Sunday, March 27, 2016

Home Once Again!

It's 2:15, and we are back at the dock in Whitehall. We are so fortunate in our friends. Denise and Lars met us at the dock with champagne! And, we are glad to be home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On the Dismal Swamp Canal

Each year that we have done this journey, Mike has wished for perfect timing to show the change of seasons. Up until now, that wish has not been granted. This year, it is different. We are here at the birth of spring.

It is a beautiful spring day. Terry is on the front deck, and he has shed his fleece jacket! Turtles are out basking in the sun. Ducks and geese continue to scatter as we approach. Of course, they like to wait until we are really on top of them before they take flight. Unfortunately, they fly only a couple hundred feet before resettling in the water- just in time for us to attempt to run over them again.

The news is that we have passed the sign that says, "Welcome to Virginia." And, it is still warm. The other news is that it is so warm that Terry's GoPro decided to go swimming. It hopped right off the boat, and it jumped into the canal. And, it appears that it promptly sank. Those owners of GoPros are now thinking that should not happen- the case should float. It appears that the suction cup stand is heavier than the float can manage. We believe that it pulled the GoPro down into a watery grave. Alas. Peggy, on a positive note, did point out that Terry has been eying up the newer model. We sense a birthday gift in the offing. Out of tragedy....

If you are keeping score, that makes 2 hats and 1 GoPro lost to Neptune on this trip!

A Great Day in Elizabeth City

If you find yourself in the area, you should make a trip to Elizabeth City. It's a cool little town making a big effort at revitalization. If boating, your first stop will be the FREE docks downtown.

The town has provided both slips and side ties, so any size boat can feel free to stop by. And, the view out into the harbor is lovely.

After that, find the Visitors Center. There you will get maps and all sorts of ideas for fun ways to spend the day. This is the first time I have seen little booklets of walking tours. The one for the business district, for example, describes the buildings as well as giving some history. AND, they have treats. At least they did on the day we visited- free candy and cookies.

We had already planned our day, though. We wanted to go to the Museum of the Albemarle.

This is the lobby. Hanging over your head is a full sized model of the official boat of the state of North Carolina. The best part of the museum is the hall containing the history of the area. It is done in a timeline fashion with incredible artifacts to illustrate. My favorite was the picture of an old document.

Cool! Maryland used to be a province of Virginia! Actually, there were lots of great artifacts. Elizabeth City is home to one of the largest Coast Guard stations. In fact, that station goes all the way back to the beginning of the Coast Guard. Our favorite was the early pfd on display.

It's nice to know that we have made some progress.

The museum also had a special exhibit featuring the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Unlike many exhibits on this man, it did not just feature a bunch of stained glass. It delved into the history of the man and all his works. Don't get me wrong. There were stained glass artifacts.

But, there was so much more. The exhibit showed how the lamps were made. Imagine stained glass by numbers instead of paint by numbers, and you have a good idea. And, yes, jewelry was on display. Not a lot, but enough to showcase the talent. The exhibit also featured some works by other artists influenced by Tiffany. It's a small exhibit, but it is so dense with artifacts and history that you could easily spend an hour just casually examining everything.

After a small break back at the boat... Oops. Let me rephrase that. I took a nap. Mike and Terry worked on the boat. Peggy and Carol passed the time by reading and doing some embroidery.

We ended up at Cypress Creek Grill for dinner. 

This restaurant was literally just across the street from us! It looked like a little storefront operation, but that was deceiving. The inside was much larger than it appeared on our approach. And, it was simply wonderful from start to finish. There are no food pictures, Dear Readers, because it is a slow food restaurant. Everything is made fresh. By the time the food arrived, I was too hungry to stop and take pictures. But, oh was it so yummy. An interesting side note- it is the first place any of us had ever been where they asked you how you want your oysters fried. Peggy's choices were light, medium, or crunchy. She's happy she ordered medium because they came out perfectly done for her. 

After dinner, we headed back to the boat. Here's a shot of LUX that I took from the sidewalk in front of Cypress Creek Grill.

No telephoto lens. LUX really is just across the street. We did move the boat to anchor out because it was going to be windy. No one wished to spend the night bouncing against the sea wall. Still, it was a beautiful - if somewhat chilly - night.

The cold air just reminds us that we are getting closer to home. Tomorrow, we will be in Virginia.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Alligator River Marina

Our travels have brought us close enough to home to make it feel like it. Yesterday, it was sunny again. We did not miss the cold, raw feeling from the previous rainy day. But, Dear Readers, it is still cold. We have been reduced to hunting out our sweatshirts and socks! Actually, that would be most of us. Mike is still resisting the socks. But, you can tell it is cold, even for him. This morning, he has on a flannel shirt AND a flannel lined jacket! He also has his hands in his pocket. For us, this is a greater predictor of the temperature outside than even the thermometer.

And now, it is time for our sad tale of woe. Yesterday, we set off for one of our favorite spots- the Alligator River Marina.

We do so love our gas station/marina/restaurant. And its proprietor, Miss Wanda, is quite the character. Others have spoken unkindly of her, but we do not see that. She runs a nice marina, even if the pump out stays broken! Annette, her cook, makes fabulous fried chicken and shrimp. It is our sincere belief that others may be getting back only what they give. In other words, Miss Wanda does not tolerate rudeness or inappropriate behavior.

Our taste buds were all set for the fried chicken and shrimp with the accompanying hush puppies. We arrive. Logan, Miss Wanda's son, greets us. He gives us the bad news. It appears that the gas station/restaurant side of the business is closed for the winter. It will not reopen until Easter weekend! OMG! No fried chicken! No fried shrimp! We were distraught. We were going to have to eat more of Gee's cooking! Would these trials never end!

Actually, we were fine with it. There's lots of food still on LUX. We just had to decide what we wanted. But still, the idea of the fried chicken lingered. Then, a break occurred in our gloomy clouds. Miss Wanda showed up at the boat to ask if we wanted to go to the grocery store. We demurred, having enough on board. Miss Wanda persisted. "I thought you would want to go for a ride," said Miss Wanda. So off went Peggy and Gee. It was more than worth it.

Miss Wanda took us - and another boater- on not only a trip to the grocery store, but a tour of the town of Columbia. The tour was ably narrated by our hostess. My favorite tale is that the locals claim to have two malls - the north mall and the south mall. The north mall consists of a Dollar General store. The south mall has the Family Dollar. Yes, it is a small town. At this point, we figured out why Miss Wanda laughed when we asked if there was a KFC in town. It is a small town. The biggest chain business is the large (and new) Food Lion. The biggest private business appears to be  the winery/coffee shop. We were privileged to hear tales about the buildings as well as the local characters in Columbia. And, we bought fried chicken for dinner. A good day for everyone.

This morning, we are taking a short hop to Elizabeth City across the Albemarle Sound. The great news is that it is a good day on the Albemarle Sound. We are barely rocking. That is not generally the case with this section of the trip. The Albemarle Sound has a reputation for turbulent waters. We are glad to miss that today.

A final note about the Alligator River Marina: Although we were ahead of the season, the marina is gearing up. The pump out is supposed to be fixed this week. The marina itself is going to be dredged to fix some depth issues. And, the delivery trucks with goods and foodstuffs for this season were arriving. In fact, the new tee shirts were already hanging up.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Breakfast in Belhaven

We ended up at River Forest Marina here in Belhaven last night. This morning,  we went adventuring!  We took golf carts into town to have breakfast at the Gingerbread Bakery. Yummy! A great way to start the day.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Beaufort- North Carolina

We moved yesterday morning to the town docks here in Beaufort. We had some worries about our day in town because the skies were somewhat ominous.

But, it gradually cleared up, the sun came out, and it was a beautiful day.

Beaufort, NC is one of our favorite towns. It offers so much for the boating community. The little souvenir shop, The General Store, not only has incredible ice cream. It also has a laundromat. Yes, more than three washers. A veritable pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for the average boater. It's clean, and the machines are well maintained. We spent the better part of the morning there. Of course, it doesn't hurt that it's midtown. You can set the timer and go wandering for a bit.

After laundry, we wandered about town. Mike bought another sacrifice for Neptune, God of the Sea. In Mike's case, that would be a hat. He generally loses one most voyages. Yes, he has already done so on this voyage. We did find a replacement in one of the many shops, and it was even on sale. As we like to say, "It had Mike's name on it."

We ended up at Clawson's for dinner. It's our favorite place in Beaufort. They have excellent food at very reasonable prices.

This morning, we woke up to a different weather pattern.

It appears that we are getting closer to home. On the other hand, it means we'll be baking more! There's always a positive, if you but look for it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

On the Hook

Last night, we anchored out behind Figure Eight Island- north of Wirghtsville Beach. It was a great place to spend the evening.

There was very little wind, so it was very calm and peaceful. There was just one little strange thing.

YES! There was an X in the water. A real, live X marks the spot moment. I do not know how that X came about. And, I must admit, we do not know if treasure lies beneath it. We did not get the dingy out to inspect it. Those treasure hunters among my readers are free to try to find it at their leisure. However, I doubt that it remains. Some secrets do not easily reveal themselves to everyone. It might be that nature was just marking out an excellent anchorage for us for the night. It was, indeed, a treasure of a spot.

Today, we continued our push north. We made it to Beaufort, NC late this afternoon. Once again, we are anchored out for the night. And, it is another beautiful evening here on the water.

In the morning, we will head to the Beaufort Town Dock. Once snugly in a slip, we will spend the day enjoying town. It's one of our favorite stops.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day from LUX.

We are traveling down the ICW this morning through the Myrtle Beach area. They have already been great wildlife sightings- including an Orca that jumped out of the water right at the edge of this canal.

Oh...all right. It's not a real Orca. Instead, it's one of a collection of things on a restaurant site near the water.

It is a very still morning - so still that the water acts as a mirror.

Tonight's goal is the Wrightsville Beach area.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


We had a great day in Georgetown.  We visited the Kudzu Bakery - and we probably bought way too much. We visited the great museums here. And, we had a wonderful dinner at the River Room Restaurant.

Morning in Georgetown

It appears to be a quiet morning here in Georgetown. The sun is rising, and it promises to be another lovely day. Not that I want to make you jealous, Dear Readers, but it is forecasted to be 82 degrees today.

As mentioned, it appears to be quiet here. In actuality, Georgetown is quite the industrial town.

You might not be able to tell from the pictures, but there are three definite factory buildings to be seen from the deck of LUX. At the end of the anchorage here there is a steel mill. Unfortunately, the mill shut down last year after numerous efforts to keep it going. The paper mill, however is still going. It runs all day. AND, it runs all night. Here in the harbor, there is a continual background buzz from the factory.

The town also has an active shrimping business. Independent Seafood, right down from us, is continually written up as a great place to stop and buy shrimp. Indeed, Dear Readers, we now have three pounds of fresh shrimp in our refrigerator for dinner tonight.

Today, we will continue heading north. Right now, members of the crew are busy preparing for the journey. Peggy has cleaned up the galley. Carol is studying charts and guides. Mike is doing some boat maintenance.

Yes, he is washing windows. One can only hope he retains that skill once we arrive back home! :-)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Targa Support Repair

After buying LUX, we started to see cracks forming at the top of the hard top targa supports. (See Google for a definition of ‘targa’.) Some unexpected jibes seem to have taken a toll on the supports. We found a blog by Mike Boyd in which he described repairing a similar set of cracks.

The cracks were growing in length and were becoming a concern. Each of the supports had cracking, with the starboard a bit more than the port. We did our repair during the summer 2015.

We started by removing the gelcoat along the crack so we could more closely examine the crack, using one of our favorite boat working tools, the Rotary Tool (Dremel). One concern was creating a repair that would not concentrate loading of the structure and create “hard spots” that would subsequently fail in a storm or emergency jibe. So we extended the repair about eight inches beyond the bottom of the crack.

It was possible to insert a small screw driver into the crack. Interestingly, the screw driver came out sticky!? We ask Troy Bethel about the cracks and stickiness. He indicated that sometimes the mixing gun isn’t set properly, resulting in a resin mix that doesn’t set correctly. It looks like the cracks started in the uncured resin due to the stresses that the mainsail put on the hard top. Looking closely, you may see a difference in color running down the center of the support flange. The targa supports are built of two C-shaped fiberglass halves that are nested inside one another with resin to glue the two pieces together along the flanges.

The resin is less than an inch deep along the joint. So we used a set of drills to remove most of the uncured resin. Different size drills are necessary as the flange gap isn’t constant. The drills easily removed the resin easy and minimized the chance of damage to the flanges.

The rotary tool with a large fiber disc was used to remove the remaining pieces and to clean up the edges of the fiberglass flanges. Once the flanges were clean, we mixed West Epoxy, thickened with microfibers and colloidal silica (also known as cabosil or fumed silica). Measuring the gap allowed us to determine the approximate amount of epoxy to mix.

The mixture was put into a caulking tube and slowly squeezed into the gap, making sure to wet down the sides of the flanges in the process. Tape was applied over the result and pressed down slightly to form a concave surface along the length of the cut. The tape keeps the epoxy from sagging out of the gap and creates a nice shape for finishing.

When it cured, the tape was removed and the epoxy surface was cleaned with acetone and lightly sanded for the next step. Finishing was done by mixing epoxy with colloidal silica to thicken it to mayonaise consistency and adding some white epoxy tint. The tint imparts a translucent white color to the epoxy because the recommended mix is a maximum of 10% tint by volume. This nearly white mix was put into the groove left by the tape and smoothed flat. This provides a base white coat for the final gelcoat.

The final step was to clean and lightly sand the white epoxy coating, then apply a layer of gelcoat. We used the Everlast gelcoat, which we’ve found doesn’t need an air barrier coating. As an experiment, we used a foam brush to apply it while it was still thin. We worked quickly so that the brush didn’t collapse. Just like applying varnish, brush back onto the wet surface. It worked like a charm and didn’t need a second coat. We didn’t even need to touch up the edges! You have to look very closely to notice the difference in gelcoat color.

The whole job was done over the course of four days, one step at a time. It is now early spring 2016 and there is no evidence of cracking. On to the next project...

Sunday, March 13, 2016

In Charleston

Today, we docked early to spend some time investigating Charleston. I started out with a snorkeling adventure.

Okay. The truth is that we went to the South Carolina Aquarium. It is a lovely aquarium with some really great fish tanks. Many of the exhibits were focused on sea conservation. They do have a sea turtle rescue lab here. The special exhibit was on life in Madagascar. It was a small exhibit, but very nicely arranged. And, it had two lemurs! 

The aquarium also works on wildlife rescue. They had a good number of shore birds. One was our favorite, the Great Blue Heron.

And, just for Susan, they had a pelican that liked to pose.

Both were obviously rescue birds. They even had an eagle with a damaged wing. It was nice to see that they all had a great retirement home.

Toward Charleston

We're on the ICW headed toward Charleston,  SC. As you can see, the photo is from inside the cabin. We are still in the Lowlands. It is still buggy. So, Dear Readers, I will not be going outside to take that perfect picture.

The plan for today is to arrive early in Charleston. We will stay at a marina near the aquarium. When today's rain shows up, we plan to be inside enjoying DRY fish shows! It will be another great day near the water- just not wet!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Moving On Northward

We left Beaufort, SC around 10:30. Yes, we had a great afternoon and morning in this great town. We had wonderful ice cream at Sweet Treats. Some of us had a light dinner at Panini's on the Waterfront. And, we all had the opportunity to do laundry! YAY! Clean clothes day. Beaufort is a great place to spend the afternoon.

Today, we had an interesting example of the power of AIS- Automatic Identification System. Our ship name is broadcasted out in the general area, as are all the other ships so equipped. We were called by a tug with a barge coming around a tight corner in a narrow, dredged channel. He told us his intentions, and he asked us about our intentions. Ah, Dear Readers, we know the Law of Mass Tonnage. In other words, big ships ALWAYS have the right of way! We offered to stand by until he negotiated the corner. Good day on the water.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Morning on the Vernon River

It's 6:45, and we are already on the move. It appears to be another pretty day. However, you will notice that the picture is shot from inside LUX.  It's still Georgia. It's still buggy. Everyone is involved in our major activity - killing little no seeums. Ugh! The picture of Mike killing bugs on the screen was taken from inside LUX. I'm not going out there until much later!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Traveling in the Lowlands

We had a lovely day on the water today. The sun was shining. It was warm. And, we moved along. That is, of course, until we got to Hellgate.

Ah, my Dear Readers, the reason to get up at the Crack of Dawn is to make sure you make it through Hellgate as close to high tide as possible. We were just on the edge when we were brought to a halt. No, we did not run aground. The sailboat in front of us did- right in the middle of the channel. So, we had to pull off and drop the anchor for a bit.

But, we are in Georgia. The tides are a change of 9 feet. This tide rose. The sailboat floated off. We went by- and reported back to them about the depths we encountered as we went forward.

We are anchored on the Vernon River. Yes, Dear Readers, it is buggy here. We are shut down tight with all hatches closed. Anything to protect us from the nasty no seeums.