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Old 10-16-2018, 10:19 AM   #1
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First Cruise: North or South?

It's been a long and emotional summer for Bess and me. We both lost our fathers and I was stricken with hip/femur injury that seriously restricted our warm-weather boating. Moreover, North Carolina has been dealing with a fair amount of weather in the form of two hurricanes, so even when things were good the weather always seemed against us. All this had us questioning our continued interest in even remaining in the boating lifestyle. It was just LAST SUMMER when we found ourselves stuck in the marina during the summer months while we dealt with an engine repair. It has been a trying time for us.

But as they say, while some doors close, others open and we find ourselves now with a little bit of savings and an urge to up our boating game. And as you might think we have questions and could use a hand helping us understand our options. This would be, after all, our first real cruise adventure longer than a week in length.


There are two basic questions, each with two variables. Which way do we go... and when?

List of considerations/restrictions:
  1. We are looking at this to be a TEST CRUISE to see if we can even do it at all. Honestly, we dont know if we can live in the close quarters of a boat (truth is its mostly me and our boat really isnt THAT small) for two or so months. So we are looking at just a short-ish cruise leaving from the Neuse River area of NC. So with these time constraints, I think we are crossing The Bahamas off the list this year. We both just need to get used to the cruising lifestyle and see if it is really for us.
  2. We will probably need to stay in marinas most, if not all, of the time. Bess will need good wi-fi/cell signal and have access to an airport for travel to DC. We also have a dog and are slaves to the Frisbee. 😊
  3. That said, we will probably stay in the same place for a week or two, AT LEAST, while she works and I well do boat projects I suppose. We believe she earns enough to keep us going, and I could pick up side work now and then. However, I have not done the math on that yet.
So, with all this in mind, here are the three options we are considering:
  1. South this Spring
  2. North next Summer
  3. South next Autumn
There is, of course, a fourth option: pack up and leave now for Florida, but Id like to get a few more boat projects done and learn more about the places and the journey before just heading out blindly. Plus maybe pad the bank account a little more.

So allow me to elaborate on the options.

We are not married to either direction. My preference, however, does lean me toward going south in the Spring. It seems like the coolest and arguably easier route. But it will probably be the more expensive route. Additionally, we would kinda be going against the normal flow of ICW traffic. Everyone will be coming north while we are going south. There is an advantage that, as we meet people, we can learn a ton from the places and experiences they already have at their stern. We would, of course, return before the hurricane season fired back up.

The Chesapeake seems like the more secluded way to go. But unlike Florida, we will be going the same direction as the rest of the tribe next summer. And if my instincts are correct, prices for boating services go up in season. Still, there is a lot of big water up there. Wed have to spend more time watching weather and the destinations, to me anyway, seem much further apart. But there is something alluring about the Chesapeake. I dont know what it is. Perhaps that, to this uneducated cruiser, it seems like a great big Pamlico Sound dotted with cute little tourist towns that are centered around a boating culture.

Finally, waiting until NEXT cruising season does allow time for more closure of our current dirt-life situation. We could downsize, possibly sell our house for a townhouse or apartment, and really get set to do something more long-term. Then, just cast off and head south with the rest of you. If we like it The Bahamas would be in play and we would have more income to possibly do a full season down there.

We look forward to yalls input. We will do what we can to address questions and concerns you have as they come up. But please be nice and dont let this turn into an anchor debate :-)


Thanks!
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Old 10-16-2018, 10:31 AM   #2
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I say go to the Chesapeake Bay. Awesome cruising grounds
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Old 10-16-2018, 10:45 AM   #3
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I have not cruised north in summer, but it is on our list.

I have gone to Fla and Bahamas four times: Two in dec/jan, one in mar/apr and one in june. June was our fav trip. Hot, but calm. And in the Bahamas, there were many nights where we left the boat open and did not need AC. Got back to Fla, and that AC was running constantly. Fla definitely hotter. The winter/early spring trips the temp was pleasant, but the wind was a bugger. Too rough to enjoy offshore passages. Slogged through it but it sucked. In june trip we had almost all days in trip very pleasant offshore.

If you are going to stay inshore, winter and spring in fla is hard to beat, even if it blows offshore.

I like seeking out 80deg F. Hotter than that, go north. Cooler, go south.

Cringing at the expense of going north next summer, but that is sorta the plan. My girl is a teacher, so mid June, off we go.
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Old 10-16-2018, 10:47 AM   #4
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I dont have any advice since Ive only cruised around Florida and the Bahamas, but Im following with interest since Im trying to get my DW to do an extended cruise this spring (Bahamas again) on our smallish boat. Id like to try for two months but she thinks a month would be plenty of time.

You two seem to be great planners and very thoughtful, so Im sure you will figure it out!
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Old 10-16-2018, 12:42 PM   #5
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I say go to the Chesapeake Bay. Awesome cruising grounds

Could you be more specific?
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Old 10-16-2018, 12:47 PM   #6
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I have not cruised north in summer, but it is on our list.

I have gone to Fla and Bahamas four times: Two in dec/jan, one in mar/apr and one in june. June was our fav trip. Hot, but calm. And in the Bahamas, there were many nights where we left the boat open and did not need AC. Got back to Fla, and that AC was running constantly. Fla definitely hotter. The winter/early spring trips the temp was pleasant, but the wind was a bugger. Too rough to enjoy offshore passages. Slogged through it but it sucked. In june trip we had almost all days in trip very pleasant offshore.

If you are going to stay inshore, winter and spring in fla is hard to beat, even if it blows offshore.

I like seeking out 80deg F. Hotter than that, go north. Cooler, go south.

Cringing at the expense of going north next summer, but that is sorta the plan. My girl is a teacher, so mid June, off we go.

Thanks... We'd almost assuredly stay inshore and would likely get only as far as Jacksonville or the Space Coast at best. So offshore wind conditions wouldn't deter us too much. However, we might/would/could jump from Charleston to Ferdinand Beach, but that would be the only offshore we'd likely do.



We would be looking at the late Spring anyway. Any sooner would likely be too cold for us to leave NC. And yes, we HAVE a full pilothouse, we much prefer the flying bridge... so too cold is just too cold
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Old 10-16-2018, 01:18 PM   #7
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Well, my choice would be to leave now and go south, at least as far as Vero Beach, Florida. But since that was not one of your options this is what I would do and I do know the weather and cruising places in the Neuse and Sounds as we lived in Oriental for 5 years.


Early next year, say mid April do the Albermarle loop: New Bern (guess that is where you are now), Oriental, Bellhavn, Edenton, Manteo, Ocracoke, Beaufort and back to New Bern. This can take 2- 3 weeks and would be a good shake down.


Then head north in early May to the Chesapeake. St Michaels, Annapolis, Baltimore are all good stops and the last two give you good access to DC. Then head up the Chesapeake through the C&D canal and down the Delaware to Cape May.


Beyond that depends on time and interest. Places that are nice to hang out for a week or so are NYC, Martha's Vinyard, Boston and Portland, Me.


Going south the next Fall you can stop in Charleston for a week, Hilton Head, Jacksonville, St Augustine, Vero Beach, Miami and the keys. Most of those have good access to airports.


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Old 10-16-2018, 01:27 PM   #8
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The Chesapeake is always pretty special. Lots of places to go/see, lots of things to do. If you like anchoring, you might have a glance at Bill Shellenberger's "Cruising the Chseapeake: A Gunkholer's Guide." And of course there are the various cruising guides.

OTOH, it's usually pretty HOT and MUGGY around here in July and August (although not at all unbearable), so the best months are maybe April, then May, June, Sept, Oct, and Nov. Which in turn suggests further north in July and August could be pretty nifty. We haven't done that yet, but might aim for it next year.

We really liked living in Florida year round when we were working in Miami and living nearer to Ft. Lauderdale, but when boating from up here... it makes more sense for us to aim for warmer weather down there when cold weather is up here. No matter higher rates due to "the season" or not. (Within reason.)

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Old 10-16-2018, 03:11 PM   #9
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Well, my choice would be to leave now and go south, at least as far as Vero Beach, Florida. But since that was not one of your options this is what I would do and I do know the weather and cruising places in the Neuse and Sounds as we lived in Oriental for 5 years.


Early next year, say mid April do the Albermarle loop: New Bern (guess that is where you are now), Oriental, Bellhavn, Edenton, Manteo, Ocracoke, Beaufort and back to New Bern. This can take 2- 3 weeks and would be a good shake down.


Then head north in early May to the Chesapeake. St Michaels, Annapolis, Baltimore are all good stops and the last two give you good access to DC. Then head up the Chesapeake through the C&D canal and down the Delaware to Cape May.


Beyond that depends on time and interest. Places that are nice to hang out for a week or so are NYC, Martha's Vinyard, Boston and Portland, Me.


Going south the next Fall you can stop in Charleston for a week, Hilton Head, Jacksonville, St Augustine, Vero Beach, Miami and the keys. Most of those have good access to airports.


David

While it is pretty unlikely we would go up as far as the C&D and beyond, the Pamlico/Albermarle loop is an interesting option. It WOULD be a good way to see if I can be in a tiny house (boat) for two or three months. My only criticism of that... and maybe it isn't totally a negative... is that short of Edenton, we have already seen all those towns multiple times. Like I said... maybe that isn't a bad thing since we would at least have some sort of comfort zone in that idea and we could just concentrate on the boating and not spend so much time planning and guessing. Maybe even talk someone else into tagging along.



Thanks for that! We will consider it.
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Old 10-16-2018, 03:14 PM   #10
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The Chesapeake is always pretty special. Lots of places to go/see, lots of things to do. If you like anchoring, you might have a glance at Bill Shellenberger's "Cruising the Chseapeake: A Gunkholer's Guide." And of course there are the various cruising guides.

OTOH, it's usually pretty HOT and MUGGY around here in July and August (although not at all unbearable), so the best months are maybe April, then May, June, Sept, Oct, and Nov. Which in turn suggests further north in July and August could be pretty nifty. We haven't done that yet, but might aim for it next year.

We really liked living in Florida year round when we were working in Miami and living nearer to Ft. Lauderdale, but when boating from up here... it makes more sense for us to aim for warmer weather down there when cold weather is up here. No matter higher rates due to "the season" or not. (Within reason.)

-Chris

We'll probably only anchor on weekends if we know there is a pee-place for the dog


I figured the weather would suck a little in mid summer. Perhaps I should modify option #2 to say North in the Spring Still, if we can survive here, we can survive there... (and for AC units helps!)
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Old 10-16-2018, 03:41 PM   #11
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Think about month long trips. South in early spring, north in late summer or early fall. Plan on a few days in several spots, a week to get there, a week returning. It will give your wife a chance to see if her work situation is doable and give you a chance to get in some boat time.

There are places like Wilmington or Beaufort where we can enjoy a few days but then we're ready to move on. We like to mix it up with quiet anchorages some of the time, noisy marinas close to restaurants some times, moorings to keep costs in line. Weather dictates decisions at other times. My wife has trained me to keep things relaxed and to not get obsessed with plans or the next ports of call. I would think nothing of pounding through the waves all day "Have to make Block Island by sunset" Her, not so much.

Iridium and Inmarsat both offer low cost satellite internet although speeds aren't great and data might be limited. Might make it easier for your wife to remain connected.
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Old 10-16-2018, 04:40 PM   #12
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While it is pretty unlikely we would go up as far as the C&D and beyond, the Pamlico/Albermarle loop is an interesting option. It WOULD be a good way to see if I can be in a tiny house (boat) for two or three months. My only criticism of that... and maybe it isn't totally a negative... is that short of Edenton, we have already seen all those towns multiple times. Like I said... maybe that isn't a bad thing since we would at least have some sort of comfort zone in that idea and we could just concentrate on the boating and not spend so much time planning and guessing. Maybe even talk someone else into tagging along.

Thanks for that! We will consider it.
You probably know this already, but with two months you could also go to Bath and Little Washington on Pamlico Sound. Then up to Elizabeth City and maybe the Dismal Swamp Canal for its charm.

And if you haven't been to Edenton, it is a charmer too, more like a larger Bath.

But not many of these spots have good airport access.

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Old 10-16-2018, 05:24 PM   #13
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Greetings,
Mr. TB. I think you've answered your own questions with your second to last paragraph-CLOSURE. I would suggest you get all your ducks in a row, or at least most of them, before heading off for 1 or 2 months. After all, you're not talking deferring your adventure for years, simply 5 or 6 months.



The fewer "loose ends" you have to worry about, the easier it will be to flow into the boating lifestyle (relaxation).



In the mean time, start packing RIGHT NOW, go do some shopping RIGHT NOW before the grocery stores close, pack the boat TONIGHT and head off for 2 weeks TOMORROW MORNING!!!!
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Old 10-16-2018, 05:28 PM   #14
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Wifey B: From your location, I'd hit the Chesapeake for my first extended cruise. It has everything you could ask for. You start with beautiful cities such as Hampton. Visit Yorktown if you haven't been. See if you can find William and Mary as I've heard they're hanging around Williamsburg somewhere. I love Cape Charles as a quieter beautiful area. St. Michael's is incredible. Cruise up one side and back the other but we'd suggest Annapolis as a destination. That would give you a great trip. If you decided you wanted to go further you could go on to Baltimore or take a turn to the Delaware or go up the Potomac to DC. Many great options. You can just find more to see and do in a trip to the Chesapeake than the same miles south from where you are.

Going south, Morehead City and Beaufort are nice for a few days, Wilmington was and will be again soon. Bald Head Island is heavenly. Myrtle Beach is enjoyable but you really have to get to Charleston, Hilton Head, and Savannah to match all you would find on the Chesapeake trip.

I hope you cruise and have the time of your life. I hate to see though that you're always saying "when I finish this" or "after that". It reflects to me either a real hesitancy or just simply that the cruising isn't a strong enough passion to push you through. Take this cruise but be honest with yourself. If you find cruising isn't for you, don't waste more time beating your head against the wall and get on with things you can be passionate about doing. For us, there is always this burning desire for the next trip. On this forum, most probably experience that, but, if you by some chance don't, then don't fake it. It's either orgasmic or not.

The best of luck whether cruising works for you or not. It may be you like cruising but not boat ownership. If that's the case, charter or hit cruise ships or rent or whatever it takes.
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Old 10-16-2018, 06:26 PM   #15
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Greetings,
Mr. TB. I think you've answered your own questions with your second to last paragraph-CLOSURE. I would suggest you get all your ducks in a row, or at least most of them, before heading off for 1 or 2 months. After all, you're not talking deferring your adventure for years, simply 5 or 6 months.

The fewer "loose ends" you have to worry about, the easier it will be to flow into the boating lifestyle (relaxation).
I guess my reaction is just the opposite of RTF...
If you and DW aren't sure if you will be able to or like the long term cruising life style how can you make realistic plans / moves for home arrangement?

My thinking is get a couple of extended (1-3 mo) cruises behind you...
decide if / how much you like to cruise and then make appropriate move for a "home" based on a better understanding of how long / often you will be ashore vs cruising.
Just another way to look at the options.
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Old 10-16-2018, 06:37 PM   #16
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Sooooo....for WifeyB....yes, Tom has projects....he always has projects....they don't hold him back, its not a "hesitancy", its a "I have to make sure everything is as ready as it can be". Love your insight though!



RTF - I agree....let's go!


For the group - this is a big deal for us....we have always dreamed of "what if" without really thinking/believing we could ever do it. But now, if we can line it up correctly, we could actually do it.....I can work full time while moving the boat around.



Yes, I have to have good wifi. I have to be in easy distance to an airport. Perfect scenario for me (ie my company obligations) is to be south in Winter, and on the Chesapeake during Summer/Fall.



I think we spend a couple months living aboard in home port getting used to the close quarters for extended time periods, and then decide on the cruising portion.



Maybe I'm wrong.....
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Old 10-17-2018, 07:13 AM   #17
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We'll probably only anchor on weekends if we know there is a pee-place for the dog

I figured the weather would suck a little in mid summer. Perhaps I should modify option #2 to say North in the Spring Still, if we can survive here, we can survive there... (and for AC units helps!)

Bill S. had dogs too, so he goes out of his way to call out dog-friendly anchoring locations.

Yep, if you can stand NC in July and August, here in the Chesapeake during those two months wouldn't be any worse, probably even slightly better especially on the water. If you're not intending to anchor out all that much, overnight AC isn't much of an issue. And even in July/August, there are some times when AC is useful during daytime, but not necessary overnight.

A trip up here, maybe as far north as Baltimore for your first time, could be very easily manageable. It gets a bit thin for "town" visits after that; Rock Hall, Havre de Grace, Georgetown, and Chesapeake City, etc. are all great stops but you could easily save those for your NEXT trip up here.

FWIW, we've been shopping for a different place to live... for about 16 years... but not wanting to leave the Chesapeake is one reason we've held back...

-Chris
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Old 10-17-2018, 08:06 AM   #18
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I guess my reaction is just the opposite of RTF...
If you and DW aren't sure if you will be able to or like the long term cruising life style how can you make realistic plans / moves for home arrangement?

My thinking is get a couple of extended (1-3 mo) cruises behind you...
decide if / how much you like to cruise and then make appropriate move for a "home" based on a better understanding of how long / often you will be ashore vs cruising.
Just another way to look at the options.
This! We just finished our first extended cruise: the northern half of the Loop from the upper Chesapeake to Chattanooga in 63 days, counting weather delays. This was an enormous bite of the apple for both of us and I’d never recommend a cruise remotely this long as an intro to the cruising lifestyle. While the trip had great moments and is something we’ll always remember, we’d have enjoyed it much more if we’d taken a series of shorter cruises first and learned from them. This was more of a delivery run than pleasure cruise for us but it would have felt less like drinking from a fire hose if we’d learned more about the boat and ourselves as cruisers via some shorter runs before we committed to go long.
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Old 10-17-2018, 09:19 AM   #19
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I too get in "travel" mode, and it happened on this last trip to the Bahamas. Something in my mind makes want to go go go and not necessarily stop and smell the roses. It annoys my girl but she tends to not say much about it.

On my defense, I did buy an insurance rider that allowed me to be south of Fla/Ga line through June, but that is only part of the story. I know my mind and that is how I roll. Up at sunrise, do engine and fuel checks, crank it up, pull the hook and GO.

We talked about it and next trip I promised to repress my urge to simply keep on the move. We shall see how that goes.
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Old 10-17-2018, 09:20 AM   #20
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This! We just finished our first extended cruise: the northern half of the Loop from the upper Chesapeake to Chattanooga in 63 days, counting weather delays. This was an enormous bite of the apple for both of us and Id never recommend a cruise remotely this long as an intro to the cruising lifestyle. While the trip had great moments and is something well always remember, wed have enjoyed it much more if wed taken a series of shorter cruises first and learned from them. This was more of a delivery run than pleasure cruise for us but it would have felt less like drinking from a fire hose if wed learned more about the boat and ourselves as cruisers via some shorter runs before we committed to go long.

Agreed. It's like living together before getting married. You don't want to find out after-the-fact that there is some weird quirk about your mate that makes you completely incompatible. (odd reference for sure... sorry)


There is a lot to a big step like this. Certainly too many to mention here, but if you have done it, you probably have a long list of loose ends that need tying up.



We aren't experts at anything other than going to our boat every weekend. We have been to marinas... but only a few in this boat... so there is a lot to learn there. We have stayed on the boat for about 10 days in a row... but that's all. We have anchored out... but not very much and only in good holding and good weather. We have deployed the dinghy... but never in a hurry or to use it to pee the dog.



We aren't hesitant AT ALL do do this. It's the dream nearly all of us have, however, at our age (53) we don't want to be too hasty or go blindly into the night. There is too much at stake.



Now... There seems to be no consensus on North or South yet. I (and this is just me) would really rather go South... but I think North is the safer play in early summer. Maybe spend a month in our home marina (doing projects of course) and then another month going to either up to Deltaville/Annapolis/Baltimore or down Charleston/Beaufort, SC. We've been north only as far as Manteo and south to Georgetown. So part of the trip would be familiar.
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