2013-11-28 Thanksgiving Celebration on Hilton Head Island

Annette and I departed Bull River with a plan to stop in Beaufort SC. It is a place we really wanted to visit because all we have read made it sound very inviting as a potential next home after Arlington, VA. Sadly the weather man had made other plans for us so we will need to make that visit at a later date. We had the choice of spending at least 3 days in Beaufort with cold and rain or we come to Hilton Head and spend 3 days in the cold and rain celebrating Thanksgiving with our friends Frank & MaryMarie of Eleanor Q. It was a no brainer as far as we were concerned!

Anchor was up at first light and we were on our way. We were in a bit of race against the weather but had plenty of margin in case things got too treacherous. Of course the only point of concern was the LAST 5 miles where we needed to cross Port Royal Sound which was open to the ocean. I was able to radio and ahead and confirm the Sound was in surprisingly good shape so we made the transit on schedule and without incident.


MaryMarie had spent time on Hilton Head and was anxious to show her haunts! She had a arranged a rental car and invited along for the adventure. It was great fun and we all caught up on some shopping as well.

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If hopping around Hilton Head was not enough fun we had to get back to the boat for the traditional Tennar/Baker Family wine tasting. Sadly this year we were not in New Jersey to participate so we conducted the tasting via Skype. Though we certainly missed our holiday tradition in person, we made up for it the best we could!



Thanksgiving morning we awoke to a bright sunny day anticipating our fabulous Thanksgiving feast. It sure was a feast! The ladies split up the dishes and brought together a fabulous dinner feast. We had Turkey, Stuffing, Corn, Sweet Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Fresh Cranberries Apple Pie and Pumpkin Pie. (I apologize if I forgot anything ladies!)


Both Magnolia and Eleanor Q will getting underway in the morning and with some luck and support from the weatherman we will be in FL by mid week!

Annette and I would like to wish all of you and very special Thanksgiving!

PS Frank & MaryMarie we would not have missed the day for anything in the world!

PSS MaryMaries blog can be found at: http://eleanorq.wordpress.com/

2013-11-27 There Is Bull In Bull River

After departing Charleston Magnolia had a very favorable tidal current which allowed us to cover over 40 miles in on a very comfortable day. We selected Wimbee Creek, which is off the the Bull River which is off the the Coosaw River as our anchorage for the night. What wonderful place to be. There is simply no way to describe or capture in pictures the simple beauty we find in these anchorages. What a gift.





2013-11-25 – See Ya Next Time Charleston!

It would be an understatement to say we enjoyed our time at the “southern city on the coast” but we really like Charleston!  We moored at the City Marina which is the same marina David Geffen moored his yacht. Take one look at the link and you will see that is where the similarity ends! We did hoist our holiday flags. Most people think the flags are for celebration or holiday; actually we put them up so we could find Magnolia is this mammoth marina, it is HUGE!


We have been looking forward to our stop in Charleston since we departed. We knew our friend’s Jack & Kathy were coming from New Jersey for a visit and we would be reunited with our friends Mims and Vicki whom we met years ago in the Bahamas. The day we arrived (L-R) Mims and her friend joined Annette and I on Magnolia for a glass of wine.


Our friends Frank & MaryMarie aboard Eleanor Q but below is as close as we got! This visit our schedules could not get synched up but we are very much looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with them in Hilton Head.


A little message for the cruising community. Laundry is one of those tasks that can be not so bad or really miserable. Well the Variety Store Restaurant at the City Marina has a laundry facility just off the restaurant lobby. It’s a simple matter of Breakfast and Laundry and they toss in free beverages while you wait! Voted by the Admiral best laundry experience of the trip thus far!


The Admiral conducting a topside inspection before our week of Charleston festivities began!


Jack and Kathy arrived after driving straight from Central New Jersey. On the recommendation of my Cousin George we walked over to Hominy Grill for a fabulous Southern Cuisine experience. Highly recommended!


It is true my friend Jack spent a great deal of his professional career maintaining US Navy Guns and Missile Launchers and inspite of the fact he appears to be having a mind meld with his Dahlgren Gun, is only reading the inscription! 


After a full day of Charleston tourism we returned to Magnolia for a relaxing evening of Annette’s “Pita Pizza” and maybe a glass of wine or two!



We of course needed to check in with Jack & Kathy’s daughter Caitlin. Thankfully she was not following our example but actually studying!



The gardens were really lovely and can only imagine them in the spring in all there glory!


Background: A number of years ago while on vacation in the Bahamas we met Mims (sitting) and Vicki (right behind Mims). Over the years we have all returned to the Bahamas and visited in Savannah and here in Charleston as well. We have not visited in a few years and I said the net time we return it will be aboard our own boat. We made it which made the visit all the more special.


Jack & Kathy, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy lives to drive all the way down here. Mims & Vicki, thank you so very much for the hospitality. We always have a fun! As I started though, we will see you next time though, its time to go!

2013-11-17 Charleston, SC

Before we move onto Charleston happenings one more visit to our anchorage at Dewees Creek.  Below is panorama of our anchorage. The photo hardly captures the serene beauty we were able to experience.

Dewees Creek Anchorage 2

We anchored in Dewees Creek to position Magnolia to take fullest advantage of the high tides to avoid some significant shoaling in the Intercostal Waterway (ICW) just prior to arriving in Charleston Harbor.


We arrived in Charleston about mid tide and with tides of 6 feet and currents of 3 knots we wanted to kill a couple of hours before going into our marina so we headed Magnolia for a tour of the Charleston Harbor starting with Fort Sumter. It was quite an experience.



After a visit to Fort Sumter we headed up the Cooper River along the eastern shore of Charleston proper.


I did not realize that the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown is moored in Charleston.







We eventually settled into our slip on the western shore of Charleston, cleaned Magnolia and caught on some R&R. This morning we met up with our friend Mims whom we met in the Bahamas and visited in Savannah and here in Charleston. After our visit we went for a lovely walk around historic Charleston visiting the City Market and my favorite men’s store in the whole world, M Dumas & Sons! 


We had not previously noticed but Magnolia has a bit of ICW mustache from the tannins in the water found there.


A few errands and chores tomorrow and then off to dinner. Its going to be a great Monday!

2015-11-15–Outskirts of Charleston, SC

Magnolia has been playing cat and mouse with the tides and temperatures, but it appears we have both on the run as of this writing. The picture below shows the scenery we have been looking at recently. We are definitely in Cypress Tree and Spanish Moss territory!


Under the category of things you see on the Intercostal Waterway (ICW) this is a pretty big one. There are golf courses on each side of the canal and the I think the cable cars carry you back and forth between “front half” and the “back half.” This might top the swimming sea monster deer! Nah nothing tops a swimming deer!




With the knowledge we were in for a spanking (high winds and low temperatures), we went to our go-to resources, Active Captain and On The Water Chart Guides. Both pointed us to Osprey Marina on the ICW just above the Waccamaw River.  We read that it was well protected, but we had no idea until we arrived. I had to grab a photo off of Google Earth.  Even in this protected area we saw gusts of over 30 knots.


Of course after the front passed and the temperatures dropped I had to “scrape the frost” before we departed. It was a little nuts but we quickly got underway and soon enough the sun warmed the boat nicely. 



We actually had our highest mileage day of the trip, 55nm. As we had departed at a falling tide from Osprey we were able to ride the falling tide all the way down the Waccamaw until we reached the ICW and road the reversing tide down the ICW another 20 miles. It was what we call a “sleigh ride.”  It makes for a pretty easy day even if it was a long one.


We met Eleanor Q in the anchorage and had a fine dinner of grilled hamburgers aboard Magnolia.


Magnolia is timing the tides against the areas that have become shoaled in, so today was a relatively short day of 16 miles. We positioned ourselves to take advantage of tomorrow’s morning tide to hopefully make it through one of the most heavily-shoaled areas of the ICW. We took advantage of a anchorage that we expected to have completely to ourselves.


Midway into the anchorage we found out otherwise. The “landlord” came to check out and see who was coming in.


Yup it the landlord! The place belongs to him!



As I was preparing the anchor he came up to get a closer look to make sure we were on the up and up. I offered him a beer, he declined.



The Admiral maintained a vigilant watch for the landlord who paced along the anchorage a couple of times, but he declined a dinner invitation.


I figured he certainly would like to share a cigar and a scotch which was a recent gift from a friend. Still not a taker…oh well. Thank you Neptune and your residents for sharing the beauty of this place with us. We appreciate it more than you could ever know!


We will be arriving in Charleston tomorrow to hopefully reconnect with some friends we met years ago in the Bahamas and await the arrival of our friends Jack & Kathy from New Jersey. We suspect they are coming for a “health & welfare” inspection fearing we have completely off our rockers with this adventure! Wish us luck with the shoals tomorrow.

2013-11-13 Catching Up….AGAIN!

Reality is setting in. There are times when I am really good about blog and other times not so good. Magnolia dashed across latitude 36N on the 1st of November. Our insurance kept us north of that line because of risk of hurricane. In addition we needed to have a small repair accomplished on the autopilot. Thanks to a recommendation from www.activecaptain.com we were able to locate the appropriate facility in Belhaven, NC and things were fixed up in before we had time to get too settled in.  In addition our friends Greg & Marie aboard Second Sally caught up with Magnolia. We sailed together for a couple days. It was great to catch up time! About the same time Eleanor! rejoined us from their days at the spa (inside joke). They did look well rested though.


The “fleet” made an easy passage down to Beaufort Inlet. It was a fun day to be near old and new friends! There were dolphins everywhere as we approached Morehead City and Beaufort Inlet. The crazy thing is how hard it is to get a decent picture of these guys. They do not seem to be too keen on pictures!


We took this picture approaching one of the many swing bridges we go through everyday. I think the picture does a pretty good job of capturing the best of the best feelings we have! Lucky!


We have yet to figure the significance of a Giraffe statue along the ICW but we can only assume there is one. We saw a Zebra in Galesville, MD and now this Giraffe in North Carolina. Can hardly wait to see what we find in South Carolina. As long as its not a Gator we are good!


We always know its going to be a good day when the sun is shining on our Angel. Thank you Aunt Jeanette! It is one of several “treasures” we carry aboard Magnolia.


Magnolia  enter Mile Hammock anchorage which is actually owned by the Marine Corp at Camp Lejeune. Anchor, but don’t think about going ashore!


Our first opportunity to take a walk on a beach. Wrightsville Beach was really nice but just wait a couple of months for the Exumas!!


Frank & MaryMarie from S/V Eleanor Q on the beach.




Southport water front with the tallest flag staff I have ever seen!


Pete Saunders a colleague from my Honeywell days came out with his son to witness our arrival to the Myrtle Beach area. 


Below is the shot Pete took as we passed. It is how the world see us!


We are not certain but think this pipe is the border mark for North & South Carolina.


Pete Saunders came out to Magnolia for a visit. It was a fun evening catching up!


Magnolia is at dock right now riding out this freakish flash freeze. We hope the worst will be through today and will head out towards Georgetown, SC in the morning.

Vessel and crew are well, be safe, A**2

2013-11-05 Dealers, Enablers, “What is Possible”, All in 5 Years

This is a particularly special day for Annette and me as it was 5 years ago today that either of us had ever stepped foot on a sailboat. With the help of “Dealers” and “Enablers” we are, as we like to say, a demonstration of what is possible. 

Since Annette and I were married in 2004 we have always known we wanted to do “something” besides work and live, but we had no idea what that might be. That all changed on November 5th, 2008. Ty and Suzanne Giesemann (aka “Dealers”) had just retired again to take off on their sailboat “Liberty.” Before they departed the area,  they were kind enough to invite us out for a “harmless” afternoon sail on the Chesapeake Bay and dinner at this new restaurant in Annapolis they referred to as “Chez Liberty.” 


(Ty prepares for departure)


(Suzanne suggested Annette take the helm for a while)


(“Wow this sailing thing is pretty cool!” BTW, last time I was ever this “dressed” on a sailboat or wore a Blackberry on my belt)

After our day on Liberty and many email discussions with Ty and Suzanne, we decided to charter a sailboat and skipper to take us for a long weekend sail in Key Biscayne, FL. We wanted one more opportunity to back away before we completely lost our minds and got after this sailing thing.  


In the end we were lost causes and returned to Washington focused on how to turn this idea into reality. Heck, I am a Missile Monkey, you buy a book of course! After that you start at the bottom of any project and work your way up.  In our case we joined the Pentagon Sailing Club and working with our new friend, Patricia Peters, we sanded the bottom of the clubs 22ft Catalina sailboats. As you can see, bottom paint is blue. That was the only the beginning for we quickly signed up for the club’s “Basic Keel Boat” training.


(Graduation Day)


(First Solo Sail)

Literally the day after we graduated Annette and I borrowed one of the club boats and did our first “solo” sail. We will never forget it. The weather was a little aggressive for newbies and damn if we did not tangle the jib. None the less we sailed up and down the river on just the main sail. We were on our way!

As our luck would have it Ty and Suzanne were on their way back through town on Liberty and heading for Block Island, RI. They were kind enough to invite us to crew on the adventure.


As you can see on our departure Aeolus (Greek God of Wind) sent us on our way!


This picture of Ty and Suzanne looking at the charts always cracks me up. I visualize Ty coming to his senses and saying to Suzanne, “We can probably dump them here and be rid of them!” I only jest because they are patient with newbies aboard!


Gretchen and Rudy kept a very close watch on us. They were not use to strangers on board, but they were completely welcoming the entire time!


Though we planned to sail all the way to Block Island we learned our first lesson of boating — there is no such thing as a schedule. The weather is your master, accept it and live with it. We made it as far as Atlantic Highlands near Sandy Hook, NJ before we needed to pull the plug on the journey. None the less what an experience!

About the same time as Ty and Suzanne were sailing off, Greg (of Greg and Marie) (aka “Enablers”) started working with me at the office. Ty and Greg had know each other when they were both sailing in the Mediterranean and so it was only natural Greg would come in to replace Ty. The only surprise was that little did Greg know he and Marie inherited Annette and me too!

Knowing their boat was currently more “home” than “sailboat” I offered, “hey we don’t have a boat, but we can get one of the club Catalinas if you and Marie want to get underway.” There was not a second of pause and in spite of the weather off we went! As the picture shows, it was pouring rain, but we still had a good time.


Annette and I continued our training with the Pentagon Sailing Club making trips to St Michaels and organizing a super fun event we referred to “The Poor Man’s Regatta.” All the while Greg and I talked sailing on a daily basis. The whole time he was making me think.  What is the thought process when it comes to sailing and boats? Those discussions formed the basis on which we operate Magnolia today.

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Annette and I joined the Seven Sea Cruising Association and attended the annual meeting held near Annapolis, MD. Ty was the President of the SSCA then so we had the opportunity to spend time with Ty that weekend as well


Annette and I continued our training and involvement in the PSC. We were awarded the most improved sailor’s award at the 2009 Annual Banquet.


It was important to Annette and me that we obtain our American Sailing Association (ASA) credentials. We spent months studying and building our skills with the help of the PSC. We travelled to the British Virgin Islands and sailed with Capt. Pat Nolan of Sistership for a week of exams and testing.


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While much of the action was taking place in the mid-Atlantic, Ty and Suzanne were at their home in Florida thinking “boy, sure glad we are only “dealers” and not “enablers”. Poor Greg and Marie!” That all came to an end when Annette and I asked them to come look at a boat with us since they were in Florida and so was the boat. I will never forget looking at this Kelly Peterson with Greg on the phone asking me to look at specific things and Ty thumping away on the deck checking for rot and Annette and Suzanne peppering the salesman with questions. I swear he was on the verge of giving us the boat. 

None the less we eventually found “Wind Fetish” aka “Magnolia” with Ty and Suzanne’s help evaluating her. She is our 1990 Morgan 44 from Tampa Bay FL.

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(Annette takes the helm during the survey and inspects the hull)

We have a problem, the boat is in Florida and it needs to be in Virginia. From the movie, “Who ya gonna call? ‘Enablers’ of course.” I will confess here and now that I cannot recount this part of the story with a dry eye. Keep in mind we had no idea the scope of the help we were asking for. We asked Greg and Marie if they would “sail with us for 2 weeks to bring our sailboat to the Chesapeake?” In hindsight and I know what Greg heard at the time was “will you please work like dogs for a couple of weekends in Florida before we leave? Then just before we leave go down a couple of days before us to make final preps and sail for at least 10 days, 1000 miles, sometimes 100 miles offshore on a boat you have no history with and a crew that does not have a clue? He and Marie readily took on the challenge.  And we are still friends!


(I look at this picture often and vowed never to be the guy watching and soon as we got Magnolia home I spent every moment I could learning about her – AND spent hours pestering Greg via phone/email on “stuff” which I still do to this day.)


Many may not beware, but you simply cannot rename a boat, you have to ask permission from the gods of the sea and wind and only perform such an act with appropriate pomp and circumstance.  When we acquired her, she was referred to as “Wind Fetish” which just did not work for us. The name Magnolia comes from Annette’s mother, Orpha. Her favorite tree was a large Magnolia that grew in the family yard in Falls Church, Virgina.  As stated by our friend, Jill Roberts, “Magnolias are relatively easy to grow and pest free – isn’t that what you want in a boat?” With that simple logic we knew we would name our boat S/V Magnolia.  A proper renaming ceremony and party was held June 2011.



The next year S/V Second Sally (Greg and Marie’s Boat) along with S/V Magnolia made a “cruise” south to St Mary’s, MD





(The real treat and perhaps what this “life” is really about is about, was being able to introduce our new sailing friends to our old sailing friends – Mike and Tina Moreau)

In the spring of 2013, Annette and I quit our jobs, readied our house, and called Magnolia “home.” Below are our friends, all of us “Class of 2013” (first timers heading south one way or another). All the stories are different, yet similar.


I can not speak for all of the class, but for Annette and I simply feel so very, very privileged to being doing this.  We have had much help from many along the way, yet  without our “Dealers” and  “Enablers.” we would not be here. We are so very, very grateful to you. Thank you so very much Greg, Marie, Ty and Suzanne.



2013-10-31–Sometimes you see the most unexpected things!

Magnolia and crew crossed the Albemarle Sound from Elizabeth City and made anchorage in South Lake off the Alligator River. It was a lovely place, we saw no other boat or person for 24 hours Keep in mind we are in the midst of migration season so to have an anchorage to ourselves you know we must have been off the beaten path. It was a challenge to navigate our way in but it was lovely. We intended to stay in South Lake through the approaching front cycle we are entering but with a weather window to move further south and the words of my friend Greg in my ears, “make hay when the sun shines” we quickly got Magnolia moving south. Soon after getting underway we approached the Alligator River Bridge. Below is what we see when closing in on a bridge.


The Admiral usually does the radio talking since it seems a female voice generally gets a better response and this was no exception. Annette called the bridge on the VHF radio and of course we got a quick opening.





This sign indicates that we are 85 statute (not nautical) miles down the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW). For reference mile 0 is in Portsmouth, VA.


Its always good to remember that this is not actually the “Love Boat” sailing off to white sand beaches. Somedays we actually get some pretty crappy weather. This is not one of them but just a reminder.


We do have a full enclosure and stay completely warm and dry on days like these.



Just about the time the sun came out I observed what I thought was a Sea Monster in the canal. I literally had to slow the boat or I would have hit the poor creature. 



Watching this guy cross and climb out on the other side really was pretty amazing.


This is a “un-restricted” bridge meaning it is fixed height and we can go under at anytime. The downside of the bridges is the actually height is governed by how high the water is, As you can see there is a little gauge showing how much clearance we have, I generally grab the binoculars and verify if there is any question on clearance. Magnolia requires 58 ft.


The picture below was taken from our track map available at (http://a2baker.com/magnoliablog/?page_id=1602). The trip from South Lake to our current anchorage in the Pungo River was 45 nm miles which took us right at 8 hours. We had a bit more current in the canal than I anticipated.


We are anchored deep up the Pungo River until sunday when we will make the short 10 mile hop over to Belhaven Waterway Marina (www.belhavenmarina.com/) to have small Autopilot problem resolved hopefully on Monday.