next to the boat - one draw was the air conditioning, but it turned out to be much bigger than I'd thought and had lots of interesting art.  Somehow I got to chatting with Clyde, a local photographer.  We had a nice chat and the next day he emailed us pictures of Carolyn Ann - thanks, Clyde!
Joe can hardly concentrate on steering the boat through Norfolk because he's so busy looking at all the military ships.  It's also fun to hear them on the radio:  "This is warship..."  Recently we heard one that was warning people away from an area where they were doing some kind of "live fire" practice, but it was a female on the radio who sounded like she was about 14 and very soft spoken.  "Warship" is not something you'd expect to hear from that voice!
We thought we'd detour up the James River to Richmond to visit one of Joe's sisters and her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, but it was the weekend before the Fourth of July.  Between that and associated local festivals and predictions of bad boating conditions on the Chesapeake, we had trouble finding a place to stay and ended up at a marina in Hampton, VA and called Enterprise.
Our dock was close to the Virginia Air and Space Center so we decided to check it out.  A lot of it is made to be appealing to kids, although it could use some tlc.  Joe found that several of the interactive things just didn't work.  They do have some space capsules to look in and a DC-9 from the 60's that you can walk through.  I don't remember the aisles and leg room ever being that generous!  The Space Center also houses an IMAX theater.  Man of Steel was playing; took a pass on that and opted for a great 3D movie about Monarch butterflies.  What fun to have butterflies flitting all around you.  The story was actually interesting, too as it traced the life of several generations and then the migration of the butterflies and the work of one scientist to find out where they all went for the winter.  We highly recommend it.
We picked up the rental car Friday afternoon and went to - surprise! - Costco.  The next day we drove to the Mariner's Museum.  They have some interesting exhibits there.  One section focuses on the USS Monitor - its history, discovery of the wreckage, and the continuing process of recovery and conservation.  Another section was about real cases of being lost at sea, survival and rescue.  Then there were the miniature ship carvings by August Crabtree. Just amazing detail!
After we left the museum we drove to Smithfield to have dinner at Lou and Robin's house.  Lou is the naval architect who designed our boat.  Robin fixed us a wonderful dinner and we really enjoyed getting to know them.  Joe and Lou talked all kinds of boat stuff, and Robin and I talked about everything else.  Again, we forgot about getting a picture!
Sunday we drove up to Richmond - stopping at another Costco! - and had lunch with Joe's sister Tina, her son Taj, his wife Lori, and their daughters Carly and Delaney.  Delaney was the first of  four Pica baby's born in the past year, so we're trying to make the rounds.  This was also the first time we'd met her older sister Carly.  Beautiful little girls, and it's so much fun to see these "kids" with kids of their own.  What a wonderful father Taj has become.
After lunch we followed Tina over to see her new condo.  It's brand new - and big - and much closer to those granddaughters than Pensacola was.
We made one more trip to Costco (!) on Monday, then turned the car in, expecting to leave on Tuesday. The weather, however, is not cooperating.  Looks like Thursday could be the day to make our way up the Chesapeake.
With the extended stay we managed two dinners with new friends Wally and Lori - one on Carolyn Ann, then a relaxed Euro-dining experience on their sailboat Do Littles.  They left Canada about six years ago and sailed to Europe.  Since then they've traveled to multiple countries - spending three years using Paris as a home base while they explored the canals - and sailed back across to the US.  Now they're working their way back up to Canada - for the winter.

Happy 4th!

More pictures on picasa

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