5/22/19 to 6/2/2019
Last we talked, we were waiting for the Blue Angels show over Annapolis as part of Commissioning Week for the Naval Academy. That next morning, we dinghied into town again (only a 5-minute ride) and after walking a bit, had a sidewalk lunch at Mission BBQ and watched the people pass by. Another delicious meal! We toured some more, and before we could get back to our boat, the Blue Angels had started their practice. We hurried to Al and Lynn Kritter’s boat, which was docked at the marina in town, and watched the practice from their flybridge. Afterward, we invited them to come watch the show the next day from ours.
Janice texted us that there was a Looper docktail party (that’s hors d’oeuvres and cocktails on a dock) at 5:00 PM. 24 Loopers ended up on Dave and Penny’s gorgeous new Ocean Alexander 61 (that’s 61’ long!) and it wasn’t even crowded. There was never a dull moment for us in Annapolis.
At 10:00 on Wednesday, we took a guided tour of the US Naval Academy. We had an excellent female guide who would have liked to have gone to the academy but told Paula she had 3 children by the time they opened the academy to women. 24% of this year’s freshman class was female. All 4500 midshipmen had to live in Bancroft Hall all 4 years. It was the largest dormitory in the US with 5 miles of corridors, almost like a little city with its own stores, medical professionals, a bank…even its own zip code.
Their education was free, compliments of the American taxpayer in exchange for serving 5 years in the military service after graduation. Midshipmen could leave without repercussions during the first 2 years. If they dropped out after that, they were on the hook for the cost of their education, approximately $186,000 or 5 more years of service. There were 16,086 applicants for the current freshman class; 1211 got accepted; only 9 left this year. After the tour, we visited the ship museum (filled with amazing model ships), watched noon meal formation, and had lunch at the Officer’s Club. We also saw the Cathedral of the Navy with beautiful stained-glass windows and an organ with over 6000 pipes. Below are some of the pictures from Annapolis and the Naval Academy.We had met KT and Deborah at the docktails party. They were just beginning their Great Loop and had only 1 anchor. We had been trying to sell 2 of ours (the boat came with 5, more than we needed), and they needed a second one. They dinghied over to our boat to pick it up and stayed along with Al and Lynn to watch the Blue Angels show from our dingy deck. It was amazing!!! On the radio was a play-by-play so we knew what maneuvers were about to be flown. At times, we could see them before we heard their roar; other times, the sound would rumble in our bodies before we could find them. Many of the maneuvers took them directly over our boat! Paula says there will never be another airshow like the one watched from our dinghy deck!
Tom took Al and Lynn back to their boat (their new dinghy was arriving the next day), then we went to tour KT and Deborah’s boat. While there, we finally met Jaime and Trish who yelled “Hey Loopers” at us in Wrightsville Beach when they dinghied by as we were waiting for the bridge opening. (They also passed us while we were stuck on the sandbar the next day.)
Shortly after returning to our boat, we heard, “Hey Gold Loopers.” It was Jim and Linda Mumper who lived in the area and who we met in TN on our first Loop! That Loop flag just draws boaters to you! While they were there visiting, the Wednesday night sailboat racers came right through the mooring field, weaving in and out of the boats. At times, it felt like they were going to hit us, but they always “came about” just in time. It was quite hectic.
After all the activities of the day settled down, we prepped for departure the next day. It was time to finish the Chesapeake. When we left the Annapolis mooring field, there were only about 15 boats remaining, compared to the 40 moored for the Blue Angels airshow the day prior. As we turned out of Back Creek into the Chesapeake for our 59-mile day, it was very rolly side-to-side with 2-3’ waves. Paula had to take everything off the counters in the salon as things were sliding back and forth. Some small sewing drawers fell out onto the floor in the laundry room. All that was a first. We’d had rougher, but never side-to-side rolling that sent things sliding. It calmed down a bit after we were north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and even more as we got closer to the eastern shore of the Chesapeake. Once we turned into the C&D Canal, it was finally calm.
We used our Nebo app for the first time, a location service which tracked where we were, as well as logging speed, distance, and other information. (If you download this app, you could see exactly where Life’s TraVails is at any time.) We had heard there was a free city dock in Chesapeake City and we discovered through Nebo that Steve and Janice on Nomadic Spirit were tied up there. We texted to see if there was room for us, and by the time we got there, we got the last spot on the outside. They caught our lines for us. Unfortunately, our power cord was not compatible with the power pedestal there.
The town on our side of the bridge was small and very cute. We visited the shops with Janice and their dog, then headed around the anchorage to the C&D Canal Museum which had dioramas and a movie which told the story of the building of the canal. In the controllers building nearby, there was a beautiful board of knots – maybe 75 – displayed. It was a work of art!
Our desire to reach Cape May, NJ the next day was shattered when we read the forecast for winds of 17 mph producing waves of more than 4’ in the Delaware Bay. Instead, we had to settle for an 18-mile 2-hour cruise (but we reached speeds of 12 mph with a pushing current) through the rest of the C&D Canal plus 4 miles of the Delaware Bay where we then anchored behind small Reedy Island with 6 other boats. There was very little protection, and we bounced around a lot but the short day and quietude after 2 big weekends was really nice for a change. Later in the evening, it finally got calm.
Unfortunately, the aft head (toilet) stopped up for no apparent reason. Tom worked on it without success until 11:00 PM. (Good thing we had another head.) Paula blamed Tom for doing it intentionally as he had been talking about getting a composting toilet. We knew several boaters who replaced their heads with composting toilets and everyone, without exception, said they were glad they did. With normal boat toilets, the hoses eventually began to smell, special quick-disintegrating toilet paper was required, and they seemed to need repairs frequently. The black water went into a holding tank which had to be pumped out when full (similar to an RV), which at times was inconvenient and of course, almost always cost money.
Life’s TraVails had Electra San “poop processors” in both our heads, which many boats did not have. This brought the black waste up to effluent city standards and so generally, we did not have to hold. But there were “no-discharge areas” where no one could discharge, like the Great Loop from NYC Harbor north up the Hudson River and all of Canada, exactly where we were headed. And our boat had only a small holding tank of 20 gals. (A boat our size would normally have at least twice that.) With 2 of us on board, we could only go about 6 to 7 days between pumpouts.
Enter the advantages of a composting toilet: no smell (amazingly), no need to pump out, minimal costs after initial purchase, and no expensive electric parts to break. The urine went into a holding bucket which could be flushed into a land toilet and poop went into a separate area with peat moss. With 2 people on board, most folks could go more than a week before needing to empty the urine bucket and a month before needing to throw the compost into a dumpster and fill with new composting material (which could be purchased in compressed form). More to come on this.
Leaving the anchorage at 6:00 AM gave us the best push from current to run the Delaware Bay southeast toward the Atlantic Ocean. We were boat #5 to leave, one right after the other. It was a cloudy day and began with 2.5’ waves hitting us right on the bow. As the day progressed, the waves became larger and larger until we had some 4’ waves. We had to take everything off the counters as they slid from one side to the other in the turbulence. The plastic brackets which held the blinds broke and the blinds swung wildly until Paula raised them. Steve and Janice on their 32’ Gypsy Spirit traveling with us were taking wave after wave over the bow. After about 1.5 hours, the waves decreased to about 1’ and were much more comfortable. As we turned into the canal at Cape May, NJ, we saw about 20 dolphins (just as we had on our first Loop in that exact spot). It was the first dolphins we had seen in quite a while.
The houses lining the waterfront along the Cape May canal were decorated for Memorial Day with flags and beautiful wildflowers or landscaped gardens on many of the lots. We chose South Jersey Marina, a different marina than we stayed the previous visit (Utsch’s, with its very narrow entrance). It turned out to be right next door. We seemed to have the Memorial weekend partiers, with many boats rigging fishing lines or just hanging out on their boats, but no Looper flags. Shortly after we arrived, a boat came in from fishing and had its thrasher shark weighed on the fish scale. 304.2 pounds!
We walked over to Utsch’s so Paula could see the entrance. She remembered it being small but wondered if it was because it was only about her 4thdocking. It was not just a scary nightmare. It was tight! When we met Loopers Dan & Jenny Lynn Girvan on Melody in Sea, Dan told us he, like us, had to come to a complete stop, spin, and then begin again to make the 90° turn to enter. (Don’t you love the boat names? Jenny Lynn was a musician.)
Continuing to walk the docks, we saw a boat named The Journey with a Great Loop flag. Tom said, “That name sounds familiar” and Paula looked up the name in our boat contacts. (She entered everyone we met while doing the Loop into our contacts along with their boat name and the date and location at which we met.) Then she recognized the boat, remembering it had been freshly painted just before the last time we saw it. Knocking on the boat, we discovered the new owners were now Jim & Julie Snyder, also doing the Loop. We were immediately invited to docktails the next evening.
We found out Bottomline Church held a church service at Utsch’s Marina on the docks every Sunday morning. Pastor William Springer was excellent. His message was verse after verse supporting his teaching. Though there were only about 8 of us attending, there was a woman taking pictures for Exit Zero magazine. We hoped more people would learn about it as it would be a great place for them to grow in the knowledge in Christ.
Cape May was a beautiful Victorian town. We rode our bikes to town, passing beautiful houses along the way. One of those was the Physick House, now a Victorian house museum. When we got to the Washington Street Mall, a multiblock walking street, we enjoyed visiting the stores which were quite varied, (including a yarn shop just for Paula) and enjoyed a DQ blizzard. At 11:45, we hopped on the historic trolley tour and learned about the history of the town and the beautiful Victorian architecture of many of the houses. We rode our bikes to the beach and walked The Cove, a beautiful beach packed with Memorial Day sun-seekers.At 5:00, we took Caprese salad sticks to the Loopers docktail party at Utsch’s Marina. Before we left, there were more than 22 Loopers enjoying each other’s company. We met Steve and Kathy Parnell with whom we had talked on the radio previously. Steve had called us after overhearing Paula was a pilot. Their boat name was United 771, another very unique name and the story behind it was that it was on United 771 that Steve met flight attendant Kathy, “the most beautiful woman in the world,” who he later married. Can you imagine what a marina might think when they called in on the radio? “Utsch’s Marina, United 771.” What? What is an airplane doing radioing our marina???
We left the docktails party a little early to attend the free Atlantic Brass Band Memorial Day outdoor concert at the city bandstand. It was the first concert in the Cape May Music Festival. We congratulate the city for being committed to the arts and it appeared from the crowd, the citizens supported the arts well. The Atlantic Brass Band had played together for 30 years. They had 30 instrumentalists and were 3-time national champions and US open champions. Needless to say, it was an excellent concert and we really enjoyed it!
We found boat names interesting. Click here to see just a few cute boat names we have come across.
Memorial Day, we were ready to leave Cape May for Atlantic City (44 miles via the Atlantic). We had planned to depart around 9:00 due to the forecast wave height at 2.5′ to 3’ beginning to diminish at 8:00. Checking Nebo, we noticed a boat we knew already on the water headed north. We gave them a call and found out the sea was flat. We hurried to depart and left the marina at 7:25. We passed Wildwood with its large roller coaster and Ferris wheel and then later, the Atlantic City Ferris wheel before turning in to Farley State Marina, owned by the Gold Nugget. And we saw 10 dolphins enroute.
After arrival, we took the jitney which stopped right outside the casino door for $2.25 to the Atlantic City Boardwalk, the longest and most famous boardwalk in the world. We went to the buffet at Caesars Palace, disappointed to find it was nowhere near as good as when we had been there 3 years earlier. Not again. We enjoyed walking the boardwalk before returning to the boat with plans to depart the next morning at daybreak to make the 82 miles to NYC.
We got up at 4:20 Tuesday to overcast skies and a forecast of wave heights of 2′ to 3’ escalating to 4.5’ by day’s end. We would have done that (hoping to be at the destination before it was greater than 3’) but thunderstorms were also in the forecast. That made it an easy “no-go” decision. Worse yet, the forecast was for thunderstorms and high waves for another 4 days. Back to bed.
When we finally got up, it was a day of doing the same mundane things you would do in your everyday life (i.e., nothing worth writing about). The one highlight of the day was watching the 164’ super-yacht, Boardwalk, move away from the dock so his helicopter could take off from its deck! And…Tom ordered the composting toilet.
Wednesday dawned clear and sunny. We found out we could get a card of 10 senior jitney passes for only $7.50 so our trips to the boardwalk got cheaper. We went to the 10:00 Boardwalk Hall Pipe Organ Tour and Concert. It was free and we were blown away by it!!! The tour alone was 2 hours with excellent guides (including the curator and the event coordinator for the historic organ restoration committee), followed by a 30-minute concert. Please click here to read more about this tour and the organ.Back at the boat, Tom removed our aft toilet in preparation for the coming composting toilet. Paula sewed covers for our flybridge fans. By early evening, a huge thunderstorm rolled in with lightning and big winds. We were so glad to be secure in a slip.
When we got up in the morning, the fog was so dense we couldn’t see 100 yards to the fuel dock…and it persisted almost the entire morning. Several boats had left and we wondered if the captains were in their right minds. Having experienced fog for 5 hours on our first Loop from Atlantic City to New York City, we didn’t ever want to get caught in it again!
Our new composting head arrived before 10:00 and Tom got right to work installing it while Paula did laundry. We took a break mid-afternoon to go to the Absecon Lighthouse and toured the keepers’ quarters. Then Tom rode his bike to a local hardware store to get a few parts and peat moss so we could be up and running as soon as the installation was finished. As he got back to the boat, a big thunderstorm erupted.
At 9:30 that night, Tom decided he wasn’t ready to leave the next day even if conditions were good. The head installation was not completely finished (he still had to vent it), the engine room was a mess, Paula still had her sewing machine out and the salon was a mess.
In the morning, Tom finished the Nature’s Head installation and Paula finished sewing the flybridge fan covers. Tom had to make another trip to the store because the composting material he first bought had synthetics in it (which would prevent it from decomposing; had to be organic). He bought a ripped bag of peat moss at Home Depot for half price and loaded as much as he could in plastic bags on the scooter, giving the rest to a lady in the parking lot. When he returned, we bagged it into gallon Ziplocs to be stored on the boat.
After a delicious dinner of salmon from the grill, we readied the boat for departure and prepped for our 4:30 AM wake-up. It was going to be a long open-ocean trip to New York City. It turned out to be uneventful with almost flat seas. We anchored right behind the Statue of Liberty, in between Ellis Island and Liberty Park. It had been our plan on our first Great Loop, but the trauma of that trip made us forget about it (read here). The view of the statue was amazing, but the lights after sunset lit up the city! Our real amazement came the following morning.
We were up early on Sunday, the day before Labor Day, with anchor up at 6:00 AM. As we rounded the statue, there was not…one…boat moving in the NYC Harbor. The third busiest harbor in the world, and nothing was moving. Not a ship, ferry, pleasure boat, kayak…nothing! On top of that, the water was completely and almost eerily calm. At one point we said to each other, “Did something happen we don’t know about?” with thoughts of 911 entering our mind (especially significant to us because of Paula’s flying career). Our cruise all alone through the still harbor was 20 minutes neither of us would forget.
The view below, along with the Blue Angels show we saw in Annapolis, reminded us of the God-given freedom we enjoy in this country and how reliant we are on Him.