Saturday, July 8, 2017

Myrtle Beach, Carolina Beach, Swansboro

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Our next three days were pretty uneventful, and were repeats of stops we made on the way south last Fall. 

After our escapade on the Wacamaw, we had ended up further North than planned, so it was only a short 27 NM trip to Myrtle Beach, including the infamous "Rockpile" section of the ICW.  We took a slip at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club, where, by good fortune, our friend (and fellow P-323 owner) Dick Martin was at his boat for the weekend. We got together with him and his wife for dinner.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Today's run would take us into North Carolina and up the Cape Fear river to Carolina Beach, a distance of 46 NM.  We left early, at 7:00 am, in order to time the tides on the Cape Fear River to not be opposing the winds.  This had happened to us on the way South, and the resulting "Rage" of choppy and confused seas had made for a difficult and uncomfortable passage.

And it was well that we did.  By the time we were were northbound on the Cape Fear River,  the winds had risen to 30 knots, gusting to 36, out of the South. We were at the tail end of the rising tide, just ahead of high-slack, but the wind and tide still combined to push us along at 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 knots! As is typical for downwind, it really didn't feel like that much wind, until we had to turn ENE to head for the canal, called Snow's Cut, that leads to Carolina Beach.  Then it became really apparent just how much wind there was!

In Snow's Cut,  the wind and current boosted our speed over ground  to almost 9 knots!  It makes for quite a "sleighride" up the narrow canal!

Once at Carolina Beach, we headed for the mooring field.  Given how hard the wind was blowing, I was glad we had elected for the security of a mooring.  But there was a down side. The wind was so gusty and veering that it was extremely difficult to pick up the mooring pendant.  It took us many tries and over a half hour before we successfully snagged it and had a proper two-rope bridle set up. Things got a little heated at times, but that was just our frustration.

And then, shortly afterward,  a trawler pulled up to a nearby mooring and gave us a repeat performance, complete with lost pickups and increasingly sharp words between the husband at the helm and the wife on the foredeck.  I couldn't help but laugh, not at their discomfort, but at how it reminded me of how we must have looked!

Eventually, they got it secured, but to my concern, I noticed that they had rigged a single-rope bridle, from their port cleat, through the loop on the end of the pendant, and back to their starboard cleat.  This allows the line to saw back and forth through the loop on the pendant, and can wear through it in a matter of hours!  And with the way the wind was blowing, we were "sailing" around back and forth a lot!  The way to avoid this is to use two lines, each one going from a cleat, through the pendant loop, and back to the same cleat.

I was afraid they would break free in the middle of the night and end up in the weeds.  I tried to raise them on the VHF to warn them of the danger, but they must have had their radio off.  So I contacted the harbormaster who runs the mooring field and explained the situation.  He too was concerned, and later came out in his dinghy to show them how to set up a two-rope bridle and helped them do it.

I'm sure everyone slept better that night.  I know I did.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

 Today we were going to duplicate our longest leg on the ICW, a distance of 69 NM from Carolina Beach to Swansboro.  We had done this in the other direction the fall, when the days were short, but it was a stretch, requiring getting underway pre-dawn and arriving minutes before sunset. With the longer daylight hours now, I was confident that we would make it without trouble.

And we did.  Upon arriving at Swansboro, we once again took a slip at Dudley's marina.  It's a bit rough, but at $0.75 per foot (including power)  it's hard to beat! 

Tomorrow, we'll continue northward, past Beaufort and up on to the Neuse River.

Life is good.

Friday, May 19, 2017

An Alligator, a Jerk, and an Angel

Friday, April 28, 2017

Got a leisurely start at 8:15am and left Charleston, bound for McClellenville, a distance of only 36 NM.  Got there about 2:30pm and anchored again in Five Fathom Creek, where we had stopped on the way south last fall.  This deep creek is just off of the channel used by the commercial shrimp boats to get to the ocean, and they sometimes anchor there overnight.  We went far enough into the shallows to be well away from them.

The hundreds of acres of marshes look very different from the way they did in fall.  Then, they were all golden brown, as far as the eye could see, but now they were all vibrant green.  A little buggier than in the fall, but nothing our screens couldn't handle.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

After leaving McClellenville we continued to head north.  While crossing through a cut through the Santee Swamp, we encountered a 6-foot alligator swimming along the shore, headed for the reeds!  Joan managed to get a photo of it.  It's the only alligator we've seen from the boat on the entire trip!
Our day's travel took us into the beautiful Wacamaw river, where we were planning on anchoring once again in Thoroughfare creek, just off the main river.  Those of you who have been following this blog may remember that last Fall, this was the site of our anchoring fiasco that ended up with our anchor line wrapped around the prop, and me having to go diving in the pitch-black freezing water to untangle it by touch alone. 

I really wasn't happy with this location, but there are few good choices on the Wacamaw, as the water tends to go abruptly from too deep (35 ft) to too shallow.  So we carefully surveyed the depths back and forth, and found the one spot that that was good.  We set up just downwind of it and I hovered in place for a minute to give Joanie enough time to set the proper line length on the trip line float.  While we were doing this,  a big trawler named "Traveler" came around the bend, ignored the fact that we were getting ready to anchor, motored right past us and dropped their anchor right in the spot we had just picked out!  I was furious!  We then tried to work around them, but downstream of them it was too deep, and upstream we would be too close!  Holding my tongue, and following the philosophy that the only person whose actions I can control is me,  we proceeded upstream to look for another anchorage.

But it was fruitless.  The water was either too deep, or the depth was ok but the creek was too narrow to allow for swinging room with a proper amount of scope out.   After a half an hour of this, we gave up.  I turned the boat back downstream, gave the helm to Joan, and got out the charts in another hurried attempt to find a spot that looked usable before dark.

We spent the next 3 hours hunting.  The first spot I found on the charts wasn't workable at all in reality.  The second spot looked promising, but a large steel ketch named "Steel Away" was already anchored there, and there wasn't enough good water for a second boat.  The third spot was just barely usable, but it was a poor choice being just outside of the channel and close to the shoreline.  We decided to make the best of this, as we were running out of both time and river, as just North of us the ICW narrows into a canal that doesn't have any possibilities until north of Myrtle Beach!

As we were slowly going back and forth to find the best spot, a trawler passed us by, then hailed us on channel 16 to ask if we were having trouble.  Yin and Yang.  For every jerk, there's a good guy to balance out the universe!  Anyway, when we told him we were just looking for a spot to anchor for the night, he told us that if we could hold on for an hour more, there was a a real sweet spot just an hours travel north of us!  He said the depths ranged from 10 to 20 feet.  10 feet would work for us!  So, after thanking him profusely,  we crossed our fingers and headed north once again.  Now, we were committed, as daylight would be running out when we got there, and there would be no more spots north of there.  We would have to make this one work!

The location we were heading for is of a type called an "oxbow".  Its where a small branch of the river goes around an island and rejoins the main river.  Its ideal, as there should be no traffic on it.

When we got there, we found that there was room for about 5 boats, but 3 of the spots were already occupied.  We went into the first available spot and everything looked good!  The depth was great and there was plenty of swinging room.

But the anchor wouldn't set!  As soon as we started to pull back on it, tremendous amounts of bubbles started boiling up above the anchor, as it released gasses from tons of decaying leaves on the bottom.  The consistency was like mush, and the anchor just plowed through it without holding! :(

After two failed attempts, we retrieved the anchor and went to the last available spot.  This one was less desirable, as it was right in the mouth of the side creek where it rejoined the main river, so it was closer to the traffic in the channel.  But it was all we had left, and the depth and swinging room were both good.  Crossing our fingers, we dropped the anchor and trip line and paid out chain and line.  Once we had it out, I put the engine in reverse to set the anchor ... and it held!

Life is good.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Charleston Redux

Monday, April 24, 2017

Since we arrived in Charleston before 11 am, we took advantage of the rest of the day to get a few chores done, including grocery shopping.  The marina provides a shuttle service that will drive you to and pick you up from any place in the downtown area. 

While in the grocery's parking lot, a middle-aged man drove up in a stunningly restored '58 Corvette.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

After a lazy morning, we walked into town and went to lunch at the Hominy Grill. Joan had a Bloody Mary garnished with pickled Okra,  and I discovered the wonder that is called Shrimp and Grits! :)

Bill and Lisa contacted us shortly afterwards, and they were only an hour away!  They must have gotten started at 5 am!    Once they arrived and got settled in, they drove over to the marina where we had cocktails before going out to dinner. 

We went to a Fish & Raw Bar called Amen Street, where we had been once before.  Had a great dinner and copious quantities of wine.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Today we began to play tourist in earnest.  We spent the day visiting an operating Plantation called Boone Hall.  Tons of facinating history.  No photos allowed inside the manor house though, as the owners still use the upper floor as a vacation house.

Watch your head in the slave quarters! We found a snake in one!
Tree-lined drive framed by huge, ancient live oaks.
Rows of brick slave quarters for the skilled "upper-class" slaves who had a trade.
What appears to be a diamond backed rattler nestled in the warm rafters of one of the buildings.
Manor House
Trees just dripping with Spanish Moss
Wild turkeys
Thursday, April 27, 2017

We continued our tourist gig today, this time visiting the WWII aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, and the cold-war era submarine USS Clamagore.  The carrier is HUGE!  The 5 self-guided walking tours took most of the day.
Yorktown and Clamagore
Hanger deck
Lots and LOTS of steep stairs!
Torpedo Workshop
Crew's bunks, three deep
Boiler room steam valves. Rube Goldberg would be proud!
Joan at the controls of an F9F Cougar
On the Flight Deck
While up in the bridge, we noticed that the Nina and Pinta replicas were tied up at the adjoining marina!  They're following us!
Nina and Pinta at Charleston
Captain Bill at the conn
Parting view
Bill & Lisa left this evening.  Tomorrow, we'll be on our way again, trying to make some time northbound.  We should be in Myrtle beach in three days.

Life continues to be good.

Southern South Carolina

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bright and early, we left Isle of Hope marina, and shortly afterwards said goodby to Georgia and entered South Carolina.  Some time afterwards, we were passed by Jim and Louise, on their way to a different anchorage than us.

We had planned to stop just before Beaufort (pronounced BEW-fort) SC at Port Royal Landing Marina for gas and a pumpout because marinas are scarce along the next part of the ICW.  But when we got there, we were told that their pumpout AND fuel dock were out of service!  Not critical yet, but it left me uneasy as we moved on.

We passed by BEW-fort, and, lo and behold, there at the municipal docks were the Nina and Pinta replicas we had docked  next to at Vero Beach Florida!  We were playing leap-frog with them, just like we do with so many other cruising boats!  Except that they had to go "outside" on every leg because they're too tall to fit under the ICW's 65ft bridges!  Yet, still we meet.

Nina and Pinta at Beaufort, SC

Just past BEW-fort, we turned up Factory Creek to anchor for the night.  On the way in, we found that Jim & Louise had made better time than they had expected, and had pushed on past their planned anchorage to Factory Creek too.

We had to anchor in deeper water than I liked ( at high tide it would be 18 ft), so we let out enough rode to have good scope, and for the first time, rigged a kellet on our anchor line using a 10 lb mushroom dinghy anchor as a weight.  Hopefully this would keep us from wrapping our anchor line around the prop!  I do NOT want a repeat of that experience!

After we were settled in, we invited Jim & Louise over for dinner, and grilled steaks on the Magma.  We had a delightful evening with them.

Later, Joanie sent an e-mail to our part-time crewmember Bill, telling him that we would be in Charleston in a couple of days, and half-jokingly invited him and Lisa to come down again and join us.  He replied that by pure chance, Lisa had the next week off, and they were looking for a short trip to do!  So, he said that they would drive down to Charleston early Tuesday and join us in town for a few days!  We couldn't have planned this any better if we had tried!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Apparently, the kellet worked,  as the line stayed free of the prop and the anchor came up with no problem, despite the strong currents that reversed the direction the boat pointed every 6 hours.  We left Factory Creek, headed for a nondeccript anchorage on the side of the Dawho River. 

The weather was deteriorating, and when we got there, I didn't like it at all.  It was completely unprotected from the south, where the wind was coming from, and the chop was already building.  While Joan took the helm and idled us in circles, I got out the charts and looked for a suitable spot to anchor, as there were no marinas anywhere nearby.

I found a spot about an hour North of us, that looked promising, with shallow enough water depths and good solid protection on the south, so we headed out.   Once there, we surveyed the depths and it looked good, so we got the hook set and settled in for the night. 

I  checked our fuel level, and we were now down to about 11 gallons.  This would be about enough for one more 10 hour day, but to avoid the chance of running out at an inopportune moment, I added 12 gallons from two of our jerry jugs on deck.  We were now into our reserves, with only one more 5-gallon reserve jug left.  This should be ok, as we would get to Charleston tomorrow if nothing went wrong.

That night, the shore provided good coverage so there was no chop, although we got some rain and a little lightning in the distance.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Today's big challenge would be a place called Elliott's Cut, just before Charleston Harbor.  Because it was a relatively short distance to Charleston, I had hoped we could get a later start, but it was not to be.  Elliott's Cut is so narrow, and has such a fast current (up to 5 knots!), that you had to time your passage through it to have the tide with you.  Unfortunately, this meant leaving at 6:45 am. :(

There were also some shallow spots along the way, which we negotiated with great care, as we were on a falling tide, and if we went aground, we would be stuck for 12 hours!

The weather continued gray, and started raining on and off.  By the time we reached Elliott's cut, it was pouring, with only 1/4 mile visibility.

Traversing the cut was insane.  Even at low throttle, with the current behind us we were doing 8 - 9 knots over ground, in a steep-walled channel only a few boat-lengths wide!  And then, once the channel widened, out of the gloom, looms a drawbridge! Fortunately, it was an "open on request" one and I didn't have to fight the current in front of it for long. 

Once in Charleston harbor, we slipped under a low 55 ft bridge and entered Ashley Marina, where we got fuel and a pumpout before moving to our slip.  This was another milestone for us, as we had now covered all of the part of the ICW that we had skipped on our way south last fall.

The plan now is to spend 4 nights here playing tourist with Bill and Lisa before resuming our trek northward.

Life is good.

Monday, May 1, 2017

An Unexpected (Re)Encounter

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Departed Jekyll Harbor Marina and prepared to traverse the Little Mud River, one of the two most notorious spots in the Georgia ICW for shoaling.  After all our planning, and timing for favorable tides, it ended up being a non-event.  We cautiously felt our way through it, but never saw any water that was shallow enough to give us any trouble.

Along the way, we were passed by a trawler who warned us that there was a police chase for some armed fugitives coming up behind us, and we might be stopped and boarded to be checked.  We saw numerous police boats going up and down the river, but none of them ever did anything but wave.  I guess they figured fugitives were unlikely to commandeer a 6-knot sailboat as an escape vehicle!

We were originally going to anchor on the Back River, but we made such good progress that we pressed on farther and ended the day anchored on Walburg Creek.
End of Another Successful Voyage

Friday, April 21, 2017

Another change of plans.  We set out today headed for an anchorage in Turner's Creek.  Along the way, we stopped at a marina near Savanna for fuel and a pumpout, intending to continue on.  While on the fuel dock, we heard a voice calling  "Joan...".  Turned to find our friends Louise and Jim were there!  We hadn't seen them since Bimini back in January!  So, of course, "New Plan".  We stayed in a slip there for the night.  The marina (Isle of Hope), has a courtesy car, so we signed it out and the four of us went out to dinner.
Dinner with Jim & Louise
Tomorrow, we will be out of Georgia, headed for an anchorage just past Beaufort, SC. It only took four traveling days (not counting our stay in Jekyll Island) to get through the state  So far, the Georgia ICW hasn't really been that much of a challenge.  Of course, the fact that our boat only draws 4 1/2 feet might have something to do with that!

Life is good.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

This morning, we got a (deliberately) late start in order to time our arrival at the Fernandina Beach area to coincide with a mid-rising tide.  This gave us a better chance of avoiding trouble at the reported shoaling there.

After a slow, cautious transit of the area without mishap, we continued on, and crossed the St. Mary's River inlet and into Georgia.

On the way south last fall, we had skipped all of Georgia, and a big chunk of South Carolina, by going "outside" on the Atlantic at Charleston, SC all the way to St. Mary's inlet.   The reason for this was to avoid all of the reputed shallow water in Georgia.  But for this trip north, we decided to try it and see the parts of the ICW we had missed.

The first of these would have been Cumberland Island, but there was a problem.  With no public marinas on the island, the only way there was to either stay at the town of St Mary's and take a ferry over, or anchor out and dinghy in.  For us, anchoring out presented a problem, as we can only go two days on our holding tank without a pumpout, and we were already on our second day.  So, we called around and found that the ferries were all booked up for weeks!  Oh well.  Another item to put on the list for the next time! :)

So, we set out sights on Jekyll Island, and got to Jekyll Harbor Marina early in the afternoon.  After fueling and pumpout, we took a slip for two nights in order to give us a day to explore.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Jekyll Island was a true gem.  We will definitely go back there again. 

The marina has free loaner bikes, and the island is covered with the most extensive and well-maintained bike paths I have ever seen.  And it's all level!  Joan's knees were able to handle this, so off we went!

Great bike paths through tree-lined avenues

Jekyll Island has a rich history.  It was a gathering place for the wealthy to vacation, and many of the stately manors are still there.  We rode into the historic part of town and played tourist.

The Jekyll Island Club

Afterwards, we biked over to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which includes a rescue hospital where injured turtles are treated and usually released back into the wild.
One of the newest arrivals being cleaned and examined.

We biked to the north side of the island, and had lunch at Tortuga Jack's, then wandered home via a different path that took us thru a small but new village center with numerous shops.

Back at the boat, we watched another spetacular sunset.
End of another day in paradise

As usual...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Northern Florida

Tuesday, March 11, 2017
Monday, March 17, 2017

After our pleasant stay in Vero Beach, we pressed on for 2 days to Cocoa, FL where Joan's cousin Joe, and his wife Janice, live.  We had stopped there to visit on the way down at Thanksgiving, and had promised we'd stop in on the way back North.

It was nice to have a couple days of down time.  It was the first time we've slept off the boat since Christmas break!  Felt strange.  The bed didn't rock. ;)

Joe has a nice place on a small pond, inhabited by catfish and giant turtles.  He feeds the turtles, and they will come right up to the shore.  One big fellow is about 2 feet long at the shell!  They have a strange looking head, with a flattened neck and a tubular snout, looking more like a baby alligator head than a turtle!  We think its an Eastern Softshell Turtle.

Pond in Joe's Backyard
Strange looking snout
He's a big fellow! That shell is 2 ft long!

After Cocoa, we started really putting some miles under the keel.  45 NM the first day, a whopping 59 NM the second day, and 49 NM the third day.   This got us to an anchorage just south of Fernandina Beach, which is still closed due to damage from hurricane Matthew last fall.  Tomorrow, we will cross the St. Mary's River and begin our inside passage through Georgia!

The weather is perfect and life is good.