Living on SV Island Time

Adventures of Life on a Boat

Category: Life Aboard

Exploring the Chesapeake Bay

On September 1, SV Island Time left the Intracoastal Waterway in Norfolk, Virginia and crossed Hampton Roads to begin six weeks of exploring the Chesapeake Bay.

Map

Regional Map, courtesy of Waterway Guide

Norfolk is home to the Norfolk Naval Station, the largest in the world. You can imagine the restricted zones in the waterway because of the naval fleet here. Battleships, other Navy vessels,  cargo ships, tugs and barges, tour boats and a variety of personal craft share this narrow waterway that features the James River, the Hampton River, the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and open water to the Atlantic Ocean. As a rule, naval vessels have a 500 yard clearance and naval police are on hand to enforce it. It was exciting to weave our way through the chaos and avoid all the no-go zones.

US Navy warship underway at Hampton Roads.

US Navy warship underway at Hampton Roads.

Navy patrol boat at Hampton Roads.

Navy patrol boat at Hampton Roads.

Our first stop was across Hampton Roads at Hampton, Virginia. We spent a few days visiting the shops, watching football (our first TV in a while), eating pizza and drinking beer.

From there, we gunk-holed our way into the Chesapeake Bay to the Potomac River, which would take us 90 miles upstream to Washington, DC. We stopped halfway up the river at Colonial Beach, a lovely town with a cute waterfront boardwalk and fishing pier. The folks at the Boathouse Marina were friendly and generous with the free golf cart for exploring the town. From here, we watched Hurricane Irma hit the British Virgin Islands, the US Virgin Islands and the Florida Keys. <sad face>

Farther up the Potomac, we passed Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington.

View of Mount Vernon from the Potomac River.

View of Mount Vernon from the Potomac River.

In Washington, DC, we stayed at the Gangplank Marina on the waterfront. We visited museums, memorials and monuments for three full days.

It was Scott’s first visit to the Library of Congress, a beautiful building with a terrific exhibit on World War I.

The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress

While we weren’t able to get tickets to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, we were touched significantly by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Both the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial were terrific tributes to the lives and legacies of two men who have helped shaped this country. We recommend that you take the time to see these museums and memorials when you visit Washington, D.C.

One panel of the MLK Jr Memorial.

One panel of the MLK Jr Memorial.

After traveling 90 miles back down the Potomac, we visited Solomons Island, Maryland. The Zahniser’s Marina was fabulous and provided loaner bikes for exploring. We hit the Tiki Bar (right!?!) and rode all over town. As luck would have it, we were there for their Arts Fest, where 300 local artists were selling their arts and crafts. It was a lot of fun.

From there, we headed to Annapolis to secure a mooring ball before the Boat Show. We were three weeks early but we were concerned about how fast the mooring field would fill up. Our idea was to continuing exploring the region by boat. The dockmaster said to simply leave our dinghy on the ball and that would “save it.” We were not comfortable with that for overnight trips so we took advantage of the opportunity to explore Annapolis while we waited for our friends to arrive for the Annapolis Boat Show.

Annapolis is the capital of Maryland so we visited the statehouse. As it turns out, this is where General Washington resigned his commission as a general before becoming our nation’s first president. This established the precedent that the president would be a civilian and not a military man.

Statue of George Washington at the Maryland Capital.

Statue of George Washington at the Maryland Capital.

From here, we watched Hurricane Maria hit the BVIs, USVIs and Puerto Rico. <another sad face>

From our boat, we experienced the daily parade of boats. In Annapolis, high school students sail every afternoon on 420s. On weekends, the little guys and girls sail prams. While we were there, the Eastport Yacht Club hosted the 505 World Championships with boats and sailors from many countries. The US Naval Academy midshipmen race Lasers with other universities. Add to that the many sailboats and powerboats going by at all hours. It was a lovely sight being in such a busy harbor.

High school students heading out to race for the afternoon.

High school students heading out to race for the afternoon.

Boat in the Annapolis harbor with its own helicopter.

Boat in the Annapolis harbor with its own helicopter.

On October 5, friends started arriving for the Annapolis Boat Show. Mike and Angel Ganey came aboard and stayed with us for eight days. Jimmy and Sondra Lee stayed in a local B&B. Also attending were Ivor and Lynn Groves and Steve and Mary VanSciver. We had a great time at the show, looking at boats, talking to vendors, meeting bloggers we know from the internet and drinking gin at the Hendrix Gin tent. We also sampled rum at the Papa’s Pilar tent. (right!?!)

On our last day in town, we toured the US Naval Academy. It was a treat to tour this college campus, called a yard, and to learn about the academic lives of these midshipmen and future naval officers.

One building on the yard at the US Naval Academy.

One building on the yard at the US Naval Academy.

Each step of the way, we were missing our friends Philip and Jackie Werndli. Scott and I have attended four boat shows in nine years and they were with us for the first three. We raised our glasses several times to toast Phil.

After the show, we headed with the Ganeys to St. Michaels on the eastern shore of Maryland. We were disappointed that we didn’t have time to explore (this was our fault) but we went to dinner and had a great time walking around their waterfront area.

From there, we headed back across the bay to Solomons Island. West Marine generously delivered two batteries for installation in SV Island Time. Think BOAT buck plus. For our non-boater friends, BOAT is an acronym for Break Out Another Thousand. <ouch!>

While there, we walked over to the Calvert Marine Museum and spent several hours checking it out. They have an otter exhibit with three otters that is adorable. You can watch them on the Otter Cam 24 hours a day. Over all, this museum is very well organized and features a lot of information in an entertaining way.

Scott caught some upper respiratory crud so he spent two days sleeping. Mike and Angel rented a car and headed to the airport. <sad face>

When Scott felt better and the weather was good, we headed south, gunk-holing back to Hampton Roads and the start of the ICW in Norfolk. From here, we’ll make our way back to Florida and then the Exumas, Bahamas this winter.

For now, we are taking a little detour to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Side story: everyone loves to display those little oval stickers on the back of their cars, proclaiming their favorite vacation destinations. In Tallahassee, you frequently see SGI for St. George Island. However, someone I know (who shall remain nameless), has this sticker.

OBX sticker.

OBX sticker.

OBX is for Outer Banks, North Carolina. Now I have a sticker too.  <happy face>.

Cruising the ICW

Yesterday, Sept. 1 at 10 a.m, we passed the last red buoy on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, marking our entry into the Chesapeake. Last night and tonight, we are at the Hampton, Va. docks, waiting for rain and wind to pass, remnants of Harvey.

Over the last 66 days, we’ve traveled 1,018 nautical miles up the east coast of the United States, from Riveria Beach (Palm Beach County, FL) to Norfolk, Va.

Along the way, we visited 19 cities/towns, hailed 36 tenders for opening of one lock and 35 draw bridges and taken photos of 10 lighthouses. We took advantage of each opportunity to catch up with friends that live nearby or make friends with other boaters.

 

View from the top of Cape Lookout lighthouse.

Each city/town offered excellent boating facilities, good food, nice walkable downtowns and lots of visitor centers, shopping, museums, tours and historic homes. In fact, I think we’ve been on the magical history tour. We now know A LOT about each city’s role in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Information about pirates and the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s paints more of the picture. Tales from St. Augustine, Savannah and Charleston are just the beginning of the story each city tells about the battles fought in their vicinity.

Fountain in Charleston.

If you like pirate lore, don’t miss the Maritime Museum in Beaufort, NC (pronounced BO-furt). This museum has the artifacts found off the NC coast from the wreckage of Blackbeard’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge. It’s very nicely done and tells his story very well.

Exhibit at the Maritime Museum in Beaufort, NC

On a different note. We happened upon a dock in McClellenanville, SC. From our slip, we could see several shrimp boats docked and a seafood market down the canal. We went for a walk to find the seafood market. We were the last of three customers at the end of the day. Each placed their order. The first two wanted one or two large tubs (16 oz) of shrimp dip. We ordered two pounds of shrimp and a small shrimp dip. Both ladies turned around with a look of wonder. “Why would you order a small one? Trust us. Get the large.” Ok. I changed to a large one. OMG. That was the most delicious shrimp dip we have ever tasted. If you go, definitely get the large one.

We took two days off the boat to visit my father and older brother in NC. It was great seeing them and catching up on their lives.

My dad and me.

Along the way, we saw manatee, lots of dolphins, sea turtles and bald eagle. We saw very few alligators. The last one was just south of the Va. state line in NC. They say there are none in Virginia but I’m not so sure the gators know that. We think this one was at least 10 feet long.

Visiting my brother and his wife at their new house.

We plan to spend the next five and a half weeks exploring the Chesapeake Bay. We want to visit the towns in Virginia and Maryland along the coast plus head up the Potomac River to Washington, DC. Of course, we plan to stick around for the Annapolis Boat Show in October.

On the way south, we hope to take the Dismal Swamp route, visit some places we missed, such as NC’s Outer Banks, Tybee Island, SC and Brunswick, Ga. We will plan to stop at McClellenanville for more shrimp dip.

On a sad note, both our dogs, Scout and Sandy,  have passed away. At age 13, they lived good lives and spent their last months sailing with their people. We miss them. RIP.

Newly Salted Interview

When Scott and I first decided to retire and travel on our boat, we started doing research. We read blogs and books, watched YouTube videos and talked to friends who had done it, were doing it and who planned to do it. One of the blogs we followed was Newly Salted and the companion site, Interview with a Cruiser. Now, as cruisers, we get to answer the questions.

Visiting the Hope Town Lighhouse

Scott and I visiting the Hope Town Lighthouse at Elbow Cay, Abacos, Bahamas

About Us
We are Scott and Martha aboard SV Island Time, a 35-foot catamaran made by Island Packet. Yes, we know, you were not aware Island Packet made catamarans. They built 41 of them from 1993-1995. The boat has two staterooms, two heads and a saloon/galley combo. We started living aboard in November 2016, sailed from Shell Point (just south of Tallahassee) to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area for boat work that took seven weeks. At the end of January, we headed to Key West and the Dry Tortugas. We then traveled north through the Florida Keys and through the Intracoastal Waterway from Miami to Port Everglades. We spent two months in the Abacos, Bahamas. Now, we are in Palm Beach.

Interview Questions
What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?     We read a lot of blogs and books and watched a lot of YouTube videos before we set out on this journey. We went to boat shows and sat through seminars about living aboard, crossing the Gulf Stream, installing solar panels, outfitting the galley and more. We thought we were fairly well prepared. We underestimated how much we would miss daily contact with family and friends. It makes phone calls and visits really special.

As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?     When we first started this trip, we had two 13 year-old dogs on board. Sadly, one just passed away. We were concerned about their transition to the boat and our need to take them ashore multiple times per day. Both dogs figured out the little green carpet trick. We don’t miss TV or the constant news cycle.

What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?     We underestimated how much time (and money) we would spend with the boat in the boat yard. We predicted a two to three week stay for getting the bottom painted, to service the engines and to complete some other tasks. It took seven weeks. Luckily, we were not living aboard as we had family nearby. At the end of the seven weeks, we were eager to get moving.

What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?     We both enjoy exploring new places and like walking, riding bicycles and finding the occasional Uber ride. Meeting new people who share our lifestyle is also rewarding. We enjoy sunrises, sunsets and really dark night skies so we can see the stars. Anchoring in a new harbor is always exciting

What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?     Even though our boat is a catamaran, our storage options are still limited. We move things around all the time to find things that are stored on board. We still have too much stuff. We love having a 12 cubic foot refrigerator/freezer. We don’t like emptying it to find that needed item in the bottom basket.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you didn’t find to be true?     A lot of people told us that rum would be plentiful and inexpensive in the Bahamas. They didn’t speak to the quality of that rum. We found good rum to be expensive, as was all alcohol, especially beer.

What is something that you read or heard about cruising, that you found particularly accurate?     Avoid schedules. Our crossing of the Gulf of Mexico included high seas and high winds. We were on a schedule. Not. Ever. Again. Weather is the first thing we look at before planning to move the boat. We always hesitate to make plans with friends about where we’ll be and when they should meet us. We can’t guarantee that we’ll be there. We also want to take our time and explore each anchorage.

Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?     We are still debating if we want to install a water maker. However, we did purchase a small generator so we can use the air conditioning sometimes when we are not at a dock.

What piece(s) of gear would you leave on the dock next time? Why?     We brought too many clothes that we don’t have the space to store or the need to wear. We try to stick with wicking/quick dry clothing because laundry can be expensive. So far, we’ve used laundry facilities on shore but we are prepared for the five-gallon bucket method when the time comes.

What are your plans now? If they do not include cruising, tell us why.     We plan to cruise for three to five years. We plan to travel up the ICW to Savannah and Charleston for summer 2017 and then head south through the Exumas and into the Caribbean for winter 2018.

What question do you wish I would have asked you besides the ones I’ve asked you and how would that you answer it?     What broke and how did you fix it? Our autopilot quit working on the way back to Key West from the Dry Tortugas. We ordered new parts and Scott installed them. We needed a hole drilled in a thick piece of brass while we were in Hollywood. Scott called many machine shops to ask for help and didn’t find anyone who could assist. Our friend Jerry came to the rescue. He knew someone with a drill press, made the arrangements and then came to pick Scott up, drive him there and return him to the boat. Whew!

Bonus Question: Some friends have asked “What do you do all day?”     Well, we live here, so it depends. We don’t go to work so alarm clocks are not part of our day. If the boat is underway, we are both on deck actively steering, sailing or motoring the boat, watching for boat traffic, tending lines and more. If we are anchored near a town or city, then we are ashore exploring, provisioning, doing laundry and buying parts for boat repairs and maintenance. We cook most meals on the boat but Scott is constantly looking for a good pizza. If wifi is available, we are checking weather, reading email, reading the news and watching more sailing videos on YouTube. We read books — paper and digital.

Thanks for reading our interview. Be sure to check out other interviews on Newly Salted and Interview with a Cruiser.

Sailing to the Bahamas

In late March, Scott and I sailed Island Time from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale) to the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas. We were there nearly two months, through April and most of May.

My favorite parts? Here’s the top 5.

1. Good Friends. Four catamarans and one powerboat from Apalache Bay Yacht Club were in the Abacos this spring, including Frank and Pat Hankins aboard Zephyros, Steve and Mary Van Sciver aboard Soliton, Ivor and Lynn Groves aboard Gratitude, Scott and I aboard Island Time and Don Beekler and Beth Novinger aboard their powerboat. This is impressive since ABYC is a small club. Friends and family also came to visit, including John and Beth Hamilton, Mike and Angel Ganey, Jackie Werndli and Jon Robinson and Melinda Delpech. We had a great time seeing the sights, exploring the islands, sailing and meeting cruisers from various other places. Boaters share camraderie and a sense of adventure.

Scott and I with Frank and Pat Hankins after a hike on Munjack Cay.

Scott and I with Frank and Pat Hankins after a hike on Munjack Cay.

Mike and Angel Ganey climbing the rocks along the coast at Little Harbor.

Mike and Angel Ganey climbing the rocks along the coast at Little Harbor.

Scott and I with Steve and Mary Van Sciver and Frank and Pat Hankins at Nippers Bar and Grill on Great Guana Cay.

Scott and I with Steve and Mary Van Sciver and Frank and Pat Hankins at Nippers Bar and Grill on Great Guana Cay.

Scott and I with Jackie Werndli at Man O War Cay.Scott and I with Jackie Werndli at Man O War Cay.

Scott and I with Jackie Werndli at Man O War Cay.

The four of us on the bow celebrating the crossing back to Florida.

Scott and I with Jon Robinson and Melinda Delpech after the overnight trip back to Florida across the Gulf Stream.

2. Great scenery. The Abacos are beautiful. Here’s a sample of photos.

Scott holds up one of three 28-inch mutton snappers caught on the trip.

Scott holds up one of three 28-inch mutton snappers caught on the trip.

Green sea turtle at rest

Scott points at a green sea turtle at rest under a branch near Little Harbor.

Scott snorkeling to find a queen conch.

Scott finds a queen conch near Little Harbor.

Coral reef at Fowl Cay Preserve.

The coral reef at Fowl Cay Preserve. Fish were plentiful with barracuda, angel fish, tangs and a variety of other fish.

Lighthouse at Hope Town

The Hope Town lighthouse claims to be the last manned kerosene burning lamp in the world.

View from the lighthouse

View of the harbor and Atlantic Ocean from the top of the Hope Town Lighthouse

3. Good wind. Most days were sunny with temperatures in the 80s and wind between 10 and 20 knots. That’s perfect sailing weather. Most night temperatures fell in the low 70s with light wind, making it comfortable to sleep without air conditioning since we were at anchor or on a mooring ball for most nights.

Island Time under sail on turquoise waters.

Island Time under sail on turquoise waters.

4. Tradition. It’s a tradition among boaters to blow a conch horn at sunset. An enterprising young Bahamian man sold us a conch horn for $5 in West End. I never got the hang of it despite Scott’s efforts to teach me. I will keep practicing. Angel Ganey played the trombone in high school and she’s a pro at blowing the conch horn. See the video.

5. My favorite. Scott can no longer say he has never been to the Bahamas.

Scott and I at Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay.

Scott and I at Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay.

Sailing to the Dry Tortugas

On Sunday, Feb. 10, Scott and I sailed Island Time from Key West to the Marquesas, due west approximately 20 miles. We tucked behind the island with six other boats to spend the evening. One of those boats was Gratitude, owned by friends Ivor and Lynn, also members of Apalache Bay Yacht Club.

Scott wading at the Marquesas

Scott wading at the Marquesas

 

Four people on the beach at Marquesas

Scott, Lynn, Martha and Ivor on the beach at Marquesas

The next day, we sailed an additional 50 or so miles to the Dry Tortugas, where we spent two nights. With 1-2 foot seas and 10-15 knots of wind, both boats enjoyed a beautiful sail getting there. Scott even caught a fish using the Cuban yoyo. It was too small to keep but he had fun catching it. We think this is a Lesser Amberjack.

Scott caught a fish.

Scott caught a fish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a short video of Scott talking about the trip and another taken as we approach the channel to Garden Key at Dry Tortguas National Park.

The park’s centerpiece is Fort Jefferson, which is located on Garden Key. Built in the 1860s, this fort is a wonderful piece of history with a lighthouse that is being restored but was decommissioned long ago. The name was given to the islands by Ponce de Leon in 1513. It means “the turtles” in Spanish. These are the “dry” Tortugas because there is no fresh water on any of the islands. They use cisterns to capture rain water.

Sign: Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park

Sign: Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park

Entry over the moat at the fort

Entry over the moat at the fort

The first floor of the fort

Exploring the first floor of the fort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moat around Fort Jefferson

Moat around Fort Jefferson

Lighthouse at Fort Jefferson

Lighthouse at Fort Jefferson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On nearby Bush Key, around 100,000 sooty terns gather for nesting season. I think all of them were there when we arrived. These birds made a constant ruckus that became background noise as we enjoyed the park. Bush Key is also home to a rookery of  Magnificent Frigate Birds. Pretty cool. I was not able to get a photo of the sootie tern but the frigate birds with six to seven foot wing spans soared overhead. As it turns out, the sootie tern eggs are a favorite food for the frigate birds. (OUCH!)

Male and female frigate bird fly over Fort Jefferson

Male and female frigate bird fly over Fort Jefferson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loggerhead Key is located three miles to the west of Garden Key. This island has a working lighthouse. The park reports that approximately 250 sea turtles (loggerheads and greens) nest on the island, yielding 15,000 hatchlings each year. Scott overheard one of the park guests who arrived by sea plane saying that the turtles were plentiful and looked like manhole covers from the air as they flew over. (WOW!)

Lighthouse at Loggerhead Key

Lighthouse at Loggerhead Key

Snorkeling is the show stealer at Dry Tortugas. OMG. Water temp is 70 degrees this time of year so we wore our wetsuits. The reefs were beautiful, the fish were plentiful and the colors were amazing. We also snorkeled over a sunken boat, called the Windjammer. (AMAZING!)

Fish were plentiful at the Windjammer wreck

Fish were plentiful at the Windjammer wreck

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you ever have an opportunity to go, DO IT! There are three ways to get there: private boat, ferry from Key West or sea plane charter. I recommend private boat because you get to stay as long as you want ($10 entry per person gets you a seven day visit). You can dinghy to the other islands to explore.

Stormy weather was expected so we sailed back to Key West on Feb. 13. Seas were 3-5 feet with wind in the 15-20 range with gusts around 24. Seas diminished as we sailed north of the Marquesas toward Key West. They provided great cover for a beautiful sail. We are glad to be back at the dock. The rain started about two hours after we docked at the marina.

Here are more photos.

Gratitude and Island Time in the harbor at Dry Tortugas National Park

Gratitude and Island Time in the harbor at Dry Tortugas National Park

Sunrise over Dry Tortugas

Sunrise over Dry Tortugas

Four people at Dry Tortugas

Scott, Ivor, Lynn and Martha at Dry Tortugas

The Plan

“Go small, go simple, go now,” is a saying credited to Lin and Larry Pardey, sailors and writers, known for their small boat sailing. They have sailed over 200,000 miles together.

So … Scott and I are taking their advice. We are going now. Our plan is to cruise until we don’t like it anymore or we are ready to do something else.

Depending upon the weather, we’ll leave Shell Point at the beginning of November, taking the boat to the Tampa area for bottom paint and other maintenance. We’ll spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with family.

In January, we will head to the Florida Keys to enjoy the mild winter and prepare for a trip to the Bahamas in the spring. We plan to spend the summer in the Chesapeake and head to the Carribean in the fall.

In this blog, I’ll write about our travels, life on board, our challenges and successes.

Follow along by subscribing to this blog or by liking us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Occasionally, we’ll post videos on YouTube.

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