June/July 2017

It’s early August. Summer always goes too fast, especially when you are having fun. No exception this year.

We acclimated to our new surroundings in Greenport, NY. That was easy to do as there is much to like about the town and the north fork of Long Island. When I was in business and needed to drive to “the island” I dreaded it. I never envisioned a way that I could ever enjoy Long Island. Less than two months in Greenport and my mind has changed.

We have enjoyed the local restaurants, the local wineries and all the local farms and roadside market stands. The scenery, yes the scenery, is outstanding. It is low and flat indeed. But the wineries and farms and historic local homes and businesses make this a special area. Friends of ours who have lived on the north fork for decades are not so happy with the influx of tourists in the summer months, but all the activity has been a boon for the local economy. There is even a lavender season which is enjoyed by busloads of Chinese tourists. Our first winery stop was Raphael Vineyard and Winery in Peconic. Some of the vineyards enjoy a good reputation and based on our experience I would say Raphael’s is one of them. Many of the vineyards also do weddings and the settings can be stunning.

Again we had the pleasure of meeting up with our friends Jim & Beth from Colorado. We met them on Block Island for three days of fun. The timing was interesting as it was Block Island Race Week. On our motor over we passed thru and by at least four classes racing to the west of the island.

Block Island Race Week

The weather was perfect and as Beth’s family has roots on the Block dating back hundreds of years, we also had a great guide so we rented a jeep for the day. Beth drove us all around the island, including to the old cemetery where some of her relatives are buried.

Island Cemetery

The north end of the island has a beautiful spit of sand extending far out into the sound. In 1829 the North Light was built to warn mariners. It’s a fun walk and the picture below was taken just before Beth stepped on a rusty nail. It was around 4PM and we found the only clinic on island. Two hours and some shots and Xrays later all was well.

Sandy Point on the north tip of the Block

Race Week awards ceremony

Relaxing at “The Oar” overlooking Great Salt Pond

Back to Greenport we motored. In the space between Block and our upcoming three week trip we got ourselves back to Warren, RI, to visit with Barry, Rebecca, our niece Eileen and husband Jamie, and their new baby, Jordon.

Rebecca, Cath, Eileen and her 10-month-old son Jordan

From Warren it was up to Vermont for several days, including the July 4th weekend. We managed to see the musical show “Once” at the Weston Playhouse. We brought our neighbor Dana, and she and Cath were able to dance on stage with the cast prior to the show.

Cath and Dana

Our good friends and ex-Lake George neighbors Bob and Tibby visited us for the first time in Vermont. We had fun showing them our historic town and they especially enjoyed the infamous Vermont Country Store.

Bob & Tibby at the Vermont Country Store

We even got to see the Londonderry 4th of July parade and the fireworks at Magic Mountain.

Londonderry 4th of July parade

 

4th of July parade

Magic Mountain

Back to Greenport we traveled to spend the actual 4th of July in town. It’s easy to see the cultural differences between Vermont and Long Island, isn’t it?

The 4th at Claudio’s in Greenport

Our first Greenport guests came out for a night. Our friends Dennis and Norma, now retired in Arizona, were in for a wedding but joined us for some Long Island wine and food.

Dennis, Norma and me

If you live on a boat you better be prepared for mechanical problems. I love figuring things out mechanically, but not more than the group we visited one weekend. The Long Island Antique Power Association held a weekend-long event which included a large showcase of old farm and construction equipment, old pumps, a sawmill and a tractor pull. It was a blast and our very first tractor pull.

An International tractor pulling a couple thousand pounds of weights

Man and machine

How much more fun can a girl have?

Our friends Rick and Sandy took us for a long tour of Peconic Bay which they know well as they have lived out here for decades.

Cath and Sandy

We also found some fabulous places to kayak in East Marion and Orient. Many of the areas are open to clamming which means the water is pretty clean and inviting.

East Marion pond

Our big trip for the summer started in mid-July. It was to include Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. We left our marina in cold, nasty winds with the goal of anchoring off Cuttyhunk Island. Buzzards Bay was roiling and the Cuttyhunk anchorage was untenable so we bounced across the bay to the protected but not particularly scenic Clarks Cove.

Since it was the heart of the summer, we had planned ahead and made reservations for moorings and slips on both islands. Edgartown on the Vineyard was stop one and we picked up our assigned mooring. The Edgartown Harbormaster runs a tight ship and provides a quality mooring. Unfortunately the town dinghy dock is tiny and something they really should remedy.

Scrambling at the dinghy dock

My second cousin, Kelly, lives on the Vineyard with her boyfriend Jay. They invited us to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon with them at the beach, followed by delicious Bloody Marys at the Seafood Shanty’s outdoor bar overlooking Edgartown Harbor.

State Beach

Cath and Jay at the bar overlooking Edgartown Harbor

On each island we had guests arriving. Pete and Kathy took the ferry over from the mainland to Oak Bluff and met us at the bar with Kelly and Jay. They spent four days with us, starting in Edgartown and moving over to a slip in Vineyard Haven. Renting a car was a good idea and allowed us to explore the entire island. We visited Gay Head Light for the first time. The original structure was built in 1799. Subsequent structures replaced the original and in 2015 the existing lighthouse was moved 129′ back from the cliff face.

Gay Head Light

The town of Aquinnah (formally Gay Head) is known for its clay cliffs. Its original inhabitants were the Wampanoag, a native American people related to the Algonquin nation. The cliffs are magnificent and according to the sign posts, off limits.

The cliffs in the fog

Since we had the car for only 24 hours, we continued our trip around the Vineyard and eventually made it on to the “Chappy” Ferry that transports people, cars and bicycles to the island of Chappaquiddick. It was our first visit to the island and its infamous bridge. We did not realize that the beaches on Chappaquiddick were so nice and more isolated than on the Vineyard.

Chappy ferries; On Time II and On Time III

Path along the Atlantic shore of Chappaquiddick

From the Vineyard we headed over to Nantucket. We had a day to regroup, resupply and cleanup before meeting up with Tara and Andrew, who were flying in to spend eight days onboard with us.  Jet Blue has direct flights from Washington’s Reagan Airport to Nantucket.  The Nantucket Memorial Airport is small and easy and just outside of town.

Our first several days together were at a mooring in Nantucket Harbor and then we moved into a slip at Nantucket Boat Basin. Neither Tara nor Andrew had been to the island before so there was much to see.  We started by renting a 4×4 Jeep with the obligatory, over the sand, beach permit. We love the island, especially its history and classic architecture. The only drawback is the expense. Everything costs, and dearly. I was able to justify the ridiculous four-day jeep rental price but with no place to park it, I had the choice of a $40/night parking lot or a $50 nightly ticket. Out of principal, I mixed it up each evening.

Celebrating our kids’ arrival

The longest stretch of summer beach driving is along the shore on the northern tip of Nantucket. The beach drive to Great Point Light is a fun adventure. Unfortunately for one fishing group we encountered, something happened to their motor and sadly they got washed ashore.

Driving on the sand

Great Point Beach

Not what you want to see

The town of Sconset on the southeastern shore dates to the 1600s. There is a very nice “path along the bluff” high above the beach. The legal status of this path stems from decisions first made in the 1800s and its status has withstood the test of time and courts. It is a spectacular walk.

Path along the bluff

Path along the bluff

There is a brewery on Nantucket which is also a winery and distillery. It provides all of your needs in one location — good beer, food trucks, live music, wine, spirits and a gift shop.

Cisco Brewers

Heading out to celebrate Tara’s 30th birthday

Dinner at “Dune”. Our waiter behind Tara. Don’t know who did his hair?

The day after dinner

We all had a great week. The weather was varied but not much rain. The beaches were perfect, the food was good, the drink was better and it was fun.

Brant Point Light

Surfside Beach

The end of July and vacation is over

 

 

Florida to Greenport, NY

A couple of months have slipped by and Big Smile has made it to Greenport, NY, on the north fork of Long Island. Brewer Stirling Harbor Marina will be our home base for the summer. We haven’t had a dedicated home summer slip in two years. We stopped here for two nights last fall while cruising south from Maine and decided it would make a good home base. Greenport and the North Fork — “NOFO” as the stickers say — has lots to offer and we’ll cover that in our North Fork posting. But this post is about our trip north. It was eventful, fun and safe.

The trip through the Keys was less interesting than we expected. Our first stop after departing the Dry Tortugas was Key West and there we had a great time. Friends of ours happened to be visiting from NJ and we were able to get together on the one night we overlapped. Key West is a funky town for a couple of nights. The bars can get rowdy and there are some excellent restaurants, including Santiago’s Bodega where we enjoyed an outstanding tapas dinner. Our three nights at Conch Harbor Marina were just enough.

Our friends from NJ Gordon and Janet

The “Southernmost, Southernmost House,”
so the plaque says

Rockin at the Hogs Breath Saloon

We were scheduled to be at Cable Marine in Ft. Lauderdale in five days so we left Key West and cruised up the Hawk Channel. This channel, on the east side of the Keys, provides deeper water than the ICW on the west. Unfortunately there are not a lot of deep water anchorages but we did find two along the way before entering the waters behind Key Biscayne.

A funky all aluminum boat anchored next to us

Key Biscayne is an island town that lies southeast of Miami. It is a popular anchorage on the weekends. The boats at anchor have the moniker “the Cuban Navy”. We spent a Saturday night anchored there and had no problem.

Approaching Miami

We spent our second night anchored near the Miami Yacht Club which provided some great dinghy cruising and a beautiful Miami sunset.

Miami Sunset

Leaving Miami, our goal was an easy trip up the Atlantic to Ft. Lauderdale. Unfortunately the weather was blowing stink, with strong winds and steep seas so we opted for the slow crawl up the ICW. Miami to Lauderdale is not scenic and has numerous bridges that must be raised for our 31′ air draft. It’s generally deep water, however, it is not ALL deep as we learned the hard way. Baker’s Haulover Inlet is a man-made channel connecting the northern end of Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It is subject to extreme shoaling, so some of the buoys are not shown on the charts as they are moved often. It was a busy, Easter Sunday and numerous small boats were out. The green markers were in place and there appeared to be plenty of water. There was not. We bounced off the bottom about six times but managed to plow through without getting stuck. While the bouncing was severe, I figured it was only sand and probably just scraped a lot of paint off the keel. We were to learn in a couple of days that the damage was more extensive.  We made it to the Ft. Lauderdale side tie slips and spent the night. We like the town and the town slips.

Our slip on the New River in Ft. Lauderdale

Cable Marine, our Lauderdale destination, was located a few miles up the New River in an area known as “marina mile.” It is a fascinating couple-hour trip with numerous draw bridges and many mega yachts being towed to and from marina mile. It is also serpentine and narrow so you spend a lot of time on channel 9 talking to other captains to anticipate where on the river you might meet. We made it in 2.5 hours. Big Smile was scheduled for a haul out. Engine, generator and stabilizer work was scheduled. So was bottom painting. We had plenty to do in the anticipated two plus weeks of work including a wedding in South Carolina.

Cable Marine

Two days after dropping off Big Smile we flew our separate ways. Cath to Arizona and me to Vermont. We would meet up five days later to start our car trip to Savannah, Hilton Head, a wedding in South Carolina and St. Simons Island, Georgia. Somewhere during that trip we got news and photos showing the damage to the keel. The fix would require dropping the rudder to properly repair the damaged keel section. And it would also require an additional ten days on the hard.

Cath and girlfriends in Arizona

Cape Air out of Rutland with Stratton Mountain off the wing

With Tom and Sue at the wedding

The bride and proud dad

Savannah River from our hotel room

On the beach at Hilton Head

St. Simons Lighthouse, opened 1810

Keel with rudder dropped

Finally on the lift ready for launch

We were off Big Smile exactly one month. We had a fantastic time visiting South Carolina and Georgia but we really wanted and needed to get underway. It is always said that meeting a schedule should not dictate your cruising decisions. We’ve adhered to this common sense rule religiously but another wedding was “driving this bus” and we needed to push up the coast. Our destination was Point Pleasant, NJ, for a June 3rd wedding on Long Beach Island.

Hoping for good weather, we left Ft. Lauderdale late morning on May 16th. The weather cooperated and 48 hours later we entered the inlet to Calibogue Sound and anchored behind Daufuskie Island, SC.  We would only spend one night to rest up but as we arrived in the AM we had plenty of time to explore. Daufuskie Island is a sparsely populated place where golf carts are an important mode of transportation. It has a fascinating history and now serves mainly as a vacation spot.

Fishing trawler in Calibogue Sound

Daufuskie Island

Leaving early the next day we had more great weather for a delightful 34-hour run to a beautiful anchorage behind Cape Lookout, North Carolina. With only one night to enjoy the scenery we vowed we would spend a few days on our way back south.

Cruising up the Atlantic coast

Fishing trawler at anchor behind Cape Lookout with Lighthouse behind

A few miles west of Cape Lookout is Morehead City. This has been our entry point for the ICW the last few years. It provides a relatively easy, inside route to Norfolk and Chesapeake Bay eliminating the outside rout around Hatteras. We know it well and have found numerous anchorages along the way.

After a night anchored on the Pungo River we made a quick stop at Dowry Creek Marina. It was recently sold and the new owner was giving fuel away. Not literally but at $1.90/gallon for “offroad” diesel we had to stop and squeeze in 500 gallons. The best price we have ever seen in five years cruising. We also met the new owner and told him to expect us in the fall. We usually anchor on the Alligator River but we were making good time and decided to push on. As we were crossing Albemarle Sound a fierce storm materialized out of the west and caught us in the middle of the sound. What made it interesting is that we were approaching two replica sailing ships under power. The Nina and Pinta were dead ahead battling the same storm we were.  The winds and waves only lasted a half hour but I was happy to be on Big Smile and not on either of the replicas.

Crossing Albemarle Sound

Nina and Pinta battling 30 knot winds

After the storm

Three days later had us at Port Annapolis Marina for three nights. Tara managed to join us for a night.

Tara and Cath

We love Annapolis and our friends Jim and Beth were at a marina further up the creek.

Jim, Beth and Rascal in their folding kayaks

After some fun kayaking and a couple of meals out with our friends it was time to move on up the Chesapeake and down the Delaware. We anchored in one new location and another location we had not been to since buying a 34′ sloop in Rock Hall, MD and sailing her north in 1989. Cape May was a one night stop. It is a fantastic walking town and also has a beautiful beach.

Following a trawler out of Cape May

Atlantic City was another one night stand. We decided to try a small marina across from the large, state-run facility. Kammerman’s Marina was a nice change. More than one night in this town is hard to take and we pulled away from the marina at 3:45AM.

Atlantic City approach

A beautiful morning sunrise north of Atlantic City

Approximately six hours later, after a gorgeous run up the NJ coast, we made the approach to Manasquan Inlet. This inlet serves as the northern terminus of the Intracoastal Waterway. We had never taken Big Smile or any other boat into this inlet but we knew it well. My father spent many summers in Point Pleasant and my grandmother lived there for years. The beach just to the south holds many memories. That said, it is not an easy inlet for a large, slow boat as there are two bridges to navigate, the currents can be fierce and once inside the inlet it can be very shallow.

Manasquan River Inlet

The first bridge is the RR bridge. Normally up except when a train comes through, it backs up boat traffic in both directions. It is also very narrow. Just past the RR bridge is the Rt. 35 drawbridge. At a very low tide we might fit under it, but it is not worth the risk and we requested an opening. In typical NJ style, they questioned my air draft as opening the bridge I guess is a nuisance for them.

Manasquan River RR bridge with Rt. 35 draw bridge beyond

A couple of miles up the Manasqaun River was Brewers Crystal Point Marina. We had arrived on Friday, June 2nd, one day before the wedding. Despite the delay in Ft. Lauderdale it had all worked out. Nothing is easy though and as we slowly came down the fairway to our slip we ran hard aground in the Manasquan River mud.  We had been told that the approach had 8′ of water at low tide. Not true. It took 20 minutes of engine and thruster work to plow thru and get into the slip.

On Saturday we rented a car and headed down to Long Beach Island to the Mariner Inn Motel. The wedding was scheduled for late afternoon on the beach. Weather was raw and nasty till around noon when somehow John and Marion (father/mother of the bride) made the sun come out and the day and event was spectacular.

Me and Bob

Cath and Tibby

The beach wedding

John (the dad) and Laura

Reception Photo Booth

Brant Beach Yacht Club

The wedding “Rocked”

All fun things come to an end and we departed LBI the following morning with a quick stop at the famous Barnegat Lighthouse.

Old Barney

And for me, the equally famous OB diner in Point Pleasant. Famous because it is where my grandmother took you for breakfast or lunch. She loved it.

OB Diner, a Point Pleasant landmark

 

Time to leave Point Pleasant and get to our summer digs in Greenport, NY. We left the inlet and headed up to NY and the East River. It was an easy transit and we spent a night anchored in Oyster Bay. From there we caught an outgoing tide in Long Island Sound and made it to Orient Harbor before sunset.

NYC approach

On June 9th we pulled into our slip at Brewers Stirling Harbor Marina, twenty-five days after leaving Ft. Lauderdale.

Big Smile’s summer slip in Greenport

 

 

 

 

 

Dry Tortugas

The overnite trip from Venice to the Dry Tortugas was bumpy but uneventful. With the wind and seas on our nose we hobby horsed for 24 hours but towards sunset it subsided a bit. We actually made better progress than expected so at around 4AM I backtracked for an hour allowing us to arrive at daybreak and not in the pitch black.

The Dry Tortugas, approximately 70 miles west of Key West, is a group of seven islands and protected coral reefs. In 1513, the Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon was the first European to discover the islands. He named them Las Tortugas (The Turtles) because of all the turtles his men took. Soon Dry replaced Las on the charts indicating that no fresh water existed. The name is the second oldest surviving European place-name. Florida was first.

In 1846 the United States started construction on Fort Jefferson. Located on Garden Key, it is the largest all-masonry fort in the United States. Construction stopped in 1875 and the fort was never completed. Originally designed and built to protect the nations gateway to the Gulf of Mexico it never once fired a shot in battle. It served numerous functions over the years including use as a prison. Dr Samuel Mudd, the doctor who treated John Wilkes Booth, was imprisoned there until 1869. It remained in Union hands throughout the Civil War.

Rich in maritime history, the Dry Tortugas claimed the Spanish treasure fleet during a hurricane in 1622. The treasure hunter Mel Fisher discovered the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, the most famous of the Spanish fleet that sunk in 1622. The discovery yielded $450 million in treasure, including 114,000 “pieces of eight”, 40 tons of gold and silver and many other artifacts and emeralds.

 

Nuestra Senora de Atocha

 

Today the fort is part of the Dry Tortugas National Park. There are only a couple of designated anchorages and, short of having your own boat, access is available only by ferry or seaplane. There are some campsites outside of the fort but no other lodging. We had the pleasure of anchoring for three nights. Our anchorage spot was in the landing path of the two seaplanes that arrive and depart four times per day at the same time each. It was fun to watch them come and go only 75-100 feet from us.

Landing on our port

Taking off down the channel

 

Cath holding up some of the 16 million bricks

Fort Jefferson

Offloading a seaplane with Tortugas ferry in the background

Fort Jefferson

 

Inside Fort Jefferson

Cath on top of Fort Jefferson

Three miles to the west of Garden Key is Loggerhead Key. We thought it was uninhabited when we took the dinghy over to visit the lighthouse and beautiful beaches. It turns out that volunteers are on the island for a month or so at a time to “keep everyone honest” as the current volunteers told us. We met a wonderful retired couple from Colorado who had just arrived several days earlier for their month tour of duty. They had retired from the park service and volunteered for this work. They live in a small, solar powered house and tend to the islands needs and protect the history, lighthouse and beaches.

The volunteer showing me the old Coast Guard shed

Exploring the deserted and beautiful beach

The lighthouse and volunteers home

Loggerhead Key: Where is everyone?

Visiting by our own boat provided benefits that we very much appreciated. We didn’t have to rush or meet a ferry schedule and we were able to visit by dinghy and kayak other inaccessible areas of the park.

The Dry Tortugas are also known for its birds. Tens of thousands migrate thru but only 7 species nest in the area regularly. After journeys of 100’s of miles many birds are completely exhausted.

This one landed in our pilothouse

And this one landed on the dock and would not move.

 

On our last evening at anchorage we finally encountered Goliath Grouper. While basically harmless they are huge. I didn’t like sticking my arm off the stern with the waterproof camera to take the shots below. Ugly but exciting to see.

Goliath Grouper

Goliath Grouper

 

January-March 2017

It’s been quite awhile since the last post. It is April 1st, and we have one more full day at Longboat Key Marina. From here we head to Venice for two nights then on to the Tortugas for several days followed by Key West. While Big Smile did not move since our arrival in December, we went back and forth to Vermont a couple of times for some skiing and winter fun. We also managed to get to Smugglers Notch early in January to use our time share.

Vermont: The winter was weird this year. Last year was pretty much devoid of snow. This year we got dumped on early and the season looked very promising. The weather dried up for awhile, Stratton kept the snow guns going and finally more natural stuff came down. Over all a decent season with quite a bit of late season whiteness, most of which we missed as we were in Florida. Stratton was crowded though and I think they had a good year.

Smuggs had some snow. Our friends Pete and Kathy joined us for the week and we had some good conditions and cold, sunny weather.

Top of Smugglers Notch; Stowe in the background

The warming hut

Tasting at The Alchemist

The Alchemist Brewery, located in Stowe VT is legendary. It’s signature beer, Heady Topper, was rated number 8 in the US and Vermont and is ranked number 1 in Craft Breweries per Capita. Hill Farmstead Brewery is another top brewery. So if the snow is poor you can always find a great beer to drink.

We had a number of friends up to visit and ski. As always, it was fun.

Carol and Cath and the Vermont Country Store

Cath and Dennis at Stratton

Cath and Mike

Cath and Deb

Cath, Dennis and Carol

We are also very lucky to have a wonderful neighbor who not only walks with Cath but keeps an eye on our house when we are gone.

Our neighbor, Dana

One of my friends from my Stratton volunteer work leads a band called Washington County Line. In late February they played a charity gig at Dorrs Music Barn. Several of us Stratton couples joined the local crowd for three hours of awesome Bluegrass and dancing. While Stratton was under-represented on the dance floor there were some incredible two-step dancers on floor. Our friends Carol and Dennis, who were visiting from NC, had a blast.

Washington County Line

Carol and Dennis doing the two-step

Dorrs Gathering Barn

A warm late February day with Magic Mountain in the background

Goodbye to the winter of 2017

 

Florida: We left Big Smile at Longboat Key Marina in late December. We finally returned on January 23rd for three weeks of Florida sun. Longboat Key Marina is really a complete resort. With dozens of tennis courts, numerous restaurants, golf courses and a fabulous beach it is the nicest marina we have ever been to. We really enjoyed and appreciated the city of Sarasota. It is the cultural capital of the west coast of Florida. We especially enjoyed the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. We managed to see three shows: Riverdance, Gladys Knight, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. We had tickets for two others. Frankie Valli got sick and postponed his show till the spring. “Once The Musical” we missed because a blizzard hit New England on the day we were to leave Vermont. Thousands of flights were cancelled and we could not reschedule for five days and thus missed the show.

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Outdoor cocktail lounge

Setting up for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Cath and I really enjoyed the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They formed in 1966 and I started listening to them sometime in the 70’s. For a band that’s been playing together for 50 years they rocked.

My cousin Deb and her husband Marc came over to the west coast a couple of days before Super Bowl weekend. They camped a few miles north and we got in a great kayak trip thru the Robinson Preserve. Another perfect weather day in what would turn out to be a perfect weather winter.

Cath and Deb launching at the Robinson Preserve

With Marc and Deb

Danielle, Wes and Gavin came down from Tampa to see Big Smile and we all went to lunch at St. Armands Circle. It was Super Bowl Sunday and yes, the Patriots were in the Super Bowl. And yes, they eventually won.

Wes, Gavin and Danielle

Marc, Deb and me

In addition to culture, Sarasota has a farmers market every Saturday from 7AM to 1PM. We both love farmers markets and while Sarasota’s is not as good as the Fort Pierce market, it is a fun time.

Sarasota Farmers Market

 

One pleasure to living on board is the people you meet. They can be your neighbor in the slip next to you, down the dock or, as often is the case, at the marina laundry. We had the pleasure to become friends with three couples on our C-Dock. They all were living on their boats for extended periods of time and all were fun to get to know.

Cath and Nancy

Peter and Anne leaving Longboat Key

 

We took a ride over to the Palm Beach Boat Show in late March. The show was big and fun. We had been invited to a cocktail party and yacht christening by a yacht broker friend of ours. The owner’s wife broke the Champagne over the bow perfectly.

Christening an Outer Reef

We also got together for dinner that night with my college friend Blair and his wife Vicky. Atlantic Ave in Delray Beach is a hopping venue for the dinner crowd.

It’s 9AM and Cath just woke up. (This is a VERY quiet dock!) We leave tomorrow and I think I will end this chapter now. Everything about our Florida winter in Longboat Key worked out, especially the weather. We heard recently that crossing Lake Okeechobee is more problematic due to the lack of rainfall. When we crossed west bound in December the lake was overflowing. Not the situation this month. However, we are going around the bottom so no worries.

Walking on Big Pass Inlet

Oleary’s Tiki Bar

Sarasota Ski-A-Rees

Coquina Beach Market

Siesta Beach

Nancy and Cath: Last night at Longboat Key

Nancy, Scott and Bob

Adios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December

We returned to Vermont having left Big Smile at Atlantic Yacht Basin for a major topsides paint job. AYB estimated 6-8 weeks of work and it was almost exactly two months before we were reunited with Big Smile.

In the interim we had a wonderful time back home in Vermont. It is hard not to enjoy Vermont’s foliage and the crisp, cool, autumn air. We spent lots of time outdoors, hiking, biking and kayaking. We also towed our old Big Smile dinghy to Lake Bomoseen for a fall cruise around the lake. It was our first time visiting the lake.

Biking on the rail trail

Lake Bomoseen

Kayaking on Lowell Lake

Hiking with John and Marion

 

Milestones were reached as Cath and I both turned sixty while back in Vermont. How we celebrated was distinctly different.

Cath spent a long weekend in NY City with six high school girlfriends. The trip had been planned months in advance and she had a great time.

I spent part of my birthday at one of my favorite local farms.

Taylor Farm

Thanksgiving was again hosted by my wonderful cousin Nancy and her husband Rob. As always it was lots of fun.

My cousins: Nance and Tom

We even received enough snow and cold temps to be able to ski Thanksgiving weekend.

Stratton Mountain

My new Ford truck

And lastly, prior to returning to Big Smile, we had the pleasure of buying a new truck from the oldest Ford dealer in New England. Ted Green Ford was founded in 1913 and is now in its fifth generation of family ownership. The sales manager, Meredith, represents that generation and was a pleasure to work with. For me to use the word “pleasure” in a sentence about buying a vehicle just doesn’t sound plausible but it’s true.

Back to Big Smile. On December 4th we flew from Manchester, NH to Norfolk, VA. We were very anxious to see the completed work. It was a large project for us and Atlantic Yacht Basin. Friends on another Selene who had been at AYB raved about the work but we had to see for ourselves. A quick Uber ride had us at the dock. The work was gorgeous. The attention to detail was amazing.

The paint crew

Easing out of the paint shed

We were delighted when we found out that AYB was using Big Smile as the backdrop for their Christmas ecard. They were very proud of the work and were happy to show it off.

Atlantic Yacht Basins Christmas ecard

AYB is well known for their work on classic yachts of all sizes. One in particular caught our eye. The yacht, “Principia”, built in 1928 and 96′ LOA was hauled up the slipway two days before we left. A classic sight.

Yacht “Principia”

Three days after arrival we left the dock for our trip to Longboat Key Marina on the west coast of Florida. We had done a December cruise to FL back in 2013. This trip would be longer and the weather window was tighter. We knew we needed to do one double overnight and one single overnight offshore to allow us to skip large sections of the ICW.

Our first night was spent at anchor in a location we know well. The Alligator River, in North Carolina, is part of the National Wildlife Refuge. It is an uninhabited body of water with lots of room to anchor. We dropped anchor on the west side on December 7th, the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

Approaching the Alligator River swing bridge

At 7AM we hoisted anchor. Immediately upon leaving the Alligator River one enters the man-made, 21 mile long Pungo/Alligator River Canal. Eighty Six miles, and over ten hours away Oriental, NC, would be the anchorage for our second night.

Alone on the canal

On the banks of the canal

Our itinerary would change the next morning. Weather forecasts called for strong north winds with 3′-4′ seas out of the northeast. This would put both on our stern for at least the next 48 hours before becoming more southerly. We decided to take advantage of this window and skip the Charleston, SC stop and head instead to Jacksonville, FL. We left Oriental at first light and 2.5 hours later transited Beaufort Inlet into the Atlantic. Oriental to Jacksonville would be our longest run to date on Big Smile. We would cover 465 miles in 52 hours beating our previous longest run by 100 miles. The passage was uneventful, generally a good thing, with the exception of the shows put on by numerous schools of Dolphin. There were times we counted 8-10 of them swimming off our bow before cutting hard to port or starboard only to reappear a minute later. They were a blast to watch.

Watching Dolphin

We pulled into Jacksonville and contacted the marina where we had made a reservation. The Marina at Ortega Landing lies roughly 25 miles up the St. Johns River. This was our first time to Jacksonville by any mode of transportation so it was all new and exciting. It is a much bigger port than we expected ranking in the top 40 US ports in tonnage. It is also a large car handling port and home to a huge Naval facility.

Ortega Landing Marina was very nice. We took several walks to explore the area and came upon the largest used book store we’ve ever encountered. Chamblin Bookmine has been around for forty years. It is amazing and you can easily get lost in the aisles. If in the area it is a must see.

Cath in Chamblin Bookmine

Big Smile in center with Jacksonville in the distance

 

Decorated sailboat at Ortega Landing

Passing the 272 meter container ship “Monte Rosa”

One more overnite brought us to Stuart, FL a place we know well having spent two winters at Sunset Bay Marina. It was an easy 275 mile run down the coast to the Fort Pierce inlet. This leg offered more Dolphin entertainment and the only close approach to a large ship in open water.

Dolphins on the bow

Two Carnival Cruise ships crossing our path off Cape Canaveral

Fort Pierce Inlet

Stuart, FL marked the beginning of our Lake Okeechobee crossing to the west coast of Florida. Lake Okeechobee is the second largest body of fresh water in the contiguous United States. With a surface area of 730 square miles it’s average depth is only 9′. The Okeechobee Waterway stretches 154 miles and requires five locks to navigate the distance. The Army Corps of Engineers operates and maintains the waterway which is open year round. There are 10 operating bridges, some with restricted schedules.

St. Lucie Lock connects the St. Lucie River to the St. Lucie Canal. Since water depth in Lake Okeechobee is the determining factor for lock operations we were lucky in that the lake was higher than normal and thus the locks opened on demand. In fact, one lock, Port Mayaca Lock required no lock thru due to the equal height of water in the St. Lucie Canal and the lake.

St Lucie Lock. The first lock when heading west

Approaching Port Mayaca Lock

Moore Haven Lock

The vegetation in the photo above took out our bow thruster. It was a 400 amp/24v fuse that blew but the two replacements we had were made in Mexico and were off a bit dimensionally. It’s never good when it takes a rubber mallet and pliers to install a fuse. We got it working. Just pass the Moore Haven Lock was the town of Moore Haven. They operate a long dock with good electric. It is first come, first served. We spent the night.

Moore Haven, FL

Our last lock. The Franklin Lock

We now were on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Another first for us. After locking thru we spent the next few hours motoring past Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Sanibel. We overnited at Chino Island an easy in/out anchorage across from Sanibel Island.

Sanibel to Sarasota was a tight Intracoastal jaunt with a number of bridges requiring openings. Fortunately it was the weekend and most opened on demand. While we could have made it to our slip at Longboat Key Marina we decided to anchor one more night two miles south. We launched the kayaks and explored some of the waterfront homes on Longboat Key.

Finally at 10:30 Am on December 18th, twelve days and 1,122 miles later we backed into slip C7 at Longboat Key Marina. Big Smile will be there till April 1.

Our dock

Gulf side of marina resort

After several days at the marina we flew back to Vermont for the holidays. Christmas Eve was spent in Rhode Island at Cath’s brothers house. Her other brother Kevin and family joined and like the last couple of years it was good fun, food and drink.

Christmas Eve

The cousins

Christmas Day had us back in VT.

Back in Vermont

After Christmas comes New Years Eve. And our tradition continues. The Landgrove Inn provided the setting for our New Years Eve dinner as it has for more than a decade. Once again they came thru. The food and ambiance was superb and the staff outdid themselves. Karl was on his game and the owner Tom made it all the better. Nothing beats family, friends, and snow to end a wonderful and very interesting 2016.

New Years Eve

Karl with Andrew and Taylor

Cath and I

Kathy, Cathy and Tara

See you next year.

Two Months; Two Hurricanes

In a rented car we left Vermont in the rear view mirror and drove back to Brewer Cove Marina in Barrington, RI. We would be departing on August 26th but prior to that, fun was to be had with both of Cath’s brothers, spouses and some of the family.

Little Compton RI

Little Compton, RI

Brewer Cove Marina, Barrington

Brewer Cove Marina, Barrington RI

It was time to leave Barrington and the upper reaches of Narragansett Bay. We did not know that we would be returning to the area in just over a week in order to escape a storm. Prior to our return we managed to enjoy the continuing sunny and hot weather. Heading down Sakonnet River we once again stopped at Third Beach. The Sakonnet River is a tidal straight that flows approximately 14 miles from Mount Hope Bay to Rhode Island Sound. It is a beautiful body of water especially so on the sparsely populated eastern shore. Third Beach is a perfect anchorage for the prevailing winds. It is adjacent to Sachuest Point a National Wildlife Refuge. Several paths circle the point.

Sachuest Point

Sachuest Point

Tough Life at Third Beach

Tough Life at Third Beach

Leaving Third Beach we had an easy three hour run to Cuttyhunk in brilliant sunshine and temps in the 80’s. This was a one night stop but we managed to get in some good kayaking. It has been argued that Cuttyhunk had the first settlement in New England. In 1602 a small outpost was established for several weeks to harvest sassafras. Sassafras has many culinary, medicinal, and aromatic uses and has been cultivated for centuries. Cuttyhunk also has an old Coast Guard station that was deactivated in 1964 but has apartments that can be rented out from the Coast Guard.

Old Coast Guard station

Old Coast Guard station

It was now time to move on to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. As we always do in the hurricane season we closely track the depressions and tropical storms that form off the west coast of Africa. There were nine named storms as of early September but all had been either pushed out to sea or made landfall way down south. So it looked for the coming two weeks.

This was our second trip to the Vineyard on Big Smile. Two years ago we took a slip in Oak Bluff but this year we had reservations for a slip in Vineyard Haven and after that a mooring in Edgartown. Vineyard Haven is not as quaint or touristy but the small marina was nice and besides we were really there to have fun with my cousin and her family. They have been coming to the Vineyard for decades and once again they treated us to dinner at their house and took us around to see the sights and a spectacular beach. Our marina reservation was for three days only and so we all hopped on board and motored over to our mooring reservation in Edgartown harbor.

Me and Nance

Me and Nance

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Cath and Nance

Kelly and Jay

Kelly and Jay

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Sarah, Dave, Nance, and Rob in the setting sunlight

Edgartown and the Chappy ferry

Edgartown and the Chappy ferry

Kelly and Rob

Kelly and Rob

Edgartown Harbor

Edgartown Harbor

Long Neck Beach

Long Neck Beach

Edgartown

Edgartown

Unfortunately our plans had to change. We had reservations for four days in Edgartown and then we were supposed to leave for a week in Nantucket. A Tropical Storm/Hurricane named Hermine decided to work its way up the coast. Hermine made landfall in Florida, the first since Wilma in 2005. It looked like it would cross the panhandle and blow out to sea. It decided however to track up the coast and the closer it got the more concerned we became. Edgartown, to their credit, offered refunds for those wishing to leave. They actually suggested we leave and that mirrored our own decision. So after only two nights on the mooring we left.

To escape the predicted track of Hermine we decided to seek refuge in East Greenwich Harbor way up Narragansett Bay. This turned out to be a great choice and we spent three nights on the hook without incident. We did move to the other side of the large harbor on day three as the winds had clocked and the bay became very choppy. Only three boats joined us but I could see numerous others on our AIS that had taken refuge.

Large trawler and ominous sky

Large trawler anchored near us and ominous sky of TS Hermine

If you live on a boat you learn to have a plan A, B, and C. In this case the plan change included our friends Pete and Kathy joining us in Newport instead of Nantucket. Newport is a fantastic town with great amenities for cruisers. Several years ago they refurbished an old warehouse and turned it into a large boating lounge complete with showers, bathrooms, reading area with tables and free wifi, all accessible from the adjacent free dinghy dock.

I picked Pete and Kathy up at the dock and they boarded Big Smile for the first time. One night in Newport Harbor and it was off to Block Island.

Newport Harbor

Newport Harbor

Block Island Southeast Light

Posing at Block Island Southeast Light

Block Island Southeast Light

Block Island Southeast Light

Block Island Southeast Light is considered one of the most architecturally sophisticated lighthouses built in the 19th century. It was completed in 1874 and deactivated in 1990. In 1993, the 2000 ton structure was moved to escape the eroding cliffs.

Me and Pete on Crescent Beach

Me and Pete on Crescent Beach

Cocktails at anchor in Great Salt Pond

Cocktails at anchor in Great Salt Pond

Sunset over Great Salt Pond

Sunset over Great Salt Pond

After a great 4 days Pete and Kath hopped on the Block Island ferry and returned to Point Judith. We headed off to visit the north fork of Long Island and Cath’s college roommate and her husband. We spent one night anchored in Cutchogue Harbor as it was where their marina was located. Rick and Sandy gave us a tour of their piece of the boating world including our first trip around Shinnecock Bay and thru the famous Shinnecock Canal.

Approaching Shinnecock Canal

Approaching Shinnecock Canal

Rick, Sandy, Cath and Scott

Rick, Sandy, Cath and Scott

We wanted to visit Shelter Island as neither of us had ever been there. Deciding to stay in Greenport for a couple of days proved fortuitous as we ended up signing a slip contract for the summer 2017 season at Brewer Stirling Harbor Marina. We had already decided to come back north from Florida and spend one more season cruising lower New England. The marina was getting ready to rebuild a large section of bulkhead and add new floating docks and they had availability so we signed up.

Greenport, it turns out, has a very funky downtown with many bars, restaurants, and shops. Stirling Harbor also has a very nice restaurant that is run by a friend of Sandy’s. Rick and Sandy joined us for dinner our last night in Greenport.

Ferry to Shelter Island

Ferry to Shelter Island

While walking around the waterfront we came upon a Nordhavn trawler we know very well. This trawler, named Jenny, is the reason why Big Smile has its name. It was very surprising to see Jenny again as we had seen her in Baltimore 2 or 3 years ago.

Jenny

Jenny

Next years summer home port

Next year’s summer home port

Big Smile at Stirling Harbor

Big Smile at Stirling Harbor

We had one more stop before beginning our long trip south. Orient and Orient Point are the last two towns on the north fork. There is a nice anchorage behind Long Beach and we spent two beautiful days at anchor. Long Beach is a state park and in 1980 was designated a National Natural Landmark. It offers some fantastic kayaking and we spent many hours exploring the salt marshes.

Long Beach

Long Beach

Doesn't look like Long Island

Doesn’t look like Long Island

Kayaking the marshes

Kayaking the marshes

It was time to head west towards NY City. We would need only one stop between Orient and Sandy Hook and we chose Northport. It was a nasty, rainy and foggy ride down Long Island Sound but we pulled into Northport Bay and dropped the hook near town. The skies cleared and we ended up with a gorgeous sunset.

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Northport Bay

Northport Bay

Northport Bay

Next stop Sandy Hook. Unbeknownst to us President Obama was speaking at the UN on the day we were transiting the East River. Anyone that has taken a boat thru the East River knows to time the tides. We left Northport at 5:45AM with the goal of hitting Hell Gate at 2:15 PM. At around noon we received a Coast Guard report over the vhf announcing that the East River would be shut down at approximately 2:30 to allow for the President to arrive at the Wall Street Heliport from the UN and take off. Having heard that, we increased speed, (and fuel burn) and managed to get to lower Manhattan by 2:15 and miss the shutdown. As we cruised under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge we heard the approach of Marine Corps, V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and the president’s helicopter, Marine One. It was a cool sight.

The President approaches

The President approaches

V-22 Osprey

V-22 Osprey

Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan

Sandy Hook is only about fifteen miles from the tip of Manhattan and we anchored in time to kayak ashore and walk around to the north end.

We decided not to do an overnite to Cape May but instead stop in Atlantic City. The cruise down the Jersey coast was very smooth. We purchased, this year, a folding stationary bike which works very well at anchor and cruising in smooth seas. We both were able to get a half hour of riding time while the auto pilot did its thing.

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The state run, Farley Marina, in Atlantic City is very nice. Unfortunately it is attached to the Golden Nugget Casino. The interior looks like it hasn’t been redecorated in three decades. We walked in to find a casual place to eat dinner but the place stunk so of cigarettes that we left and ate on board.

Docked at Farley Marina

Docked at Farley Marina

Revel Casino

Revel Casino

Revel Casino still closed as of September, 2016. Built in 2011 at a cost of 2.4 billion, yes billion, it sold in bankruptcy in 2015 for $82 million. Somebody took a beating. It is the tallest structure in Atlantic City and the second tallest building in NJ.

I dislike Atlantic City and was happy to spend just one night. Cape May on the other hand is a fun place with a beautiful stretch of beach and gorgeous Victorian homes. Our two nights there were very enjoyable.

Cape May beach

Cape May beach

Fins Bar & Grill: good but not great

Fins Bar & Grill: good but not great

The trip up Delaware Bay can be very tough. We exited the Cape May Canal at 7:45AM. It was going to be a long, twelve hour slog up to and thru the C&D Canal. The wind was brisk in lower Delaware Bay but by noon it backed down and the sun came out. There is little to see on the bay and only the Salem Nuclear Plant caught my eye. Actor Bruce Willis worked at the plant as a security guard before pursuing an acting career. Go figure.

Salem Nuclear Plant

Salem Nuclear Plant

One of the Chesapeake stops we made on the way to Baltimore was near Lankford Bay up the Chester River. Back in 1989 we purchased a classic 1966 Morgan 34 from a gentleman at Lankford Bay. We had not been back since.

Our first trip on "Lean Wolf" Lankford Bay to Connecticut circa 1989

Our first trip on “Lean Wolf” Lankford Bay to Connecticut circa 1989

I was finally able to fly our drone and got some nice video and aerial shots.

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Another quaint Chesapeake town that we had not been to in years is Chestertown. Located on the Chester River approximately 20 miles up from the bay it is the seat of the oldest eastern shore county, Kent County. Chestertown was put at its present location on the Chester River in 1706. The weather didn’t cooperate as it remained overcast and rainy for most of our two days but we enjoyed walking the village and will return some day.

Weighing anchor in Chestertown

Weighing anchor in Chestertown

On to Baltimore to visit Tara and see her new apartment. She moved there last spring but we had not had a chance to come south. Andrew was taking a train up from DC to join us on board for the weekend. We chose Baltimore Marine Center at HarborView as it was only blocks from Tara’s apartment in Federal Hill. The Baltimore waterfront, as we found out, is very accessible via a walkway along the water around the entire harbor. Tara actually takes a free water taxi across the harbor to Fells Point where she works.

Parents are expected to take their kids out to dinner and this weekend was no exception. We started off at the famous wing spot, Kislings Tavern in Fells Point.

Kislings Tavern

Kislings Tavern

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Baltimore Harbor Felfie

Baltimore Harbor Family Selfie

Tara’s office is located right on the waterfront in Fells Point. It is a restored warehouse structure with exposed wood beams and lots of charm. Jhpiego, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University, does incredible work globally.

Tara's Office Building

Tara’s Office Building

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Cath and I had a cat for years and even had him/her on board for a season. Tara took Puddy a couple of years ago and Puddy has transitioned well from her apartment in Philadelphia to her new digs in Baltimore. We are happy Tara has Puddy.

Cath and Puddy in the apartment

Cath and Puddy in the apartment

We happened to be visiting the weekend of the Fells Point Oyster festival. We spent much of the day Sunday walking around the city and the festival. We even launched our dinghy and toured the harbor, docking it at a marina in Canton, next to Fells Point.

Touring the harbor by dinghy

Touring the harbor by dinghy

Fells Point Oyster Festival

Oyster Festival Weekend

It was a great three day weekend. Baltimore has a lot going on and the Inner Harbor redevelopment was cited as “the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment around the world” by the Urban Land Institute.

It was time to push on and at about this time I began to notice another hurricane, Hurricane Matthew, skirting the coast of South America.  On October 1 Matthew made a 90 degree turn to the north and within three days it was pummeling Haiti. Our path was southbound as we headed towards Florida. The forecasted tracks were all over the place with the spaghetti model tracks looking like blades of grass in the wind. It did not look good no matter what the track. We were on a collision course if we continued south. Big Smile was due for some maintenance work which we had planned for Florida. Instead I contacted Atlantic Yacht Basin (AYB) to inquire if they could take us on short notice and perform the work. They said they could do it and complete all the work by Thanksgiving. AYB would also provide a near perfect hurricane hole. So three days after leaving Baltimore we locked thru the Great Bridge VA lock and pulled into Atlantic Yacht Basins covered boat shed.

Cruising under the Chesapeake Bay bridge

Cruising under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Docked next to a classic 80' Trumpy "Annebelle"

Docked next to a classic 80′ Trumpy “Annabelle”

Atlantic Yacht Basin

Atlantic Yacht Basin

Packing up

Packing up the rental car

We left Saturday the 8th and Hurricane Matthew made landfall in South Carolina on the same day. North and South Carolina bore the brunt of this powerful hurricane. We made it back to Vermont in one day just ahead of the rain. We will return right after Thanksgiving and continue our cruise south to Longboat Key Florida. In the meantime we have been enjoying the beautiful Vermont foliage and even towed Big Smile’s old dinghy to Lake Bomoseen.

The old dink

The old dink

Kayaking on Lowell Lake with Magic Mnt in the background

Kayaking on Lowell Lake with Magic Mtn in the background

Backyard foliage

Backyard foliage

That’s it till we get back on board.

July: The weather continues

Our spate of incredible weather rolls on. Big Smile is safely docked in Barrington RI and we have just completed our two week rental on Lake George. We are back in VT for five days and I am way behind with this posting. So this chapter is a six week catch-up and it’s all been good.

Our last two weeks in Maine and our travels to New Hampshire, Boston and the Elizabeth Islands up to Barrington provided the same glorious weather. It’s been really amazing how much sunshine and how little rain we have had. Great for us not so great for New England farmers.

We began July back in Southwest Harbor. July 4th weekend was spent at Dysarts Great Harbor Marina, our home for 2015. The weather, of course, was superb. The 4th started with a pot luck dinner/cocktail party at the head of the dock. That was followed by a spectacular two prong fireworks display. The main display put on by Southwest Harbor was based on a barge in the middle of the harbor. Another smaller and simultaneous display took place behind us on a private pier. The effect was incredible including most of the docked boats receiving fallout from the explosives of the private display.

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July 4th

July 4th

 

Southwest Harbor is known as the quiet side of Mt Desert Island. Bar Harbor is the “noisy” touristy side. We like the laid back, Downeast feel of this community. The small town cares about its community and The Common Good epitomizes that attitude. It is home to the best popovers on the planet. Cost is whatever you can donate. We spent an hour sitting and listening to the music while sipping coffee and eating multiple popovers.

The Common Good Soup Kitchen

The Common Good

 

It was time to start heading south (and west) and Cranberry Isles, Maine was our first stop after leaving Southwest Harbor. The five Cranberry Isles hosts a small year-round community. We anchored off of Little Cranberry and went ashore to explore.

Anchored off Little Cranberry

Anchored off Little Cranberry

An entire beach of smooth, rounded rocks

An entire beach of smooth, wave-rounded rocks

 

A three hour cruise brought us back to one of our favorite anchorages, Hells Half Acre. We choose a different spot to drop the hook due to the prevailing wind. We endeavored to add to our lobster buoy collection and launched the kayaks to hunt for them. The kayaking was superb as expected and we were successful with our hunt. Here we are in action. Kayaking at Hells Half Acre

Continuing on we transited first thru Deer Isle Thorofare passing by Stonington, Maine, crossed East Penobscot Bay, thru Fox Islands Thorofare, crossed West Penobscot Bay and on to Port Clyde. We found a perfect spot to drop the hook just north of Hupper Island.

Port Clyde is the southernmost town on St George peninsula. In the 19th century it was busy with granite quarries, timber and fishing. The 20th century brought artists and writers. Three generations of the Wyeth family have lived here and Chief Justice John Roberts has a home on Hupper Island. It is also home to one of Maine’s many lighthouses, Marshall Point light. It is to this lighthouse that Tom Hanks ran in the 1994 film, Forest Gump.

Marshall Point Light

Marshall Point Light

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A quick, one night anchorage at Ridley Cove provided some good kayaking and better yet some local, soft shell lobster. We bought and ate two each.

Soft shell lobster

Soft shell lobster wrapped in seafood

 

Another one night stop in Potts Harbor got us ashore for dinner. Dolphin Marina, in Harpswell is a small, family run establishment with a great reputation and an awesome restaurant. I had contacted the owner the prior year to inquire about his place and although we did not stay there we could tell they were friendly. After a fabulous meal we met the owner Chris, at the bar, and talked with him for quite some time. He also introduced us to one of the other owners, his mother.

Hoisting the anchor in Potts Harbor

Hoisting the anchor in Potts Harbor; Dolphin Marina off our starboard bow

 

We decided to spend a night in Freeport, home of LL Bean. We have a “frequent cruiser” card from Brewers Marina and picked up one of their moorings. This card entitles us to discounts at their 26 marinas.

Harraseeket River, South Freeport

Harraseeket River, South Freeport

 

We had to make one quick stop in Portland before departing Maine. Our davit indicator light had been installed with the wrong voltage so Maine Yacht Center needed to do a quick fix. It was great for us as we got a free nights dockage and use of their loaner car to go grocery shopping. Of course we made a trip to Harbor Fish, Standard Baking and Hannaford’s, collecting provisions to last a couple of weeks.

Walking around Back Cove with B&M Baked Bean factory in the background

Walking around Back Cove with B&M Baked Bean factory in the background

 

At 5 AM on July 13th we left Maine Yacht Center and headed out to sea for the 55 mile trip to Portsmouth, NH.

5 AM departure

5 AM departure

 

The weather, of course, was superb. The  seas were flat and the auto pilot did it’s thing. Our destination was Wentworth by the Sea Marina, in New Castle, NH. What a place! The staff, docks, facilities, loaner car, and other amenities were incredible. The kayaking at low tide was lots of fun.

New Castle borders Portsmouth, NH, a quaint and historic seacoast town. We took an Uber over to Portsmouth for a visit and dinner.  We liked the area so much we stayed three nights. On one of the days we took a long walk and came upon Fort Stark. While some of the property is fenced off and inaccessible it is a fascinating look back on the evolution of forts over the centuries. It is one of seven forts built to protect Portsmouth Harbor.

Fort Stark

Fort Stark

Wentworth Marina and hotel in background

Wentworth Marina and hotel in background

Big Smile at the end of D dock

Big Smile at the end of D dock

Cath on the phone in the mud flats

Cath on the phone in the mud flats

 

Although we hated to leave the extraordinary facilities at Wentworth By the Sea it was time to move on. We left New Hampshire and motored 50 miles to Salem, MA. Along the way we passed Gloucester and many fine homes along the coast. Salem is of course well known for its 1692 witch trials which you can’t escape while walking downtown. However, Salem does have a museum that rivals any that we have been to. Peabody Essex Museum PEM traces its roots to 1799. The museum undertook a major expansion in 2003 having earlier consolidated two institutions in 1992. The collections are immense. The museum houses Yin Yu Tang, the only complete Qing Dynasty house outside China. While we were there a Rodin exhibition was in place; “Rodin: Transforming Sculpture”. This is a must see museum for anyone visiting Salem and I thank my old Haworth NJ friend, Laurie for telling me about it. We got to see and thank her in Boston.

Rodin: The Thinker

Rodin: The Thinker

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Peabody Essex Museum

Peabody Essex Museum

 

On to Boston. We had planned for three nights in Boston, arriving Monday July 18th and departing Thursday the 21st. We were staying at Constitution Marina which I had booked last winter. It quickly became apparent that three nights would not be enough and, pleading our case, we were able to add two additional nights to our stay. It is not easy extending stays in peak season as there are only a finite number of slips that can handle a boat our size. We lucked out. Our schedule was busy with different visitors each of the first three days.

Docked at Constitution Marina

Docked at Constitution Marina

 

On our first night we had the pleasure of going out to dinner with Laurie and her husband Alex. They joined us on board for drinks and then dinner at a restaurant in Charleston Navy Yard. This was my first dinner in the city of Boston and lots of fun. We met up with Laurie two days later at the visitors center where she works in the summer.

Me and Laurie

Me and Laurie

 

Tuesday our good friends Jim and Beth from Breckenridge, CO came by for lunch and to walk around the city with us. We originally met them in the Bahamas a couple of years ago when they were cruising on their beautiful Passport sailboat. We had not seen them since February of 2015 when we visited their place in Colorado. Beth knew Boston pretty well and we got the lay of the land walking with them throughout the city.

Cath and Beth

Cath and Beth

Me and Jim

Me and Jim

 

Wednesday was a full day and night. My cousin Nance and husband Rob arrived in the afternoon. They were staying on board for the night so the fun began. Dinner at Legal Seafood then our first Red Sox game and first time at Fenway Park. It was a great game with my new home team beating San Francisco, 11-7. Boston is their city and they know it well. They quickly convinced me to become a Red Sox fan.

Fenway Park

Fenway Park

Two Red Sox fans

Two Red Sox fans

Nance and Cath on the dock

Nance and Cath on the dock

 

Rob and Nance left after breakfast and since we now had extended our stay till Saturday we had plenty of time to explore the city on foot and also the Hop on/off tour buses.

On the tour bus

On the tour bus

The Boston frog pond

The Boston frog pond

Louisburg Square, Beacon Hill

Louisburg Square, Beacon Hill

Boston Public Garden; Boston Common

Boston Public Garden; Boston Common

Old Ironsides

Old Ironsides

The oldest naval vessel still floating

The oldest naval vessel still floating

 

Having a dinghy on board also allowed us to see Boston in a different way. Just 100 yards from Constitution Marina are the locks into the Charles River. We launched the dink, blew our horn and the locks opened up.

Charles River lock

Charles River lock

Sailing on the Charles River

Sailing on the Charles River

Harvard Boat House

Harvard Boat House

Exiting the Charles River with a tour boat

Exiting the Charles River with a tour boat

Boston from the Charles River

Boston from Boston Harbor

 

History being what it is, mistakes are often made and perpetuated over the years. We all learned about the Battle of Bunker Hill. However most of the battle actually took place on Breeds Hill, adjacent to Bunker Hill. Although Bunker Hill was a defeat for the colonists it was a positive in that they realized they could defeat the British and as such became more unified and defiant. A quote attributed to Brigadier General, Nathanael Greene goes “I wish I could sell them another hill at the same price”.

Bunker Hill Monument on Breeds Hill

Bunker Hill Monument on Breeds Hill

 

Saturday eventually came and our time in Boston was over. At 7AM we sadly un-cleated our lines and headed out of Boston Harbor.

Heading out of Boston Harbor; First mate ably handling the lines

Heading out of Boston Harbor; First mate ably handling the lines

 

We had 70 miles before us, thru the Cape Cod Canal and down Buzzards Bay. Like most of the month of July the seas were calm and flat as we cruised down the Massachusetts coast. That is until we exited the canal and entered Buzzards Bay. There the wind was blowing stink and the chop was short and steep. We only had 15 miles to travel on the bay till our anchorage near Woods Hole. We had to anchor outside the spot we wanted due to the numerous boats. This put us uncomfortably close to a rocky shore and when this storm approached I grew concerned but it passed over us and the anchor held.

Approaching storm

Approaching storm

 

The following day was a quick motor to Cuttyhunk Island. Cuttyhunk is the outermost of the Elizabeth Islands and quite pretty. It has a very nice beach.

Cuttyhunk public dock

Cuttyhunk public dock

Cuttyhunk

Cuttyhunk

The beach

The beach

 

On to Rhode Island. On our cruise to West Barrington RI, where Big Smile would spend a few weeks we made one stop. Instead of heading up the Newport side of the peninsula coming off of Rhode Island Sound we instead went up the Sakonnet River, stopping at Third Beach. It was a very nice, relaxing beach and a comfortable anchorage.

Tuesday the 26th had us pulling into Brewer Cove Haven Marina in West Barrington RI. Here Big Smile sits waiting for us to return in a few days. The reason for the respite was simple. We had rented a house on Lake George for two weeks and we needed a safe and secure marina that didn’t charge Boston prices.

On to the lake. Having sold my share of our lake house last fall we decided to rent on the east side for the first time. Last winter on VRBO we found and reserved a house big enough for our kids and their friends. Unfortunately Andrew and Tara both changed jobs within a couple of weeks of each other in late spring. In addition Tara moved to Baltimore. She could take no time and Andrew could grab only a few days. So we had a big, comfortable house mostly to ourselves.

Andrew and Taylor

Andrew and Taylor

On the dock of our rental house

On the dock of our rental house

 

But all was good as four of our dear friends were also up and we got to spend quality time together. Bob, Tibby, John and Marion motored up and across the lake to have dinner with us on the “sunny” side. It was a wonderful time.

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John and Marion also stayed with us for a couple of days before taking their own rental. John’s boat, “Moonshadow” was put to good use as the weather continued to be near perfect. Two weeks of steady south wind and temps in the 80’s only ended on our last day of rental.

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Hiking up Anthony's Nose

Hiking up Anthony’s Nose

 

We also attended a concert at Silver Bay on Lake George. “The Lonely Heartstring Band”, a bluegrass group that John and Marion had seen in Manchester VT, played a free 1.5 hour concert. They were great musicians.

The Lonely Heartstring Band

The Lonely Heartstring Band

 

It was a fun two weeks at the lake. We are back in Vermont till Thursday. Lots of outdoor items to attend to. Our lobster buoy’s are in place and the planting is complete. So ends the month of July and half of August.

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June 2016 cruising “Down East”

We left Maine Yacht Center on a beautiful, sunny morning and motored to our first fuel stop of the year. DiMillo’s Marina in the center of the Portland waterfront operates a 24/7 fuel dock where you can tie up before opening hours and pump your own diesel. We needed 500 gallons and as long as the credit card works it’s an easy operation. This is the only self service station we have come across.

Fueled and nearly 4000 lbs heavier we are on our way “down east” for six weeks. In two days we will pick up Barry and Rebecca at the town dinghy dock in Boothbay Harbor. Boothbay is an easy trip from Portland and the anchorage is large. Our rendezvous is easy. Our guests know the routine having spent a week with us in the Bahamas two years ago. The weather proves to be typically Maine-ish, breezy and cool in the mornings but the sun came out every afternoon. Unlike the Bahamas there would be no swimming but the hiking and kayaking was superb. So was the eating.

Boothbay Harbor

Boothbay Harbor

Barry and Rebecca

Barry and Rebecca

Our first anchorage was The Basin. A perfect hurricane hole with a Nature Conservancy trail easily accessible from the dinghy.

Denny Reed Trail; Basin Preserve

Denny Reed Trail; Basin Preserve

A few hours away in another beautiful anchorage was the Indiantown Preserve. Indiantown Island comprises 60 acres, 27 that have been preserved and 33 still private but accessible via an easement. It’s a beautiful hike with many birds.

 

Indiantown Preserve

Indiantown Preserve

Indiantown Preserve

Indiantown Preserve

Bird watching

Bird watching

I have to mention an app that Barry had on his phone. It is the Cornell Labs “Merlin Bird ID” app and it was fascinating. I downloaded it to my phone and recommend it to all who hike or just like to be able to identify and “talk” to birds.

Their several days with us ended too quickly and we continued down east. Our first stop was at the head of the John’s River, 8 miles north of the famous Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. We liked this anchorage so much we stayed three nights. The villages of Pemaquid and New Harbor lie near the mouth of John’s Bay. The history of Pemaquid mirrors that of many late 1600’s and early1700’s towns. Wars, indians, and disease took their toll and towns that flourished one year were gone the next. Pemaquid was a classic example. In 1729 a group of approximately 200 Scotch-Irish settlers arrived. Ironically this is the same year that my McDowell family arrived. Some remains of the old foundations are preserved and part of the fort was replicated. A link to additional information on the fort is here. There is a public dinghy dock which provides access to the museum, the town, and also a great casual restaurant which shares the dock. We made two dinghy trips to visit and enjoyed area and the food.

Pemaquid oysters

Pemaquid oysters

Top of fort overlooking Johns Bay

Top of fort overlooking Johns Bay

Pemaquid Beach

Pemaquid Beach

Anchored on Johns River

Anchored on Johns River

 

July 2nd and we are tied up at Dysarts Marina. June ended superbly. From Johns River we travelled downeast anchoring in Maple Juice Cove for a night. While not overly scenic and reminding us of the Chesapeake it did provide us easy access to a well known site, the “Olson House”.  It was here in 1948, that Andrew Wyeth painted his famous, Christina’s World. The Olson House would occupy Wyeth from 1939 to 1968. It is now owned by the Farnsworth Art Museum. I visited the house in 2005 as part of my week long photography course at the Maine Media College.

Olson House 2005

Olson House 2005

Olson House, 2016

Olson House 2016

On to Rockland for a night. This funky town on the western shore of West Penobscot Bay is a great stop for boaters with an active community and some very good restaurants.

Rockland skyline

Rockland skyline

Camden is another town on the western shore and one we had never visited on Big Smile. The anchorage is small and tight so we took a mooring outside the inner harbor. Camden is a beautiful, upscale Maine town. Gorgeous homes and inns, fantastic restaurants and a harbor packed with classic schooners both replicas and originals.

Kayaking Camden Harbor

Kayaking Camden Harbor

Camden Harbor

Camden Harbor Schooners

So far we have had fantastic weather. And to our surprise it kept on coming. After Camden it was back to what many describe as the most beautiful anchorage in all of Maine. We would agree. Seal Bay, on the eastern side of Penobscot Island, is a winding, tight and very protected body of water. The tricky entrance is strewn with lobster pots and approaching at low tide, as we did, requires slow and careful navigation. Inside the small bay are several places to anchor. We had dropped the hook here in 2014 on our initial voyage to Maine and headed for the same spot.

Seal Bay at low tide

Seal Bay at low tide

Seal Bay

Seal Bay

Seal Bay rainbow

Seal Bay rainbow

On to Isle au Haut. Located approximately 15 miles from Acadia, Isle au Haut is a 13 square mile piece of land in Penobscot Bay. 60% of the land is actually part of Acadia National Park. With a population of 73 (2010 census), Isle au Haut, like most Maine islands, is accessible only by boat.  We anchored off Kimball Island to the west and dinghy’d in to the town dock. Acadia National Park maintains 18 miles of trails but unfortunately for us the anchorage on the south side of the island doesn’t accommodate boats of our size. The bulk of the trails begin there. We still managed a several mile hike from our dinghy landing.

Hiking the beautiful wooded trails

Hiking the beautiful wooded trails

Life moves slow on Isle au Haut

Life moves slow on Isle au Haut

Continuing on our slow trek to Bar Harbor we next stopped at Swan’s Island. There are several anchorages to chose from and we spent our first night in Burnt Coat Harbor.

Before arriving at Burnt Coat we made a lunch stop at Marshall Island. The Ed Woodsum Preserve encompasses all of the 985 acre island.  It is one of the largest undeveloped islands on the eastern seaboard. The trust has developed 10 miles of hiking trials but the real allure is the spectacular sand beach on the southeast corner. Sand Cove is exposed to the ocean swells so a day stop is all that is recommended. What a beach it is. Soft, fine sand and crystal clear water.

Anchored at Sand Cove

Anchored at Sand Cove

 

 

Adding to our collection

Adding to our collection

Swan’s Island, named after James Swan of Fife, Scotland is a lobstering community with a year round population of 332 (2010 census). There is only one general store which we never found. Our second night we moved around to the northwest side and anchored in Mackerel Cove. The ferry dock is located here and the large cove has a number of summer homes.

Buying lobster in Burnt Coat Harbor

Buying lobster in Burnt Coat Harbor

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Burnt Coat Harbor light on Hockamock Point

We ended June in Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island. In 2015 we based ourselves out of Southwest Harbor but never motored over to Bar Harbor. We did make several car trips to the town last year. Bar Harbor is a big summer destination. Way too touristy for me. We were meeting up with our friends Kobus and Susie from NJ who were doing a Maine car trip. I did not want to anchor in the main harbor so instead we went around the “bar” and picked up a mooring from the College of the Atlantic.

Approaching Bar Harbor

Approaching Bar Harbor; yes that’s a cruise ship

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Schooner in the mist

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain is located in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. With an elevation of 1528′ it is the highest peak within 25 miles of the shoreline of the North American continent from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and Mexican peaks 180 miles south of the Texas border. The park itself is a 47,000 acre recreation area with many miles of trails and carriage roads for hiking. The views from many of its peaks are stunning. We spent a full day in the park with our friends and also ate some delicious lobster at C-Ray Lobster.

Roadside lobster roll

Roadside lobster roll

Coincidentally our Bar Harbor visit was the same week as the Acadia School of Traditional Music & Arts being held at the College of the Atlantic. The College of the Atlantic is a very small, +- 350 students, college with one self-designed major. Human Ecology. Located on a beautiful 38 acre campus the college admitted its first class in 1972.  This was the 4th year hosting the week long Acadia School or Trad school as it is commonly called. During the week the school puts on many concerts and we were able to buy tickets for two of them. The first we saw was held at Gates Auditorium on the campus. We were treated to “Trad Blend”. Riley Baugus, a Clawhammer banjo player from North Carolina and David Greely a four-time Grammy Award nominee fiddle player performed individually. The last performers were Maeve Gilchrist and Nic Gareiss. Maeve is a Scottish born harpist who studied at Berkeley School of Music. Nic is a world class percussive dancer. They perform together several times a year and it was sensational. The three hour show was amazing and included performances by two young fiddle players.

The following day we attended an afternoon concert at St John’s Church in Southwest Harbor. We were treated to Matt and Shannon Heaton (guitar and flute), brother and sister duo Dan and Liz Faiella (guitar and fiddle) and Sean Heely a young Scottish fiddle master. A wonderful show featuring many traditional, Scottish and Irish, jigs and reels.

Gates Auditorium

Gates Auditorium

St. John's Church, Southwest Harbor

St. John’s Church, Southwest Harbor

So the month of June has ended. We are in for a glorious 4th of July weekend. Time to get outside.

First post for 2016

We are finally back on board Big Smile. Drove over from VT late last week and spent a couple of days unpacking and cleaning up from a winter of storage. We are sitting at the dock in Portland, Maine waiting for numerous items to be completed by the marina staff. It’s been a long time since we dropped her off at Maine Yacht Center and we are both anxious to get underway. However, it will take about a week for the marina techs to finish all of the maintenance and upgrade items.

It was a good winter albeit lacking in snow. We kept busy and had numerous friends and relatives up for holidays and simply to enjoy Vermont.

I will try to recap the last few months as they were extremely enjoyable. Photos will do it best.

Thanksgiving was spent at my cousin Nancy’s beautiful home in CT.

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Thanksgiving fun

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Christmas was a wonderful repeat of last year except without the snow. Cath’s two brothers arrived with their families. Last year we hiked in the cold and snow. This year; well as the pics below show it was neither snowy nor cold. In fact it was in the 70’s on Christmas day.

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New Years was again spent at The Landgrove Inn. The owner Tom, and his awesome staff, including our fav Karl made the event special.

The crowd assemable

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Jim and Robin made it north.

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As did Rob and Nancy

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And Andrew and Taylor

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Cath and Deb

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A day at the office

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Cath with her Green Mountain Ladies (photo by H. Schreibl)

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Chili cook-off day in Middlebury

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In February we escaped to Miami for the big boat show

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In March we escaped again over to Portland for a weekend of good food and music. Very coincidently our hotel was hosting a visit by Donald Trump on the morning we checked out.

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In early April, to end the winter that really wasn’t, we made a two week road trip to Charleston, SC. Our travels south took us first

To New York

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Then DC to visit Andrew and see his new apartment.

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To Morgantown WV to visit my Aunt and Uncle. Below is the New River Gorge bridge.IMG_1464

To Asheville, NC

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To a beautiful wedding in Charleston.

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And a few additional VT photos.

West River Trail

West River Trail

 

Rails to Trails

Rails to Trails

 

Billsville House Concert

Billsville House Concert

 

Bennington VT

Bennington VT

 

Base of Ball Mountain Dam

Base of Ball Mountain Dam

 

Our next door neighbor, Dana, celebrating a birthday with Cath

Our next door neighbor, Dana, celebrating a birthday with Cath

 

And now we are in Maine at the Maine Yacht Center

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Big Smile under the rainbow

Big Smile under the rainbow

Last Post for 2015

The last four days of August found us island hopping west of Southwest Harbor. A couple of anchorages had been recommended by cruisers we had met in the summer. Hells Half Acre was one of the them. We loved the name and the anchorage. The kayaking around the various islands surrounding the anchorage was superb as was the weather. As often happens in Maine we were joined by two beautiful sailboats.

Anchored at Hells Half Acre

Anchored at Hells Half Acre

Anchorage shared with two classic sailboats

Anchorage shared with two classic sailboats

A body of water well associated with Maine is called Eggemoggin Reach. In 1985 the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta began and it has grown to over 100 boats. It is a wooden sailboat Regatta held in early August and I have been told it is an amazing event. Maybe we’ll get to see it in 2016. We did get to cruise under the bridge and down the reach. Few boats were out on the water but it was a nice cruise.

Buckle Island had also been recommended and it would be our last anchorage before leaving Big Smile at Dysarts for nearly six weeks. The island is uninhabited and has a path around the perimeter. Along the way we came upon numerous “fairy houses” as they are called by some. Someone has spent considerable time building tiny stick homes tucked into notches of trees, under rock outcroppings and other locations. A door to the path was also built although the door is now on the ground.

Fairy house

Fairy house

No key needed

No key needed

Back to Dysart’s Marina and off to visit Tara in Peru. While this blog mostly follows Big Smiles travels I couldn’t leave out photos from our 14 days in Peru. It was a fascinating trip and Tara was a perfect guide for the ten days she was able to spend with us. Her Spanish is excellent and so is her ability to bargain. The highlite of the trip was Machu Picchu but the entire trip was well worth it.

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Machu Picchu with Huayna Pichu in background

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Tara and Cath climbed Machu Picchu Mountain

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Our Machu Picchu guide

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Riding at 11,000 ft in the Andes

Riding at 11,000 ft in the Andes

Tara's apartment (upper right)

Tara’s apartment (upper right)

Her kitchen "yikes"

Her kitchen “yikes”

And her office

And her office

Maras salt flats; Salineras de Maras

Maras salt flats; Salineras de Maras

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Wasn't all sightseeing

Wasn’t all sightseeing

We returned from Peru and it’s now mid October and the colors in Maine are tremendous. We hiked the Acadia Park carriage trails two straight days and really enjoyed the Maine foliage and weather. But weather was on our mind as we had a three day cruise to Portland ahead of us and we knew fall weather on the Maine coast could get rough quickly. So on October 17th we untied from Dysart’s one last time and headed west. Dysart’s Marina had already started removing their outer docks and most pleasure boats had left. Only two trawlers remained when we returned from Peru, Big Smile and a much bigger Nordhavn. Most of the remaining boats were working lobster boats including the boat pictured “Jennifer Lynn”.

Jennifer Lynn across from Big Smile

Jennifer Lynn across from Big Smile

Dysart's in the fall

Dysart’s in the fall

Beautiful sunrise

Beautiful sunrise

Acadia carriage trail

Acadia carriage trail

Acadia Park

Acadia Park

The trip to Portland was cold but uneventful. Temperatures dipped to 34 degrees our two nights at anchor but the heat worked and it was fine. The wind blew hard the last full day but we hugged the coast and avoided any nasty fetch. I just received an email from the marina in Portland and Big Smile is inside for the winter. Good place to be as a gale is blowing off the Maine coast as I write. 2015 was a busy and adventurous year. Looking forward to 2016.