Getting Bear Ready for Hibernation: How We Winterized Our Boat

Before we even had the boat hauled out of the water, we began winterizing her systems. While we were anchored off in St. Mary’s, I changed the lube oil, the oil filter, and the transmission gear oil. Since there are contaminants suspended in the oil that will eat away at the engine if left over the winter, it is important for us to put Bear away with a new, clean load of oil. In fact, because the lube oil was still somewhat dirty after the first oil change, I changed it a second time.
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Attack of the Midges

After a long day heading from Norfolk through the Virginia Cut – with a wonderful stop at Coinjock Marina for dinner – we anchored in the North River, just north of Buck Island. We dropped the hook in the charted seven foot depths outside the channel between markers “149” and “151,” and had no problem setting in the muddy bottom. As the sun quickly set over Backlanding Creek to the west, we enjoyed a few beers in the cockpit. By the time the orb was below the horizon, bugs were buzzing about, and we retreated into the cabin. Fortunately, we had already anticipated having some problems with mosquitoes, so we had put in the screens in the companionway.
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Wrightsville Beach: A Beach Town on the ICW

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina is a welcome oasis on the Intracoastal Waterway. Masonboro Inlet provides a nearly all-weather cut to the ocean, though boats going south from or coming north to Wrightsville would be better, distance-wise, coming into the Cape Fear River, about twenty miles south. For us, taking the inside route from the north, Wrightsville Beach was the first town of consequence since Beaufort and Morehead City, North Carolina, or about the last eighty miles, two days, and a night full of no-see-ums. With good food, alcohol, a morning coffee shop, and easy provisioning all wrapped in a beach town, we felt like we had found paradise, at least for a day or two.
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Hell Gate 2: The Devil Went down to Georgia

Waking up on the Herb River, just south of Thunderbolt, Georgia, we took our time getting going in the morning. We only had about 16 miles to go before transiting Hell Gate, another short section of the Intracoastal where we would need to be aided by the tide because of shoaling. And, with high tide not until 2:30 or so in the afternoon, we had some time. After a good breakfast with the last of our eggs, we raised anchor and made our way out the Herb, back into the Wilmington, and, before we could even get comfortable, into the Skidaway River.
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Best Bar of the Intracoastal Waterway, Summer 2014

Since returning to Peoria, a few people have asked me what the best part of our summer aboard Bear was. I have given a variety of answers and hemmed and hawed a few times, as there were so many great experiences. But I would not equivocate if someone asked me (and I am not sure why they have not) what was the best bar we went to. That would be Backstreet Pub in Beaufort, North Carolina.
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Navigating Fields Cut on the ICW at the South Carolina – Georgia Border

Fields Cut is the last obstacle that we would have to overcome before we entered Georgia. In fact, it is the final stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway before the Savannah River, which marks the Georgia-South Carolina line. The project depth – the depth that the Corps is charged with maintaining – for Fields Cut is twelve feet at mean low water. But the Corps reported in July 2014 that the minimum depth was only three feet. Still, the Corps noted in the same report that we would be able to find 7.5 feet on the eastern, or green, side of the channel. Between that information and the notes on ActiveCaptain, where people reported seeing numerous vessels aground at mid-tide, we decided to hit Fields Cut on the flood within about an hour of high tide. (I should note that the Corps is not neglecting their job; it is, unsurprisingly maybe, Congress who is to blame for the low water as they have not funded dredging in the Savannah District for some time).
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A Buoy in the Bushes

This morning, Margaret and I were out at the Illinois River Sweep, a river-long cleanup effort put on by the Friends of the Illinois River every September.  Along with about 15 students from the local high school and a friend of ours, we were charged with cleaning a half mile stretch of the river north of downtown Peoria.
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Branford Landing Marina

Branford Landing Marina - Image from Marinas.com

Branford Landing Marina – Image from Marinas.com

We began our relationship with S/V Bear at Branford Landing Marina, where she had been on the hard for 18 months.  In February 2014 we conducted the survey which was followed by a sea trial in May. While Bear was on the hard, and once we were splashed, we found the folks at Branford Landing to be helpful, generous, and knowledgable as we readied the boat for departure.  Below is a link to a short video about Branford Landing that we shot before we departed.  Thanks again to Chris, Nick, Cosme, and Billy.

Branford Landing Marina Video

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The Showers of Summer 2014

As you can imagine, after a long day on the water a nice shower to wash away the salt, sweat, and sunscreen is a real treat. Bear has a shower on board, which we make use of pretty frequently. However, the shower’s water pressure is not great and, given our limited supply of fresh water, you cannot just luxuriate in it (although with free water at nearly every gas dock, we probably could have enjoyed a little longer showers on the boat). We also have a sun shower, which can provide a warm freshwater washdown on deck. But even with these offerings, we still covet the onshore shower, with the real Holy Grail being a clean shower with good water pressure and hot water in a private, air-conditioned room. Undoubtedly, the search for showers and then the analysis of their merits afterwards occupies an outsized amount of time on Bear. Continuing our preoccupation with them, here is a list of the showers we used on the trip:
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Good Crew Are Hard to Come By

One night, my dad and I were at anchor somewhere along the ICW. While I was down below making nachos, my pops was in the cockpit enjoying the view and, undoubtedly, either taking pictures or reading “The Fort,” a Michigan football discussion board, on his phone.
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