I was not a consistent “voice” on the Sea Grace blog but it seems fitting that I bid my own farewell to our “summer home” via a bit of brief reminiscing.
First, I always loved her name .. Sea Grace. I even loved the font style .. it suited her. She certainly was “Grace”ful on the water and she was often full of Grace in the form of friends and family, including many dogs. At this point I can’t help but think of some my favorite moments living on her and will miss these. Yes, I must confess I did indeed like her as a “dockominium”…. even though she was not designed with that in mind I’m quite sure. Many great sunset views and lazy afternoons reading on the deck are snapshots in my mind’s eye. John’s enjoyment of his afternoon naps in his hammock (although he said he was reading) make me smile. Special friends and family on board … always a great time. Did I mention the super chef on board … the Skipper no less!! A few of my favorite places to be .. the Baldwinsville Town Dock near Derek and Sandy Shepard, the Schenectady Yacht Club near (at the time) our son, Eric, as well as long time friends, and for a season, in Beaufort, NC, near our niece, Corrie.
Not sure yet about all the next steps John and I will take but as y’all know, we have a new little human in our lives who is an unspeakable joy. Many of these experiences will most likely revolve around Colette. Although she will never remember, I’m very glad even she was aboard Sea Grace twice.
I am conflicted to report that the deal is done and Sea Grace has passed on to new owners. There is not much left to say about this transition away from our summer home on the water.
I enjoyed almost all of it. The live-aboard life-style suited me well. I liked waking to the gentle sloshing of waves on the hull. On the Mohawk River, the first morning sound was the slapping of oars on the water and the call of the coxswain. I liked living at marinas, among the other boats and boaters. I found enjoyment in the varity of ways that humans have devised to travel on the water. I found beauty in the different hull shapes and in sail boats and power boats. Having friends and family visit and cruise on board was a real joy. I enjoyed mucking about in the engine room as much as being underway at the helm. I got a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I fixed or enhanced some component or ship’s system. On the Erie Canal and the Hudson River and the Intracoastal Waterway, I got closer to nature and history. I liked walking on deck after dinner and seeing the night sky.
Well, many good memories. And I’m comfortable with the decision to see what’s next on the horizon.
As they say, “All good things come to an end”. So it is with our adventures, travels and life aboard Sea Grace. She’s listed at our broker’s web site and likely won’t be there too long. We’ve had significant interest already. Time will tell; we may be owners for a while.
Her sale will bring to an end these modest chronicles. Hosting this website added a thoughtful component to our boat ownership. So I’m grateful to our son-in-law Ben and our daughter Jennifer for making it a Christmas gift back in 2013. Recounting our experiences caused me to be more reflective about the boat-life than I might have been otherwise. My little essays were provoked by a desire to share these nautical opportunities with friends and family when it wasn’t possible for you to join me on board. Over the course of our ownership, we were fortunate to have many of you visit, stay on board or travel with us. I wish more could have done so.
Regular readers will remember that my original goal for a live-aboard trawler was a place to escape the long hot summers of south west Florida and to live near northest family and friends. By those measures, Sea Grace was an enormous success. The bonus was living on the water, learning the complex mechancial and life support systems of a modern live-aboard trawler, exploring the Atlantic Intra-Coastal Waterway, learning about the historic Erie Canal and seeing new parts of the country.
For the moment, Sea Grace is docked at the New Bern Grand Marina, New Bern, North Carolina, slip 49A. We plan to visit there for a few days during the week between Christmas and New Year. If you know where to look, you can see her at the Marina’s live webcam.
As the adventure is not over till the contract is signed, I’ll keep posting. Until then, try to remain calm and composed through this joyus and stressful holiday season. Hopefully, you made it past today’s Black Friday event without being crushed or trampled by a throng of Walmart shoppers.
This is a short post to let readers know that Sea Grace and her crew are safely (fingers crossed) on the hard and (hopefully) out of harm’s way. After several “Urgent Warnings” (see below) from the dockmaster at the New Bern Grand Marina, I decided to take the coward’s way out and make the short trip across the Neuse River to Bridgeton Boatworks for a short haul. (Blessings upon my favorite niece Corrie for driving up from the even more hurricane exposed town of Beaufort to help with the crossing). SG will be back at her slip next week.
I include the parenthetical qualifiers above because there are no safe assurances against the forces of mother nature. New Bern, a delightful town which seems to be sealed in a 1950’s bubble, has fresh memories of hurricane Florence on September 14, 2018. (In fact, our marina just last week took delivery and began installation of docks damaged during Florence.) One of my dock neighbors had his sail boat hauled out before Florence arrived. Although she was well out of the water on jack stands, the storm surge in the upper Neuse River reached 11 feet. She washed off the stands and sustained considerable damage.
Day 8– Monday, July 29th. Annapolis to Solomons Island. Today marked the start of our 2nd week aboard Sea Grace on the way to New Bern, NC. Yesterday, the crew increased by one with the addition of an old sailing buddy (with thanks to Babs, for making the delivery trip from the Washington area).
We continue to enjoy remarkably good weather and generally calm seas. Leaving Annapolis, we’re hugging the western shore of Chesapeake Bay as we continue south. Our destination today is Solomons Island on the Patuxent River, just north of the Potomac. The crew has decided to take a break from our daily runs and spend 2 nights in Solomons. We’ve selected the Spring Cove Marina on Back Creek. The Calvert Maritime Museum is a short walk and the marina has a sweet pool.
Day 9– Tuesday, July 30th. Our day off in Solomons Island is a good choice. We made good use of Spring Cove’s facilities, especially the pool and their laundry. One can pack only so many tee shirts. After that chore, Willie and I took in the Calvert Maritime Museum. The highlights were the relocated Drum Point Light House. It was moved from its original location guarding the north side entrance of the Patuxent River to the Museum property in the 1960’s. The original location was not far from shore and the keeper and his family could walk to their 2 bedroom, octogonal home. The other museum highlight was the frantic antics of 3 river otters. After the educational portion of the day, we returned ot the pool for the afternoon.
Day 10, Wednesday, July 31– Solomons Island to Broad Creek, Deltaville, Va. The crew is well rested after 2 days of lounging in at Solomons Island. The days are really starting to fade together. Next stop is Broad Creek on the south shore of the Rappahannock River, just below the Potomac. The marina is Deltaville Yacht Center located at the end of Broad Creek. We had to thread the needle on this one in skinny water. Most of the way out of Solomons we tagged behind a 56′ Nordhavn trawler of the ocean-going variety. Her name was Boreas and she was also headed up Broad Creek. Always good to follow a larger, deeper drafted vessel into narrow, shallow channels.
Our dinning intention was to visit the local Oyster Bar. The marina even offered us a loaner car. But our energies failed. Instead, we dined onboard and watched the first of the Democratic debates, just to keep ourselves grounded in reality.
Day 11, Thursday, August 1. Broad Creek to Portsmouth, Va. We’ve turned a page on the calendar just as we’re about to leave Chesapeake Bay. Because we’ve been blessed with exceptional weather and because we’d just as soon be underway as docked, we’re way ahead of schedule. Today we’ll enter the busy environs of Hampton Roads, Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va. And sure enough, as we’re entering the Elizabeth River, Sea Grace was dwarfed by a giant, outbound container ship.
The outgoing container ship itself was dwarfed by an incoming aircraft carrier. Hampton Roads is a busy place. We saw a strange, high speed hovercraft which seemed stealth in design, headed out to the carrier.
We docked at the Tidewater Yacht Marina on the Portsmouth side of the Elizabeth River. Portsmouth and Norfolk look like interesting places to explore. Both sides of the River are alive with commercial and naval activity. Tour boats ferry passengers around the sights. Norfolk boasts an inviting waterfront area with attractive looking restaurants and pubs. The crew of Sea Grace dined at the marina’s restaurant called Fish n’ Slips. Better than average crab cakes. The restaurant is located overlooking the floating swimming pool. No kidding.
In the morning, crew member Brugel Uber-ed to the Norfolk airport for a flight home. His several days on board Sea Grace in the company of Willie and myself brought back memories of long ago sailing adventures to the BVI. Each of us plays a role, I think, in creating an easy companionship so appropriate to time on the water.
Day 12. Friday August 2– Norfolk to Coinjock, Va. Officially, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway begins (or ends, depending on your direction of travel) at Red Buoy #36 on the Elizabeth River. Red 36 is just a tad north of the Tidewater Marina, so as we resumed our cruise, we were officially in the ICW.
Our day’s destination was the oddly named town of Coinjock, a place name– according to Wikipedia– with its origins in native American Indian roots. Coinjock Marina is on a canal and it’s very isolated. We were anticipating a long day with many delays because of low clearance train and road bridges. Sure enough, the first lift bridge we encountered about an hour into the day, the Norfolk-Southern #7 Railroad Bridge (closed vertical clearance of 7 feet), marked as “usually open”, was closed. We hailed the bridge tender on channel 13 to learn from a raspy-throated lady that the next opening was in 20 minutes. Sea Grace patiently hovered for 25 minutes when the Katy B, another trawler, appeared behind us. The radio operator on the Katy B was not shy about frequently contacting the bridge operator for opening information. Kept us from having to do it.
About an hour later, we passed the entrance to The Great Dismal Swamp, an alternative route to the Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. The Great Dismal Swamp is a dug canal. I think some boaters choose this route just to say that they’ve done it. Reports say it’s shallow, narrow, littered with dead-head logs and, yes, dismal. I’m not sure what the attraction is. Not suitable for Sea Grace’s 4′ 9″ draft. So, we stuck with the main ICW, called the Virginia Cut.
After several more swing bridges we passed through the lock at Great Bridge, Va. The Great Bridge lock lowered us about 2 feet. After all the deep locks on the Erie Canal, this seemed almost silly.
We arrived in Coinjock, NC late in the afternoon. The 50 miles from Norfolk took longer because of bridges and the lock. But the weather held and the scenery was mostly pleasant. Not much to see or do in Coinjock. Only the one marina, but there were 8 or 10 other transient boaters. Including a very out-of-place looking mega-yacht calles “She’s a 10”.
With a little inter-web research, we discovered that “She’s a 10” is part of a charter fleet. Available for family outings or maybe a significant wedding anniversary. Permanent crew and captain. But perhaps the most impressive thing about “She’s a 10”, besides her 165′ length, were her fenders. They might have been 10 feet long and 2 feet in diameter. Where do you store those babies?
Day 13– Saturday, August 3rd.. Coinjock to Belhaven. The first challenge of the day presented itself as soon as we left the dock. Just before Willie cast off our lines, a very long scrap metal barge pushed by a tug took up a good portion of the channel. Sea Grace fell in behind the tug. We routinely do 8 or 8 1/2 knots. The tug was doing about 4. Following proper protocol, we radioed the tug captain at a relatively wide place asking permission for a post-side pass. With permission granted and Sea Grace in high gear, we managed the tug’s turbulence and got by there as fast as possible.
After Coinjock, the ICW follows the North River which eventually spills out into Albemarle Sound. Well to our east are the outer banks and Kitty Hawk. At the southern end of the Albemarle is the wide Alligator River. The area has a very prehistoric feel. These are lowlands populated by scrub and pines. Most of the adjacent land is reserved for wildlife. Our target is a canal that connects the Alligator River and the Pungo River. The canal is home to a small fleet of commercial trawlers.
Belhaven, our destination for the day, is just off the ICW at the eastern end of the Pungo River. This was a long day, but again, the weather was with us.
Day 14, Sunday, August 4th– Belhaven to River Dunes. River Dunes is a special place. It’s a planned community of homes, large and small, but all definitely at the extreme upper end of the housing range. Grace Harbor, like the whole community, was carved out of the woodlands just north of the Neuse River.
It was a stroke of master planning that we arrived at River Dunes on a Sunday so that Corrie and Rodney could drive up from Beaufort. As a resort community, River Dunes has all the diversions. We made full use of the pool and other diversions. Unfortunately, the well rated restaurant was closed.
Day 15. Monday, August 5th– River Dunes to New Bern. Our final day.
The final leg and we’re ahead of schedule. Our course took us west on the Neuse River, about 35 miles. As you can see in the photos above, the day started out fine. But as the afternoon wore on, a thunderstorm front rolled in from the southwest. Much of the rain came down to the south of us in the Beaufort area, but it finally caught up with us as we approached Sea Grace’s new home, the New Bern Grand Marina. And so, with a nearly spiritual symmetry, our trip ended as it began, in a downpour.
If you find yourself on the coast of North Carolina in the vicinity of New Bern, stop by. We’re in slip in 29A at the New Bern Grand Marina.
Statute miles are longer than nautical miles. A nautical mile is about 1.15 statute miles. And it seems like “nautical” hours or days are shorter than hours on land. I can’t believe it’s been a week since we left the Schenectady Yacht Club in Rexford, NY on our trip to New Bern, North Carolina. We left the Albany area on monday morning, July 22, and here it is Sunday, the 28th. My promise to myself and my faithful readers (all 12 of them) has fallen by the way-side. But here’s a quick summary.
Day One – SYC to Donovan’s : Foul weather and good company were the outstanding notions of our first day. We left SYC at about 7am in the company of Harry Meehan and his son michael, in addition ot my regular crew partner, Captain Willie Boyd. We were glad to have extra deck hands since Harry and Michael assisted in transiting the seven locks between SYC and the open Hudson River. After lock 7, faced the “Waterford flight” of five locks in a row. In spite of the rain and chill, we were lucky to face little oncoming traffic and the locks were mostly filled and ready for our decent as we arrived. Lock 2 at the village of Waterford is the last on the Eric Canal at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers. But not the last on this first day of our trip. We still had to navigate the Federal Lock on the Hudson at Troy. We passed through with 4 small power boats.
By 4pm, we had arrived at Donovan’s Shady Harbor Marina near New Baltimore on the upper Hudson. The Meehans left us to return to their dryer, warmer homes. Well deserved since they spent a good part of the day out in the rain. A big thanks to both of them for their nautical assistance.
Day Two – Donovan’s to Newburgh. Continued rain and an uneventful passage found us in Newburgh at the River Marina. What turned out to be a common occurence at these dockside restaurants was a love band. So for the price of a dock, we got live music. This time it was country music and line dancing. And lots of “Whoop”-ing.
Day Three-: Newburgh to Sandy Hook. This is the most impressive segment of the Hudson. The palisades begin their long ascent as we make our way south. At a big dog-leg right, we pass beneath West Point, impressive with it’s grey buildings. Then the Bear Mountain Bridge and the new Mario Cuomo Tapan Zee bridge. Very elegant. A few marine cranes are still at work, dissmantling the remains of the old bridge piers.
Finally, the Big Apple from the George Washington Bridge to the Varazanno Narrows. The City skyline is impressive from the water but the Jersey side is also startling.
Spotted a few large freighters. And the weather has finally improved so we have no problem spotting them. Now that Sea Grace has both radar and and AIS equiped VHF radio, we also know their names, speed, course and point of impact, if it came to that. We settle in for the night at the Atlantic Highlands Municipal Marina, tucked inside Sandy Hook.
Day Four- Sandy Hook to Atlantic City. Frankly, I was kind of dreading the the NJ coast. There is an inside passage for parts of south Jersey, but it’s too shallow for Sea Grace. Sandy Hook to Cape May is more than 100nm. At trawler speeds, that’s at least two days. We broke the off-shore trip up into 2 runs: Sandy Hook to AC, about 60nm and AC to Cape May, about 40nm. Fortunately, the weather and seas could not have been more perfect. Wind was minimal and swells were less than 2 feet. It was an ideal ride that could have been a real ordeal.
In Atlantic City, we docked at the Farley State Marina, in the shadow of the Golden Nugget. Does every gamboling capital have a Golden Nugget? Is it a franchise? And once again, we were within earshot (as was everyone else between Washington DC and Philadelphia) of a the live music. Appropriately, the music sounded like a high quality Springsteen cover band. Turned out it actually was the E Street group, sans Bruce.
Day Five- Atlantic City to Cape May. If yesterday was ideal, the coastal waters today were even more accommodating. I don’t know if the ocean is ever really flat, but this was close. We took a route several miles off the NJ coast and passed all the familiar towns from Monopoly.
In Cape May we stay at Utsch’s Marina. It’s adjacent to the Lobster House, a lively restaurant and bar. I recommend it if you find yourself in Cape May. Don’t miss the seafood market at the Lobster House. A fine selection of smoked fish.
Day Six- Cape May to Schafer’s Marina on the C&D Canal. Continued mild winds and calm seas but this part of the trip took us up Delaware Bay. Unfortunately, the tide and the river current were against us so we lost about 2 or 3 knots of speed It was a long, slow trip.
Day Seven– Schafer’s Marina to Annapolis. Another great day on the water. The C&D canal connects the upper Delaware Bay with Chesapeake Bay. When the tides change between these two very large bodies of water, the current in the connecting C&D canal is significant. We experienced this while docked at Schafer’s Marina.
We’re now docked at the Annapolis Basin Marina. We’re downtown and within walking distance of the Naval Academy. Lots rich nautical tradition here. We took on a new crew member. John Brugel had joined us for the next several legs of our cruise until Norfolk. Many thank the his wife Barbara for ferrying him out from the Washington area for a few days on board Sea Grace.
That’s all for now. I hope to catch up again in the next few days as we enter the Atlantic Intracoastal Water in Norfolk. Our next stop is the Solomon’s just north of the Potomac River.
Sea Grace is ready. The weather in the upper Hudson valley looks good. The crew is ready. Captain Bill Boyd arrives from San Diego. Many thanks to Bill for making the trip east and lending his seamanship, nautical expertise, friendship, enthusiasm and good judgement. In addition, for our first day, we’re joined by Harry Meehan and his son Michael. Harry is an old Sea Grace hand with several Erie Canal trips. It’ll be a new experience for Michael. Their good company and assistance is much appreciated since our first day challenge is to transit the flight of five locks at Waterford.
Preliminary Float Plan
The table below lists each of 17 legs of our route from the Schenectady Yacht Club in Rexford, NY to New Bern, North Carolina. Departure is early morning, Monday, July 22. By Monday night we should be at Donovan’s Shady Harbor Marina. Donovan’s is located in New Baltimore on the upper hudson. If we actually traveled each day, we’d arrive in New Bern on August 7th. But that’s unlikely to be our actual itinerary. In the table below, each leg of the trip is numbered in order of travel. But we probably won’t travel every day and may chose other destinations. A lot depends on winds, waves, mechanical issues and whims of the crew.
The URL links in the center column should open a new browser window showing a chart with the anticipated route for that day. The charts are part of a navigation program called Navionics. Each “push-pin” on the chart represents a way-point on the route. I won’t be updating this list for our actual schedule and route. But I will try to provide periodic updates on our grand cruise.
Sea Grace has been fitted with a new radar system. A new VHF radio will be installed after launch in June. Both are critical safety components for the July trip from New York to North Carolina. The radar unit is a Garmin 18 xHD Radome, matched to display on the existing Garmin 4212 chartplotter. The chartplotter will also display targets of AIS (Automatic Information System) equipped boats through a new Simrad RS35 VHF radio. Radar and AIS will help keep an eye on other boats, especially in crowded areas like lower Manhattan harbor and Chesapeake Bay.
The primary maintenance task this winter was to replace all eight engine mounts on the boat’s drive engines. I mentioned this in the previous post. That work has now been completed. Final drive shaft alignment can’t be completed until after launch in early June.
Preliminary Float Plan: SYC to New Bern, NC
The table below indicates our projected route from the Schenectady Yacht Club in Rexford, NY on the Mohawk River/Erie Canal to New Bern, North Carolina. We anticipate starting on Sunday July 2nd, arriving that evening at Donovan’s Shady Harbor Marina. Donovan’s is located in New Baltimore on the upper hudson. Each leg of the trip is numbered although we probably won’t travel each day and may chose other destinations. A lot depends on weather and mechanical issues.
The URL links in the center column will open a new browser tab showing a chart with the anticipated route for that day. The charts are part of a navigation program called Navionics. Each “push-pin” on the chart represents a way-point on the route.
When we made this trip northbound in 2015, we did it in 2 weeks. We’re taking longer this time, up to 3 weeks. My cruising pal, Captain Bill Boyd, has again signed on for the entire cruise. And we hope to be joined, intermittently, by friends along the way.
As usual, Sea Grace spent the winter of 2018-19 snug in the heated, air-craft hanger-sized facilities at Winter Harbor Marina in Brewerton, NY. Paul Phillips and I delivered her there in early September, after an uneventful 3-day, west-bound trip on the Erie Canal. And, as usual on a boat, winter storage is a time to assess needed repairs and desirable upgrades.
One critical maintenance item is to replace the engine mounts on both diesels. The current mounts are likely the original ones, installed when the boat was built in 1983. So, 36 years of service seems pretty good. In fact, it seems remarkable! Unbelievable, even, except that the engines have only 5,000 hours. Over 36 years, that’s less than 140 hours a year. So it’s entirely possible that the original engine mounts, in the protected environment of the engine room and out of the harmful effects of sunlight on rubber, could last that long. In any case, a full inspection indicates it’s time for new mounts.
A variety of other routine and non-routine maintenance and repairs are planned over the summer. More about those in later posts.
2019 Travel Itinerary….
We’ve enjoyed four summers on the fresh water, inland waterways of upstate New York. We’ve made more than a half-dozen trips between Rexford and Brewerton, NY. We’ve docked mostly at either Baldwinsville or at our home port at the Schenectady Yacht Club. We learned a lot about the Erie Canal and how to negotiate the locks. We passed through the Oswego Canal and spent some time on Lake Ontario and into the lower reaches of the St. Lawrence Seaway. This summer, Sea Grace is returning to the coast of North Carolina.
One of the many benefits of having a floating summer home is that you don’t have to sell it to change your neighborhood. The naturally evolving lives of our children (Eric has left the Albany area and Jennifer is about to make us grandparents) suggest it’s time to relocate Sea Grace to a new neighborhood. Our target is New Bern, NC on the Neuse River, just over 2 hours from Raleigh.
The general (tentative) itinerary is to leave Sarasota in late May, spend some time in Raleigh and then drive to NY about June 10th to launch Sea Grace. After a couple of days docked at Winter Harbor for final maintenance and provisioning, we’ll head east to the Schenectady Yacht Club for about a month. In mid-July, we’ll start a 3 week cruise down the Hudson River, off the coast of New Jersey, up the Delaware River, down the Chesapeake Bay and south through the Intra-coastal Waterway to North Carolina. This reverses the trip in 2015 which brought Sea Grace to upstate NY. And I’m pleased to report that my pal, Capt, Bill Boyd out of San Diego, CA., has signed on for this east coast excersion.
Future posts will cover Sea Grace’s return to North Carolina. I hope you’ll enjoy reading what should be another summer adventure living on Sea Grace.
Thanks to Jessalyn Meehan Films for taking and sharing this unique view of Sea Grace. The occasion was the final leg of our East-bound trip from Baldwinsville to Rexford. It’s July 3rd and we’re docked at Riverlink Park in Amsterdam, NY.
Our way to avoid summers in SW Florida- Life aboard our DeFever 44