Sunday, September 29, 2019

What?! Are We Doing?

Well, if you know, please call.

My last post in July detailed our arrival at York River Yacht Haven, where we intended to spend a week. We still have a slip there.

The weather in July and August was brutally hot, not any different than the Gulf Coast. Although I had a great time on our trip to York River, David didn’t enjoy it much because we didn’t get to sail as much as we wanted to. That’s pretty normal on a trip along the inside, but we also had contrary winds, choppy water, and the irrational idea that it would be cooler in Virginia. I should know better – I’ve always heard how horridly humid it is in DC in the summer.

We enjoyed the area by car, visiting all sorts of historical sites, but at the end of the day it was hot, humid, crowded, and at the dock. Neither of us wanted to be on the hook in that hot weather, especially as the wind died off to nothing. Call us weenies (we deserve it) but we just couldn’t face it. I couldn’t face one more day sitting at the dock listening to the A/C blow. We were so low, we even considered selling Raven (no she’s NOT for sale).

In the midst of that funk, we headed back to Tennessee and found unbelievably cool weather – we were wearing jeans! In August! Outside! - dry mountain air, and a beautiful landscape.

Rivers all over the place!

Park near our apartment. It's been very dry in Tennessee this summer - looks a lot like Texas!
To make a very long story very short and less tedious, we decided to rent an apartment there for a year, have a cozy nest to go to when the weather is either nasty hot or nasty cold, and see if we can live on land again. So far – the jury’s out. We got our things out of storage in Texas and moved them to Tennessee.

That was a fun week. Ha.
Then we did have fun at the resale and used shops furnishing our little corner of the world, luxuriated in a private bath and private washer and dryer (I am SO tired of other people’s hair in the shower stall and in my laundry) and then looked around and said, “Now what?”

So...we are back on the boat! Raven is much lighter, as all our excess baggage (stuff you have, need at various seasons or for “office work”) has gone to the apartment.

The view on the way to the boat, Virginia.
Our first cruise is just around the corner (a day’s water journey) from the marina. We are on the Severn River, off Mobjack Bay. We had all these plans to sail, explore, etc., but we have just sat here on the hook, exclaiming over the water, the light on the water, the intoxicating fall breezes, the stars at night, the birds, the (mostly) lack of noise, and the calm. After four days, most of my anxiety and tension are gone. David is relaxed and smiling. It is good.

Afternoon light, Severn River shore

Knitting...breathing...laughing at myself...
Still the best view I know.
I realized we have been on the go, non-stop, for about three years. Well, for the moment, I’m stopped. And I have no idea what we are doing.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Raven at Yorktown.
We had a windy and sometimes stormy trip from New Bern to Yorktown. The trip took awhile, because several times we had to hunker down and wait for the weather to pass. The best plan turned out to be get up early, travel until about 2 pm, and then put down the hook and wait for the afternoon thunderstorm. Unlike Texas, the thunderstorms here actually cool off the weather, so I like ‘em.

Leaving Norfolk, once we cleared the ship channels (multiple, full of really, really big ships) we managed a four hour sail before the wind dropped to the single digits. Our first attempt to anchor in a creek off the Poquoson River was kind of exciting, as the chart showed plenty of water and there wasn’t. Surprise! The clue was the sticks helpful people had stuck in the mud to warn folks that their charts were off… On Raven there was a flurry of reverse and churn and hard to port, and then we popped out again into the current. Try number two was on the Poquoson River itself, further out in the channel than we wanted, but good enough. We got rocked a bit by enthusiastic boaters coming down the main channel of the Poquoson, but then the thunderstorm showed up, drenched everyone, and the traffic died right down.

Another good day sail brought us around the point and up the York River to our current stop, a marina on the north side of the river, right across from Yorktown. Having been buffeted by the weather for two weeks, we were happy to stop, especially enjoying a local cold front that sent the temperatures down to the low 80s, with a crisp blue sky overhead. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.

A long day trip to New Bern in a rental to get our car let us have easy transportation, and we have spent our time visiting the nearby historical sights. 

Entrance to the museum at Jamestown.

Full of living history exhibits, the museums at Yorktown and Jamestown have taught us a bit about how people lived in the 1600s (Jamestown) and the 1700s (Yorktown). I’m very happy I live now. My belief is that people who are nostalgic for the olden days didn’t live in them. One particularly scary exhibit was the army doctor’s field hospital in the Revolutionary War camp. Wow. The treatments, cures, and instruments were the stuff of nightmares. You should have seen what he used to do a root canal. Without anesthetic of any kind. Then there were the stories of the women who came to Jamestown in the 1600s, dealing with disease, starvation, privation, and laws so strict that one woman was beaten so severely she miscarried. This for misusing thread. Not kidding.

Inside the re-created church at Jam, complete with very hard pews.

Ships at Jamestown. That bowsprit in the center of the picture is about 20 feet long.

Drum and fife corps at Yorktown. Drums were used to signal the soldiers in the field, relaying orders.


Army camp "living history" at the American Revolutionary War Museum in Yorktown. Tents slept six soldiers; one each day had the responsibility to cook for the tent.

KP, Revolutionary War style. The design of this camp kitchen was original to the Romans. If it ain't broke...

What's for dinner, circa 1783. That would be beans, hard tack, salted meat.

Working farm at Yorktown.

The terms for the surrender of the British forces at Yorktown were decided in this house, the Moore House, a grand old mansion overlooking the river.

This past Fourth of July weekend brought the expected crowds to what has to be Ground Zero for the Revolutionary War. I thought the fireworks were tepid, framed as they were by roiling storm clouds and sheet lightening. The overall effect was ominous and quite appropriate for this time in our history. (IMO, it’s my blog).

So...we’re kind of paused. As we were warned, it’s hot here in the summer! Not sure what we will do next. Some days, making iced tea is all we’re up for. Stay tuned.

Sunrise is still the best time of day!

Friday, June 14, 2019

We're in Virginia!

Rain and wind at Broad Creek. The rain stopped, but the wind kept coming!

June 14, 2019

At anchor in the Lafayette River, watching the wind blow. A children’s sailing class is boiling around us, six or so Optimist Prams (maybe because the idea of them staying upright is optimistic?) turning and racing every which way, with the instructor’s chase boat weaving in an out among them. The wind is quiet now, but this morning’s class fearlessly battled 18-20 knots of wind, whipping around with much rattling of sails. They are braver than I am! Just imagine what awesome sailors these kids will be some day.

Meanwhile, those of us who are somewhat less than awesome are sitting here recovering from a ten hour long and stressful day of travel. We left the anchorage at Broad Creek day before yesterday and did our own version of battling strong winds most of the way to Coinjock, NC where we happily tied up next to the dock. The fact that this always means lots of chores (laundry, pumpout, refueling, filling the water tanks, and a shower) was offset by the certain knowledge that we were going to eat out! I get really tired of my own cooking. It’s good, but plain.

We were rewarded with 1) for me: sesame-seared ahi tuna and seaweed salad (seaweed with rice vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil), plus a side of mashed sweet potatoes so sweet it could have been pie and 2) for David: grilled triggerfish topped with crabmeat and a side of scalloped potatoes. We even had dessert – vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce for me and chocolate layered cheesecake topped with crusted pecans and chocolate chips for David. The restaurant at Coinjock is a definite must stop, just for the food. By the way, that’s only in cruising season. We were there last winter to look around and ordered a very mediocre meal off the menu. We suspect their excellent chef heads south in the winter to spend his or her hard earned summer money. 

At the dock at Coinjock. A great place to pause.

Resident purple martins cheeped me awake at 5 a.m. the next day, and due to an ominous wind forecast later in the day, we made haste and pulled out. It was an exciting exit: we were parallel parked between two other boats, with only about three feet clearance fore and aft. Some early bird neighbors helped push us off, but even with help we bumped the boat in front (no damage) and knocked the aft solar panel array askew. I chugged very slowly up the canal as David rushed around tightening the array.

Once underway, the current and the winds and Mr. P guaranteed we didn’t dip under 6 knots as we sped (for us) up Currituck Sound toward the North River. We didn’t want to get into another slugging match with high winds and contrary current, like the conditions we experienced when crossing the Neuse. The wind was quite lively (a steady 15, gusting higher to 18-22 knots) but blowing us from the port quarter (left-hand side to the rear of the boat). Rain and storms threatened, but never arrived. Somewhere in that trip we finally crossed over into Virginia.

The Virginia Cut is a beautiful passage, kin to the Dismal Swamp Canal we have taken in the past. We couldn’t go via the Dismal Swamp this time because it has been dredged to only five feet, and we draw five feet; we’d have been plowing a furrow the whole way! There was plenty of water along the Cut and plenty of company from large motor vessels. The largest was (according to our AIS readout) 102 feet and hailed from Rhode Island. For awhile we kept company with a power cat hailing from Corpus Christi; another companion was a trawler named Buster. We listened to him as he came up to each bridge on the way, calling “Such and such bridge, this is motor vessel Buster.” Good name!

The bridges were a source of stress, because they had set opening times on the hour or on the hour and half hour. If you don’t make the opening, you get to hold station while waiting on the next opening. A boat, unlike a car, won’t just stop and sit there; you have to constantly turn it, put it in reverse, etc., and fight any current that may be pulling you closer to the bridge. So we did our best to make the opening times, even if that meant pushing Mr. P to the max and putting out the staysail! Amazingly, we made all of them, all kudos to David, who figured out the route and the openings, etc. before we left the dock.

There is a lock at the end of the Cut, which I dreaded, but which turned out to be a piece of cake. The lock operators meet your boat, snag your lines with a long hook and put the lines around enormous cleats. Then you just wait for the lock to rise (or fall), playing out your lines if you need to. The rise on this lock is only five feet, so it was no big deal.

Railroad bridge (one of two) as we came into Norfolk.  The top part lowers to the railroad bed when a train is passing. I heard a train whistle as I approached the bridge, and brother did I step on the gas! It was a false alarm - train going a different way.

Finally, we passed under the big railroad brides to Norfolk and chugged past the sprawling Naval shipyards past all sorts of vessels being refurbed and repaired. About two hours later we dropped the hook here in the Lafayette River, and went below to recover. I lay down and promptly took an hour-long nap! On our original trip this way in 2006, we didn’t stop, but continued on past Norfolk to Hampton, Virginia, across the large stretch of water called Hampton Roads. I have no idea how we did that, other than the fact that I had a lot more steam 13 years ago.

A big front roared through around sunset (not that the wind had died down – it just kept blowing) and we agreed that we needed at least a day to recover. The only thing we really need to do is go to the grocery store, and that is a “need” only because we are out of snacks. :) So here we will sit until we are rested or until our snack addictions compel us to go forward.

Beautiful, if scary! Big front coming in with lots more wind. Big loading cranes for the container ships, trains, etc. behind us.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Bug hell, beauty heaven

(The last of three – gotta publish when I can - we'll be at this anchorage through Wednesday. The weather has kicked up.)

Going down the Alligator-Pongo River Canal.
June 9, 2019

Mosquitoes! Gnats! By the tens of thousands!! Egads!

That pretty much describes the last three anchorages (not this one, thank heaven). I have never seen so many bugs in my life. Literally (I am not exaggerating in the least) tens of thousands of bugs, carpeting every available surface, whether vertical or horizontal. Dead bugs, live bugs, dying bugs. 

The storm on the Neuse cleaned the boat of our spring’s accumulation of mosquito corpses, but that was nothing compared to this. Clouds of the little buggers have choked the sky every evening at dusk, and one way or another a lot of them have found their way inside. We’ve battened down the hatches (and portholes) but somehow they worm their way in. Fortunately the gnats died after a day and the mosquitoes aren’t overly vicious, although one hungry devil bit me multiple times on my foot as I slept and it itches like fury. It’s not just bites: they fly into your hair, under your glasses, up your shorts, and into your nose!

This morning’s crop of mosquitoes (the gnats are long gone) stuck to every conceivable surface (including the deck, the self-steering, the boom, the helm – you name it) and rode all the way across Albemarle Sound with us. As soon as we dropped the hook, David hooked up the wash down pump and sprayed the corpses overboard and the live mosquitoes into flight. The spiders have been hysterical with joy, flinging webs every which way; it was a spider bull market in bugs. We were not hysterical with joy, just hysterical.

A cool bath on the deck with the wash down pump calmed us down some. Clean hair is a wonderful thing. We were so happy the water here is fresh and not brackish. The weather is mild, the sun bright, and it’s just perfect to sit on the foredeck basking.

Other than bug wars in the dawn and the dusk, it’s been a lovely few days, motoring (no wind where you want it) and watching thunderstorms roll by and grey sheets of rain rushing up the river toward us. Crossing the Sound this morning was like sliding through liquid silver. We glided over silver water as smooth as silk, with the silver sky swirling above us. We’re in the back country, here, with no buildings, just a few other boats for company, a huge expanse of water, and a remote horizon. Mornings like this make the bugs irrelevant.

Check out this big guy - we followed this barge all one day. Can you imagine having to turn it?

A couple of days ago we saw two bald eagles! And a deer, and two buzzards, but I’m used to that. Two eagles! The trip up the Alligator River was a bit tiresome, as it’s a large body of water surrounded by scrubby bits of land. But our anchorages were beautiful and prime spots for breathing clean air, listening to frog racket, and watching the sky.

Here's a link to the canal where we saw all the wildlife (pictured above, also). The roar is "Mr. P" the engine. You go deaf after awhile.

We have a stowaway – a little tree frog. I have no idea how he came on board, but he must be really happy with all the free bug food. We are both carefully trying not to squash him. He’s hiding under the port winch handle, which is not a prime location, but I couldn’t persuade him to relocate.

June 10

We were supposed to head up the Virginia Cut today (formally known as Albemarle & Chesapeake Canal, according to our guidebook), a trip that will take about two days. On the other side of that is Norfolk and the Chesapeake and waters unknown. However, we’re just too lazy. We are floating, rocking gently in the breeze, and contemplating an afternoon beer. Yes.

Our anchorage. The speedboat is whooshing along the ICW. Its wake will reach us in a few minutes and lop us back and forth for several minutes. Sigh. Why are they in such a rush? Other than the occasional annoying boat, it's really, really quiet. Can you believe we have cell phone coverage?

Monday, June 10, 2019

Belhaven and waiting for weather

June 5, 2019

Raven is lopping in the harbor at Belhaven, NC as gusty winds and sloppy waves knock her about. It’s our second day here, stuck in harbor because we get cranky motoring into standing waves.

Days 2 and 3 of this trip were spent napping at anchor in South River. It’s so beautiful there, with just a few houses and a gravel quarry of sorts to one side of the river and endless trees on the other. After our first exciting 24 hours on this trip and the wild ride down the Neuse, we were content to watch thunderstorms rumble by on the big river and nap in the breeze funneling down the front hatchway.

A few houses on one side of South River.

On the other side...nothing (but one ghost town and a nice old spooky cemetery and lots and lots of bugs).

Restless by day 4, we upped anchor and headed north, across the Neuse. Winds of 12 and 13 knots invited us to raise the sails and enjoy the morning, which we did, but then the winds honked up to 18-20 and blew from the wrong direction and it got to be work, so we decided to motor. The wind howled right down our nose and we bucked our way across the river into three-foot standing waves that caused Raven to rear like a horse, slam down with a thud and stop, about once every five minutes. Not a calming ride, it was like dragging ourselves hand over hand at 2 knots for four hours until we were finally able to change direction and everything smoothed out. After a calm anchorage at Eastham Creek, we motored along the ICW and slid into the harbor here at Belhaven early afternoon yesterday, just in time for the wind to crank up and knock us around. NOAA forecast more of the same (20-25 knots) for the next couple of days, so we have decided to stay put.

We weren't the only ones who stopped into the harbor.
The reefing lines that David so laboriously installed in Pensacola have been nothing but a nuisance, dangling over the deck and over the bimini and trying to strangle us. Out on the river, as David was bringing in the jib, the darned thing tangled itself around the jib sheet in an actual knot. So one of his first chores was to take out two of the three reefing lines and stow them away in a locker. Some improvements aren’t.

In the morning quiet, David assembled the dinghy and we puttered into the town dock. We have plenty of supplies, but the fresh vegetables were getting pretty low and neither of us likes canned, so we went in search of a grocery. The only one here is over a mile from the dock, so we opted for the charming public library and some free wi-fi instead. They had “friends of the library” books for sale, so I had a nice browse and found several that looked good.

Beautiful downtown Belhaven. Could use some investment if you want to open a business in a lovely place.
Upon hearing that we were afoot and wanting to go to Food Lion, Shirley the Librarian (almost as good as Marian the Librarian in The Music Man) got on the phone and got us permission to use a golf cart. She then took a break and drove us down to the cart, about a quarter mile away! The friendliness and helpfulness of people we meet along the way never ceases to amaze and delight me. David fired up the cart, and we toddled off to the grocery store in the fresh air at about 15 mph. Once stocked up at the store, David dropped me and our bags at the dock, returned the cart, and walked back. By that time, the wind had swelled and the water was good and choppy. We bucked and sloshed our way back to the boat and were glad to reach the relative stability of planet Raven.

Lovely little waterfront town. Down this street is where you go to snag a golf cart.

Our three hours ashore consisted of accomplishing two errands, meeting three lovely ladies at the library, enjoying a three-mile round trip in a golf cart, and taking one moderately choppy and one really lumpy ride across the anchorage in the dinghy. It’s always a surprise at how long things take on a boat, but then we always have some sort of minor adventure, so who cares?

June 6
More waiting for weather. The wind has finally clocked around to a different direction, so we have stopped hobby-horsing. It’s supposed to be calm tomorrow, so we intend to set off early for a long (30+ mile) day. It turned hot today for the first time since we left New Bern. David has hooked up the wind scoop (imagine a kite flying from the forward hatch, acting as a wind funnel to send the breeze down into the cabin) to cool us off. We are wearing the absolute minimum of clothes and are grateful for the breeze and the shade of the cabin. A couple of shandies helped, as well. :) (To the uninitiated, “shandies” are a mixture of beer and ginger beer, served cold.)

Today’s accomplishments were making chicken salad, having a bath, and washing my hair. It’s great to feel clean and powdered and to have stuffed my wilted clothing into the laundry duffel. Baths on the boat are, by necessity, brief, using about 4 cups of water when I clean head to toe. When I was a kid, we called this sort of abbreviated wash “spit baths” because of the limited water. I spent a hot summer at our farm when I was about 12, and when the well went dry, we hauled water from the pond to flush the toilet and for baths used a tiny amount of water in a basin, filled from the big jug we bought in town. So spit baths are not new to me! I wash my hair in river water, rinsing with vinegar, and it comes out well and doesn’t use up anything from the tanks. David hooks up the wash down hose on deck and has a “shower” with the river water. This arrangement works great until it starts getting cold, at which point we tend to hunt for hot showers ashore!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Day One

Our anchorage at South River, looking back toward the Neuse. So quiet! One of our favorite places.

June 1, 2019

Dear Lord, what a year. We have travelled extensively by car and by plane (from New Bern to Texas, from New Bern to England, from England to Germany, from New Bern to Tennessee). We have been at the dock for far, far too long. We have wrestled with medical issues, doctors’ appointments, and endless trips to Walmart. We have been plagued the last month with hordes of weird, non-biting mosquitoes that die on deck by the thousands (hundreds of thousands) and by the spiders that have grown fat and far, far too large by eating only some of the mosquitoes. The weather has been cold for too long, and is now hot. Really hot. 98. No wind. Hot. Time to leave. Past time. A break in the heat forecast for Friday, May 31. That’s the date for pulling out.

Amid the usual last minute this, that, and the other, Raven finally left the dock at 9:15 a.m. Friends on the dock helped guide her out of the slip in a light wind (Raven loves to be contrary when backing – with their help, we actually went forward down the fairway). The sun sparkled on the water, the warm breeze sighed over the deck, and the sky shone blue and clear. We rumbled along under power for about 45 minutes and then hoisted sail. It’s a lovely moment when the sails catch and the growl of the motor is replaced by the swish of the wind and the swirl of the water along the hull.

Spotty wind swelled to ten or eleven knots and then died off to five or six knots, swelling and ebbing as we coasted down the Neuse River. Raven sails well with ten knots or more; in the lulls we just drifted along watching the bubbles in the water go by. Not in a hurry, we just lay back and watched the shoreline slide by (at 2.5 knots, it slid by very, very slowly).

The entertainment consisted of periodically sighting and squashing our stowaway spiders. I am the sort of person who captures spiders that wander into my dwelling and deposits them outside. After all, they perform a valuable service. But our plague of mosquitoes had fed the spider population until it was completely out of control. We must have had 100 spiders when we left the dock and their webs were everywhere, encrusted with uneaten mosquitoes. Spiders pirouetted from the rigging, swung down in our faces on their webs from the bimini, fell out of the sails, galloped across the deck, and tried more than once to cuddle down our necks. Enough already. Splat. Their bodies and the bodies of literally thousands of dead mosquitoes that carpeted Raven’s decks made us determined to hose down the deck with the washdown pump as soon as we were safe at anchor. As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary.

At the helm, I noticed the sky going awfully dark and took off my sunglasses. Sure enough, in front of us were a lot of gray curtains of rain falling in the distance. A look at the radar showed the showers (and a few alarming thuds of thunder) moving off to starboard, so I held course and hoped we’d skirt the worst of it. The weather cell was moving starboard, but also curving around toward us. David made the call to haul in the sails, due to fears of heavy gusts of wind. Under power, we chugged forward into some rain and winds of 15-22 knots. Not bad, all in all.

Then I looked behind me. Bad move. A very dark horizon loomed behind us and it was no great calculation to realize that with winds of 18 knots, it was going to catch us. It did!


David shrugged into his waterproof jacket and I surrendered the wheel to him to go find my own. By the time I climbed back into the cockpit, the rain was lashing the boat sideways, the winds roared around us at a steady 30 knots, and the river was in 3-4’ chop. Basically, it blew like stink, drenched us to the bone, and hurled us across waves you expect to see in the ocean. Raven, of course, was completely unfazed (it helped that David was at the helm, guiding her through the water), shouldering aside the water and ignoring the 40 knot gusts that tried to push her off course.

The storm bludgeoned by fairly swiftly (an hour?) and, weirdly, David and I had a great time. Not for one moment were we scared, which probably goes to show our synapses are not all firing. Neither of us thought to put on our foulies, even though we had plenty of time between the time we saw the storm coming and the time it hit. Neither of us thought about life jackets until about 30 minutes into it, when I thought, “Oh, I guess I should put on a life jacket.”

I thought about the first thunderstorm we encountered 12 years ago, on our first trip, and how absolutely petrified I was, just rigid with fear. I guess I’m an old salt now. Emphasis on old.

We dropped the hook in South River about 5 p.m. The storm had rumbled off toward Pamlico Sound, on the other side of the Neuse from us, so anchoring was easy and mostly dry. I shucked off all my clothes in the cockpit, as I had no desire to dribble around below leaving puddles. We were both tired, especially David after an hour of manhandling the boat, so we just sort of lay around glassy-eyed.

I went to bed about seven, I think, and conked out shortly thereafter.

BAM! I shot out of the v-berth like a scalded cat. Lightening was crashing everywhere around us, illuminating the dark cabin like a strobe. Flash, blinding flash, CRASH, flash, BOOM. The thunderstorm was right on top of us. David stood, peering out the portholes, as the lightening pulsed through the sky above and around us. I huddled on the settee, counting seconds to see how far away the lightening was (5 miles? 3 miles? Too close!). As it began to move away, we just sat, stunned. Sleep was not an option, so we shared a cup of tea and gaped at each other. Weather in a house is just weather. Weather at anchor is an event.

As David said, grinning, “Day One.”

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Pause in the Action

[Hilde's log]

We’ve been at the dock in New Bern, North Carolina, since my last post. We wondered how the area had fared in our ten year absence, and to our delight we discovered that it’s pretty much the same. New Bern is about 300 years old (founded in 1710) and maintains a vibrant and charming downtown area. Its close-in residential areas are full of beautifully kept old homes, many of which are priced so reasonably we could buy one.

 A trip down Broad Street in New Bern

New Bern sits at the junction of the Trent and Neuse Rivers, and so has a lot of beautiful waterfront and lots of area to sail when the wind is up (which it is not in July and August).

The town docks on the Neuse River, just off Union Point in New Barn. Free for 48 hours! And, unlike Oriental, you can actually get to them in a decent amount of water.
The front of the DoubleTree hotel in New Bern. The crepe myrtles are all over town, in white, pink, watermelon, and bright red! I've never seen a red crepe myrtle, but they are gorgeous. AND they don't make me sneeze.

This is a view of the waterfront on the other side of the DoubleTree hotel that faces the water. As marina residents, we are also hotel guests, and that means free coffee every morning. And hot showers. And a deck. Sweet.

A summer storm sweeps over the marina. It brought some cooler temperatures for a day or two, which was a big relief.
David and I loved it here when we lived here 10 years ago, and so we began to wonder...why not move back? We’re retired, we can get a house, the area is centrally located along the East Coast with beautiful sailing areas in close reach. What’s not to like? We even went so far as to shop for homes, looking near and far (a whole 10 miles away from downtown), at new homes and old, big and small and in-between.

A glimpse of New Bern. The bear statues (to the right in this photo) are all over town, like the pelican statues in Seabrook.

You know how things can look really, really good on paper, but they just don’t seem to work out? That has been our experience here. We couldn’t find a home that was just right, or a neighborhood that was just right, or a price that was just right. Either the house needed too much updating or it was too far from downtown or it was claustrophobic or too unique for resale or just too big to keep up and have any kind of life. It was very frustrating.

Regardless of the house, we knew we wanted to have a car. That’s one of the most frustrating aspects of cruising. When you get to shore, you are stranded in the vast majority of places. You can get to any place that’s within a couple of miles of the harbor simply by walking, or you can beg or borrow or rent a car. It can be really frustrating to run those necessary errands. So, since we had decided to stop until fall (summer here is almost as bad as summer in Houston), we needed wheels.

That was absolutely no trouble at all! We found a local Hyundai dealership and actually liked the folks working there. When has that ever been the case? Never for me. We ended up with a new 2018 Hyundai Sonata for about the same price I paid for my Acura Integra 20 years ago. No lie. I keep waiting for the wheels to fall off, but so far, so good.

Check it out! Red!

In the process of buying the car, we discovered that our previous belief, that North Carolina does not tax retirement income, was incorrect. North Carolina does not tax Social Security income. It does tax IRA distributions and pensions, at 5%. Talk about a cold shower! That put a halt to looking at homes in a hurry.

So, we wondered, how to alleviate some of the more irritating aspects of living on a boat at the dock? One major irritant is feeling overcrowded. Spare parts, project supplies, winter clothes in summer, winter shoes in summer….all crowd the cupboards and lockers until I want to pull my hair out some days. That was one of the draws of a house: being able to unpack!

David fixing the A/C. He's had to fix it three times since we've been here - all sorts of vegetation floats in the water and plugs up the intake. Notice the disaster wreaked in the cabin by having to move everything from the port to the starboard side and dig out tools from the v-berth. This is the way the boat feels some days, even when it isn't a mess and why it was so very tempting to find a house to spread out in. Raven doesn't feel small on the water, only at the dock.
Since a house was out, we decided to rent a small air conditioned storage unit for the overflow. We drove out to a likely place on Sunday. It was closed...but the owner saw us in the driveway and came over to chat. Finding out what we were looking for, he told us he has one that had come vacant the day before, opened the office and signed us up. As it turned out, it was the only one that size he had vacant.

One some levels, our experience here has been a resounding “No” - as in, no house, no you aren’t going to live here. On others, the experience has been eerily easy: new car, no problems (in fact that’s what saved us from making a very expensive mistake), storage space, no problem. I get the feeling we are being gently herded...somewhere.

The current plan is to enjoy the A/C (when it is working) at the dock for July and August. In September we leave for England to visit David's mom. Then in October, when we return, we'll set off for the Chesapeake and some good sailing! Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, we have been promised fireworks over the Trent River basin (just behind us in the marina) on the 4th. I plan to sit out on the foredeck with a cold can of seltzer and enjoy the show, heat or no heat. Here’s wishing all of you a festive Fourth of July!