Above the trees.

Tuesday morning we got up early and drove to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the most visited National Park, with over 12 million visitors a year. And it is stunning.

We made it up to Newfound Gap overlook, which lies on the Tennessee/North Carolina State line, as well as the Appalachian Trail.

I’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail (100 feet of it!)
Standing in 2 states at once.

Then we drove up to Clingman’s Dome and walked up the steep climb to the observation tower for 360 degree views above the treetops. Clingman’s Dome, called Mulberry Place in Cherokee, was sacred to them. It is 6643’ high – the highest point in Tennessee.

View from Clingman’s Dome.
Clingman’s Dome observation tower.

After the park, we drove another 9 1/2 hours to Little Rock. One more National Park and then home tomorrow.

…And by car.

We left Annapolis yesterday, driving home to Austin. Our route takes us very close to four US National Parks along the way. So, we must see them!

Sunday’s park was Shenandoah National Park. It was the created in 1935 amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains. The winding, two-lane Skyline Drive takes you through the park along the ridge-tops with dozens of overlook parking areas along it. We drove it for 60 miles. The trees were turning red and gold. It will be even more stunning in a week or two.

By plane, boat, and bike…

On Monday I flew to Annapolis to attend this weekend’s Sailboat Show. I met up with Lori, and we had a fun 2-day trip on S/V Trident over to St Michael’s, on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake. We anchored overnight and dinghied to shore with the bikes and explored the town and its maritime museum.

Trident anchored in the Miles River at St. Michaels.
A lighthouse relocated to the maritime museum.

On Thursday we went to the first day of the Annapolis Sailboat Show. We toured some fine boats, got some swag, and met up with sailor friends. The weather cooperated and we had a great day.

A panorama of the show docks. You can see the copper dome of the chapel on the US Naval Academy campus on the far left of the photo.

On Friday we did boat work from sunrise to sunset. A long day of hard work, but we enjoyed dinner out downtown.

A beautiful sunrise over Chesapeake Bay.

Today we are attending some of the seminars at the boat show. More later.

Mid-week lake play.

We rafted up overnight with Julie and Ryan last night, grilling up dinner once they tied up to us after sunset. It was a new moon night, dark and clear.

The only other boat in the cove with us, as we enjoyed the sunset.

The temps were perfect, but no wind overnight.

Thankfully the winds came up around 10AM this morning and Monte and I enjoyed a lovely sail up to the yacht club and back.

A good day.

We’re back.

Last week was busy. We rescued Nirvana from the boatyard, brought her home, and I spent the next few days schlepping 100 lb batteries up and down the ramp, and Monte made sure they worked. The old ones lasted 5-6 years. The new ones will hopefully perform similarly.

Out with the old. One starter battery and two house batteries. The big ones weigh 100 Lbs each.
She’s back home and shiny!

We got everything installed in time to race the beer-can regatta on her with Kurt and Kevin and she flew with her new bottom. We think she’s at least a knot faster.

Then over the weekend we anchored in the cove for a sunset grilled dinner. Nice. Very nice. We had our annual first jump in the lake, finally, a week or so past the usual Memorial Day dip. It was fantastic.

Ahhh, sunset.

Days 9 through 11.

We picked up the anchor at sunrise Monday morning and enjoyed some good sailing across Albemarle Sound and Currituck Sound.

Lunch nibblies aboard

We hit the last bridge openings before rush hour and tied up at Atlantic Yacht Basin in time to watch the local rowing club practice alongside us.

For dinner we biked to a fantastic Italian restaurant for a delicious meal ashore.

Yummmmm

Tuesday morning we caught the 7AM bridge opening at Great Bridge and followed the parade of boats and geese into the lock beyond the bridge for the one foot rise in water level between the canal and the Elizabeth River beyond it.

We reached mile marker 0 of the ICW in Norfolk and kept going on past it and into Chesapeake Bay for some more good sailing. We anchored in the Piankatank River, on the west side of Chesapeake Bay for the night.

Sunset on the Piankatank River

Wednesday we picked up anchor at sunrise again, trying to get as far north as possible before sunset.

We crossed into Maryland before noon, and raced a thunderstorm into our anchorage at the Choptank River on the east side of the bay.

We made it before the rain and high winds came, and watched the full moon rise after the storm passed.

Tomorrow, Thursday, we will arrive at our destination. Annapolis, here comes Trident and her crew!

Full enough.

I grilled pork tenderloin for dinner tonight. Over charcoal. Marinated in Allegro. Indirect. 21 mins, ~7 mins per side. Measure with meat thermometer to 145 degrees F. AMAZING.

As I waited for the meat to grill, I snapped this photo of the not-quite-full moon over our winter foliage.

Christmas sunset.

I grilled a delicious cedar plank salmon for Christmas dinner, recipe below. Julie joined us and stirred up a tasty risotto dinner. Nom nom. Sunset was fleeting, but lovely.

Grilled cedar-plank salmon:

  • soak a cedar plank in water for several hours ahead of grilling
  • slather a boneless salmon fillet with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a dash of garlic powder
  • place fillet, skin side down on the pre-soaked cedar plank
  • place cedar plank & salmon over direct coals for 20-30 minutes

Enjoy!

Watching from afar.

We witnessed two momentous events over the weekend, each from many miles away.

We watched a livestream of the wedding of my nephew and his lovely new wife.

When you can’t be there in person…

And we witnessed the rare conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky. These 2 largest planets have not been this close since 1623, during Galileo’s lifetime. And they won’t be closer during my lifetime. To the naked eye, they appear to be a single point of light. We looked at the two planets through binoculars in the backyard. We also watched a livestream from the McDonald Observatory in west Texas, through their large telescopes. One could see the rings of Saturn, and several of Jupiter’s moons.

Looong Day 5.

We picked up anchor at 6:15am Friday in a thick fog.

Foggy sunrise

We left before sunrise because we had a long goal of making 68 nautical miles (nm), and a backup plan to go about 45 nm instead. The challenge is being able to gain more speed than the 5 to 5.5 knots (nm per hour) of the engine. Fog can hurt. Current can hurt or help. Wind can help.

We can’t just anchor anywhere along the way because there are long stretches of the ICW that are land cuts; very narrow, and the channel takes up the whole width of the cut. And you can’t anchor in the channel.

The fog eventually cleared and we had a little boost from the wind, so we made the farther anchorage after 11 hours.

As we exited the 20-mile Alligator River – Pungo River Cut the sun was setting. We went a few miles farther, anchoring right in front of the land on the far horizon in the picture above.

The sunset was beautiful.

Early 4th.

Monte and I spent a couple nights at anchor on the lake this week. We chose to avoid the wake-heavy holiday weekend. It was hazy, I guess from the Saharan dust remnants in the air. But it was lovely. Keeto enjoyed it, too. We’ve launched the kayak for the summer, so I have resumed my treasure-hunt-paddling around the coves. I was rewarded yesterday with this long lost 11 lb. Lewmar claw anchor and stainless steel tackle that someone had to cut loose at some point months ago when the lake was much higher.

And we were rewarded again with this treasure at sunset last night.

I hope you enjoy a fun and safe 4th of July!

Nightfall.

Rachel and her friend Becky are visiting this weekend. We didn’t think we could keep up with a couple of vivacious 30-something’s in downtown Austin on a Friday night, so I dropped them downtown tonight for an evening of fun. I was treated to a view of tonight’s lovely sunset on the way home.

MM12.

Day 12 – 5 bridges. 37 miles. So close, but yet so far. Lori and I got up this morning at 5AM and were off the dock by sunrise.

We knew it would be a challenge today: maintaining a good average speed, the number of bridges, one lock, and some of them only open on the hour. But as of 2pm, we were ahead of schedule! We had worked so hard today to eek every tenth of a knot of speed from the sails. Then, just 12 miles from our destination of MM 0, we learned over VHF from a benevolent bridge tender that the last bridge up ahead that we needed to pass through today, at MM2.5, was stuck in the down position since yesterday. ETA for opening: 0700 Monday morning.  Ack!  Today is Saturday.

Luckily we were right next to one of only two dockage options for the night, so we hailed them on the radio and asked if they had room, and they did.

So, here we sit, VERY close to ground zero, but having to wait it out. We have electricity, food, and wine, so all is good.

But MAN we were so close!!!

On a positive note, I saw lots of flying things! 🙂

A bald eagle on watch at dawn…

Juvenile ospreys…

More geese…

And a bi-plane…

The next post in our ICW journey:  https://sheila365.com/2019/07/21/virginia/

(Note:  If you’d like to read the entire 2-week adventure from the beginning, THIS LINK will take you to the first post in the series.)