Thursday, December 13, 2007

Florida's First City

December 6-9, St. Augustine
We made it to Florida, and our first stop was beautiful St. Augustine. This city was established in 1565 as a military outpost of the Spanish empire, making it Florida’s oldest city and the oldest permanent European settlement in the United States. Castillo de San Marcos, the fort built to safeguard the city, was never defeated in battle and still holds its commanding post overlooking the inlet. On land, traces of those Spanish roots are visible in many of its photogenic buildings. Flagler University, originally built by Henry Flagler as a luxury hotel, towers over the Spanish quarter.

We toured the fort, walked down historic brick streets, ate Cuban food, and sipped free wine at the “First Fridays” art gallery crawl. Double the fun because Claus and Rachael were with us. After two nights in the marina, we anchored north of Bridge of Lions by the fort. From there, we had a fabulous view of white Christmas lights decorating the huge trees in the park and the rooflines of old waterfront shops.
On a boat in warm weather, away from TV commercials and shopping malls, Christmas can sneak up on us. Occasionally we see an inflatable Santa, sometimes boats are festooned with wreaths or lights, and bridge tenders will wish us “Happy Holidays,” but we’re not inundated with the trappings of the season. It was good to have another reminder of the Light that entered the world at Christmas and still lights the world with His presence and love.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Enchanted and Wild Things

November 28-December 5, Cumberland Island, Georgia
Just north of the border with Florida lies Georgia’s largest sea island, Cumberland Island. Since 1972 its natural beauty has been protected as a National Seashore. Our friends, Claus and Rachael, caught up with us at an anchorage near the south end of the island.

Moss-laden live oaks canopy paths through the maritime forest or spread their boughs in gnarled corkscrews over a bright green profusion of palmettos. Thick vines swing from tall pines. The effect is magical, like a fantasyland movie set. As you emerge from the light-diffused forest, sun-drenched sand dunes strewn with driftwood buffer the trees and surrounding salt marsh. Beyond the dunes, sparkling seas roll and break on miles of nearly deserted wide beach.

This enchanted land of varied scenery is home to a variety of animals. Armadillos rustle through the underbrush. Wild turkeys peck at open lawns around “Dungeness,” the ruins of a mansion built by Thomas and Lucy Carnegie. White-tail deer, wild boar, raccoons, and wading birds proliferate. But it’s the wild horses people come to see, some 300 on the island. They graze in the open spaces or in the marshes at low tide and amble along the paths and roads.

As we captured close-up photos of a small, quiet herd of wild horses, a colt entered the group and challenged the herd’s stallion. The stallion dispatched four swift, sharp hind kicks into the side of the colt. Defeated, the colt trotted off by himself and the herd in another direction. We thought the incident was finished, but soon the colt raced toward me with the stallion in hot pursuit. The riled-up stallion galloped within a few feet of where I stood, frozen in place and praying hard!

Keith had his own frozen-in-place moment. When the tides drop and expose the edges of the salt marshes, oyster beds appear in abundance. Always ready to belly up to the oyster bar, Keith thought he would harvest a few fresh appetizers. With his first steps, the marsh muck sucked him in and held him fast. It took some effort to extricate his feet, and even more to retrieve his flip-flops. For now, we’ll have to buy our oysters.

Not so with fresh shrimp and trout. Each day we were there, fishermen plied the water around our boat, repeatedly tossing big round castnets into the water and hauling them up full of shrimp. We watched one of them for a while and took several pictures. Noticing our interest, he drove over to give us a good shot of his catch, 100 pounds of shrimp. We talked for a little while, and before he left for the day he came back with a bag of shrimp. In just a couple hours, dinner went from under the boat to on the table. And Keith hooked three trout to provide us a delicious breakfast and dinner.

On our way to the anchorage at Cumberland Island, we had passed Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. Ahead, a submarine motored up the channel and a guard boat zoomed toward us, lights flashing. Front and back, guards stood at the ready with machine guns. They politely asked us to go downwind of the channel and we obliged without a word of protest.
Our lives have held plenty of excitement lately. Not the least of it, today (December 5) is Keith’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Keith, and may you have a year of God's blessing, fair winds, and smooth sailing!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanksgiving Company

November 23-29, Isle of Hope, Georgia
Of course Thanksgiving is the day set aside to express our gratitude to God for all of His gracious gifts, but it's undeniably associated with warm gatherings around the table with those we love. Even though
we were
giving thanks,
it felt strangely empty on the actual holiday to be one of very few boats underway, one of those that didn’t have anyplace special to go. But still we felt blessed—we were headed toward our own warm family gathering when Sean arrived on Friday.

It goes without saying that the three of us had a fantastic time, whether hanging out and talking together…sharing a belated Thanksgiving meal of roast chicken with fennel, garlic flan, and key lime pie…visiting historic Wormsloe Plantation…sightseeing in beautiful Savannah…attending Christ Church, where both John Wesley and George Whitefield were rectors…eating more delicious high-carb Southern fare than any human being should (more than twenty dishes) at Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House…or riding bikes on the beach and trails of Hilton Head Island. What a blast!

And best of all, in just a few weeks we’ll be together again at home for Christmas. Thanks, Sean, for making our Thanksgiving complete.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a time of quiet reflection upon the past
and an annual reminder that God has, again, been ever so faithful.
The solid and simple things of life are brought into clear focus,
so much so that everything else fades into insignificance.
Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Little Piece of Home

November 19–21, The Low Country of South Carolina
With the departure of our friends from back home, we thought our lives would return to a quiet little existence, just the two of us floating downstream in our solitary little boat. But we were wrong! The very next day, sailing friends Claus and Rachael Newman from our home marina in Bayfield pulled in to the Maritime Center in Charleston on Kyanna.

They left Pike’s Bay a month before we did but traveled through the St. Lawrence Seaway rather than the Erie Canal. We’ve been watching their blog ( wondering when they would catch up with us, and finally they did.

For the past three days we’ve traveled together, winding through the low country of South Carolina where wide rivers and narrow streams criscross the seagrass marshes, rising and falling with eight-foot tides. At anchor, we have shared camraderie and conversation about our intersecting journeys over dinner either on our boat or theirs (a bonus for us since Rachael is a great cook).

Tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day they’ll stop at Hilton Head Island and we’ll continue to Isle of Hope near Savannah, where Sean will fly in Friday night to meet us for a late celebration. We're looking forward to his visit, our hearts overflowing with gratitude!

In December we hope to meet up again with Claus and Rachael and travel together for a while. Especially at the holidays we sense the distance from our friends and family at home. Traveling with friends will be like having a little piece of home with us.

Charmed by Charleston

November 13-19, Charleston, SC
Everyone seems to love the historic charm and antebellum opulence of Charleston. For us it was even better because Marty and Barb shared the experience with us.

Marty and Barb belong to a Civil War Roundtable in the Twin Cities, and though he might protest the description, Marty is a Civil War expert. It was fun to be with him on his first visit to Fort Sumter, the place where the first shots of the war were fired. He told us some intriguing behind-the-scenes stories.

We walked for miles along the waterfront and through the historic district, past pre–Revolutionary War houses and beautifully preserved mansions in a complementary blending of architectural styles. These gracious old homes have withstood wars, sieges, hurricanes, and an earthquake, and proudly line the streets with an air of elegance and permanence. We peeked between the bars of wrought iron gates to admire perfectly manicured formal gardens—and camellias blooming in November.

Steeples dominated the city skyline, and on Sunday we attended St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, one of the earliest established churches in Charleston. From the moment we approached the door until we left after coffee hour, we were welcomed with open arms. The bell-ringing was magnificent, the music glorious, the message powerful; it was a highlight of our stay in Charleston.

We not only walked our way through town, we also ate our way through: Shrimp and grits, fried okra, she-crab soup, and a fabulous meal at FIG. Thanks, Mary and Barb, for the fun and memorable weekend!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Change of Scenery

November 9-13, Morehead City, NC to Charleston, SC
Keith’s research to track down Army Corps of Engineers waypoints paid off. In this stretch, we were relieved to transit some of the most notorious shallow sections of the ICW without touching bottom. We went through Lockwoods Folly, one of the problem areas, at low tide with an extra challenge: Scores of small fishing boats were anchored right in the channel and we had to weave between them trying to stay in the deeper water. We asked what they were fishing for, and they told us they were catching spot. We’ve never tried them, but they must be good.

The shrimp are running, and so are shrimp boats of all descriptions, from big trawlers outfitted with multiple nets to small rickety craft with one guy, one net, and a boatload of huge shrimp. We can’t wait to sample the fresh catch!

This stretch of the waterway is one of our favorites, its fascinating scenery so different from northern terrain. From the water, we enjoyed the close-up view of the changing landscapes we floated by.
On the Waccamaw River we anchored in a cypress swamp where gnarled trees grow in the water, their roots more or less exposed with the tides. The next morning a frigid dawn cloaked the cypress trees in fog, creating hauntingly beautiful images of boughs dripping with moss. Farther down the waterway, cypress swamps melded into sea grass marshes. That night we anchored in the middle of a golden sea of grass and watched a gorgeous kaleidoscopic sunset rearrange fiery colors across the sky.

For an entirely different change of scenery, we’ll spend the next week in Charleston docked at Charleston Maritime Center, a great marina very convenient to the historic district. We're looking forward to sightseeing and hanging out with our friends, Marty and Barb Nergaard, who will join us over the weekend.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Searching for Warmer Days!

November 4–8, Great Bridge, VA to Morehead City, NC
We pushed off before first light and poked holes in the fog to go

through the next lift bridge before it closed for morning rush-hour traffic. I bundled in winter layers against the 41º chill. The temperature was undeniably bone-chilling when Keith switched from flip-flops to socks and shoes for the first time this trip. Time to head further south!

We spent a couple long days on the waterway motoring and motor-sailing through straight land cuts, winding rivers, and shallow sounds. At one moment, marsh grass and cypress panoramas stretched as far as the eye could see. Minutes later, we were on the wide-open waters of a sound that extended for miles in every direction. We delighted in the gifts of beautiful scenery, our first pelican sighting (made our boat very happy), and dolphins frolicking around us. At the end of these days we anchored and turned off the engine. The wind died, the water flattened to a perfect calm, and the stillness was heavenly. The sun set, silhouetting the cypress trees on the shoreline against the red twilight.

Otherwise remote anchorages were populated each night by a few of the hundreds of seasonal transient boats traveling south in a line that stretches for over a hundred miles. We pulled in to Morehead City Yacht Basin and decided to stay an extra day, partly to rest and partly to research trouble spots where many boats have run aground south of here. The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the ICW, but hasn’t had enough funding in recent years to dredge all of the areas that need attention. Forearmed with detailed soundings, we hope to stay afloat!

Back on Board

November 1-3, Little Creek, Virginia to Great Bridge, Virginia
After a trip to Italy that could not have been more wonderful—followed by our trips in opposite directions—we’re happy to be back together on Pelican and underway again. First we had to wait three days for Hurricane Noel to pass by in the Atlantic.

We were glad to be safely tied up in Little Creek to sit out the high winds. And our delay gave us the chance to meet Greg and Sondra, a terrific couple who made us feel very welcome on the A dock at Taylor’s Landing. They invited us onto their beautiful Carver, Paradise Found, for a delicious dinner of freshly caught Striper Bites and Asian pears with cheese. Thanks, Greg and Sondra! I won’t describe my grand entrance when I stepped onto their boat; I’ll only say I have the bruises to show for it.

Finally on November 4, we departed Little Creek early to enter the Intracoastal Waterway at Norfolk. On the way, helicopters buzzed above to ensure that all other craft steered clear of naval vessels on maneuvers. The first stretch of the ICW contains a number of bridges and a lock on restricted opening schedules. After quite a bit of waiting for openings, we made it a short day and tied up to a free dock at the town of Great Bridge. Another history lesson along the way: we docked at the very spot where a Revolutionary War battle fought on December 9, 1776, forced the British to retreat from Norfolk.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ciao, for Now...

October 2-7, Little Creek, Virginia
During a quiet week here, we rented a car—upgraded from a tiny Hyundai to a Mustang fastback!—and drove to Annapolis for the largest sailboat show in the U.S. It was our opportunity to tour the yachts that vendors exhibit at this show and nowhere else…like visiting the most expensive offerings on the Parade of Homes. No plans for a trade-in though; we still love our more scaled-down sailboat.

We drove back following the shorelines of the bay as much as possible, past historic landmarks (George Washington's birthplace, Robert E. Lee's birthplace, historic Yorktown with its famous battlefield)...and picture-postcard scenery galore. All this on a day we had forgotten to bring our camera.

As I mentioned earlier, Keith and I are taking a break from our fantastic voyage to sandwich in another trip of a lifetime. We disembark today and fly to Italy. What better place than the land of romance to celebrate our 25th anniversary!

On October 20 we’ll part ways temporarily. While I return home to Minnesota, Keith will continue on to Aleksandriya, Ukraine to help present a publishers’ conference with his uncle, Rolf Garborg. A year ago they had traveled there under the auspices of the Global Publishers’ Alliance to mentor a small publisher, Andrey Kravchenko, Andrey was so grateful that he wanted to share that same assistance with all of the other Ukrainian Christian publishers! Keith’s brother, Kjell, will join them as a technical expert for an Imagesetter that Garborg Design Works donated to Andrey.

So we will be out of touch for a while, practicing what the Italians call far niente: “the delicious art of doing nothing.” Thank you for coming with us on our journey so far! Check back around the beginning of November when we resume our trip on Pelican.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Sea Legs

September 28–October 1, New York City to Norfolk, Virginia
There aren’t many marinas where you can develop sea legs tied up at the dock. Once we had accomplished that at Newport Marina across from New York City, we were prepared for an overnight open-ocean leg. The passage from New York to Cape May, New Jersey, would take approximately twenty hours, so in order to run with the tides and arrive in daylight, we cast off at 1:45 p.m.

New York harbor held plenty of excitement, partly because of boat traffic to contend with, but mostly because of our close-up views of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and the Manhattan skyline. The weather staged perfect photo opportunities.

Long after we were out of the harbor and heading down the Jersey coast, the sun set. Before darkness had a chance to settle in, we viewed a miniature fireworks extravaganza at one of the coastal cities (miniature because we were five miles out). Even for us, they had some “ooh!” and “aah!” effect. Several seconds after the grand finale, the sound effects of the boomers reverberated across the water. Another light extravaganza down the shore: Atlantic City’s 3 a.m. display brightened the skies for miles around.

On Keith’s last watch, a Northern Flicker flew into the cockpit and was contented enough to sit still while Keith retrieved the camera from below and snapped a couple pictures. Flickers are ant-eating woodpeckers about a foot long; our boat must have been a welcome oasis on his fall migration route.

At 8 a.m. we pulled in to Cape May past a pair of dolphins cavorting in the inlet. After a fuel stop, we anchored and rewarded ourselves with a pot of strong coffee.

Keith went online to check the weather and the NOAA buoys and found favorable conditions. Knowing that we can't devote the time we would like to the Chesapeake Bay with our plan to fly to Italy on October 8 to celebrate our 25th anniversary (fireworks!), we decided to bypass that cruising haven until next time and leave by noon on another overnight sea leg to Norfolk, Virginia. First we tried to nap with no success. Caffeine, maybe?

So we headed offshore again for another passage of about the same duration. Ten miles offshore this time, because the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) Coast is peppered with shoals. Just a half mile off our route was a NOAA weather buoy, one of a network of ninety buoys on the ocean as well as in the Great Lakes. They provide hourly observations of wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, and wave height to help boaters determine if they want to venture offshore. These trusty buoys have been Keith's friendly navigation advisors for years, but he had never personally met one. Being in the neighborhood, we had to drop by for a quick visit. I was prepared to be completely underwhelmed, but I had to agree he was a cute little guy.

The sun set again and a harvest-orange moon gradually emerged where the sky met the sea. We were such a tiny speck on an immense ocean, and these verses came to mind: “God, high above, sees far below; no matter the distance, he knows everything about us.... I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too—your reassuring presence, coming and going” (Psalm 138:6; 139:5).

With nightfall, the wind picked up. We shut down the engine and sailed a perfect beam reach throughout the night, arriving at the southern entrance to Chesapeake Bay in twenty-knot winds and five-foot seas.

Forty-four hours after leaving New York, we snug in at the marina where we will leave Pelican for a month, tired but elated to be further south than we thought possible. Keith says the last two nights were good practice for an ocean crossing someday. Hmmm….

P.S. Notice the two beautiful new pictures posted below under “Hudson River Highlights.” Photo credits go to Keith's dad, who made it his mission to drive to every bridge or riverside park between Waterford and Catskill to take pictures of Pelican on the Hudson River.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hudson River Highlights

September 20-27, Waterford, New York to New York City
We’ve been quiet without much to report for a while, but here are a few highlights from the past week:

• Completing the last five locks of the Erie Canal, the “Waterford Flight.” This set of locks, the biggest in the world, dropped us 169 feet in less than two miles. We spent Friday and Saturday nights in the historic town of Waterford, the oldest incorporated village in the United States.Loren and Clairice had left a car at the home of his cousin Laurie and her husband Jim. They drove it over and we enjoyed their company over a delicious dinner complete with warm and funny conversation.

• Restepping the mast at Riverview Marine in Catskill on Monday, September 24. Our beautiful Pelican is now restored her to her normal state of grace. Loren and Clairice worked hard on the tasks involved in the process and then left the next morning without reaping the rewards of their labor. We’re so glad they could share the experience of the Erie Canal with us, and we’re very thankful for all of their help.

• Meeting John and Ann Ross, a charming couple from Sarasota, Florida, who trailered their 1946 Chris Craft to the Hudson River to cruise with twenty-seven other classic wooden boats. Their runabout, Añejo, was in mint condition, varnished and polished to a showroom shine. We complimented their boat profusely, they appreciated our enthusiasm, and soon they offered to take us for a short spin on the river. What a treat! And what a lovely couple.

• Seeing such a variety of sights along the river: Cliffs, mountains, and wooded banks. Castles, monasteries, and genteel estates. Five lighthouses. And West Point, standing guard like a massive fortress with the river as its moat.

• Anchoring two nights on the Hudson and eating dinner in the cockpit under a full moon. One of those nights, we jumped in for a quick swim and got our first taste of salt water on this trip. The Hudson River is an estuary, and tides flow north as far as Troy, 150 miles upstream. According to the Indian name, it’s a “river that flows two ways.”

• Arriving in New York harbor, greeted by a chaos of wakes from every kind and size of boat. The marina where we are staying has a “wave attenuator,” but it can't quite keep up. We're happy that the water traffic has diminished and all is quiet now. When the ferries and water taxis were scurrying back and forth, though, our mast would swing like a pendulum. Ah, but the view! In late afternoon the skyscraper windows mirrored the light of the setting sun. At night, the city lights twinkle like a galaxy of stars. Tomorrow we'll play tourist in the big city.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reflections of Beauty

September 19, Canajoharie, New York
We spent a night in Rome on September 17, and in keeping with the Italian theme, the next day we came upon an authentic Venetian gondola in the canal! We didn't hear any strains of "O Sole Mio" wafting across the water, but the gondolier does plan to row more than half of the length of the canal.

Our next stop was Little Falls, set along a waterfall in the foothills of the Adirondacks. Many of the buildings sit flush on the edge of granite precipices. The two-toned majestic cliffs that tower over us along the channel are a magnet to rock climbers.

We pass through a unique lock today. It drops us forty feet, the biggest drop on the Erie Canal. And it is also the only lock that, instead of having gates that swing outward, has a gate that lifts above our heads—all 120 tons of it—as we leave. It definitely drips on us…better by far than dropping on us!

Canajoharie has been high on our list since the beginning of this trip because of its library/art gallery with a famous collection of paintings by Winslow Homer and other American artists. When we stop here for the night, we’re disappointed to learn that the gallery is closed until its grand reopening in an expanded space on Sunday. Our timing leaves a little bit to be desired.

Instead we hike to a gorge just south of town to see the waterfalls and the “Boiling Pot,” a circular pool that the spring run-off swirls through. Canajoharie is an Indian word meaning “pot that washes itself.”

Chilly fall nights are followed by summer-hot days without a breath of wind. Unbroken blue sky and the entire spectrum of green reflect on the water surface. We leave mile after mile of beautiful scenery in our wake, thankful for glimpses of God’s beauty reflected in the world He made.