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Misty Pearl on America’s Great Loop

Here’s a map of Misty Pearl’s stops along the Great Loop, right down to our actual slips.  (Except for Beaufort, N.C., where D Dock is too new for Google Maps.)  Pressing one of the little red balloon-looking thingys will load up our blog posts related to that spot.

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Your boat may have missiles but it can’t do the Trent-Severn

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img_7860Although we skipped the Rendezvous, that didn’t prevent us from taking the ferry over to hobnob with some Loopers.  Charlie tried to lure us into Bushwhackers but we held firm.  Bushwhackers or no Bushwhackers, we were happy to see Charlie and Robin and sad to think we might not catch up to them for a good while unless peer pressure works and they join the cool-people club and do the Down East.  But at least Charlie was wearing a shirt.

Saturday we headed down to Elizabeth City to pick up the parts we shipped there before we decided to dodge the Dismal Swamp.  Since we were passing by anyway, we stopped to see what we missed.  Yup, pretty cool.  And pretty narrow, although the park ranger as much as called us weenies.

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We got back, did some boat stuff, and watched some Justified.

Roughly thirty minutes after sunrise, the aptly named Carnival Sunrise pulled up across the river.  This ship apparently is a big deal for Norfolk and the Carnival cruise line.  Roughly thirty-one minutes after sunrise, however, the Carnival Sunrise started annoying us and everyone else who enjoys some semblance of peace and quiet.  We recognize that every single man, woman, and child on the 2,754-passenger manifest might enjoy the exact same music—and clearly they all need to hear the important announcements that come rapid-fire every few seconds—but this is a ship worth half a billion dollars.  How about sprinkling more small speakers around and dialing back the volume by a few hundred decibels?  We feel confident that the rest of Virginia really doesn’t care about what’s going on over there.

Fortunately, they left late in the afternoon.  Even more fortunately, we were there to watch.  This sucker is as long and wide as a football field, yet started off down the river towards the Swamp.  If we barely can fit in there, no way this thing can.  Should we fire up the radio and warn the Captain he was heading the wrong way?  Apparently, however, six maneuvering thrusters come in handy.

This morning we headed out, past rows of navy ships that don’t seem to be partially dismantled.  Very cool.  It’s a beautiful day.  Nothing can slow us down now baby.

Okay, maybe one thing can slow us down.  “Misty Pearl, Misty Pearl.  This is Warship 61.  Over.”  Well that’s new.  Dude said he was “headed out to sea” and asked if we could slow down and let him out of his slip.  That’s like when Dana asks Doug to pick up his clothes and take out the trash.  Even though the words superficially are polite, they carry certain grave implications.  We let him out of his slip.

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“Warship 61” is the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage.  We figured what the hell, a destroyer that escorts battleships is good enough to escort Misty Pearl, so we slid in behind at a distance way too close for Dana but not nearly close enough for Doug.

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Plus, we need to get up to Mobjack Bay at high-tide-ish.  We can’t be poking along at six knots when we need to go eight.  Let’s pass him.  One of us reluctantly took the wheel—shuddering with what she claimed was embarrassment—while the other one of us tried to videotape the bold move.  It’s not every day we zip by a huge gunboat underway on a real life mission.  Unfortunately the sun was in the wrong spot and efforts to change the iPhone settings to account for it yielded either a large naked woman or a hippopotamus, depending on how one interprets the resulting Rorshoch-esque blot of dark smudges.  So no video.  About then the Navy advised us to stay in our lane, bro, because the Ramage was about to speed up.  We figured it was the nautical equivalent of road rage, but we took the prudent course since at that point we were exactly a minute and twenty-two seconds away from a newspaper headline that truly would’ve embarrassed Dana if we’d survived the collision.

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Fort Monroe—off to the port there—is the largest fort the U.S. ever constructed.  It also served as Jeff Davis’ prison after the War of Northern Aggression.  Ironically, however, nobody from the fort raised a single finger to defend Brent and Karen that time someone the Justified screenwriters would call a “gun thug” shot at them while they were minding their own business aboard Second Wave.  (Of course, it’s just an historical site now so maybe fighting gang-bangers is a bit much to expect.)

As the Ramage faded into the horizon, we cruised on into the Chesapeake Bay.  We last saw these waters at the entrance to the C & D Canal last May.

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Ahh yes.  That means those Chesapeake crab traps are back.   Like a case of herpes.

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We pulled in to Zimmerman’s boat yard close enough to high tide to make it uneventful.  This means Misty Pearl has completed the Loop.*   We haven’t finished ourselves, of course, but this is where we had the Survey, Sea Trial, and Bombing back in October of 2017.  Damn that was a long time ago.  Back then we barely knew our aft from a hole in the ground.  Now we’re darn near to being borderline competent.

Max (the key man at the boat yard) and Jani (the key woman at Waterway Guide) in completely different ways both have been a huge help to us along the way.  We had a super fun dinner with them at the delicious Thai restaurant in Gloucester.

No blog posts for a while because we’ll be off the boat for a while.  Hopefully she’ll be back in the water ready to go on June 7.

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* We don’t count the trip up to Colonial Beach since someone else moved the boat for us.  We’ll officially cross our wake at the mouth of the Potomac River, and celebrate at Solomons.

Back where the cotton and the corn and taters grow*

The good folks at Coinjock packed us along the wall nose-to-butt with scarcely room to breathe, which allowed us to justify waiting there until the boat ahead of us—now unfettered by a trailing crab pot—detached.  We figured leaving at 7:45 should put us at the first swing bridge for the opening at 11.  That bridge sits about an inch off the water, so we ain’t getting under it.

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Before the bridge, however, we enjoyed our last canal for a while.  The Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal is the last bit of ditch we’ll see until we get back up to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal at the top end of the Chesapeake Bay in six weeks or so.

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Someplace after the swing bridge we passed back into Virginia.  By our reckoning no new states for us until Vermont.  That’s about two months out.  We were welcomed by one small cannon that seems to have no legitimate purpose in life.

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Not scary at all.  At that trajectory nobody’s hitting anything on the water.  If the folks in the brick house want to defend themselves from a naval attack, it would be more efficient to just throw the balls from shore.

Honest question.  If the water level fluctuates by six inches, is a lock truly necessary?  What happens if it just stays open?  We’ll never know, because the Great Bridge Lock was in business, allowing us to demonstrate the skills we acquired on the other zillion locks we’ve traversed.

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Dana expertly retrieved and prepared to deploy the orange ball fenders we use in locks, only to be foiled by built-in rubber rails.

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These things are sweet.  Hey New York, can you please put them in the Erie?  Anyway, we’re not sure if we went up or down but the gates opened so we assume it was one or the other.

Shortly after the lock, we wistfully passed the cutoff to the Great Dismal Swamp.  Maybe next time we’ll be in a skiff—or an icebreaker—and will give it a shot.

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Yesterday’s destination was Portsmouth, which is just across from the Norfolk waterfront.  Just a couple of train bridges to go under, and they’re “usually open.”  Nope.  The bridge they call Bridge No. 7—but we call names unfit for polite society—was down.  So we sat.  Finally a train came by.  So we sat.

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Okay, train’s gone it’ll open now.  Nope.  Is the jackass from the Marseilles Lock running this bridge?  Wait, another train’s on the way.  So we sat.  That train finally arrived and crossed.  While we sat.  An hour hungrier we made it through.

Somewhere in there we passed Mile 0 on the Atlantic ICW.  Which means we did the entire thing.  We can’t say we enjoyed every minute of it while that wasted hour still simmers in our heads, but all in all it’s a darn cool stretch of Loop.

Norfolk is a primary Navy shipyard.  The USS Oscar Austin and USS Carney were just two of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers down for service along our route.

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That’s a ton of firepower shut down for repairs.  Hopefully the Germans don’t bomb the Navy here like they did at Pearl Harbor.**

We docked at Tidewater and there, just across the Elizabeth River, so close we could hit her with a ball from a small cannon if we only knew where to find one, sits The Lower Place.

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Robin and Charlie and other Loopers of all shapes and sizes are in town for the Spring Rendezvous.  We hit up the Rendezvous last year so decided to give it a pass.  We’ll head over for one of Charlie’s famous Bushwhackers or something, however, before we leave.  We also want to pop into the AGLCA store just to see if we need any more stuff.

Since we’re finishing our Loop in Solomons, we’re now only three stops away.  Insert cry-face emoji.  And yet that’s still a month down the road.  The plan now is to leave Misty Pearl with Zimmerman just to make sure everything’s in order for the Down East trip.  Hopefully we’ll be outta here and up to Mathews on Tuesday.

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* RIP Ray Charles.

** RIP John Blutarsky.

The Lord hates a coward, but we don’t need a curled prop

From our early planning days, we looked forward to The Great Dismal Swamp.  The canal through it—in theory—is just deep and wide enough for Misty Pearl to squeeze through.  In the last week or so as Loopers are hustling up to Norfolk for the Spring  Rendezvous, however, we started hearing horror stories.  Deadheads galore.  Stumps just below the surface.  Boats with damaged running gear from pinballing off stuff in the water.  All in all, not for us.  We’ve scheduled a trip to the Outer Banks, then Mallory’s graduation, then a trip to Chattanooga, then a trip north to deliver Mallory to the top of Mt. Katahdin where she’ll start hiking down the AT.  We don’t have time to sit in Norfolk waiting for a new shaft or propeller.  So we bailed.  Gonna take the Virginia Cut route, cowardly though it might seem.

Either way, of course, we faced Albemarle Sound.  Albemarle the town is the birthplace of one Kelly Pickler—“Pick Pickler!”—who we watched on TV back before American Idol jumped the shark.  Nothing so scary about that other than the fact that Steven Tyler was a judge one season.  Albemarle the Sound, on the other hand, arguably is the scariest part of the Loop not named The Crossing.  We know Loopers who’ve suffered life-threatening medical issues in Albemarle Sound.  We know Loopers who’ve lost engines in Albemarle Sound.  We know Loopers who’ve pitched cookies after encountering unexpected six-foot waves in Albemarle Sound.

Meh.  Smooth and clear all day.

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Doug even went down and took a long shower in the middle of it.  For a while there wasn’t land to be seen, but who cared?

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Coinjock Marina was the new destination.

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Coinjock basically is Bobby’s Fish Camp.  Except with a longer and stronger face dock.  And working power pedestals.  And spacious bathrooms.  With the locks on the inside.  And grassy areas where the boys can walk.  And less hyacinth.  And more of those Mechanized Landing Craft manned by GI Joes.  So Coinjack basically is nothing at all like Bobby’s.

We tucked in along the dock behind a Silverton 43 that previously had advised everyone that they had an issue with one engine and needed help.  By the time we tied up, the crab pot float cheerfully bobbing off their stern told the sad story.

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Turns out they drifted outside the channel in the current—something every boater on the east coast has done, by the way—and snagged the line.  (The irony of this happening on the route we chose instead of the Swamp wasn’t lost on us.)  But hey, divers gotta eat too.

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Took him thirty minutes to dig it all out, so we got thirty minutes of free entertainment.  Who knew they use rebar as weight to sink the traps?

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These are Gold Loopers who didn’t have any issues on the Loop, but now this.  The diver reported some pretty worrisome damage, including a deep gash just barely short of all the way through the hull.  Yikes.  That’s rebar spooling up under your boat for you.  A hole in the boat under the waterline is the stuff of nightmares.  We’ll probably have some out of sympathy.

The Army cruised by on their way back to where the King keeps his army*, giving us the opportunity for an artsy photo.

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We call it “Army Boat from Porthole Window with Water Spots.”  We’ll put it in the portholefolioTM  we started back in Ludington out of rain-induced cabin fever.

Anyway, Salt Water Taffy is leaving early, which is good because right now it’s a tight squeeze with a big boat inches behind us.  We’ll hole up in Portsmouth, Virginia, for a few days before dropping Misty Pearl off in Mathews.  Since Mallory will graduate before we get there by boat, we don’t need to go back up the Potomac no matter how much we’d like to see Big Daddy again.  The latest plan is to pick up Brent and Karen and close our Loop back at Spring Cove in Solomons before we head back north on our Down East Circle Loop adventure.

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*  We had children with senses of humor, so of course we know the King keeps his army up his sleevy.

 

Sometimes it really isn’t more than the eye can see

Tuesday was River Dunes Day.  River Dunes is cool.  Hell, we might move here.

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Seriously.  Although the place does feel more than a little like where Truman was the unsuspecting star of evil Ed Harris’ reality show until he figured it out and busted through to the outside.  Or maybe one of those Legoland dioramas.  Pretty much picture perfect.  The wives might all be robots, but who cares?

We even rode bikes over to the sales office and chatted with the realtor.   Which  means we’re on a list.

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The closest town is Oriental.  Jeff and Terri (Change of Pace) are from Oriental.  We think of them as cosmopolitan, so we kind of expected more.  But hey, Lip Synco de Mayo is this weekend.

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Dana has spent years channeling Milli Vanilli and watching The Lizzy McGuire Movie  to prepare for this very moment, but sadly we need to move on.

Oriental also claims to have had the “First Motorized School Bus.”  Ok now, that’s pretty big.  We don’t see a bus from 1917 around, but at least we can photograph the  commemorative/boastful sign.

Wait a second here.  There’s fine print: “inNorthCarolina.”*  Plus, it was the first North Carolina “service,” not actual bus.  Hmmm, well now that’s a letdown.  That means there could’ve been thousands of school buses—with motors—criss-crossing school districts from coast to coast before the good folks in Pamlico County decided to retire the old system of walking to school, uphill, both ways.**

But we still loved River Dunes.  Dinner at the Clubhouse was cool, even though Doug had to drag out something other than shorts and a t-shirt.

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But alas, we had to leave.  Fortunately yesterday we woke up to blue skies, warm temperatures, and no wind.  That means just one thing: it’s a great day to cruise.  Wait.  Actually it means two things.  it’s also a great day to drone.

Then off to Belhaven.  Mostly it was just easy.

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There were spots in the dreaded Pamlico Sound that we could’ve skied on, if only we could coax another thirty knots out of Misty Pearl.  And had a ski, and a ski rope, and an observer, and an orange flag, and the core strength we had twenty-five years ago.  But we enjoyed the water anyway.

There’s a phenomenon known to all boaters, which we may or may not have mentioned before.  No matter how calm things are while cruising, the second the dock comes into view the wind starts howling perpendicular to whatever direction the boat needs to go.  Of course, it happened again at Dowry Creek Marina.  Fortunately we still were able to take on fuel and jimmy our way into our slip.

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Most of Dowry Creek’s amenities—including a bar, a restaurant, a hot tub, and a pickleball court—still are in the planning stage.  To compensate they let us take a car into Belhaven, where the ACE hardware has been in the same family since 1938.  Robin (The Lower Place) alerted us to what really makes this ACE special.

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Nope, it’s not the wine selection on the left.  There, on the right, are bags of Dot’s Pretzels.  Best pretzels in the land.  Life-changing pretzels.  We discovered them in Ludington, Michigan, and have been ordering them from Amazon ever since.  Who knew North Dakota could deliver such deliciousness?  We bought a bunch.

So why no blog post yesterday?  Because no cell service and the Dowry Creek WiFi tower blew over.

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But we made do with some stored up episodes of Survivor.

This morning we had a beautiful sunrise. Just what we need before a long day.

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Most of today was the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal.  This was the last piece to complete the Atlantic ICW, so for a hot minute Belhaven was all that.  We found the canal eerily like the Erie.

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Past the bridge into the Alligator Marina.  Hmmmm.  That’s all there is?

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Yup.  It’s basically a truck stop.

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But they put us on a wall, which is great for the boys.

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Other Loopers drifted in as the afternoon passed.  Gammel Dansk.  Bella.  Knight’s Kingdom.  Sigrid.  Knot Ready.  Aurora.  A group of Loopers means docktails.

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Tomorrow most of us are heading to Coinjock Marina.  Sadly the condition of The Dismal Swamp makes us unwilling to chance it.

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* Demonstrating clearly why small signs shouldn’t use fully justified text alignment.

**We shouldn’t make light of our parents’ hardships, real or not.  But you know who really had things tough?  The Four Yorkshireman, that’s who.

There’s no IQ test for Looping

Ordinarily we wait for minimal to no wind.  For some reason, not today.  Ordinarily we check the timing and direction of whatever current we’ll face.  For some reason, not today.  Today, we cheerfully said goodbye to Bruce and Bev on one side and the Eclipse sailboat boys on the other side and sallied forth.

Within about sixty seconds we felt foolish.  And cold.  Gray skies, harsh wind, cold temperature.  Folks from, say, Minnesota, probably thought it was nice out.  But we’re from Arizona.  We hate gray and windy and cold.  Dana bundled up in sweatpants, a fleece jacket, fuzzy socks, AND a blanket.

What’s worse than cold and wind and gray?  All those things for about twice as long as expected, which happens when you plow a heavy deep-draft boat against the current we forgot to check.  We’re morons.

After three hours or so of freezing and whining about freezing, it finally hit us.  What the @#!% are we doing on the flybridge?  We have a warm and sealed pilothouse, whose entire purpose in life is to provide comfort when the flybridge is uncomfortable.  Yup, we’re morons.  Just like we waited until we were weak from blood loss during The Great Lake Ontario Fly Invasion  before we thought to retreat.  You’d think 4,000 miles later we’d be smarter.  Nope, we’re still morons.

But hey, it could be even more worse.  We could be Miss Melissa.

Melissa likely was touched when her man named his boat after her, like Forrest and Jenny.  Then the ugly break-up, after which he decided to just let her rot along the shore.  So sad.

The tows around here are rare, but somehow they know to find the narrow channels just when we need to pass.

Dana bagged another heron.

Brent and Karen on Second Wave gave glowing reports about River Dunes so we headed in.

Brent mostly judges marinas by the quality of the bathrooms, of course, but often that’s a pretty good barometer.*  There’s even a chapel staring us in the face.

We contemplated popping in and confessing to being morons, but if we start down that road we’ll not have time for much else.

The sun did come out, but even better was confirming that Brent and Karen are going to come cruise the Chesapeake with us.

We’re staying here tomorrow.  Belhaven on Wednesday.  Unless it’s gray and cold and windy, in which case we’ll probably go—and sit out in it—anyway.

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* Not even a joke.  Brent just sent us a picture of the River Dunes shower he took when Second Wave stopped off here last year.

Dude is a straight-up connoisseur.  And the shower absolutely was photo-worthy.