Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Plan B

One prolonged blast on the ship’s whistle, in this case a loud horn, is what woke us that first morning in New England. Actually, the first one really didn’t stir me much, since I’d heard it frequently when a large ship was leaving the dock or simply “honking” at one of the small recreational boats that swarm Newport. When the second blast came a couple of minutes after the first though, it caught my attention and I decided to go topside and have a look.

It wasn’t much of a look. In fact, I couldn’t see beyond the next boat in the anchorage – maybe 200 feet away. A thick fog had descended upon the anchorage, coating La Vie Dansante with a glaze of fresh moisture that, coupled with the haunting whistle of the ship invisibly transiting the harbor, lent an eerie feel to the fresh Rhode Island dawn.

We had yet to encounter fog afloat, which was just fine with me. This was a serene and beautiful way to experience it for the first time – safely on the hook in a beautiful and historic port.


It’s about time I sat down at the chart table and tapped out a new post, right? I mean if it hadn’t been for Barbara’s post on gardening aboard a boat you wouldn’t have heard from us since March’s post –COVID 19 Castaways – teased that we may have to head back to the States.

Well, we did.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all the Caribbean nations secured their borders and tightened restrictions, forcing us back to the proverbial drawing board in pursuit of a new plan – still living on a boat, but without the crystal water and exotic islands. Without a lot of options, we headed home to explore the familiar waters of the United States East Coast . I wasn’t at all happy with the forces causing us to delay our Caribbean voyage, which had a lot to do with why it’s taken me this long to post again, but we decided to make the best of our new Plan B – something we’ve learned to do together when things don’t work out exactly as planned.

As it turned out, Plan B would hold some key advantages for Barbara and me.

Our 3-month sampling of the international cruising life taught us quite a few things we had overlooked and helped us think through the best ways to outfit and provision our boat. Returning to the states would give us access to the stores and deliveries we’d need to better prepare La Vie Dansante for blue water voyaging.

Even more importantly, Plan B brought us back “home” and, with a little planning, would give us the opportunity for some quality family time before we launched out for several years. This was especially important with some pretty significant milestones happening in October – the birth of TD’s second grandson to his oldest daughter in Maryland and the marriage of his middle daughter in Pennsylvania. It was also time to “haul out”, lifting the boat onto land and setting it on blocks for maintenance that can’t be done in the water, so we scheduled the haul out in Annapolis on a timeline that coincided with both events.

Also, Barbara got the chance to fly back to Texas to provide some parental counsel to her kids as they changed jobs and looked at their first home purchase.

We’d been up the East Coast before, in 2019 – the year we purchased La Vie Dansante and had to sail her out of Florida to flee both hurricanes and jaw-dropping Florida sales tax. We made it as far as Norfolk, VA before making a U-turn to pursue our island dreams. This year, we had a lot more time for exploring; from our April 9th US landfall at West Palm Beach to our anticipated return to the Islands some time in December.

Always looking to avoid cold weather, Barbara was nervous about getting so far north that we’d be unable to get south fast enough to say balmy, but I was excited about making it at least as far north as Boston to explore the rich American history there.

By the time we figured it all out, we had visited some GREAT American coastal towns – a few special ones twice, and even had an elusive Jimmy Buffett sighting!

Of course, that’s a lot of time and distance to cover in a single post, so we’re going to let the following pics and short video snippets do most of the talking. It’s a wild ride, so strap into the helm and let’s go!

THE PORTS

West Palm Beach, FL

We dropped the hook in US waters here, but didn’t go ashore, choosing to head north toward St. Augustine and spend a little time there.

Fort Pierce, FL

Waiting on a weather window meant spending two and a half pretty boring weeks in this COVID-19 ghost town. We did find one place that was doing takeout, then we had to find somewhere to take the food and eat it. Nobody else was out. It was a crazy way to return to America.

Our folding bikes are sometimes the only way to get around!

St. Augustine, FL

We spent 5 weeks here, giving us a chance to visit some old Navy buds and take in a great town. There’s a lot to like about St. Augustine, so we spent plenty of time exploring on foot and on the folding bikes. We really feel like we’ve lived here, and we’ll be back.

Cumberland Island, GA

Charleston, SC

A favorite stop of ours, but this time we had a squall blow in just as we were making our way to the City Marina!

Southport/Oak Island, NC

Heading into Southport was like driving the boat through Coca Cola. The seasonal tanning of the water is supposed to be the product of recent storms. I don’t know exactly what causes it, but it was tough to get off the hull.

Beaufort/ Point Lookout Bight, NC

Beaufort (pronounced “Bofert”) is in North Carolina.
Beaufort (pronounced “Byufert”) is in South Carolina.
They take it pretty hard around here if you mess that up.

Food Review – Beaufort!

Aqua – Beaufort, NC

Aqua is a tapas place, and a very good one! We went with Barbara’s sister while she was visiting, and the three of us had the Tomato Tart, Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos, Grilled Petit Filet and Short Ribs. My mouth is still watering! Believe it or not, the Tomato Tart was Barbara’s favorite … which tells you how good it is when you note the other plates on the list!

Norfolk, VA

The crab trap I picked up here on our first journey up the coast came in pretty handy on this trip too!

Quantico, VA

This Marine Corps town served as a great place to get some rest at anchor before heading up the Potomac to Washington, DC.

Washington, DC

Solomon’s Island, MD

Heading north into the Chesapeake Bay, we logged our 5000th hour sailing La Vie Dansante together and rewarded ourselves with a stop at the famous Solomon’s Island Tiki Bar and a brief tie up at NAS Patuxent River’s West Bay Marina. Oh man, but the jellyfish! They were the worst we’ve ever seen, and forced me to empty our strainers several times a day. Yuck.

Annapolis, MD

Barbara’s niece and nephew joined the crew of La Vie Dansante in Annapolis and sailed with us up the Chesapeake Bay, through the Delaware River, out past Cape May and finished their sea tour at New York, NY. They learned a few skills, caught a few fish (then ate them) and discovered what it’s like to be caught in a squall first-hand!

Baltimore, MD

Cape May, NJ

Got a beach day and a night of rest before journeying back out into the open ocean for New York Harbor.

New York, NY

Food Review – New York!

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria – Brooklyn, NY

I guess it’s some kind of unwritten law that any visit to The Big Apple must include a pizza. Even if it’s not, Barbara and I both love pizza with thin crust so we decided to try the best New York pizza place near our Manhattan anchorage. We chose Grimaldi’s and we weren’t disappointed! In fact, it was so good we went back (something we rarely do) when we came through NYC on our return south.

Newport, RI

In addition to Annapolis, Newport is America’s “other” sailing town. Folks here take their sailing pretty serious, but it’s also a town rich in history and great food!

In addition to the fog I described at the beginning of this post, we had some real weather when Isaias blew in. We rode the storm out at anchor, wrapping our sail, taking down our topside canvas and letting out additional rode (more anchor chain) to help the boat stabilize on the hook.

TD doing his best Jim Cantore impression during Isaias

Food Review – Newport!

Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant – Newport, RI

Newport has a surprising amount of great eateries, including The White Horse, which lays claim to the title of America’s oldest continually operating tavern. Still the best dish we had here was the notorious local delicacy – Lobster Mac & Cheese – at the unpretentious Brick Alley Pub. We tried other place’s version of this bowl of deliciousness, including The White Horse’s, but the best is at Brick Alley.

Provincetown, MA

OK, I’m going to let you in on a little historical secret … (play the video)

OK, who already knew this? Reply in the comments whether your history teachers got it right or wrong!

Boston, MA

I had high hopes for Boston. It was my Plan B goal.

A great town and the cradle of our national story, Boston was everything I hoped it would be.

Food Review – Boston!

Giacomo’s – Boston, MA (North End)

Boston’s North End is famous for incredible Italian restaurants, and the best of these may well be one of the least expensive. Barbara and I had Giacomo’s recommended to us, and it didn’t disappoint. Anyplace that can make your mouth water with a Butternut Squash Ravioli is the real deal. Seriously, go there and try it. Butternut Squash Ravioli. You’re welcome.
… oh yeah … Mike’s Pastry is just down the street for dessert!

Plymouth, MA

Cuttyhunk, MA

New London/Mystic, CT

Port Jefferson, NY

New York, NY (again)

So much of sailing is about timing, and so much of timing is about luck.
We had the good timing and luck to be in New York for this year’s 9/11 tribute.

… and, of course, we ate another Grimaldi’s pizza!

Wildwood, NJ

We were looking forward to spending some time on the boardwalk here, something I did with my kids when they were little, but it was basically deserted.

Oh well, back up the Delaware River and into the Chesapeake Bay!

Havre de Grace, MD

A really quick stop here in this historic, but often forgotten, northern Chesapeake Bay town provided yet another awesome sunset on the sea.

St. Michael’s, MD

2fer Food Review – St. Michael’s!

Limoncello – St. Michael’s, MD

Barbara and I booked an early dinner here through OpenTable and WOW! We started with salads – Barbara chose the Aruguletta and I had the Caprese. Both were beautifully presented and superb! The Caprese was the best I’ve ever had – no exaggeration. Barbara had the Fettuccine Bolognese, which she also proclaimed was the best she’s ever eaten, and my Cacciucco alla Livornese (a Tuscan seafood stew) was flawless and delicious! Limoncello gave us one of our top 5 meals of all time. If you’re visiting St. Michaels, make sure to include dining here in your itinerary.

Bistro St. Michael’s – St. Michael’s, MD

Yep, St. Michael’s has no shortage of great places to eat and, true to form, the Bistro gave us one of the best dinners we’ve ever had and an impressive wine list … and we paid for it $$$$.
Based on a recommendation, I had the special – an off-the-menu bone-in lamb chop. OMG. I can still taste it. Now I’m hungry.

Landlocked Fort Worth, Texas isn’t home port for many boats out here, but two of us met up in St. Michael’s where La Vie Dansante and Lost Cat crossed paths. James and Julia, fellow catamaran sailors aboard Lost Cat have a charter business – Life at 8 Knots. They also put the Bistro at the top of their “best meals” list and have done a thorough video review of it and other great St. Michael’s eateries and attractions, which you can find here.

When we gifted Lost Cat with one of Barbara’s tomato plants, we inadvertently gifted them with Eddie – our adopted pet frog – who was a castaway in the potting soil!

Annapolis, MD (again)

This time for scheduled maintenance and family visits. Mooring Ball #38 was our home for about 10 days as we awaited haulout. It was so close to the Naval Academy field house that I could almost hear my old track coach telling me how fat I’d gotten over the summer!

We got lots of work done on La Vie Dansante while she was “on the hard”. Port Annapolis did the bottom paint, rudder bearings, saildrive shafts, engine service, anchor locker repairs and boom rigging repair. Barbara and I took care of servicing the anchor and chain, servicing the props, outboard engine maintenance, inflatable boat repair, galley redesign, salon cushions, new cabinetry and topside canvas repairs.

Food Review – Annapolis!

Jimmy Cantler’s Riverside Inn – Annapolis, MD

If you search for “best crab house in Maryland”, the first entry that comes up is Cantler’s. I’ve eaten crabs here a few times in my life, and even celebrated my promotion to Captain here, but the jumbo crabs (why go for scrawny critters when you’re at the best crab place ever) we had to celebrate our 12th anniversary were the best either of us have had in our lives. AWESOME!

Hampton, VA

Food Review – Hampton!

Mango Mangeaux – Hampton, VA.

Mango Mangeaux is so good it makes Hampton, VA a destination, even if there’s nothing else for you here. Barbara had the Chicken Fried Chicken French Toast and I had the Chesapeake Benedict – both preceded by incredible Rich Girl Po’ Boy Mimosas!
These folks are Shark Tank veterans, and their winning mango preserves are for sale on premises, as well as on their website.

Little Creek, VA

The Joint Expeditionary Base here has a great, modern marina that makes a great place to arrive in the Chesapeake Bay or, in this case, stage for departure into the blue water of the Atlantic.

Charleston, SC (again)

… from which I’m making this post! La Vie Dansante will stay peacefully tied up at Charleston Maritime Center while Barbara and I make the 3-hour drive to spend Thanksgiving her sister’s family near Charlotte, NC.

Early morning dolphin escort off the Carolina coast

Looking back on our US coastal adventures so far, I’m now quite content with how Plan B has turned out. In fact, going through the pics and video for this post showed me just how much we got to reconnect with friends and family along the way. Really valuable stuff to reflect upon as we head out to spend Thanksgiving with family.

As soon as we get back, we’ll take advantage of the first weather window to head south into warmer climes and take another crack at exploring the island nations of the Caribbean. If you’ve pulled this up and are reading it over Thanksgiving leftovers, we’re likely on our way.

Follow our progress on LVD’s GPS tracker and, while you’re at it, check out our list of “Great Boat Stuff” – items we’ve found especially useful in our first two years aboard La Vie Dansante.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


UPCOMING BONUS – Keep up with Sailing La Vie Dansante on Facebook and watch for the Plan B Video!

6 Thoughts

  1. Thanks for the update, TD. You two are having quite an adventure. Big contrast to being hunkered down in Fort Worth. Yvonne and I are enjoying your outing vicariously, thanks to your gifted descriptions. It’s hard to enjoy the best city in America when you can’t do much of anything.

    Like

    1. Thanks for coming along on our adventures Lee!
      It’s been interesting to experience how different states, regions and cities are handling pandemic response. I purposely left that stuff out so our blog could provide a little respite from the day-to-day fear and frustration.
      We’re cautious, but we’re living.
      All our best to you and Yvonne.

      Like

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