Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Home in Two States!

Traversing the ICW in Florida became a ho-hum adventure. We love the mansions that dot the shore lines, but when they are set in narrow channels with bulkheads, even our own wake creates a ricochet effect we tired of. Sure we saw "a pony upon a boat" south of Daytona  Beach and dolphins and manatees kept us company, but we grew destination orientated. We spent two nights in Melbourne, Fl, for rain and wind, followed by two nights in New Smyrna Beach. We tried the newly expanded marina in Ft. Pierce, which is where we should have gone outside and blown down to Miami. Instead we opted for a single night in Old Port Cove Marina and Resort in Palm Beach, right on Lake Worth where we have anchored in the past. Nice find, we would recommend it, even if you split your wait time with the Lake. 

From there we made what I consider one of those "I'm not-doing-that-again" decisions. Temperatures were in the high eighties, we couldn't sail any of our old haunts, and we elected to clear the final 22 bridges in ten hours. It would have been a shorter day if two of the bridges had not had mechanical difficulties. Flagler Bridge is now opening only once an hour at quarter past. After an hours wait there, we waited more than an hour for the next bridge to be opened manually and under duress. This waiting always results in us fighting current and trying to hold our position, doing donuts or sailing back up stream and lapping the waterway until the tender says we may pass through. This year we added the stress of paddle boarders crossing the waterway at Boca Resort, a service the resort should not provide! But all ended well, we made Lauderdale by 5:15, had a cheap dinner on A1A across from the beach, and crashed before our last day on the water. This trip it is the admiral who is saying, "No more ICW. Seen it, been there, give me ocean sailing next year." 

Our run to Miami was as uneventful as this whole trip was. Sadly, we had 4-5 knot winds, 4  foot seas and we were forced to motor all the way. The good news is that we were safely  tied in our new slip in Coconut Grove about 1 PM and we were ahead of the cold front expected Friday. We made our November 15 goal by two days and had a safe, simple passage. 

So, from Miami it was a two day drive home to Delaware for family time. It was hard to leave that tropical feel when you knew it will be so cold up north but we will enjoy the family and look forward to Miami after the New Year. Happy holidays to all and best wishes for fair winds and safe crossings to our sailing friends. We will see you in the Bahamas!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

An Alligator in Every Pond Before Florida. Mile Marker 803

The original plan for the rest of this trip was modest progress, safe plans, and none of the fatigue or risk that a long day presents. But . . .

Currents were so good we skipped Port Royal and moved to Hilton Head. I know the weather up north is chilling and you've had some rains, we do follow the rest of the country. But our weather has been amazing. We ran the rest of South Carolina and Georgia in the 80s. We broke a 90 degree record in Hilton Head where we took a two day break just because. It was there we began to see alligators sunning themselves, some in the company of turtles, a fact I can't reconcile. We keep an eye open as they sit on the bank with their mouths open, you can't miss them.

We moved to Isle of Hope, Georgia, Sunbury Crab Company, St. Simon and Jekyll Island in successful hops. That required careful planning to make bridges with 6-8 foot tide swings, all successful until that last bridge before St. Simons! You guessed it, no bridge board going south, 63 feet going north. Normally, we would sail for the three hours we needed to wait; this year we had zero wind, but we waited anyhow. We were feeling really good about our transit of Mud River, but this long 11 hour day burst our bubble. Good news, we had a safe face dock, free muffins and a free morning newspaper delivered to the boat at Morning Star for the two day blow (45 mile gusts.) Following the cold front we moved just six miles to Jekyll. Check, safe in skinny water in Jekyll Creek, 7-8 feet at mid-tide on November 2. The state of Georgia, accomplished.

We are beginning to realize we should really keep moving in good weather. Something about the date on the calendar upped our motivation. We ran 59 miles to Fernandina, Florida, then the next day about the same to St. Augustine. We gave up visiting familiar haunts in order to prepare for the next days ahead as we can see weather turning, too. The new experiences here were Nana Theresa's Bakery in Fernandina (amazing!) and Comanche Cove Marina before the Vilano Beach/Uniso Bridge (mile 775) just before St. Augustine (safe in and out so we could wait for better tides in the morning.)

One of our biggest disappointments on this trip is the fact we have made few new friends or cruising companions. We are just enough ahead of the pack that days like today we sailed alone, not a boat ahead of us or behind us. But that's OK, our eyes are on the charts to Miami (just a week away,) Windfinder Pro and the Weather Channel. We can see weather ahead on Sunday so we plan to be in spend two days in Melbourne until it blows out. There is not such a huge tide swing here in the Daytona area (18 inches.) Talk on the dock is that the state of Florida has remeasured all the bridges and they read accurately now. We shall see. Tomorrow we don't leave until noon in order to slip under the next bridge and then run with the ebb tide all the way to New Smyrna. 
Dataw Island, SC,  is a lovely golf community on an old cotton plantation.
The properties, like those on Hilton Head, are dotted with ponds and marshes.
Every pond has a resident alligator. Look hard near the yellow stake.
His close up follows.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pluff Mud and South Carolina. Mile Marker 521

In the past two weeks we have made short work of North Carolina. There have been a few cold mornings and some wind as little cold fronts have moved through one after another. We love the Waccamaw River and it was the first taste of fall we have seen. We stopped in Georgetown but had to stay at the Georgetown Landing Marina, a bit out of town. It was the weekend of the Wooden Boat Festival so when in Rome . . .

We have a love-hate relationship with South Carolina. Her vistas are beautiful, the food is fabulous in every town, even more than fabulous in Charleston, and the weather is why we head south in the winter. But traveling her waterways can be tricky so the glow wears off the Palmettos as we move down the ICW. It is always more challenging in the fall as the days are so much shorter. One can travel twice as far in a day in the spring. This trip we have learned a few tricks from other cruises to help us feel more favorable about the South Carolina portion of the ICW.

In recent weeks we have taken two day breaks in the likes of Georgetown and Dataw Island, not to mention Charleston. Driving those reservations were the timing of tides and the fact we could not get into our favorite marinas. A new experience for us was to stop in McClellenville, a side creek off the ICW, home to many shrimp boats and little else but the Leland Oil Company, which is where we tied up for the night. It was a Sunday so the only restaurant/fish market was closed. They have three available spots on the fuel dock, if you can get in the creek for skinny water. We made it but did not run the air at night as we felt low tide at midnight would plug up our systems. One other boat left with us at dawn, the third boat left later and was stuck at the mouth of the creek. Our goal was to get through the Breeches Inlet (said to be as low as three feet at low tide) at high tide so we took a slip at Isle of Palms for the night, departing with the right tide at dawn again. What we learned from this trip was to pay the dock fee but only stay the four hours needed to make high tide, getting us to Charleston earlier and avoiding this overnight stop.

It was only eleven miles into Charleston, but we didn't get right in. First of all, we had to stay at the Charleston Maritime Center on the Cooper River with its reputation for a much more rolly ride than if we were on the Ashley River. Then our slip was not empty, like "your room's not ready, sir," so we sailed around for two hours. All's well that ends well, we had three lovely days and nights in Charleston. I can't say the rock and roll was much worse than anywhere else; it was water taxi and tour boat wakes that got us, not the cruise ships or river traffic. The location is very walkable to everything we like in town, including groceries, and we met new sailors and docked next to someone from our home port!

One of our new connections was an experienced cruiser and editor of Cruiser's Net, Larry Dorminy. He suggested that instead of sweating the Asapoo-Coosaw Cutoff which is notorious for shoaling, we turn left/south on the Ashapoo River. Seas were calm, sun was bright and we arrived at Fenwick [Cut] about 2:30 or a couple of hours before low. We motored out and down the Ashepoo in calm seaway, went below the Combahee Bank and across St Helena Sound all the way to green 11 below Pelican Bank and found 25-30 ft of water to turn up Morgan Creek to Dataw Marina. That saved us from having to motor up the ICW and then crossing at Parrot Creek.

There is no wind today but the skies are gorgeous. We have just used the day for chores and to see the golf community here on Dataw by golf cart. Tomorrow we venture to Port Royal Landing south of Beaufort, SC, to stage ourselves for mid-tide on the next bridge. Then its into Hilton Head for two days, and then Georgia.

Before we started cruising we followed the blogs of others who made the trip before us. It has been very helpful. We hope that passing on our experiences is helpful to others as well.

Our traveling companions, a trio of
dolphins in our wake on Morgan Creek.

Our traveling companions on the Ashapoo River;
Note the birds on his rig.

The Spirit of South Carolina
docked at the end of our pier.

The fleet in McClellenville, SC.

Sunset over the fleet

Saturday, October 11, 2014

King Tides. Mile Marker 283

Once again, you can't count on good planning to make the day perfect. You must rely on patience and flexibility. Or so we are learning in large measure. 

Yesterday we had to face the Atlantic Bridge just past Morehead City, but facing it meant lapping the ICW for an hour and a quarter until the bridge boards read 64 feet. Why you ask? They call it a King Tide, the highest of the year, compounded with wind driven water. Not wanting to dock in the dark, we shortened our run for the day and tried Casper's Marina in Swansboro. Getting close to the marina was tricky, the channel was full of fishermen in small boats- anchored IN the channel! We were not the first to hail the Coast guard for assistance. A tug and barge preceded us and later we met a power boat captain who said he heard a call on the radio earlier in the day. Once tied up, we walked to town and exhausted it in less than an hour. Back on the boat we spent the night rocking from multiple boats going by or coming and going to fish. The take away here is Casper's is a bargain at a dollar a foot and it breaks up the run to Wrightsville Beach, but you have to "settle" for the night. 

But King Tides need a few days to fall off so today we planned our departure to put us at the Highway Bridge, Mile Marker 252, two hours after high tide. Fate helped us on this one. We were hung up over an hour at the Onslow Swing Bridge, mile 240, due to maintenance. "It'll be just a bit, captain." This was the perfect time for Susan to practice donuts and figure eights, practice waiting for a bridge, and so that's just what we did. Once we reached the Highway Bridge we slid under it at 64 1/2  feet. The down side of this success was that we couldn't make Wrightsville Beach at Seapath before seven or eight o'clock so we tried a new option, Harbour Village Marina at Mile Marker 267. Easy in, nice protection, we expected a good night's sleep before a simple day of two swing bridges into Sea Path at Wrightsville Beach. Tied for favorite thing about today: Harbour Village Marina, or the huge brown bear we saw running through the marshes about noontime. 

We got the sleep we craved, good thing, too. Three hours on the waterway felt much longer today. We had strong winds and our bridge timing was way off. Traffic had been crazy before the Wrightsville Bridge but after that one o'clock opening, hell broke loose! There were three sail and one cruiser under the bridge PLUS at least twenty five small boats, paddle boarders and kaiaks all holding while someone swam across the waterway. Add wind and current and you have a very unsafe situation. The airways were jammed, you couldn't get the Coast Guard to respond and we were really tense. We learned later it was the third annual fundraiser called Swim the Loop (around the island facing our marina.) Thirty minutes later the race ended (apparently this had been going on for hours) and we followed the nonresponsive Coast Guard into our channel and our slip. Enough work for today! No amount of funds could make up for the tragedy that could have happened on the water today. We will protest the poor management of this race on behalf of safe boaters everywhere.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Thank you Beaufort, NC

We sailed into Beaufort a week ago for a two night stay. By now we should have made Charleston, SC, but that wasn't in the cards. Rick's injury turned out to be more serious than we thought so we are still in Beaufort, NC., grateful for all the help we have had here. It's a nice town with restaurants and lots of places to walk (if you are up to it.) We love the boardwalk, the businesses, the gingerbread trimmed house, and of course, the water views. We've enjoyed Beaufort yet again, but it is time to move on!

While we watch the winds and tides in order to leave, we want to thank the men at the Town Dock Marina. They were there when Rick fell off the dock and they've been there with concern and help, not to mention advice and a loaner car for the past week. They are among the best dockhands on the ICW, making this tricky current docking as easy as possible. It's hard to know what to do for medical help in a strange place but we were very lucky here. We highly recommend the Moore Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Group in Morehead City as they took good care of Rick and assured us he could travel when he felt up to it.

Beaufort Boardwalk

Shrimp boat returning from
the Blessing of the Fleet
Morehead City Seafood Festival

Town Dock Marina


Love this new bsiness in town! So clever,
 everyone raves about the tours.

Rick's Favorite Restaurants
Beaufort Grocery
Blue Moon Bistro

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Welcome to the Crystal Coast. Beaufort, NC Mile Marker 202

It was the most perfect weather day when we woke on Tuesday morning in Grace Harbor. It was seventy degrees when we cast off, no need to clean the windows of dew or fog, and there was the freshest North Carolina air we have ever experienced. The sun was bright, maybe a little too bright and winds were moderate all day. What happens when all these conditions are present? You get crystals sparkling on the water all day and a nice run into Beaufort. We only had two bridges to address Tuesday.

We have entered the Crystal Coast, the area from Beaufort to Swansboro (our next destination,) know for its beautiful beaches and wild ponies. This trip we took the Rustle Slough Cut to the Railroad Bridge and entered Town Creek the back way. Nice, we'll do that any time over the trip around Radio island sticking out into the inlet. Captain did a good job getting us in here with careful timing for a slack tide and slow current for docking. Winds were light so it was a piece of cake to get into Town Dock. It's a bit intimidating to be here as our dock mates are 75-150 feet long, mostly manned by uniformed delivery captains and crews who clean and maintain the boats impeccably. Remember it is mega yachts first, sport fish and cruisers/trawlers second and sailboats third or last; we are ahead of the pack so we are out of place in the flotilla heading south. 

But, we have to do our own chores. We split the tasks between Tuesday and today, taking a day for rest and to visit familiar haunts. However, it looks like we are here at least another day. While setting up to wash the boat and fill water tanks, the captain fell off the dock! The minor event did result in a pulled hamstring. Can you say rest, ice, and another day in Beaufort?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Clink, Clank. Mile Marker 173

This is it! We are into the Intercoastal Waterway. Our stay at Coinjock was uneventful, easy landing, easy departure. So far winds have been just right, a little to fill the sails, not enough to challenge docking. Snd yes, we are traveling with snapping shrimp though we hardly notice them now.

We knew Sunday would be a stressor, it was our day to run the Wilkerson Bridge. We cleared the Alligator Swing Bridge by eleven or so, but not until the operator had trouble opening and closing the bridge. It should be high on NC list of bridges to replace. Signs on the Alligator River made us hopeful this 64 foot bridge was of little concern- but our confidence got ahead of us. We "clinked" the antenna on the Fairfield Bridge about six miles before the Wilkerson Bridge. A boat ahead of us radioed back that he read 63.5' on the Wilkerson bridge boards and we could see that our binoculars. So . . . The admiral went below, drained the starboard water tank, moved anything moveable like electric cords and the bow sprit to the port bow area, and the captain swung the boom to port and lashed the dingy to the port rails. We hiked out on the deck as far as possible, cut the engine, and drifted under the Wilkerson with a "clank" on each girder. All instruments made it in tact, better than our nerves. It was time for a quiet night at Dowry Creek Marina. The bonus for our day on the Alligator River Pungo River Canal was our first sighting of a bald eagle. 

Sunday we made an easy run to River Dunes The consistent winds from the north have piled water up under bridges and in towns that may not otherwise be tidal. I'm not sure how that leaves us but for now we will move cautiously and hope for the best. Otherwise the weather is fabulous, we highly recommend skipping the boat show and enjoying this trip ahead do the pack.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Cockpit Inclosure? Priceless!

Point Comfort Light

Sometimes, it doesn't help to over plan and have grand expectations, especially if weather is part of the equation. We spent two over cast days in Oxford, sailed over to Solomon's Island, then beat into wind and waves to visit Tangier Island.

Classic Fish Trap on the Bay

Nostalgia drew us back to Tangier, but reality replaced our romantic memories of this small island on the Eastern Shore. The population is down to less than 450 people and the crabbing has shut down early this season. In just an hour we had walked most of town and had dinner in the small Fisherman's Corner Restaurant. The desolation is at once charming and sad, an idyllic way of life that may disappear with the island as the Bay reclaims it. In just the six years since we first found the island, she has visibly sunk and shrank. No new watermen commit to this life style anymore, there is no one to carry on the legacy and the fight to save the island.

The trip from Tangier to the Tides on the Eastern Shore was bumpy and breezy, and after  two days at the Tides, we elected to make a run down the Eastern Shore in a strong NE wind at our back. Less than an hour down the Rappahannock River with gusts to 25 knots, we remembered we had an enclosure to put up! the ten minute pause in our travel and we were warm and dry. The cost of an enclosure, priceless on a run like this. You guessed it, we had growlers and six foot waves, steady winds of 15 degrees, gusts to 25  all day. It was a really grey, nasty day. We tried to get ahead of the rain and high winds predicted for Wednesday, and we were successful. After days of limited phone and internet service, enough weather to deserve a reward, we decided to stay here in Norfolk for three nights until winds settled down.

Sadly, we have also elected to scrap our plans for the Dismal Swamp. Talk of submerged logs and a large outbreak of duckweed to clog your filters says Virginia cut to us. Friday morning we depart. The weather looks good though we are worried these northerly winds pushing too much wind into the Wilkerson Bridge, our first challenge of the trip!  


The waitress at dinner invited us to
church services in the morning but
we had planned to cast off before
it began. The church is open at all times.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Bike Tour of Oxford, MD and Picket Fences 2014






Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On a Clear Day

On a clear day you can see half way down the Bay, or so it seems. We left Osprey Point about 9:30 am and to our disappointment we had little wind to fill our sails. It was our grand scheme to sail the full length of he Bay, no motoring this trip. Well, greater plans than this have failed many a sailor before us so with gratitude for a nice day, we motored over to Oxford. The waters were full of really large ships today, perhaps because yesterday was really windy, or maybe its because ships have been unable to get into Baltimore for a week due to the Star Spangled Celebration this past week. This traffic made Bay south of the Annapolis Bay Bridge really roly-poly! We could see a lone tall ship under full sail in the direction of Baltimore but most of the ships left Baltimore yesterday, limiting our chances of seeing another. There was little else to tell about the day except that it went smoothly and about seven hours later we were docked at Campbell's Boatyard for the night. We cooked aboard and will enjoy the solitude here on Oxford Town Creek off the Tred Avon River tonight.

Initially we were disappointed that the Osprey had fledged and migrated south off Swan creek, our home port, but they are still on the nests on Town Creek. In the morning we will borrow bikes and ride to town for some photographs. With luck, the first thing we'll capture are those Osprey.
The Annapolis Bay Bridge
One of our traveling companions.

Sharps Island Light
The Leaning Tower of the Chesapeake

Bloody Point Light

The Oxford-St. Michaels Ferry