April 22, 2013

A Summary of our Great Loop
This is the final chapter of our blog covering the Great Loop.  When we left Yorktown, VA on May 12, 2012, waving farewell to many friends, we had no idea of the impact this incredible journey would have on us.  You can read other blogs and books, and watch videos, (and you should!) but until you experience it yourself, it isn’t real yet.
Everyone asks what our favorite place was, and that is not easily answered. We loved so many places for different reasons! The Chesapeake Bay is always a favorite since we live so close to it and because of its diversity. The emotion and awe we felt when we passed the Statue of Liberty will remain in our hearts and minds forever.  How proud we are to be Americans.  We had a memorable visit to New York City from our tour of the World Trade Center Memorial at Ground Zero to the hustle and glitz of Times Square.  We loved the Hudson River and its steep tree lined banks. We loved the beauty of Lake Champlain and the towns we visited on the New York and Vermont sides of it, especially Burlington. 

Being in Canada was new to us and we are so glad we entered it on the Richelieu River.  Going up the narrow Chambly Canal with people walking and bicycling next to it and waving to us, was very special.  Montreal was thriving and the beautiful Notre Dame de Montreal Basilica should not be missed.  Sharing Canada Day in the lovely town of Ste. Anne de Bellevue was so much fun. We loved this little town and being part of the celebrations for their holiday!  Being in Ottawa and watching the ceremonies of the Changing of the Guard and then touring Parliament was very impressive.  Traveling on the quaint Rideau Canal through many locks and through many small towns was not to be missed either.  The Trent Severn again offers much to experience along the way with its towns and locks.  The Georgian Bay is beautiful and challenging with many rocks and seemingly a house on every little private island!  Anchoring in Baie Fine was breathtaking!  The North Channel offers so much for boaters and we wished we could have remained there longer.
We enjoyed our journey down the east coast of Lake Michigan and stopping at so many of the towns with their protective harbors, which we needed!  We crossed Lake Michigan to go to Racine, WI and enjoyed that port and seeing old friends.  Chicago is, of course, spectacular and we were so impressed by the architecture, the parks, the food, and the energy of that city!

The Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, and Cumberland Rivers were industrial, and full of tows and barges, but we found this very interesting!  We appreciated having AIS so we knew where they were in advance. The low water levels here provided some challenges and kept us from going to some marinas.  We enjoyed rafting to a barge in Beardstown, IL  for a night !  A tow boat captain even gave of us a tour of his towboat.
When we arrived at Green Turtle Bay on Lake Barclay, it was like an oasis, having just been on the rivers for so long!  We were spoiled by the resort atmosphere and the lovely small town of Grand Rivers, KY. Our trip down the Tennessee, and the Tenn-Tom  Rivers was also interesting. We rafted to others in narrow cuts and coves and were amazed at the scenery. We finally reached salt water when we entered the Gulf at Mobile!  We were now seeing palm trees and big water! 

Our Gulf Crossing from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs, FL with two other Looper boats will always be in our memory! We had a good, calm crossing that lasted over 24 hours and ended on Christmas Eve morning. We enjoyed the West Coast of Florida very much and spent extra time in many ports such as St. Petersburg, Venice, and Fort Myers, as we headed south.  We also had some terrific anchoring along the west coast. We crossed Lake Okeechobee by taking its rim route and found this so peaceful and full of wildlife.  We spotted our first alligators here! The East Coast of Florida was also wonderful and we enjoyed many of its towns along the ICW such as Vero Beach, Cocoa Village, St. Augustine, and Fernandina Beach.
We loved the marshlands of Georgia also!  They have their own beauty and we did not tire of the scenery here.  Two of our favorite stops in Georgia were Cumberland Island and Jekyll Island.  South Carolina is full of beautiful ports such as Hilton Head, Beaufort, and Charleston – such history here!  We also enjoyed our stay at Barefoot Marina in North Myrtle Beach!  South Carolina’s Waccamaw River is stunning with its cypress trees lining the banks and will always be a favorite! 

North Carolina is lovely and offers small rivers and larges sounds which need to be transited.  We enjoyed our stay at Southport, and River Dunes, near Oriental and then the smaller docks at Dowry Creek, Alligator River, and Elizabeth City.  We chose to take the Dismal Swamp Route and absolutely loved the serenity of it.  We felt like we were traveling in another age! 
So those are the “places” we have been – from quaint villages to large cities; from small canals, to large rivers and lakes and the Atlantic Ocean and we have enjoyed them all!

We also loved the wildlife!  We saw a humpback whale off the coast of Manasquan, NJ. This made our rough offshore ride that day tolerable! We treasured all the dolphins that we saw as they played near the boat then quickly dashed off!  The manatees were new to us and it was wonderful to see these gentle giants. Of course there were a myriad of shorebirds and eagles that we never tired of!  And we can still hear the haunting cry of the loons in Canada – they were amazing. We saw mink and otter and muskrats and deer – but alas – not a single bear!
None of these can compare with the people we met along the way – from the local townspeople to the Loopers we traveled with, to family and friends who joined us on our journey.  The friendships we made were priceless. Being able to share this experience with family and friends meant a great deal to us.

For those of you who are like statistics, here are a few that we have acquired on the trip:
Distance traveled: 5863.4 statute miles
Days Traveled:  172
Days in Port: 172
Miles averaged per day: 33.8
Hours averaged per day: 4.9
Miles averaged per hour: 6.9
States: 18 
Countries: 2 
Provinces: 2
Docking: Marinas 70%; anchorages 17%, lock walls 6%, town walls, 6%, mooring balls 2%, “other” 2%
Locks transited: 145
Fuel consumption: 3258.46 gallons
Fuel rate:  Averaged 1.8 miles per gallon
Friendships:  Countless

It is only appropriate to quote from Dr. Seuss from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” since he has provided so much wit and humor along the way.
“And will you succeed?  Yes! You will indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)”
and also from Dr. Seuss,
“Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”

What is next for us? We will remain here in port in Poquoson, VA for about a month and have work done on the boat, take care of Doctor appointments,attend a wedding, visit friends etc.
We will take the Down East Loop this summer with other boating friends we met last summer.  We will keep a blog when we leave here in late May, so please check back with us. Until then, thank you for sharing this incredible journey with us!

April 20, 2013

April 20, 2013 Day 344
Whitehouse Cove Marina
Poquoson, VA
Total miles to date: 5879.6

We are happy and proud to announce that we completed the Great Loop today as Carried Away crossed her wake at 1:10 pm when we reached Yorktown, VA! 

Ready to fly our gold burgee
Tom and Bob
Frank and Pat
Several friends and family members joined us today from Poquoson to Yorktown to share our completion of the Loop and celebrate with us.  Thanks so much to Bob and Gennie, Pat, Joy and Frank, and Tom and Sally, for being

Sally, Gennie, Joy

part of this!  And we were happy to have our niece, Shannon and great niece, Emily join us in Yorktown and return to Poquoson with us.

Emily and Shannon
As soon as we returned to Poquoson (where we will remain for about a month), our friends David and Deane, and Susan and Buster arrived to greet us! It was wonderful to see them and share in the celebration!
We will write a more complete summary blog in the next day or so to recapture our experience on the Loop. 
We had cake and champagne after lunch to celebrate!


April 19, 2013

April 19, 2013 Day 343
Whitehouse Cove Marina
Poquoson, VA
Total miles to date: 5863.4

We left Hampton with Bob and Gennie on board at 7:00 this morning to get ahead of the weather.  More wind!

By leaving early we had a fairly calm ride with a light chop on the bay and the Poquoson River.  Several friends from Poquoson were at the dock to greet us and help with our lines. How good to see them after a year!

We met Bob and Gennie and Tom and Sally for dinner at Surf Rider’s restaurant here at the marina, then came back to the boat to extend our visit.

Tomorrow is our big day as we will cross our wake and complete the Loop in Yorktown, VA where we began on May 12, 2012.  Several friends from Poquoson will join us on our boat to take that final ride.  It is still hard to believe that it is almost over!

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” –sharing more words of wisdom from Dr. Seuss

April 18, 2013

April 18, 2013 Day 342
Hampton City Marina
Hampton, VA
Total miles to date: 5836.4

We had a fun, informative time this morning visiting with Robert Peet, Lock Master at the Deep Creek Lock.  He invited us over for coffee, fruit, and pastries and gave us additional history about the Dismal Swamp.  He entertained us by playing the conch for us before we departed.  He has a large collection of seashells that boaters have given him, so Joyce let him choose one of her collection to add to his!  We stayed at this lock for over an hour talking with him before locking through.  The lock dropped us 10 feet and then we were on our way. This was our final lock of the Loop!
Lockmaster playing the conch for us

Joyce took the helm exiting the lock and turned it back over to Bill and Bob when we got to the busy ports and bridges on the Elizabeth River. Portsmouth and Norfolk have busy harbors with industrial and Navy ports, boatyards, marinas, heavy boat traffic. Security boats make their presence known around the Navy piers!

We decided to take a detour and go up the James River. We went as far as the James River Bridge and then turned around, enjoying seeing the ships under construction at the Newport News Shipyard.

We arrived at the Hampton City Marina at 3:00 and tied up on the face dock.  This is another nostalgic stop since this is where we first saw Carried Away!  Shortly after we arrived our friend Carla Morin stopped to visit!  We were so happy to see her and will attend her wedding next week.

We went to dinner with Bob and Gennie and came back for a relaxing evening.


April 17, 2013 Day 341
Deep Creek Town Wall
Deep Creek (Chesapeake), VA
Total miles to date: 5799.3

We left Elizabeth City at 7:15 to make the opening of the Elizabeth City bridge at 7:30.  What a lovely calm day!  We left the Pasquotank River at 9:15 and transited the South Mills Lock which raised us eight feet. 

Bob and Gennie helping lock through
at the South Mills Lock

We spent the rest of the day on the Dismal Swamp Canal (also known as the Ditch).  The canal was first proposed by Col. William Byrd in 1728 but construction did not begin until 1793 and had to be dug out by hand. Twelve years later it was completed. We were mesmerized by the beauty of the canal.  The reflections of the cypress trees in the water made us feel as though we were traveling on glass. The dark water of the canal is the tannin which is a result of decaying bark. We did not find it dismal at all, but appreciated the serenity of our journey on this nature filled canal.  We stopped at the Visitors Center Dock and toured the Museum to learn more about the history and wildlife in the Dismal Swamp.
We are back in Virginia!
Carried Away at the Visitors Center

The mirror like canal!
We arrived at Elizabeth’s Dock , a free dock near the Deep Creek Lock, at 4:00 and had an enjoyable quiet evening on the boat with Bob and Gennie.

April 17, 2013

April 16, 2013 Day 340
Elizabeth City Dock Wall
Elizabeth City, NC
Total miles to date: 5758.2

Today was a rock and roll day on the Albemarle Sound as we took waves on the beam for an uncomfortable two hours.  Add dodging crab pots to that and it was quite a ride!  When we reached the Pasquotank River it was much calmer. 

We arrived in Elizabeth City at 12:30 and were happy to see Bill’s brother Bob and our sister-in-law, Gennie and their friends Crosby and Christa waiting for us.  They helped us tie up at one of the free town docks and then we visited on the boat for a while. We all walked to a nearby restaurant for lunch before Crosby and Christa had to return to Poquoson, VA.  We spent lots of time visiting the rest of the evening and had dinner on board.  We are so thrilled to have Bob and Gennie with us!

Tomorrow we will travel though the Dismal Swamp!


April 15, 2013

April 15, 2013 Day 339
Alligator River Marina
Columbia, NC
Total miles to date: 5751.0

This has been a very interesting day.  We borrowed the courtesy car at Dowry Creek and dropped off the tax returns at the post office.  We came back to the marina and prepared to leave, pleased that the rain and wind forecast were only clouds and a light breeze.

We stayed in the Pungo River for about an hour, then entered the very narrow Alligator Cut for over two hours.  It is mostly tree lined, with many tree stumps in the water along the edge.  There are very few houses along the shore along this canal.

From there we entered the Alligator River.  For the first two hours, it was just a light chop.  Then the wind picked up and we had 2 ½ foot waves.  By the time we reached the Alligator Swing Bridge the wind was blowing at 30 mph. (It will not open if the wind is over 34.)  The marina is just past the bridge and we were happy to tie up to their face dock, again with extra lines.  The wind continued to blow hard all evening.

We invited Polli and Mike (who came in behind us on their sailboat) over for docktails.  We had a fun visit with them and enjoyed getting to know them.  They live near the Chesapeake Bay and we hope to see them again.

Tomorrow is a big day as Bill’s brother Bob and our sister-in-law Gennie, meet us in Elizabeth City. They will join us on Carried Away for the final days of our Loop as we cross our wake this weekend in Yorktown, VA.

April 14, 2013

April 14, 2013 Day 338
Dowry Creek Marina
Belhaven, NC
Total miles to date: 5702.8

This is the River Dunes club house in Oriental, NC.
We took this photo right before we left today.
We traveled in “big water” today, including the Neuse River, Pamlico Sound, Bay to have calm seas for over six hours!  We were surprised to see few boaters out today – it is Sunday and sunny!  We did pass a tow and barge – that brought back memories of the Tenn-Tom River!

We passed these shrimp boats idle at their dock today
The very calm Pamlico River!
We arrived at the Dowry Creek Marina at 3:00 and tied up on their face dock.  Within an hour of our arrival the winds started to pick up and we are feeling the rocking! Knowing it was supposed to rain tonight with wind, we secured extra bow and stern lines.

We still have no phone service here.  Verizon customers are ok here– not ATT! 

We have arranged for the marina’s courtesy car first thing tomorrow so we can mail our tax forms!  Then we will leave and travel to the Alligator River.  There is some concern about whether the Alligator River Swing Bridge will be open as it is under construction.  Hopefully we can get through on time!  We have to travel in rain and wind that is forecast tomorrow to keep on schedule this week.


April 13, 2013

April 13, 2013 Day 337
River Dunes Marina
Oriental, NC
Total miles to date: 5657.6

Today was spent doing – yes, more chores.  Joyce cleaned and Bill installed the new heating element on the water heater.  It did not arrive until late afternoon, so Joyce boiled water to be able to do dishes. Well, we are on a boat!

In the meantime Bill worked on our taxes and promised they will be ready to mail on Monday.  Sadly, we have not taken advantage of being in Oriental.  There was a boat show this weekend, that we would like to have seen, but we have not been off the boat other than to walk to the marina office.  Sometimes there are things that just have to be care of – like broken water heaters.

We will leave in the morning to go to Dowry Creek Marina in Belhaven, NC.
Hopefully we will have cell phone reception.

We are beginning the last week of our trip and that is hard to believe.

April 12, 2013

April 12, 2013 Day 336
River Dunes Marina
Oriental, NC
Total miles to date: 5657.6

Another short post this evening.  It rained all day and was very windy, so we did not leave the boat.  At least we did not get hit with the bad thunderstorms that so much of the south received.  

We spent the day doing chores!  Yesterday, our hot water heater stopped working and Bill spent time today diagnosing the problem, then ordered parts.  We are fortunate that the heating element will be fed-exed to us tomorrow.  Hopefully this will solve the problem!

We watched the last two hours of the Masters Tournament and then had dinner on board.  We are still researching the Down East Loop and spent some time working on it this evening.  We still have no cell phone reception and are relying on texts and Facebook to communicate with family and friends.

April 11, 2013

April 11, 2013 Day 335
River Dunes Marina
Oriental, NC
Total miles to date: 5657.6

We left Morehead City about 8:30 this morning under a sunny sky. We were soon in Adams Creek, long and fairly narrow, with homes ranging from large to modest, lining the shore. We also passed several marinas and boatyards which are needed for the myriad of small boats we see out here.

By 10:45 our scenery changed drastically when we entered the wide Neuse River.  The 10-20 mph wind created some whitecaps.  We had not been in such a big body of water in a while, so it was a nice change of pace.  We have more to come next week though when we enter the Pamlico Sound!

We arrived at River Dunes at 12:30 and went to our slip – we have been on lots of face docks recently, so it is nice to be in a slip.  We put out extra lines in expectation of the storms that are forecast for Friday.  River Dunes is in a peaceful protected setting, calling itself a coastal village that includes beautiful homes, a club house, pool, restaurant, many trees, etc.  The nearest town is Oriental, NC.  Our only problem is that we have no phone (ATT) reception.  Fortunately we have a good wi-fi connection!

Bill worked on our AiS system this afternoon.  It was incorrectly showing length of our boat to be something like a cruise liner.  We have net some of the other boaters here already –no loopers are here but many boaters are heading north to their home ports.  We are all here for the weekend until the Friday storms disappear. 

We had dinner on board and relaxed for the evening.  (Having trouble getting photos on the blog tonight.)

April 10, 2013

April 10, 2013 Day 334
Morehead City Yacht Basin
Morehead City, NC
Total miles to date: 5622.9

Just a short posting tonight.  We were glad we were staying put today. We woke to a fairly heavy fog that did not lift until mid morning. Since we have been to this area before by car, we only used the marina’s courtesy car to do major grocery shopping. That seemed to take much of the afternoon!

We did a few boat chores, and cooked dinner on board.  Bill is already working on our travel plans to Canada this summer when we will do the Down East Loop. He spent quite a while doing research today.

Tomorrow we will leave Morehead City and go to River Dunes, a lovely resort marina near Oriental, NC. Again, we have been there by car, but not by Carried Away!  There is a couple on a sailboat that we have crossed paths with recently and they will follow us there.  We will stay there for three nights.

April 9, 2013

April 9, 2013 Day 333
Morehead City Yacht Basin
Morehead City, NC
Total miles to date: 5622.9

Onslow Beach Swing Bridge
ICW still in waters controlled by the Marine Corps
Another early day!  We were up at 6:00 to leave our anchorage early, and even then we were the fifth boat of six to leave!  We arrived at the Onslow Beach Swing Bridge at 7:40 and waited for the 8:00 opening. This bridge is owned and operated by the Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune and there is apparently no flexibility in opening. Word is that if you are 30 seconds late –too bad! We continued on, still in the waters controlled by the Marine Corps and were happy they were not doing any firing when we wanted to pass through, or we could have had a long wait.  There are lights that flash when the base is doing any firing and all boats are required to stop.

Another beautiful home along the water
We enjoyed going through Bogue Sound. There are many beautiful homes on the west side of the sound and small islands that dot the water toward the ocean.  We continued under the Emerald Isle Bridge and the Atlantic Beach Bridge, both 65’ which we like!  Need we say that we saw many dolphins today!

We were surprised to see sand dunes!
We arrived at the Morehead City Yacht Basin at 12:25 and tied up on their transient side dock.  We will stay here two nights. We have major provisioning to do tomorrow and we are also waiting on our mail to arrive then.  Bill’s brother, Bob, called from Virginia to ask if we were the boat next to the sportfisher – he saw us on the marina’s web cam!  We need to be more aware of those things!  You can run, but you can’t hide!

We had dinner out tonight at the Ruddy Duck Tavern. We ate there a few years ago when we were here by car.  We took a walk down the waterfront before returning to our boat.  There are tons of sportfisher boats for charter in Morehead City! Tomorrow we will work on cleaning the boat and running errands.
Good seafood here at the Ruddy Duck Tavern!

April 8, 2013

April 8, 2013 Day 332
At Anchor, Mile Hammock
Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, NC
Total miles to date: 5580.6

We travelled 64 miles today for just under nine hours, which made for a long day. Over an hour of this time was spent waiting for three bridges to open. We left Southport at high tide and entered the Cape Fear River. No fear here – it was calm!   There were fewer boats out today which we attributed to it being a Monday, since the weather was good!

Pink house - complete with pink lighthouse!  Got our attention!
We arrived in Wrightsville Beach at 10:45, much too early to stop for the day, so after waiting for the bascule bridge opening at 11:00, we continued on our way.  We arrived at the Figure Eight Island Swing Bridge at 11:40 and waited for it to open at noon.  Our last low bridge was the Surf City Swing Bridge. We waited thirty minutes and passed through it at 3:00.

The Wrightsville Beach Bascule Bridge opens on the hour
Another lovely sunset at our anchorage
We saw many houses today along the ICW and in many places such as Topsail Beach and Holden Beach we could easily see the homes along the oceanfront.  We also saw several dolphins and osprey. The ICW is scenic and has different characteristics each day and we enjoy the view as we motor along the waterway.

At 5:00, we arrived at our anchorage in Mile Hammock which is the property of Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base.  Dinghying ashore is not allowed! There are six boats anchored here but there is plenty of room for more.  We did see the unique V-22 Marine Osprey Helicopter fly overhead after dinner.

Tomorrow we need to get another early start to make a bridge opening. We will go to a marina in Morehead City for one or two nights.

April 7, 2013

April 7, 2013 Day 331
Southport Marina
Southport, NC
Total miles to date: 5516.6

Love the dolphins that swam past us today!
Yes, we are now in North Carolina! What an interesting day of travel we have had.  We left Barefoot Marina around 8:20 (thanks to Rick on Journey for helping us with our lines).  We found the ICW fairly busy with boaters today - it is Sunday, and the sun was shining. Many homes and condos line the ICW much of the way which adds to the view. We only needed one swing bridge to open for us and we got right through with no wait. In fact the bridge tender was waiting for us as two other boats were just ahead of us.

Had to include the pink house! Hard to miss!
There were many rowing teams out today!
Seriously aground in the Shallotte Inlet
The sailboat was aground in the Lockwood Folly Inlet
and we were right behind the Trumpy and the Catamaran

There are some tricky areas along this part of the ICW which are seriously affected by tide and shoaling. The Shallotte Inlet is very shallow and a sailboat was completely grounded – he must have wandered out of the channel for some reason.  The same is true for the Lockwood Folly Inlet which we hit at low tide.  A sailboat was aground and the two boats in front of us started to pass him. The Trumpy made it through ok, but the Cat had problems and started to back up which meant we had to do the same. One of our engines stalled out and we were churning up sand, but Bill pulled us out of it and we were able to continue on.

We arrived at the Southport Marina at 2:10 and tied up on their face dock.  We talked to some of the boaters and then set off to see the town of Southport. We heard it is a lovely town and we were not disappointed. There are many homes dating back to the late1800’s. Southport lies at the mouth of the Cape Fear River and has a nice waterfront with restaurants, parks, marinas, shops, and homes. Since it is Sunday there were only a few shops open but we stopped at some of them to browse.  The movie, Safe Haven, was filmed here and we found the restaurant used in the film. 
The Old American Fish Company
(under a different name in the movie)

One of many lovely Southport homes
We finally got back to our boat around 5pm and were so glad we had a roast in the crock pot waiting for us! We were tired from our long day of travel and long walk!

Tomorrow’s plans (originally to go to a marina in Wrightsville Beach) may now include an anchorage instead.  We plan to depart around 7am.

April 6, 2013

April 6, 2013 Day 330
Barefoot Marina
North Myrtle Beach, SC
Total miles to date: 5472.3

Saturdays were chore days when we growing up, and this Saturday seemed to follow that pattern.  Bill worked all day on boat maintenance. Joyce did laundry and the grocery shopping.  (It was so nice to have Bill and Diane’s car for an extra day!)

Rick and Margi, Betsy, Rick, Joyce, Bill
We did spend a nice evening having dinner out with Betsy and Rick (Rick & Roll) and Margi and Rick (Journey). We went to a small seafood restaurant that is more of a local place – not a tourist place. We had a good meal and enjoyed the hospitality of the friendly staff!

Another one!

We had three dolphins playing near our boat today and that was quite a treat to see! They stayed quite a while and several people came out to watch them.

Our plan is to go to a marina in Southport, NC tomorrow. It is hard to believe we are leaving another state behind!