Living on SV Island Time

Adventures of Life on a Boat

Tag: BoatLife

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.


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.

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

Boat Work and Breaking the Three Day Rule

On December 5, we took Island Time to Snead Island Boat Works for a bottom job, to replace the standing rigging, service the engines and some other routine maintenance tasks. We estimated the work would take about three weeks. We planned to spend two weeks at Jon and Melinda’s (Scott’s brother and our sister-in-law) and one week visiting our children, Matthew and Kathryn, in Denver for Christmas. We planned to be underway to Key West right after New Years.

A sailboat on a boat lift

Our catamaran on the lift before work started.

Slight change in plans. We left Snead Island on January 28 … more than seven weeks after we arrived.

About the Boat Work
First off — Snead Island Boat Works was great to work with. Everyone was nice, quick to tackle a problem, worked on Saturdays even when they should have the day off, answered questions and more. This is a reputable yard with a professional crew. However, every project look longer than anticipated.

For the bottom job, they sanded the boat to the fiberglass to remove multiple layers of bottom paint. That exposed the blisters — 72 of them. A blister is like a pimple. Water seeps in and permeates that part of the hull. During the job, they sand it out and let that water drain. That can take a while. One blister took three weeks to drain. Delay number one.

When the blisters were finished draining, they painted three coats of barrier paint and two coats of anti foul paint to protect the hull. They then moved the boat off the blocks and back onto the travel lift so they could do the whole process under the areas where the blocks had been. And guess what. They found another blister on an area that was already finished. The yard foreman is quoted as saying, “Crap. Crap. Crap.” Start the whole process over on that blister. Delay number two.

Another project was to replace to standing rigging. Those are the cables that hold the mast up. After the boat was ready to go back in the water, the mast could be put back on the boat using a crane. The first day, the weather was windy. They were successful the second day. Foreman says, “Captain, move the boat over there” as he points to where he wants us to go. Engines won’t start. We used the “Tom Sawyer method” to move the boat to the slip at the end of the run. They sent over the mechanic the next day. This guy was wonderful and got both engines running. We hoped to get underway after the canvas guy finished installing the new bimini and dodger. Another delay by one day.

Men use a crane to lift the mast onto a sailboat

Putting the mast back on the boat with a crane.

Finally. Ready to go on Saturday, January 28. Nope. One engine won’t go into forward. It’s Saturday morning when the yard is closed. Two guys come in on their day off to save the day and fix it. We are underway by noon, aimed for Marina Jack in Sarasota where we picked up a mooring ball for the night … right next year to our friends Ivor and Lynn on SV Gratitude.

The Three Day Rule
Scott’s mother had a little sign in her guest bathroom: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Benjamin Franklin is credited with that line. We took full advantage of our time with Jon and Melinda and their friends. Our dogs, Scout and Sandy, enjoyed their walks with Cooper and Lily. One benefit was that we all enjoyed watching the seven Star Wars movies so we could remember the full story line. After seven weeks, we hope we didn’t stink too bad. We enjoyed our time with Jon and Melinda. Especially appreciated were the family dinners with our niece, Marina.

Where are we now? Key West. Look for the next post for details of that adventure.

What We Learned on the Shake Down Cruise

Last May, we took a shake down cruise for 10 days. See the previous post for the itinerary. The goals were to play, identify what worked and what needed more attention. Here are five things we learned/verified:

1) Be careful who you invite.

Four people on the bow.

Phil and Jackie with us on the bow at Dog Island. Photo by Phil Werndli.

Phil and Jackie were perfect companions for 10 days. We’ve traveled with them for long trips before so we knew we’d get along great. Jackie and I alternated meal preparation so we were not in the galley together. Phil and Scott worked together on anchoring, engine issues and trouble shooting other systems. We ate, drank cocktails, played dominoes and window shopped in two towns. Both were able to assist and offer valuable suggestions. It was great and we appreciate their company, their expertise and their friendship.

2) Our solar panels kept us off the grid — mostly.

Two solar panels.

Two solar panels on the radar arch of Island Time.

In recent months, Scott installed two 150-watt solar panels on the boat. He also replaced the refrigerator/freezer combo on the boat. The test? Would the solar panels keep up with all the demands of four people and two dogs? It performed well, despite some cloudy days. Between running the diesel engines and the solar panels, our batteries stayed charged and covered all the electrical needs, including powering the refrigerator. The 12-cubic-foot space was filled to the brim when the journey began. As each meal was prepared, the contents slowly diminished. On the days when we knew we would be motoring, we let the crock pot do all the work — pork roast and pot roast. That’s good eating on a boat.

3) Four people need a lot of mixers for 10 days on a boat. Boat drinks are important. Soda Stream to the rescue. We kept cold water in the refrigerator, added the appropriate flavoring and whirled up tonic, lemon/lime and ginger ale on demand. No hauling cans and bottles to the boat and no hauling away the garbage. It worked great and kept us singing along with Jimmy Buffett the whole trip.

4) Ground tackle matters. On the first night, we anchored in Tyson’s Cove at Dog Island. We know from experience that the bottom there is sandy and that most anchors simply don’t hold without the weight of chain to hold it in place. Our new Mantus anchor with all chain rode did a fabulous job. The anchor held great and we all got a good night’s sleep. Of course, Scott was still up every couple of hours checking on the position of the boat.

Because of the sandy/silty/muddy bottom, Phil had the job of rinsing the chain as Scott used the windlass to lift the anchor. Phil had a cloth bucket on a rope that he lowered to the water, filled and lifted to pour over the chain to remove the black mess. Phil filled, lifted, and rinsed while Scott raised the anchor. This was hard work for Phil for more than 30 minutes. Lesson learned: install a fresh/salt water pump on the bow. Scott’s still working on that one.

5) You never know who’ll you’ll meet or meet again. After we docked at the marina in Port St. Joe, another boat came in a little bit later. We assisted with tying their lines. The woman on board and I started chatting and both kept saying, “We know each other. How?” After we chatted for a few minutes, we figured it out. We had met at the St. Petersburg GAM reception for the Seven Seas Cruising Association the previous November. Gary and Shirley are now full time cruisers and we are excited to join them on the water.

Bonus lesson: Keep both engines running. Motoring into the wind with one engine means little progress. Early in the trip, we noticed that the starboard engine was spitting black gunk. Scott turned it off and we decided to proceed with one engine. On the way to Apalachicola, we were going about one knot into the wind. Unacceptable. We started the engine and motored along, taking it easy for the rest of the trip. When we got back to home port, Scott replaced both exhaust elbows (one for each engine). As it turns out, this is a routine maintenance item and it was due.

Scott and I are working to move from the house to the boat so we can begin our adventure on the water. Next post: transitioning from house to boat. What to keep? What to donate? What to store?

Where We Went on the Shake Down Cruise

In May 2016, Scott and I took the boat for 10 days on a shake down cruise to learn more about the boat and some of newly installed equipment. We invited our good friends, Phil and Jackie, to join us on the trip.

We motorsailed west from Shell Point to Dog Island, where we spent the first night. On the second day, we motorsailed to Apalachicola. We anchored in the river one night and tied up to the city wharf the second night. We spent the day sight seeing, shopping and enjoying the town. At cocktail time, we headed over to the Gibson Inn. None of us had ever been there before so it was treat. The historic inn has been wonderfully restored and Phil (a retired historic preservationist) told us all about it. We had dinner at a local restaurant.

Boat at anchor

SV Island Time at anchor on the Apalachicola River.

Appoaching the bridge to St. George Island

Approaching the bridge to St. George Island.

Sunset over the Apalachicola River.

Sunset over the Apalachicola River.

The next day, we traveled up the Apalachicola River to Lake Wimico on the Intracoastal Waterway on our way to Port St. Joe. Our original plan was to anchor for the night, but the winds made it choppy so we headed for the marina, where we spent two nights. We re-provisioned at the Piggly Wiggly, shopped at the adorable stores just one block north of US 98 and enjoyed pizza for dinner at Joe Mama’s Wood Fired Pizza (there are two, the other one is in Tallahassee).

When we left the marina, we sailed around St. Joe Bay, went for a swim and anchored by the lighthouse for the night.

Lighthouse and museum

Lighthouse at the town of Port St. Joe.

The next day, we reversed course and headed through the lake, back to Apalachicola where we anchored for the night before heading to Dog Island to meet the cruising fleet for Memorial Day weekend at Dog Island. There were at least 12 boats there from the Apalache Bay Yacht Club. Scott caught a Spanish mackerel on the way and we were happy to grill it and offer as a appetizer to share with our friends joining us there.

Next: What worked? What needed more attention?

boats at anchor

Several boats from Apalache Bay Yacht Club at anchor at Dog Island.




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