Cambridge (May 14-16)

We left Solomon’s Island in a fog.  This made spotting crab pots difficult!

    

    

As we entered the Choptank (early Indian tribe) River with our sights on Cambridge, the harbor lighthouse and cruise ship welcomed us.  Although we are still only in Maryland, this was more of a New England fishing village than we had encountered before.

        

The nearly 100 year old bascule bridge was unique…..

    

    

We had upgrades, updates, and maintenance done at Mid-Shore Electronics and Yacht Maintenance Company – it was a good stop!

    

Having arrived early, we took advantage of the time to tour the town of Cambridge.  The old churches, houses and red brick streets reinforced the feel of an old New England town – and the snow sign sealed the deal.

                

On our walk back we stopped at a neat waterside restaurant called “Snappers”….

    

Ron had crab veggie soup, Karen had creamy crab soup…..

It’s always fun playing with the local ducks.  Unlike most restaurants, here they encouraged it.

    

The next day Herb arrived in Cambridge and walked over from his marina.  After a visit on Kara Mia we walked to Portside Seafood Restaurant, a local hang-out.

        

On our last day Ron and Herb worked on Herb’s boat……

    

    ….and as the clouds darkened, Ron and Karen rushed back to Kara Mia – this was the start of several days of heavy rain and storms.

On a side note – this is a vintage wooden sailing dredging boat, still in use today.

    

….arts and crafts around town caught Karen’s attention……

    

Each day at 1:00 the chimes of a near-by mid-century church can be heard from the marina.  Overlooking the water with the birds flying by and the chimes belting out “How Great Thou Art” gave reason to pause and reflect as the music echoed over the water.

    

….we see red cabooses at many marina stops…..

   ….still wondering why?

Solomons Island, Maryland (May 12-13)

Crossing Chesapeake Bay, we entered into Maryland and added another state to our journey.  Today’s travels took us over some of the deepest parts of the bay (124 ft).

        

As we entered the Patuxent River, we could see Solomon’s bluffs.  Ron got excited – this was the first time in a long time that the land was higher than the boat!  We docked at Zahniser’s Marina on the barrier island of Solomon.

        

We met with other loopers from “Best Day Ever” and “Proper State of Mind” at the pool and later had dinner with Dan and Jo at The Dry Dock.

Our experience at the Dry Dock:  No reservations so we sat at the bar….first we ordered crab dip…..they just sold their last one…… then we ordered burgers…..10 minutes later told they only had two burgers left…..girls switch to chicken sandwiches….then…all were served except for Karen – they burned her bun so the waiter refused to serve it – which took another 15 minutes……at Dan’s request, the bartender comped Karen a glass of wine for the wait – finally we had two burgers and two chicken sandwiches….all served with 3 french fries each…upon overhearing that, they brought us a small plate of fries to share – but by then the restaurant was closing so we ordered go boxes and headed out…….ya gotta laugh!

    

As we left the restaurant, we were surprised by 30 mph winds and a Coast Guard issued tornado warning.  We got back to Kara Mia just in time!

    

Over night the temperature dropped 20 degrees.

SECOND DAY AT SOLOMON’S – The marina shuttled us to Weis Grocery store with other boaters.  We had to wait on one another to finish before calling for the return shuttle and – once again – the mentality that “we will never see another grocery store again” set in – we’re still not sure what all we bought.

After getting provisions put away we walked to Herb’s boat “Phantom” where he invited us for a voluminous spread of cheeses, veggies and dips – and great conversation.

Chesapeake Bay (May 11)

As we left this morning we passed Newport News Shipbuilding and another Naval base as well as crossing over the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, a 3.5 mile tunnel under the main shipping channel in the harbor.

    

The size of the ships is put into perspective when you see the jets…..

    

It wasn’t long before we were entering Chesapeake Bay and heading north for Deltaville.

    

As we entered the Rappahannock River to Deltaville we were hailed on the radio by Albert and Cindy on Marianne.  The last time we saw them was at Dog River near Mobile.  They turned around and floated up to us in the middle of the bay.  Ron had promised Albert a t-shirt and this was our only chance to deliver.  With a strong throw the shirt was aboard Marianne and they were on their way to Annapolis.  Marianne is a 1960, 50 foot vintage Chris Craft.

    

Crab pots are everywhere – as you might imagine on Chesapeake Bay – particularly near the mouths of the rivers that enter the bay.  They are a serious threat to damaging propellers and it is like boating through minefields!

    

Upon the entrance to Dozier’s Marina we were welcomed by Ospreys nesting in the markers.

    

There were three other looper boats here when we arrived.

    

We had special guests joining us from Williamsburg, John and Molly.  Molly lives in Virginia and is the niece of our close friend Jerry.  His brother John was visiting his daughter so we were fortunate to spend time with both of them.

    

Dinner at Eckhard’s (a German and Seafood place owned by a local Italian)…and a toast to Jerry!

I forgot to take a photo of the booster cushion but it was a good laugh for us all!

Waterside Layover, Norfolk, VA (May 4-10)

Waterside Pictorial……..

Grandpa surprises the kids when he flies home to Nashville…..and gets to watch Bryson’s flag-ball game….they have not seen Grandpa since October last year!

    

Karen was well protected for any of those who had concerns while Ron was away…..

    

The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG61), carrying about 300 sailors, returned to Norfolk Sunday following seven months at sea and in Europe and in the Middle East.  The deployment included launching missiles into Syria, an attack on Syria’s chemical weapons infrastructure.

    

An Indian wedding party proceeded through our party……

    

Rick passed his Coast Guard vessel safety check and couldn’t wait to place his decal…..

    

“Looper Crawl” – we opened our boats to other Loopers…..Santa was our greeter….

    

Wine Festival and Antique Car Show at Waterside….

        

Dinner at Stripers….

   

Norfolk sunsets……

    

    

Departing Loopers – Jim & Jo Ann on “Namaste” (and Sammie)……….Dan & Jenny Lynn on “Melody in Sea”…..

    

Greetings from Norfolk…..

    

Waterside Marina – day & night……

    

German Sailboat….”Bank Von Bremen”…..

  

……docked at Waterside

Last Port Call Actual time of Arrival (UTC)
 Norfolk 2018-05-07 20:20
 Koolbaai 2018-03-16 12:35
 Basseterre, Saint Kitts 2018-03-14 10:44
 Antigua 2018-03-12 10:15
 Koolbaai 2018-03-02 17:14

Daily activity in our harbor – Ferry every 15 minutes, Spirit of Norfolk cruises, ships and barges…..and sailboat tours……

    

    

Ron charts out our travels while Karen cooks dinner…..

    

Live entertainment and street vendors…….

    

“Before” …..and “After”…………long overdue haircut!

    

Watching Predators in the Play-offs and eating pizza on our last night in Norfolk…..

            

……and rain………and the Predators lost……….

    

SPRING RENDEZVOUS Norfolk, Virginia (Apr 30 – May 3)

The next several days took us out and about with other Loopers – seminars, eating, boats… – we were busy from sunrise to “boater’s midnight” (usually around 9:00pm).  We spent 7 hours a day in seminars.

    

    

In our “front yard” was  a large waterfront area with “The Market” – a food extravaganza and live music…..

    

In our “back yard” was the Navy Base – large destroyers, aircraft carriers, patrol boats……..

        

There were almost 300 people attending the Rendezvous, about 86 people (43 boats) were “IN PROGRESS” of looping, about 30 people (15 boats) had “COMPLETED” the loop already, and about 160 were in the “PLANNING” stages – some with boats, some without.  There were about 60 Looper boats in the marina and they did not allow any non-Loopers in this week.

    

There are over two dozen mermaids around the city.  These are city mascots and are all dressed in different outfits depicting different themes, one even in a Navy uniform.

    

The Rendezvous ended with a Pub Crawl which consisted of about 50 people divided into 4 groups and sent out into the streets of Norfolk.  We stopped at each of 4 pubs for 45 minutes, rotating pubs with all 4 groups.  Dinner was at our last stop, Hell’s Kitchen (not to be confused with famous British chef and restaurateur – Gordon Ramsay).  We met new Loopers and had a few laughs…..We are group #3

        

Once again our waitress surprised us with her selfie…….    

    

    

    

South Branch Elizabeth River to Norfolk (Apr 29)

As we pulled out of the Atlantic Yacht Basin, we lined up waiting for our first bridge, which was only yards from the marina and only opens on the hour.

    

We waited with “Knot Grounded”, “Phantom”, and “Blue Ayes”

    

We followed “Rejoice” through the first lock of the day.  Ron and I have been through over 30 locks since we started our Loop, but this was the first ever for Rick and Deedy.  They had a perfect first locking through!

    

We watched the geese in the park as we locked through…..this was only about a two to three foot lock.

    

As we traveled up river we noticed the water had turned to almost black.  We also saw this school bus hanging off of what looked like a washed out bridge – also notice the car piled up on the back of the bus.  We’re thinking these are victims of a hurricane.

   

The Elizabeth River brought us to Mile Zero – the “official” beginning of the ICW – at Norfolk, Virginia – also the home of the world’s largest naval base.  We saw evidence of that as the scenery changed from juniper and cypress trees to aircraft carriers, destroyers, support ships, amphibious assault ships and nuclear submarines.  Even NATO has headquarters in the area.  No vessel may approach closer than 100 yards of any U.S. Navy vessel. We were on guard here as patrol boats were in abundance!

        

If you’ve noticed, we have been marina hopping lately – traveling every day.  After a fun-filled winter in Texas and Florida, dawdling around here and there, relaxing and taking it all in, all of the sudden we realized we had to be in Norfolk, Virginia for Spring Rendezvous.  We know not to make a schedule but this Rendezvous thing is important!  Loopers meet in the Fall and the Spring at the Rendezvous for seminars, meals, Looper crawls and that famous Looper camaraderie.

This Rendezvous is in Norfolk, Virginia at the Waterside Marina.  The agenda includes detailed seminars about the Great Loop route taking you from Norfolk to the Tennessee River (the site of the Fall Rendezvous).  It covers information on various topics such as “Locking Through”, “Handling Emergencies Aboard”, etc.  The agenda also includes the famous “Looper Crawls” during which you can explore the Looper boats in the marina.  We included Kara Mia in the Looper Crawl and had many visitors join us.

    

Entering Waterside was a challenge in the wind but even worse was the loud music.  The band playing at The Waterside was LOUD!  As several of us had arrived together, the dock-hands were trying to get us all in without hitting each other.  The winds were high – the slips were narrow.  We could not hear the dock-hand’s instructions, they could not hear us, the captains could not hear the first-mates and vise versa…..

We secured Kara Mia in her slip and joined Rick and Deedy on their boat.  They wanted to introduce us to their friends Steve and Jane aboard Sabbatical.

Afterwards we walked around the downtown area of Norfolk looking for the perfect place for dinner.

    

After several stops from the alleys to the rooftops, we finally settled on Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse in the Waterside District Market, which is an open pavilion walk-around food court setting.  Guy Fieri is an award-winning chef, restaurateur, author and TV personality.  Ron had meatloaf, Karen had a turkey burger, and our waiter surprised us with his “selfie”…..

                

After dinner, we found a large-screen TV in the Market where we ran into other Loopers and watched the Predators game.  PREDATORS WON!

    

    

……was a very full day!

Albemarle Chesapeake – Atlantic Yacht Basin, Saturday (Apr 28)

Today marks 180 days of travel and 11 states since we started this adventure in Nashville on October 31, 2017.  We also crossed from North Carolina to Virginia.

    

We encountered more military activity.  F-18 Jet Fighter Pilots are trained right here!  We watched seven of them flying over us in formation (in circles).  Impressive to say the least.

    

This would be the last stop to see Dan for a while, he will not stop in Norfolk for the Rendezvous but we will catch up to him along the loop later…..Dan has acquired his boating companion, “Hooter”.

    

Ron found his long missing Predator’s Flag, a gift from our friend Robert.  It has been MIA since October, 2017.  Since the Predators are in the playoffs Ron wanted to fly the flag on Kara Mia – and that he was finally able to do.  Thanks Robert!  Go Preds!

    

Several of us caravanned to the Atlantic Yacht Basin in Chesapeake.  All members of AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Association) were invited by the Yacht Basin, Waterway Guide, and the City of Chesapeake to enjoy their hospitality before moving on to Norfolk for the Spring Rendezvous (will explain that later).  There would be food, prizes and festivities throughout the afternoon – and great rates on fuel and dockage.

    

    

It’s always a pleasure to see Herb again (red shirt).  Last year Herb was elected by the entire membership of AGLCA as Harbor Host of the Year.  Harbor Hosts are volunteers at different marinas around the loop that offer assistance (a trip to the post office or grocery store, help find local marine maintenance, recommendations – and rides – for restaurants, friendship, etc.) – when you are in their home port.  We met Herb in Tarpoon Springs in January when he greeted us with a welcome gift of cinnamon streusels!  We also met up again with Jim and Regina aboard “Blue Ayes” – we met in January in Carrabelle, Florida.

    

The Waterway Guide flagship ADONIA was on site…..

    

Our first Virginia sunset…….

    

…Tomorrow – “The Rendezvous!”…..

Coinjock Marina, Coinjock, North Carolina (Apr 27th)

We had planned on hanging out around the marina due to predicted early morning thunder storms but when we awoke and checked the weather the storms had moved to the afternoon.  We decided to get out as quickly as possible to be ahead of the storms.  We had a beautiful sunrise and a great crossing of the Albemarle Sound.  Today was only a 37 mile travel day.

    

We docked at The Coinjock Marina in Coinjock, North Carolina.

    

They have a nice restaurant that is home to the legendary 32 oz. prime rib dinner – which you have to order early in the day if you want one.  Ron and I shared the dinner and still had left-overs.

More docktails……..and a toast to looper’s health and safe travels…..

    

We retired to Kara Mia for a little nightcap…..

Alligator River Marina, Columbia, North Carolina (Apr 26)

Having seen a dog swimming across the ICW yesterday, it caught our attention when we saw a big furry head moving across in front of us today….we were so excited when we realized it was a huge black bear – our first bear sighting of the trip!

    

As we traveled up the Alligator River, the water changed to a rusty “tea” color.  It is preserved by tannic acids from the bark of the juniper, gum and cypress trees, which prohibits the growth of bacteria.  It was believed that the tea colored waters had magical qualities which, consumed on a regular basis, would prevent illness and promote long life.  We did not try any!  The tannic acid is also responsible for the brown “mustache” on the fronts of our boats!

    

We had smooth sailing most of the day, but as we passed “Willow” and “Contentment”, the storms were beginning to roll in…..

    

As we were steadily moving up the river, minding our own business, three stealth-looking military boats flew close by us before we even knew they were on our stern.  They were there and out of sight in a matter of seconds.  Good thing I had my camera in hand, but it did scare the living daylights out of us!  Further research leads us to believe they may have been the Navy Seal’s newest toys, or possibly the Navy’s long overdue smart and deadly Mark VI patrol boats.

    

We arrived safely at Alligator Marina and once again lined our looper boats along the marina’s wall.

    

The skies cleared and we joined everyone on the dock.  This was a large group of Loopers except for the sailboat Willow.  They are not looping but we have crossed paths many times on the water.  Today we finally had the pleasure of meeting Chuck and Marla aboard Willow.  Marla always hails Santa on the radio and loves it when Santa waves to her as we pass.  We also tease Marla about her pleasant “Good Morning K-Mart Shoppers” voice over the VHF radio.  Along with several of “the regulars” (loopers), Anne (a travel nurse solo looping aboard Nautical Gypsy) also joined us.  We would all be at the next several stops together as we work our way up the east coast.

    

    

Rick and Deedy shared a toast from the gift of wine they received from The Spoon River Artworks Restaurant last night.

    

There are no restaurants near but the marina has a little grill in the back where we ordered our dinner to go.  Karen had a BLT and fried okra, Ron had chicken strips.  Our fridge tends to get overloaded with “go boxes”!

    

Ron walked to the “boat house” which houses showers, laundry, restrooms and a lounge……where he could watch the NFL draft on TV – they have ESPN and Ron was very happy indeed!  The Titans drafted a badly needed linebacker!

It was another good day at sea…………………

Belhaven, North Carolina (Apr 25)

It’s not Sunday morning, but always a nice reminder seen ashore as we headed out…..

    

We followed Sea Change out of the channel and passed several other looper boats as we crossed through the Pamlico Sound before arriving at Belhaven Marina.

It was 73 miles to Belhaven but as you can see in the pic (upper left corner), we made good time….we’re okay traveling at 10 mph, and that is frequently required when encountering no wake zones, small fishing boats and communities, bridges, etc.,  but when we can open it up and make good time we like that too!

    

While underway today our radio hailed us on 16….”Kara Mia, up one” – that meant going to channel 17 and getting off the channel used for calling US Coast Guard, other stations or vessels, or for distress alerting.  (Channel 13 is used to contact a ship when there is danger of collision.  All ships of length 20m or greater are required to guard VHF channel 13, in addition to VHF channel 16, when operating within U.S. territorial waters…..I digress…..)  So we go up one channel to 17, “Kara Mia on 17” we report, then we hear a voice, “Ron, is that you?”  Off to our starboard was Captain Rick and XO Susan, aboard Ginger Lee!  We have not seen them since early January at C-Quarters in Carrabelle, Florida.  It always stirs up some excitement to see fellow loopers again, even if only underway.  Hopefully we will re-connect on land one day.

Those of us ending at Belhaven lined up our looper boats on the marina wall and prepared for the notorious docktail hour.  We met at the little gazebo with Dan (Intuition), Dan and Tammy (Sea Change), Craig and Elizabeth (Contentment), and Rick and Deedy (Rejoice).

    

Karen caught her first fish so far on the loop…..

which is actually much smaller when put into perspective…..

…not sure how or why it ended up on our swim platform!

It was just a short walk to Spoon River Artworks – a really, really nice (upscale) restaurant in a little bitty North Carolina town – where the hardware store also sells wine and cheese!  I had the best oysters so far on the trip, even beating out the ones at St. Pete – and picture worthy as well!

    

We ended our meal with a champagne toast – compliments of the owner!

    

You can see the diverse assortment of items at the local hardware by the signs above each aisle – Aisle 1 notes “wine, cheese and giftware”, Aisle 2 notes “power tools, tool belts and screwdrivers”.  Too bad they had already closed as this would have been an interesting visit!

    

Belhaven Marina was a neat little stop – nice showers with free fluffy towels and free laundry!  What more could a looper want?

     ….tomorrow – Alligator River