Sunday, December 30, 2012

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year: Mile Marker 1063

It's hard believe Christmas has past and we are awaiting the New Year in a familiar place. One can't complain, but one can admit how it just isn't the same without family around you.

We pulled into Soveral Harbor in Palm Beach Gardens on the 22 of December, fully planning to stay until the end of the week. The calender was set by the need to provision, schedule routine maintenance, and the fact those things are not readily available on the 25th. Some marinas even close, but Soveral is in a private setting so we enjoyed five days of meals at Carmine's and surrounding restaurants that don't serve "boat food" from the fryer! We even rented a car to do the beaches and some sightseeing. This trip we spent a day at White Hall, the Palm Beach museum/home that Henry Flagler built for his third wife, a younger woman not readily accepted by society at that time. They served High Tea, so when in Rome . . .  Les Mis opened on Christmas so we rounded the week out with a movie, just to keep busy on Christmas. The weather was fabulous while in our slip, it figures. 

But when we left the slip to begin days of tedious bridge openings through the Palm Beaches, Boca Raton and Ft. Lauderdale, winds began to pick up and all the fronts affecting the north whipped us with undesirable weather, though not quite the same. Tall bridges are behind us and the real estate we motored past is beautiful at all price points. It is necessary to travel at almost idle speed because the area is so residential, yet we have to adjust speed to "make" the next bridge efficiently. There were 22 bascule bridges for us to negotiate in two days! Dec. 28 we anchored in Boca Rotan Lake and early in the morning, before the winds picked up, we made the four hour run to Bahia Mar Resort in Ft. Lauderdale. We are SOOO the small boat here! (Photos later.)

Unfortunately, the winds are NOT favorable for our run to Miami for several days. The vessel next to us, Sabi,  returned from a four hour run in the ocean, having to cancel their New Years plans due to rough seas. (My canary on the ocean.)  Have beach chairs, will travel, and the beach here is fabulous, just crowded for the holiday. I'm sure we will find the fireworks and provisions easily as Lauderdale offers a for-fee water taxi to locations on both sides of the waterway. Today we had a long walk to people watch and enjoy the beach before the weather turned again, which it did during lunch. Sometimes its really nice not to have a sheadule or a destination; then we can catch up on things like the blog, and just relaxing.

Promise in a sling for new zinc and a cutlass bearing.
Merry Christmas Promise. Next, a new coat of wax in Ft. Lauderdale.
Decorated for Christmas
Nice beach here, too.

Jupiter Inlet Light

High Tea at Whte Hall
December 2012

The view from White Hall across the Intercoastal Waterway
Palm Harbor Marina on the other side

White Hall, Henry Flagler's Palm Beach "Home"

Real Estate in Ft. Lauderdale on the waterway

Canals, palm trees and Venitian archetecture-
must be Florida! 

Waiting for a bridge in Ft. Lauderdale
Only in Florida

My brother Paul reminded me to enjoy the details.
This one's for you, Paul!

The best thing we saw on our beaach/street walk today
before the fog, cloulds and chill set in.
Bucket list: to see the turtles.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ah, Florida. Mile Marker 965

You may wonder where we've been, fear not. We have fallen into the pattern of getting up just before sunrise, traveling with good weather, then crashing as soon as chores  are completed and we have tomorrow's float plan filled out. This has been a long run of mostly good luck, until we reached our current slip in Ft. Pierce at Harbor Town Marina.  

In the last two weeks we have stopped at Dataw Island, Sea Pines in Hilton Head Isle of Hope and then we anchored in New Teakettle Creek. After a simple anchor set and preparing for a rainy night, our generator failed again. The resolution to this reoccurring problem awaits us in Miami where a serviceman will work with us to get us island hopping and anchor setting again.

In the meantime we moved on to Florida with several one day slogs and stays in Fernandiina, St. Augustine, Titusville, Datona Beach, Melbourne, and, now, Fort Stewart. We had planned some routine maintenance this morning but with 25-30 knot gusts we cancelled the plan, stayed at the dock, and enjoyed the sunshine and quiet as this cold front blows itself out. No complaints here, it has been in the high 70s, low 80s and the drop to 60 something today is almost welcome. We have finally put the foul weather back in the closet, retrieved some shorts and located the sunscreen.

Our adventure has been a testament to good planning. Rick has managed to maximize each day's bridge travels and tides and we have docked at reasonable times so we could do some walking and sightseeing. We even got to the beach in Hilton Head but we're so out of practice, we only lasted two hours, but it was great! Then  we successfully crossed the inlets of Georgia (Susan's least favorites) and we even had plenty of water for that stretch of the ICW. We have had our share of rain, but our enclosure makes rain a minimal issue. It has been a little challenging watching the winds build up here. Our location matches where we were at this late last year! For now we have hunkered down like everyone else. Tomorrow we'll make a long run to West Palm Beach where we'll stay for Christmas, departing after the next cold front. The weather is not trustworthy more than 24-48 hours out, but we do watch the trends.

Rick particularly likes this part of Florida. Dolphins rode with him yesterday in our starboard side wake for over an hour. We see them daily and don't take them for granted. In Titusville we watched a manetee come up under a dock to enjoy the air conditioning discharge from another Catalina. We would like to see more manatees, but the fact they can stay protected and out of sight is probably better. As we travel south now, we will see more of them in the warm waters near Boca and points below, but then they are a hazard to us. They tend to pop up and boaters are responsible to not hit them. Pelicans dominate the waters here in Florida and we pass rookeries every day. We watch fish eating birds feed and dive in the water with lots of sun sparkle to highlight the waterway, lots to keep us watching with appreciation for nature.

There have been a few hold-your-breath moments here in Florida. Rick maintains that the bridge boards reading 62-64 on the arched bridges don't represent the height in the middle of the bridge. Hence we slowly slid under several bridges reading that low with success, only clinking on one bridge so far and it read 64'. Remember that 64' mast is our blessing and curse.

Live Oaks, Spanish Moss and Christmas
Historic Isle of Hope, SC
We wish everyone the best holidays can offer, time with family and peace all year. We'll be thinking of you!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Welcome to South Carolina, Mile Marker 467

Georgetown, Sc, was a productive rice growing community before the civil war. Today it is a quaint community on the river that provides a break from the ICW. This is our third visit here so we skipped tourist things and just walked the streets in an effort to repair Susan's sea legs. We enjoyed dinner at the Rice Paddy and spent two days on maintenance and dock walking and talking, gathering local knowledge and viewing the town Christmas parade and tree lighting. There is always some festival here!

Monday morning we set off in what was labeled as "possible light fog off shore," only to run hours in the fog and rain. Skies cleared by late afternoon and as we approached Charleston, it was positively beautiful, sunny and warm. It was a textbook perfect float plan, 64 miles in one day, clearing bridges and making bridge openings like clockwork.

Local advice was to skip City Cock in Charleston, to stay at Charleston Harbor Marina and Resort with the resort amenities and a shuttle available to town. We would NOT recommend this to anyone! The Cooper River is commercial and cruise ships dock across the river from the marina. Hence, one rocks all the time and the docks rise hugely each time a ship goes up or down river. The marina is more than three miles from anything. All the rivers have current to contend with, but we would go back to City dock if given a chance.

The shuttle service served us relatively well. Tuesday we spent the morning walking the beach on Sullivan's Island. It was overcast but warm and the beach was beautiful. We found breakfast and lunch at a local coffee shop. This is a permanent community, not a tourist destination. It was hard not to spend part of each day in the city of Charleston so we planned a meal each day in the historic district. No debate, this is one of the best towns for foodies. For boaters following us on this journey, we highly recommend Husk, Magnolias, Blossom, S.N.O.B. (Slightly North of Broad,) The Peninsula Grill, and Poogan's Porch. This is the time we live on shrimp, grits, cornbread, biscuits, chutneys, and local foods. Once again, we just enjoyed walking street after street, no big agenda this visit.

The weatherman predicted rain Tuesday, then moved it to Wednesday, then Thursday . . . you get the situation. The tides are best for us tomorrow, so Friday it is, rain or shine. We are ready to move on and eager to get to Miami in general. It will be another long day tomorrow as we head to Dataw Island, a new stop for us. We are a little disappointed not to be making as many friends as we made last year, but we are late traveling. Still, we are meeting a few folks, many who are late as a result of Sandy and Athena. Here's to better days for everyone.
Fog on the Wacamaw River
Rain through the windshield

And how we survive the rain and fog.

The famous bridge boards.
Cypress knees are back again.

Mistle toe in tree tops.

Our favorite!

Sullivan's Island Light

The Charleston Market at closing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Every Picture Tells a Story Mile Marker 285

Today grew cloudy in anticipation of a cold front due by dinner time. We experienced lots of iffy, skinny water all day as we crossed small sounds and creeks with unmarked shoaling. 
We had to time three swing bridges carefully, and we clinked on a highway bridge at 64 feet. Otherwise, it was a straightforward day with lots of diversions.

The view from our stern before dawn at Dudley's Marina.

The birth of a new inlet compliments of Sandy.

Efforts to dredge the ICW and patch that dune/inlet above.

Gypsies in the Palace?

The pelican rookery next door.

Sometimes they close the ICW
for target practice at Camp Lejeune, but thankfully,
not today!

Someone had a really bad day.

Nothing says "Buy my house." like a giraffe on the lawn.

Does the giraffe come with the house?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Mile Marker 200

The view from the cockpit on the Nuse River

The Club House at River Dunes.
The home on the corner of Grace Harbor at River Dunes,
guest house on the right.

Our traveling companion, Black Night,
through our enclosure windows.
Like everyone else in America, Rick and I have much to be thankful for. We were in a safe marina, albeit with winds rocking us out of the north for a week, and the crowd, new and familiar, were all interesting sailors. We have kids who keep in touch with us and each other, and friends and family who follow us. We have a safe vessel, great prospects for adventure and memories. AND we are grateful for our enclosure this fall!

On Tuesday, November 20, we drove to Washington, DC, for dinner at Micah and Leslie's house. It gave us a great memory of family and a nice break off the boat (aka a city fix I need now and then.)  It was bittersweet to turn around and drive back to North Carolina but we left at dawn on Friday- no shopping for us. A bonus to this car trip were several sightings of whistling swans in farm ponds as we got closer to the coast through cotton and tobacco fields.. We provisioned along the way and prepared for an early departure in the morning.

Our trip included bumpy trip across the Nuse River off the Pamlico Sound and a one night stay in River Dunes at Oriental, NC. We made a leisurely trip back in the ICW to Beaufort, NC,  and were greeted by our first dolphin sighting as we approached town. It has been very cold so we were disappointed not to see the wild ponies across from the marina. Bird sightings were limited to Pelicans and Green Night Herons at the dock. It was another one night stay in Beaufort  Today we make a short run of 25 miles, minding two bridges for tides and current. Coupled with the inlet here in Beaufort, that's enough. We are officially on the Crystal Coast, testimony to the sparkle on the water, white sandy beaches and the beginning of the Palmetto tree parade.

Beaufort Town Docks
A cute town, a handful of restaurants,
and a chance to walk on land!

I know some of you wonder about our perseveration with the wind. After all, we are a sailboat, right? The issues are speed and direction. Winds on the nose slow us down considerably and if they are strong, make our ride unpleasant. Winds behind us are great, but not when they reach 30 knots and there are 2-5 foot following seas. You can enjoy a bump in speed, ride down some waves, but some waves will just hammer you, all requiring hand steerage by the helmsman. Wind off our quarters are great. Unfortunately, the last full month has been high winds over our sailing limit so our days with more than a stay sail (for stability) have been few. Fortunately, it is easy to run that sail in and out with our in-mast furling system, no going up on deck in a blow. The worst would be no wind, for then sailing is not an option and the days are really long. Rain is predicted Tuesday, maybe into Wednesday, but the winds seem to be far off shore so we are thinking we'll just keep moving on. We hope to make Charleston in a week if this good weather holds.

And yes, David, my air card helped me get this post out today while I sailed past Moorehead City. Thanks for always keeping track of me.

Give us this day our daily dolphins.
just past the Beaufort inlet, Bogue Sound, into the ICW.
I think they are enjoying the sunshine, too.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mile Marker 1 to 132: Windy Days . . . and How to Make Things Comfortable

We were so excited to leave Norfolk, or to get underway on the ICW ,that we could barely sleep. Day one began with the infamous Gilmerton Bridge. Twenty boats circled for an hour but the bridge opened on time at 9:30, half peeled off on the Dismal Swamp route, the rest traveled with us to the Great Bridge Lock. Taking the Virginia Cut took a full day and one lock off of our trip. We connected with some of these new travel friends at Coinjock Marina for traditional Prime Rib dinners and a good night's sleep. The cool temps and strong northerly winds left us exhausted. Before we could feel sorry for ourselves, it was morning; clear sunny skies spelled even colder temps and stronger winds as we crossed Albamarle Sound and the Alligator River, all with following seas and 25 knot gusts.

One night at the Alligator River Marina was enough, we were off again at daybreak. The Alligator River runs to the Pungo River Canal where we had an experience of a lifetime. It's too cold for alligators but Miss Wanda at the Marina said it was bear season- and she was correct. In the middle of the canal Rick spotted a log, no wait, a young black bear cub swimming across the bow to safety on the other shore. By the time I came up to see the excitement, the momma black bear was following the cub to the northern shore, scrambling up the banks and into the woods. Each bear glanced back over a shoulder to glare, or at least confirm we were not chasing them!  

There was little time left to wonder about the bears, it was time to prepare to clear the infamous Wilkerson Bridge, an oops by the Army Corp: the bridge is only 64 feet and we have a 63'10" mast. So what does one do to prepare? Run down the fuel (tank on the starboard side,) keep the starboard holding tank empty, move the sewing machine forward to port, then take long hot showers while underway to empty the starboard water tank. Last, we both sat on the port side and held our breath. In our estimation, we made it by just two or three inches, but that's enough!

It was a really nice day, until we crossed the Pungo River heading into Bell Haven and the Dowrey Creek Marina. Skies darkened, winds and waves kicked up and we began to dread docking. We have NEVER been this challenged, six tries to get in the slip from either approach! The staff here is great but they cannot change the winds.

We were in our slip by 2PM, more than ready to get off the boat and enjoy happy hour. Consensus is this blow will last until Tuesday and everyone changed plans. We spent all of Sunday watching football with other sailors, a good excuse to get land legs back and get off the rocking boat. It looked like our plan to reach River Dunes in Oriental and our rental car for the holiday was in jeopardy so Rick set us up to stay here for a week and moved our car reservation to this area. Thanksgiving guaranteed, we can relax. After the holiday it doesn't matter when we get anywhere else.

The world is really small, or we know too many people :). Returning from a day in Washington and Bath, NC, we came down the dock to find Braveheart and our friends Cynthia and Steve with their children on their way south! We will have a chance catch them again in Charleston.

High seas, strong winds and cold temps were not our favorite details about the trip. But before you "feel" for us, we remind you we chose this adventure, and except for the holiday, we don't put ourselves in discomfort and we never put ourselves at risk. But how do we stay comfortable, you ask. Start with heat on the boat and aim for marinas when weather is snotty. Wear your favorite pearl earrings and get a little help from your friends: Bobbie Brown, Jo Malone, Henri Lloyd and Sperry Topsiders. Above all, travel with a great captain who makes good decisions and enjoys creature comforts, too. This should be fun, and it is for us.

The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

You Know You Are in Norfolk When . . .

Saturday the 10th dawned very fall like, cool, sunny, and colorful. We topped off at Spring Cove and motored out to the bay. Our winds were dead on the nose, hence a change of plans not to push to Norfolk but stop for one night at Dosiers in Deltaville. On Sunday we had another south wind with rolling seas and bright sun. We motored to York River Yacht Haven in Gloucester, VA, and just relaxed for the evening off the boat. It had been a day of sun glare and pounding by that south wind. In case you remembered, like my friend Anita did, this is where we first met snapping shrimp. Good news, they are much quieter right now. It appears it is winter for shrimp, too.

Monday was a more interesting day. Don't misread us, uneventful is always good. But today we had company on the Bay as well as coming up to Hampton Roads and the Elizabeth River to Norfolk. We pulled into Waterside Marina by 2:30; would you believe we have a bit of a sunburn from three days in the cockpit? Where did we lose that sunscreen when it got down to 36 degrees?

We love Norfolk. So much to do, the art options are plenty, notable restaurants,  we can walk to a full mall with theaters . . . and the town is very accommodating. Tuesday morning brought forcasted rain and winds so we went to Harris Teeter with two other sailing couples. That makes groceries fun and provides a chance for us to swap plans, local knowledge and maybe be a guide this year, as we are on our second voyage south. We will be here until Thursday because NOAA calls for strong winds another day.

You know you are in Norfolk when . . .

Wolf Trap Light

and the neighbors who live there.

Favorite fishing spot: Thimble Shoal Light 

The Navy Fleet in Norfolk, VA

Watching out for traffic

And the real workhorses of the waterway,

McAllister tugs!

Friday, November 9, 2012

We ARE Sailors

When you have spent the season at the dock you begin to doubt yourself. Are we still sailors? The answer is a happy YES!

It was light out but still rough when Rick announced today was our departure day. I had time for a first cup of tea, hasty oatmeal and then it was foul weather gear, complete with gloves and scarf. I took my place on the deck and began to untie lines. The wind blew 17 knots as Promise left her slip and we raced to beat low tide. Departure time, 7:15 AM. Bright skies, strong winds, an empty bay. We were riding the outgoing tide and the seas got a boost from the waters released at the Conowingo Dam at the northern end of the Bay. At one point we made 9.6 knots, and we never fell below hull speed all day.

They call the "dodger" the dodger for a reason. We took water over the boat and the dodger all the way to Annapolis. Once we passed the Bay Bridge and Annapolis, things calmed down considerably. We were able to sail most of the way to Solomons Island. A handful of boats joined us in the afternoon and followed us into Spring Cove Marina. We were tied up and washing the boat down by 3 PM, and we are ready to eat dinner out.

It felt so good to feel the boat beneath us. Every splash, every seagull and fish trap felt familiar and comforting. The boat handled beautifully, and we didn't do so bad either! It just felt good to sail for a change.

Tomorrow, Deltaville, VA, followed by Norfolk on Sunday.

A view of the Annapolis Bay Bridge through our salty dodger window.

We shot down the Bay with a NW wind behind us, which took us back to Thomas Point Light, 
an old favorite of many, a reminder of times past.
It is the only surviving screwpile lighthouse left on the Bay.