Cruising Stories

ADELAIDE Part One

The Niehoffs’ Two-Year Adventure

By
Peter
Niehoff

SEPTEMBER 14

44° 18.46 N, 68° 33.55W

North Brooklin, Maine

Today we move onto Adelaide, the boat that is to be our home for the next nine months.We plan to drop the mooring in the morning, and then the voyage will begin. The weather has turned chilly here in Maine and the leaves have begun to fall. While autumn is beautiful in the Northeast, there is also a good north wind that can blow us south, so it is time to leave.We'll ease down the coast past Portland, Gloucester, Boston and Newport.

We then plan to spend most of October in the Chesapeake Bay area before rounding Cape Hatteras and heading down the coast to the Florida Keys.We look forward to hearing from our friends along the way. Please remember to keep emails short, no forwards or pictures. We will get back to you as soon as possible.We thank you for your interest in us, and for your prayers for our safety.

SEPTEMBER 25

42° 22.18 N, 71° 03.49W

Boston Harbor, Massachusetts

The good ship Adelaide is at dock in Boston Harbor. We are just across from the naval ship Constitution, aka Old Ironsides, of War of 1812 fame. She is a beautiful ship, and to our surprise fires her cannon as she hauls down her flag at sunset.

After we left our cottage boarded up for the winter we set sail south. Our stops in Maine included Camden; Hog Island, which is owned by the Sierra Club and has some beautiful walking trails; and Portland.

We spent a couple of days in Portland one was for weather, and the other was so that we could see a fine exhibit of Impressionist art at the Portland Art Gallery. We then sailed on to Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Gloucester, Massachusetts; and Boston, where we are currently doing laundry and topping off our fuel and water.

The crew-members are being well fed and getting their sea legs. We have caught fish, navigated into busy Boston Harbor in a thick fog, seen porpoise and seals, and been offshore in fairly large swells. The sailing has not been all that good, with light winds mostly on the bow, and so we have motored more than we would like, but everyone is getting used to living on a small boat. School has begun, and while it hasn't been much of an adjustment to start the home schooling on the boat, getting back into a routine is always hard.

Tomorrow we head for Plymouth, and then on to Buzzards Bay; Martha's Vineyard; Newport, Rhode Island; and Long Island Sound. We are in no hurry and are enjoying how glorious New England is at this time of year. Tomorrow is Beth and my 20-year anniversary, and we are very happy to be celebrating it in Plymouth. We are grateful for our time together and look forward to everything to come. God has truly blessed us.

OCTOBER 13

38° 51.516 N, 76° 10.727W

Wye River, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

After leaving Boston on September 26, we found a neat little anchorage near Plymouth Harbor. We looked for the famous rock but did not find it, and our keel is grateful.We had one of our better sailing days so far, with 10-15 knots of wind just aft of beam. From Plymouth we took aim for Cape Cod and the Cape Cod Canal, which splits the cape at its narrowest point. Catching the tide through the canal is critical, as it can run six knots.

We spent that night in Hadley Harbor, Buzzards Bay.Newport, Rhode Island was our next port of call. We spent four nights there waiting for a nor'easter to blow through with its gale force winds. Newport was fun, a real sailor's town steeped in America's Cup tradition. We toured some of the famous mansions, caught up on rest and schoolwork, and generally took it easy.The next few days had us moving down Long Island Sound toward New York City, stopping each night at a new anchorage.We had one of our best sails yet along the New Jersey shore.

Winds were strong from behind, and the boat was surfing down the waves. Adelaide hit 10.4 knots coming down one wave! The cold wind was driving us south to the Chesapeake.We arrived in Annapolis on October 10 and spent a couple of days going to stores for food and supplies. The Chesapeake is beautiful at this time of year, with fall foliage and flocks of migrating geese. As I write this, we are anchored in a picturesque river (a bald eagle flew over this morning), and we plan to stay in the area for a while to catch up on schoolwork and boat chores. Sometime toward the end of the month we'll head south for the Norfolk area and begin looking for a weather window so that we can get around Cape Hatteras and hit our target, Charleston.

NOVEMBER 2

34° 37.211 N, 76° 33.043W

Anchored Point Lookout Bight, near Beaufort, N.C.

The crew is happy to be in the south again, it got pretty chilly in the Chesapeake Bay before we left on October 30. We stayed in the Wye River area for about a week, enjoying the peace and beauty and topping off the visit with a stay in St. Michaels, a charming little town with a church that played hymns on its chimes.

We met an older Aussie couple, Moss and Theresa, who had been living and traveling aboard for six years. They were full of stories and helpful hints.We also met a family with four kids. The children hit it off instantly, and we spent three nights with them on St. Leonard's Creek, off the Patuxent River. The kids played ashore each day after school, building caves in the cliffs and fishing. Evenings brought some intense charades between families. After that we followed a cold front south to the Norfolk area. From there the Cape Hatteras passage is a 30-hour overnight trip.

We left Norfolk early one morning and motored out of the bay. Naval ships were practicing maneuvers, so we were on our toes until we were well out to sea.With winds blowing 15-20  knots off our stern quarter and seas of 5-6 feet, we sailed south at 7-8 knots. For the evening watch schedule, Tyler and I rotated three-hour stints with Beth and Petersen. Keeping the boat on course, with sails set properly, and watching out for the many big ships were our major duties. The midnight watch was beautiful, with a full moon shining on the ocean. In the morning the water had turned that deep blue color, a real contrast from the muddy Chesapeake.

Tyler and Petersen caught six bonito, hauling them in so fast that it was all I could do to keep up and cut the steaks for dinner that night. A pod of dolphins visited us, surfing our bow wave and playing and dancing around the boat. The show lasted about 15 minutes; all of us were in awe.Our anchorage at Lookout Bight is inside one of the barrier islands. Sand dunes and beach surround the boat. The kids are making sandcastles and swimming. Beth is looking forward to ordering a Dr. Pepper in a restaurant, and I am looking forward to ordering iced tea and being asked if I want it sweet. It's nice to be back in the south!P.S.,Winston the Sailor Cat is fine. He has gotten his sea legs and rarely complains. Catching the bonito has been his highlight so far, but watching sea gulls and pelicans and generally lying around isn't so bad either.

DECEMBER 4

26° 42.979 N,  02.943W

West Palm Beach, Fla.

Our goal for the first part of this cruise was to leave Maine by mid-September and arrive in West Palm Beach by mid- December, where we planned to keep the boat while we traveled home for Christmas. So far, so good.Our trip has been blessed by nice weather, a safe passage, and a healthy crew.

We have met friends, been helped by strangers, and seen parts of this country we never knew. We have learned to work together, and to do things we have never done. Things seem more intense on the boat the beautiful things, like dolphins jumping the bow wave or a star-filled night watch; and the mundane things, like how good Beth's beef stew tastes offshore or the joy of standing in a hot shower with unlimited water. The scary things are more intense too: confusion about which channel we're in, our fuel filters clogging, a storm whipping up the wind and the seas. Everything seems more personal, more real, than things did when we were not living on the boat.Charleston was wonderful.

We stayed a week there, seeing the houses, visiting the museum and aquarium, meeting people on other boats and sharing experiences and plans. From Charleston it was a 30-hour offshore trip to Fernandina Beach, Florida. Everyone was sleepy from the night watches as we were coming into Fernandina. I was checking the charts when the radio blared, Southbound sailboat, this is the naval vessel on your starboard bow. I looked to starboard, and seeing nothing began to conclude that they weren't talking to us. Suddenly a nuclear submarine surfaced off our bow. Everyone was awake then! It was hard for me to believe that 30 minutes earlier we had felt very alone in a small boat out on a big ocean.

We have been in West Palm Beach for about a week, doing maintenance, catching our breaths, and visiting friends. Currently there is a late tropical storm east of the Bahamas. Hopefully it will make up its mind and head away from here, so that we can get down to the Keys before our trip home for the holidays. This will be the last update we send until we come back to Florida and head for the Bahamas.

Related Articles
The Autumn: Why Haul Out
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Water and Fall foliage at Dory's Fall
Dory's Fall

Why do so many yachtsmen hurriedly haul out their boats immediately after Labor Day? Sure, the kids are back to school, and the weather starts to change. But we have enjoyed some of our most clear, calm, beautiful days boating in the fall. I dare say don’t haul before fall, have a ball while everyone else is buttoning up their boats and turning to watch football or baseball. Perhaps those sun-soaked sandbar rafting days have passed until next summer, but from New England to the southern coasts you’ll still find glorious warm days, less boat wake and less boat traffic in general, which opens a world of late season cruising opportunities. My father always said boating is better once the “summer yahoos disappear.”

Boating Experience: So soon in fall? 

A FEW REASONS TO LOVE THE FALL BOATING SEASON

Red Fall tree with water and boat in the background
Cape Porpose Maine Fall

Fall boating is just quieter. As most boaters vacate the water in lieu of other pursuits, September and October can offer brilliant blue-sky days. Waterways that were jam-packed with everything from inflatables to tour boats a month prior are now more open for you to explore. Loud two stroke “boater-cycles,” as my friend likes to call jet skis and sea-doos (personal propelled watercraft) are trailered away leaving in the absence of their wake- jumping a more serene scene.

Foliage starts to pop on the waterfront come mid-September into October from Maine to Virginia. The sparkling water reflects the kaleidoscope of autumn leaves in their shimmering crimson, gold and orange. It’s spectacular, truly a photographer’s dream, whether you’re on a lake, the ocean, a beautiful bay or waterway. Boating in September, October, even into November a bit farther south, is a gem. Just be mindful of the forecast, hurricane season, and significant temperature shifts that invite pop-up storms.

Man's legs propped up on seats facing stern of the boat with sunset in the background
Block Island, RI.

The weather. With cooler fall days, temps trend toward delightfully crisp and clear. Days are also shorter, so midday boating is best for peak sun. For your boating comfort, have sweatshirts, sweaters or jackets handy, even hats and gloves, especially if you’re in northern New England.

Good news: Gone are the hot humid mugginess and the bugs that accompany spring and summer heat. Bonus: you have less chance of that scorching summer sunburn. Still, be sure to apply sunscreen, refraction on the water is real even when a chill is in the air. You may want to eat steamed lobster by the waterfront, but you don’t want to look like one. Evenings on the water cool off, making for great sleeping aboard. Snuggle under covers and wake to fresh air and hot coffee on deck that never tasted so good in another season.

Fall means more available dock slips, moorings and anchorages as many are pulling their boots “up on the hard,” which frees up marina space for you. The same prime spots that were impossible to get in summer, with wait lists at places like Block Island, Newport and Annapolis, are now wide open. Same goes for waterfront restaurants with tie ups; their face docks are free and on a first come first served basis.

Just be prepared that dockhands and marina staff may not be as readily available in the fall, as students that typically manage the docks have returned to their campuses, and marine techs are pre-occupied prepping folks’ boats for winterization and storage. Be ready to tend your own lines.

Wildlife abounds in fall. Migratory birds are on the move. Enjoy watching geese, loons and birds-of-a-feather flocking south as winter approaches.

Speaking of marine life, if you like to fish, then fall is your wish. As temperatures decline, the fish sense that winter is coming. In preparation of the next season, fish begin their migrating south and their subsequent feeding frenzy.

Sailboat on a mooring with fall trees in the background
Kennebunkport Fall Foilage

Snowbirds of the human variety start their boating trek south too, if they aren’t storing their boat up north. Cruising the ICW in fall can be a social circuit where you may see the same boat owners and crew as you stop along your way at various harbors and marinas. It’s entertaining to compare ship logs and experiences from your adventures, favorite sights and seaports, with fellow boaters along your journey.

I have always loved how friendly boaters can be, and how an impromptu sharing of dock-side drinks aboard yours or their top deck can quickly transpire into an animated evening talking about best and worst boating with your nautical neighbors.

Word of caution: don’t be like my dear deceased, super-dedicated-to-boating Dad who insisted there’d be one more great boating day in late fall in New Hampshire. He would hold out on hauling his 28’ Eastern well into November, insisting it’s not winter till December. I recall more than once having to chip the ice of the dock lines to free up his pride- and-joy, then boating to the nearest icy ramp while frost clung to the windshield, and it was bitter cold on the slippery decks. That’s taking fall boating to an extreme.

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Cruising Grenada
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Sugar Spice and Everything Nice

When the end of the cruising season in the southern Caribbean was upon us, we did what many Caribbean cruisers do: We sailed south for Grenada. We delayed as long as possible, knowing the hurricane season was upon us, but we didn’t want to be forced south. I had one impression of Grenada, and that was of rotting boats and retired sailors. It was a cruisers graveyard, or so I thought, and I was far from accepting an end to our sailing days.

Grenada is the southernmost group of islands in the Lesser Antilles archipelago as well as the name of the main island in a cluster of eight smaller islands and about a dozen smaller islets and cays. The only thing I knew of its geography prior to arriving was that it was one of the few island groups in the Caribbean far enough south to be considered out of the hurricane belt. So, it was ironic that on our first day in the country we had to shelter in the mangroves from a Category 1 storm.

As we lashed our boat Ātea’s bow to densely bound tree roots and secured lines to the cleats of yachts on either side of us, our small unit became part of the larger, unified collective. Little did we realize that this interconnection would be representative of our Grenadian experience.

Safely through the storm, we disbanded and spread out to explore our new surroundings. We completed our clearance in Carriacou, Grenada’s northern sister island, and were amazed to see a hundred or so yachts anchored in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou’s main harbor. I knew Grenada was popular, but if the numbers of boats in Carriacou were anything to judge by, I’d have to cope with much larger crowds when we travelled farther south.

The south coast of Grenada not only provides the most settled weather, but it’s riddled with about a dozen safe harbors from the dominant easterly swell. It’s the reason cruisers gather on Grenada’s south coast and also the reason why they remain. Some stay for hurricane season, some use the island as a base for a few years, others retire from active cruising and either settle or sell. One thing was certain: Grenada was far more than the end of the line.

Before making the journey south, however, we wanted to stretch out the season by adding a short circumnavigation around Carriacou, known as “The Isle of Reefs” to the Kalinago people (the original Island Caribs). We spent our time there dodging bommies (submerged coral reefs) and soaking up the tropical island experience with our feet in the sand, our bellies in the water and our hands on a bottle of rum.

We stopped at Petite Martinique, the third and smallest of the three main islands. There we enjoyed rugged, rocky beaches and side-stepped clusters of goats grazing the green rolling hills as we hiked up Mount Piton for panoramic views of the surrounding islands. We climbed down into the Darant Bay Cave for framed views of the same islands at sea level.

Of course, we couldn’t miss a few sundowners on Mopion, a tiny sand mound rising amid expansive coral reef with a single thatched beach umbrella perched in the center. While technically a part of the Grenadines, its proximity to Petite Martinique made a quick dash across the border for a sip in the shade of this unique little spot a worthwhile experience. Carriacou is an island surrounded by unspoiled reef, and it did not disappoint. A quick tour of her perimeter was the perfect way to salute the end of an amazing Caribbean season.

With a quick stop-over in Ronde Island, a beautiful private island that’s halfway between Carriacou and Grenada, we continued our transit south. Again, I hadn’t prepared myself for the wild beauty of Grenada’s west coast. Mile after mile of dense, lush forest cascade down the leeward side of the island from peak to sea.

We hugged the coastline as we sailed the 13 miles down the west coast, looking up at 2,700 feet of volcanic rock and shear waterfalls that fed small rivers that ran down the slopes of the mountainous interior to the coast. While Grenada is well reputed as a tourist destination for holidaymakers seeking either a sun- drenched party or quiet refuge on one of its 45 beaches, I knew from sailing the coast that my preferences would draw me inland.

Grenada’s coastline contains many large bays, but most yachts head for safe anchorage behind one of the many narrow peninsulas that split up the southern coastline. As we pulled into Prickly Bay, the first of Grenada’s southern harbors, I knew from the crowd of yachts that I would escape to the interior as soon as possible. As it turned out, I didn’t get that chance. As soon as we dropped anchor, we were invited ashore for a cruiser’s jam session to reconnect with friends from past seasons.

The following day we crammed into the back seat of a taxi on our way to an event for the annual Chocolate Festival, and our schedule quickly filled after that with tours of cocoa plantations, cocoa grinding competitions, chocolate tastings and chocolate drawing contests. In additional to the island’s cultural events, we were also immediately drawn into the cruiser’s social scene.

On our first week of arrival our mornings were already booked into early morning yoga and bootcamp on the beach. The kids joined a cruiser’s homeschooling collective and regular extracurricular activities that were held under the shade of the trees. If we weren’t listening to live music or joining the locals’ beach barbecues in the evenings, we were sitting poolside and sipping beers from a $5 bucket with other cruisers at Le Phare Bleu, a boutique hotel that opened its amenities and services to cruisers during the pandemic.

Every morning offered an activity, and every evening we joined a social get-to-gether, so the weeks flew by in a social extravaganza unlike any we’d experienced. As yachts gather in Grenada every year for the hurricane season, the regularity of this influx of boats resulted in a solid cruising community and a variety of services and events. Far more than a collection of retired boats and sunburnt seamen, my preconceived notions of Grenada didn’t come close to the reality of the vibrant cruising network that existed on this popular island.

As we made new friends and reconnected with old ones, we really enjoyed the buzz that the tight community offered.

Pulling myself out of continuous activity took a concerted effort, but I eventually dragged the family off the beach and up the mountains.

After our trip into the interior, I developed a new passion for my time in Grenada: A short bus journey followed by a hike into the forest would lead us to one of Grenada’s many waterfalls. Unlike other tourist destinations where fees were handed over and you’d stand under falls next to groups of other tourists, we had the rivers for free and all to ourselves. Some of the trails were near the road, and we’d hop on and off a bus to walk the short distance to the falls. Others, such as Seven Sisters and the Concord Falls, required planning as it took a full day to hike in and out of the forest, clambering up steep banks and crisscrossing the river to wind through deep forest and get a view from the top.

Each part of the river that ran down from one of the six inland lakes had its own magic, and I was enthusiastic to see what each had to offer. Later I appreciated all that I’d experienced of Grenada’s inland beauty. As I paid $20 per person to stand in crowds under cascading water at Costa Rica’s most popular waterfalls, I couldn’t help but compare it to all that I’d seen in Grenada’s secluded, remote interior.

In additional to nature, we explored some of the historical roots of Grenada’s past. Grenada’s original economy was based on sugar cane and indigo, and with that, slaves were imported in the mid-17th century to work and harvest crops. We set out to search for some of the old plantation houses and slave pens that remained from that period, which took us on a wild tramp through the backstreets of quiet neighborhoods and into unmarked bush to find these lost relics.

It was quite the education for our children to see small, dank, windowless, stone slave quarters set behind grand old houses, a potent reminder of darker times in this beautiful and vibrant country. We also smelled and sampled some of Grenada’s current crops, nutmeg, mace and cocoa at the top of the list of exports, and enjoyed local culinary treats such as oil down, a vegetable stew that is the country’s national dish. Thanks to these excursions we can say that Grenada is, both figuratively and literally, full of sugar and spice.

Cruising often leaves you tied to the boat and, therefore, the sea. Grenada offered a wonderful period of enjoying the most of both land and sea in equal balance, so we were able to get the most of what the country has to offer. To see the beaches but not the forest, lakes and rivers offers only half the experience; likewise, to spend time inland but not explore the coast leaves only half an impression. As Grenada offers safe anchorage throughout the hurricane season, cruisers remain nearby for an extended period, sharing experiences and building friendships. This is unique for a community that is typically very transient, and it offers plenty of opportunity to create a home away from home atmosphere.

In addition, suitable yacht services are available, so that time spent waiting for the next season gives everyone a chance to get much needed repair work done. Far from being the end of the line, Grenada offers an interim rest stop where friendships are forged and yachts are restored on an island that offers a range of activities and opportunities both on and above the waterline.

Article and photos by Kia Koropp

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Our Adventures between the Great Lakes from Detroit to Port Huron
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My husband Tim and I spent 2021 traveling 8,000 miles around the Great Loop. Like many, we wanted to cruise in Canada, but we didn’t get the green light for entry in time. We were initially bummed, but our mood quickly shifted as we discovered some of our favorite stops on the stretch that kept us in U.S. waters, including our journey between Lake Erie and Lake Huron.

Stop 1: Belle Isle

Estimated Mileage: 2 NM

Belle Isle is the largest city-owned island park in America, located on the Detroit River between the United States and Canada. The island’s only marina is the Detroit Yacht Club, which has a limited number of transient slips for reciprocal members, so it’s best to explore while keeping your boat at Milliken Marina. 

Roughly 1,000 acres, Belle Isle is home to an aquarium, maritime museum, botanical garden, beach, picnic areas and playgrounds that provide a plethora of options to explore. You won’t find great spots to grab a bite to eat, so we recommend stopping at Atwater Brewery on the way back to the marina.

Stop 2: Harrison Township, Lake St. Clair

Estimated Mileage: 24 NM

Often referred to as the Great Lake’s smaller cousin, Lake St. Clair is large enough to easily keep your distance from freighters yet small enough to explore in a day.

By boat, you can visit several of the lake’s swimming spots in Anchor and Bouvier Bays (or “Munchies” Bay as the locals say), popular for their clear water and hard bottoms. After an afternoon of swimming, cruise through the Clinton River and tie up at one of several restaurants catering to a lively boater scene for a drink and meal. Crews Inn is one of our favorites for their fun atmosphere and great food.

Lake St. Clair Metropark Marina is a popular spot for transients. The marina is located in the park, so after docking, enjoy the expansive park’s beaches, trails, picnic areas and swimming pool.

Stop 3: Port Huron, MI

Estimated Mileage: 44 NM

Port Huron is home to the start of one of the longest fresh-water races in the world called the Port Huron to Mackinac Sailing Race, and the port is a charming and boater-friendly destination.

Ideal for its central location and friendly members, Port Huron Yacht Club is a great place for tying up, sipping a drink at the clubhouse and avoiding the drawbridges on the Black River. Another popular spot is about a mile farther down the river at the 95-slip River Street Marina.

Port Huron is home to the Island Loop Route National Water Trail, a 10-mile loop through the Black River, Lake Huron and St. Clair River. Your dinghy is a must through the Black River and for exploring the town and clear waters by boat.

Walk a mile along the Blue Water River Walk that runs along the St. Clair River. Be sure to leave enough time to watch the freighters go by and delve into the area’s history that is shared along the route. Continue a couple of miles farther to Lighthouse Park, where you can enjoy an afternoon at the beach and swim in Lake Huron’s crystal clear water.

During a stroll downtown, check out the Knowlton’s Ice Museum of North America to discover the history of local ice harvesting that took place along the Great Lakes.

When you’ve done enough activities to work up an appetite, Casey’s is the place for delicious breadsticks and pizza. For a more upscale option, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu at The Vintage Tavern. Maria’s Downtown Café offers a hearty breakfast, and Raven Café or Exquisite Corpse Coffee House are great options for a cup of coffee.

Kate Carney is a writer and Great Gold Looper who traveled 8,000 miles on Sweet Day, a 31-foot Camano trawler. Learn more about her and her husband’s adventures on lifeonsweetday.com

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