Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Charleston Mile Marker 470

We made Dataw Island by noon on Thursday the 28th of May. Our experience crossing Port Royal Sound was a smooth one, so different than last year. While on the sound we heard a transmission from friends we've been trying to catch up with as they docked in Port Royal following a 22 hour run.  It was bitter sweet to move through Port Royal to Dataw without that stop but we knew they were too tired for company. We expected them later in the day but I think the weather was perfect for an ocean run. Glad you are home, Jeff And Marjorie, we'll miss you. Once again, it was a "we should have done the outside!" moment.

But we slogged on to Dataw, arriving at noon. Docking was ok though swift current is the norm here. We took advantage of our early arrival to wash down Promise as the salt crust was building up. Time to rest, then a pleasant surprise.

The marina itself is older but has floating docks. The Sweetgrass Bistro restaurant above the marina feels newer. What a delight. We are fans of everything low country, especially the food. The food here by a local chef was amazing and the setting serene, porch rockers, screened porch for dining and live oak surroundings. We enjoyed "Pluff Mud Cake" for dessert- the locals didn't know why we didn't recognize this milk chocolate pan cake with pecan chocolate ganache frosting. Well, that's because we didn't know that thick muddy soil that we curse on the waterway in South Carolina is the fertile, rich soil that once grew Carolina rice during the 1700 and 1800s and it is known as pluff mud. Hence, the rich chocolate cake name.

We knew we had to have that recipe, it was google to the rescue. Not only did we find the recipe by the Sweetgrass chef and the history of this dessert but we found a link to a new cookbook, Shrimp, Collards, and Grits by Pat Branning. It's a coffee table book of recipes, stories and art from the low country originally published to celebrate a centennial in Beaufort. A quick call to the restaurant before closing, a second hike up the dock at low tide, and this book was in our collection. Watch out friends and family, we are practicing our "ya'll" and planning low country menues to keep this genteel feeling alive.

The palm trees have been replaced by miles of sweetgrass and live oaks draped with Spanish moss. The colors in the low country are sky blue, and every shade of green. It is restful to be here, even if challenging to move between towns because the runs are so long.

There is no rest for the homesick so we cast off at daybreak, 6:20 or so. The herons, egrets, and osprey in the air, the crabs in the pluff mud were the only ones up as we left today. We played with dolphins on and off and only saw a handful of boats all day. Our biggest challenge was the entrance to the Ashepoo Coosaw River Cut which we found to be barely five foot. We knew tide was low but this was scary. We had to make the McKinley Bridge at low tide, and we did. With a tide of 6 to 8 feet, we can safely say that this bridge was never 65 foot because three hours before high tide it read 64, and this is the fourth time we have had this experience. The great news is that we had 67 feet at both the Limehouse and James Island Expressway  bridges later in the day. We lost thirty minutes waiting for the Wapoo Bridge opening, but Charleston welcomed us at 2:15 this afternoon, just off the high tide. Two passes to get in our slip and tying up never felt so good. We are tired, need provisions and a good dose of art, history and, yes, low country food so we will stay a few days.

End of the day
Dataw Island, SC.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Into South Carolina MM 557

Coastal Living Magazine includes Sunbury Crab Company in this year's list of the 22 best seafood dives in the country, and the only listing in Georgia. While it is accessible by car, the restaurant is on the hill above the marina by the same name. Now, if we rated Lang's Marina a two out of ten, this marina is a one as there are no real shower facilities. Water depths of 24 feet dockside were offset by swift current, even four miles up the wide and pleasant Medway River. Would we reoccommend Sunbury? It certainly was easier and safer than Kilkenny Creek anchorage we stayed in in the fall, and you can plug in- a bonus in the Georgia heat and green fly season.  The large crowds here for fresh catch and the band are testament to good food- by seafood dive standards. By the way, Timotti's in Fernandina, FL, and J&J Seafood in Rock Hall, MA,  make the same list. This was the best of the three.

Today was another seven am departure to facilitate our passage of Hell Gate at high tide. Mission accomplished. Then we had to slow down considerably as we feared the tide would be too high for the under-construction-high-rise bridge at Thunderbolt. No bridge boards :(. We have passed mile marker 600, half way through the ICW and only 900 miles from home port! 

High tide or low, you can't have it both ways. At the end of ten and a half hours we pulled up to the gas dock at Hilton Head Harbor Marina. The description of  twenty feet of water at the docks was misleading. There is twenty feet at the gas dock, but only two feet in the marina at low tide. The gas dock it is! It's only one night, right? So what if the restaurant is closed on Mondays, we know fifty ways to make pasta after a long run like today. 

It will be an early night because its an early morning tomorrow. We are off to Dataw Island, then on to Charleston for a rest and great food. We feel fortunate to have this great weather so we are making the most of it. Dolphins swan with us all day today and swam under the boat  after we docked, spouting to get our attention. The sunset here in South Carolina was gorgeous. At the end of the day those two things make up for any flaws in our travels. We know how lucky we are. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Images of Fernandina Beach, FL and Cumberland Island, GA

What would have been your entrance to Dungeness,
The Carnegie Home on Cumberland Island.

The beauty is in the remaining details.

Like there wasn't beauty all around, this pergola was built
to walk through to appreciate the grounds.

One is prohibited from walking inside Dungeness since it burned in 1959.
Knowing it is home to snakes and larger animals like bear and bob cat
is also a deterrent.

Wild horses roam the ruins and the beaches
where they beg from visitors.


We can't ignore the happy fisherman!
It was Rick's last day to use his
Florida License. His guide put him
onto Red Fish, though he had to
put his fly rod away to land a few.

Fernandina Light
from Fort Cinch State Park.

The Coast Guard has turned the Light over
to the town of Fernandina.
It sits in the center of a housing development
and appears unappreciated,
though well maintained,
because it is not accessible to anyone.

Hello Georgia! Mile Marker 677

St. Augustine was a comfortable two night stop. We ate at a local favorite, The Floridian, a great little farm to table place near the college. Rivers Edge Marina was adequate and a ten-minute walk to downtown or groceries. From there we moved to Palm Coast Marina. We selected it as part of tide/bridge planning, and while it fit the bill for location, the marina and its eight foot approach were highly overstated. The channel was frighteningly narrow and but we managed to fuel up and get tied to the face dock. When low tide set in, we were in trouble. We sucked mud into our heat pump system and had to shut her down. In the morning, we left at first light which was high tide and we crept out of the channel. Despite their hospitality to include us in their annual slip holder picnic, we cannot recommend the marina to any cruising friends, it’s just too shallow to be safe.

Our run in Florida ended in Fernandina Beach on Sunday May 19. It was a four hour run and we timed our arrival carefully so there was a slack tide for docking. Rick hired a guide to take him fishing Monday morning and I picked up a rental car for two days of exploration. Monday dawned grey and breezy, a front complete with fog dominated the next twenty four hours. We could tolerate it because: Miracle of miracles, our intake valve cleared itself and we had air conditioning without a repair bill!

We went out to Amelia Island to see how the other half lives, checked out real estate, sifted for shark teeth on the beaches, toured historic Fort Cinch and found the lighthouse. While antiquing at the edge of town I discovered a new quilt shop near the bakery. In all, we had a good two days on land. But wait, it was too good to be true, right? Our shower and AC sump pump failed the morning of our departure. Not to worry, there are mechanics in every port, or so we thought.

On Wednesday May 22 we motored a whole five miles to St. Mary’s, Georgia. Insurance was now one less thing to worry about. We always wanted to see the town and this was the only place to catch the National Park Service ferry to Cumberland Island. So, two nights at Lang’s Marina it was- but never again. To other cruisers, this place is almost unsafe. They have limited power and an aging infrastructure. Current made docking a challenge and our propeller screamed all night. To add insult to injury, we hired a mechanic who never showed up to replace our pump. Town is pretty but small. Oh, well, we don’t need to return there.

A check of the weather and winds convinced us we could not anchor this week off of Cumberland so the day trip on the ferry was a taste of the island we couldn’t pass up. The island is carry-in-carry-out, so we schlepped backpacks, camera and bathing suits in to see the ruins, wild horses and the most gorgeous beach on the Atlantic.  We were exhausted by 92 degree heat and bright sun but so happy we made the trip. We can’t wait to return in the fall to spend a few days at anchor.

The lure of wooded Cumberland Island is that Thomas and Lucy Carnegie (of the Carnegie Brothers, Ltd.) built a mansion here to raise their nine children as an oasis from the Pittsburg winters. They eventually lived and farmed the 7,000 acres full time. Thomas died a year after they built the home but Lucy remained until her death. She engaged in the high society social scene, her contemporaries all had summer “cottages” at Jekyll Island, a half day’s sail up the St. Mary’s River and across Jekyll Sound. Upon her death, she willed her horses be allowed to roam free and they still do today. There is rich history here from the days Indians lived on the island as well as the history of slavery and servants, lumber farming, and then the fall of the untaxed millionaires. Lucy’s children eventually had to give the island up, save a few rights they hold today. PS This is where John Kennedy married his beautiful bride in a tiny chapel adorned with Spanish moss and candle light.

We left the town of St. Mary’s and made our own passage up to Jekyll but did not stop, electing to move at high tide through skinny (5-10’) waters and  make way across two rough sounds before pulling into Morning Star Marina in St. Simons. By now the winds (15-25 knots) caught up to us and we could tell the predicted front from the west was moving though. Hence, we chose to take a lazy two night stay here until winds shift to the east/southeast and drop to a modest 10-15.

THIS is a marina. Courteous staff, clean conditions, a newspaper and muffins delivered in the morning. We’ve had a great dinner at the Coastal Kitchen (on site), caught up on chores, chatted with lots of nice people today, everyone letting the wind blow out. They had a wonderful mechanic from the Catalina dealer on site to replace our pump and sell us a spare within an hour of docking. How lucky were we?

In the morning we cast off for Sunbury Crab Company and Marina. The adventure continues on to Hilton Head, SC. We are no longer able to get into Harbour Town as the entrance and harbor have silted to four feet at low tide. Instead, we’ll try Hilton Head Harbor Mariana for two nights. Then, on to Port Royal Landing near Beaufort, SC., for a night with friends. By then it will be Wednesday and we are due in Charleston. Yeah . . . These days are a little longer than we would like but the Chesapeake is calling, and high boating season is here in the south making reservations a little hard to get in some marinas. A week of cooler, drier air is before us so we will take an opportunity when we can get it.
We'll share some photos on a second post.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Best Laid Plans: Daytona Beach, MM 831

About once a year we get complacent and trust last night's weather when we leave our slip in the morning- and that always fails us! True to form, we left Titusville early Monday, confident we were starting a good five to seven day run, and just an hour out of the marina a 20 knot wind blew up, gusting to 30 all day on the Indian River to the Halifax River. Usually, we can sail this stretch but not this time. It was a chore just to stay in the channel and get to protection. It appears the cold front had not passed and it blew itself out over the next 36 hours. Hence we made an on the spot decision we could not dock in New Smyrna in those winds with current moving in from Ponce Inlet. So, we kept moving on up to Daytona Beach. Halifax Harbor is very safe but there is little to do if you don't make your way over to the beach, which we decided not to do. Instead, we washed the ton of salt off of Promise and ourselves, and we took in a foreign film at a theater within walking distance.

End of visit to Daytona. Tomorrow, fair winds but lots of bridges, St. Augustine the destination.

Lesson relearned, check the weather before you leave the harbor.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mothers Day from Titusville, FL MM 877

What a great week we've had- almost too good to be true. Our first day out from Miami was flawless. An empty inlet leaving Government Cut, a 5 foot roll on the ocean with no waves, and a ten hour run to Lake Worth Inlet north of Palm Beach. We anchored in North Lake Worth in 60 degree temps at night . We were rested and eager to repeat the ocean run. Unfortunately, the captain announced the north swell on the Atlantic was holding and we should stay on the inside for a day or two.

So, the ICW it is. We are in the routine of bridge signals and bridge boards again and three days later we can say we are tired of the stress of our 64 foot mast that is "clinking" on half of the bridges. On the stretch we've completed so far, the water is influenced by wind and rain, not tides that we can make accommodations for. Instead, we have emptied the starboard tanks, moved everything we can from aft cabins to the middle of the boat, loading the port side and sitting on the port side as we ghost under the bridges. Yes, Promise has a lean to her, but she is less stern heavy and her mast is in tact. We should see the ICW influenced by the tides in about 40 miles at Ponce Inlet so the boat can level off again.

We spent single nights in Fort Pierce and Melbourne to get out of afternoon storms. Stronger rain potential has kept us in a slip in Titusville for two days, and we confess the rest from the sun and heat have been good (though it has rained little.) The harbor has its own pod of manatees who greeted us when we docked and they revisited us when they found our air conditioner discharge! Two days here is enough, we are bored and ready to move on.

Our next adventure tomorrow is an "old Florida" town of New Smyrna Beach. We plan to explore a  little. Red sky at night, sailors delight- five or more great days ahead. We hope there is more wind, too, as we could stand a little more sailing and it would be cooler, less exhausting in the cockpit. Florida is getting very hot!

Field trip: to the Biltmore Hotel
for High Tea and a tour, April 14, 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hello Family, Good Bye Coconut Grove!

We never recognized how busy we were in Coconut Grove until we returned our rental car a week ago. Suddenly, there was time for walks in pretty parts of the city, time to read more, and time to anticipate our return trip home. One could say we officially became Grovites this winter and we have embraced all the greater Miami area has to offer. Just like our former life, we have behaved like foodies, sought out art and culture, and said yes to every opportunity presented.

It has been a very windy winter and we have only been able to sail Biscayne Bay in the last month. We made a mid-week trip to Boca Chita Key and enjoyed the serenity of the Key, evening bugs and all. But this leg of our adventure has come to an end. In the morning, (May 8) we leave our slip, taking our dock lines with us, saying good-bye to Miami and setting out through Miami Harbor Entrance via Fisherman's Channel to the Atlantic. Winds will switch from NW to SW, knocking down the northeast swell we've been watching for a week. That swell would have given us a really bumpy ride. By waiting, we will have light winds, 2-3 foot waves, and gorgeous dry weather for a week. Our first stop looks like Lake Worth in Palm Beach but we have no firm agenda except to clear the Florida-Georgia border by June 1.

The Chesapeake is calling and we miss our families, especially grandchildren, so it will be great to get back to Maryland. Our friends up north are launching for the season, our cruising friends are heading home, and Florida is heating up. It is time to say good bye to Florida and enjoy the journey home. Stay tuned, we have new adventures to share in the months ahead.