Coloring the Void

living nomadically

Archive for the tag “boat”

Watching the ships roll in

Scenes at the Cape Cod Railroad Bridge, the railroad crossing for the Cape Cod Canal. Trains still use it though we were never able to catch one on it. The bridge goes up and down, spending most of its time up for boat traffic.

At the Woods Hole Science Aquarium. It is free to get in and great for kids (or adults who love sea life). It isn’t very big but they do have touch tanks and lots of information. Mike and I both grew up on Jacques Cousteau and followed the explorations of Alvin, so  visiting Woods Hole was a no-brainer. The small town ended up being one of our favorites though we didn’t get to spend much time there.

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Probably the prettiest lighthouse we visited was Nobska Point Light just outside of Falmouth. The location is sublime (even in the rain) and just what one would expect of a New England Light house.

Falmouth is also a boating town, with a fairly large marina (by Cape Cod standards) and tons of mooring balls. They have a very good, small farmer’s market and a great, walkable downtown core. During our stay, we tried Maison Villatte for desert (amazing chocolate and almond croissants and bread). We had lunch at La Cucina Sul Mare and really enjoyed their lunch specials and their incredibly reasonable prices; definitely a place I would go back to. The food was prepared well. We met a friend for burgers and beer at Liam McGuire’s Irish Pub. Both were good as was the conversation. While we couldn’t stay for the daily live music we were assured that it was the big draw for the standing room only crowd. If you go, get there early!

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We thought the red boat would make a perfect Great Loop Boat. Its a little larger than we want but the big windows and all that deck space would be a wonderful place to watch the world drift by.

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Dexter Grist Mill in Sandwich. They still grind corn here, and they sell it, too. In the pond, we watched fish mark and protect their territory, making small circles free of debris which they circled to keep other fish out.

On another rainy day we passed through Barnstable and stopped at the Coast Guard Museum for a visit. Our actual reason for being there was the Old Jail, built in 1690. Its history is pretty cool but we didn’t get to see any of it – no one was there. It sits on the grounds of the Coast Guard Heritage Museum, so we wandered through that instead. The museum had displays starting from the beginning of the existence of the coast guards, right through modern times. What I found most fascinating was the light ships – boats that were constructed to be used as light houses where light houses couldn’t be built. Yes, I lead a sheltered life; I had never heard of them. There are none operating in the US (as commissioned light ships) at this time, but they can be found in places like New York, Virginia, Michigan, and Delaware. None currently on Cape Cod.

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See that little point sticking up on land way way over there (about center right in the image)? That is the Sandy Neck Lighthouse in Barnstable. Unless you have a boat, a resident sticker, or the ability to walk ten miles (round trip) in sand, that is as close as you can get to it. I had none of the above (okay, we could have walked the ten miles but had absolutely no desire to) and so we viewed it from the Barnstable Beach. Two things we noticed about parking on Cape Cod: the beach parking is expensive ($20/day, every day) and people go to parking lots and sit in their cars, especially parking lots with a view. All over Cape Cod, from the time we arrived to the time we left, there was not one parking lot we visited that did not have at least one car with a person in it just sitting. In some places, there were ten or more; some reading, some napping, some eating, some just staring. But there was always a person hanging out in their car. We go a lot of places. We have been all over the country and hung out in a lot of parking lots. But we have never seen anything like the parking lot vigils in Cape Cod.  Why? We will never know.

There was even a car parked at the Sargo Tower in Dennis. Okay, that is our jeep and it was us. The Scargo Tower was built specifically for the view. While we didn’t get the full view the day we were there, the view was pretty impressive. On a clear day, one can see all the way to Provincetown, which is where my camera was aimed for the bottom picture. We could see the Cape Cod Bay, but not any further.

We visited Chatham one day, a very pretty town at the elbow of Cape Cod. We caught the “Sharks in the Park” installation but missed out on the “Lifeboats in the Shops” scavenger hunt. I guess we don’t shop enough.  We managed to find (and get up close to) the Chatham Lighthouse and the beautiful beach attached.

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As you can see, the beach has some great sand bars off shore. From a map, it seems they stretch for miles. If we ever return, we will head here with our kayak. It looks like a great place to play Robinson Crusoe for a day.

We then headed up to Chatham Pier and Fish Market but it wasn’t open. We did get to see a few seals though, and a lot of work boats.

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If you want to buy a float, this is the place to do it. They also have wicked fudge. Eastham.

We also found another lighthouse, Nauset Light which had been moved a bit away from the coast. Fascinating fact about lighthouses – they each have their own light pattern. This enables boat/ship captains to verify their location at night or in fog when land masses can’t always be seen. This particular lighthouse is the one on the Cape Cod Potato Chip bag.ma301

We also spent an entire day wandering around Provincetown. It is like Key West of the North with the same funky beach vibe and far out people.

 

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This picture was taken a few hours earlier than the one before it. The streets get crowded as the day progresses.

The Pilgrim Memorial can be seen from just about everywhere in the town.

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The remains of the Provincetown Theatre

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We ate lunch at the Lobster Pot. Good food but pricey, a tourist location.

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lots and lots of boats in P-town.

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We also spent some time wandering the coast of Provincetown – there is a lot of it!

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The bay is taking back the land, including the parking lot. Way off in the distance (near center) is another lighthouse (Race Point Lighthouse).

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The causeway will take you to Woods End Light Station on the Provincetown Spit. The lighthouse is that bump above the couple’s head.

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Our two weeks on Cape Cod went very, very fast. We only saw and did about half of what we planned to. We never made it to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard. We didn’t spend a lot of time at Cape Cod National Seashore.  We didn’t eat a gazillion lobsters or gallons of chowder. Time got away from us. If we had been ‘vacationing’ for two weeks, we probably would have done all that and more but we would have been exhausted afterwards. We tried that last year in Alaska and burned out after about 10 weeks of non-stop go. So we took it easy in Cape Cod and still enjoyed every minute.

One thing Cape Cod did was solidify our desire for a boat. We spent hours looking at boats and debating the kind of boat we want. Like RVs, there isn’t a single boat that can do everything we want well. But there are a few that can do much of what we want well enough. Being raised around the Chesapeake Bay, we love gunkholing. Sailboats are very limited in their gunkholing ability (don’t tell a sailor that!) so we are looking at shallow draft trawlers. Our previous boat would float in 18 inches of water and we loved getting all the way into little creeks to hide away from the deep vee and sailboat crowds of the bay. With that settled, we debate on towable vs. non-towable and keep going back and forth, debating live aboard size vs. ability to drag the boat around the country visiting water from coast to coast. Depending on the day, we vote for one or the other. Some day we will figure it out. Or, the perfect boat will magically appear in front of us one day like a rainbow and it will be too good to resist.

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taken while driving.

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Jonathan Dickson State Park

There were entirely too many things to do at Jonathan Dickson State Park. We tried to do it all during our six days there, but alas, we fell short. We hated to leave but, we had places we had to be…

First, the park itself. JDSP is huge. There are two campgrounds, lots and lots of walking trails, and a good river to kayak on, with both rental boats and a place to drop your own.

We stayed in the Pine Grove Campground, which has wide paved sites with full hook ups. Though it can get crowded in the center of the loops, we had an outside site (#8) where our patio overlooked what we called our ‘african savannah’ tree.  Yes, the campground is pretty bare – all the trees were knocked down in a hurricane a few years ago – but the rangers are out planting trees and shrubs with the hope they will grow. Some day it may again be a pine grove. The other campground, River Campground, is closed for remodeling. In the future, it will be our campground of choice – it still has some trees, the sites are pretty large and flat, and it is right near the river boat launch. You really can’t go wrong with either, though there is some road noise from the highway up at Pine Grove.

If you like hiking, there are probably 100 miles of official and unofficial trails here. While we only covered about 10 of them, we felt we got a pretty good overview of the park. JDSP was also our introduction to geocaching. Our motivation was pretty thin on a couple of the hotter days but, if you throw in a goal and a surprise, we can get moving pretty quick! We ended up with about 15 caches without trying too hard, and that was with the free “Intro” app. There are over 100 caches in the park, some really easy to find, others nearly impossible.

We also managed to blow up our kayak and drop it into the The Loxahatchee River. We had a few fun hours of kayaking but vowed to remember NOT to do it again on a weekend. The power boaters are mostly friendly and courteous, but every once in a while, you run into a ‘hotdog’ who isn’t.

A great place to visit while there is Blowing Rocks Preserve. Owned by the Nature Conservancy, Blowing Rocks protects about a mile of Florida coastline where limestone cliffs jut out of the sand. While they aren’t the cliffs of Oregon and California, they are a neat thing to see on the Florida coast. They get their name from the waves crashing into the cliffs at high tides. We got lucky and didn’t even have to make high tide – a storm was coming in and the wind had pushed the sea inland – the waves were huge much of the day.

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We also did a little bit of wandering around the area – there are some trails back through the sea grapes, across the road, and onto the inter-coastal side.

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A great place to visit in the area is the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. It is a refuge and hospital for Florida wildlife with great walking trails between the animal enclosures. They have a ton of various bird species among the animals and, the reason we came by, Florida Panthers. Having never seen one in the wild, I was interested in the ones they had rescued and rehabilitated. We spent a wonderful afternoon wandering around.

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We ate out quite a bit while we were there, probably because we were suffering from a withdrawal of eating out while in Ocala. Our first stop was the Shipwreck Bar and Grille. To be honest, we only ate here because the place we wanted to go was packed with a waiting line out the door. I’m pretty sure we would have been better off waiting for a seat at the other place. The second place we tried was Hogsnappers, which was fairly well reviewed. Maybe we just went on the wrong day or ate the wrong things on the menu. The sushi was okaaaaayyyyy, and the fish tacos aren’t even worth mentioning. We made it to Dune Dog, a very highly rated ‘hot dog stand’ with a great beach vibe and some pretty good beer choices. Yes, I would eat there again. Try the nachos.

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We met up with Deas and Jennifer (Nealys on Wheels) through RVillage and joined them at Tequesta Brewing. The beer was good and the conversation better, and we got to meet John and Jen, ex-fulltimers who are soon to be fulltimers again. We continued the night with The Crafty Crust which had great service, great beer, and great pizza.

We didn’t have a lot of down time while at JDSP, but we did have a great time and fell in love with the area. While we wouldn’t live there, we will definitely visit again. There is just so much to do…

Taking a break – Anchorage

Well, it finally happened – we got burned out. We have been doing a lot of travelling and touristing but not much living. Yes, our bills were paid, our laundry clean, we had food in the fridge, but our daily living had been crammed between racing here and hiking there and looking at this and learning about that. We needed a break.

We headed up to Eagle River Campground for a couple of days to rest and regroup. While there, we did run up to the nature center which is in a beautiful location, hiked around (there are many great hikes up there) and took in the views.

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View from one of the trails at Eagle River Nature Center

Internet weather sources stated that it would be cloudy and rainy the entire week. Since the campground is pretty much in the woods, we wouldn’t be getting much solar even if the sun was out (the paved, level campsites were really great though) we decided to ‘live it up’ and go to a private park with actual electricity. Whenever we are in a full hook up park, I always feel like I am in an upscale hotel – unlimited power, unlimited water, sometimes cable and wifi. It is a treat that I love to indulge in once in a while.

We went to Big Bear RV Park and Campground, just north of Anchorage in Wasilla. The wifi there is TengoNet (lousy) and there is no cable tv but the campground is quiet and there is actual grass, which Belle loved to roll around in. I was tempted to myself.

We finally did a much more thorough inside cleaning of the Short Bus, some inside cleaning of the jeep (we are still finding desert dust in it), got a ton of laundry done, and rested up for our next leg. It wasn’t a week of laying around though.

We were able to meet up with TipsOnRoadTripping.com, a family of seven touring Alaska in a 31′ class C. They have four weeks and were racing from New Jersey to Alaska and back. I have no idea how they can manage but they are having loads of fun.

We also met up with the Snowmads, a wonderful couple who are touring Alaska while they work full time from their RV.

A friend of ours from Maryland just happened to be moving to Anchorage for a great job and we spent a day with her running around, trying to find a moose. We were unsuccessful but we had a great time.

We had cocktail hour (or three) with another full timing couple who happened to be from the same area as we are (DC) and who happened to be in some of the same campgrounds as we (Florida) at the same time and we didn’t even know it until bumping into each other in Alaska. A Shenandoah National Park t-shirt started the conversation. Yes, it is a small world.

We also made an attempt to drive Hatcher Pass but the cloud cover completely socked us in before we got to the good part.

And, we had a blast on the Knik River racing up and down the gravel bars and through streams in our jeep. The jeep is still working and we didn’t need a tow so all is good.

Okay, so we didn’t take it too easy. But there was a day or two in there where we did nothing. Belle and I were having allergy attacks – we still don’t know which weeds are causing it – and we really needed time to exhale.

I don’t have a lot of pictures of this time. I also needed a break from the camera. A few years ago, I worked for a newspaper as a photographer. After about a year, I hated photography, I hated cameras, and I wanted out. Photography was no longer fun, it was work. I didn’t pick up a camera for an entire year after that though, before that, you wouldn’t catch me without one. By Anchorage, I was getting that feeling again; I felt obliged to take pictures and I was taking pictures of things that didn’t interest me. Looking back at what I have captured of Alaska, I can see the deterioration of my image quality starting just after Valdez. The images started lacking expression and have become more and more about representation. So I hope, with a break and the recognition of getting that feeling again, that I can get back to enjoying capturing life as I see it.

Oh, and we also made a firm decision to buy a boat. But more on that in the coming months as we wrestle with the funding and logistics.

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The first time I have every seen baby seagulls (there are three in the picture). Taken at Potter Marsh.

Seward

The drive to Seward, Alaska, like the drives all over the state, is sublime. An incredible view follows an amazing view and, if one stopped for each jaw dropping scene, one would never get to Seward.

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The beautiful Seward Highway

There is one spot on the road where construction seems to be on going, but we didn’t have to wait too long.

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The man had a parrot in his car. The bird must not have been happy with the traffic – he let it out to jump around.

When we pulled into town, we went right to the south end of Waterfront Park. There is one section of dry camping with not only a beautiful view, but a limited number of campsites (10) ensuring slightly smaller crowds than the huge main campground. We scored a site right on the water in the Iditarod Section – close to downtown and the Sealife Center.

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The view from my chair

There are a ton of free things to do in Seward like watching the birds:

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Seagulls chasing fish.

watching the otters:

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Otters doing what otters do.

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driving around to Lowell Point and hiking to Cain’s Head:

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The road to Lowell Point

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Seward viewed from the road to Lowell Point

driving around Nash Road to view Seward from the other side:

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Seward across Resurrection Bay from the end of Nash Road

and checking out the old boats or the state max security prison.

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Large wooden dry docked ship

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Another large wooden boat in dry dock. Maybe someday she will sail again

Or going to Exit Glacier:

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Exit Glacier

Or one can just wander up and down the waterfront, the small boat harbor, or downtown and enjoy a beautiful day. We did them all. Seward is a beautiful town, small and compact so it can easily be ‘done’ in a day. But a lot of the fun of Seward is in the not free stuff. We took a tour of the Sea Life Center (paid for with Exxon Valdez Money) and liked it – make sure to visit the bird room. And we took a dinner cruise to Fox Island through Kenai Fjord Tours – if we ever come back without an RV, Fox Island will be our first stop.

While we didn’t do a longer tour into Kenai Fjords National Park (we won’t leave our dog for more than five hours), we can highly recommend doing the nine hour Northwestern Fjord Tour through Kenai Fjord Tours. We did that tour several years ago and, while I don’t know if they still use the smaller (20 pax) boat, I do know that it is worth every penny. Between the glaciers and the wildlife, I was so exhausted by the end that I slept for the return trip into the harbor.

There is also fishing for salmon and halibut and we thought seriously about taking one – I love halibut. But, we have a freezer that will hold maybe ten lbs. of stuff. And it isn’t empty. If you have room to store the potential forty or more lbs. of fish, going fishing can be a great deal. For us, it would make the halibut cost about $50/lb. While the experience would be wonderful, there are many other excursions and trips we would prefer to blow our budget on.

Most of our time in Seward was spent just relaxing and watching the tide go in and out from our waterfront campsite. We got to see eagles, sea otters, sea lions, and even a whale without moving from our chairs. And while it took forever, the sunsets were worth the wait.

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Sunset from our chairs

We never woke up in time for the sunrises.

For those interested, there are plenty of over-nighting places in and around Seward. We found them on Nash Road (which also has a city campground) and on Exit Glacier Road. In both places, the views were spectacular.

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View at pull off on Exit Glacier Road.

We completely fell in love with Seward. It is the perfect size town with plenty to do and everything one could need for every day living (we spent over an hour in the hardware store, which had everything imaginable and more). And, of all the towns we visited so far, Seward has the best boating experiences possible. It would take months just to explore the Kenai Fjords National Park by boat. We will definitely return to Seward, hopefully next time with a boat.

Things we got for the trip to Alaska

Let me start off by saying that Alaska is not a foreign country, though it may seem like it with the amount of prep and planning people do, us included. Canada is, which, unless you ferry it both ways, but it is similar enough to the US that one barely notices one is in a different country. The border crossing and the money are dead giveaways though.

We have been planning a trip to Alaska for years. No, really, YEARS.  Our first time up here was on a cruise in 2000. We fell in love with the place and vowed to return.  We did that in 2007, again on a cruise though we added a week of land time to the end of our trip. And it was then that our plan was hatched: we would buy a boat and drive ourselves to Alaska. From 2007 to 2010, I learned everything I could about boating, Alaskan waters,and places to go.  I bought navigation maps. We bought a boat. It was a Very Small Boat, a C-Dory 22, but we spent our weekends and vacations on the boat, learning everything we could and adjusting to life on water. We had a plan.

Then one day, a thought occurred, somewhere around 2011. If we had an RV, we could hike. It would be just like the boat only ‘bigger’ in that we would have all the land to wander on, too. Admittedly, anchoring out in a boat is much easier than boondocking in a land yacht, but the premise is the same. So we bought a small trailer. We loved it so much that we bought a bigger trailer to go to places farther away for longer times. And then we quit/retired from our jobs and went on the road, aiming for Alaska.

We knew we needed land navigation aids for the trip. Our first purchase was The Milepost. So far, it has been an invaluable tool on the various roads through Canada. And, it gave me something to do on the long days anticipating the trip. We are using the 2013 edition which, so far, has been pretty accurate. Some of the construction areas have moved and a few new places have popped up along the way but, for the most part, it is dead on. We have even spotted wildlife EXACTLY where it said to watch out for wildlife. Pretty cool!

When we last purchased cell phones, we made sure to get Global capable cell phones. Two days before we crossed into Canada, we added a Canada Plan to our Verizon plan which gives us our talk minutes, unlimited text, and 100mb of data per month for $15 per month. We have our data turned off right now, as we haven’t needed it, but the texts and minutes are great to have, especially when the bank cuts off your credit cards. We have been lucky enough to keep our Verizon unlimited data plan, which will get great use in Alaska when we find cell signal. If you are buying a cell phone, I highly recommend getting one that takes decent pictures. Mike’s phone takes wonderful daylight pictures; mine sucks no matter how much light there is. So, he takes all the facebook pictures, and I post to the blog.

Much of Canada and Alaska doesn’t have cell service. More places than you would think in the US don’t have cell service. As a ‘just in case of emergency’ measure, and to keep in touch with family, we got a DeLorme InReach. It is a two way satellite messenger, allowing us to send and receive text messages anywhere in the world we can access the satellites. It is also a tracker and an emergency beacon with an SOS button just in case the crap hits the fan. As long as we can push the button, help will eventually show up. If you are curious about where we are or where we have been, check out our DeLorme page: Mike and Courtenay’s Big Adventure. As you can see, we have been from the Florida Keys to almost Alaska in less than a year.

Honestly, for the trip to Alaska, you don’t need more than that, and could probably use less. The weather so far has been warm and dry, warmer and drier than Washington state, so we haven’t needed polar fleece, mukluks, or other foul weather gear. Of course, we have only been up here a little over a week, but weather reports show 80 in Fairbanks. And, they have plenty of food in Canada and Alaska, it just may cost a little more. We did buy a Sea Eagle inflatable kayak to test out on some of the lakes or slow moving rivers, to see how we like ‘boating’ in Alaska. But other than that, all you really need is a desire for adventure and a little flexibility.

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