Thursday, June 14, 2007

June 14, 2007 Cary, NC

We are home! We crossed from South Carolina into North Carolina on Saturday and began to reminisce! We had a great trip but coming home is always good. Because our slip in Morehead City was rented, we spent the final night in Swansboro, NC, about 25 miles from the home slip. It was good to be back in NC.

As we came north, we got to see my brother, Tom, and sister-in-law, Carolyn’s new (60 year old) house in the historic town of Conway, SC. They seem to be having a ball fixing it up. We also had a chance to visit with some IBM friends, Frank and Doreen, and new acquaintances we’d met on the trip. It is always fun to catch up.

Of course, Rick and I had to check out the latest with his son, so we also stopped in the anchorage near Wrightsville Beach, NC and spent an evening with Matt and his girlfriend, Sunny, on Rickshaw. Matt brought his boat over to ours bearing a gift of just-caught grouper. I had flank steak so we had a feast. As the sun was going down, a sailor on the boat next to us sounded a conch shell which produced a long horn-like sound and then another boat answered with the same sound. We wondered what that meant but were too far away to ask. We passed them the next day and asked them on the radio. They had just come from the Bahamas where it is a custom among the locals that when the sun goes down to say thanks for a wonderful day and a beautiful sunset. We thought that was pretty cool…got to get a conch shell!!

It took a few more days to get back to our home slip at the Morehead City Yacht Basin. We pulled in around 4:00 as a thunder storm was threatening. We saw our friends, Lenny and Pam, and had another wonderful meal and lots of laughs.

We picked up the rental car, cleaned the boat yesterday and drove back to Cary. We plan to decompress for a couple of days before we start to tackle the Cary To-Do List! And then back to boat chores to get ready for the next adventure.

Not to be missed however, are a few tidbits during the final push home.

Turns out both Georgia and South Carolina have some real ICW “challenges” since their portion of the waterway doesn’t seem to be maintained as well as Florida and North Carolina. We found more “skinny” water … meaning shallow … in that section than anywhere else. The Dawho River in SC apparently hasn’t been dredged in a while, and the charts were totally inaccurate; showing depths of 21 feet where there were actually only 7 feet. It was exciting (he means scary!).

Then at the Osprey Marina near Myrtle Beach, Rick was loading some provisions … read beer … into the refrigerator. For those of you who’ve seen the boat, the refrigerator has top-lift doors that are supported by gas-compressed hinges. While he was moving things into one side, the top-door gave way and did a big “crunch” on his left hand. He had a real “goose egg” of a bruise, but it is getting better now, so he’ll have to get back to work …!

The last item of interest … of course only to us … was the Sunset Beach, NC pontoon bridge. It only opens on the hour, so we tried hard to time our passage to make the next opening by speeding up slightly. We arrived at the bridge at 8:57AM for the 9:00AM … timed it pretty well, actually … only to hear the bridge tender announce over the radio that the bridge was closed due to a low tide, and would probably open in an hour. Sunset Beach, NC has staunchly opposed the construction of a normal 65 foot bridge to their island. They’d rather keep their one-lane floating pontoon bridge. When the tide is exceptionally low, the pontoons won’t float far enough to either side to get the thing open … voila … we wait. We finally got through at 10:00AM.

This is one of the few hand-driven ferrys still around. This one is in SC.

As we rounded the ICW towards Georgetown, SC this pretty sail boat passed us. It may have been a tourist sailboat but we weren't sure.

A snowy egret in the trees.

When we first saw the back of this boat we thought it was a billboard but as it turned slowly in the ICW we realized it was a tour boat. When Tom picked us up he took us to their property, about 1/2 mile from our marina. In addition to a tour boat, they also have a zoo! We saw camels, lots of different kinds of deer, buffalo, zebras and peacocks. It was so weird to see a zoo of this size on the ICW in South Carolina.

This is the Sunset Beach bridge mentioned above. At the point of this picture, we had not been informed that the bridge wouldn't open for another hour so the Capt. is still smiling.
It finally opened.

This sign, in someone's backyard, really does say....New York 657 miles north - Miami 720 miles south. Now we know!

The following is not a UFO. It is an Osprey ... the new strategic troop/supply aircraft of the future for our Marines.
As we passed Camp Legune, several of the Osprey aircraft were practicing touch and go's. Right over our heads! There has been a lot of controversy over the last few years about this new Marine craft, but it seems to have finaly settled out. It is an amazing thing to see it fly fast forward and then suddenly hover. Go Marines ...!

This guy was hanging out at the last marina we stayed in before going to our home slip, his name is Clyde. We were told he bit so we stayed away from him.

YA-HOO! Our slip is just a few miles from the welcome sign.

Just a few interesting stats from our trip:

Total Trip Days: 158 (including 2 months for boat repair)
Total Days on the water: 96
Travel Days: 54
Total Engine Hours: 307
Miles Traveled: 2369 statute miles
Average Speed: 7.7 mph
Diesel used: approximately 1300 gallons
Gallons per hour: 4.24
Liked Most: Islamorada, FL anchorage,
Liked Least: Storms and lightening and south Florida bridges!

We learned a lot more about the boat on this trip and have gained confidence in our ability to handle her. We also used the tides and weather to our advantage much more than in the past so that we were more comfortable (and less stressed). Of course, it is a boat, so there will always be challenges ahead. We have some boat beautification projects (teak work, paint, etc) to complete in the next several weeks, so we will stay busy.

Currently, we are thinking about leaving in late August to head back north...we are not sure exactly where but we may try to see the leaves change on the Hudson River if the timing works out. Thanks for all the kind words about the blog. We had fun putting it together. We'll start the next installment this fall.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 Cape Romaine National Wildlife Refuge, SC

We had a fun couple of days in Hilton Head at a marina last Wednesday and Thursday. Our friends, Schaef and Sandy, came and picked us up and brought us back to their house for dinner. We had a great time visiting with them and another boating couple…lots of interesting sailing stories told. The next day we cleaned the boat and did boat chores with the plan to leave on Friday morning to head towards Charleston.

Our weekend was interesting. We spent the weekend with Barry, you know, the tropical depression! We knew that the storm was coming and our friends in Hilton Head told us about a good anchorage that they had stayed in, about 10 miles south of Charleston so we arrived there on Friday afternoon knowing that we would be there through at least Monday, depending on what the storm did.

The anchorage was great as far as ‘holding’, meaning we didn’t worry about the anchor dragging. But it didn’t protect us much from the winds and Barry brought very heavy rains and winds. For most of the weekend the winds blew around 20-25 mph but we had gusts of 40 mph. We settled in with exciting plans for lots of reading and catching up on inside chores. At the gustiest times when I looked out the window the shoreline was moving around like a Tilt-A-Whirl ride. I didn’t look out much, though, as I thought I would get seasick.

By Sunday afternoon most of the bad weather had passed us by and on Monday morning we weighed anchor and moved to our next anchorage about 45 miles north of Charleston. The tides and current were with us so we even saw Rickshaw moving at over 10 mph much of the day (had to hold on to our hats!). We could be home in a few days but our boat slip is rented through June 17 so we have lots of time to hang out.

As we do every day, we saw lots of dolphins and shore birds. The dolphins swam with the boat for a bit and we always enjoy seeing that. The weather today called for a 30% chance of rain and we ran into that 30% just as we were pulling into the anchorage. It was a heavy rainstorm but only lasted about 20 minutes. The winds are still blowing hard, a sustained 30 mph, and will be through tomorrow. We are both ready for some calm seas!!

Just a note: Some of you have asked how we know where to anchor. The ICW in most parts is pretty skinny. You can’t anchor in the ICW as you would get run over, but there are plenty of creeks and rivers that run into it that are good candidates for anchorages. Most of them are well documented in the cruising guides that we use. We generally run about 40-60 miles a day and we try to pick one that has good water and is relatively protected. With the tide ranges in GA and SC running between 6-7 feet, we always check the tide and current tables, and do the tidal range math, so that we don’t get surprised by low tide and end up on the bottom. We ususally look for a spot having 8 to 10 feet of water at low tide. When we decide where we want to anchor, Rick goes on the forward deck and uses the windlass to deploy the anchor and chain. I try to maneuver the boat so that anchor and chain lie on the bottom directly off the bow. When we have the right amount of chain deployed, which depends on the depth, we "set the hook" by backing down on the anchor. We then monitor our position for a while, to see that we're not dragging, before shutting down the engines. We have heard that many couples have almost come to blows during this process but we haven’t had any troubles (fingers crossed!!). (Ed: Lynnie does a great job maneuvering the boat, both during anchoring and the retrieval process.)

We will leave tomorrow to head to south Myrtle Beach to spend some time with my brother, Tom, and his wife, Carolyn. Tom is going to take us to the grocery store on Thursday, as the wine cellar is looking very empty!

We passed the historic town of Beaufort, SC on our way.
The bridge in the background was hit by a barge and is now closed to traffic while repairs are being made. This has thrown all the vehicle traffic onto a swing bridge, which only opens 4 times a day with 30 foot clearance, which fortunately we are able to get under without an opening by lowering our antennas.
Parris Island, SC, home of the Marines.
This is our anchorage in the Cape Romaine National Wildlife Refuge. You can see that there isn't a whole lot of activity except for birds and dolphins. We had stopped here on the way south and enjoyed it. The saw grass flats are beautiful in their own way. Last time we stopped, the water was very calm but not today!!

As we are posting this, yet another thunder and lightening storm is directly overhead. They are calling for more strong winds and hail. Ai-yi-yi! Enough with the bad weather!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 29, 2007 Georgia (Part 2 of 2 – Northern Florida is Part 1 below)

We have been terribly lax lately concerning the blog…but we are going to attempt to catch up! Our last entry was from Rodriques Key in Florida, just west of Key Largo. Since we are in Georgia now, we are posting two blogs – one for northern Florida (below) and one for Georgia. So, read the Florida blog first and then this Georgia blog will finally ‘catch us up’. We enjoy all the nice comments from family and friends on the blog. We are glad that you are having as much fun with it as we are.

What has become one of our favorite anchorages is off of Cumberland Island, GA, where we anchored for a few days. This is an island that was once owned by the Carnegie family. It is where the late John Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette secretly married and honeymooned. It is now partly owned by the National Park Service and there is only one Inn and a handful of “grandfathered” private homes still on the island. It is full of wild horses, armadillos, wild turkeys, deer and bird life.

We took the dingy about a mile to the island to go exploring the next day…but as we got about 50 yards from the dock, the dingy engine died! We took the paddles out and got to the dock. We couldn’t get the engine started again so we just walked around and saw the sights. When we got back to the dingy, with high hopes that it would start, we found that it still wouldn’t. Luckily, another couple returned to their dingy to head back to their boat, and they towed us back to Rickshaw. Of course TowBoat U.S. was just a radio call away, so we didn’t fret too much. Just another thing to get fixed!!

Our next stop was in St. Simons, GA. We stayed at our favorite marina, Golden Isles Marina. They have nice wide fairways so getting the boat into the slip is easy. BUT the most important thing is that they deliver muffins each morning to the boat before sunrise! Nice breakfast. We got to see Rick's first grade friend, Gayle and his wife Dee, again and we had a great dinner at the Coastal Kitchen restaurant right at the marina. Gayle was getting ready for a Presidential visit to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center where he runs the show. Gayle is, more importantly, planning to retire, finally, after 42 years, on July 3rd. We welcome him into the wonderful world of retirement. It is a great place to be.

From St. Simons, GA we went to a marina on the southern side of Savannah called Isle of Hope. They have a courtesy car (…a green Lexus ES300, with a trailer hitch…really…) and we took it today to run some errands and see the historic town. It is a beautiful little place full of historic homes. Rick was finally persuaded to get a haircut after 3 months of growth … almost ponytail time. Tonight we will borrow the car again and go to one of the local seafood restaurants. Tomorrow we leave for Hilton Head and a visit with the friends we made in Melbourne, FL. They were able to get us an extra free night in the marina so we’ll have time for more boat chores!!

At this point we are just shy of 2000 miles on this trip, which puts us about 400 ICW miles from home in Morehead City, NC.

This is the head of a manatee at the dingy dock at Cumberland Island. Hard to get a good picture of them.

Wild horses grazing on the shore. There were hundreds of them on the island.

Walking to the ruins of Dungenous estate which was built by the Carneiges in the late 1800's. It was destroyed by fire in the 1930's.

A beautiful rainbow. We had been having bad rains off and on for several days. Luckily, this last one passed us by.

Being towed by Mary and Mike back to Rickshaw with their 3 hp motor!! A horse in the arbor in the Dungenous mansion gardens.
May 29, 2007 Part 1 of 2 No Name Harbor, Key Biscayne through St. John’s River

We went next to the No Name anchorage (it is really called that!), a little harbor at the southern tip of Key Biscayne. We took the dingy into a Cuban restaurant and had a great meal. From there we ran ‘outside’ in the Atlantic, about 2 miles offshore, to get back to Lake Worth. The ICW from Miami up to Lake Worth has lots of bridges and we wanted to avoid them, since we had enough of a taste of trying to time their openings coming south. It was a 10 ½ hour run but we had light winds and relatively calm seas so it wasn’t a big deal, especially with the autopilot. We just played lots of Jimmy Buffet music to while away the hours.

When we left Lake Worth the next morning, Rick was on the bow pulling up our anchor chain with the windlass, and Lynnie was maneuvering the boat. As the last 25 feet or so of chain came onto the boat the windlass gave a mighty groan. Rick looked over the bow roller and discovered we had snagged a much larger anchor chain which someone had abandoned. He got the boat hook and managed to wrestle the offending chain off our anchor. However, now the boat hook was carrying all the abandoned chain and could not be freed, so he finally let go, but at least our boat was free.

We went back to a marina that we had enjoyed on our southern run in Melbourne FL. It is a cool little town. I got to ride my bike to the grocery store while Rick did boat chores and changed the oil and filters in the 2 main engines and 2 generators. We met some new friends who own a sail boat and we had a couple of good meals with them. They live in Hilton Head so we are planning on stopping to see them as we go north.

Our next stop was in an anchorage in St. Augustine. We did some trip planning at that point. Our boat slip in Morehead City, NC is rented through June 16 so we discovered we had some extra days. So from St. Augustine we decided to head for Jacksonville, FL up the St. John’s River about 15 miles. We stayed at the River City Marina and Brewing Company (seemed appropriate). We took the water taxi across the river to the newly renovated downtown area which is called Jacksonville Landing. This is a shopping and restaurant complex done by the same company that updated the Baltimore Inner Harbor. All the water activity and lights of the city were pretty neat. It was a fun time.

The St. John’s river actually flows north from central Florida about 140 miles to Jacksonville. Since we had heard and read it was all navigable and a beautiful trip, we decided to take a couple of days cruising the St. John’s river. It was, indeed, beautiful and the southern reaches, below Palatka were narrow and deep with cypress swamp, Spanish Moss laden live oak trees, and occasional patches of water hyacinth. We spent 2 days on the river, finally turning back north about 80 miles south of Jacksonville.

From there we planned to head for Cumberland Island, GA. We’ve had a great time in Florida but are glad to be heading north.

Lynnie at the Cuban restaurant with Rickshaw in the anchorage.

This is Stiltsville, which is where fisherman built fishing homes near Key Biscayne until the hurricanes took most of them away and the city banned further development. There are just a few homes left.
This little guy joined us about 2 miles offshore in the Atlantic. He took a power nap for about 15 minutes and then left us to find his flock. We enjoyed having him onboard. The day before Rick went down in the galley and there was another guy who come into the saloon when we left the door open. Rick was able to get him out with no problems!

On the way up the St. John's river to Jacksonville. Container ships and tugs were working the waterfront.

Jacksonville at night is a pretty sight. The bridges are all lit. This is the Main Street lift bridge with another bridge lit up behind it.
Rick by the fountain near the River City Marina and Brewing Co. Rick and I asked a Park Ranager to take our picture looking over the Main Street Bridge. Coming up the St. John's River into Jacksonville.

The fountain at night. It changed colors continuously and was just amazing.

This is a small village that we anchored next to in the lower reaches of the St. John's river near a small town called Welaka. The last picture shows what they call 'Old Florida' with water hyacinth. Pretty place.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

May 8, 2007 Key Largo to Key West, FL

We enjoyed our stay in Marathon. From here, we're headed to Key West on the "outside", meaning the Atlantic side in the Hawk Channel. We stayed in a marina and got to go to the local grocery store and do laundry and wash the boat. Always fun! We discovered a dockside bar/restaurant that we could walk to and that had local music and we enjoyed it so much we went there both nights of our stay. We even had ‘happy feet’ and danced to a few songs. The restaurant was described as ‘Keysie’ which we learned means: flip flops, Hawaiian shirts and a very laid back attitude. Gotta love life in the Keys! We particularily enjoyed the singer, Dan Sullivan, and his signature song ... "I'd Rather be Drinkin a Beer Here, Than Freezin My Ass in the North."

We left Marathon for a 6 hour cruise to Key West and spent 3 nights in that wild town. We enjoyed our time there as it felt like we were ‘on vacation’ from the boat. The marina that we stayed in was a resort/marina so we took advantage of it and used their pool a couple of days…and it felt just like being on vacation. It was fun. We ate some wonderful food and enjoyed drinks at a couple of the many, many bars that Key West has to offer. We left on the morning of Cinco De Mio, which was a good thing since it is their version of Mardi Gras; a bit too much craziness for us.

We have spent the last 3 nights in a small anchorage on the south side of Key Largo. We came here to get out of the way of storms which were coming from the North. We knew the weather was going to get bad so we wanted to find a place to hide from the wind. On Sunday night a huge thunder and lightening storm was parked over the boat for about 3 hours. The wind was fierce and the strobe lightening was a bit frightening. But we didn’t see any of the nickel sized hail that was predicted. While the winds have died down somewhat, it is still a bit more lively than we like to travel in.

Today we took Rickshaw about 6 miles out onto the reef and did some snorkeling. It was so cool to be able to do that from the boat.. Tomorrow, assuming the weather cooperates; we will leave and head north to Key Biscayne and anchor in a place called No Name Harbor. Below is a 'Keysie' boat!
Scenes leaving Marathon.

Customs House as we approach Key West.

Coming into Key West; Mallory Square where everyone goes to watch the sunsets.

Hanging out at the pool.

One of the many sailing ships that take folks out to see the sunsets.

These pictures were taken on the way to snorkling. The water was an amazing shade of blue.