Tuesday, May 3, 2011

There She Blows

What a Great Year and what a Great Trip.  As we pulled into Nantucket on a foggy night our minds were filled with memories.  This little video will give you a little taste of what we where thinking.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Boldly going where few loopers have gone before gives us the Gold.

My god is it Cold!  Early in the morning Anna and I pushed off from Cape May, NJ.  The weather for the next five three days is calling for heavy winds and seas off the Jersey coast.  If we are going to cross our wake this week and start our run back to Nantucket, we are going to have to do something drastic.  As I have mentioned in the past there are a few major hurdles that must be crossed in order to complete the Great Loop.  The most obvious would be crossing the Gulf from Carrabelle to Clearwater Fl.  Others would be navigating the Mississippi with it heavy current and barge traffic or being mindful of the heavy winds and seas in Lake Michigan.  One of the less popular with regards to loop conversation is the trek from the bottom of NJ to Sandy Hook.  Having grown up off Sandy Hook, I know all to well the dangers of running offshore this time of year.  The water is cold and the winds can be relentless.  At a temperature of 40 degrees, a healthy man is thought to be able to swim 40 yards before he begins to cramp and feel the effects of Hypothermia.  These are not conditions anyone wants to find themselves in if there is an emergency.  If you run on the outside this time of year odds are you will be alone.  On occasion you will see a fishing trawler making way for Barnegat bay or the Manasquan inlet but for the most part you have got the coast to your self.  If Anna and I were to make a decision to run on the outside the conditions would have to be perfect.  As luck would have it no such conditions lay on our predictable horizon.  That left us with two options, wait or run the old ICW of NJ.  The old intercoastal waterway of NJ was abandoned by the core of engineers some years ago.  People still use it, but it's navigated with a large amount of local knowledge do to the constant shoaling.  With our boat drawing a smidge less than four feet Anna and I believed that if we run on a rising tide we just might be able to pull it off.  What the hell we thought.  We got sea tow and Boat US at the start of this trip and we have never had to use it.  Lets give it a go.  Our run from Cape May seemed to be going according to plan until we got about 3 miles from Atlantic City.  As we rounded a bend in the channel we encountered a bridge that was covered with tarps.  I checked the charts and verified that there was a 6 foot vertical clearance making it impossible to get under even if we waited till low tide.  The bridge tender radioed us and confirmed that fact that the bridge would not be in operation for another two weeks.  I asked him why it was not listed in the notice to mariners and he responded that he didn't think the contractor wanted to advertise that he was so overdue.  This presented a major problem.  We would have to backtrack five miles and run on the outside till the safety of Atlantic city's inlet.  Anna readied the boat and with white knuckles off we went.  The swells were huge, but Blue pushed us through and in an hour and a half we had made it safely back in.  Anna and I tied up in AC that night feeling as if we had dodged a huge bullet.  After a rough nights sleep Anna and I woke about 5 am and decided today is the day.  The winds in the afternoon were forcasted to turn to the south east giving us a few hours of good weather on the outside to run from Manasquan to Sandy Hook.  We pushed off and kept our eye's pealed to the depth sounder as if alarmed constantly as Blue's bottom came inches from the bottom as we ran up the inside.  I was so thankful to have Anna helping me through those channels, she would watch the paper charts and keep an eye on the upcoming buoys as I tried my best to keep us in the middle of the winding channels.  Our arrival to the Manasquan inlet left Blue bumping the bottom as we pushed through.  At one point I was sure we would ground but Blue slipped over the shoals as if she was determined not to fail us now.  Leaving the Manasquan inlet we ran up the engine and made a dash for Sandy Hook.  Coming round the point we could see the hills of Highlands off in the distance and with a sigh of relief and a long hug Anna and I crossed our wake completing the Great Loop portion of our cruise.  Our emotions were strange, of course we were happy but we were also sad.  The great loop was a dream for so long, and now with it done it is hard to know how to feel.  There is no question this trip has changed us.  We are different people than we were a year ago, our horizons are broader and our minds are filled with wonderful people places and memories.  As my father cracked a bottle of Champagne on the dock in Red Bank, we toasted our success.  The first completion is done, now we will be off for Nantucket where in our minds our trip will truly be complete.  I feel we miss our family and friends more now than ever.  It will be nice to cruise New England's waters back to Nantucket we hope to have a few weeks to catch up before we will pack up and head south to our new life in Florida.  

Anna thought it was funny to take this picture as I looked at the charts and contemplated our decision to run the inside of NJ.  Man I hope this works I thought.

Running the outside to Sandy Hook. If all goes well this will be the last time a white AGLCA burgee will fly on Blue's Bow.

At this point off Sandy Hook 5:09 PM Anna and I crossed our wake completing the Great Loop. Seeing Long Island off in the distance we wished it was Nantucket.  We can't wait to get back. 

I have seen these lights my whole life, but never before has it meant so much to see them off in the distance.

Not nearly as many boats in the water this time of year, nice to know we will have no problem getting a slip.

As we crossed under the Oceanic Bridge on our way up the Navasink, we called our families and told them the good news.


After a long day we pulled in to the dock in downtown Red Bank.

My Dad had no problem popping a bottle of Campaign to toast our completion.  It was so nice to see my family, it had been to long.

After three days we pushed off to Connecticut, their has been a new addition to the family and we want to meet her.

A short car drive and we got to meet Maeve, our new niece born six weeks ago.  She looked good with her Grandma, Grandpa and big brother Jeffrey.

I have to tell you we missed Chris and Deirdre so much this past year, we can't wait till they all come down and visit us in our new home in Florida.

Good thing we had the gold looper flag.  Our old Bergee ripped in the wind off NJ.

What a great feeling!

Monday, April 18, 2011

To the Chesapeake and Beyond

It was an early start as we pushed out of Norfolk.  The sun has been cresting over the horizon a bit earlier each day and with another patch of heavy winds coming in we need all the daylight we can get.  As we made our way up Hampton Roads, we were once again overwhelmed by the scale of the Naval operations around us.  The night before we had enjoyed a nice quite dinner in an Irish Pub in downtown.  I was surprised that the pub was so quiet, it was thirsty Thursday after all.  The Barkeep laughed at my comment and said payday wasn't till tomorrow.  She explained that about 75 percent of the people in the Norfolk area are on a government payroll, you can always tell when payday is about to happen because one night the bars are empty and the next they are packed.  Lucky us I thought, it was a sure treat to have the Bar to ourselves.  Our run up the Chesapeake was one of the more beautiful days we have had on the water in some time.  The winds were calm as could be and the sun was shinning allowing us to be nice and toasty in Blue's wheelhouse.  Towards the end of the day Anna and I decided that with high winds forcasted for the next four days, we would rather make tracks today and push on to Annapolis.  In hindsight, this was one of the more foolish decisions Anna and I have made in some time.  Our plan would leave us arriving in Annapolis at night.  The final two hours of our trip were a bit hair raising as we had a lightning storm form on the horizon and a number of large Freighters to contend with.  With Anna and I both keeping watch and the radar tracking six targets we finally made it into port.  Looking back on the situation, I am glad we pushed to get to Annapolis but the risk of navigating through the freighter traffic was extremely stressful.  In the future I would not advise anyone to navigate through those waters at night.  As soon as we pulled into Annapolis the heavens opened and Anna and I joked how nice it was to not have to wash the boat.  Over the next two days we enjoyed a nice visit from my old college buddy Lou and Anna's childhood friend Alissa.  What a treat it was to spend some time with them both.  Anna and I absolutely loved Annapolis, we took an afternoon to walk through the Naval College and enjoy the quaint homes and State House.  As soon as the weather cleared we pushed on up to the C & D Canal.  Once through we quickly realized that our trip was about to take a major turn.  None of the marina's are set up for dockage yet, we quickly found that finding water to fill Blue's tanks was going to be a major issue.  With temperatures still hovering around freezing during the night, many of the marinas have not yet run water on their dock or to their restrooms.  From here on out we will be making long jumps until we reach Sandy Hook.  We have decided to do something many other boaters would never try.  We will run the inside of NJ up the old ICW.  I have asked many boaters if they have done this and never met anyone that has.  Loopers usually opt to wait for good weather and run NJ on the outside off shore.  With heavy winds forcasted every day and water temperatures hovering in the low 40's Anna and I decided to give it a go.  Should be interesting to say the least.   

This was lifted out of the water in this floating dry dock. 

I tell you these new stealth ships sure look strange when docked next to the older destroyers.

Hampton Roads is a channel which runs between the two major Naval Docks in Norfolk.  Once again it is advised that you don't stray from the channel unless you want to have a conversation with a nations Navy.

Once in the Chesapeake bay we started to see sights that reminded us of home.  It has been a long time since we saw a lighthouse that looked like this.  It was a good feeling.

We have been told this tavern has the best Crab Cakes in Annapolis.  I have to tell you Anna and I really enjoyed the the crab pretzel.  A huge soft pretzel with crab dip and cheese baked on top of it.

If you go to Annapolis do yourself a favor and get breakfast or lunch at Chick and Ruth's Deli.  They say the pledge of Allegiance every morning at 8:30 and some of you might have seen them on the TV show Man Vs. Food. 

Anna and I were happy to see the Cherry Blossoms.

My Fraternity and College roommate Lou and I enjoying a fine Cigar and a beer.  Life don't get much better than this.

Alyssa and her daughter Elena.  One of the best parts of the trip is being able to reconnect with all our old friends.

Anna and I really enjoyed or walk through the Naval College.  I would have loved to have gone, that is if I had the Math scores and a congressional appointment.

What the heck is going on, it feels like it might snow.  Delaware city was the last spot we could find running water on the docks for 180 miles.

The owners of this marina are amazingly nice and it is was a great stop to get organized and some laundry done.

If you stop in Delaware City you have got to get a bite to eat at Crabby Dicks.  Anna and I stopped in and stopped in and had to buy a t-shirt.  I don't think I can ever wear it in public but man they sure had fun making funny t-shirts.

"Look at that" Anna said. "We must have made it to NJ".

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The City of Steel.

As we pulled out of the last lock on the Dismal Swamp Canal, it was pretty clear that we weren't in Kansas anymore.  The water quickly changed from the clean amber pure water in the canal to a dark murky industrial soup.  Norfolk Harbor is known as being on of the most polluted bodies of water in the US.  Thanks to years of abuse from our nations Navy, it will be years until the mud and banks of Norfolk are clean.  That having been said, Norfolk is still one of the most amazing places we have seen so far.  As we round the last bend leaving the canal, the pine trees seem to shrink as if they crouched with fear as the steal ships take over the landscape.  Moving along the channel, one quickly finds that it is extremely clear which way you are to go.  To the right and left of Blue we found patrol boats and signs.  The signs made the matter clear, a violation of the security barrier would result in the use of deadly force.  Well at least there is no confusion Anna joked.  The ships are truly amazing.  As we passed by an Aircraft Carrier we suddenly realized the intimidation factor of having one of these massive ships show up off a foreign shore.  It truly is the biggest stick on the block.  Anna took pictures of many of the ships from the bow and seemed to be attracting a bit of attention from the men on the ends of the dock.  I took a look in my Binoculars and saw that they were looking back at me.  What was a bit unnerving was the fact that all of them had machine guns over their shoulders.  I quickly called to Anna on the bow and suggested we be a bit more discreet with our photography.  I tell you it was a strange feeling having all those eyes peering down on you.  As we pulled into downtown Norfolk and tied up Blue, we were so excited to sit and watch a giant destroyer being lifted out of the water in a dry dock right across from us.  It would be hard to imagine the size of the operation with out having seen it first hand.  With Blue tied to the dock Anna and I sat down to discuss a very important issue that had arisen over the past few weeks.  As many of you know I have been giving a lot of thought toward what we would do when we return to Nantucket.  Well a short while ago I had been offered a job working at St Augustine Marine Center in Florida.  The opportunity offered to us was hard to ignore and we had arrived at a decision that we would be crazy not to jump on it.  With the prospect of needing to relocate to Florida a few short weeks after arriving back to Nantucket, we decided we should put the brakes on and leave Blue in Norfolk for a week and drive back to Florida to find a place to live.  Our drive back to St Augustine was filled with emotions.  We constantly struggled with our decision to leave our lives on Nantucket, we have made so many memories their.  Upon our arrival we put our thoughts behind us and started to explore.  After a few days we had found a place to live on Anastasia Island right outside of St Augustine and were beginning to feel much better about our decision.  On our trip back to Blue we sat in the car with 1000 yard stares, man we were tired.  We have our work cut out for is now.  We have a trip to finish and a new life to start.  Bring it on, nothing can be worse than the rough seas in Albermarle Sound.  After all that Anna and I have seen and done in the past year, I feel there is nothing we can't do once we put our minds to it.

A view as we pushed off on the last leg of the Swamp.

This place cracked me up.  The sign may be hard to read in this shot but this is the superintendent house on the Canal.  Looks like the Cobbler's shoe if you ask me.

What a thrill to see how far we have come. 

Until you see one of these ships, it is hard to grasp their size.  You can see the barrier in the water around the ship.  Makes you feel warm and fuzzy.  NOT!

I think this is about as close as anyone can get to a Nuclear Sub without being in the Navy.  Note the patrol boats keeping a watchful eye.

The View from the helm on the Battleship Wisconsin

The door to the main control room on the Battleship.  18 inches of steal protect the main controls and communications.  During Battle the Captain and Helmsmen would be inside this room with the door shut. 

The Helm and Command center on the Bridge.

Look at those Guns.

They say the Guns could shoot a Volkswagen Beetle.  This shell had a range of over 20 miles.

You should enlarge this photo and check out these specs.  This ship is just amazing!

Anna joked that she wished she had this on board Blue, maybe then she could get some privacy.

The Battle Ship Wisconsin was only hit once off the shore of Korea.  At the time the Captain was so mad that someone had damaged his boat he ordered the boat to turn broadside and load all six of their guns.  In one shot all six guns fired on a mountain top where a single enemy gun had got it's million dollar shot.  When the dust cleared, the spotter reported that the enemy gun had been destroyed.  He added that the entire top of the mountain was now missing.  Moments later the Captain received a typed message from the a fellow Captain in the battle group.  It contained two words.       TEMPER TEMPER.

The Chrysler Art Museum is a free museum and a must see

The flower display inside the entry was a piece of art itself

The lighting and architecture of the building are amazing

The museum was filled with room after room of amazing sights.  Of the whole loop this really was the top art museum.