Driving the Ditch

We call Adjima our 'Canal Cat' because she loves to come and sit in the cockpit when we're going through canals.  It's usually not too windy and not too bumpy and she can sit and watch the sights.  She's had lots of cockpit time in the last week as we make our way down the ICW south of Norfolk.  The IntraCoastal Waterway, is also known as 'the ditch' or 'going  inside' as opposed to going off shore or 'outside'. It's a series of rivers and canals or land cuts, all connected and usually just inside of the barrier islands along the coast. When the weather isn't good to go outside, like this past week, when we had strong winds from the south,  it's a busy place. Not too much sailing to be had, but lots to look at.  We're now in the middle of the mass exodus of cruising boats making their way to warmer climes and the canals and anchorages are full.  As usual, it's a very, very social group. It's fun to get out the binoculars as we come into an anchorage and see who we've met before and who's our next victim.
 Getting into the Virginia and North Carolina water system is interesting because the water is brown.  It's pretty clear, just brown from all the tannins in the water from the decaying plant materials.  It looks like root beer foam as the power boats go by.  It also gives boats that spend a lot of time here a very distinctive 'mustache' on the hull.
Don't go where the birds are standing.
The ICW is prone to shoaling, due to the many, many creeks and ocean entrances with all their currents and tides.  Some places more than others, as in the picture.  I like that they've even installed a parking meter so they can make money off the many boats that end up stranded here.


Back through Norfolk, one of my favorite places to sit and watch the traffic go by. Yes, Chris, I know you think it sucks, but I love all the different types of boats and the commercial aspect of it all. The loading and unloading of the big container ships is fascinating to me. I want to know how they know which conex to put on which ship and in what order. I realize there's a computer program for it all, but there are thousands of conexes and dozens of little worker bees trundling around moving them, loading more than one ship at a time.The ones getting off last have to go on first, but don't the heaviest ones have to go on the bottom? I know they fall off at sea, because we hear the warnings to look out for them on occasion, but how many are actually reported as 'lost'?

Container ships being loaded.

'Worker bees' hauling conex's to load on board.

L to R: Sandy, Steve, Allen, Judy, Laura, John and Bill
Last night we were tied to the free dock in Great Bridge, which is a bulkhead where boaters can stop for the night and get off the boat. There's a little park with tables and grills. There were 5 or 6 boats there last night. We did laundry up the street and managed to spend $100 at the grocery, but we resisted going to El Toro Loco for great Mexican food as we're saving ourselves for M&M's in Oriental. We did, as usual, though, manage to have a great meal.  One of our dock mates had caught a tuna offshore on the way into Norfolk and offered to share and it turned into a potluck.  We had tuna, grilled chicken, Caesar salad, potato salad, green beans, cheesy potatoes, fresh apple pie and eclairs and maybe a little wine. No one in the picture is standing next to their spouse, but the different boats involved were Luna Sea, Second Wind and Discovery II.

Buzz Kill. Just when we thought we'd solved that age old problem of, "I need
a shower but I also need to do laundry".


Cliff, in the dinghy.

Our weekend couldn't have started out much better. We had dinner with our old neighbor from Albuquerque, Cliff Spohn. He was in Solomon's Island visiting his parents and we managed to sneak him away for dinner and then again for a Saturday visit to the boat. So good to visit and catch up on the news of all our kids and mutual friends. Some day we'll get Cliff and his wife, Sandy, to actually come sailing with us.

Roberta, Lynn, Steve and John, at the Tiki Bar
We also met up with John and Roberta from Freedom, and along with Jason and Laura and
Laura's brother, Erik and his friend, Kennon, we managed a few margaritas at the Tiki Bar. I somehow got no pictures of the whole group! I guess I might have had to put down my glass or something improbable like that. Once again, sooo goood to catch up with everyone. I'm looking forward to learning use Jason's lasso to catch lobster in the Bahamas this winter. Since I never attained my goal of gettting sick of eating lobster over the summer, I will continue with my objective as we go south.


Look Mom, No Violations

On the way from Annapolis to Solomons Island yesterday, we had our very first safety inspection by the Coast Guard. They had boarded the sailboat about a mile behind us and we knew we could be next, so we were sitting, all nice and secure in our PFD's, when they pulled alongside Celebration. They were extremely nice (and SO YOUNG! How come they all look to be 20? It can't be my advancing age, can it?) and polite and efficient and chatty. It was a painless process thanks to our super organised Boat Book, containing all pertinent documents, and Steve's uber up to date flares and fire extinguishers.
We're anchored in Mill Creek just across from Solomons and had the chance to catch up with our friends from Blue Blaze, Jason and Laura and John from Freedom. It was a lively evening, made all the nicer because it was unexpected.
Today as we had our morning coffee, we got to watch a pair of eagles fishing and being harassed by the crows.


Heading South

Or, more likely, the title should be, Meandering South. In our usual fashion, we've stayed a long time in one place. Annapolis is one of those places that's very easy for a sailor to get comfortable in. There are lots of other sailors, good shopping for new and used gear and waterfront bars where sailors can talk (think heated debate here) about all that gear.
The annual Annapolis Boat Show took place this past weekend. It's the largest in-water boat show in the world and it's quite a spectacle. We met some cruisers who are part of the work crew every year and learned a lot about the workings of the set up and take down involved in such a big show. There are about a mile of floating docks assembled off site and towed in and then the vendors start bringing in the boats and setting up in the tents.
This year the weather was perfect and the crowds were big. We went on Friday looking for a few specific things and spent a whole day getting information and taking pictures of new ideas. We went back today to do our volunteer hours at the SSCA booth and look at water heaters, which we need as of yesterday. Ours isn't entirely kaput but it's the original 33 year old one and it's leaking rusty water into the bilge. Steve discovered this when he was at the bottom of the sail locker, doing something entirely different, we call this the Domino Effect. (I actually want to rename the boat 'Domino Effect', because we literally can't make coffee without moving something else first. Our daughter, Hannah, watched us putting away the groceries once, and after we had to ask her to move for the 3rd of 4th time and she was now perched on the back corner of the settee, remarked "you live in a puzzle".) Anyway, a great time was had at the boat show, we ran into friends on every other corner and spent a lot of time talking and catching up, my favorite part.

So now, it's getting chilly in the evenings and the leaves on the bank are turning red and yellow. The Canada Geese are going through in big incredibly noisy flocks and it's time to follow them to where it's warm.


Albuquerque: Family, Friends, Cars, and yes Balloons!!

    The SSCA Gam over with a week before the sailboat show, I took a trip to Albuquerque to spend a week with our daughter Hannah. After two days of knuckle-busting car repair (two motor mounts, idle air valve, adjust valves, timing, new spark plugs, couple light bulbs, etc) and evenings filled with cooking, a little wine and a lot of catching up we finally set out to see Albuquerque. First a trip to Tricklock Theater Company for a Friday night social and my chance to meet all her great friends and fellow company members, then a test drive of the car to the top of Sandia Crest and a photo opportunity looking down at the city below. Next a visit to our long time friends and old neighbors Cliff and Sandy Spohn to catch up once again.

   Tough to beat seeing and catching up with family and friends, but Cliff threw one at us we couldn't pass up. It's Balloon Fiesta week in Albuquerque and I didn't even know it before the trip.  Cliff, Sandy and family crew for one of the out of town balloonists and asked if we wanted to help out. After a 0400 alarm and a quickly downed cup of coffee, we headed off to the Spohns and the Balloon field. Today was a competition day so pilots had to choose their own take-off point from off field and fly the wind back accurately. 

    Well one thing leads to another, the briefings over, launch point selected, wind checked, balloon out, filling, burners heating...take-off time. "Who are my passengers?" Becky the pilot yells. "Hannah, get in!" comes a shout from Cliff. "I need one more" Becky says "Steve get in" Next thing we knew we were airborne floating toward the field watching the competition. Here are a few photos from another wonderful, completely unexpected experience.

Our "sky" for a couple hours.


Our pilot Becky and copilot Cindy,

   Thank you Cliff, Sandy, Becky,Cindy and everyone else for the great surprise and morning at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta