Chesapeake Bay to Cape May, NJ: Spring 2008

Chesapeake City to Cape May:

We were the first boat to leave the anchorage at Chesapeake City, leaving at 5:30 AM. On each side of the canal there is a 30 ft. bank lined with rock and lights every 400 feet. There is a lot of debris in the canal. We have to dodge several huge logs. We keep a lookout for the large container ships transiting the canal. We saw several pass through while anchored in Chesapeake City.

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About half way through the canal, we leave the state of Maryland and cross over into Delaware. The temperature is still in the low 50’s. Sebastian is all curled up asleep with his blanket wrapped around him. He says “it is too early and too cold!”

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At 7:00 AM we reach Reedy Point which marks the eastern end of the canal.

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As we exit the canal, we make a right turn and head south down the Delaware Bay. One could also travel north on the Delaware Bay to Delaware City and then on to Philadelphia. We will save this for another time. The bay becomes rougher the farther south we travel. We have many huge freighters passing us in both directions. We move out of the shipping channel and slow down giving them plenty of room.

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About 10:00 AM things start going downhill really fast. The winds pick up to 30 MPH. Our seas continue to build and we soon find ourselves in 6-8 foot seas with an occasional 10 ft. At the same time the freighter traffic increases and we have these huge ships coming and going in both directions.

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The wave period is also very short and we are being tossed around like a rag doll. We had not battened down the interior and things start crashing to the floor. Chairs, lamps, knives, and dishes are all on the floor. I quickly latch the refrigerator and trash compactor and do as much damage control as possible. The weather forecast for today was for 2 ft. seas and 15-20 mph winds. We were not expecting this. The weather forecasters really blew this one. At one point, we have a freighter on our stern and we have to make a 360 degree turn to let him pass. This is no easy feat in 8 ft. seas. We have about two hours of this weather before we finally spot the Cape May Canal. Once in the canal we are much relieved to be out of those seas. This was by far the worst conditions that we have encountered with Idyll Time. The boat handled the seas much better than we did. Surprisingly the dogs and birds did really well. It didn’t faze them a bit.

We call Utsch’s Marina to get directions. They have a dredged channel into the marina but it is unmarked. They tell us to make a hard 90 degree turn when we get to red marker 16 and then stay 30-50 ft. off their bulkhead until we get to a lighthouse and make a hard right into the marina. This is a little unnerving as there are no markers and you can not see the entrance of the marina until you are right upon it. You just have to trust what they are telling you and keep going. Our depth gets down to 6 ft. We draw 5 ft. We soon see the entrance and make a hard right into the marina. A fellow looper, Bob on Bonus iv, is waiting on the docks to take our lines. We met Bob and Nan last year while they were on the loop. They have now completed the loop and live not far from Cape May. It was great to see a friendly face. We are just happy to be here and hope the rough weather is now behind us.

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We receive a nice gift bag from the marina containing a bottle of wine and biscotti. What a nice touch.

We spend the next day visiting Cape May. There are many bicycle lanes for touring around town. We bicycle out to the Cape May Lighthouse and climb the 217 steps to the top.

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This lighthouse was built in 1859 and is still used as an aid to navigation by the Coast Guard. After touring the lighthouse, we bike through the town admiring all of the old Victorian homes, some of which are operated as bed and breakfast inns. These huge homes must have been quite a residence in their day. One can only imagine what it would be like growing up in a house that large.

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Next door to our marina is the famous seafood restaurant, The Lobster House. They also operate a fish market and take out window next door. The fishing boats are docked out back.

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You couldn’t get much fresher than this. We stock up the freezer with tuna, lobster, crab cakes, and blue fish. What a great place.

We would like to stay here longer but we have a weather window of two days starting tomorrow before the next cold front comes through. We decide it is probably best to take advantage of the good weather while it holds. Tomorrow we will make the run north from Cape May to Sandy Hook, NJ.

Total Miles Traveled Chesapeake City to Cape May: 71
Year to date miles traveled: 310

Sebastian’s Story #6:

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Hi from Chesapeake City, MD on the C & D Canal. I’ve got two words for this trip so far: COLD and WET. As the Cruise Director, I have been lobbying hard for a trip south but both Admiral Mom and Captain Dad seem set on traveling north. It was so cold today, I finally put on my red winter jacket. I haven’t worn that in months. And to top things off, we have been anchored out for the past five days. Capt. Dad said it is too windy and rainy to deploy my dinghy for a trip to shore. They expect Daisy and me to use that little square of grass in the box on the front deck to do our business. I was a little reluctant at first, but since I get a treat (usually a biscuit) every time I use the little grass I have decided to get with the program quickly. Daisy, on the other hand, hasn’t been so cooperative. Being a stubborn female, not really motivated by food, she will walk the decks for an hour. After the pressure has built up to almost bursting, she starts barking and turning around in a tight circle about a dozen times before letting go. I tell you, that girl can really hold her water! She also gets a treat for her efforts. I really think that I should get a treat also when she goes, but Dad doesn’t see it that way. She and I are both wondering how much longer it will be before we go ashore. We can both see the shore from the boat and know it would not be that hard for Dad to take us there. The forecast for tomorrow is for still more of the same. As long as I get treats for something that comes naturally to me (they didn’t nickname me Pee-Wee for nothing), I guess this won’t be so bad. Now if I can just get some warm sunny days. I’ll keep you posted.

Later,

Sebastian

Annapolis to Chesapeake City:

After spending two nights in the busy Annapolis harbor, we decided to explore the alluring creeks and coves of the Severn River. We travel about five miles up this scenic river to Round Bay, admiring all of the homes perched on the high bluffs. The weather forecast for the next two days calls for high winds gusting to 40 MPH and thunderstorms. We opt to anchor a few miles downstream in Clements Cove. The banks are high and wooded which will give us protection from the winds. The Navy has put out about 15 moorings in this creek. During the threat of hurricanes, they will bring their boats to this anchorage. There were no boats here when we arrived. By the evening, all of the Navy moorings are taken by weekend sailors.

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So far this year, the dogs have refused to use their piece of sod on the bow of the boat. We have given in each evening and taken them ashore. We decide to put our foot down and refuse to lower the dinghy. The battle of wills is on. They both hold out all evening waiting for shore. Daisy goes out on the bow and stares at the shore just a few feet away. We don’t give in. The next morning Sebastian finally gives in and is quickly rewarded with a treat. Daisy continues to hold out for shore. We refuse! Finally after 36 hours Daisy uses the grass. She is rewarded with treats.

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After two days, the forecast improves for the next few days. We opt to continue up the bay as to be near the C & D Canal once the good weather returns. We travel about 50 miles north to the Sassafras River. Captain John Smith first explored this rive in 1607. It got its name from the Sassafras plant which was used by the Indians living along the banks. The wind has picked up to 30 MPH. We travel up to Georgetown in search of a protected anchorage. Georgetown is full of moorings with little room to anchor. We decided to travel back downstream several miles and tuck in behind a spit of land just off the main channel. Once outside the channel, this river is very shallow. Our anchorage is not as protected as we would like but it will have to do. The winds are still gusting to 40 MPH so we make sure to set the anchor really well. We once again refuse to put the dinghy down. The dogs hold out for a while but finally give in. Sebastian is much less stubborn than Daisy. He will do just about anything for food. Daisy is hard headed, I guess like most women and holds out as long as possible. The wind finally dies down in the evening and we enjoy a peaceful night at anchor.

From the Sassafras River we travel a total of 25 miles to the town of Chesapeake which is on the Chesapeake and Delaware (C & D) Canal. Our trip is cold and wet. As we pass several sailboats, we are really happy to be in our nice warm pilot house. They are bundled up and looking quite miserable. The temperature is in the low 50’s with rain. To get here from the Sassafras River we continue north on the Chesapeake Bay until we reach Turkey Point and the Elk River. We travel only a few miles up the Elk River to the beginning of the C & D Canal. We arrive to the Chesapeake City anchorage basin which is three miles from the western entrance of the canal at noon. We timed our arrival so as to enter the basin at high tide and slack current. We have heard reports that the entrance shoals up and wanted as much water under our keel as possible. The basin was recently dredged and we had no problems. There are several boats in the harbor but we have plenty of room to anchor. From our anchorage it is just a short dinghy ride to the town docks. We also have a great view of the C& D Canal from here.

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The C & D Canal is a 14 mile manmade waterway which provides a vital link that connects the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay. The Army Corps of Engineers supervises this waterway. Dispatchers use closed-circuit television and radio systems to monitor and safely move commercial traffic through the waterway. Hand dug, the canal was originally opened in 1829 with four locks and six mule teams to pull towboats through the canal. Today the canal is 450 ft. wide with a controlling depth of 35 feet. Cargo ships and military vessels from all over the world pass through the canal. A pilot guides most of the large ships through. It reduces the distance between the upper Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware Bay by 300 miles and saves more than 40 million gallons of fuel annually. It is one of the busiest canals in the world with more than 15,000 transits per year and is often referred to as “the parent of all U.S. canals”. More than 15 million tons of cargo passes through the canal each year. It is estimated that 175 ships, 400 tugs, and 480 barges make this transit yearly. 40% of all ship traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore passes through this canal.

We spend two nights at the anchorage in Chesapeake City. The sun finally came out on the second day here and the temperatures rose to the low 60’s. We have a nice day to explore the town. The dogs have not been ashore for five days and four nights. Although very difficult for them, they have done a great job of using the sod. We treat them with a trip to shore here in Chesapeake City. Sebastian rides the dinghy on the bow rails ready to jump ashore as we get near. We take them for a run through this charming historic town. The main street is lined with bed and breakfast inns, boutiques, and restaurants.

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In the afternoon, we take a tour of the C & D Canal Museum which provides visitors with a glimpse of the canals early days.

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A fellow looper had recommended The Tap Room for lunch. Here we enjoyed a delicious meal of crab cakes and soft shell crab before returning to the boat. Of course we also found a local bakery where we purchased cinnamon rolls and muffins for breakfast in the morning. Tomorrow we will leave at first light. We have been warned that the current can be wicked on the canal and also down Delaware Bay. Jeff has determined that the best time to depart will be 5:30 AM. Chesapeake City is a nice town and we will look forward to stopping here again on our return trip.

Total Miles Traveled Annapolis to Chesapeake City: 80
Year to Date Miles Traveled: 239

Solomons to Annapolis:

The rain finally ended and we were able to get the last coat of varnish applied to the cap rails. Jeff and Kirk then reattached our sign boards and we are ready to go.

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We were only able to get two coats of varnish on instead of the intended three. The weather just would not cooperate. Anxious to get going once again, we forgo the additional coat. The cap rails look really good and we are pleased with just the two coats. Kirk did a good job and also taught us a lot about the art of varnishing.

The winds have calmed down for our 45 mile cruise from Solomons to Annapolis. It is amazing how much the weather can change in just one day. All of the other boats here at Calvert are also leaving today. Most are heading over to the Eastern shore. We have calm seas all the way to Annapolis. After an easy four hour cruise, we see the entrance to the Severn River. We make a turn to port and soon see the Navy Base on our right. Today we head up Back Creek in search of an anchorage. Back Creek is a narrow boat lined deep water creek just to the east of Annapolis. The town of Eastport surrounds Back Creek and is connected to Annapolis by a draw bridge over Spa Creek. Marinas line both shores of Back Creek. Many boats are anchored just outside of the narrow channel. We find a small hole between two sail boats and snuggly drop anchor.

After securing the boat, we deploy Time Out and travel up Back Creek to Port Annapolis Marina. Krogen has an office here and we have made this our weekly mail drop. We soon spot several Krogens at dock. One is Tapestry with Bill and Stacy. We enjoy spending a few minutes with them catching up with one another. After picking up our mail we head back to Idyll Time. One of our mail packages contained two new navigational chart kits for our computer program, Nobletec. These two chart kits are the navigational charts that we will need for Cape May north to the Canadian border. Jeff loads both of these into our computer system. We spend a nice evening at anchor.

The next morning we head about two miles around the corner to Spa Creek and the city of Annapolis. The city has placed about 50 mooring balls out in the inner harbor.

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Unfortunately boats over 43 feet can not use these. We had called ahead to the Annapolis Yacht Club for a slip. They do not take reservations and are first come first serve. We had called the dock master earlier and he said we could dock on the T-head closest to the Spa Creek draw bridge if the space was open. Upon entering Spa Creek, we quickly spot the dock and it is available. There are yellow signs hung between the pilings which state “No Docking”. I am unsure about docking here but we do so anyway as that was the dock masters instructions. A short while latter one of the dock master’s assistants comes and removes all of the “No Docking” signs. I guess that means we can stay here. We have a great spot just one block off the downtown plaza and inner harbor.

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We spend two days in Annapolis touring the town.

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The inner harbor is surrounded with restaurants, taverns, historic homes, and shops, all of which have been restored over the past 50 years.

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Many years ago slaves were traded here at the base of the inner harbor. This area is now the city’s municipal marina and is known as “Ego Alley”.

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It gets this nickname from all of the boats parading up and down this narrow waterway for all to see. The U.S. Naval Academy and Maryland State House are all within a short walk. There are many school groups touring the area today led by guides in historic period clothing. Our three presidential candidates are even in town visiting. 3546 We soon spot a local Italian Café and enjoy some homemade Gelato. This becomes one of our daily afternoon stops while exploring the city. We even treat the dogs to their own spoonfuls of Gelato. Another great find while here is Chick and Ruths Delly. This unique mom and pop delicatessen has been in operation since 1965. Each morning at 8:30 AM, everyone stops what they are doing to recite the pledge to the flag. The deli sandwiches are huge. The place is packed with people fitting into small booths with barley enough elbow room to sit at a table.

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It is like stepping back in time.

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We enjoy watching all of the activity in the harbor from our boat. Each evening the sailboats come out of the woodworks for the local evening races. The harbor patrol boat is constantly going back and forth checking all of the moorings and collecting fees.

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There is a taxi boat which will pick up boaters at the moorings and take them into town.

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In addition to these, there is also a pump out boat which will come around to each boat at a mooring and pump out their holding tank if called. One evening a 130 ft. mega yacht, Winning Drive, docks at the yacht club just two slips away.

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We wish we could stay longer however the yacht club has a two night maximum stay for guest. Tomorrow we will explore the Severn River and await a weather window to cross the bay to the Eastern Shore.

Total Miles Traveled Solomons to Annapolis: 45
Year to Date Miles Traveled: 159

Still in Solomons:
Will the rain ever end? It has been raining here for the last five days with no end in sight. We had planned on leaving Solomons almost a week ago. Then the rain came! One side of the boat still needs the last coat of varnish applied. It is sanded and ready to go. We only need one clear day to finish the varnish. The sign boards and flag staffs are varnished and sitting in the covered shed. Once the weather breaks, Jeff and Kirk will reattach the sign boards back on the boat. We awoke this morning to another rainy day. Last night we had storms here with winds gusting to 30 mph. Many of the local areas have had flooding and schools have been closed. These are the same storms which brought tornadoes to other areas of the U.S. With this bad weather, we are happy to be securely tied to the docks and not at anchor. The dogs are even happier!

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No boats are moving from the docks today. Everyone is nestled inside their boats waiting out the storms.

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Three looper boats came in to the docks yesterday. Two of the boats are flying gold looper burgees. The gold burgee signifies that they have completed the 6000 plus miles of the Great Loop. We are envious. So far we have completed only about 2000 miles of the loop. It will probably be at least two more years before we finish the loop. Many loopers travel the entire loop in a one year time frame. We are on the longer plan, taking our time to see all of the countryside.

While here in Solomons, we have added an indoor gym to IT. That’s right an INDOOR GYM on IT! In the past, we have set up the stationary bike on the top deck. While here at dock, Susie was too embarrassed to be pedaling away on the top deck with all the other boaters around. They would think we were nuts. Plus it was raining so hard we would have drowned. So we now have our stationary bike sitting inside our salon. We bought a drop cloth at the local hardware store to protect the rugs and furniture from all the grime and sweat. We can now peddle away in the comfort of the indoors while watching the big screen TV.

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Just think of the possibilities. The dining room table could be replaced with a treadmill. Maybe IT could become a mobile spa.

Rain rain go away!

Reedville to Solomons:

We had a very nice run from Norfolk to Reedville. We left Hospital Point anchorage at 8:00 AM for the 65 mile run to Reedville. We did have a lot of barge traffic just outside of Norfolk. It was a great day for cruising with only 1-2 foot seas and a cloudless sky with temperatures in the 70’s.

Around 4 PM, we make the turn into the Great Wicomico River. We soon see the menhaden fish plant up ahead.

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All of the fishing fleet is at the docks today. It is a Saturday so maybe they don’t work on the weekends. The dogs come alive as we round the point. They can smell the fish plant. Their noses are going wild.

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We decide to anchor just behind the Crazy Crab Restaurant in Cockrell Creek. We are the only boat at anchor.

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We have dinner tonight at the Crazy Crab Restaurant. We ate here last year and their crab cakes were some of the best we have found. I try the crab Norfolk and Jeff has the seafood platter. We again have an excellent dinner. Afterwards, we take the dogs for a walk through the charming town of Reedville. This is one of our favorite places to visit. Reedville is basically one street lined with old Victorian homes.

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We see several locals riding up the street in their golf carts. I guess this is the mode of transportation around here. We make a mandatory stop at Chitterchats, which is the local ice cream shop.

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They have real homemade ice cream. We even see the owner in the back making homemade waffle cones on two small waffle irons. It is the busiest place in town. The dogs even get a taste licking our cups clean. What a treat!

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On Sunday morning we take a dinghy ride and explore the two branches of Cockrell Creek. The dogs get to go for the ride also. They always enjoy a trip in the dinghy. We would like to stay here longer but we have several appointments in Solomons for some work to be done on IT. There is a cold front coming through tomorrow so we want to get into Solomons before that arrives.

We pull up the anchor about 9:00 AM for our trip to Solomons. We only have about 35 miles to travel today. Once out in the bay, the seas increase to about 3-4 feet. These waves are also a very short period wave of only about 3 seconds, which makes for a rough ride. Around noon, we reach the entrance to the Potomac River. The combination of winds and current make this area very rough. The seas are now about 5-6 feet with waves crashing over our pilot house. We have a rough ride for about an hour until we pass the Potomac. Once past this area, the seas calm down and we have an easy trip into Solomons. We anchor for the night in Mill Creek just around the corner from all of the marinas in Solomons. There are three other sail boats at anchor here also.

Monday morning we enjoy a nice kayak up Mill Creek. We then move the boat over to Ccalvert Marina which is only about one mile from our anchorage. Calvert is our home for the rest of the week while we have some work done. Jeff wants Drum Point Marine to adjust the valves on our engine. We now have over 1000 hours on the engine and it is due for an adjustment. American Bow Thruster is also going to replace some bushings on our stabilizers. Luckily this is still under warranty. While here, we are also having several coats of varnish applied to the cap rails. Kirk of Kirk’s Mobil Marine Service spends the week teaching us the fine art of varnishing. He makes it look easy.

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We have learned a lot watching him. He even lets us help sand between coats.

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After he is through, our cap rails look like a fine piece of furniture once again. Hopefully this will last throughout the summer.

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While here at Calvert, several other Krogens arrive. A new 44 foot Krogen, Evergreen, pulls in beside us on Wednesday.

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Right behind them is Ariel with our friends Jim and Barbara. We enjoy catching up with them. They also give us some helpful tips on cruising this area as they are from the Annapolis area. One evening, we enjoy a nice dinner with Bruce Goins of Bristol Tech along with his wife at the C & D Café. Bruce installed the electronics on IT and he has become a good friend. The food at the C&D Café is fantastic as usual.

Total Miles Traveled Norfolk to Solomons: 100
Year to Date Miles Traveled: 112

Great Bridge to Norfolk

After a long winter break, we have finally arrived back aboard Idyll Time to resume our cruising. IT is ready to go. Earlier this year she had some minor repairs done along with a wash and wax job. She is patiently sitting in her slip waiting on us.

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We filled the fuel tanks two weeks ago adding 650 gallons of diesel at $3.50 per gallon. Whew!!!

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Two weeks later diesel is $3.89 here. Hopefully this will last us all summer. Who knows what the price will be in the fall. The whole crew has signed on for another year of cruising. We have the two birds, Nate and Homer, along with Daisy and Sebastian, our two dogs. We bribed the dogs to return with the promise of a new piece of sod.

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Crush and Pete, our two hermit crabs are also along for the ride.

Atlantic Yacht Basin is chock full of boats heading north. After giving IT a quick wash down, we pull out of our slip at 9:30 AM this morning. It is a beautiful clear day with temperatures in the 60’s. A perfect day to begin our trip. The Great Bridge Bridge and Lock will both open at 10:00 AM. We have five other boats transiting through the locks with us this morning.

While waiting for the locks to open, we quickly say goodbye to Happy Hours, a Krogen 48 Whaleback, docked on the outer docks at Atlantic Yacht Basin. We have an easy transit through the locks. We are lowered only one foot. This is our first and perhaps only lock for this year. In the lock there is a sign posted listing the mileages for major ports to the north of us. New York City is 452 miles from here. Eastport, ME, which will probably be our northern terminus for the year, is 967 miles away.

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We are out of the lock and on our way by 10:25 AM. We reach the Steel Highway Bridge and 10:45. This bridge opens only on the hour. We next pass the entrance to the Dismal Swamp. This is an optional route for cruisers heading south on the ICW. We have four more bridges from here to Norfolk.

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On the way, we pass several barges heading south. We soon see the Norfolk skyline ahead.

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Today we are anchoring in the anchorage off Hospital Point which is on the Portsmouth side of the Elizabeth River. Directly across the river is Norfolk. There are nine other sailboats here in the anchorage along with one power boat. By 12:00 PM, the anchor is set and the engines are off.

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Today everything is running fine on IT except for our satellite weather program, Wx Worx. Last fall, we suspended the service while the boat was winterized. After reactivating the service today, it still would not come up on the computer screen. Jeff spent about three hours and many phone calls with Wx Worx only to find out they had deactivated our radio. The service is now back up and running. What a mess!

We enjoy a nice evening at anchor watching all of the boat traffic come and go through the harbor.

Total Miles Traveled: 12

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