Lionheart Cruise: Homeward Bound
Nick (on the right) found his younger body double in Nugget (left) at Anchor Bay East Marina in Dundalk, MD.
Leaving Anchor Bay Marina on our final run down the East Coast.
A tall ship glides out of Baltimore Harbor on a fall morning.
Up close and personal with an aircraft carrier off the coast of Georgia.
Our last sunset on the East Coast. Off the coast of Florida, November 20, 2008.
Nick thanks the Captain for a safe arrival in Pompano Beach.
The only marina between Gulfport, LA, and New Orleans. The coastline of this part of the Gulf has been wiped off the face of the planet.
Nick's take on life in Ventura? It's a real snoozer!
This is the last page of the website chronicling the Great Adventure of M/V Lionheart and her crew: Captain Richard, Admiral Sue, and Cat Crew Nikolas. We began in Long Beach, CA, on October 21, 2005, and came to the dock, in Ventura, CA, on January 7, 2009. The 38 month, 16 day cruise is reported in this and the previous 24 pages of this web site. This final leg of the journey included the East Coast from the Delaware Bay to Ft. Lauderdale. Therefore, I will not go into much detail about the places where we stopped because we had been there before and I have covered our experiences in previous web pages.
I write from Ventura Isle Marina, in Ventura, CA, where we are currently docked, and where we hope to live aboard Lionheart (unless we sell her) while we build our dream house just down the beach in Oxnard. The pilot house, where the crew "lived" day-in and day-out while cruising, has been converted into the "office" space we need for land living. We are plugged into the dock so there is no longer the sound of a generator to run the A/C or heat. However, all the concerns of water, sewage, volts needed for each light and appliance, etc., are still with us. The Captain is actually looking forward to leaving all those concerns to someone else when we do move onto land. Now, the tale of the final run from Cape May, NJ, to Ventura, California.
October 22, 2009, was a hugely windy day in Cape May, NJ, so we stayed at the dock and did laundry and chores. Early on the 23rd, we left the dock in more than a moderate breeze, heading south through the Cape May Canal into the Delaware Bay, retracing our path of last May when we were heading north. Spent that night at anchor in Chesapeake City. The 24th was foggy as we traveled south to Anchor Bay East Marina which is just a few miles outside Baltimore, on Bear Creek, in Dundalk, MD. We had been in this marina two times previously and knew we could get the work done on Lionheart that was needed. It was cold, foggy and rainy for much of the 14 days we spent there, however, I did enjoy walking out in the nearby park areas among the changing leaves of autumn. The flights of geese moving south was also a sign that we needed to get south ourselves. Based upon our previous time spent in this area, we availed ourselves of the services of a first rate hair salon, Trader Joe's, Costco, movies, and the Hard Yacht Cafe. This venerable establishment, conveniently located right at the marina, serves the marina guests and the local neighborhood. We were also able to enjoy USC vs Arizona on Oct. 25, and USC vs UW on Nov. 1. Both were satisfying victories for the Trojans even though it was going to take a miracle for them to wind up in the top 3 college football teams after their early loss to Oregon.
We also had another potential buyer for Lionheart in Baltimore. The couple had been apprised of Lionheart by other DeFever owners and were actually very interested in buying her. However, they owned a Grand Banks, and the economy had just fallen off the cliff, so they decided the time was not right. This left us at decision time regarding taking Lionheart back home or leaving her with a broker on the East Coast. The Captain contacted Yacht Path, a yacht shipping service, for a quote on shipping the boat from Port Everglades, FL, to Ensenada, Mexico. They gave him a good price but we had to have the boat in Port Everglades (about 1200 miles south) by November 24, to load her on the freighter Sophie Rickmers. That is a long way to go in 15 days in the fall in the Atlantic. We decided to make a run for it. If we didn't make the loading date, we could spend a few months at the dock in Florida waiting for another shipping date on another freighter.
On November 7, it was sunny and flat. The water was the leaden color of fall. We said goodbye to the great folks at Anchor Bay East and headed out of Bear Creek and past the Francis Scott Key Bridge (which spans the entrance to Baltimore Harbor), heading south with the geese. Two days of travel got us to Portsmouth, VA, on Saturday, in time to watch USC beat Cal. Since the weather was not so great, we stayed at the dock on Sunday and visited our favorite movie theater on the East Coast, The Commodore, for dinner and the movie Pride and Glory. While we had seen some really good movies there, that wasn't one of them. Monday, November 10, found us taking the ICW south to Coinjock. There are several draw bridges on this section. One was broken for several hours, causing the captains of at least 2 dozen southbound boats to tear their hair and seek alternative dockage which was not available. In the end, the bridge was repaired, we all made it to Coinjock. The docks there were full by dark. We left at 6:30 AM on Tuesday and traveled until 5:00 PM. A long day, however, it enabled us to reach Beaufort, N.C., the next day by noon, thereby missing the beginning of a big storm. We waited 4 days for the storm to pass and the seas to "lay down." Our next leg was to be a 25-hour overnight passage in the Atlantic from Beaufort to Charleston, S.C., and we again wanted calm weather. While the storm did not bother us at the dock, 20 miles inland there were tornados and damaging rain. We did get to watch the USC vs Stanford game on the 15th. Once again the score was outstanding. If ONLY they hadn't lost to the Beavs in September, they would have been #1.
On Sunday, November 16, the Captain decided that we had the right window of weather to make it to Charleston. Leaving the dock with the tide at 1:00 PM, we were confronted with a big choppy mess on the Atlantic. Fortunately, it did start to smooth out as darkness approached. Unfortunately, it was not soon enough for Nick who howled and barfed and gave us the evil eye pretty much the entire trip. The night was starry and moonlit, therefore, the 25.5-hour passage was not bad except for that poor beginning. When we pulled into the Marina in Charleston, we saw our pals on Total Return were at the dock. They were waiting for the next weather window to head south on a 450 mile offshore passage to Ft. Lauderdale. Their passage down to Charleston was so bad that the Admiral and Cat Crew member, MYC, were going south by car. Captain Russ had hired crew for this final leg down the coast. We had a lovely evening with Total Return and 2 other Nordhaven crews at Hank's in Old Town. Another outstanding meal in Charleston. November 19 found Total Return and Lionheart departing Charleston Harbor at 9:00 AM, embarking on a 48-hour, final leg of our trip to meet the freighter. While the usual fatigue of 2 days straight at sea was felt by all, it was actually one of the easiest crossings we had in 3 years. However, we could tell that Nick was getting near the end of his tolerance for open ocean cruising. He was really not happy when the sun went down on the second day at sea. He had a few good howls, voicing his complaints about our travel plans. When we arrived at the Sheppard's dock in Pompano Beach on Friday, November 21, he was off the boat in a flash, ready to explore his favorite yard in Florida. He was truly glad to be back on land that day.
Jerry and Sistie Sheppard have become great friends during the course of this adventure and have been prominently featured on many of the preceding web pages. They are wintering on their boat, Why Knot, in Key West, having spent the summer on the rivers of Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama. This left their home dock in Pompano Beach empty and we were glad to have it for a few days. We were delighted that they decided to drive up from Key West for one last visit before we headed West. We did party hearty that weekend as well as preparing Lionheart for the 15-day trip aboard the freighter. That meant cleaning out the refrigerator and the freezer, as there would be no power provided to the boat during the transit. We secured everything we could think of and packed our belongings, and those of Nick, that were needed for the trip across the USA in a rented minivan. On November 24, Jerry helped the Captain take Lionheart to the freighter in Port Everglades. They took her alongside the ship, got on the launch, and watched her taken onboard the Sophie Rickmers. Sistie and I picked them up at the dock and marveled at Lionheart sitting right on the bow of the freighter. Lionheart left on November 26, traveling 5,400 miles to Ensenada, arriving there on December 10. Unfortunately, an entire flock of seagulls chose to ride on the freighter too.......roosting on top of Lionheart's pristine blue canvas on the flying bridge. More on that later! On Tuesday, November 25, we bid our good friend goodbye, with much hugging and wet eyes, and began the driving trip which would take us 3,000 miles across the southern part of the United States to California.
Our first day on the road got us north to Tallahassee, FL. As always, we enjoyed seeing the countryside we passed through. All of Florida is flat. The sky is usually a beautiful blue. That night we found a clean, pet-friendly motel and went out for sushi. The next day we traveled west, planning to spend the night in New Orleans. We knew the city was still recovering from Katrina, but we had understood that the French Quarter had been spared. We hoped to visit that district which we last saw in 1979. While still on approach to New Orleans, we left I-10 and headed to the Gulf Coast to see how Gulfport, LA, was recovering. The fact is, the entire beach coast has been wiped off the face of the earth. There is one marina operating and a very few houses being rebuilt between Gulfport and the bridge over the Sabine Pass, which leads into New Orleans. When we crossed the new bridge into the outskirts of the city, we could see from the highway that we would not be able to find a suitable place to stay near the French Quarter. The city is still a major disaster! We could not find suitable lodgings anywhere near the French Quarter, considering we had Mr. Cat and could not stay in a high-rise Hilton or something like that. So, we traveled on to Lake Charles, LA, arriving there at dusk, tired from a 3 hour traffic jam for miles around New Orleans. Our accommodations that night were less than desirable. Mr. Cat almost broke his nose trying to sniff the place out. Fortunately, he could not get under the beds for investigative research, because only God knows what was under there. We acquired this room by phone. It was the only motel in the area that charged a reasonable rate for Mr. Cat. We had been quoted charges of $75 to $200 as an additional charge to our double room rate! Needless to say, we did more research prior to checking into any accommodations for the rest of the trip, and, I took Motel 6 off the option list!
Since we had skipped New Orleans, we were making fast progress so we decided to detour from I-10 and visit my old friend Hazel Darden in DeSoto, TX, which is a bit south of Dallas. It was Thanksgiving Day, but she said she would love to see us, so we headed northwest, arriving at her lovely home in mid-afternoon. She was preparing Thanksgiving dinner for her grandkids, her brother and some other friends who were visiting from Los Angeles. We had an all too short visit, but it was wonderful to see her in her new home, and nicely settled with her granddaughters who moved to Texas with her. While she asked us to stay for dinner, we thought we ought to push on and reach San Antonio for the night. We regretted that decision later when we could not find a single place to have a proper Thanksgiving dinner on the outskirts of San Antonio. We wound up at a sports bar watching UT play Texas A&M along with the faithful fans of both schools. We have had better dinners but, having seen an old friend and talked with our kids on Thanksgiving, we considered it a great day on our road of adventure. The next day was spent exploring San Antonio, TX. We drove into town, locating the Alamo which turned out to be the tourist center of the town. We hopped on the Trolley Tour and soon found ourselves exploring Mission San Jose. This is one of a chain of missions established along the San Antonio River in the 1700s. Early Spanish explorers moved north looking for gold and other riches. After exploring the area north of the Rio Grande, their dreams of finding great treasure faded and they establish missions to further the Catholic Church, and to protect Spanish interests against French encroachment from the east (now Louisiana). One of these early missions, San Antonio de Valero, became a military outpost known as The Alamo. All of the missions were built as fortresses to protect the occupants against the war-like Apaches. The friars recruited the docile Coahuiltecan (kwa-weel-teken) native Americans to occupy the mission villages. They gave them living space within the walls of the mission and taught them skills like stone masonry, building, and milling. The NA's, in return, farmed the mission lands and became Catholics. When the Apaches attacked, they moved into the walled fortress to escape. Prior to that, however, the NAs were hunter-gatherers who roamed the area freely except, of course, for those nasty Apaches who killed, maimed, and kidnapped the more docile Coahuiltecans. In any event, we know how it turned out for the NA's. What is left of the Mission San Jose is the beautiful church and sanctuary. The wall surrounding the mission is complete with gates (all reconstructed). Also, the mill which was operated by water brought from the San Antonio River through a system of irrigation channels, and some of the shop buildings. Next we visited Mission Concepcion, which has not been as completely restored. The Alamo has been restored and was packed with tourists the day after Thanksgiving but well worth the wait to see the inside. We had lunch from a stand in the Mercado and enjoyed music and the displays of public art between there and the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk area is really pretty, but in the end it is just another shopping mall with restaurants and entertainment. It is unique in that it offers boat rides on the "river". Not exactly what we look for in our off-cruising adventures! We did attend an IMAX movie which was the re-enactment of the battle at The Alamo which took place in March, 1836. Famous Americans fighting and dying in the cause of liberating Texas from Mexican rule were Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, along with approximately 200 men from several states and foreign countries who had settled in Texas and wanted to be free of Mexican rule. After our busy day of sightseeing, we dined at a KAOS recommended Tex-Mex restaurant in the suburbs and made up for our missed turkey dinner of the day before.
Saturday, November 29, we packed Mr. Cat in the car and headed to Carlsbad, NM. Along the way we stopped at Luckenbach, TX, of Country-Western fame. It doesn't take long to see Luckenbach because nothing much happens in the morning. Friday and Saturday nights are entirely different. They have musicians and dancing every weekend. There were posters advertising Christmas and New Year's Eve parties. Many people come for the weekend, parking their RVs in the lot provided. I am sure it rocks out then. However, the only things moving on Saturday morning at 10:00 was a handsome cat, a dog, two T-shirts, and a few tourists like us. That left us plenty of time to visit Fredricksburg, TX, just west of Luckenbach. This is a German town that looks like it should be in Pennsylvania. We found some great sausage, cheese and bread to make our lunch along the road. In fact, while picnicking on the tailgate of the minivan, we met a young mother who had stopped to do the same thing with her young daughter, and to walk her dog. (Nick was unimpressed with said dog.) She told us her story of losing her job in San Antonio several months back, not finding a new one, and deciding to move back to California to live with her brother until she gets her life back together. (The brother did not know about the dog!) We thought about the many folks who are suddenly being displaced by the economic problems in America and hoped this one would find her way in a difficult time. Arriving in the town of Carlsbad, NM, we did the round of motels that would take pets and that would have the USC vs Notre Dame game available in the lounge. Having settled into the non-luxurious but clean accommodations, we checked out the Carlsbad Caverns website and made plans to visit there on the morrow. Leaving Nick to sniff the place over completely, we headed for the bar, dinner, and the game. After dinner, we found that the game was being broadcast on the TV in our room so we repaired there to watch the more than satisfying trouncing of the Fighting Irish.....38-3! On Sunday we drove to the Caverns which are about 30 miles from the town and spent the entire day touring this National Park. We had both visited Carlsbad Caverns as young children but found that it is well worth a second visit.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in the Guadalupe Mountains of the Chihuahuan Desert. The tour of the Caverns begins at the visitor's center. One descends 750 feet by elevator to walk 2 miles through the Big Room and Kings Palace caverns. The story of the caverns begins 250 million years ago with the creation of a 400-mile long reef in the inland sea that covered this region. The horseshoe-shaped reef formed from the remains of sponges, algae, and seashells and from calcite that precipitated directly from the water. Cracks developed in the reef as it rose. Eventually the sea evaporated, and the reef was buried under deposits of salts and gypsum. A few million years ago, the area began to be thrust upward. Surface erosion allowed rainwater to seep downward through cracks and faults. At the same time, hydrogen sulfide-rich water migrated upward from vast oil and gas fields to the south and east. These two waters mixed, forming sulfuric acid, which dissolved the limestone and opened up the fractures and faults into the large chambers which we visited. The formations, which have been illuminated, include stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, soda straws, popcorn, and more that are amazing to see and well worth the effort of walking for a few hours. We took the elevator to the surface for lunch and then walked to the "bat" entrance. Thousands of bats flying out of the cave entrance every evening at dusk caused it's discovery by settlers in the 1800s. Some stayed to mine the huge deposits of bat guano in the cave and sell it as a natural fertilizer. However, further exploration of the cave by a cowboy named Jim White, exposed the wonders that lay well beneath the bat cave which is located at the 200-foot level below the cave entrance. In 1915, a photographic expedition started the drive to fully explore the natural scenic wonder underground. In 1923, the Caverns were proclaimed a national monument and in 1930 Congress made it a National Park. We descended into the Caverns for the second time via the bat entrance and walked the switchback trail down to the 750 foot level. Today, only Park Rangers are allowed to walk up this path. Believe me, walking down the very steep path was enough of a work out for us! We were glad indeed to have made this stop on our trip back to California.
Tombstone, AZ, was our destination on Monday, December 1. Arriving in mid-afternoon, we barely had time to get a room at one of the Tombstone motels and our tickets for the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Leaving Nick in our sub-prime accommodations to sniff for hours, we headed for the famous corral where, on October 27, 1881, the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday confronted the Clantons and McLowrys. After the 30-second battle, Marshal Earp and his deputies prevailed over the bad guys, as history is recorded in The Tombstone Epitaph published the following day. I am sure it was better if you were there. It was also better in the movie starring Kurt Russell. We spent the rest of daylight walking around the remains, or the reconstruction, of the old town. We visited the saloons where everyone is dressed in period costumes, had dinner (not gourmet fare) and headed back to Mr. Cat at the Tombstone Lodge. There we researched pet spas on the internet to find an appropriate accommodation for Nick while we stayed in San Diego and Ensenada. We were up and out of Tombstone in the early morning and enjoyed our drive across the desert to Yuma. We stayed at an old but well kept motel in the civic center. I believe I stayed at this very motel as a child traveling with my parents in the 1950s. We were directed to a local Mexican restaurant and had an absolutely outstanding dinner. Let's hear it for the local hole in the wall cafes! Reaching San Diego before noon on Wednesday, December 3, we checked Nikolas into the Purring Parrot Pet Spa (trying saying that 3 times real fast!) where Nick was ushered into The Egyptian Room and, the owner Maria, promised to care for him in the manner to which he is accustomed. We checked ourselves into the Edna and Tom Noll Bed & Breakfast. This is a very prestigious establishment with a very short list of potential guests. One must make reservations years in advance and go through an arduous vetting, or, marry into the family! Having passed the 20-year screening process, we settled into a lovely visit with Tom and Edna, waiting for Lionheart to get close to Ensenada before we headed south over the border. Having not heard about the terrible drug wars raging south of the boarder, we had originally thought that Tom and Edna could just drive us to Ensenada. When we all learned the dangers of such a trip, we settled upon the transport provided by the Hotel Coral where we planned to stay for a few days before Lionheart arrived. During our stay with the Nolls we managed to buy a Lexus RX to provide land transportation going forward. We visited our old friends Joyce and John Ingle who live in Rancho Bernardo. John was my first dean at USC and turned 90 in January. We were treated to Tom's famous chocolate martinis, dinner at the Olive Garden, and watching the UCLA game on December 6. Winning that game looked harder than it was, but win we did, securing a place in the Rose Bowl game on January 1. While it wasn't to be the #1 BCS game, the Rose Bowl is certainly not chopped liver.
On December 7, it was time to turn in the trusty rental car and head south of the border to meet Lionheart. Her delivery was scheduled for December 10. We wanted to make sure we were there to receive her off the freighter and take her to a dock. While it was not likely that she would be early, we didn't want to miss her unloading and splash down. We checked into the Hotel Coral in the late afternoon. This is a pretty luxurious hotel with a spa and a marina. We had actually stopped there in November 2005, to "check in" to Mexico, thus beginning our Big Adventure south of the border. The hotel was decorated for Christmas, which was nice. The restaurant was quite good and our view was glorious. We spent 5 nights and 4 days just relaxing and exploring Ensenada. It has changed hugely since we were last there in the early 70s. It was a nice break from traveling but we were anxious to get the boat and get home for the holidays. The freighter arrived during the night of December 10, and we were on the launch heading for the Sophie Rickmers at 9:00 AM on December 11. We saw Lionheart coming off in the cradle and safely into the water. We boarded from the launch. The Captain fired up those big cats, we checked for any obvious dings, vibrations, etc., and left straight away for the Marina Coral. Once at the dock, the Captain did a thorough inspection and found that we had 2 broken antennas and a huge load of bird dung all over the boat. Four workers were sent down to clean the outside of the boat. They used all of the Captain's cleaning supplies but did not completely get the job done. We were in despair over the condition of the once blue canvas on the top deck as well as the depth of the bird dung left to clean. However, we moved back aboard and left early on the morning of December 12, heading north past Rosarito Beach and Tijuana. Arriving in San Diego Bay at 3:30 PM, we checked back into the USA at the Customs Dock and were in a slip at Sunroads Marina by sunset, with a view of the city right out the front window. Never mind that it was cold and windy. We were really glad to be back in California after 38 months of adventuring.
On Saturday, December 13, we picked up our Lexus and retrieved Mr. Cat from the Purring Parrot. The Captain also rented a pressure washer to see if the do-do could be cleaned off. That evening we celebrated with a great dinner with Tom and Edna. They staked us to our last supper when we headed south so we had to reciprocate when we came back going north! The weather continued stormy but was supposed to be okay on December 17. While it was raining when the Captain started the engines, he was convinced the coast would be passable. As he headed out of San Diego Bay, Nick and I headed north in the car to rendezvous with the boat at Dana Point. It was really storming on the drive north and I was unable to raise the Captain on the cell phone. I was a little worried but had no idea of the bad day he was having on the water! I reached Dana Point in the early afternoon and checked in with the Harbor Master and received our slip assignment for the night. When I walked down to inspect the assigned dock, I found that the entire electrical box had been ripped out of the dock and was not functioning. I called the Harbor Master but was told there was no other dock available. About that time I made contact with the Captain by phone and found that he was just entering the harbor. I was down on the dock to tie him up by approximately 4:00 PM. Once the boat was secured and Mr. Cat transferred from the car to the boat for the night, the Captain recounted his harrowing experience on the high seas that day. Upon clearing Point Loma and heading north, he had to contend with the huge kelp beds that float for miles off the Point. He also had to contend with much larger waves than he had anticipated. He was taking a terrible pounding and a lot of water over the bow when he heard the poppping sounds and smell of the smoke of an electrical fire. He was truly all alone out there with sparks in the pilot house! Fortunately, the incident ended before any damage was done but the Captain did not actually know what was the cause or if anything was damaged. However, he did have to press on, so he headed toward shore where the ride was smoother and the second half of the 6-hour trip went better. By the time he pulled into Dana Point, he had figured out that it was the printer on the chart table that had evidently had a short but had not actually caught fire and was not of further danger......thank you God! In any event, we had made arrangements to visit Helen and Geoff Gilchrist who live in San Juan Capistrano for dinner, so we had no time for further reflection on this less than perfect leg of what was supposed to be our victory lap. We had a lovely evening with the Gilchrists, enjoying their company and the fantastic Christmas decorations in their home. Got us into the holiday spirit in spite of a bad day at sea and on the road. The next day dawned clear and beautiful and the Captain was in Alamitos Bay by noon. Nick and I were waiting with the car to help him tie up on Gangway 5. Now we were truly back in our "home" port. On the Saturday before Christmas we traveled up to Ventura to secure a slip for Lionheart for the coming year. While in the area, we stopped by the Ventura Yacht Club to visit our friends, Barbara and Ed Kutchma, whom we had met in Quebec and traveled with through the Maritimes last summer. We ended up staying for dinner, and the Ventura Harbor Boat Parade, and joining the Ventura Yacht Club. The rest of the month of December was spent visiting with family and friends and spending a very Merry Christmas with our children and Grandchildren. New Year's Eve was a quiet evening on a mooring in Avalon, Catalina Island. On New Year's Day we watched the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl football game, enjoying both the beautiful floral floats and the Trojan's victory over Penn State. On January 2, we returned to Long Beach. The next few days of 2009 were not great for off-shore cruising. Finally, on January 7, the Captain headed out of Alamitos Bay early for the last leg of the trip to our new home dock in Ventura Harbor. The Admiral and Nick set off by car to meet the boat one more time. We rendezvoused at Dock E-19 in Ventura Isle Marina just after sunset.
So, there you have it! The 3 of us traveled 24,918 miles (at roughly ONE mile per gallon) on Lionheart. We were gone 38 months and 16 days. We visited 9 foreign countries, many states, and many bodies of water, all faithfully documented in the 25 pages of this web site and illustrated by the map on this page. We met many wonderful people, made new friends, and expanded our minds with the grand experiences of The Great Adventure. We hope our readers have enjoyed the trip as well and thank our family, friends and all those along the way who touched our lives in so many ways. We are glad we did it and we are glad to be back.