Vero Beach & Melbourne Florida with guests aboard

The prevailing joke about Vero Beach by cruisers- is to call it Velcro Beach.  Once you visit its hard leave.    We aim to test the theory.   With a rental car, we were able to traverse around town and see what trouble we could find.


The marina is a stop for the free city bus that offers rides to the beach and to various other stops around the city.  Uber is another option- less than $10 gets a ride across town.


Driftwood Inn was opened in 1937, conceived and constructed by local Vero Beach eccentric and businessman Waldo Sextan. It may not be the “highlight” of the city, but it is very photogenic!

Waldo Sextan built the two buildings which comprise the Driftwood Inn and Restaurant in 1935.    Timber used to build the Driftwood was salvaged by Waldo from a barn blown down in a hurricane. Waldo was especially fond of bells and amassed a collection of 250 of various types and sizes, collecting them from churches, trains, ships and schools, just to mention a few. They dominate the exterior of the buildings and have always been a special part of the Driftwood Inn tradition.

vero beach old resort        vero beach vero beach old resort        vero beach old resort

To continue a rustic beachcomber ambience, there are many artifacts decorating the premises, and he brought in old fish shacks to create rental cabins.  its all pieced together and creates a resort and hotel.vero beach      vero beach

the breeze way displays a large dining table- it has seen hundreds of diners over the years and is well worn.  Its neat to see that it has a place of honor.   I think part of the appeal, is the rustic eclectic nature of the place in an otherwise upscale resort area!

vero beach old resort vero beach

vero beach

Thrift stores are one of the favorite pastimes when shopping with Al and Deb .    Next would be cooking on the boat, farmers markets, and of course boating!


We took the early morning bus to the farmers market near the beach.   I think everyone found something to purchase- jewelry, gifts, bread, dips, coffee, vegetables, fruits;  – a variety of arts , crafts to entertain.

vero beach old resort    vero farmers market   MELBOURNE FLORIDA  APRIL 9

Once we talked Dave’s brother Al and his wife Deb to join us for a couple days cruising on the ICW, it was no holds barred.   We left Vero Beach on a warm and sunny day heading for Melbourne.  As avid sailors, our goal was to initiate them to the brighter sides of trawler life.      I think they enjoyed the lifestyle, but may not be giving up the sailboat  or RV just yet.     Its amazing to share the sights and sounds along the ICW with guests- the view from the waterside is unsurpassed! Melbourne FL ICW Melbourne FL ICW The Melbourne flea market was a hoot, boasting 2.5 miles of indoor shopping; it requires power shopping to move from booth to booth. Melbourne FL ICW Melbourne FL ICW Downtown Melbourne has upscale shops and looked interesting, being a Sunday many were closed. The walk back to the marina found art work and murals were painted on buildings and under the bridge!

.Melbourne FL ICW Melbourne FL ICW

The marina was convenient, great staff and the Ichabod’s restaurant served a great meals- we ate there twice!

Melbourne FL ICW

next up- bid goodbye to our guests and we meet up with the crew from Enterprise ready to head up the ICW towards Georgia.   The stretch of ICW from St Lucie to Norfolk Virginia is 987 miles, plus another 279 to the mouth of the Hudson River for a total along the Atlantic of 1266 miles.  At that point we take a left and head west towards the great Lakes.     Stay tuned for more mis-adventures!

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Rock Hall anchorage, C and D Canal to Delaware then New Jersey!

Every boat doing the loop may travel slightly different paths at slightly different speeds. Leaving Annapolis we have teamed up with boats that we met last September in  Chicago and may not have seen since we landed in Florida!   As we left Annapolis Landing on May 31, some boats stopped at the fuel dock or pump out station and then we all  headed East to spend a few nights at anchor.   Two places kept popping up as destinations to “not miss” on the Chesapeake- Rock Hall and St Michael.   We chose Rock Hall.

We found a nice little bay  on Swan Creek to drop anchor and took the dinghy to a marina.  The dock master  at haven Harbor Marina was happy to let us tie our dinghys to her dock; and even offered us use of the marina’s free courtesy bikes!
C and D canal area

A loopers dream- free transportation! Here we are posing for a photo as we return from a quick tour of the town.     A few chores such as haircuts, groceries, prescription refills were mingled with some window shopping.   (It’s easier to resist purchasing when we live on a 35 foot boat). We followed Sanctuary crew back to the boats, C and D canal area

Dave took good shots of a boat that wasn’t in our group.   He took the dinghy over to introduce himself and get an email so we can send them photos of the boat at the end of the rainbow!

C and D canal area

A quick storm blew through, and we were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow at the end of the day.


Next up in our journey, is the C and D Canal.  The “Chesapeake and Delaware” canal provides a short cut to the ocean between these two bodies of water.   It is known for being narrow in spots, turbulent in areas, and shallow if outside the channel.   Our intent was to hit the entrance on flood tide so the current would give us a push through the  canal.   Worked nicely, at times we were cruising at 11 mph.  ( our average is 8.5) . By late afternoon, we headed into Delaware Bay and our anchorage behind Reedy Island.
our friends on Fins passed us near the canal and headed for a marina in Delaware City.
c and d canal Next challenge- how to get in behind Reedy Island?    The charts explain to follow the shore line then make a 90degree turn between a rock pile and the island to short through a narrow passage.  Chart Note:  do not miss the turn as it is bordered by rock jetties that may be just under the surface at high tide.   yikes. Worth the effort as Dave led the little flotilla and each boat made the turn and safely popped into the bay to drop anchor for the night.  Another beautiful sunset and sunrise made for great photos to share with each other! Moon Shadow Thanks Steve on Sanctuary for great photos. Moon Shadow Moon Shadow We were taking phtos of Sanctuary at the same time: C and D canal area C and D canal area DELAWARE BAY

We are now in another potentially challenging body of water.   Often the winds come up in the middle of the day blowing waves from the ocean westerly up the channel.   Hope our homework on the weather window pays off.   The run down the bay from Reedy Island is timed for the outgoing tide- again planning to ride the extra 2.5 mph current to cruise the 55 miles in a timely manner.   We plot our course just outside the main shipping channel to give the big boys all the room they need. c and d canal
c and d canal C and D canal area Here we are looking back at Southern Cross and you can also see Enterprise scooting past the ship! C and D canal area There is plenty of water depth, just slight maneuvering around any fish net stakes, ship wrecks or odd obstacles, including large light house channel markers. C and D canal area


A short cut across Cape May cuts inland to the city of Cape May.   At the mouth of the canal is a terminal for large Ferry boats. cape may canal
Once we pass them, the channel is straightforward. Or so we thought. The rumor of New Jersey having the most aggressive boaters is now proving true.  As we slowly work our way into the channel local fishing boats and power boats are continually speeding past us in very narrow conditions.
IMG_0168 Each wave of wakes causes us to heave side to side – we turn into the wakes but then all the boats seem to be topsy turvy.   At one point we approached a narrow bridge with turbulent currents making steering a challenge.  c and d canal
A quick look back, and here comes a large cruiser trying to pass us!      Is this going to be the new normal!    Apparently, New Jersey is the highest concentration of population per square mile, and also the highest concentration of boaters.  Where is the Minnesota Nice when you need it?

Without further venting, we arrive at our destination- Canyon Marina.  Happy to get a looper discount and the AGLCA bonus of free electric hook up!   The pool looks inviting, yet we pile into the courtesy van to head downtown for look at the shops, and a peak at the beach. First came across another group of boaters down town and took this group shot. We visited with Seaquest as we had two things in common- we both have a Mainship boat, and are both from Minnesota! (they are south west Minnesota near Worthington, and we are in Buffalo near Minneapolis) Small world. With an eye on the weather, we opt to stay an extra day to relax and regroup. The next few days will be on the open ocean.  The option of following the New Jersey Intercostal water way has mixed reviews.   At places it is very shallow and many spots have shoaled in to where the channel markers can’t be trusted to be in the correct place.   Our choice is to find a good calm weather window and go the “outside route” up the Atlantic coast line- staying within a mile or so of shore.    There are three inlets considered A class to come back in for the night.   The first one is at Atlantic City so that is our destination.  We are not traveling with Enterprise, Southern Cross, The Lower Place, and Sanctuary. Also touched base with Aquafennatic for a pot luck on the dock; Last Call is anchored is in the bay, and our friends on Fins went ahead. C and D canal area

It was such a calm night in the marina, hard to believe rough weather is coming.
C and D canal area ATLANTIC CITY

With visions of staying at the Luxurious Golden Nugget Casino, reality set in, and we turned right instead.
atlantic city
Anchoring in a bay across from the city (free).   With the dinghy in the water, it was a quick ride across the channel to the boardwalk. What a fun afternoon listening to the band play on the patio, snacking on humongous pretzels and enjoying a sunny day on shore. C and D canal area

With the weather predicting high winds for 4 days; our group decided to bypass two inlets and head for Sandy Hook.  This would add several hours to the days run, with the advantage of putting the open Atlantic Ocean behind us.  The other option was to stay put in Atlantic City, and expect to stay put for up to 4 days waiting on calm weather.   Off we go- we signed up to be at Rockafeller Plaza on Thursday morning; no way are staying put in Atlantic city for the week!!

Visibility is about half a mile due to incoming fog banks.  The wind is from the east blowing on our beam making for more rolling motion than we like. (honestly- a lot more motion than any of the girls like) A planned 55 mile run to Manasquan Inlet,  grew into a 91.6 mile day as we rounded the tip of Sandy Hook.   Good news, the anchorage is just around the tip near the Coast Guard station, so just as the sun is setting we drop anchor!    Dave promised we would arrive before dark, and we did with about 10 minutes to spare.

Wahoo… We can see a bit of the New York Skyline off in the distance.   This coming week promises to be a highlight of our trip.

We have logged 5316 miles. Our engines have 679 logged hours.   We have been on the boat almost a year.  Its a whirlwind, as we just passed through 3 states in 3  days and will be in New York tomorrow!  Good Bye Maryland, Hello/ goodbye Delaware!!  Welcome to New Jersey!

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Annapolis for Memorial Day; and DC side trip by bus

Memorial Weekend is anticipated as the start of the summer boating season. Having been on our boat for almost a year, we still look forward to “spring boating” ! An advance reservation was made earlier at Annapolis Landing marina anticipating a crowd.    Good plan as a few other friends found marinas were filling up.

Leaving Solomon’s Island on Saturday May 27th, we crossed our fingers for smooth waters to cover the 55 miles to Annapolis.

Our group enjoyed dinner at an Irish Pub- O’Brien’s.  Voted one of the best meals on the loop!

Annapolis Memorial day


We attended Sunday service at the Naval Academy.  The beautiful chapel was filled with music and the parishioners were so friendly.

Annapolis Memorial day

We took a self guided walking tour around the campus before heading into downtown Annapolis.
Annapolis Memorial day

Side Trip to Washington dc

Experiencing Washington DC in a day took some prior planning.  The suggestions we received from Sanctuary crew was valuable in getting an idea of what to include.

Cathy and Colleen spent time browsing the internet and reading guidebooks to come up with a bus schedule and top picks at Washington DC.

Here is our itinerary :  Note, we have passed this itinerary on to several other boaters so if you have any feedback or suggestions please send them my way!

Commuter bus from Annapolis (about $4.00 each way)

1.Bus stops near Library of Congress- visit Jefferson library, courtroom artist gallery)

note- Tips- the commuter bus dropped us near Library of Congress. Later I was told a Dunkin’ Donuts is in lower level of the Madison building.  You can then access the tunnel system over to the Jefferson building. And go from Jefferson over to capital building.  Wish we had checked out the tunnel.
Also self guided tour of Jefferson library building PDF is on line had good info.  I missed the Gutenberg bible display!   Here are a couple links. static/visit/documents/ QuickGuide.pdf 2014/07/25/the-underground- city-beneath-the-u-s-capitol- and-library-of-congress/

2. Cross street to US Capitol. ( Take turns going into visitor center if you have food or beverage in backpacks- no food allowed). Be prepared for Security checks

(-option,  rent a bike and ride to far end then work back-would be less traffic to ride in morning. We did not do this, it seemed a good idea by the end of the day of walking)
3.  Walk past FBI, CIA towards Trump building. (It is oldest post office) and interesting tour to top is offered  on certain days
We ate at a food court, others tried POV or Ebert’s.
4.  White House visitor center then photos at Whitehouse

5.  Smithsonian  American history ( Archie bunker chair, original USA flag display)
6. Washington monument-
7.  WW 2, Vietnam Memorial, nurses memorial
8. Lincoln Monument and reflecting pool (Take elevator to displays on lower level)
Walked toward bus stops about 5.

5.  Arlington cemetery- Uber  optional, we were not able to fit this in on the same day.

Board the bus at various stops. note that alternate buses go downtown Annapolis (some end at the park and ride) note- we found it filled up and we were glad we caught it early in the route- ).

First challenge of the day was to arrange  a ride for six people to the bus stop at 5:30 am.  Thanks to Steve for driving, and to Annapolis Landing Marina for letting us borrow the courtesy van!    We are all aboard the Commuter bus by 7am and arrive at DC by 8:30.

The pictures tell the story; so I wont get into details about the history…     of course there are many more Smithsonian museums, monuments and interesting architecture to see- but we are on a one day tour so this is the highlights:
Capitol Building

Good spot to practice a selfie!
washington dc , annapolis   White House

The perfect photo op with the White House in the background was  a very popular spot.  Our group spent a bit of time here! washington dc , annapolis To add some variety to our history filled day, a stop at the History Smithsonian was in order.    A couple featured exhibits included Archie Bunkers Chair, Apollo Ono’s ice skates, and early Muppets puppets.   A few exhibits were cycled out- including Seinfeld’s puffy shirt and the Wizard of Oz Ruby slippers !   washington dc , annapolis Monuments are awe inspiring, reverent, memorials .   A steady flow of people pass by the Vietnam memorial with its reflective granite and lists of names.  washington dc , annapolis

The statistics represented by various war memorials is such an eye opener , appreciation the sacrifices of so many.

washington dc , annapolis

washington dc , annapolis

Being in the presence of the iconic monuments is breathtaking.

Washington DC Loopers  Washington DC Loopers

There were so many more memories from this day, and we could have spent several days here.    Will return again.

To finish off the day, we hop on the bus,   Steve picks us up at the bus stop (with the courtesy van); and we arrive at the marina just in time for a birthday dinner!    Teresa serves up soup and bread with a few extra fixings to celebrate Steve’s birthday with a gathering of about a dozen boaters from various AGLCA  looping boats.
washington dc , annapolis

When I started this blog, my intent was to refrain from focusing on restaurants and eating.  Both topics are an integral part of our travels, so must be included from time to time!!

Annapolis is another must see town- ride the water taxi, explore the hilly streets, shop and eat in historical Annapolis.    We haven’t even touched the other neighborhoods as we were so intent on getting to Washington DC and now its time to say goodbye and move across the bay to check out the east side.   For instance , we got a photo but did not get a chance to experience this restaurant.  They open each day with a pledge of allegiance!

Annapolis Memorial day

Thanks to everyone who sent a suggestion for what to see and do; it really helps as there are so many choices .  You might say we have a lot of time, and we like to say there is no schedule, yet we plan to get to back to the Minnesota by Fall, and must keep moving!   Thanks for reading.

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Chesapeake Bay; Deltaville to Solomon Island May 21 updates

Chesapeake Bay is a large body of water! Reminds us of Lake Superior. There are several container ships on the horizon., many pleasure craft, and good news- plenty of depth. It is May 21, and we are on the way to Deltaville for the night.  For returning readers, you might notice we are catching up on posts, as it has been a busy couple weeks for blogging!
Chesapeake Bay Loopers

Chesapeake Bay Loopers
Chesapeake Bay Loopers

As another looper commented- its so nice that they put spots for the birds to build their nests.

Chesapeake Bay Loopers


Last minute change of plans at Deltaville. First take care of business- we tied up to the fuel dock and took advantage of the free self-service pump out station. This took care of “business” for Moon Shadow, Enterprise and Southern Cross. We noticed several boats were anchored just beyond the marina; and most of the slips were empty. Quick decision- ditch the $75 slip fee and move to the anchorage. Chesapeake Bay LoopersA few reviews of local anchorages note the possible deadheads and debris may foul an anchor.  Its always a relief when the anchor comes up, even if its caked in mud, its better than being twisted and stuck on the bottom.
Chesapeake Bay Loopers With thunderstorms rolling through , the anchor held fine and we happily dropped the dingy and buzzed over to Southern Cross for docktails. Enterprise crew opted to stay another night, we headed north on the Chesapeake with Pat and Cathy of Southern Cross. Turned out to be a lot choppier than we expected, we plugged along hoping a secluded anchorage would overcome bad memories of rocking and rolling on the bay.

Here is quote from Southern Cross our boating buddie:

“I hereby decree that from this day forward the Chesapeake Bay will be hence forth be named Wicked Sister
And like all wickedness she will lure you in with charm and beauty only to suck you in and shake you, roll you and toss you about like a rag doll
She will rain on your parade and she will leave you powerless and like the Jason Alden song says We left our mark on it and it left it’s mark on us
This ain’t no place for snowflake”


With the assistance of Active Captain ( our online guide) we chose an anchorage in Mill Creek. With Binoculars, we picked out the red then the green; then a set of red/green; some crab pots; a danger sign- past shallow shoaling; through a narrow pass and voila! Arrived at Anchorage! Beautiful as promised- we were the only two boats in the area. Other than a bit of rain; we were tucked in and cosy for the night. Chesapeake Bay Loopers

We had crossed from Virginia into Maryland!
Chesapeake Bay Loopers


Both Moon Shadow and Southern Cross tied up at the T-dock at the yacht club.  Easy straight in shot from the bay.  This turned out to be very rolly wave action during the night- the swells came in from Chesapeake Bay directly to the T Dock.    Next nights were better when the wind shifted directions.


Chesapeake Bay Loopers

With an immediate invitation to join the members for a shimp dinner, we all enjoyed an evening as guests at the yacht club.  They boast a huge collection of burgies from around the country.  Colleen found the The AGLCA, the  Great Lakes Cruising Club burgee, and the MTOA ( Marine Trawlers Owners Association) – we belong to all three  groups.

Chesapeake Bay Loopers

Chesapeake Bay Loopers
Chesapeake Bay Loopers



The fun of traveling with other boaters, includes searching for items on each others wish list.   Today it was Crab Cakes from Maryland and a special dessert created at Smith Island.

Chesapeake Bay Loopers

Who knew a 9 layer coconut cake with frosting and filling could be so good?
Chesapeake Bay Loopers

Its been a while since we had the folding bikes out of their bag.   Dave spent hours on the bikes – they have rusted and the chains seized from the rust.   Welcome to salt water.

Chesapeake Bay Loopers
Colleen’s is still enjoying her Mother’s Day flowers!
Chesapeake Bay Loopers


A quick summer storm blew through at Solomon Island- glad we were back from groceries and snug in the boat. This is Southern Cross secured behind us.

Chesapeake Bay Loopers

The view of sunset from the boardwalk in Solomon Island was beautiful.


Chesapeake Bay Loopers


Chesapeake Bay Loopers
Chesapeake Bay Loopers

Chesapeake Bay Loopers

And that’s it for looking back on Solomon’s Island.

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Hampton- Carousel and Colonial Williamsburg

Have you been on a carousel lately?   If you get a chance, I highly recommend it.   Welcome to Hampton Virginia.

carousel horse
Looking for variety?  Hampton is throwing a Reggae Festival block party at the same as hosting the Square Dancing Convention!     Could you pick out who’s who ?
Hampton dancers Hampton dancers

Live like a kid again!    Cathy generously got tickets for all of us to ride the carousel!   ($1 per rider).     Brings back old memories of 4-h at the county fair as the music brought the room to life

Restored and now a feature along the water front.   
Hampton VA looping
Hampton VA looping
Hampton VA looping


Surprise delivery to the boat- Flowers for Mother’s Day along with a box of chocolates and dinner certificates.    My boys done good! It was delayed a few days as we were out in the boonies- no delivery services for flowers at Coinjock on the Alligator river!

    We had dinner at Brown Chicken, Brown Cow.  Craig figured we would be ready for a break from seafood! Good Choice too.      This is a new restaurant- only opened a few weeks ago.   Excellent choice.   We split a BBQ sampler.  Yum.

Hampton VA looping

We walked to the museum and noted that a country concert was tonight.  We joined in for a interesting and entertaining Mason Brown show.
Hampton VA looping


If you are ever in a marina looking to rent a car for six people- allow extra time!    The enterprise in Hampton brings vehicles in as needed; getting us set up almost never happened.   Once situated we all loaded in and went to Walmart for provisions before heading to the Colonial Williamsburg the next day.

Six people and provisions in dodge SUV.    Tight but much nicer shape than recent free loaners!  We appreciate both methods of travel.



We found Colonial Williamsburg to be very entertaining. Many of the reproduction buildings are so authentic you would think them to be original.  The period characters add their stories and make history so interesting.  It is set in 1774- a British Colony , before the American Revolution.


The Gardener

colonial WilliamsburgThe woodworkers shop
colonial Williamsburg

The Tailor- all hand sewn garments.  The sewing machine would not be invented for another 75 years.  The period depicted here is 1774- just before the American Revolution. colonial Williamsburg

colonial Williamsburg

Period wood working tools:

colonial Williamsburg

The guns displayed in the Governors mansion entrance.  All the detailed locks on gates and doors .

colonial Williamsburg             colonial Williamsburg

We met young Thomas Jefferson on the street. Then listened to a guide telling the viewpoint of the enslaved people.
colonial Williamsburg      colonial Williamsburg

The sheep are raised on the property, and sheared to provide wool for the weavers on site.
colonial Williamsburg

So many more photos we could share- The church, cemetery, street scenes and capital buildings.   Recommend this stop if you are traveling through Williamsburg!


With high winds and rain predicted, we stayed an extra day and got caught up on laundry, provisions, and cleaning.  Ready for cruising up Chesapeake Bay.

   We will cover roughly 180 miles before entering the C and D canal (Chesapeake and Delaware) on the northern tip.   This will be a jam packed portion of the trip as we expect to anchor in rivers, explore towns, side trip to Washington DC by bus, visit Annapolis (tour the Naval Academy) and perhaps try some local Crab!!  Some boaters choose to spend a month exploring the Chesapeake Bay area- we only have a week so may have to come back again to boat in this area.

  Colleen has been in touch with a few AGLCA Harbor Hosts along the way to get local knowledge of various towns.  A harbor host is a member of the AGLCA club who has volunteered to be host at their marina for visiting Loopers.   It is a great help if you have questions about local navigation or tides, recommended marinas, things to do or restaurants.    We really appreciate the local knowledge and look forward to meeting the harbor hosts along the way.

Thanks for reading- comments are welcome-  enjoy hearing from you!


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Battle ship to Submarine- Norfolk VA

From Battleship to Submarine- still seeing new sights!  From Tidewater marina in Portsmouth, a short walk to the ferry will take us across the river to Norfolk.   Today we will tour the Battleship Wisconsin.


Water taxi across to Norfolk

norfolk museum

We visited the Nauticus Maritime museum.   The Battleship Wisconsin is on display here. This is one of the largest and last battleships build by the U.S. Navy.     The “gold tour” included a guided tour of the Captain’s cabin, Combat Engagement Center, Flag Bridge and more interior spaces.  We went up four decks ! 

norfolk museumThe missile weighs as much as a VW beetle- this is in the museum.

norfolk museum

Watch your head and knees- lots of places are a little tight on the ship!
norfolk museumImagine how much food is needed each day- there are about 1600 crew members on the ship.
norfolk museum

Our Gold Tour guide was great- we saw much of the inside of the ship and got the view from the upper decks.
norfolk museum

Remember watching all the missal launches during Operation Desert Storm?    this was the Battleship launching the missals.

Battleship Wisconsin Battleship Wisconsin

The signs were descriptive of the provisions and activities that took place through out the ship.

Battleship Wisconsin

It was interesting to hear about the Marines roll on the Battleship.   Battleship WisconsinThe radar and computers are so interesting.  The tour was great
norfolk museum


Leave for Hampton , following the channel along the Elizabeth River.    The alerts over the radio kept warning of submarine in the area.  All vessels to maintain a distance of 500 feet.    We scrambled to find the coordinates on the charts.  Soon figured out that we were heading for the Hampton Roads Tunnel Bridge and so was the Submarine!   escorted by two armed vessels.   

This is a sight we haven’t seen before:


Hampton VA looping

Hampton VA looping

one sailboat didn’t get the memo…
Submarine Portsmouth Submarine Portsmouth
Submarine Portsmouth

Crossing from Portsmouth to Hampton was a short but  eventful run  !   We passed by the Tunnel Bridge connecting Hampton roads to Portsmouth, watched a submarine go by,  passed by multiple military vessels and entered the river to Hampton Downtown Pier marina.     More on Hampton in our next post.

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May 16-Mile Zero; Atlantic ICW Portsmouth VA

Swing Bridges, High Bridges, Railroad Bridges, Bascule Bridges, lift Bridges and a Lock.   Busy day on the water as we cruise 49.5 miles from Coinjock Marina to Mile Zero at Portsmouth Tidewater Marina on May 16.   Leading toward mile zero of the Atlantic ICW; next up will be the Chesapeake Bay.  Not too long and we will quietly cross into Virginia

The sky is overcast as we head out from Coinjock Marina at 7:15 am.   Another day of following a narrow channel that is dredged with very shallow water on either side!    Our goal is to follow from channel marker to channel marker and abide by any Waterguide alerts or Active Captain alerts on our chart plotters.   Combine the shallows with the timing of bridge openings- we are prepared for some delays.   The first bridge opens on the hour- we arrived about 10 minutes late; so waited 20 minutes for the next opening.  Then its 5 miles to the next opening bridge- we stepped up the pace, but the bridge was just closing as came around the bend!       Hurry up and wait.    With sightings of deadheads and logs in the water, we chose to move along to the next bridge at a slow and steady pace.


The boats pass each other along the way, then group up at the bridges that only open every half hour.   We are slow and steady, and often catch up with the fast boats that passed us!
Albermory to Portsmouth


The next marina is located just before the Great Bridge and Lock.   Boats were circling around waiting for the opening making a parade for the boats tied to the dock to watch.

As we approached this marina, we noticed a few familiar boats!    While waiting for the bridge to open, there was a lot of chatter back and forth-    Hey we know you!    Where are you headed?   “”Where have you been?”   “Were waiting for parts”  See you in a few days…     what a great feeling of seeing other loopers that we have met along the way over the past 11 months!!    `For more information check out the other blogs I follow on the side bar.   We snapped photos of Sanctuary and caught a glimpse of Somewhere in Time!


Albermory to Portsmouth


For you history buffs- Great Bridge is a city south of Chesapeake Virginia.   The Battle of Great Bridge on December 9, 1775 was the first land victory of the Revolutionary war.  Patriots won the battle and successfully held the critical port city of Norfolk from the British.  Greatness derived not from the size of the city or bridge, but its role in commercial traffic- supplying weapons and supplies to the area.

At that time a wooden bridge spanned about 40 feet over the southern branch of the Elizabeth River, and it stretched about 10 feet wide.

The modern Great Bridge is a steel and concrete drawbridge with four lanes of traffic spanning over the Albemarle and Chesapeake canal just east of the canal.   

One more bridge before the Great Bridge Lock .

Albermory to Portsmouth

Its been months since we went through a lock, this one raised us a few feet!! This is the Albermarle and Chesapeake Canal Lock.

Albermory to Portsmouth Albermory to Portsmouth

It was also interesting to see the mileage chart posted next to the lock!!    Puts in perspective how far we have traveled from Key West; and what is ahead of.

  •  1236 miles since leaving Key West
  • 452 miles to New York

One of our choices for a marina was Top Rack.  It was too early in the day, so we continued on toward Portsmouth.    Seemed odd that it was empty.   They charge $35 per night for any size boat.


The “preferred route” in this area used to be the Dismal Swamp- here Is a snapshot of the entrance.   It has been closed since October when Hurricane Mathew caused damage to the bridges and put debris in all the canals.   They hope to open it again by fall for the snowbirds that travel south for the winter.


the Dismal Swamp canal was approved in 1784 to improve water transportation for the colonies and work began in 1793.   President George Washington and Governor Patrick Henry of Virginia spearheaded the project.    It took about 12 years of back breaking labor to complete the 22 mile canal- dug by hand mostly by slaves hired from nearby landowners.      After the Civil War the swamp area became a refuge area for fugitive slaves escaping from the land owners.    With thousands of acres of swampland thick with vegetation too thick for horses or canoes,  people could effectively “disappear”.


This bridge clearance  for the next bridge is 144 feet- the highest one we’ve  seen!



Wow  … that all I can say.   Imagine the feeling of cruising through a fairly narrow river lined with these guys on each side!
Portsmouth ICW



For some reason it was a bit confusing pulling into this marina.   However once tied up, it was excellent. Located in Portsmouth, it is a short walk to the water taxi that will take us over to the Nauticus museum.


We are beginning to see more and more snow birds heading north as well as other looper boats.  Many of the looper boats are just starting from this area!    Now we are the more experienced- and love to share our tips to those that have the great lakes and inland rivers ahead of them!      This Great Circle route is of course a loop– so boats jump in and begin according to their location and season.   

We began our loop in summer/ fall- timing to leave Lake Superior in early September.   Boaters on the east coast would need to start in Spring to head up and will pick up the Midwest loopers  later in the summer!    Confusing but not!   The AGLCA  suggests the seasons as Spring UP;  Summer Across Canada, Fall Down and Winter South.       

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Alligator River, Albemarle Sound, Coinjock Marina

This stretch of the Alligator River is littered with stumps along the shore lines, so it takes extra care to stay in the channel.     A long straight canal cuts through between two rivers.
Alligator River NC Alligator River NC

Extra caution when the stumps or grass clumps are almost in the channel:

Alligator River NC

Just turning to port to approach the  Alligator Marina we passed through a swing bridge.  This swing bridge is in the center of the Alligator River bridge leading out towards the Ocean and the Outer Banks area.     It opens on demand-  no set schedule.  Each boater radios to request an opening – and the bridge tender sounds the horn to stop traffic, clear the bridge and swings it open.  What a job! Albermory to Portsmouth   ALLIGATOR MARINA ON MOTHERS DAY

The long face dock is next to the gas station/ restaurant/shopping.   They served sausage and eggs on Sunday morning- yes I said Gas Station.    Enough said.

Alligator River NC

The marina was deserted but for 2 other boats.   One more arrived after us; so it was a very quiet night.  By midmorning on Mothers Day all the boats had left !!    


Yeah- light winds and clear blue sky- Our goal today is cross the sometimes fickle Albemarle Sound.  It is about 14 miles across, and seems to have confused waters – outgoing from the river clashing with incoming tides from the ocean makes waves and seas unpredictable.


The 2000 foot face dock is reserved so we are on the over flow dock.   At least Moon shadow is; Enterprise ran out of dock, but was tied up as best as could be.

Albermory to Portsmouth

Albermory to Portsmouth

Albermory to Portsmouth

The dock hands fit in as many boats as possible by nosing them in stern to bow!    Makes for interesting maneuvers when the boats start leaving.

Albermory to Portsmouth

Dave chopped up some parsley and onion to make a stir fry- with more fresh shrimp!
Albermory to Portsmouth

Beautiful sun peaking through the clouds as we head north on the river.

Albermory to Portsmouth

We are stopping at these fairly remote marinas trying to make miles as we head for the Chesapeake Bay.   There we hope to find some beautiful anchorages and interesting historic towns again.    This section is comparable to the Mississippi river- just a means to an end.   Next up a winding , sometimes shallow stretch with several swing bridges that open on the hour or half hour plus a lock.    Lets see how well we can time the distance between bridges  to minimize waiting times!     The Atlantic ICW mile zero is in our sights- when we reach Portsmouth Virginia we will leave the ICW and head up into the Chesapeake Bay.    (More geography to learn!!)   Stay tuned, and thanks again for reading.

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Cruising through North Carolina

We have several Marina options in the next section of North Carolina.   Having considered a short 20 mile run – with a stop at Oriental; a 40 mile run stopping for seafood at RE Mayo Seafood and Marina or a longer run to Belhaven;  we got going to see how the day goes.   The conditions were so favorable for cruising; that we continued on, enjoying the calm water and minimal tides.   Arriving 68 miles later Belhaven for a few nights. 

The first option we passed- was RE Mayo;   a few friends had chosen this dock several day prior.  At 40 cents a foot its cheap;  plus good seafood and best price on fuel.   Too early to stop for the day.
River Forest Marina Bellhaven It was so calm, Colleen took a break from navigating to do some cleaning behind the fly bridge lockers.  They were stuffed with stuff; and had gotten wet and mildew.   Time to air out and disinfect while underway!!  One pesky horsefly found us; and we had to dig out the fly swatter.  Haven’t had bugs for months!


We made reservations- the name makes it sound like a luxury resort- courtesy golf carts to get to town! Its actually a small town with a big heart!  From Henry the marina owner to Donna representing the Chamber of Commerce we were welcomed and thanked for choosing to stop at Belhaven.  It is not a luxury resort- but very friendly, convenient and free laundry!      river forest marina Appreciate the dock hands – they gave specific instructions for docking and securing the lines according to the tide effects at their marina. We are instructed to have port lines ready and to back in to the slip.  With stern first; we pass the stern line to the first dock hand; then the mid ship line and last lasso the pillar with the bow line.   The dock hand will cross tie the stern; and then help connect the proper electric cord- 30 amp or 50 amp.  This usually earns a $5 tip and all is well. It was a challenge due to the increased current, and a old barge parked in the fairway!


While at Belhaven, we met up with a future looper, a snowbird, a new looper and re-met friends we hadn’t seen since Christmas dinner at Fort Myers.     Dinner out at Jacks Tavern with Pat and Cathy on Southern Cross, Dick and Cindy from Amazing Grace III, and Patty and Kurt from Enterprise .    The owner was so appreciative of us visiting his restaurant!   Makes us feel very welcome as visitors.

River Forest Marina Bellhaven

The marina provided courtesy golf carts to get around town!    Dave dropped us all off then scooted down the block to park next to ACE hardware- go figure!  River Forest Marina Bellhaven

The off beat museum contains an eclectic collection from a hoarder.   It was a cross between Ripley’s believe it or not and an antique collection. I didn’t get a photo of the fleas dressed in wedding cloths or the pickled brains of small animals, and didn’t take a photo of the vintage Xray machine-
River Forest Marina Bellhaven River Forest Marina Bellhaven
River Forest Marina Bellhaven

A frequent question is “how do you plan your travel days? ”    It varies,  but there are a few resources we use  daily:

  • Navionics or Blue Chart app for planning on the I Pad
  • AGLCA forum for ideas and recommendations
  • Networking with other loopers to share ideas
  • Access Trip Advisor for top things to do in the cities that we will visit
  • Phone in reservations for upcoming marinas 


A boaters worst fear occurred for a power cat anchored near our marina.

About 8 pm we could see a fire burning- turned out to be a power catamaran.    The owners of the 52 foot boat had anchored and gone to town for dinner.    The boat burned for hours- felt so bad for them.    River Forest Marina Bellhaven


The weather was predicted to turn nasty, so we spent a few extra days at Belhaven.   Saturday, it was cloudy but undaunted we left with two other boats to move north toward Alligator River Marina.  

Stay tuned for more reports as cruise north on toward the Chesapeake Bay then on to New York City!




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Dolphins, Shrimping and Pirates; Beaufort NC

Reminder- its Bow-fert in North Carolina!    Monday morning traveling means light traffic after a busy weekend- and it is CHILLY- and the WIND is starting to kick up.

Best of all, we finally had dolphins swimming along the boat long enough to get some great video and pictures.
Beaufort NC

Tonight’s marina of choice is Homer Smith Marina and Seafood.     I was a little nervous to read the reviews- Nice bathroom and free laundry, but you walk across the seafood processing floor to get to them!   Odd layout, but they make it work.
Homer Smith Shrimping

Beaufort NC


Visiting Beaufort allowed us to check a couple items off our wish list:

  • Visit a Maritime museum
  • See Wild Horses on the beach
  • Visit the Olde Burying  Ground
  • Watch Shrimpers unload the days catch



Homer Smith Marina is a busy shrimping and seaport operation, they expanded the business to include renting slips as a marina.      It is a great place to watch the shrimp boats come in and get a close look at how they receive the days catch.

Homer Smith Shrimping The  captain of the shrimp boat was watchful as they unloaded and weighed the catch, and happy to talk about his catch. The best  shrimp you’ll ever find”Homer Smith Shrimping Unloading the shrimp is very manual= tub by tub is shoveled out of the ships hold, then dumped into the bin with the conveyer belt for sorting and weighing. Homer Smith Shrimping   The crew is ready at the “board” to remove the heads of the shrimp. Some guys are quicker than others!  A flick of the thumb and off goes the head! Homer Smith Shrimping   The shrimp boats are loaded with ice when they go out.   The ice house is full of cubed ice (free if you want to load your cooler).  The ice is loaded into a auger with a chute that directs the ice into the large containers on each boat for the fresh catch. Homer Smith Shrimping   Dave got a couple dozen on day one, they were so delicious, we went back for 3 more pounds in the morning!


It’s a few blocks across the island to “downtown” Beaufort.    We could see Carrot Island across the bay, and sure enough a couple wild ponies were grazing along the waters edge.   Several islands along the barrier reef are home to the wild horses- each island seems to have a distinct lineage of horses.  Some are thought to be descendants of the 1700 Spanish ships that were ship wrecked along the coast.  


We missed the weekend festival for wooden boats, but took at a peak in the boat building barn before heading over to the museum.
Beaufort NC

The museum is an eclectic mix of the area maritime history.   Are you interested in fishing? How about surfing, boat building, sea-life, or even pirates?     You are at the right place.    We learned a lot about Blackbeard and his ship the Queen Anne- pilfering along the coast 300 years ago.   His ship sank just outside the harbor of Beaufort and was discovered in 1996!!   Olde Burying Grounds Beufort NC


Under a canopy of oak trees, the old headstones are cracked and faded- the wrought iron gates surround the various family plots.      A walking tour guide provides the stories that go with about 28 of the various “more interesting” plots.

  Olde Burying Grounds Beufort NC        Olde Burying Grounds Beufort NC Olde Burying Grounds Beufort NC

Olde Burying Grounds Beufort NC

Beaufort NC
Olde Burying Grounds Beufort NC

Olde Burying Grounds Beufort NCNotable memorials – a Union soldier buried in full uniform standing up so he could be buried in his boots. A child in a whiskey barrel- passed on the crossing and her parents didn’t want her buried at sea so hid her in a whiskey barrel.  Barely identifiable old headstones!   Many with flags or flowers that indicate they have not been forgotten.
Beaufort NC

Beaufort NC

Signs of spring are blooming around town making for a colorful walk,  So many sights and a day full of laughs and meeting new people in town and along the docks.   We are still meeting more loopers with the AGLCA burgee on their boats.   This time of year everyone is moving north on the ICW.

Beaufort NCThe friendly town people, shop owners and boaters are truly taking this trip to the next level!     Who has more fun than boaters?  Thanks for reading.

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Top Sail then Swansboro Dudley Marina

To Anchor, or not to Anchor?  That is today’s question.   With full intent to anchor out for the night, we slowly cruised by Wrightsville Beach.  It’s too early to stop.    Top Sail is just a few miles further- the reviews for Top Sail Anchorage are pretty good.    Scenic, quiet, convenient to the ICW.    As we approached the area, it looked like mud flats (low tide).

A closer look at the reviews and we read “need two anchors to keep from swinging into the channel” – means narrow space.    Another review “we woke up on the bottom”   means tide went out!   Third review “ became quiet after dark” – probably means lots of local traffic during the day, wakes and rocking.        We are learning how to better interpret the reviews!!   The trawler traveling ahead of us was more daring- they turned to starboard and headed down the channel marked with PVC Pipes.

Result- group decision to move on to a marina, we called Top Sail Marina in Surf City and booked a slip.  The marina is located on the east side of the ICW just past a new bridge (still under construction) and through a lift bridge that only opens on the half hour.      We missed the bridge opening by a few minutes, so we hovered in the the basin for 20 minutes. Who should join us-  the trawler we watched turn in to the anchorage earlier !! Must have changed his mind… confirmation we made the correct decision to pass on the anchorage.

54 miles    8 hours   arrived at Surf City north Carolina 4:30


How many of you know that the coast of North Carolina is known for surfing?    We learned this in Surf City, NC.     The beach is just 3 short blocks from the marina, and there were a few trying out their surf boards.

Marc, the dock master, is a one man show.  He took our reservations, helped us with lines, and processed our paperwork-  the paperwork is done on the ipad- he doesn’t have an office!  Marc works out of his minivan since the owners turned his office into a Spuddies food vendor to make a few more bucks.

This is a friendly stop, and conveniently located a few hundred yards off the ICW.   If you go there, hang to starboard in the channel;  the boat behind us ran aground when he drifted too far to port.

This is where our little Miss Pirate came aboard.  Just in time to catch a ride to Beaufort NC- where the infamous pirate Blackbeard met his demise 300 years ago.  More on that story next week.
surf city nc     FISHING PIER, SURFING AND SHELLING The long pier was busy with fishermen-  I never saw such a variety and creative wagons for hauling fishing gear out on the pier!!

surf city nc     surf city nc                      surf city nc surf city nc

At low tide the beach was littered with shells and smooth little rocks. surf city nc


Protected by the barrier reefs , this area has  been attracting surfers for over 100 years.    Made more popular by the surfing movies of the 1960s;  it continues to be a popular sport.

surf city nc



This is what I’ve been waiting for- fresh seafood markets!!!

surf city nc

Steps from the marina, we purchased scallops and shrimp for a great price.   After dodging the shrimp boats through the salt marshes of Georgia, and the Carolinas, we get to sample the local harvest.

surf city nc surf city nc surf city nc

To complicate cruising the ICW; add in currents, tides , water depth, and of course lift bridges and swing bridges!

surf city nc    surf city nc


 33miles    4.75 hours travel time today. Sunday May 7

I know, I know- we keep planning to anchor more   — can’t help being drawn in to the marinas for convenience after a long day on the water.  Our stop at Dudley marina also gave us a chance to check on our friends on Rascals Retreat.  Haven’t seen Rick and Prudie since Christmas in Fort Myers.   We heard they were at Dudley’s so made sure we spent one night there.    Several days ago, high winds ripped their canvas fly bridge enclosure off the boat so they are awaiting repairs.    Rascals Retreat is a Mainship just like Moon Shadow!
Dudley marina      Dudley marina

This marina proved to be convenient- right on the ICW; yet tricky to dock due to swift currents and swirling winds.    They put us on the end T-dock as a side tie; Dave skillfully crab walked the boat sideways against the current to allow the dockhands to secure us to the pillars.  Moon Shadow has two diesel engines, no bow thrusters- so it takes skill for the Captain to maneuver sideways.

Did I mention the live firing range?  luckily no maneuvers today.
Dudley marina

Dudley marina

A glimpse at a day in the life of a cruiser- Life at 8 miles per hour!    Enjoy.



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