July 1, 2013
When The Water Calls ... We Follow


June 20, 2013
New Adventures


May 31, 2013
Storing Our Shiny Red Tug


May 13, 2013
Viva La Difference


May 6, 2013
Swinging Free & Easy


April 15, 2013
In The Middle


March 29, 2013
On The Hook


March 18, 2013
Tinker Time


February 28, 2013
Jumping Into the Mix


February 15, 2013
Time Travel


February 6, 2013
Charlevoix - A Small Town With A World-Class Reputation


January 15, 2013
The Perfect Ending


January 1, 2013
Magical Weather & Mysterious Ports


December 15, 2012
Collins Inlet, Killarney, & Little Current


December 1, 2012
New Neighbors


November 16, 2012
What Makes a Perfect Anchorage?


November 1, 2012
Are We There Yet?


October 15, 2012
CHANGE OF LATITUDE


October 1, 2012
Womens Roundtable


September 15, 2012
Freedom to Discover a Southern Gem


September 1, 2012
Promises


August 15, 2012
Nice to Have Options


August 1, 2012
Go West!


July 15, 2012
The Perfect Boating Vacation Destination


July 1, 2012
Propane


June 15, 2012
Flagler’s Folly


June 1, 2012
Everglades Detour


May 15, 2012
Making New Friends


May 1, 2012
Something Old and Something New


April 15, 2012
Florida’s Wide Open West Coast


April 1, 2012
Life On the Water in a Trailerable Trawler


March 15, 2012
Becoming Second Nature


March 1, 2012
Last Dance


February 15, 2012
Call it Romance or Mystique


February 1, 2012
Natural Wonders Abound


January 15, 2012
Hardly a Care in the World


January 1, 2012
Wide-Eyed Anticipation


December 15, 2011
Winding Our Way to Lake Powell


December 1, 2011
On to New Cruising Grounds


November 15, 2011
Sharing the Love


November 1, 2011
On the Water Again


October 14, 2011
First Impressions


October 3, 2011
Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Fun


September 15, 2011
Getting the Show on the Road


September 1, 2011
Lets Dance!


August 15, 2011
Getting Our Ducks in a Row


August 1, 2011
Summer Without a Boat


July 15, 2011
The Water and The Boater Home


July 1, 2011
One Step Closer


June 15, 2011
Time Keeps on slippin’ Into the Future


June 1, 2011
Made in the USA


May 15, 2011
Making the Right Truck Choice


May 1, 2011
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder


April 15, 2011
What Goes Around Comes Around


April 1, 2011
Wishing Star Interlude


March 15, 2011
Helping Hands


March 1, 2011
THE PERFECT BOAT!


February 15, 2011
Weighing the Options


February 1, 2011
Making a List, Checking it Twice!


January 14, 2011
The Science of Towing


December 30, 2010
The Upside of Downsizing


December 15, 2010
The New Plan!


December 1, 2010
Homeward Bound-The Final Leg


November 15, 2010
Somethings In The Water


November 1, 2010
Our Turn to Relax & Smile


October 15, 2010
Gem in the Rough


October 1, 2010
Whats Your Favorite Place on the Loop?


September 15, 2010
Reflecting Pool


September 1, 2010
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder


August 15, 2010
Canadian Wonderland


August 1, 2010
"Low Bridge, Everybody Down"


July 15, 2010
One Day At A Time


July 1, 2010
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!


June 15, 2010
Lets All Do the Rendezvous


June 1, 2010
On the Hard


May 15, 2010
Falling in Love With Key West


May 1, 2010
Helping Women Get On Board


April 15, 2010
Key West - A Repeat Performance


April 1, 2010
Unexpected Pleasures


March 15, 2010
Mom Cruise


March 1, 2010
Okeechobee Bound


February 15, 2010
Chance Encounters


February 1, 2010
Three Nights in Paradise


January 15, 2010
New Frontiers


January 1, 2010
First Time Experiences


December 15, 2009
A Friend In Every Port


December 1, 2009
Dealing With A Temperamental Lady


November 18, 2009
You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello


November 13, 2009
A Cult Following


October 15, 2009
Somewhere in Time


October 1, 2009
Unlocking Our Minds Eye


September 18, 2009
Its In My Nature


August 15, 2009
The RBS Antidote


August 1, 2009
Crab Crazy


July 15, 2009
Sights And Sounds Of The Bay


July 15, 2009
Sights And Sounds Of The Bay


June 15, 2009
Our Last Leg North


June 1, 2009
Northern Migration


May 15, 2009
Priceless


May 1, 2009
Hello Goodbye


April 15, 2009
Let The Sun Shine In!


April 1, 2009
Dont Worry, Be Happy


March 15, 2009
Bahama Bound


March 1, 2009
What Do You Do All Day?


February 15, 2009
Slow Motion


February 1, 2009
On The Hook With A Million-Dollar View


January 15, 2009
High Anxiety


January 1, 2009
A String Of One-Night Stands


December 15, 2008
Pushing Into New Tennessee River, Upstream To Adventure


December 1, 2008
All Together Now


November 15, 2008
Kismet in the Aftermath of Hurricane Ike


October 31, 2008
Our Love Affair With The River


October 16, 2008
Big City Lights


October 1, 2008
The Adventure Begins


September 15, 2008
Prepping For The Loop


September 1, 2008
The Space Ship


August 15, 2008
Jumping Aboard In Seattle


August 1, 2008
If We Knew Then What We Know Now!


July 10, 2008
The Second Time Around


July 1, 2008
Our Turn For The Great American Loop

   

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!
By Kismet, Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lisa and I left the AGLCA Spring Rendezvous (see June 15 Log) in South Carolina and headed north, northwest with a destination of 44.75º N / 85.62º W. The difference between the Loopers who left the Rendezvous by boat and ourselves this time was that we were en route, traveling by car, to our hometown of Traverse City, Michigan. The event seminar typically focuses on the water routes that lay ahead of members who are currently traveling north and they also provide some insight to the adventures ahead to both the current Loopers and the future planning members. I couldn’t help but sense the excitement building in the crowd as they were beginning to anticipate starting, or continuing on, their Great Loop journey. We know from experience that there are many decisions to be made on this stretch of the Loop. Does one take the Dismal Swamp or the alternative route through Coinjock (both in North Carolina)? What side trips should you take? There are a few significant ones. Since there is a continuation of historical venues all up and down the east coast, which stops do you add to your itinerary. Countless possibilities present themselves and there are many decisions to make.

When you’re anchored out at Mile Hammock you are up close and personal with military maneuvers!

Lisa and I have ONLY traveled the East Coast ICW three times but because of this we’ve had the pleasure of visiting many new ports of call while trying alternative routes. Even though the ICW route up the coast is a somewhat static one there are also lots of opportunities for less visited destinations not too many miles off the beaten path.

Wilmington, the first big historical city you’ll stop or pass after Myrtle Beach, has a lot of significant history. It is the third oldest city in North Carolina and at one time it was the largest. They built boats that were used in the Revolutionary War, Civil War and both World Wars. They also have a large shipping industry here.

Mile Hammock Bay is an anchorage on the outskirts of Camp Lejeune. It’s here where we’ve watched the marines practice their maneuvers, seen helicopter rescue simulations and witnessed live fire exercises. This is a favorite overnight stop for cruisers as they work their way north or south along the ICW and it’s only a short days trip south of Beaufort, North Carolina. It’s definitely a stop every cruiser should experience at least once while traveling along this passage.

Everything in historic Beaufort, N.C. is just a short walk from the City Marina.

Beaufort has a rich history dating back to its settlement in 1709 as a fishing village and port of entry, including the sinking of Black Beards pirate ship, Queen Ann’s Revenge in 1718. Although Black Beards ship was not discovered off the coast of Beaufort’s waters until 1996, and his bounty has not yet been discovered, Lisa I didn’t learn about Black Beard connections and exploits in the Beaufort area until we visited the quaint southern town and the North Carolina Maritime Museum in 2006. This was a stop we thoroughly enjoyed by boat and have since even taken the time to stop when we’ve been through the area by car.

Working our way north through Core Creek, after leaving Beaufort, one has a couple decisions to make about side trips and route choices. The first side trip is up the Neuse River to New Bern, North Carolina – the birthplace of Pepsi. Pharmacist Caleb Bradham introduced the drink at his store in downtown New Bern in 1898. New Bern’s downtown waterfront is reminiscent of many of the southern river towns, with lots of history, courthouse squares and historic districts. In addition to all this, New Bern has a regional airport, several marinas for short or long-term dockage and is currently in the midst of celebrating its 300th birthday. New Bern is far enough south that most boaters in this area leave their vessels in the water year round.

Lucky for us Wade and Susie have a canal behind their house in New Bern, N.C., where we stayed for few days.

New Bern is also home to our friends Wade and Susie, Miss Happ, who we first met on the Illinois River in 2005. Since that chance encounter we’ve traveled by boat together, stayed at their home, they’ve visited us in Charlevoix and we’ve met up at boat shows and Trawler Fests. We also hope to see them this summer as they head out on another Great Loop adventure. When we were together last October they had just ordered a new 36-foot Marine Trader Trawler, which just arrived a couple of weeks ago. They’ve named their new boat Shady Lady; Wade assures me it has nothing to do with Susie. As I write this log they are preparing it for the yearlong trip. They’ll make it to the crystal clear waters of Lake Michigan by August when we hope to get a personal tour of their new Shady Lady.

Wade and Susie’s new Shady Lady getting ready to be launched for it’s maiden voyage.

From New Bern we would retrace our steps back out the Neuse River to the Pamlico Sound, on to Belhaven and Albemarle Sound. Once in Albemarle Sound you can either take the Dismal Swamp ICW route (via Elizabeth City) or go up the optional ICW route through Coinjock via the North River. Both routes lead to Norfolk, Virginia and the southern shores of the Chesapeake Bay. They each offer a different experience. We personally prefer the Dismal Swamp route. Before I explain my logic though I’d like to mention an earlier side trip option to Roanoke Sound where Kitty Hawk, Nags Head and Manteo are all located.

Lisa and I have never been to the Roanoke area but we have this on our boating bucket list of places to visit on a return visit. Rich with the history of the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk, Roanoke’s connection to the Civil War, two World Wars, Black Beard’s buried treasures and endless ocean side beaches, we feel it’s a place well worth marking on the charts as a place to spend time exploring.

The Dismal Swamp is long and narrow and often as still as in this photo.

Ok, back to “which way to go” when we get to the Pamlico Sound. Lisa and I have taken both the Dismal Swamp and Coinjock route and we prefer the more remote and scenic route through Elizabeth City and the historical “Swamp.” It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the Coinjock route, as a matter of fact if someone wants to make better time it’s the more logical choice, not to mention having the legendary prime rib dinner at the Coinjock Marina Restaurant.

The canal that runs though the swamp is the oldest continuously operating canal (often called “the ditch”) in the United States. George Washington was one of the original owners. For us the natural beauty of the Dismal Swamp, even though it’s a slow go, is much more enjoyable. It’s not every day you can navigate your boat through a tight backwater swamp surrounded by tall cypress trees and canopies of overgrown garlands of gray moss which hang close to your boat. The only drawback would be if someone had a draft that could not clear the six-foot minimum depth. Lucky for us our draft is only four feet.

There is enough room for four or five boats to tie up at the Visitor’s Center dock on the Dismal Swamp route. Sometimes they’re three abreast after the locks close for the day.

On our last trip through the Dismal Swamp we tied up to the Visitor’s Center complimentary dock and spent the night. Docked in front of us was a boat called Queen Ann’s Revenge. It seemed like such a coincidence that this boat had the same namesake as Black Beard’s famous pirate ship, at the same time we were cruising through the pirate’s old stomping grounds. Hank and Ann, the owners, bearing no resemblance to pirates, became fast friends of ours and we have crossed paths a number of times over the last year.

When we left the Dismal Swamp Visitor’s Center, heading north, we crossed the path of the Coinjock ICW route, about six miles south of Norfolk, Virginia and the eventual entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. We’ve traveled through and stopped in the Norfolk area three times on Kismet and each time we were in awe of the large-scale shipping/military vessel presence. When you look at a chart one can easily see the strategic location Norfolk plays in the defense of our country as well as our economy.

This is photo of a shipyard just across from our marina in Norfolk, Virginia.; my guess is our boat would be too small for them to work on.

On one of our stops in Norfolk we were able to dig a little deeper into the area’s Naval history when we toured the Hampton Roads Naval Museum. The HRNM dedicates itself to the study of the 234-year history of the Navy and, although we’re always looking for the opportunity to learn new things, I’m sure we only scratched the surface in our short visit. It’s worth another visit someday.

Next door to the Museum rests the retired WWII Battleship Wisconsin. Lisa and I feel fortunate to own a 40-foot trawler and we think we live pretty comfortably on our floating home but we never realized how insignificant our boat was until we boarded the Wisconsin. At 887 ft. 3 in. in length and a beam of 108 ft. 2 in., the U.S. Naval ship could fit 44 of our Fathom trawlers along the length of her deck. Heck, the draft alone is 37 ft. 8 in., almost as deep as our boat is long. It was a thrill to be able to stand on the deck of one of the last battleships built to serve in WWII.

Lisa and I standing on the deck of the Wisconsin enjoying a tour of the spacious vessel.

I started this log by discussing all the decisions one is faced with when doing the Great Loop as it relates to navigational options, ports of call and side trips and for purposes of this Log, we’ve only just reached the beginning of the Chesapeake Bay. As boaters and adventurers we try to challenge ourselves by taking the route less traveled, to seek out the unique, unusual and more remotely natural, we enjoy getting off the main route. We like to do this so that we can broaden our overall Great Loop experience. We welcome the diversity this type of boat travel entails because it offers us new opportunities to stretch our boundaries and gives us a chance to discover hidden nooks and crannies along the waterway.