Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sep/Oct 2018: From Baltimore to Oriental

Passing Fort McHenry Just South of Baltimore Harbor....Where During the
War of 1812 the British Navy Was Repulsed & Francis Scott Key
Penned the Words for Our National Anthem
It was time to say goodbye to Baltimore and begin our trek back to our Florida home, so on the morning of Sunday, 30-September, we got back underway.  It was a cool (60F), and cloudy but dry morning, requiring jackets, but winds were generally light, and by 0930 we were off the dock and underway once again.  We encountered plenty of floating debris in the muddy Patapsco River, with a few floaters bigger than telephone poles, but we managed to avoid all that.  Vessel traffic was moderately heavy, as plenty of folks were anxious to take advantage of a dry weekend.

By early afternoon the clouds had cleared and we were treated to another very pleasant day for cruising…..bright sun, light breezes, temps hovering around 80F.  Once we reached Chesapeake Bay and got south of Annapolis the vessel traffic lightened considerably.
A View from Our Anchorage in Broad Creek Looking Back South
Towards Its Entrance at Chesapeake Bay

The trek south to Broad Creek on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake took us about six hours and then at least another hour to backtrack to the northeast and up to the St. Michael’s anchorage area.  But it was worth the detour….the big creek was twisting but wide and with adequate depth, and very quiet, even on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  We dropped the hook about ¾ of a mile south of St. Michaels in a wide curve of the creek in about 10 feet of water, and got a good set on the anchor.  After the sun had set the cool temps allowed us to open up the boat and spend a very pleasant night without running the generator.

Departing Ghost Rider and Heading to St. Michaels
The first day of October greeted us the next morning with more fabulous weather – upper 60’s, clear and sunny, a moderate southerly breeze around 14 knots.  We cranked up the genset to put some juice back into the house batts and Rick took care of some minor boat chores while Chelle went on a scouting mission in the dinghy.

That afternoon we took another dinghy ride up to St. Michaels and walked into town.  We stopped at The Galley for lunch and on their shaded outdoor dining deck munched on a (very good) BLT and some quesadillas accompanied by a Bloody Mary and a white Sangria.  It’s one of those family owned and operated eateries open only for breakfast and lunch, and where you can sense the pride in the preparation and presentation.

Originally settled back in the mid 1600’s this small (population under 2,000) charming harbor town has preserved it history and architecture over the centuries, and beckons many Bay area visitors.  St. Michael's red brick sidewalks are lined with numerous shops and restaurants where just about any type of food fare is available, but of course the locally caught fresh fish, crabs and oysters are featured.
All Residences in St. Michaels are Well-Kept.....and This One Invites All Passersby to Tour Their Back Yard
Garden.  Note the Signage.
Shipbuilding was the town’s first industry and remains a central theme along the waterfront where the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum occupies 15 acres adjacent to the town’s top notch marina.  Straddling Broad Creek on its western side and the Miles River on its eastern side, both providing excellent deep water access to Chesapeake Bay, life on and near the water has always defined and shaped this place.  It still looks a lot like a 19th century seaport.
Just Walking the Streets of Picturesque St. Michael's Can Occupy An Entire Day
The museum grounds can be an all-day experience, although we limited ourselves to a few hours.  From the shipyard – where they are working on restoring several older wooden boats – to the Hooper Strait Lighthouse – another screwpile structure very similar to one we had seen at Solomons – to the extensive displays dedicated to documenting the storied oyster industry, as well as the more recent explosion of recreational uses of the Bay – the museum does a fine job of giving its visitors a real feel for the long and storied history of St. Michaels and its symbiotic connection to this country’s largest estuary.
The Boat Shop Barn at the Maritime Museum Where Numerous Build and Restoration
Projects Are Always Underway
The Hooper Straight Lighthouse Restored & Relocated to the Maritime Museum
By late afternoon we were tiring – especially after stopping for a Margarita and a Chardonnay at The Crab Claw – so we hiked back through town and back to the dinghy dock, returning to Ghost Rider to spend a relaxing evening. We ran the genset for a few hours to recharge the house batteries, then after an excellent steak dinner shut it down and opened up the boat again.  We completed the day on the fly bridge with a drink under a clear and starry sky (and a cigar for Rick), followed by a peaceful and comfortable night’s sleep.

Our excellent weather continued on Tuesday, 02-October, with a perfectly clear and sunny sky, temps in the low 70’s and a light southerly breeze.  After coffee and breakfast Chelle was gone for the day, taking the dinghy back into St. Michaels for a day of browsing and shopping.  Rick stayed aboard, partly to avoid the shopping expedition, but also to tend to various small chores – recharging the batts, updating the blog, and placing orders for some supplies to be delivered at one of our upcoming ports-of-call.  He also spent some time transferring fuel from our two aft fuel tanks to the forward tanks – a slow process given the rather weak flow rate of our fuel transfer pump, so that took most of the afternoon.
Our Final Evening at Anchor Near St. Michaels

Chelle returned to the boat around 1530 – tired but pleased with her shopping finds, one of those being a very nice bottle of dark rum from one of the local St. Michael's distilleries.  Around 1700 we cranked up the generator again, mainly to power up the davit crane so we could retrieve the dinghy and park it back on its boat deck berth, but also to top off the house batts for another night at anchor without running the generator.  We enjoyed another quiet dinner and peaceful night on the hook, but were ready to move on.

The morning of Wednesday, 03-October greeted us with perfect weather – clear skies, pleasant temps in the low 70’s with light and variable breezes.  We retrieved the anchor and by 0915 we were underway once again, headed to the other side of the Bay and a bit further south to the St. Mary’s River.  The Bay waters were glass-flat….one could have gone water skiing out there.  It was a fine day to take helm duties on the fly bridge, it couldn’t have been a smoother ride.

Another Nice Sunset, This One in a Protected Bay
Just to the West of the St. Marys River
We ran the water maker for several hours as we had depleted the tanks quite a bit, using an unusual amount to wash off the mud from the chain and anchor as we retrieved it – we probably should have had a dredging permit given the amount of muck that came up stuck to our ground tackle.  During one of our engine room checks Rick noted that one of the water maker’s small hoses was dripping water in the area of its quick-connector; we couldn’t thwart the minor leak with any of our adjustments, so Rick wrapped it with some Rescue Tape as a temporary measure.

We reached the entrance to St. Mary’s River around 1600, had the anchor set by 1630 and the dinghy splashed by 1700.  Chelle went to shore for some walking exercise while Rick handled the usual engine room and lazarette post-flight checks.  Around 1900 we jumped in the tender and zipped across St. George Creek to the nearby Ruddy Duck Brewery and Grill for a casual dinner ashore.
A View of Ghost Rider at Anchor Just After Sunset as We Departed in the
Dinghy to Grab a Meal at the Ruddy Duck Restaurant

When we returned to the boat we ran the genset and kept Ghost Rider closed up for a while….temps were mild enough, but we had bugs in droves – gnats, flies, noseeums and mosquitos.  We’re not campers, so we turned on the A/C and stayed comfy.  A couple of hours later as temps lowered a bit more we powered down but only opened windows and portals that had screens, and had a mostly bug-less experience.  Rick fell asleep watching the MLB wildcard game between the Yanks and the A’s….it was a good night.

We slept in a bit the morning of Thursday, 04-October since we had a fairly short run to make – under 50 nautical miles.  After Chelle returned from another trip to shore for her morning walk we winched the dinghy back up to the boat deck, retrieved the anchor (much cleaner than the previous day) and got underway around 1030.  We had starting weather and sea conditions identical to the day before – just about perfect.  It was a bit humid but nothing to complain about once we got the boat-induced sea breeze going. 

The southerly breeze picked up to around 12 knots later in the afternoon giving us a one to two foot chop on the nose with the attendant whitecaps, but the ride remained comfortable.  And the air temps continued to warm as well, finally getting back into the low 90’s by day’s end.
Our Peaceful Anchorage Site Near Cherry Point

We entered the mouth of the Piankatak River just before 1600, turned south around Cherry Point and dropped the anchor in Hills Bay.  By 1630 we had Ghost Rider secured for the evening.  It was quite warm down below so we cranked up the generator and A/C and closed up the boat to cool things down.  With a decent breeze the bugs were at a minimum so we slept comfortably without the A/C.

Friday, 05-October brought us another good weather morning….clear with a northeast breeze and temperature in the mid 70’s.  We had a longer day in front of us for the run to Atlantic Yacht Basin, along with a couple of bridges and a lock to negotiate, so we got an earlier start, pulling up the anchor by 0830 (fairly clean this time) and pointing Ghost Rider south once again.

Passing Through the Norfolk Area....Quite a Few Arleigh Burke Class
Guided Missile Destroyers Moored Along This Stretch
Bay waters presented only a light wind chop to our stern so it was a smooth ride in the open waters.  Unfortunately our forward speed matched the following wind velocity, so we did not have much of a comforting breeze as the temps climbed back into the 80’s.  Likewise that dead zone on and in the boat created a favored gathering place for flies – lots of them, and the kind that bite.  And none of our bug sprays seemed to be any deterrent.

Eventually we departed Chesapeake Bay turning to the west into the James River and then down towards Norfolk and the beginning of the AICW, getting a bit more breeze going over the boat in the process….and somewhat fewer flying bugs as the winds clocked around to the east. 

Locking Through Great Bridge
Eventually we came to the Great Bridge lock and bridge and managed – with a long and fairly aggressive wide open throttle run – to hit the next lock-through at exactly the right time so we didn’t have to dawdle in a holding pattern.  After passing through the lock and then under the opened bascule bridge we arrived at Atlantic Yacht Basin at 1630, then docked up, cleaned up, and retrieved packages from the AYB office.  Chelle rode her e-bike into town to pick up a few needed provisions while Rick completed the wash-down and post-flight checklists.  And then we relaxed with a quiet dinner aboard Ghost Rider.

We had a short run the next day, Saturday, 06-October, so we weren’t in a big hurry to get moving.  The day started with clear skies, mild but humid, and a light northeast breeze.  Rick took advantage of the AYB marina’s nearby fuel dock and good prices to fill the dinghy’s two five gallon reserve gas cans, while Chelle hauled one of our empty LPG tanks up the road to get that refilled.

At high noon we pushed off from the dock and continued the trek down the ICW towards Coinjock, NC.  We had two bridges to negotiate in the first hour but timed those fairly well, encountering only nominal loiter time.  By midafternoon the temps were in the low 80’s, still humid, and we had a broken cloud cover that filtered the sun with only occasional glimpses of blue patches.  But it was a comfortable day on the fly bridge.
Chelle at the Fly Bridge Helm Taking Ghost Rider Through One of the Bridges Between AYB and Coinjock
Chelle handled most of the helm duties this day, taking Ghost Rider away from the dock at AYB and docking us up at Coinjock, all of which went without any stress.  By 1640 we were all tucked in.  We enjoyed a variety of shrimp, clams and fresh Tilefish for dinner at the marina’s restaurant, watched some playoff baseball and called it a night. 

Our planned route for Sunday, 07-October would take us further south into the Alligator River for another night at anchor.  We started out with broken cloud cover again but no precipitation and a pleasant breeze from the east with temps in the low 80’s.  After Chelle returned from her walk and Rick had replaced some burned out deck courtesy lights we got underway, thrusting away from the dock just before 1030. 
Our Alligator River Anchorage Looking at the Eastern Shoreline.  That
Black Ball on the Bow Pulpit is Our Anchor Day Shape.

We had only one bridge to wait on and saw very little ICW vessel traffic along the way.  By 1630 we had reached our planned anchorage, set the hook, engaged the snubber, and cranked up the generator and A/C units.  It had warmed into the mid-to-upper 80’s as the cloud cover broke up some and it was humid, so the air conditioning felt good.  Our chosen anchorage site in a bend of the Alligator River was in the lee of the eastern shoreline, so even with the stiffening breeze we rode smoothly on the anchor – and there was little to no passing traffic on the nearby ICW.

We enjoyed an evening winding down on the fly bridge with our favorite drinks (and a cigar for Rick), bid adieu to the sun as it set behind a low line of low clouds to the west, then went below for a quiet dinner and some book / TV time.
Sunset Was a Bit Obscured at the Alligator River Anchorage But Still Picturesque from Our Fly Bridge Perch
The morning of Monday, 08-October, dawned clear, humid and with temps in the mid 70’s with a light breeze out of the east, and we were actually awake and already in the pilot house to see the sunrise.  We wanted to get an early start for the longer run to River Dunes in Oriental.  We had enjoyed a very calm night hanging on the hook with the boat open to the outside air, and Ghost Rider had remained firmly planted, swinging only slightly.

By 0800 we had completed pre-flights, had our wake up coffee and had pulled up the anchor and were underway.  We continued to keep a close eye on a tropical system spooling up in the Caribbean and heading for the Gulf of Mexico….destined to be Hurricane Michael.  The forecast track wasn’t looking good for the panhandle of Florida, where they were looking at the distinct probability of being whacked by a Cat-4 storm.  Our attention was on the forecast for the days following landfall, where NHC was predicting a path right over us and winds still at tropical storm strength.  We had certainly been though worse, but we still wanted to be in a sheltered place, and River Dunes fit the bill well with its inland location, enclosed basin and floating docks.
The USCG Station on the ICW at Hobucken, NC....Gives You An Idea
of Just How Boring This Stretch of Water Is

Likewise, by the time we would make Oriental, Ghost Rider would be due for some scheduled care and feeding – primarily oil and filter changes on both the main engine and the generator.  That’s always less of a hassle when docked up in a secure area where we could take our time and also dispose of the waste oil.

The ride down this stretch of the ICW was as expected….smooth, comfy, boring.  For our boating friends in Florida, this ribbon of water is very much like transiting Lake Okeechobee and the ditch on either side of that pond…..mostly canal-like straightaways interrupted by occasional river bends and intermittent lake-like expanses.  And the water depths are similar, too.  We did start to encounter some of the debris expected from the Hurricane Florence flooding and runoff, but most were easy to spot and it certainly wasn’t a case of numerous dodges.

Becky, Billy & Rick at the Toucan Grill
About the time we hit the wide expanse of the Pamlico River the winds had picked up to around 15-20 knots out of the southeast, and with its 35 mile exposure to the fetch we suddenly went from a smooth and protected ride to punching into three foot rollers at one second intervals quartering on the bow.  In a smaller boat it was the kind of washboard surface that would make your eyeballs juggle and teeth rattle.  Ghost Rider didn’t much care but we did take considerable spray.  When we finally turned in towards Cedar Point and the entrance to River Dunes around 1615 we were able to put the chop to our stern.

Chelle handled the docking duties at the helm again and brought us in to the alongside tie at the transient floating t-head dock around 1630.  After our post-flight checks the boat got a much needed wash down and so did we.  Then it was social and relaxation time with our good friends, Billy and Becky Edge, who had driven down from Raleigh for a visit.  We piled into their car and had a casual dinner on the outside deck at the Toucan Grill, then enjoyed a late happy hour at the cabin they had rented at River Dunes. 

Mike, Rick, Mari, Chelle, Becky & Billy at The Silos Pizza Joint
Most of the day Tuesday, 09-October, was boat chore day.  In addition to A/C and water maker strainer cleaning, both the generator and the main engine were due for their respective 200 and 250 hour oil and filter changes.  Billy came over to assist and that certainly made it easier, but those along with the genset Racor filter change still took us until 1400 to complete.  Afterwards Billy, Becky and Chelle drove into town to check out storm damage from the previous hurricane (Florence) while Rick continued to finish some more boat chores – cleaning throttle linkages and transferring more fuel from the aft tanks to the forward tanks. 

That evening we got back together with Billy and Becky and joined Mike and Mari Zimet, owners of the Nordhavn 47 Mari Mi, for a pizza party at The Silos restaurant.  Afterwards we all headed back to Ghost Rider for drinks, watched the Red Sox eliminate the Yankees, and ended up partying until just past midnight as the alcohol flowed freely.
Mari, Chelle and Becky Partying on Ghost Rider
We started off Wednesday, 10-October with breakfast at the marina’s Yawl’s CafĂ©, where the coffee, French toast and omelets helped everyone recover from the night before.  Afterwards it was time for Billy and Becky to return to their home in Raleigh so they could prepare their place for the coming storm.  Mike and Mari, having just completed cleanups to their boat and home after Hurricane Florence had recently pounded and flooded this area, needed to do the same for their home.
Ghost Rider at the Transient T-Head with All Storm Preps Completed

We returned to the boat to make our own storm preps.  While we were expecting only tropical storm wind speeds, we still doubled up our lines, put out extra fenders, rolled up and taped the Bimini top, covered the fly bridge and dinghy, then lowered and secured all the antennae.  After stowing and securing all other loose deck items, we were ready to deal with whatever came our way courtesy of Hurricane Michael.  

Late that afternoon Rick and Chelle hopped aboard N47 Mari Mi to help Mike move his boat to a more secure dock; one of the pilings at his original slip had been damaged in Hurricane Florence, and nobody wanted to test its holding power in this next blow.  After helping Mike double-tie and fender his boat we retreated back to Ghost Rider for a quiet evening and to watch more of the storm coverage.  The GFS and Euro weather models were coming into agreement and predicting arrival here Thursday afternoon, so we still had the next morning to make any final adjustments.  We'll tack on an update to this blog posting once the storm passes.

Our Track Capture From Baltimore, MD South to Oriental, NC
One of the Tasks Billy & Becky Had in Preparing Their Home for the Storm was Securing Halloween
Decorations....Here Their Skeleton is a Bit More Secure Sitting in the Audi


  1. Gee, it looks like our skeleton is enjoying life and recognition by the living.

  2. Keeping track of you, 'sounds like you are having a great trip.
    Susan & Jim