Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Home in Hock Hall: May 30, 2012

Sometimes goals are good, or goals can be just something you get done. So it was with our trip home. While in Beaufort, news of the development of Tropical Storm Alberto coupled with the forecast for winds and persist ant rains forced us to make a conscious decision to "get home." If we could avoid the holiday traffic that would erupt on the Bay by Saturday, we would be happier.

This was the view from our dock in Norfolk
as the Navy brought a ship into dry dock.
They spun the ship 260 right in front of us using two tugs.
Bow thruster repaired, we left Beaufort on Sunday, May 20, and we attempted five very long sailing days. Mission accomplished: we spent one  night each in Dowry Creek, Coinjock; two nights in Norfolk, VA,; a single night to sleep at Deltaville. Our final day on the water was Friday, May 25, when we sailed up the rest of the bay into our slip at Osprey Point. Docking, 8:30 at night. Ours on the water, 14. Goal met, we were home before the summer invasion on the bay. Total distance traveled this year, almost 3,000 miles.

The Staten Island Ferry, John F. Kennedy
on it's way to drydock in Norfolk on the Elizabeth River.
A sight for sore eyes in the wrong place!

How does it feel? Bitter sweet. If we couldn't spend more leisure time sightseeing right now, it was time to return to Maryland. We missed our children and their families so the summer break will be good for us. It is time to pull the boat out of the water, shed our ICW mustache and have the bottom painted. We will travel, by land this month, and catch up with friends for the next few weeks.

This is not good-bye to the blog. Rick has reflections to share and information for other cruisers still on the water. So please visit us again this summer as we plan for our fall chapter!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Red dirt, green sea.

This week falls in the "you-can't-make-this-up" category.

The carefully planned day designed for Monday from Wrightsville Beach to Beaufort proved very interesting, quite long and over-the-top exhausting. For starters, our marina in Wrightsville Beach was sans power (air conditioning in a thunderstorm,) and as it was UNCW graduation weekend, we were in a noisy spot. Like it could ever happen again, a drunk tried to get on our boat by swimming to it, lowering the ladder- and being caught without pants at 2:45 am by Susan! Nice job, UNC, on your college grads!

It was another early sunrise departure and we successfully made three swing bridges with perfect timing. Skies threatened, winds built to 25 knots so we swapped out the screens for curtains and sailed on. Several sounds were shoaled in but we reached the Moorehead City Bridge in ten hours. The good news is we never ran aground, the bad news is this is a short bridge and we hit it at high tide, 63 feet. Sooo . . . we turned around and cruised for hours until the tide reversed. We snuck under at 64 feet as the winds howled, rain blew and dark settled in. There was a nasty rain as we hit Beaufort Inlet and it was hard to search for our markers to the town docks. It was 8:30 at night and the cruiser in front of us caught our lines. Fourteen hours was just too much in one day.

Rick always says that if something didn't break this week, watch out for next week. He no sooner repeated this phrase when he discovered that our port bow thruster was not working. When we opened the "dry" compartment it was full of water just for starters. We are on day three in Beaufort with plans to be here a few more days until this is resolved. Our mechanic diagnosed our problem and the new "key pad" is on order from West Marine with overnight shipping. In the meantime, if you have followed our weather, you understand this stay would have happened due to a steady string of showers and storms.

How was the free dock and outlet shopping at Barefoot landing? Interesting, but our information was misleading: It was not free, and we spent the evening in good old beach shops and dinner in a tired Greg Norman restaurant. At least it was an easy off the dock in the morning.

About the photos from our docking drama in Georgetown: everyone was afraid we would hit them undocking because docking the night before was a Hail Mary event so all the boats pulled out early to give us free space! Thank you new friends. we reconnected with one boat at Barefoot Landing and the super cruiser is the one who caught our lines in Beaufort. We didn't get the shots we wanted, it's always hard to get a photo docking/undocking

Susan's favorite spot on the ICW is the Waccamaw River. It is eagle nesting season. How do you tell the eagles form the ospreys? Eagles crave the tree top nest sites, ospreys are on the marker posts.

Someone could get very rich by rewriting the Cruising guides so they read from south to north. We must always remember to reverse our reds and greens from the way things are written now!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Journey is the destination. May 11, 2011

Lake Worth Inlet was Mile Marker 1018. And so the coundown begins!

To say we have put miles behind us is an understatement. We departed Stuart (MM 993) on Tuesday, May 1, spending single nights in Vero Beach, Titusville (in the shadow of Cape Canaveral,) St. Augustine, Amelia Island, and then we rested in Jekyll Island. Mileage was our goal. We tried a few anchorages and new marinas just for the experiences, and to make departures easy. Our weather break was in one of Rick's favorite spots so we enjoyed the super moon, high, high tides, and then storms in Jekyll. You can't complain, the restaurant at the Jekyll Club is a treat. (MM 684)

Rested and provisioned, we moved on to Beaufort, SC. (MM 536) We finally encountered a storm crossing Port Royal Sound. High marks go to the captain for great steerage with 25 knot winds and 5 foot growlers in a blinding thunderstorm. Fortunately, we had a reservation in Beufort (MM 536) for the night and the skies dried up, seas were like glass for the time we needed to tie up. The following day we had strong winds into Charleston. If you check the charts, there is a an easy in and out marina on the Stono River, St. John's Yacht Harbor, which made for a good one night stop just before Ellliot's Cut heading north. It has new ownership and the renovations are fabulous.

Today, May 11, we slipped the dock at 8:15, timed for the 9 AM Wappoo Creek Bridge opening. As we sailed past Charleston  (MM 469) we sighed with regret; we love Charleston but she will have to wait for our fall return. Winds built all day so our short 56 mile hop was exhausting. (Our wind finder suggests the next week is not only fraught with rain chances, but 15-20 knot winds until the end of the week.) We are docked now in Georgetown, SC, (MM 403) and docking was no easy task (pictures in the morning.) As a reward for the boat gymnastics we had to perform to get into this slip we enjoyed dinner at the Rice Paddy, one of our favorite restaurants all year. 

In the morning we  have to wait for all the boats around us to leave before we can. Then we are heading to North Myrtle Beach. Stay tuned to see if this "experience" is what the books say it is. We plan to stay at Barefoot Landing on the ICW with free dockage on a 1,000 foot face dock at a mall! It should be interesting. (MM 357)

So far so good on this blitz trip home. We have timed the tides to accommodate skinny water (5 foot or less) and bridge heights and openings. All the bridges rumored to be nonfunctional were all working for us: charmed :). Skies have been kind while we have been on the water but if the skies open, well, that's what foul weather gear is for. Green flies have been ever present since Georgia so we are sailing with screens and are so grateful to have them. We are making 55-100 miles per day, averaging 75 miles, which will put us in our slip in Rock Hall before Memorial Day.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Back in the USA April 27, 2012

We calculated the weather for the next ten days. With a negative opinion of current winds, our thoughts were supported by many other sailors: it was time to go or hunker down for ten more days. That would make the window traveling north really tight, so we said good bye to friends in Marsh Harbour and made our way back through the whale on Wednesday morning, April 25. This trip was tough, we were exhausted after the ninety minutes in the whale, with 6 foot, confused seas and a virtual traffic jam of boats going at varying speeds, with limited and varying control of their vessels. The volume of boats in the whale that day reinforced our thoughts, everyone thought to move now or be stuck where you are.  

Twelve hours later, we had traveled 90 miles to Great Sail Cay where we anchored on the north west side of the island with a dozen other boats. This was our favorite anchorage all season, serene, safe, and easy in and out. At daybreak we set off for an area known as Memory Rock on the Bahama Bank. The passage is a mile wide, but you do it by navigation, all the "rock" is under water. Once through the cut, we were close to our destination for just one night: West End, where we started. As we stayed glued to weather we modified our plan, nixing the Saturday crossing for Friday. As we had had several LONG days, we opted for a shorter course to Lake Worth in the West Palm Beach area, a 53 mile crossing. Another sailboat at our dock reminded us there is a Customs office at Lake Worth, and so Lake Worth it was. Once again we crashed at sundown, rose before sunrise and cast off for home.

This crossing was a breeze: enough air to be comfortable, gentle 2-4 swells, little traffic, better than the whale. I credit Captain Rick for excellent planning and the patience to select the best weather window possible. The most dangerous thing about the Bahamas is a schedule.

Our sailing dock mate from West End and Great Sail was behind us so we had company by radio. Since you cannot bring fruits or vegetables back in the country, it was a food fest coming across. By the time we arrived, there were two meals left before we had to reprovision. We were fortunate enough to tie up in Lake Worth/Riviera Beach Marina at 3 PM, and by 3:45 had negotiated the customs business. Unfortunately, the boat behind us was a half hour late. Lessons learned: secure a Local Boaters Option before crossing to the Bahamas, then you only need to call Customs when you return; don't cross on the weekend as Customs is closed until Monday.

This Carnival Cruise ship was on a collision course with us
in the middle of the ocean.
Needless to say, we changed our course!

One noisy night at Riviera Beach was one too many, we couldn't move to Stuart quickly enough. The Sunset Bay Marina and town were wonderful. We rested, ate meals out, shopped and enjoyed the farmer's market. Then we provisioned on Sunday and . . . sought medical treatment for an infected finger the captain tried to play down the last few days. He can testify to great care and service at the Memorial Hospital in Stuart. (He will be fine, just the germ hazards of being on the water.) Stuart is darling, everything is open, even on Sunday; the marina offers bus shuttle service, but you can walk a river walk to town and the grocery store. Town has a Coastal Living vibe, but the weather didn't lend itself to photos, except the one we captured with an i phone.

Roosevelt Bridge, Stuart FL
You can cross under Flagler's train tracks
and safely walk along the St Lucie River into town.,
even at night 
Three days later and we are at anchor in front of Cape Canaveral Space Center. There is a launch in the morning, but we are unsure of the time. "Mariners are advised to watch for falling booster rockets if on the ocean." Good thing we are on the intercostal waterway! Long days lie ahead. We need to make miles before the next front comes in, expected mid week next week. That will force a rest, perhaps mid-Georgia or above, and it will be a welcome rest I am sure.