…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.

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 1, 2, and 3.

We left Seabrook, South Carolina, on Sunday morning, taking the ICW to Charleston. We spent an hour or two getting fuel and a pump out, and then picked a spot in Charleston Harbor to anchor for the night.

Sunset at Charleston Harbor

Monday morning we left at first light, headed for Winyah Bay. We sailed on the outside with wind pretty close on our nose. We anchored near Georgetown Light.

Today, Tuesday, we are opting to stay at anchor for another day, as the weather offshore will be more favorable for where we want to go. The wind should shift from the NE to the East tomorrow making it easier to sail on a NE heading.

We’ll leave tomorrow for an overnight to Cape Lookout. More later.

Hindsight.

Most years I post a summary of the previous 12 months here on Sheila365 – summarizing moments from fun trips, visits from friends and family, and other adventures and highlights from the year (like these summary posts from 2019 and 2018). Unfortunately, on this last day of 2020, there isn’t much to report, as COVID has curtailed most highlight-worthy moments.

Instead, today I went back and looked at my first post from the beginning of 2020. In that post, I included a picture of a beautiful sunrise that I took the previous year – as we were at the dawn of a new decade. I had to chuckle and shake my head reading this statement a year after I wrote it: “I’m not sure what the next ten years will bring, but I’m ready.” Well, I can now say that I was in NO WAY ready for what 2020 would bring.

BUT, I am still here, as are my loved ones, thank God. So, I am grateful, and I am simply trying to roll with it.

To end the year, I will just leave you with this, a picture of a beautiful post-sunset scene that I took at anchor in the Ashepoo River in South Carolina. Tomorrow is a new day.

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!

Following Bob.

Our original plan, to leave the ICW and head offshore in Beaufort, was intended to avoid the challenges associated with the ICW south of there. These include transiting the dozens of ocean inlets that the ICW crosses south of Beaufort where significant shoaling always occurs, often changing the ICW channel depth, making it dangerously shallow, and passing under a number of bridges that are less than the required 65′ vertical clearance with tides than can vary from the mean water level by up to 4 feet. But, alas, the weather offshore has been unfavorable, so we continued on south.

There is a kind soul on the internet, Bob Sherer, who maintains a blog called Bob423 ICW Tracks and Routes where he provides tracks (collections of GPS points) that he has carefully taken and mapped out for maximum depths. The tracks are available for download as GPX files into chart plotting software, like the openCPN that I use on my laptop and the Garmin chart plotter that Lori has at Trident’s helm. Fortunately, Bob’s latest track is as recent as a week or two ago, so it contains safe tracks around hazards that even the Corps of Engineers haven’t moved the red and green buoys around yet. There have been reports of multiple boats running aground this week in those spots. Not wanting to be one of those boats, we have been following Bob’s track. It can be a little spooky when Bob’s green track goes outside the marked channel. But so far, so good.

Bob’s track in green, through the ICW at Snow’s Cut

The bridges are a challenge of their own, especially with the flooding in North Carolina rivers currently going on, and an especially high tide. We have had to wait for the water level to go down on some bridges before passing underneath, but even so, we have bent the springy VHF antenna at the top of the mast back as we passed under 2 of them. That’s a little too close for comfort.

Hopefully, we only have one more bridge and one more shallow spot, at Snow’s Cut, today. Then we will be at a marina in Southport tonight, and pick up Tony tomorrow and head offshore for a leg south tomorrow afternoon. We think there is a 24-hour window that will allow us to get to Charleston without weather drama. But we’ll see how that plays out.

Even with those challenges, it’s been a nice few days since Beaufort. It’s been sunny, with wind to put up a sail. We anchored one night, and were on a mooring ball last night. Very nice.

Sunset last night at Carolina Beach

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.

Change of pace.

Last week I flew to Maryland to join Lori and help take her boat to Florida. Theoretically it is post-hurricane season, but you can’t tell these days. On one nice day, we drove to Mount Vernon to tour George Washington’s estate and mansion.

Mount Vernon, from the front. It looks like it’s made of stone, but it is really a wooden facade carved to look like stones.
Mount Vernon, from the side. The big porch on the back of main house overlooks the Potomoc River.

Mike left over the weekend, driving the car to Florida so it is there when we arrive. We spent a few days in the slip at the marina at Solomon’s Island waiting for some bad weather remnants of Hurricane Zeta to pass. On a rainy, freezing, blustery day, we cooked some meals to freeze for easy prep underway. I even grabbed a quick geocache, my first in Maryland. Tuesday the 3rd looked good for our departure from Solomon’s Island, Maryland, and so we did.

Day 1, we froze, with temps around 40 F and a very chilling wind around 15 knots. Nonetheless, we made our way south down the Chesapeake, anchoring in a lovely spot. It turned out to be the only day we were able to sail on the bay.

Point No Point Lighthouse on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay.

Day 2 was windless, but WARMER! So we motored 9 hours and anchored in a beautiful spot inside Mobjack Bay by ourselves. I even put out a crab pot overnight.

Sunset of Day 2

We saw dolphins, the water must be getting saltier, and lifer birds.

Day 3 started with a beautiful sunset, and when I pulled up the crab trap, we had a wee one! We let him go, but it was fun to catch something. Today is windless, again, but warm enough to take off jackets. The bay is as smooth as glass. The only thing we have to battle are the tidal and river currents going against us. This afternoon we will exit the Chesapeake Bay and anchor at Norfolk, Virginia.

Tomorrow, Day 4, we will start down the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway for a few days.

Sunrise to sunset.

I enjoyed my Saturday to the fullest. I got up early to go birding for a few hours at one of my favorite spots – Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park. I watched the sun rise above the prairie.

I headed down the path to the river, as the mist lifted. Everything was very dewy.

It was nice to be out looking for the birdies.

After returning home, I cleaned up and we headed to the lake. Monte and I enjoyed a long sail in mild-ish winds. As soon as we got into the slip the winds really picked up (of course). So, when Kurt and Kevin stopped by a little bit later, we all went back out, in more sporting wind. It was another great sail, though with 4 people in the cockpit, we wore masks.

We were tied back up in the slip in time to watch the sun set on a very nice day.

Sometimes…

I toted my camera and tripod to an overlook above Lake Travis last night to try to get a better photo of the Comet NEOWISE.   Again, I was not able to spy it by eye or binoculars, but I did get some more underwhelming long exposure shots of it.  It is getting very dim.  I took exposures ranging from 10 seconds to about 1 minute.  Still no stunning captures.  No matter, I stayed out there for over 2 hours, enjoying the views.

This is a view about 30 minutes after sunset, with Sometimes Island in the foreground.  The lake level is 668′.  Windy Point juts in from the right; the Austin Yacht Club on the left shore beyond that; and you can even see Starnes Island way back there, if you look closely.

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My second attempt at capturing NEOWISE.  Sadly, these are the best shots of the night.

A 10-second exposure, about an hour after sunset; very faint:

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A 25-second exposure about an hour and 45 minutes after sunset:

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And just because… a 10-second exposure of the big dipper, on the left, pointing towards the North Star on the right side of the shot:

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Cheers!