Monday, August 13, 2012

It's Cool in This Pool

The “Punch Bowl” is a perfect place to look for critters.  At low tide the water is shallow and fairly clear.  Small rocks are all over waiting to be turned over so, of course, I could not resist.  The rain had cleared up by yesterday afternoon and I was tired of processing photos and updating the blog so I got in the kayak and paddled around the north end of Jewel Island despite the fog.  There was a good landing on the sandbar and all I had to do was walk over the bar and there I was.  My strategy was to keep my right hand dry on the camera and use my left hand in the water.  This worked fairly well and I got some fair pictures, however I wanted some good lobster pictures and I could not catch them with one hand. 

This morning was foggy but cleared up nicely and we decided to try snorkeling.  The water was clear and only about 3 ft deep at the most.  I had my shorty wetsuit and hood on and it was not too bad as long as you stayed in the upper 6 inches. Hundreds of Green Crabs scooted around, some eating scale worms.  The sea grass gave the place an aquarium-like atmosphere but there were very few fish.  Snails (mostly periwinkles) were everywhere.  Lobsters of all sizes could be found under the rocks.  Bill found one that was approaching dinner size but most of them were around 6 inches long.  When my fingers were numb we went back to the boat for lunch.  Still determined to get a good lobster picture, I unpacked my camera case and returned in the afternoon to do it right.  The tide was lower and water was considerably warmer (but still wetsuit and hood temperature).  I noticed condensation appearing inside the case so it was time to take the camera back.  It was good to get my gills wet!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Onward To Maine

We gained another learning experience about the mail.  It seems like general delivery in a big city like Norfolk is a bit different than in Oriental or Georgetown.  In our ignorance we picked the wrong post office to sent it to then went on a wild goose chase.  We were scolded by a postal official who claimed that general delivery was being abused by homeless people who really had an address.  Finally we found out that the package had been returned to sender.  On to plan B--maybe we can have it sent to our next destination. So we headed out Chesapeake Bay into open ocean again for the 2 day trip to Rhode Island to visit our friends Andy and Judy.  We met them while waiting for mail in Georgetown, Bahamas.  The wind was calm for the most part and right behind us but we used the sails to boost our motoring speed and use less fuel.  We crossed the shipping lanes for New York harbor during a Saturday night so there was blessedly little traffic.

We arrived at Block Island, RI in the morning.  There was some fog blanketing the Island but we could still make out cliffs and trees.  Block Island is a popular weekend summer vacation spot and many boats were just leaving since it was Sunday.  Our original plan was to stop and rest at Block Island but we decided to suck it up and go the 6 more hours to Andy and Judy's house.  I'm glad we did because we were treated to a great RI clam dinner and now we could really relax.  The islands and shores of Narragansett Bay were beautiful and green. I really expected it to be more urban.  Palatial mansions line the banks and we anchored right across from one (thank goodness Andy and Judy's house was more modest).  Many clam fishermen work these waters.  They appeared very early in the morning raking clams with a basket on a very long pole.  This has got to be hard work and there must be a bunch of clams there to support so many fishermen.

Judy had bikes and kayaks and we spent a day touring the peninsula of Warwick neck.  There was even a blueberry farm down the road where we picked blueberries.  The next day we took a tour of Newport and hiked the Cliff Walk where we gawked at the mansions.  We didn't see any reason to pay to go in them but there was one (being used as a university) that we could look inside the first floor for free.  When we got back to the house Bill found that the GPS chip had been delivered--hurray!

We said goodbye to Andy and Judy that night and left early Wednesday morning.  We motorsailed down the Sakonnet River passing more mansions and small towns on the way then made way across Buzzards Bay Massachusetts.  We anchored near the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal for Wednesday night.  The canal passage must be done with the proper tide and we had it Thursday morning.  Thursday we crossed Cape Cod Bight and anchored that evening at Rockport, MA.  The lobster pots were thick as we approached the coast and we tangled the propeller in one on the way to the anchorage.

Friday morning was foggy and the first thing we had to do was get the propeller untangled.  Thank goodness for radar because the whole day was foggy and it took both Bill and I to watch for boats on the radar and watch for lobster pots.  The fog finally lifted a little at the end of the day and we got our first sight of Maine as we approached the twin lighthouses at Cape Elizabeth.  The lobster pots were thick--they are not set out in orderly lines like the crab pots in NC.  They are scattered all over with barely enough room to fit our boat.  But we made it this time without snagging one and arrived at Jewel Island exhausted. Jewel Island is a state-owned island and a popular boating and camping spot.  We are lucky that the weather forecast has not been good so there are not dozens of boats in this tiny harbor.  We made it to Maine!!!

Yesterday cleared up and after a very cool morning we had a good day of hiking the island.
We met the island caretaker, Vinny, (what a great summer job) who gave us a trail map and told us that we could find baby lobsters in the "Punch Bowl", at low tide.  So we hike across the island to a nice tidal pool filled with seagrass and rocks.  I immediately started looking under rocks and soon found baby lobsters. I could have stayed there all day--maybe a week but Bill wanted to press on.  The trails led through fir and spruce forests, swamps, and fields of ferns and goldenrod in bloom.  We climbed the abandoned WWII spotting towers and were treated to a breathtaking vista of forested islands around us.

When we got back to the boat we were ready for lunch then Bill was ready for a nap.  I got in the kayak and  checked out the dead seal on Little Jewel Island and attempted some seagull pictures. Rocks and seaweed were more cooperative subjects. Then it was time to take care of what we really came here for.  We got in the dingy and went across the bay to a small fishing port.  A guy was on one of the docks was taking lobsters from a pen and was happy to sell us 4.  He also had this very unusual half albino lobster that he had found last week.  So it was lobster dinner last night!

This morning is very foggy and we can hear the fog horns.  I am not sure if this will last all day or not.  We are planning to stay here a couple of days then will be off to discover more.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

North Carolina to Norfolk, VA

The 3 days it took to get to Norfolk, VA were uneventful after our initial leaking water pipe.  We motored up the Intracoastal Waterway which led up from the Bay River through a canal passing by Hobucken, NC, across the Pamlico River to the Pungo River, then through another canal to the Alligator River where we spent the first night.  The mouth of the Alligator River is on the south shore of Albemarle Sound where I did field research on blue crabs and seagrass beds.  The wind picked up that day and we set the sails to test our new shroud plates.  We were happy to see that there was no deck lifting going on there anymore.  I would have been very surprised if there was.  There was not enough wind to turn off the engines but it gave us a boost allowing for the engines to be throttled down a bit.  Albemarle Sound is famous for its choppy conditions and a NE wind set the stage for a 2 ft chop which I remembered to be mighty fun when you were trawling for crabs in an 18 ft boat.  Somehow the ride was a bit better in our boat. 

After crossing Albemarle Sound we travelled up the North River and into another canal.  The second night we stayed at the Midway Marina, since there were no good anchorages in the area, then proceeded to Coinjock Bay (another place I worked in-so long ago).  Another long canal took us into Virginia and to the locks at Norfolk.  We barely made the bridges in time thanks to a delay caused by a fire truck then found that following a barge insured that bridges and locks would open. 

Until we got to Norfolk, the way was through beautiful pristine cypress swamp and pocosin habitat.  Osprey nests were on every other marker and we saw bald eagles every day.  It was a shock to enter the large commercial and military port with huge machinery and ships. 

Our anchorage was chosen for its proximity to a bus system where we could get to the post office. It’s near a noisy highway and navy base where helicopters circle all hours of the day and night.  Bill discovered at the last minute that our GPS card did not have the northern maps.  He ordered one and had it sent to general delivery here.  However that was a good idea in theory but not in practice.  He just found out that the post office he sent it to is only a distribution center and his package has likely been returned to sender.  He won’t be happy tonight!

From here “the plan” is to watch for a weather window so that we can go on the outside to Block Island