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.