Tag Archives: icw

Weather: December 2003

The mighty St. John’s River and beyond, Monday, December 1, 2003
Pine Island AnchorageWe didn’t get going until; 8:55 , and really didn’t know where we were heading, just thought we would go until we found a good anchorage. So off we went past Amelia Island, and soon we were approaching the St. John’s River, which heads down into Jacksonville. We knew we wanted to get south to St. Augustine so we just headed straight across the St. John’s River and kept heading south.

St. Augustine SkylineWe put bridge after bridge behind us until we went under the Palm Valley Highway Bridge, a 65 foot bridge that seems to head over to some expensive Jacksonville suburb, now we had nothing between us and St. Augustine but twenty miles and one anchorage. Since it was already 4 o’clock we decided St. Augustine was out and we headed for the anchorage south of Pine Island, six miles south. Don’t be confused with this Pine Island being one you may have heard of, I have discovered on this trip that every state has numerous Pine, Hog and Bull Islands. The ones that are on the ICW do not usually house large settlements, in fact most islands we anchor behind are really just specks on a river and if the names of these island weren’t on the chart noone one would probably refer to them at all.

St. Augustine, Our second walled city, Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Castile De San MarcosSince we had already visited Charleston, we knew we couldn’t miss St. Augustine if we wanted to see the two only walled cities in the US. So we woke early the next morning to get going so we could make it to St. Augustine with enough time to have a look around. We raised anchor at 7:15 and soon we were racing down the ICW with our jib up enjoying the 15 to 25 knot wind from the north. We only had 12 miles to go to St. Augustine and 9 o’clock we were waiting at the Bridge of Lion’s for the 9:30 opening. We could have anchored north of the bridge, but with the north wind the boats anchored here were pitching in the 1 to 2 foot waves. This looked very uncomfortable, and even dangerous. Our guide told us that this was the better ancorage, as the one on the other side of the bridge had only fair holding ground, and was crowded. We Fort Mose Historic State Park, St Augustinedecided to take our chances on this one instead of stay out here and get pummeled all evening. The only trouble was that we missed the scheduled bridge opening, and so we had to spend the next half hour circling in front of the bridge in the wind and the waves. A commercial tug came along about half way thru our wait for the next opening and we were hopeful that the bridge would open for him. Unfortunetly, the bridge tender was not even opening for him because he did not have a barge with him. Once through the bridge, we anchored on the south side of the bridge where the waves were much lower. We anchored behind the biggest hulk of a boat we could find so it could further knock down the seas. We set 2 anchors just to secure our position. Even though it was a little calmer in here, it was still crowded and dragging was not an option. We sat and watched our position for about an hour before going ashore to be sure we were really holding. Our Bruce anchor had been really good up to this point, but better safe than sorry.

Castile De San Marcos with JenSoon the dingy was launched and we headed in to take showers and have a look around. Once on the dock we again ran into our friends on “Sirius”, who had been in St. Augustine for a few days. They were at the city docks and because of the weather were getting pitched around quite a bit. The waves were coming in with such vigor that we were getting wet just standing on the dock next to their boat chatting. We made plans to get together for dinner and headed off to the showers.

Replica of old town wallOur first stop was the Castillo De San Marcos, the fort we had sailed by on our way by St. Augustine before anchoring. It was a quick walk having only to fend off a few carraige ride solicitors. Our desire to go in was quailed by the fact that they wanted $7 for entrance. We had seen quite a few forts in our traveling days and our $14 dollars would be better spent treating ourselves to ice cream or prehaps a delicious beverage. We settled for walking around the fort which had a style similar to El Moro in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but it didn’t have the same grandeur (we did pay to go into El Moro). Then we followed the replica of the old city wall to St. George street. St. George street is a sort of colonial Williamsburg in the heart of St. Augustine. It is part tourist trap shops and part old world history lesson. We walked down the street passing the oldest wooden school house in the US and replica buildings of the old days. All these of course were flaked by restaurants, junk shops and public restrooms. It was a nice walk through, especially since there are no cars aloud on St. George street, most any street in the US is pleasant to walk on when there aren’t cars whizzing by.

Oldest School HouseSoon we were on King Street, the main drag leading out of town. We headed out of town past Flager College, a magnificent college all built in the Spanish Renaissance style. It was built by Henry Flagler in 1888, as the Hotel Ponce de Leon, but is now teaching coeds, many of whom we passed along the street as we walked toward our next destination. This destination is a place you have to own a boat to truely appreciate – the Sailor’s Exchange!!!! (http://www.sailors-exchange.com)( it is a used marine parts store). These sorts of places are huge buildings usually in the low rent part of town, and are sort of a antique shop for sailors. Everything you could possible imagine for a boat is usual there, it’s just up to you to figure out where. We sorted through all sorts of things until I noticed Jen starting to get bored so we purchased our wears and headed back into St. Augustine. Jen finds these stores a little creepy as most of the parts are recovered from wrecks or old boats. The sheer amount of parts etc.. can be overwhelming.

Do you think she will?On the way out of town we passed the San Sebastien Winery http://www.sansebastianwinery.com (the building they make and sell the wine not the fields of grapes). We never turn down a free tour or tasting, so we headed in to check it out. They showed us a movie, of which we missed the most interesting part (why most grapes won’t grow in Florida), then they showed us where they made and bottled the wines. This of course was followed by everyones favorite part of the tour the tasting. I was looking forward to trying their champayne (sparking wine since it is not made in the Champayne region), but they didn’t seem to give tastes of it because they didn’t want to open a whole bottle without finishing the whole thing and they didn’t plan on that. We were a little disappointed with San Sebastine as none of the wines sparked our interest enough to actually purchase it.

St Augustine Town HallWe walked back in to the docks where we made arrangements to go to dinner with Harry and Fran from Sirius. First we wanted to drop off our goods at the boat, so we dingied out hoping not to get to wet and then headed back in. The wind and waves were lesseng, but it was still rough so keeping completely dry on the dingy ride was almost impossible. After having a beer with Sirius at the A1A Brew Pub we headed over to the Cuban Restaurant where we had some dinner. Soon we were motoring out in the dark, and fortunately the wind had calmed so the ride was dry and our sleep would be calm.

Did Ponce de Leon have to pay, Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Flager CollegeOur second day started with us scrubbing the boat. The boat had gotten many stains on the deck and some would not come off, so it was time to don the gloves and get out the high toxic acid to clean off some off the deck stains. Some after breakfast Jen and I scrubbed the cockpit with toothbrushes, the glamorous life of a cruisor. Before we new it our cockpit looked respectable again (this would last about as long as we stayed off the boat that day) and we headed in to scrub ourselves down with a shower. As we got to the dock we noticed Barramundi and Good News, some of the boats we had met in the Dismal Swamp, pull into the dock in St. Augustine. So we all greeted each other look long lost friends and caught up with the goings on.

This guy lives aboard, seriouslyAfter awhile we made arrangements to continue our banter later and Jen and I headed off to scrub the dirt from the boat off of ourselves. That day we decided to have a look at the attraction of St. Augustine, the place where Ponce de Leon though he had found the Fountain of Youth. Always feeling the need to feel ever more youthful, we headed down the street towards it, which was also where the library was so we could communicate with the friends and family we had left behind. On the way we walked up to the Mission of Nombre De Dios, a gaint cross where Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed in 1565 and said to be the place of the first Catholic Mass in the New World, It overlooks St. Augustine harbor and is an impressive cross that sores high into the sky above. It only lacks the mountain grandure of similar religious symbols that stand on Huge cross on city pointmountain tops like the one in Rio de Janiro. We walked around the grounds before continuing on our way to youthful existence for the rest of our lives. As we neared the “archaeological site” where the suppose fountain is we new we were in trouble. Adorning the road leading to it is a large neon arch you get to drive (or in our case walk) through. On the arch written in neon it says “Fountain of Youth”, across the street there is an equally tacky sign instructing you to turn and drive two blocks to the “Fountain of Youth”. I felt more like I was going to get on a Disney World ride similar to “It’s a Small World”. Dispite all of this we walked our two blocks before our greatest fears were realized, the few dollar fee we hoped it would be to all the youthfulness you will ever need was actually $7 dollars. Did Ponce de Leon have to pay 7 bucks to dip him,self in this swamp in Florida, I think not. So since the reviews of the place we had heard ranged from “There isn’t really anything to see!” to “This is it?” we decided to forge forever being youthful in order to get to the library to communicate with others back home.

Fountain of Youth EntranceAfter the library we picked up some grapefruits at a roadside stand next to a gas station (they were delicious) and then fed ourselves to youthfulness buy purchasing a Dairy Queen Blizzard, which besides a few peanut butter crackers was our lunch. Hoped up on sugar we walked back into town hoping to find a place with Wireless Internet or at least a place I could plug in the laptop to do so journal writing. This brought us to the Casa Monica Hotel, an upscale hotel in the heart of downtown. We both did some writing before heading back to the dock to see what was happening on the dock with the new arrivals.

We found our friends on Barramundi having cocktails on board and after biding them by offering a few grapefruits we were having a cocktail as well. Bob and Vivian on Barramundi were one of the many Canadians we had met on our journey south. I don’t know whether it is the cold weather up north or what, but there seem to be more Canadian cruisers then US ones. We were welcomed onto the foreign soil of there vessel and catching up on each others trip down when we were joined by Bob (yes both named Bob) and Margery from Good News. before we new it it was well after dinner time and we headed back to our boat so the others could head in to get some dinner. We would be headed south to Daytona Beach tomorrow, sadly once again leaving the friends it had taken so long to catch up to.

Running in the dark, Thursday, December 4, 2003

Fort MatanzasWe were not leaving all of our friends, Fran and Harry abroad Sirius had anchored out near us that night and were going to head to Daytona as well. We left St. Augustine, with Jen somehow keeping me from the St. Augustine Haunted Pub Tour http://ghostaugustine.com (there is always the way back north), about a half hour after Sirius. Being slower then most all boats on the ICW we were quickly the only boat in sight accept when a power boat decides to swamp us in his wake.

Fort Matanzas, FloridaThe whole way from Marthas Vineyard I had been very good at figuring out the tides and when they would be with us and against us. Today the tide started out against us so I figured once we got close to the Matanzas Inlet we would have the tide with us, just like it had been on North Carolina and other places with inlets to the ocean. When we got to the inlet it was not only not with us but even stronger against us. This was a little vexing, so then I figured once we pass the inlet we will surely have it with us, because if it is flowing in the inlet and up the ICW, it will surely be flowing in the inlet and down the ICW as well. As we passed Fort Matanzas, where more than 300 French Huguenots killed by the Spanish in 1565, at the mouth of the inlet we still had no tide with us. This was tough as since Bumbre is a little slow under power alone any tide against her hurts our speed even more, which meant getting to Daytona that night, over 50 miles from St. Augustine, was going to be tough.

Going through Haulover Canal We keep going and as we passed the last anchorage before Daytona (a land cut that leads to an old cement plant) we were still 20 miles away. This lead to a bit of a problem, we didn’t want to anchor in the cement plant, and we were also worried about getting into Daytona after dark. We just kept going anyway and we would just have to see what happened. We got closer and closer to Daytona as it got darker and darker, before long the sun had set and we were straining to see the next markers. We probably could have anchored just off the ICW channel, but as darkness fell and the lighted markers (they aren’t all lighted) came to life I found it could be easily navigated. This was mostly because the lights of houses and buildings on the outskirts of Daytona were lighting the way and the ICW in this area in very straight. As we went under the first bridge we saw Sirius anchored there, but I wanted to make it to the anchorage just beyond Daytona and through the bridges in downtown, so we kept going. After passing under the last bridge the lights of downtown dimmed and we could only really see the lights blinking on the markers ahead. Soon we were turning off to head out of the channel and into the anchorage, getting the anchor down at about 7:15, two hours after sunset. Looking around I thought we might have gone even further, but Jen was not so adventurous so we settled into our anchorage and perpared some dinner. Unfortunately we ran out of bottled propane for the grill, so we settled for baked chicken and headed off to bed for to get some rest for another 50 mile day to Titusville.

The friendliest town in Florida, Friday, December 5, 2003

Bridge Haulover Canal We awoke early and were off a little after 7, Jen didn’t want a repeat of yesterday and I hoped to find a diesel mechanic to teach me how to change my fuel filters and bleed my engine. Titusville is suppose to be a good cheap place to do that so we thought we would head there and maybe stay a extra day to have it done. We had heard little else good about Titusville, but good cheap services in Florida are tough to come by especially south of Fort Peirce, so we really hoped the people of Titusville could help us out.

Pelicans Indian River By 8:15 Sirius had caught up to us and we were leading them toward the Ponce de Leon Inlet. Shoaling near the inlet had been reported and the chart showed very strange marker locations. I entered with caution, but not enough caution as I still had up my sail because of a favorable wind. Soon after the first marker with Sirius only 50 yards behind us I ran it right onto that shoaled area I had heard about. She was hard aground, compounded by the fact that the jib was still up, so we quickly lowered it. I thought we might have trouble getting off, but with the sail down she backed off easily and soon we were following Sirius threw, thankfully. They of course made it though without incident only compounding my embarrassment of plowing head long into the shoal with my jib up.

Relaxing on the way to Titusville Soon after that we get threw the Coronado Bridge and into the Mosquito Lagoon. This not so flattering name is the beginning of a very interesting section of the ICW. Here the ICW starts to widens where at some parts it is 5 miles wide, but you can only travel on a narrow section as it shoals quickly on either side. It continues like this from the Mosquito Lagoon, then into the Indian River (once you go through the Haulover Canal) past Titusville until you get near the ST. Lucie Inlet. This is the area where Cape Carnival is and you can see the vehicle-assembly building of the John F. Kennedy Space Center from bearly 20 miles away. On the we back up if NASA is launching shuttles again we hope to see one from an anchorage near Titusville.

For now Titusville was our destination and we watched the dolphins play next to our boat we also watched some gray clouds come over the horizen. Being that this section is so wide it is also not a good section to get caught out in a blow. We watched Sirius disappear ahead of us and again we were alnoe on the ICW, but the rain did not come and we enjoyed a wonderful day watching dolphins play, and pelicans drive near the boat.

Titusville at sunsetWe entered the Indian River after going through the Haulover Canal, and now had a little over an hour to Titusville on the Indian River. The Indian River is home to the famous Indian River Citrus Company, where some many of us up north have received oranges and grapefruits in big boxes from Florida in the winter months. The fruit grows all along the Indian River in this section of Florida. We made our way across the river to Titusville and headed into the marina from diesel and hopes of a diesel mechanic to change our fuel filters. As we tied up at the marina’s fuel docks we were greeted by the deckhand, a nice middle aged fellow who was very helpful. He informed us about a diesel mechanic who would come down and help us and that we were welcome to tie up to the dock while he worked. Unbelievable I thought a marina in Florida that will accommodate a small boats needs and won’t charge you an arm and a leg. We payed for the diesel and I called the mechanic who had just gotten home from the marina. He was happy to change the filters, but he new the kind I Vehicle Assembly Building, Cape Canaveral needed were sold out of the local stores, but he started calling others stores in hope of finding one so he could help us out that day. While this was going on we decided to get a pump out, that undesirable job that needs to be done ever so often. Again the dock master was right there helping us and in the end didn’t even want the $5 dollar fee. Since we were tied up to the dock waiting for the diesel mechanic to call back we decided to take showers at the marina. Of course these were five dollars each as well, but again the lady in the office wouldn’t hear of it and we were of to clean ourselves again. This was a first on our journey, to find someone at the marina who didn’t make sure to charge a kings ransom for a shower, we felt we had hit the jackpot. After all the nice people on the dock were having a Christmas party and invited us over, we declined and headed back to the boat to call back the mechanic. The mechanic had no luck finding our filter, so we reluctaly left the dock to anchor out. On the way out we were thankful of finding so many nice people to help us out and even though we would not be staying very long in Titusville, we will not forgot how nice and welcome we felt during our two hours stay there.

We headed out around sunset and went through the bridge anchoring near Sirius. Tomorrow we would head south again, but this time only 40 miles to Melbourne, Florida to visit “The Dragon” of Dragon Point, which sits at the southern tip of Merritt Island.

The dragon has been slain, Saturday, December 6, 2003

Jen going down the Indian River, cold! We awoke to a very cold morning in Titusville, we were bundled up with gloves and hats as we headed south, it was time to visit Dragon Point. The story goes something like this, the man who owned the land on Dragon Point decided to build a huge concert Dragon on the popint for his kids to play on. Well he did and now it sits on the end of Merritt Island on the point named after it. I had seen pictures and read about it on countless cruising websites, so I was excited to have a look at it myself. We headed off at 7:45 and since the cold wind was blowing from the north (we learned later our friends in Boston were hit with 2 feet of snow this day) and were making great time under the jib. We passed under bridge after bridge until we saw the bridge that lies directly after Dragon Point. As we closed in on Dragon Point I couldn’t pick out the Slain Dragon of Dragon Point, Merritt Island dragon, but you could see some starnge green point rocks in the binoculars. As we rounded the point we noticed it, the dragon had been destroyed and had crumbled down upon itself. It was a sad sight. As far as I was concerned there was no other reason to come here. We anchored out near the now defunct dragon and decided to go ashore to go to the grocery store. We dingied over to the local yacht club where we were imformed that the dingy dock is at the marina. AT the marina we got some fuel for the dingy and were informed that there was no dingy dock at all. We asked about the dragon and were informed that it had been destroyed in August of 2002 and plans to rebuild were uncertain. We were also informed that we could probably “land” our dingy at next door where the crew team launches there shells. We had hoped to be offered a place to tie it up quickly there to go to the store across the street but no such invitation was extended, so we headed off to the crew team launch sight next door.

Dingy Landing, MelbourneWe looked at the steep grassy bank they she had told us to pull up our dingy on and thought maybe we would just forget it. That combined with the fact that she had informed us that only once had the police been called for somebody trespassing on the property. This again did not go over well with us, but finally we decided to give it a go. I raised the engine on the dingy as much as I could and gunned it. The dingy ran up onto the bank nicely and we only had slightly damp shoes on our walk to the grocery store. We were pleased to find our dingy still there when we returned and soon we were off before the cops had to get involved.

Once back on the boat we unpacked our goods and headed off again to find the bar and library so we could check email and relax. It turned out the directions the women at the marina gave us were wrong and we would have to cross the Indian River to get to the library, since the chop in the river was quiet high we decided to forget that idea and head back to the boat. Instead we started to clean the boat which had gotten a lot of dirt and grime on her since the start of the journey. Well doing this I was inpect a thru-hull (a drain for the various things that need to drain from the inside of the boat like water etc.) and it broke apart. Fortunately in was above the waterline and the main part of the hose was still draining outside. But it was something that should be fixed asap. So that meant a stop at the next marine store we could find. Dragon Point had turned out to be a bust and we looked forward to moving on, the bad luck continued as we turned on the stove to cook dinner that night and suddenly ran out of propane for that as well. Dinner was not going to be cooked that night.

Cruising Capitol of Florida, Sunday, December 7, 2003

Felicity sailing down the ICW Running out of propane and needing a thru-hull put us in a position where we had to find a place that could fill all of our needs conviently. This is hard when you have no transporation besides a boat. We decided the best place to go would be Vero Beach, as in the guide it talked about being able to take a bus to shopping. So off we headed in another cold morning, this time though with no hot drinks to warm us up in the cold northerly breeze. We wound down the ICW as the houses started to get larger and larger we turned the corner into the Vero Beach town marina. We thought we might get a slip for the night instead of a town mooring, but we had no such luck.

What we did find was a sea of mooring balls, most of them with at least three boats rafted to each one. We started to wait to get fuel and see if there was a way to get a slip, but this seemed futile, so we called the dockmaster on the radio and he assigned us to mooring number seven. We had to reft on to a boat named Latitude and soon after we tied up to them, a boat named Felocity who we had recently pasted on the ICW rafted up to the other side. So now we had three boats on the mooring like most of the others in the harbor. Vero Beach mooring field is located in Bethel Creek, and as soon as we went in to pay we discovered we had stumbled upon some sort of cruisors meeting ground, as everyone we met seemed to be there to provision before heading over to the Bahamas. After we payed we moved the dingy over to the proper dock which was around the corner. It was about a hundred yards long and was filled with dingies to or three deep along it. We lucked out and caught someone leaving, so after they pulled out, we did the customary dingy ram to get ours through to the dock. The dingy ram is an art where you line your dingy up with a small space not wide enough for your dingy to actually fit into. Once lined up you crank up the trottle on the dingy and literally ram it into the spot. This usually has one or two effects, if there is enough play with the other dingies you just part them and yopu end up right next to the dock. If you do not hit the space just right or the dinghies are so packed in there is no place for them to go you tend to bounce off and shoot backward. This can be very unpleasant and cause your passengers to be thrownJen on dolphin in Vero Beach off or at least make them mildly upset at you, so it is best to get it right. There is another way, but it can be not so effective and certainly isn’t as fun. This is to slowly pull up to the space and have your passenger in the bow try to part the dinghies with there hands. You usually end up fustrating yourself as you swim your into one dingy and another, never seemly making any progress.

We did successfully get to the dock and once there we had a look around. What we discovered was cruisers of all sorts working hard to get themselves ready for the crossing. Vero Beach had become the defacto meeting place for them all. This seems to be for a few reasons, one they have a great free bus system that can take you into all sorts of stores, like a grocery, marine and book stores. That combined with the marina which has all of the needs of the cruising sailor, like laundry, showers, internet, mail delivery and a wealth of other cruisors to milk information from. We were overloaded with tips and information on everything from the Gulf Stream Crossing to tips on what canned meats to buy. It was overwhemling. The first day we were there was Sunday, this of course meant no bus service, which in turn meant no filling the propane. So we decided we would walk to the beach and get some dinner. First we wanted a shower, this is when we started to figure out what a goldmineVero Beach Bridge at night they had at the marina, they wanted a dollar each plus tax for a shower. This fee was not included with our $8 dollar a night mooring. Little charges like this tend to drive me crazy and before I was even there an hour I started to sore on the place a little. We both had our showers, $2.22 after tax and walked toward the beach section of Vero Beach.

After walking through some nice suburbs we found the beach section mostly closed except for a few bar/restaurants right on the beach. We ended up at Mulligan’s where the menu is so cowarded with graphics and colors you couldn’t read it. But we didn’t mind that much since they sat us near an outlet so I could plug in the laptop to write. After about two or three hours of having a couple of drinks and dinner I finished my writing and we walked back to the dingy dock. The harbor was quite, so were our neighbors so we climbed in to bed and slept soundly until morning.

A day of chores, Monday, December 8, 2003

Conch Bar, Hobe Sound Anchorage at sunset We awoke to the sound of dingies heading into the dingy dock. Since we had a lot to do as well we got up to start our day. Soon we were in the dingy ourselves, after starting our laundry and inquire about the propane and wireless internet (which they had as well), we wanted for the bus. The propane would have to wait, as the place to get them filled required a taxi to get to (and taking a propane tank on a public bus is frowned upon), but the bus would take us to a West Marine and a grocery store.

We talked with others as we waited and because we knew it we were all pilling into the bus that was full of cruisors. Every wanted to know if it was going to be your first cross (across the Gulf Stream) or where you planned on going from. Most of the advice was good, but you got so much it was almost to much. One thing we had planned on ordering but had yet to do was canned meats. It seems we were the only ones who hadn’t tried them (they are supposed to be surprising good), so we listenned and planned to order some later when we got on the internet. West Marine had what we needed as did the scuba store next door, a few other things and we were ready to catch the next bus.

Once back to the marina we switched the laundry and headed back out to the back to drop off our wears. Unfortunally I flooded the dingy engine before I got it started and sat there frantically pulling to try to get it started. Offers from others cruisors to help came from everyone, but I thought she would just start right back up after a short wait. When she didn’t one of the husband and wives that we had taked a lot to on the bus came over in there dingy and were only to happy to tow us out to our boat. As we got paraded through the marine by the nice couple embarrassment of having being towed to our boat was overshadowed by the fact that it was this sort of kindness we had been recieving from must everyone since we left. I believe it is one of the main reason people love to cruise so much, as it is hard to find kindness like this many places anymore. On the water it is still consider the norm.

Christmas Angel Once at the boat I quickly fixed the thru-hull while Jen unpacked the other stuff we had gotten. Afterwards I read the manually to the dingy engine to see how to start it up once you flooded it. The advice was simple enough in theory, just keep pulling the cord until it starts. This was the opposite of what little I had learned about a flooded engine in my years, which is you should let it sit, but I took there advice and after many pulls and a lot of swaring under my breath so the rest of the marina didn’t hear me it turned over and I looked up like a champion boxer after a hard fight. The chores were not over, we still had to finish the laundry, get on the internet and fill the propane. This combined with the fact that I wanted to fit in a shower for both of us without having to pay a dollar each and shower together doesn’t count as only one.

I called a taxi to pick me up and got Jen on the internet. The taxi picked me up and before I new it we had more propane, minus the $12 taxi ride and $3 propane fill up. We were back in business and by now were ready to head down the road the next day. Jen had ordered our canned meats and had them shipped to my mom in Fort Myers, now with the laundry still in the dryer all we had to do was shower. I paied my dollar which got me a key to both showers, so I let Jen in as well and we got two showers for the price of one, my day was complete. We were ready to head down the road, many of the people here planned on leaving from Fort Priece or Lake Worth, but we planned on going down to Miami, the end of the ICW (not really, but that is where our chart book stopped).

Another Bridge, Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Today would take us down the ICW past Fort Pierce and an area of Florida that only gets more and more ritzy the further south you go. Today we were going to pass Jupiter Inlet, which leads you into Hobe Sound and Jupiter, from there Florida is all big boats out front of big houses, next to lush golf courses. This was also the start of what is considered the worst part of the ICW. This is not because all of the large houses make you feel inferior, it is because from now until Miami there are so many bridges it slows you down quite a bit. A lot of these bridges are on “resticted schedules” as well, meaning they didn’t open during rush hours. We went through bridge after bridge inspecting the homes along the way, wondering where all those people get all that money to buy homes that don’t appear to be lived in. All along the way we could hear our friens aboard Sirius who we had not seen since Titusville calling bridges far down the line.

The boat we held up at fuel dock The wind was in our favor and we sailed under as many bridge as possible, sometimes even having to goose the engine with the sails up to make it under certain bridge before then closed on us and we would have to wait for the next openning. All our efforts got us 50 miles that day and we anchored just after 5 next to one other boat. We were anchored on Conch Bar in Hobe Sound, surrounded by million dollar homes and a few trailor homes owned by people who wisely had refused to sell out years before. We had wanted to get this far for one reason, we had now travel over thousand miles on the ICW (over 1600 miles for the whole trip), and now we got to celebrate. SO we cracked open a bottle of Champayne and drank to our good fortune of having made it this far safely and helply. Being in this part of Florida made us look even more forward to heading off to the deserted island of the Bahamas. For now we were still miles from Miami and even further from the Bahamas, but with some luck we would be there soon.

Our luck just ran out, Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Sunset Ryckvik Spensor We had heard on the weather radio that today was suppose to be strong southern winds, but being on the ICW we didn’t worry to much about that, but toward mid-day we were going to be entering Lake Worth, this small inland Lake is only a few miles wide, but as with any body of water if the winds were strong enough the waves will kick up to uncomfortable heights. The day started with high winds, but we plugged along under power, about mid morning we entered Lake Worth. There our luck ran out and we were greeted with 2 to 4 foot waves on our bow and quite a few boats heading toward us to the protected anchorage on our stern. I wanted to make it at least to the Lake Worth Inlet and hopefully beyond that. The wind and waves made progress slow and soon the rain started near Peanut Island. We had heard that some bridges south of Lake Worth were locked down until 12 and I wanted to get fuel so Jen called a few marinas and we decided that if the weather was still bad when we went in to get fuel we would just stay in Lake Worth that night.

Jen under our next boat This suited me as Lake Worth was a great jumping off point to go outside and sail down to Fort Lauderdale. If the weather improved hopefully I would convince Jen to dust off the sails so we could forget all of these bridge and go out into the ocean again. So we pulled up to the fuel dock at Rybovich Spencer, weeving our 28 footer past monsterous luxury yachts, many over 100 feet long, some 200 feet long. The dock master had waited for us and before we knew it we were fueling and waiting for him to come back to “help” us tie up into a slip. The whole time we could hear a boat waiting to get into the fuel dock we now occupied. We were told to wait for the dock-master to finish up lunch before moving to our slip and since we didn’t know where it was we had no choice but to wait. So we tidied up the boat and about an hour later the dock-master come back to help us into a slip in the corner of the marina, behind many larger boats. We pulled and and started getting squared away for a shower when we heard the sound of very large engines. From our corner in the marina we couldn’t see the fuel dock only 50 feet away because of the large boats we were hidden behind. So I walked over to the fuel dock to see what we had held up all that time. What I saw was a huge boat called Big Pond, with a glowing blue hull that took up the entire 150ft long fuel dock. He had back in and his engines were so loud you could hardly get near them because of all of the noise. I proudly told Jen about the large boat we held up for over an hour and she just smelled mildy.

Lake Worth Sunrise After showers we had a walk around our new home and discovered we were easily the smallest boat in the marina. We were used to be the smallest, but when you are the smallest by one over 50 feet it is a little overwelheming. We attermpted to peak in the windows of the luxury liners or prehaps luck out and get invited on one to have a tour. It wasn’t meant to be as either we saw nobody on board (very common) or the people on board had no intention of inviting two ragga-muffins from a boat the size of there dingy onto there yacht. It was fun to know that our trip would be less expensive then pulling one off these monster’s out of the harbor (it costs them over $150 a night just for power), so we felt superior in that and we went back to our boat to have dinner and watch a movie on our entertainment center (the laptop).

So this is how you sail, Thursday, December 11, 2003

Sirius under sail from Lake Worth, FLThat night before bed I heard that the winds were suppose to be 10 to 15 knots from the north. So I convinced Jen that since the wind was less then previously forecast we should go outside and shake out our sea legs. She agreed to this with great apprehension, but hearing more about the almost twenty bridges we would have to go through to Fort Lauderdale Jen warmed up to the idea. More than a month in the ICW had made us soft, proven by the fact that getting up the mainsail was a chore. Remembering all the little things proved impossible and after a small struggle we had the mainsail up. We successfully avoided the large container ship coming into the inlet and headed out into the Atlantic.

Falling behind the pack headed to Fort LauderdaleBefore we were out of the inlet we were called on the VHF by our friends on Sirius, they to were in Lake Worth and were now going to head outside as well. We started out under main and jib with the engine on as the winds were light. Soon we were pulling out ahead of the pack, because we were obviously the only ones motor sailing. This suited us just fine as it felt good to be passing boats for a change. We kept it on until the winds picked up about mid morning. Once we turned it off we noticed immediately the other boats started gaining. We were putting up a good showing holding off the other boats at about seven knots. We had all our sails up, which with the wind at between 15 and 20 was probably a little to much sail, but the boat was flying along at seven knots and it was good to strech out the sails again.

Happy Skipper under sail We had a fun time showing the others our dirty bottom paint as they slowly passed us, before long we were again the last one in line. We followed everyone into Port Everglades and avoided the cruise ships before heading into the canals. Fort Lauderdale is refered to as the Venice of America, trying to draw any reference between Fort Lauderdale and Venice is not really truthful to what is really there. Where Venice is a beautiful old stinking city, Fort Lauderdale is the apitamy of American excess and and in your face attitude. Going thru there in our little 28 foot Cal we new we wouldn’t be given the time of day at one of there over priced marinas. But as we followed in Sirius toward the Lake Sylvia anchorage we knew we were going to be surrounded by expensive homes occupied by people with expensive attitudes.

Lasers entering Port Everglades We anchored out and invited Fran and Harry from Sirius over to celebrate our first ocean leg since entering the ICW way back in the beginning of November. After cleaning up a bit I launched the dingy and headed over to give them a ride over. They had not yet even inflated there dingy yet and so we were only to happy chaufer them to and from there boat. The anchorage was crowded with boats, many of who had sailed down from Lake Worth with us, most probably heading over to the Bahamas from there or just down the line in Miami, where we were going tomorrow.

Cruise Ship in Port EvergladesWe had a nice dinner with Harry and Fran while we talked over our explots from the way done. We would be separating here once again as Harry and Fran were going to spend some time with friends in Fort Lauderdale and other places in Florida before heading down to Miami to make the crossing. If the weather did not cooperate with us we might still be there when they got there in a week or two. As cruisors you always share the belief that you will run into your friends again, whether you will or not, so goddbyes are lite. Enjoyed the evening and headed off to bed soon after I rowed them home. Tomorrow we were again heading out into the blue ocean to Miami and I wanted to get to Miami early as my mother was suppose to meet us at the dock and I wanted to beat her.

Slummin it in Miami, Friday, December 12, 2003

Anchored in Fort Lauderdale for the sunset We raised anchor at 7:45 which Harry and Fran must have though early because of there VHF call to us before we had even left the Port Everglades inlet. Our late bedtime hadn’t worried me, I only had the official end of our ICW journey in mind. In Miami we would go know further in the US before heading east and the islands of the Bahamas. So we headed out the inlet and into the sunshine, setting the sails toward Miami at about 8:30. I had started trawling off the stern the day before again, hoping my luck would change in the warmer climates. I took off the useless lure I had on before replaced it with a spoon, a metallic lure shaped somewhat like a spoon, in hopes of improving my so far poor perfermance in the ways of hunting and gathering.

Port Everglades Rush Hour We moved along nicely making between five and six knots under motor and sail. Soon I glanced back at the line and noticed a something dragging behind us. I finally had a fish on and I intended not to less this one. I thottled down and started winded in (I was trolling with hand line instead of a rod), but I soon understood that what was back there was know Moby Dick, he was coming in to easily on two primitive a device to be considered anything worthy of a Big Game prize. That didn’t matter to me as I was only hoping for something for dinner or maybe even some sushi for lunch. When I boated the monster I had to admit I was shocked by the size of my catch, it looked to me as if I had caught a fish that in human terms might have not been eligible for preschool yet. It was a beautiful (be it tiny) False Albacore, and Jen realizing that this fish was not a keeper quickly snapped a few pictures before I released it hoping that it would be just a dumb when it got older and so I could catch him on the way back up and eat him.

My first catch of the trip "WOW"With all the excitement seemly over for the day we only had the condo tower of Miami Beach emerging in front of us to keep us entertained. After many calls to my mother I finally got through and was informed that she couldn’t meet us on Friday, but planned to be there Sunday. This changed our plans again as we had friends in the Coconut Grove area of Miami and we were planning on staying just inside Government Cut near South Beach. Our early start gave us plenty of time to change our plans and continue on to Dinner Key (the harbor right off Coconut Grove). So I called our friend Emerson and told him we would be in town tonight.

Bad Impeller, How-To fix it book in background A little after 1 in the afternoon we entered Government Cut and headed past the huge container ships being unloaded at the docks in Miami. We sailed by the behemoths keeping as close to them as we dared so they could block the strong wind. Slowly we neared downtown Miami, it’s skyscrapers loomed over us as we turned south once again toward Biscayne Bay. We went under the Key Biscayne Bridge and headed toward Dinner Key. Once at the channel in we noticed how mant boats were anchored in what seemed to me to be a pretty exposed anchorage. As we neared the boats we noticed something else, most of these boats didn’t seem to have moved quiet a while, in fact we wondered if many had been abandoned. Some you could hardly call boats, they were more like floating barges with Winnebago placed on top of them. Others were open power boats, with enclosures built over top of them made out of plywood, the whole place had a graveyard of pleasure boats feel to it.

Port of Miami We navigated through the Dinner Key entrance where you pass through the shallow barrier islands to the main marina called Dinner Key Marina. From there we circled one of the barrier islands back out to the anchorage again to find a spot for ourselves. We weaved in and out of boats that from the look of them told us they weren’t likely to move anytime soon until we found a spot between two of the better kept boats near the main marina. We thought about heading farther out to where the anchored boats thinned out but since it was better protected in here and our small boat could squeeze in many tight spots we dropped the hook and waited to see how we looked. What we found was we had dropped the hook right around the time the tide was changing, which meant that the boat didn’t really know there to go. We sat there watching the other boats at anchor turning on there moorings and started to get a feel to where we were going to sit. Once it looked like most of the other boats had settled into the places we raised our anchor. The water was amazingly clear, you could see clearly another on the bottom, it was sort of emerald green, I guess because of the algae on the bottom. As we dropped our anchor again, I watched from 10 feet above it as it slowly dug into the sand and mud. I let out the chain and rope, again seeing it lay itself on the bottom in a perfectly straight line. When we caught the boat drifted forward over the anchor again and I called Jen up. At first she didn’t understand what she was looking at until I told her that was our anchor firmly planted in the ground and that she could sleep well tonight.

Downtown MiamiWe had basically reached the end of the line until we will crossed over to Bahamas, we would spend the rest of our time in the United States in this general area, moving only to go to South Beach to meet my mom on Sunday and to go to Key Biscayne before heading west to the islands. It was a weird feeling to not have anywhere else to go. We were now controlled by the weather, and until the winds blow from the proper direction, Southeast to West, we only had to provision and wait.

Dinner Key Sunset We decided to go in to Coconut Grove to investigate our new surroundings. We had seen most of the liveaboards in the anchorage rowing in, so we launched the dingy and hoped there would be a dock to tie up to. We did find a dock to tie up to, unfortunally ever other dingy there was locked to it with large chains. This seemed unusually as most of the dinghies were very old rigid dingy and it seemed that the big chains locking them to the dock where worth more than the dingy itself. We hadn’t brought in anything to lock our dingy with, so I headed back out to the boat while Jen checked out what was around.

Dinner Key Anchorage Once back in Jen waved for me to head over to pick her back up. It seemed in my absence she had sweet talked an employee at the marina to let us into the showers, the employee had also told her to just tie up the dingy along the marina pier and that it would be safe there. This we did and we were soon allowed into the showers which was perfect as we were soon headed out to meet Emerson.

We walked around looking for a suitable spot after having our shower and soon came across Scotty’s Landing, a local bar open to the harbor. There was really no inside, accept for the roof over the bar, everything else was open, covered only by a tent. We saddled up to the bar and called him, telling him we were there while ordering a beer. Soon he joined us and we discovered many of his friends were there as well. We had stumbled across the friday after work meeting spot, so we got to meet a lot a nice people who did everything from fishing charters to merchandish distribution. One friend of a friend was of particular intrest to us, since I was unable to get someone to help us in Titusville I still needed a deisel mechanic to help me with my fuel filters. Here I was able to meet a superintendent of one of the biggest yards in Miami. We chatted for a bit and before long we were getting directions into the yard which was up the Miami River. The night went on and before we knew it it was way past our bedtime, not used to staying up that late we headed out as Emerson headed of with the others. Our new Miami Home,

Our new Miami Home, Saturday, December 13, 2003

Going up the river for a tune upSaturday we decided to have a look at our new surroundings in earnest. So we headed of early with a list of things we wanted to get done before we headed out in the big blue ocean again. We didn’t really know where to go, our directions we had gotten last night were a little foggy in our heads, so we headed over to a nice looking Wyndham Hotel and tried to look our best so they might believe we were staying there. It wasn’t all that easy since we were wearing backpacks we looked more like hikers, but they were more then happy to give us a map of The Grove, and point out where we might find grocery stores etc.

So now we started our journey of provisioning the boat for real. Certain stores on the map I discounted as useless to use like Gap, Banana Republic, and other typical mall stores that dotted Coconut Groves “CocoWalk”, an outdoor mall on the main street, were quickly brought back into the fray by my wife who seemed to need “some shirts” of somesort. So our list of “important” stores was growing, but not that much since Coconut Grove doesn’t really cater to the sort of stores the traveling boater needs. We did find a few things and before we knew it we were heading to the library to check our e-mail.

After that we started toward the large Borders Book store on the main drag in Coconut Grove. We had nothing else to do and we knew it had a cafe, which meant we could sit there and read without having to purchase a thing. I also had the computer with us and so it would be a good place to sit and write without having to be hassled. When we got there we got an added bonus, first was that it was a T Mobile Wireless Hotspot (it had wireless internet) and the second was that once I logged on I discovered it was free because they were upgrading the system whatever that meant. So we were in heaven as we had a spot to sit with power and internet, so while one of us used the web the other was surrounded by thousands of books and magazines to caught up on the events we had missed the two months we had been gone.

Always the last to know, Sunday, December 14, 2003

Sunday was a rainy day and Emerson kindly invited us over to his house with stops at West Marine along the way. He had Cologate triumpately beat Florida Atlantic to make it to the Devision 1-AA finals in football (Emerson is a Colgate Alum and there football team had been a preul doormat for years), so he was excitly telling me over the phone about the victory when he interupted himself and asked us if we knew?

“Know what?” was the only reply a person who lives on a boat with know access to news can give.

“They got him.” It seems that this Sunday Saddam Hussien had been captured. Thankfully Jen was inside of Borders and was still writing e-mails, so I wasn’t the last to know. Emerson was picking us up soon and so I headed back in to tell her. After West Marine we enjoyed a fine day at Emerson’s, just laying around on the couch, watching football and talking. He even cooked us taco dinner before we headed back out to the boat. During our TV watching Jen and I had discovered it was the “Survivor Panama Final”, that being a very guilty pleasure before we left home we had not since it but once in Charleston since we left. Now it was the final one and I could tell Jen was very interested in catching it.

We were dropped of at the dock and discovered Scotty’s, next door closed, so we entered the Chart House Restaurant hoping they might have a TV and we could hide in the corner watching our show. They were very nice in there and when the hostess who asked about our discover found out that the TV had been removed because they were replacing it she went so far as to go into the back to see if it was still around. All was for not and it looked as if we would miss the last Survivor. As the Captain of the vessel I understand how important moral is, so I figured a moral boost like this was worth one more shot. So we decided to head over to the Wyndham in hopes they would have a lounge with a TV.

We walked into the hotel like we owned the place, heading straight for were I believed the lounge would be. We entered a room, with a bar in the middle and nice leather chairs all around, but no TV. There was no one in the room at the time and we started to have a look around. Soon we found it, hidden in a corner surrounded by comfortable leather chairs, the TV. Soon the bartender was giving us the remote and we switched it on with delight. It wasn’t just finding the TV to watch the show that was so exciting, because to most people this may seem silly, but to us it was the fact that we were able to accomplish something that before we left we had taken for a given right. It is one of the great things about cruising, when you find a place to shower, get on the internet or any other convenience before we took for granted now they luxuries. The more outragous the luxury the sweeter the success once you get to enjoy it. So we sat there sipping our overpriced drinks we purchased from the bar and enjoyed this one a lot.

Up (and down) the river, Monday, December 15, 2003

Merrill-Stevens our garage for the dayToday we were finally going to meet my mom in Miami Beach, but first we had to head up the Miami River that winds right through downtown Miami. This meant going through quite a few openning bridges. We left after nine because those bridges don’t open during rush hour and headed into the river just past 10 o’clock. We went under bridge after bridge that were open promptly for us thankfully. The further up river we headed the worse Miami looked. The neighborhood this yard occuppied was not going to be prime real estate. When we got there we tied up to an old rusty sailboat and waited for our friend to get free so he could helpo us out. All around us on both sides of the skinny river were large open wharehouse look buildings with huge motor yachts being worked on inside. Outside along the bulkhead were more huge motor yachts. We looked around wondering who or what owned these beasts. Before we new it we were joined by our new friend and he got right to work showing me how to change my filters and bleed the fuel line. He was of great help and before I knew it he was done, changing three filters, and even tightening the stuffing box (where the prop shaft goes through the boat and into the water). After talking to us a bit after-wards we asked what we owed him, but he would here known of it. We were so thankful and felt incrediblely lucky to have meet somebody who would help us out that way and send us on our way. We wished him Merry Christmas and untied our lines to get threw the bridge infront of the yard.

Tug on Miami River The bridge tender wanted to wait for a barge before openning, which made Jen and I a little nervous because there wasn’t much room on these side of the bridge to maneuver. I proved this fact not a minute later when wind the tide swept me into a rusty hulf of a fishing vessel that was tied up at the other end of the yard we left. Not wanting this to happenning again, I turned around and headed up river again, against the tide and wind. There was now another boat on our side waiting to go through and still no barge to be seen coming the other way, the river which because of all the mega-yachts tied up in this area is barely 75 feet wide was getting seemly skinny and skinny as time passed. This combined with the fact that the yard decided it would be a good time to move one of these gaints that sat directly in front of the bridge. While this was going on the barge did show up on the other side, but now the mega yacht was pulled out and taking up the entire channel. It was so big they could seem to get it all the way out, which was discouraging as now we badly wanted to leave and get out of this traffic nightmare. Eventually the bridge tender I believe got the yard workers to move the boat back into it’s slip a bit and the bridge started to open. We quickly slipped past the mega yacht under the bridge and barely past the barge into the safety of the empty Miami River behind him. From there we continued on out of the Miami River and again past all of the unloading container ships to the Maimi Beach Marina, a very swauk upscale place I chose becasue of the fact that if we got a weather window while my mother was here we could easily just head out Government Cut and be off to the sunny Bahamian Islands.

Oh the things you need, December 16-17, 2003

Provisioning the boat, never enough storage... Since we now had a car to use we used it, a lot. We went to the West Marine, Crook & Crook (another marine store), Costco, Publix (the grocery store), Walgreens, Kmart (Walmart was MIA believe it or not), T Mobile, Nextel, Cingular (to see if they had agreements in the Bahamas, More Provisionsanswer NO), UK Sailmakers (to get a patch for the brand new sail!), I got my haircut, we even went to a linen store where my mom took pity on us and got us a feather bed to make our mattress more comfortable. We would go back to the marina, unfill the car, and head back out, never seemly being done with it all and certainly not having enough room for it all. Still more stuff...You do this of course because things in the islands are expensive so you only want to have to buy the essetials. We filled ever place imaginable on the boat with everything imaginable, before lonf we could fit no more “undercover and we just started filling the quarter berth (in the back). Toward the end we could handle it no more and my mom headed back of to Fort Myer’s and we headed back to Dinner Key to escape the crazy prices in South Beach.

The long weather wait, December 18-22, 2003

We went back to Dinner Key on a windy rainy afternoon. We took our same spot and started what for cruisors looking to cross the Gulf Stream is the biggest event of the day, listening to the weather on the radio. NOAA who forcasts the weather on the VHF radio updates it about four times day so four times a day you listen to hear if there are any changes, surprising there are, but usually very subtle.

Up the mast to replace a lightbulbThis can be very boring so fortunally we had the our friend Emerson to help us keep entertained. We went to Christmas parties and over to his parents house for dinner (they are all old family friends), but we always wanted to be able to answer there question, “When are you headed over?”. We couldn’t, so the people who worked in Borders got to recognize us pretty well and boat projects started to get done.

I drove under the boat and replaced the prop zinc, Jen started cleaning the hull that by now how started to get a bit fuzzy on the bottom, and then she hulled me up the mast where I unsuccessfully fixed the Masthead light. I was even getting work done on Travel Outward for my partner at the office, that is what we refered to Borders as by now. For all our sitting there Jen did buy something, much to my dismay. She bought a couple of Christimas Carol CD’s for the boat, so I had to edurance Nat King Kole belting out some carols until Christmas, but thing couls have been worse.

One of the many crafts found at Dinner KeyOn Saturday Emerson took us out to some very nice Cristmas Parties whcih helped us feel more into the Chrsitmas Spirit (the CD’s weren’t helping me much). Then it happenned a slight change in the weather, winds were shifting from East to Southeast on Tuesday, it appeared a weather window may be openning. We found other cruisors talking on the VHF, it appeared that the time may be coming. Over the last week a not to be missed event had happy at 6:30 every night. You see there is a magical little weatherman up north and if you have the right connaction or a Single Side Band radio you can find him. His name is Herb and from what I know he is on old sailor from many years back. For one reason or another Herbcan’t come down to the Bahamas anymore, so he does his next favorite thing, gets the weather and broadcasts it to sailors all other the world. Herb is a bit of a ledgend to sailors and just who he is I have only heard secondhand or through rumors. What I do know is that Herb’s forcast is considered gospal to many. Well at 6:30 there was guy guy who had contact with herb and ever night at 6:30 he would broadcast it to all of us less connected boats over the VHF. Afterward there would be sort of a Q & A about it for which people would make there conclusions about what to do with what they heard. Over the past days the forcast had been sounding better and better as the winds started to sound as if they would shift from East to Southeast to South at under 10 knots. These are magic numbers from cruisors, so chatter started about possible crossings on Tuesday or Wednesday.

We awoke Sunday to tired after Saturday’s party’s to do anything but listen to the weather and the more we listenned the more our minds started working. It looked to us that if all went well we could leave on Christmas Eve to cross over to the Bahamas, it was time to pull up our anchor again and prepare for our first Gulf Stream crossing (one not on a fast motor vessel).

The longer weather wait, December 22, 2003

Bring supplies into No Name Harbor on Key BiscayneToday we were moving over to No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne. This is a popular jumping off point for boats heading over to the Bahamas. We just had a few chores to do before we lefted our anchor and worked to meet some cruises for the trip over. The first thing we wwanted to do was have me dive under the boat and change the zinc. I had though this would be an easy chore once we got to Miami where the water would be warm and inviting. Today it was in the 60’s and rainy, I jumped in and the water felt as cold as it did in New England, but soon the job was done and it was time for chore number 2. This one is one I have been putting off, it was getting Jen to raise me up the mast so I could see what was wrong with our light at the top. Being not so found of heights the trip up was long and unnerving, but once up the I get down to work, careful not to drop anything. What I discovered was that I had bought the wrong blub and if it was anything but that I couldn’t fix it anyway. So after taking a few pictures Jen lowered me back down to earth and we decided we would have to go without light up there for awhile.

Bill Baggs State Park on Key BiscayneAt about 2:30 we pulled up the anchor and headed over. About an hour and a hour later we had crossed Biscayne Bay and were headed into No Name Harbor. The anchorage was crowded with quite a few boats, but we managed to squeez in between two of them although I’m not sure they thought there was enough room we sat fine and we settled in for the day cleaning the boat before the sun went below the horizon. Soon it was time for the 6:30 weather forcast and everyone was out for it. We had moved into No Name and we didn’t recieve it as well since he broadcast it for Dinner Key, but what was forcasted raised a lot of chatter so we listenned in on as many conversations as we could. Many people were hoping on leaving that night now re-thought there plans, while people like us just sat tight because we weren’t planning on leaving until Wednesday. It seemed everyone was more confused on whether to go or not after the farcast then before, so Jen and I happy stuck to our plan and hoped someone would still be here who would like to cross with us.

Don’t Go, December 23, 2003

The next day we awoke to find a beautifully calm sunny day and many boats starting up there engines to head out across the Stream. I had meet a few boats who were undecided on whether to head over or not and we went over to another boat to talk it over. They decided they would head across and round North Rock near Bimini and keep going across the bank. I had hoped that they would stay and wait until tomorrow so we could travel with them, but no such luck. We sat there and watched the harbor clear out, but we were determain to stick with our plan because the weather tomorrow was suppose to be better then today.

So as the harbor cleared out we perpared to head into town to check the internet one last time and pick up some last minute supplies. The day was hot and the sky was clear, everywhere we went it seemed we were running into people preparing to head off tomorrow. We headed back into Bill Bragg’s State Park where the boat was anchored and when we got to the entrance we had to play two dollars each as an entrance fee. This seemed strange since we were already in before and was doublely strange when he didn’t seem concerned about the case of beer I was hauling even though I was steading next to a sign that read “No Achoholic Beverages”.

We got back to the boat and started packing up and doing last minute cleaning before we headed back in to walk out to the point to eye the channel we would be headed out at two in the morning. It looked straight forward enough and as we looked out the water looked beautiful and calm, it appeared as though we had picked the perfect time. Outside many boats had anchored out also ready to make the passage, but not wanting to pay the anchoring fee at No Name. Little did they know that the harbormaster had been fired a few days before for letting a boat tie up to the bulkhead over night, so presently boats were not being charged for anchoring. There were more boats anchored outside then inside the harbor, which didn’t leave us many to go by and talk to to see if they wanted to be out “buddy boat” for the crossing. Many people have a buddy boat to talk to during the crossing for safety sake. I was sure we would have no problem finding one once we were there, but most had either left or had different plans from us. This left us alone as we went to bed that night.

Jen was very nervous as I sat there thinking about the passage. Everything was looking good, and as rain storms went overhead that night around eight just as forecasted flet all would be great, we would cross tomorrow and Jen would see it was no sweat.

The point of no return, December 24, 2003

I awoke at 1 in the morning and started getting ready, everything was already ready so I just started turning things on and getting the charts and everything in the cockpit. When Jen got up and got ready it was around 2 and I really wanted to get underway. We rasied anchor and headed out. The wind was light from the east and we headed on our course far south from our destination. We were headed to Bimini, but to get there with our speed we had to head far south of that target. I had us averaging just below 5, but with the wind and waves still out of the east we were only making four knots. The waves were pretty big, but they were nice long ocean swells so we kept heading out on our course.

About two hours out I noticed a dark cloud behind us, and soon we both so lightning ahead of us to the northeast. That was already past us, but I didn’t like the like of the dark cloud covering the stars on our stern. Soon I felt the rain and we turned on the radar. There I could see a small dark patch about to over take us, we were going to get wet, I could only hope there was to lightning in this cloud. It started to rain hard soon after and the wind picked up, but I assured Jen it would be over soon and in about 10 minutes it was, but soon after it passed us that cloud also started giving off lightning, thankfully it was sparing us the light show when over top of us. Another cloud could be seen coming in behind us and Jen was thinking we should turn back. This didn’t seem like such a bad idea, ecept it was still going to be dark for two more hours or so and I had no desire to nogiate the channel in the dark. I told her we should keep going and look at what things looked like in the daylight.

Daylight broke, and we had not had rain for some time. There were scattered clouds in the sky, but none looked threatning, so we kept going. Jen was not enjoying the passage the way I had hoped, but the light calmed her so we kept going. The wind was changing to the south and south so we raised sail and started to make better time. The Gulf Stream had us in it’s grips now taking us three knots north as we fought it by heading southeast. It was winning the battle, but not to badly so I changed course again to help stop it from taking us to far north. We were not doing as well as I had hoped on speed which was why it was taking us farther north than I had estimated.

Soon we were surrounded by a huge pod of dolphin jumping all around us. It was eery and calming at the same time. We kept heading east hoping Bimini would show itself before to long. At about 10 we started to see other boats on the horizen, which made Jen happy knowing other boats were out here in the seas. The 2 or less forecatsed wasn’t even close as there were easily waves of eight feet or more the whole way. ABout 9 miles out she showed herself, Bimine started to emerge on the horizon. We were still a long way, but we would make it. It seemed to take forever, but soon we started heading south to the harbor entrance right at the same time a catemeran started in. Bimini is reported to have a very tough harbor to navigate, it is shallow and has a bad swell in a west wind. We had planned to get to Bimini during high tide which is one reason we left so early, but because of our slow passage it was now about 3, dead low tide. The wind had also swung around to the southwest now so there was a 2 to 3 foot swell entering the channel. These are the conditions the guide books tell you not to enter. We were determained, tired from the passage we started in behind the cat. I had asked for depth readings from him and at first I was getting them, but right at the cortical part they staopped and never returned. We headed in the old channel near the beach, but it quickly got shallow, so I backed out and started to try the other rout, out near the sand bar, but as we headed in a big 70 supple ship ran aground. This didn’t go over well for us, as I was going to follow his path in, but I tried to head around him, only to hit sand when a swell came in and placed us on the bottom.

Again I quickly reversed out of there, and decided to head into the marina on South Bimini. It was right there in the channel (they are one of the reasons the channel here is so bad), so we headed in and tied to one off the numerous empty docks. The place was new and seemed very nice and very empty. No sooner had we tied up that a dockmaster came by and told us we couldn’t stay there. We told him about running aground and he quickly dismissed it and told us to just stay near the beach and go straight in. We told him we had attempted this and he stopped short of calling us incompitant, but told us what to do anyway. We were unhappy about it, but decided to have another attempt. We talked to numerous people on the way out of the marina who all gave us the same advice, “Do it tomorrow during high tide, don’t attempt it now.” I felt I had to give it one more try, so we turned the corner after the small jetty and headed in along the coast. It was a fetile attempt, we started toward the North Bimini Harbor only to run aground soon after the jetties. This time I headed right back into the marina and tied up again. The dockmaster was not happy to see us, but after Jen explained that there was know way we could get in until tomorrow morning he reluctately decided to let us stay the night. First we had to check into the Bahamas, so he called us a bus.

A bus on South Bimini is really just a taxi, and before I had even gotten to start filling out the paperwork for customs and immigration, the “bus” was there. The driver took me to the airport, which on such a small island was probably walkable, and showed me into customs and immigration. Then he informed me he would be waiting outside. Custon in any country is always an interesting experience, but in the Bahamas like so many other Caribbean island, it is a lesson in patience. I was directed to a table where I started to fill out the paper. Soon a yound “immigration” official came over and informed me that I should have filled the forms out before getting to the airport. I tried to explain to him that the “bus” had come before I had the chance, but he didn’t really care, I believe he just wanted to give me a hard time. The forms where long and each one of the many forms I was filling out asked the exact same things. Things like my address, boat name, and reason for my stay were filled out so many times I started to wonder about the possiblity of using a copy machine. The forms were basically the same, but at the top each one was labeled something like, Health and Medical or Bahamian Fishing Permit. Slowly I made it though them and once the immigration officer came over he took great joy in pointing out all the mistakes I had made. It seems many forms didn’t like asking questions the same way so to spice it up they changed them. One for would ask, “List crew of you vessel.”, while the next one would ask “Below write the names and addresses of the Captain and Mates aboard.” They were actually both asking the same thing, wanting a list of everyone on the vessel. But I wasn’t sure whether I had to list myself everything as well or just Jen. It turned out they always wanted us both listed, so I had to go back and list myself a few times. When he asked where the rest of my crew was I imformed him that I thoug only the captain was aloud to disembark to check in. With this he looked at me quizlly and informed me that Jen was suppose to sign a form which she hadn’t, so he went into the other room while Jen amazing signed it out of nowhere. When he returned we finished the maze of paperwork and he stamped a few pages, informed me he would not give me the 6 months of time I wanted in the country, then sent me off to customs.

Customs was one crate away on the opposite wall of the hallway. Here my customs officer was much nicer when she pointed out still more mistakes I had made on the forms. She even laughed as I joked about my stupidity in not being able to fill out the forms correctly. Soon she was also stamping my forms and taking my $150 fee for a cruising permit and fishing licence. Right as I was about to be set free in the Bahamas she realized that she had been stamping my forms with yesterdays date and I had to get them all stamped again. After a half hour or so I was free and I went back outside to get a ride back to the boat. As I stepped to find no “bus” waiting for me. I looked around sure this must be some sort of joke. All I saw was a sort of junkyard of deralict automobiles, it seems the airport also doubled as the junkyard. I stepped into what served as the terminal buildings, but got know reaction at all. This was surprising as it is hard for an obvious tourist not to be accosted by many taxi drivers in almost any Caribbean Island I have ever been to. Here I was seemly invisible, which if I hadn’t wanted a ride back to the boat would have been terrific. I finally asked a lady who I believe was the tickey agent if the had seen “the bus”. She told me it was right outside, which to my amazement it was. I walked out and saw the driver driver unloading a strange assortment of boxes which appeared to be stero equipment. I asked no questions, I just hoped in and waited for him to finish. Soon I was back at the boat, now officially in the Bahamas.

Jen and I had a flag raising ceremony and afterwards I went up to pay for the marina. This took an amazingly long time as again I had to fill out a strange amount of paperwork before being informed that he wanted me to pay in cash, but he had no change. This was a problem not easily solved until he went up to the restuarant after searching the office for change for 10 minutes. Finally we could relax so we took a walk out to the jetty where we watched other boats calmly sail right into the harbor in North Bimini. We left a little foolish not being able to do it ourselves, but tomorrow we would go in at high tide and all would be ok. For now we made some dinner and had champayne to celebrate our successful crossing. Then we headed off to bed because it had been a very long day.

A warm welcome to a lovely place, December 25, 2003

We awoke the next morning and had a shower at the marina. The Bimini Sands where we were staying was a very nice marina, but since all the action was on North Bimini we were headed over there. High tide was about 9 so we nervously pulled out of the marina about 8:30 so we were still on a raising tide when we attempted to make it into the channel to the North Bimini Harbor. We rounded the jetty yet again and headed in. We had watched a few boats enter the night before, but there was still a bit of a swell so Jen and I were both a bit nervous. Well it proved to be silly as we glided over the bottom not touching once and headed in Bimini Harbor.

We had planned to stay a Weech’s Bimini Docks, because the price was right, but as we pulled up the dock was pretty full. I found a spot on the inside the the last dock and as we pulled up all the cruisors already there were right there taking our lines and helping us tie up. We talked to the cruisors on the dock and exchanged horror stories about each other crossings.

After that it was time for Christmas, Jen’s sister had remembered to give us some presents to open on Christmas day so we opened them up, getting some DVD’s to play on the computer and a neckless for Jen. It felt great to have something to open on Christmas, but afterward I was feeling pretty bad. I was coming down with something and after talking for about a hour then openning presents I had had it and I laid down for awhile. So as Jen explored Bimini and meet new people that first day I was down below sleeping off a cold that hit me like a ton of bricks.

Soon the afternoon was getting near the evening and Jen had just come back from walking around when I heard some shouts above deck. I pulled myself off the settee and went above to find our friends from Orienta who we had not seen since Elizabeth City, NC coming down the dock. They had left from Angelfish Creek and had crossed the same day as us. Here they were with there two children and we had a very joyous reunion. Soon after the other cruisors had arranged a Christimas cocktail party on the dock so we all gathered and we all again got to meet one another and get to know each other better. It had been a great day except for the cold I had and from the minute we got to the docks we had a wonderfully warm welcome. It doesn’t take cruisors long before they are comfortable with each other and soon it was like talking with old friends. Unfortunally, I tired quickly as my cold was still keeping me down and I left Jen to rest aboard. Jen joined me soon after and we celebrated the rest of Christmas watching our new DVD Finding Nemo. Down for the count on Boxing Day, December 26, 2004

I awoke the next morning to the sounds of Junkanoo at 5 o’clock. This festival is is celebrated all over the Caribbean and I could here the beats of the drums on the boat. We had planned to get up and check it out, but I was feeling no better then before and Jen was peacefully sleeping so we did no celebrating on Boxing Day. Once up we took a walk and I got to investigate our surroundings. There was talk of leaving today and I felt like prehaps I could go. Once back at Weeches we got the weather report from Kelpy and it called for 15 to 20 knot winds from the NE. This didn’t excite Jen or I so along with Kelpy we declined to head out as we noticed the waves starting to build outside. This didn’t stop many other boats and by mid morning the dock was starting to empty.

By lunchtime the winds had really kicked up and we were glad to be sitting comfortably at Weech’s. We went to the beach with our friends from Orienta Xavier and Christine. There two lovely daughters Natelia and Daniel where playing in the sand and collecting shells. I introduced them to collecting seashell, which Jen and I have discovered seems to only be a New England hobby. Once I introduced it to them they vigrously went around the beach collecting me sea glass. They are traveling on a 27 foot Vega sailboat and with four of them there shell collecting is limited to only the best, so as they collected shells they were carefully looked over by Christine to see which ones were keepers. It was great fun.

ICW: November 2003

Oh thank you Chesapeake, Saturday, November 1, 2003
Shaving on deck in the sunshine I woke up early the next day, around 5AM hoping to be able to sneak out of the creek before day break. Up on deck I decided it would be wiser to wait for some more light before venturing out. So at about 5:55AM when the light of day started to brighten the horizon to the east we headed out of Indian Creek. Jen was just getting up, but if we wanted to have any chance of making Norfolk that day we needed to maximize the light of day.

The wind was favorable so we raised the jib hoping to get a lift from it as long as we could. As we headed south around Windmill Point (don’t expect to see any windmills there) we were pleased to still have a favorable wind as we cruised south at over 6 knots. As I thanked the gods of the Chesapeake for finally delivering us favorable winds, we flew down the coast making great time passing Deltaville just as the over boats (the ones who made it there the day before ) started headed south.

The day was beautiful and sunny. It appeared that the Chesapeake was going to lessen her grip and let us get to Norfolk that day. Just after ten we passed New Point Comfort Lighthouse, just over half of the way there, I knew we would be spending the night somewhere in Norfolk. This was much earlier then I ever thought we would. It was so beautiful out we decided to do a little grooming on the deck before we got to Norfolk. Neither of us had shaved in a few day so we took advantage of the warm weather to shave on deck in the sunshine. This was actually a very pleasant experience compared to shaving is the confines of our head (the bathroom on board), which makes a port a-potty seem roomy.

We decided to spend the night in Willoughby Bay, anchored out so we could go past the Naval Yard tomorrow while we were fresh and rested. We made our way in and headed to the Willoughby Bay Marina for diesel. This proved futile as Hurricane Isabel had watered down all there fuel and they didn’t seem to have a hose to fill up our water tanks. We looked across at another dock that had an open space and a hose so we decided head over to fill up our tanks and inquire about a shower.

We were tied up by a local dock worker who informed us that if we wanted to tie up for the night it would be 75 cents a foot and that they had showers, ice, etc. As he walked away I grabbed the hose intending only to fill up and then go out and anchor before the proprietor came over and threw us off the way they do in New England.

Soon he did come over and sensing that I was not interesting in docking for the night offered us the option of laying up on the dock for a few hours so we could have showers, water and even borrow his truck to go to the store if we needed to. All this was only going to cost $5 dollars so we forked it over and relaxed while we prepared to have a shower.

Rebel Marina, Willboughby Bay, Norfolk, VirginiaAfter showering and doing the rest of the chores Jen called her Aunt and Uncle who lived in neighboring Virginia Beach. We had planned on anchoring for the night in the bay, but when the best plan to see Jen’s Aunt, Uncle and Cousin’s was to spend the night at there house we decided to pay the night for .75 cents a foot and leave Bumbre protected at a marina while we were gone. I talked to the owner once again, who was up the mast of a catamaran, and he said that I could just deduct the $5 dollars from the cost and settle up with him in the morning. So with that taken care of we packed up and prepared to spend our first night off the boat since we had left Martha’s Vineyard almost two weeks before.

As we headed out to the parking lot to wait for Jen’s Aunt and Uncle we passed the sign to our marina. It seems we were truly in the south now by the fact that Bumbre would be spending the night on the dock of Rebel Marina. But now that we were in the south we were noticing changes for the better, gone was the formal, all money and no play attitude of the north, it was now a mix of relaxation and down home good old boy friendliness that was much more pleasant and made everything a lot more enjoyable.

Jen’s Aunt and Uncle picked us up and we were given the royal treatment, a home cooked meal, laundry, lights and water we didn’t feel bad for leaving on while brushing our teeth. As wonderful as the trip was it is always nice to enjoy the comforts of home, you truly appreciate them more when you can’t take them for granted.

After dinner we headed into Norfolk to meet her cousin who was out with some friends. Having not stayed up past ten in a long time it was strange to be headed out to a bar at 10. We met him at a piano bar at Waterside in downtown Norfolk where he was at a party for his friend’s Mom. We settled in at the bar, Jen talking to her cousin and me watching Virginia Tech beat Miami in college football. Before we knew it we were at another bar and it was past twelve. I had pretty much reached my limit so when it was suggested we try another bar I opted for heading home.

All the comforts of home, Sunday, November 2, 2003
Aircraft Carriers in Norfolk The next morning we awoke in a nice soft comfortable bed and got up and took a shower. When we got downstairs there was breakfast waiting for us. It was almost to much, the whole way down Jen was surprised to find how much our friends and family had gone out of there way to help us and make sure we were happy and comfortable, as we sat there in Virginia Beach eating breakfast at her Aunt and Uncle’s house it was sad to think that soon we would not be seeing our families again for quite some time.

They took us to do some chores, like returning the wireless card at CompUSA before dropping us at the boat. We wanted to move her down into Norfolk or Portsmouth about 10 miles south before heading into the Dismal Swamp the next day. So at about one o’clock we threw off the lines and headed out of Willoughby Bay and past the aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers and toward Downtown Norfolk.

Navy Ships at dock in NorfolkWe had planned to anchor right near Red Nun #4 directly off of Downtown Norfolk but once there we saw many more people anchored off of Hospital Point in Portsmouth on the other side of the Elizabeth River. This made us think that there must be a reason for this so we decided that the wisdom of many should be our wisdom as well and headed toward Portsmouth to get diesel before anchoring off of Hospital Point.

Sunset at Hospital Point, Portsmouth, VirginiaAfter getting diesel at the Tidewater Marina we ran into some friends we had met aboard the yacht Contessa in Chesapeake City, since we were going out with Jen’s Aunt and Uncle our time was short but it was good to see familiar faces again, soon after we anchored with many other boats off Hospital Point. I needed to change the oil before we headed down the ICW, so I started that task while Jen enjoyed the sunny day writing in her journal. Once the dirty but necessary job of changing the oil was done we headed in to Portsmouth to have dinner with her Aunt and Uncle. They treated us to a wonderful dinner and afterwards we had drinks at the Tidewater Marina’s Bar, where we again ran into our friends from Contessa who were Waterside, Norfolk, Virginiagoing to head into the ICW tomorrow as well, but they were going to take the Virginia Cut. We were going to chance the shallows of the Dismal Swamp, so we would have to try and catch up with them later on down the line. After we were done with our drinks we headed back to the boat for a good nights sleep before our first day in the canals of the Inter-Coastal Waterway.

The not so Dismal Swamp, Monday, November 3, 2003
In the morning I deposited the old oil at Carter Marine Services before heading back to the boat to raise the anchor and get underway. The locks (one at the beginning and end of the Dismal Swamp) opened four times a day, 8:30, 11:00, 1:30 and 4:00, and we had decided to not get up early and catch the 8:30, but to lock through at 11:00 and stop at Deep Creek which was the town right after the lock that had a free town dock you could tie up to for the night. So just after 8:30 we raised anchor and headed toward the first of many bridges we would have to raise on the journey down the ICW, the Jordan Highway Bridge. This bridge is the sort that the raises the whole road up vertically so it remains flat, when you ask for the bridge to be opened you tell him the overall height of your mast and the bridge tender opens the bridge enough for you to pass through. Our mast is 45 feet up (from the waterline) and all the books assure you that the bridge tender we raise the bridge enough, but as you pass under it you swear that there isn’t enough room. We pasted under it without incident with a catamaran named Allways Sunday, since our little boat only has a 13 hp engine we were soon passed on our way to the next bridge before the fork off from the main route of the ICW (the Virginia Cut) and the Dismal Swamp.

Time was quickly passing and it was 10:30 by the time we had turned off onto the Dismal Swamp route, with another three miles to go before the lock. After waiting for all the bridges to go up we were now in jeopardy of missing the 11 o’clock lock. Jen was at the helm and I had goosed the engine to the maximum (6 knots with wind and current), after calling the lock master he assured us we would be fine so we relaxed a bit. Right about this time Jen was rounding a turn in the canal with a marker on it, before we know it we were aground. It seemed we had wandered a little outside the channel and had gotten ourselves stuck in another mud bank. Jen who was already a little nervous about grounding seemed a little confused so I took over the wheel. Worried that we would miss the lock raising I revved the engine in reverse and then forward, turning the wheel side to side, in effect digging us out of the mud. Fortunately for us it worked and we were soon free, but I kept a close eye on the temperature gauge of the engine figuring the raw water cooling system had just had a big gulp of muddy water.

Handling the lines in the Deep Creek LockWe did make it into the lock and as it turns out we weren’t the last boat in, there were six boats who were going to lock into the Dismal Swamp with us this day. We quickly got to know some of the other lock mates, like the cat “Allways Sunday” who was ahead of us most of the way there and the couple on an Island Packet named “Purpose”, there were also “Sirius”, “True Luv”, “Orienta” most were retired and taking the cruise of a lifetime after they were fifty-five, but other were like us taking a break from the everyday grind of life. Just as the gates closed in the lock two boats pulled up, just missing the 11 o’clock lock, they would have to wait until 1:30.

Deep Creek Lock Gates closingSoon the lock master Robert started flooding the lock, if you imagine a miniature version of the Panama Canal this is the sort of lock it was. The Dismal Swamp Canal was surveyed by George Washington in 1763 and completed in 1805. There was even a ferry that used to run the canal from Norfolk to Elizabeth City, NC, but those day are long over, now most of the boats who go threw are sailboats going south in the fall and north in the spring. We were going to be raised nine feet up into the Dismal Swamp and as they pumped water into the lock a strange foam filled the lock as well. We had heard that they only raise and lower the locks four times a day to lessen the impact any salt water could have on the water of the swamp. As we were raised we noticed the two boats who had not made the eleven o’clock lock now just 9 ft below us.

Once through the lock we had to wait again from the lock master Robert to raise the bridge not far from the lock, after he raises the bridge and opens the lock he blows his conch shell (probably given to he by one of the many boats who go through his lock to the Bahamas each year), and wished everyone well telling them he will see them again in the spring. It is the sort of hospitality we had gotten used to in Virginia.

Right after the bridge was the dock we were going to tie up to that night, it wasn’t much, just a small bulkhead next to an old brick building. Most of the others were headed to the North Carolina Welcome Center near mile marker 28 on the Dismal Swamp so we decided to join them as well.

It was over 15 miles to the Welcome Center so I settled in at the helm catching out the scenery and just enjoying the easy run. The Dismal Swamp is straight, it is the sort of thing you had to draw in art class when learning perspective (remember drawing the train station with the train tracks going into infinity, same thing but with water and trees). It might sound boring but it actually was interesting except for one thing, the submerged trees. Since Isabel had gone threw just over a month before there were a lot of downed trees and clean up was still going on. The Swamp is not that deep, in fact most boats over 5 feet in draft go through the Virginia Cut (we draw 5′ 3″), but since I wanted the more “scenic route” we choose to give the Dismal Swamp a try. I expected to run up on a few mud banks and work my way off, what I did expect was to be bouncing off trees on the bottom. You would be motoring along and see a tree laying in water on one of the banks, so you would go as far over to the other bank as you dared (it is only between 50 and 25 yards wide), sometimes up would get over without incident and other time you would feel a slight bump. This only happened a few times and only once really hard. Since the boat didn’t spring a leak afterward it seemed to take them pretty well. The main issue was most of the times this happened Jen seemed to be at the helm which made her believe that it was her that was doing something wrong instead of just dumb luck.

Traffic in the Dismal SwampEven with all that we made it to the Welcome Center in one piece where we found plenty of folks there to help us tie up. We were one of the last people there (because we have one of the smallest / slowest boats) but the others we had locked through were there to greet us and help us tie up. The dock, which is just about 150 ft long, was put on the sight because it is a rest stop and Welcome Center in North Carolina for Highway 17 that parallels the Dismal Swamp from Norfolk to Elizabeth City never more than 50 yards away. The amazing thing was during the journey besides a few breaks in the trees where you can see cars go by you would never know it was even there, you feel like you are in one of the most secluded places in the world. Some intelligent official in North Carolina thought to put a dock at the welcome center as well and now just on this one night there were going to be eight boats rafted up with each other to spend the night.

If you guys are thinking that you have slept at a welcome center on a long road trip and would no less want to do it on a boat then you did in a car you would be missing out. Since it is not interstate 95 it doesn’t have that rest area feel, in fact you hardly notice the cars there at all and they probably didn’t notice you either. So the boaters who are all rafted up together, including the two who missed the earlier lock (Barramundi and Good News), had a nice party on the picnic tables by the docks. I would bet that with all of the welcome center rest areas in the US this little one on Highway 17 in North Carolina is one of the most utilized ones in the country. Very rarely have I ever seen people at a rest area not just going to the bathroom, sleeping in there cars or walking their dogs, here you had a group of people having a cocktail party. It made it quiet an interesting stop.

This was also our first real opportunity to meet people who were doing the same thing we were, living aboard there boats traveling south. Most were retired, but there was also a family of four on a 27 foot sailboat who had rented there house for a year and decided to by a boat and go sailing for a year. Both were very experienced sailors and they had to be for they had their two children on board (4 and 6). They were from Toronto (many people we have met are from Canada) and were doing it as inexpensive as possible. This means ANY way possible, for instance they had engine problems in Lake Ontario and since there wasn’t a good diesel mechanic around they bought a 6 hp outboard which seems to give them enough power to get them where they need to go. This is just one sort of cruiser we met that night, but the wonderful thing was that no matter what the reason or what the budget we all had the common thread of going out there and heading south. This seemed to bridge all the gaps necessary and makes you feel quiet close to the people you meet along the way.

It also made us feel safe at night knowing that if something happened to one of our new neighbors all of us would be quickly up and checking if everything was OK. So everyone slept soundly that night and before we new it morning had come.

The one thing that did spoil the party that night was the fact that I got a call from my uncle in Richmond that my Grandmother had passed away. So we would have to leave our new friends to go up there and say goodbye, we were thankful to be so close and able to easy make it since my friend Dave had discovered that there is a rental car place in Elizabeth City, our next stop.

The Harbor of Hospitality, Tuesday, November 4, 2003
Traffic leaving the South Mills Lock That morning everyone seemed to rise at similar times, just before 7. We all wanted to get going with enough time to make the 8:30 lock at South Mills. We had to get lowered down into the Pasquotank River which would wind us all the way to Elizabeth City, NC, the Harbor of Hospitality. It seems that besides being the only place in North America that still makes blimps Elizabeth’s City’s other claim to fame is the famous Rose Buddies.

It all started back in 1983 when the city decided to put in 14 free slips to attract ICW boaters to stop and spend time in there town. This was very nice of the town, but the real reason these 14 slips became famous was that two life-long friends named Fred Fearing and his partner who died in the 1990’s. They decided to come down to the dock every day to greet the boaters coming to stay in Elizabeth City. They would give the “First Mates” roses and if there were enough boats on any given day have a wine and cheese party for everyone. This would give all the boaters would get the chance to meet everyone else and Fred gets the chance to tell you about his home town of Elizabeth City.

Rose Buddies, Elizabeth CityToday this was our destination and as we all headed off from the Welcome Center at a little after 7 and before we new it we were all floating in front of the lock waiting for it to open. Once it did all 9 boats squeezed in and we were all lowered together. Once in the river we paraded down it in a line until the faster boats started to pull away and we were left by ourselves winding along until we reached Elizabeth City. We backed into our slip and were soon met by Fred himself driving his Rose Buddy golf cart. He was happy to see so many boats and immediately arranged to have a wine and cheese party for us at 4 o’clock. Hospitality Harbor was a very friendly place, but it lacked basic amenities like a bathroom and showers. This was soon taken care of by the fact that another very nice woman named Nora offered to take whoever wanted for showers and shopping in her van.

Before we knew it a bunch of us were piling into her conversion van for the ride to a local health club where we could take showers or even soak in a hot tub or sauna. Elizabeth City certainly seemed to know how to make it’s guests feel at home. After our shower we were there with Fred as he told us about Elizabeth City while we all slipped wine and drank beer. We had a wonderful few days with the people we had met in the locks just the day before, but tomorrow our little group would break up as we would head up to Richmond for the funeral and they would all continue south.

That night after dinner we shared some leftover cake and food with the couple on Orienta, they were the ones in the 27 footer with the outboard and since the weather was suppose to get bad they were going to head out that night and cross the Albarmare Sound. It was nice to get to spend some time with them and soon we were watching them head off into the darkness.

Sunrise at Elizabeth CityWhen I woke up the next morning I helped many of the others untie so they to could head out across the sound, as I waved goodbye I wondered if we would catch up to them down the line. We were headed to Richmond and would not be leaving until Saturday, the dock at Elizabeth City is suppose to be 48 hours for each boat, but they were happy to let us stay for a few extra days.

It is a small world after all, Friday, November 7, 2003
We got back from Richmond on Friday after seeing my family and celebrating the life of my grandmother. The drive was interesting as we had to drive highway 17 the very road we had just paralleled on the way down in the boat. We looked in at the Welcome Center on the way down but didn’t see any boats there. We did see 9 boats in the swamp on the way up and about equal that on the way back down. Once back in Elizabeth City we walked around the city more and discovered that besides the Rose Buddies and the other friendly people we had met, Elizabeth City didn’t have to much to offer. It had just enough to keep a boater happy for a day or two, but except for a few historic buildings it lacked the overall look and charm that many other small southern towns have.

As we prepared for our departure the next morning a trawler named Sea Shell pulled into the slip next to us. Jen thought she had seen them anchored next to us at Hospital Point, in Portsmouth,VA. I helped them get tied up and noticed that one of the men onboard was wearing a Waterfront Restaurant T-shirt. The Waterfront is a restaurant in Camden, Maine. A friend of mine, who I went to Gould Academy with, parents own this restaurant. I mentioned this to the gentlemen who immediately took interest. It turned out that this man was part owner in the restaurant with my friends parents and he turned out to be the father of a good friend of mine in Boston, Gus. Now we were meeting up on the docks in Elizabeth City of all places.

That night after another wine and cheese party thrown by the Rose Buddies we were having dinner on deck when Graham, the owner of Sea Shell invited us over for an after dinner drink. We hung out and talked sipping brandy until we turned in later that night.

Into the teeth of the Alligator, Saturday, November 8, 2003
Blimp Factory near Elizabeth CityMy wife was nervous to leave that morning because the forecast was not great, 15 to 20 knot Northeast winds. I wanted to leave as the forecast was not suppose to get any better and I didn’t want to be held up any longer, having spent those days up in Richmond. As Gus’s Dad wished us farewell, Jen seemed to soften on the idea of going. Graham helped us untie the lines and before long we were heading down the river toward the Albemarle Sound.

The Albemarle Sound is one of the bodies of water that separates the Outer Banks from the rest of North Carolina. Even though it is a protected waterway, high winds can make waves build to very large heights quickly. This is the reason Jen didn’t want to go today, but since the wind and the waves were going to be with us I assured her we would be fine. Once we left the Pasquotank River, passing the blimp factory along the way, we entered the sound. I put up a sliver a jib and we were flying along between 6.5 and 7 knots, occasionally even climbing over 8 knots, which is good for such a small boat. I was at the helm as Jen looked nervously ahead, good thing, too. If she was looking behind us she would have seen the front of the large 6 to 8 foot waves breaking, instead of their backside, as they washed in front of us. Thankfully we were not the only boat out there, a few other boats had left Elizabeth City and there were a few boats coming out of the North River from the Virginia Cut (this is where the two waterways meet up again). As I rocketed along I broke the speed record for the boat at 8.5 knots, but this announcement didn’t seem to make Jen happy. She was anxious to get into the Alligator River, when hopefully the waves would die down a bit.

After a little over 10 miles of the Sound we entered the Alligator River only to hear the bridge tender at the Alligator River bridge announce that the winds were to high to open. It seems that while we were out in the sound the wind had gone over it’s forecasted amount and now there were gusts of forty miles and hour. The bridge doesn’t open in that much wind so we headed into the Alligator River Marina to get some diesel and hopefully wait on the bridge to reopen.

We got some cheap diesel (.95 cents) and decided to get a slip for the night since it didn’t appear the bridge would be opening that day. It was only about 2 in the afternoon, but the anchorage we wanted to go to that night was too far if the bridge didn’t open soon. Just as we pulled into a slip the bridge announced over the VHF that it would open again in 10 minutes so we dropped our lines and headed out into the big seas. We got through the bridge and started down the Alligator with three other sailboats. The waves had dyed down a bit and Jen said she was ready to take the helm. So with the jib out we flew from marker to marker. The waves were now down to 4 feet, perfect for our little boat to surf and Jen soon announced that she had gotten her up to 8.7 knots easily breaking my speed record. I was a little upset, but since we were making great time and would now easily make the anchorage, I got over it pretty quick.

We rounded Newport News Pt. at around 4:15 and by 4:30 were on the hook of Deep Pt., which was where the river started to narrow. It was a nice anchorage expect for the fact that it was still blowing over 25 knots with gusts at least up to 40 or 50. The anchorage was calm but the trees didn’t stop the wind from rocking us and whistling in the rigging. After dinner the cold air drove us into bed early, but sleep didn’t come easy as we worried about the anchor dragging all night. After many turns going up on deck I managed to slip off to sleep while Jen lay awake all night listening to the sounds of the wind.

Would you like to take a Cart?, Sunday, November 9, 2003
Taking the golf cart to the Food Lion That morning we were the first of the 8 boats there that night to leave. Jen was anxious to leave this place quickly and get to Belhaven, NC, our next stop. Soon after the anchorage we entered the Alligator-Pungo River Canal, which connects the Alligator River and Pungo Rivers (obviously), along the way we ran in a catamaran that we had seen on and off from Cape May on. He was seemly just anchorage on the side of the canal near some downed trees. We wave to the captain as we headed by and continued on our way. Soon before leaving the canal we watched a TowBoatUS guy zoom past, a common sight our whole trip, again we waved and continued on without much thought to it.

Since we left before 7 that morning we were soon at Belhaven. After last night’s harrowing experience, with no sleep, and the wind forecasted to continue, we decided to stay at the River Forest Marina instead of anchoring out in what looked like a pretty exposed harbor. Here I experienced what was certainly my worst docking experience of the trip. With the wind strong against me, I had to leave Jen at the dock, not being able to get my stern in. Finally after many attempts I was able to dock only loosing a vent cap (unfortunately the one to the holding tank) and a lot of pride. The River Forest Marina seemed to be a nice place that had not been kept up very well. It redeemed itself by having showers and laundry, two things we needed badly. They also had golf carts available to use so you could run yourself into town or to the Food Lion about a mile and a half to get groceries.

After starting the laundry we got a golf cart to do just that. Their golf carts were in a bit of rough shape as well because ours seemed to go just a little faster then walking speed. We enjoyed our ride, almost as much as the locals enjoyed watching us crawl along there city streets in a blue golf cart. We eventually did make it to the Food Lion, stocking up on a few essentials including a case of beer which I had never heard of before, Southpaw. We loaded up our cart and started our journey back only to find that either the cart was running low on juice or the extra weight from the Southpaw was too much. Either way, it seemed that the only way to keep her moving was to help her along like the Flintstone’s did, by pushing with our feet. This kept the cart going almost walking speed, but since I was wearing flip flops it was not an easy task. Not far from the Food Lion a truck pulled up in front of us and offered us a ride. He saw me in Flip Flops and since it was getting dark and cold he thought he should stop. So we loaded our groceries into his truck and he took us back to the marina.

The dock attendant was sorry for giving us such a faulty golf cart and headed off to collect it. We went to put our groceries away and pick up our laundry. At the laundry we met a lady who had been at River Forest Marina for two weeks waiting for their engine to be fixed. She, like many boaters, liked to gossip and the subject of the catamaran that we had seen in the canal came up. It seems that a barge had come along in the canal when he was passing through and forced him aground. As more information came out it seems that this catamaran had been a frequent caller to TowBoatUS (we had actually heard this from other us well), calling yesterday as well when he got in trouble in the Alligator River. Since we had heard he had trouble in Annapolis and seemed to be having trouble off of Cape May we assumed that this was a boat that we should avoid at all costs.

Belhaven, NC sunsetAfter our gossip session we went back to the boat and while the sun was setting over Belhaven Harbor. We also noticed the TowBoatUS with the catamaran in tow behind it coming into the harbor. By now, the dock was full. We were right next a boat who had been docked in Elizabeth City the day we left so we struck up a conversation with them. They were another nice couple who had moved onto there boat, Realize, with there two children. After a quick tour of there boat we had some dinner and went off to bed.

Leading the pack, Monday, November 10, 2003
Once again I forced us out of bed early so we could attempt to make Oriental, NC that day. At 6:50 we followed numerous boats out of the harbor for a sail down the Pungo River and across the Pamilco River. The sail was nice and by this point on the ICW you look forward to any chance you have to raise sail. Unfortunately, as we entered Goose Creek and the land cut to the Bay River the sails had to come down again.

As we left the land cut we ran into crab pots everywhere. This must have freaked out most of the boats in front of us because soon there was a big bottle neck near the markers which lead out into the wide expense of the Bay River. It seems that one boat had run aground and didn’t want to venture forward except under extreme caution. After being waved through to lead the pack I quickly negotiated the channel and out into the river. In the river we raised sail and headed toward the mouth of the Nuese River. Fishing at sunset in Adam’s CreekWe were again making great time because of a favorable wind (which again brought large waves) and after getting into Nuese decided that we didn’t need to stop in Oriental so we headed off across the Nuese toward Adam’s Creek.

Once in Adam’s Creek we found a nice anchorage only 15 miles from Beaufort (pronounced BU-fort, our destination the next day) and settled in. It was still somewhat early and we enjoyed the afternoon and even casted a line out catching nothing as usual. When dinner was over, I as usual could no longer stay awake and fell asleep around 8.

Fog and shallow water, Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Boat ahead of us in fog near Beaufort, NC I awoke early again, anxious to get going so we could have most of the day in Beaufort. We had heard a lot of good things about Beaufort and we both looked forward to getting there. Before 7 the anchor was up and we were heading toward the Adam’s Creek Canal that lead to Beaufort. A funny thing happened between getting up to a beautiful clear sunrise and the canal, a thick fog bank engulfed us so visibility was only about 50 yards or less. This was a problem as once we left the canal we were going to be in a very narrow shallow section with no markers.

As we got closer and closer to this section we got more and more worried, but just as we were upon the tricky section the fog suddenly lifted and we had clear sailing all the way to Beaufort. As we passed the Gallant Channel we were joined by a pod of Dolphin’s who put on a show for us following us and jumping out of the water. There were a lot of them, to many to count, but soon they were off playing by themselves again so we continued toward the bridge and the entrance to Beaufort Harbor.

Parking problem in BeaufortWe rounded Radio Island and entered Beaufort, tying up to a fuel dock to get diesel, ice and water before anchoring out in the harbor. The docks where strange, it seemed that it was all run by the town and everything was very spread out. The dock attendant come from one direction and asked to walk down the other direction to pay. It was a few blocks to where I had to pay from where I filled up. Once there I also asked about pump out, which was $10 dollars in Beaufort (it is normally under $5) so we decided to make use of as many facilities on shore as possible. Even the slips looked old and run down, strange for a town that everyone seemed so impressed with, so far we were not.

Since the harbor in Beaufort is actually just a small creek you just anchor on the southern shore of the creek across from Beaufort. The current runs swiftly through the creek so they suggest using two anchors. I have read about putting out two anchors, but had never done it myself so I figured this might be a good opportunity. Well it didn’t seem to work the same way it showed in the book and even though I did have two anchors down I figured perfecting the technique would take a little time.

One of the many nice house’s in BeaufortAfter the dingy was launched we headed in to town hoping to get a shower, the Internet, lunch and have a look at Beaufort (not necessary in that order). Since we were hungry we started just walking down main street having a look at the local offerings. It was a beautiful day so we hoped to eat somewhere outside on the harbor. After walking the whole of Main Street we came to the Maritime Museum and decided to have a look and also get some local information on where to eat among other things. The museum was nice and the person at the information desk gave us enough information to find everything we needed, even a courtesy car if we wanted. In the gift shop we noticed some friends we had met in the Dismal Swamp had toured the museum just two day before.

Lunch entertainment (look up the mast)We decided on lunch at the Dockside Restaurant because it had an outdoor deck and fried shrimp. Jen was in the mood for fried shrimp and since it is very rare that she has a craving like that I figured we’d better accommodate it. So we had our shrimp and our cheap beers while enjoying the view from the deck. The deck offered us a lot of excitement as while we looked over at the island on the south part of the creek we noticed a bunch of horse running around. We were quickly informed by a local that those were descendants of wild horses brought over during the colonial times. As interesting as that was, it was topped when we then got to watch as a man was hosted up his very tall mast by his wife on the dock just below. All that excitement got us ready to accomplish our other tasks. But we soon found out that the library was closed because it was Veteran’s Day and there was no place else in Beaufort that had Internet access.

So now we only had to get a shower, which we arranged ($2 a person) at the same place I had to pay for the gas. We had to be escorted down a few blocks to be let into the showers. It seems they keep security tight at the showers in Beaufort, so to make people who anchor pay, but it seems the money from the showers doesn’t go to keep up the Sunset over Taylor Creek, Beaufort, NCdocks or the shower for that matter.

Soon we were back on the boat having dinner and going to bed, tomorrow we would head through the Camp Lejeune Military Base and hope that they didn’t bomb us on the way through.

In the war zone, Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Harrier jet hovering The next day we started the long run past Morehead City and Camp Lejeune, that night we planned on anchoring in Mile Hammock Bay in the southern end of the military base. It was going to be a pretty boring run, so we thought.

It started off boring enough until soon after Morehead City the Hairier Fighters Jets started to circle over head. They would take off and do a short loop around before hovering back over the base to land. At first it was really cool to see, but after the first couple of times the sound of the jets was deafening and it was more annoying then anything. Soon after that the Dolphins came back playing around the boat again, there is just something about watching them so I slowed the boat down hoping to get a better look. Soon they had moved on and so did we toward the Camp Lejeune Firing Range.

Daily dolphin escortThe ICW cuts right through the firing range and as you approach it you have to call or look for the guards to find out whether you can proceed. There were no guards or answer to our calls so we headed in hoping not to be blown up by an errant shell. Going through the base is spooky as your not sure whether Guard Tower before entering Camp Leujune, NCyou are under surveillance or even have a gun trained on you. That combined with the helicopters going over and random amphibious vehicles you encounter in the waterway makes it a stretch you look forward to getting out of.

Swamp vehicle encounter near Camp LeujuneWe got to Mile Hammock Bay and found a few other boats there. Jen was nervous about the high winds and reported poor holding ground in the bay, but after putting down the anchor with 10 to 1 scope and experimenting again with a second anchor I was not worried. Jen was and the banging on the shore behind us combined with the helicopters still going over assured her of not getting to sleep that night. Me on the other hand, had dinner and quickly drifted off to sleep leaving Jen on the couch awake most of the night.

$1.00 PBR sounds good to me, Thursday, November 13, 2003
Bird nests are common on ICW markersI awoke in the morning to Jen on the couch, she had hardly slept so I told her to head to bed and I would get us underway. It was after 6 in the morning and the wind was still blowing. After a little breakfast I pulled up the first anchor without a problem and decided to warm up the engine before working on the second. This was going to be a tough one with the 25 to 30 knot winds pulling hard on the anchor line, I was going to have to use the engine to get slack on the rope, then cleat it down and repeat. Soon I had all the rope and chain I good get up in the boat, but the anchor still didn’t want to let loose. Jen’s sleepless night had been for not as it looked as this anchor wasn’t coming up off the bottom without a fight. After goosing the engine a few times the anchor finally let loose it’s hold on the bottom and we were underway at about 7 o’clock.

Crossing the ICW on footWe were on our way to Wrightsville Beach to meet my lifelong friend Dave and his girlfriend. He was driving down from Chapel Hill, NC to spend the night and then sail with us to Southport the next day. We had a beautiful day, with temperatures in the high 60’s , but the wind was still gusting.

We were only about 5 miles from Wrightsville approaching the Figure 8 Island Bridge when I realized that we might miss the opening. The bridge opens on the hour and half hour, we were about 5 till the hour and about 7 minutes from the bridge so I called the bridge tender on the radio to see if he would wait and open a bit late so we could make it. Most bridge tenders are happy to wait, but it seems that this bridge tender was on a power trip and told us if we wanted to make it we should go a little faster.

The tiny Westerbeke in Bumbre does a great job, but the one thing she doesn’t do is faster. We cruise between 5.5 and 6 knots, right then I was pushing her at 6.2 with a close watch on the gauges. As the bridge opened I thought we might make it if the other boats waiting there went through pretty slowly. It was not meant to be as we watched the bridge close no more than 100 yards off our bow. Pissed off, I circled with a 60 foot motor yacht who had thrown off a huge wake into us trying to make the bridge as well.

Now the wind and current were making us play chicken in the narrow channel all in full view of the high and mighty bridge tender. After a half hour of hell, the bridge again opened and as I passed under it I watched us the bridge tender again closed the bridge with a boat nearly at the bridge. We pressed on hoping to the make the next bridge in Wrightsville Beach. Missing this bridge would be costly as it only opens on the hour, and as we approached it very near the top of the hour I again called the bridge tender hoping she would hold it for us. This time we were about a half mile away and I didn’t think we would come close to making to as it was just about to open. This proved true as we got to the bridge five minutes after it closed. Now because of missing the previous bridge, we would have to wait another hour before this bridge would open. It was even worse knowing that just underneath the bridge were the marinas in Wrightsville Beach where we would be staying that night. While fighting the wind and current with my stern toward the bridge I heard the familiar horn that indicated a bridge opening. It had only been about five minutes. I looked around to see the bridge opening, so I swung the boat around in a timely fashion and quickly made it under the bridge. We thanked the bridge tender who informed us she hadn’t done it for us, there was suppose to be a commercial fishing vessel that needed the bridge to be opened, but as we looked around we saw no vessel so we just thanked our lucky stars and headed on our way toward the Sea Path Marina.

Once there we picked up some diesel and got one of the last slips available for the night (it was actually the fuel dock). From there we enjoyed some much needed showers and cleaned the boat for our guests that were to arrive soon.

Dog that delivers you beerWe decided to check out the local fare because we planned to go out to dinner that night. We chose Crabdaddies, a casual crab shack because it seemed like good simple fare and they had TV’s that they would tune to Survivor at 8. Our friends met us there and we had a little dinner before heading over to their friends apartment in Wrightsville Beach. We were going to hang out before heading to the bars across the street for some drinks. There I met one of the more interesting chocolate labs (the dog) I have had the privilege to met. It wasn’t that the dog was a great looking dog, it was the dog’s unique talent. This lab, when asked, would run to the Guests enjoying the back cabinkitchen, open the fridge, grab a beer in his mouth and deliver it to you on the couch. No kidding, just look at the dog and say, “Get me a beer” and in shorter time then you could get one yourself you would have it delivered to you. This was so exciting that we ended up with quiet a few beers on the table we really weren’t ready to drink, but you just couldn’t help yourself, you just wanted to see it one more time.

So after having a few Southpaws we headed over to the bar where we discovered $1 PBR (that’s Pabst Blue Ribbon) was on special. Being on a budget I figured I better have the PBR, so we settled in to a night of catching up and PBR. Soon we had enough and we headed back to the boat for some much needed rest.

Touring Southport, Friday, November 14, 2003
Dave enjoying a biscuit stolen at breakfast We awoke the next morning to a pounding in our heads that could only be the fault of $1 PBR. Dave who had experience with this sort of thing took us to the Middle of the Island Diner, for The Sampler. This is a breakfast with a little bit of everything, bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes, hash browns and biscuits (grits Navigating the Cape Fear Riverwere also included but we don’t count them). Dave and I had the sampler and soon felt full but our headaches were still there. So we all headed back to the boat for the trip across the Cape Fear River and on to Southport, NC.

We headed out about 9 and started down the ICW toward the Cape Fear River. The Cape Fear can be a rough ride when the weather isn’t right (so I’ve heard), but today it was beautiful and calm so we put up the jib and slalomed the big buoy’s heading up to Wilmington. Before long we were off of Southport and as we circle the city we headed into the ICW again and then into Southport Marina for the night. We get a slip and prepare lunch, we had hoped our guests would stay longer but they had to get back to Chapel Hill that night, so we had a few hours to tour the town and get dinner Enjoying the swings on the Southport waterfrontbefore they had to head up the road.

The visitors center provided us with a map to tour the town ourselves, so we set off on foot to look over what Southport had to offer. It was nice little town, and soon we understood why the visitor’s center had a sheet that talked about the films and TV shows that featured Southport. One in particular was a One more happy crew membershow that none of us seemed to remember watching but we could tell that many of the scenes we had somehow caught were filmed all over Southport. The show, Dawson’s Creek, always had teenagers having heart to hearts on docks that were out in long marsh lands. We walked these very docks and could picture Joey and Dawson talking about there relationship on the very spots we stood. It was all very creepy so we headed off to the boat to escape the horrible images.

Jen and H’s Dawson’s Creek momentJen and H’s Dawson’s Creek momentDave decided after a night of PBR he needed some pizza, so after a morning of bacon, eggs and sausage, a lunch of a ham sandwich, we would finish the other parts of the pig with his favorite pizza, a redneck special (for those who don’t know a redneck special is pepperoni and sausage pizza). The girls opted for salads and a veggie pizza, but whatever your flavor if you are in Southport and want pizza the Dry Street Restaurant and Pub serves a terrific pizza.

A day of rest, sort of, Saturday, November 15, 2003
On Saturday we called a day of rest, we had to do laundry and catch up on the logs etc. before heading to Georgetown, SC to pick up Jen’s Dad for the trip to Charleston. Day’s on the boat and days at home where you “think” you are going to get a lot done you never do. After checking out the town again and doing laundry the day was pretty much a loss after that. After updating the website, sending and sending a few e-mail’s and trying to get the propane re-filled, the day was pretty much over. We were unsuccessful in our quest to get the propane re-filled as everyone we asked said there was only one place a few miles up the road. Without a car, it was impossible to lug the propane tank up there to be re-filled. Hopefully we will not run out too soon.

We had high hopes of updating the website among other things, but Southport Marinas free high speed web access was very selective on the times it operates. This is not of the marinas choosing, their access just seems to come on at about ten in the morning and cut off around 4, no one seems to know why. So we just packed it in for the day, Jen went for a run, we had some dinner and looked forward to our stop in Calabash, SC tomorrow (Calabash is right on the NC/ SC border but we were to be anchored in SC).

World Famous seafood at the Mall?, Sunday, November 16, 2003
Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge We were off toward Calabash, a little over 30 miles south. Calabash is home of world famous Calabash Style Seafood (I have never heard of it either), but I had read to skip the Calabash Style Seafood and just pick up some fresh Calabash seafood from the stands /fish markets right there at the docks.

Jen and I were looking forward to this so we headed out from Southport around 8:30 on our we toward South Carolina. On the journey south you have to go through one of the more interesting bridges of the ICW journey, the Sunset Beach Highway Bridge. This bridge is actually a floating pontoon bridge, that to open and close they seem to pull with a wire on a crane. You have to wait for the wire to “sink” before you go through or of course you may sink yourself. We were running late to make the opening , but the nice bridge tender here was waiting for us to go through before closing. That is why we didn’t get to see it open, but closing seemed to take quite a long time .

Rockpile section of ICWSoon after we were at the inlet river to Calabash, the information we had said to anchor in the river /inlet on the way into the town and dingy in because deep draft boats may have trouble getting in to the marina (which is now closed we soon learned over the radio). Now, we have anchored in many inlets and rivers on our way south, but never one that was used as the channel for a town with a large shrimping boat population (yes shrimping boats, just like in Forrest Gump). It said beware of the wakes from boats heading in and out of the inlet. Well, once at the anchorage I thought in might be better to say beware of getting plowed over by boats entering / exiting and then have to swim though the wakes to get to shore. It was tight in there and after as we circled we saw two small boats almost hit us in broad daylight we decided we better go on.

It was now after 2 and the next “free” place to stay for the night was the Barefoot Landing dock, right next to an outdoor mall in North Myrtle Beach. This was fine except for the fact that we had to go through the “Rockpile” a section of the ICW about 4 miles long that isn’t wide enough for you and a barge to get though at the same time. To avoid this unfortunate situation you call on the VHF radio before heading to and see if there is anybody coming the other way. This we did, but we get no response so we headed in anyway and hoped we wouldn’t meet anybody.

We got through fine, but right before Barefoot Landing we discovered something that was to become a common trend in the coming days. That was abridge that was not documented on any chart or information we had. Not only that it was a bridge that we needed them to open for us to get under and it just appeared once you came around a bend. Usually you get to call ahead five minutes or so beforehand and ready the bridge tender, but here we had to wait, within sight of the free dock at Barefoot Landing.

Once through the bridge we headed toward the dock which was a long floating dock with a lot of boats at it. We saw many people on there boats having cocktails and soon one of them had hoped on one of the boats tied to the dock to help us raft up to it. Soon we were rafted up to a small sailboat, that looked somewhat unseaworthy and went to introduce ourselves to the gentlemen who we thought tied us up to his boat, but it turned out we just rafted us up to other young couples boat who at the moment weren’t around. It seemed, from him, that they had been there many days and get rafted up to every night. We thought this was a bit strange, but we were happy to be settled for the night so we jumped on the dock to have a look around.

As we walked down the dock we soon found the friends we had met aboard Realize were just a short walk down the dock. So we had a cocktail with them before continuing our walk around the “mall”.

It is hard to say just how strange it is to pull up your boat to a dock step off and be in some sort of outlet type mall, it’s instant culture shock the only the go old US of A can bring it to you. We walked around looking in shops that had we lived on land might have interested us, but being that we couldn’t really afford or even need any of it just shrugged in wonder. Soon we found what we were looking for, the bathrooms, which were nice and clean, but seemed to be lacking heat as they were colder then anywhere in South Carolina I have ever been. The mission was accomplished though and we soon headed back to the boat and our new neighbors.

Rafted up at Barefoot Landing dockOnce back we did find our neighbors back at there boat, once again we met another interesting couple who had decided to take up cruising us well, a bit differently then most. They were in there twenties and after moving back to North Carolina and living at home they decided since they couldn’t afford there own place to buy a boat and cruise around. So here they were living on spaghetti and working off dockage bills at marinas by bottom painting slowly cruising down the ICW. Cruising takes all kinds and this couple were yet another example of who you find out here (if you haven’t guessed by now it is everybody and anybody).

This interesting couple had some crazy stories to tell, as they started their journey in Morehead City, NC (Morehead City is only about 150 miles and they had been gone for awhile) and worked there way south. Most of them were just the normal groundings, but two were stories of them leaving there boat anchored and leaving to visit some friends. Understanding that currents in this parts run swift and fast they left there boat anchored and headed off. But as many fear when on anchor, boats on anchor drag, and their’s was no different, the difference was they weren’t around to save it. It seems the first time (yes it happened more then once) they had just come back and were rowing out to the boat when they noticed some people trying to get a boat free from leaning against a bridge by the current. Well it turned out it was there boat and thanks to the other people they safely got it back at anchor. The second time they were not so luckily, it seems after a side trip to Charleston they came back to find there boat gone. When they inquired about it seems that the boat again had gone adrift and again was caught against a bridge, but this time the town had to call SeaTow, and there boat was sitting at a dock. When they found there boat they were informed of a relatively large sum they owed for saving it, then discovered that the tow guy had just decided to cut there anchor, leaving it at the bottom of the anchorage and then when towing the boat ripped off one of there winches for the sails. After hearing these entertaining stories over some drinks with them Jen felt a little safer with me and we wished them well and headed of to bed.

Beware of the Swamp Thing, Monday, November 17, 2003
Golf Cart Tram over ICW We left our neighbors at about 8:45 sleeping below as we heading of into the swamps of South Carolina and the Waccamaw River. On our way down we again discover many new uncharted bridge on the way, fortunately these where all fixed clearance bridges, meaning they didn’t have to open because they were tall enough to fit us under. Myrtle Beach where these uncharted bridges are also has one of the more extravaganza features you go under on the ICW. As many know Myrtle Beach is home to many golf courses with many golfers, while one course seems to have put itself on both sides of the ICW, so this created the problem of how to get said golfers from one side to the other. It seems instead of building a long expensive bridge they decided to put a little gondHeading down the ICW in South Carolinaola over the ICW to transport the golfers across, so as you are heading down the ICW, every ten minutes or so a gondola goes over caring some golfers over to the next hole, quite a show.

Soon after Myrtle we were in swamp country, it seemed there was nothing for miles except large trees covered in Spanish Moss and the rivers that winded through them. The you would get a very occasional house or and even less frequent marina to break it up a bit, but even those were hidden in the swamp a Banks of Bull Creekbit. It was very nice and peaceful. ABout 20 miles short of Georgetown, SC we pulled off into Bull Creek for the night careful not to anchor to shallow us the tides down here ran from 3 feet in North Carolina to as much a 9 feet in Georgia. We were in South Carolina, about a 5 feet tide and had no desire to found out what sort of swamp things were on the bottom of Bull Creek.

Anchorage mate in Bull CreekWe were anchored with one other boat, but besides that it was black with only the stars. The water was so calm you could see the stars reflecting in it and the swamp was very much alive with tons of different sounds all around us. During the day it seemed we were always being followed from above by a large hawk or falcon, it was really beautiful place to be. Soon after dinner we were in bed so we could make our short run to Georgetown in the morning with enough time to have the afternoon to look around.

Don’t believe what you here, Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Calm on the way to Georgetown Georgetown, SC is a working mans town, but they are slowly taking the working man out of Georgetown. Home to a paper factory and a steel mill the people of Georgetown didn’t mind the sounds and the smells as long as they had jobs. Unfortunately the steel mill has closed so the future of Georgetown is a little less industrious. This working class town persona has given Georgetown the reputation of not being good to visit.

We entered the town by sea and even though the paper mill was smoking it didn’t seem to smell, having gone to school in Maine paper mills were not new to my nasal passages. From the sea the waterfront of the town was not much to see, with the paper mill and old steel factory on one side and the harbor, lined with shrimpers and the backside of the towns main street on the other. The towns buildings were turned away from the mills to sort of back them from view when in town, which made the town not much to look at when at anchor.

Kaminski House, Georgetown, SCWe anchored near the dingy dock and rowed in to find a walkway along the waterfront, called the harborwalk, parallels the main street in town. From there we walked to Front Street (the main street) to find a nice looking street you might find in a 1950’s movie, filled with small antiques shops, diners/ restaurants and governments buildings. The town had seen hard times but it seemed that the downtown area had started to recover and most of the storefronts seemed to be occupied.

The harborwalk and streets of the town seemed to be filled with artists that were taking some sort of a community art class. We walked the streets having a look around and hoping to find a place to shower, the library for the Internet and a place to pick up some groceries.

Now closed Georgetown Steel Corp.Soon we were at the marina inquiring about showers, which were $3 per person for less then satisfactory facilities, but we needed a shower, so of course we paid the ransom for the key to the showers and were soon feeling a lot cleaner.

Afterward we headed down Front Street and passed a place called The Humidor, selling cigars among various other things, so since Jen’s father was going to be on the boat for a few days I figured I’d get him a few. We walked up the stairs and into a place that more resembled an apartment then a cigar store. After entering we immediately met the proprietor who was quickly befriended us and asked about what had brought us to Georgetown. Soon we were talking about all sorts of different things over some coffee and before we knew it we had been there for a couple of hours. Since we wanted to see more of the town and find a grocery store we bid farewell to our knew friend and headed off into town, but we knew we would be back because his shop also had wireless Internet.

We walked around Georgetown and found a nice town that seemed between stages. With the closing of the steel mill the town seems to be working on other ways to stimulate it’s economy, so slowly it is relieving it’s downtown. The main street is lined with beautiful old buildings which are being filled with many different type of antiques shops and other speciality shops, like the humidor. Walk off front street a block and you get into tree lined streets of old houses dating back to the 1700’s. The trees have grown over the street enough so you drive through a tunnel of trees. These streets go on like this for many blocks, and the houses are nice old architecture of all sorts of different periods.

The Humidor, GeorgetownSoon we found ourselves back at The Humidor checking our e-mail and again talking with the owner. His business he plans to grew from a small cigar store to a small private club where the members can enjoy playing chess, drinking fine spirits and coffee as well as a place were local artists and musicians can play or sell thier works of art. It seems the place was going to have a little of everything, it even had a dock with two slips that he plans to let boaters stay there for know charge so they experience Georgetown more easily.

The time had come for us to get some dinner so after deciding to stay away from the Piggly Wiggly grocery store we stopped by the fishing dock to go to the seafood market there. We picked up all the fresh seafood we needed and went back to the boat to cook dinner. We had been impressed with Georgetown and looked forward to stopping on our way back, hopefully in years to come the town will get more popular for cruisers as more discover the better parts of the town and overlook it’s industrious side. Tomorrow we would pick up Jen’s Dad on the dock and be off for Charleston we only hoped we had good weather for the journey.

Anyday on a boat is a good day, Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Stern Captain We awoke in the morning to wind and rain. This was not what we had hoped for when we asked Jen’s Dad to join us for the trip to Charleston. We weren’t even sure he would want to go anymore, but we headed in anyway to pick him up. Soon Jen’s parents were there and I rowed out the supplies including the refrigerator which we had my father send to them to bring down. Afterward everything was aboard we bid farewell to Jen’s Mom that we would meet in Charleston in a couple of day and headed off.

Happy CrewmemberThe winds were from the south at about 20 to 25 knots so as we left Georgetown and into ____ Bay we had steep 3 to 4 foot waves right on our bow. This made for an uncomfortable trip for the 6 miles until we reached the smaller creeks and river that wind there way threw South Carolina to Charleston. It had at least stopped raining for the time being and soon we turned into a creek out of the bay and much calmer waters. No sooner Doing guy things on the way to Charlestondid we do this then the rain started again, only this time it was much stronger then before. As we winded our way down through the marshes we soon found the rain finding it’s way through our defenses and into the openings in our rain gear. Cold and wet we figured this was not want Jen’s Dad had signed up for but when we asked him if he would rather be driving down with Jen’s Mom he announced “Any day on a boat is a good day.” With that we continued on our way toward Charleston.

Sunrise in Long Creek, McClellanville, SCSince from Georgetown, Charleston is 60 miles we decided to stop along the way to break it up and give him more time on the boat. The only logical stop was near Meclannensville. There we had a small marina and a few anchorages, because the wind had died we went to one of the anchorages. After a quiet day on the ICW where we saw few others boats because of the rain, it started to clear as we neared the anchorage. As we put the hooked down the sun burst from the clouds and lit up the marshes that surrounded us. We sat in the cockpit having a snack and cocktails while dolphins swam around us, pelicans drove into the water getting dinner and a pair of rainbows appeared in the distance. All this topped off with a wonderful sunset made us forget about the rainy day we had just been threw. Any day on a boat truly is a good day.

Taking the fort by sail, Thursday, November 20, 2003
Wrecked shrimper I awoke that morning ready to get going, but had pity on the rest of crew and let them sleep in a little. I had again used two anchors and while they slept I hauled one up from the bottom. Soon the sun was rising and Jen’s Dad started to emerge from bed. Soon we were all up and underway in the bright South Carolina sunshine. Today was the total opposite of the day before and we wound our way in the sunshine toward Charleston. As dolphins guided us threw some tricky parts we neared the Isle of Palms with a boat hard aground and TowBoatUS helping them off. We had almost gotten threw another day without grounding, but earlier Jen had gotten nervous in a tricky part and headed me the wheel just in time to allowed me to run it up on a shallow spot. We easily backed off and now we were passing this boat that was not so lucky. At the bridge right before you get to Charleston harbor we of course narrowly missed the opening and had to wait, but this time we didn’t know how long as the bridge was having “work” done to it.

Fort SumterAfter about 45 minutes the boat which was hard aground found it’s way to the bridge and soon after the bridge opened allowing us to spill out into the Charleston harbor. The wind was nice in the harbor and we raised sail as soon as we were out of the canal. Since I had never seen Fort Sumter up close I announced we would be “Taking the fort by sail” and started over toward the famous landmark. We get as close as I dared hoping they wouldn’t fire on our Yankee boat and then headed up toward The Battery. We gave over the wheel to Jen’s Dad and let him get in some real sailing, we even got to turn off the engine, a first since we got to Norfolk. It was a nice short run and we even got in earlier then we expected.

At the helm actually sailingWe got a slip at the Ashley Marina and once we got fuel and pumped out Jen’s Mom picked us up so we could get some showers at the hotel, the Anchorage Inn right in downtown Charleston, and head out on the town. After cleaning we walked around Charleston to scope out the restaurants for dinner that night. The main attraction with Charleston once you have checked out Rainbow Row and The Battery is of course the food. Since we would not be eating out again for a long time we planned on doing it while in Charleston. The main tourist section of Charleston is filled with history and inside the historic buildings seem to be restaurants, a lot of very good restaurants. On our first night we choose Slightly North of Broad or S.N.O.B. (to get the story we will have to go), there we had our first of what would become many great meals. From there we enter in to a food coma reminiscent of after Thanksgiving before getting dropped back of at the boat to climb into bed.

Unless moral drops the feedings will continue, Friday, November 21, 2003
Public Market Our first full day in Charlestown found me completing a task that was suppose to be done before we embarked on the journey, the refrigeration cold-plate. It had not arrived before we decided to leave so we went without it, with plans to pick it up along the way. May dad sent it to Jen’s parents who in turn brought it down with them to Charleston. Now that I had it, I actually had to install it. Fortunately for me Jen’s Dad was there, who is a knower of things, so between the two of us I knew we could figure it out relatively well.

Mansion on the BatteryFor those of you who think I am actually installing some sort of refrigerator on board let me explain. A normal prevaricator on board would burn my batteries so fast that I would actually have to run the engine all the time just to keep it going. Most boats start out with a basic “icebox” which is pretty much a glorified cooler like you take to the beach. The main difference is the one on a boat you hope has a lot much installation (3 to 4 inches is considered good). The refrigeration system we would be installing works on the same idea as a regular fridge only on a larger scale. Yes larger, most fridges cool a small plate that in turn cools the whole fridge, on a boat it would cool down to quickly so you need to help that. So basically you have a big box, that freezes / cools itself down and because of it’s size doesn’t cool down as fast. So basically we install something that turn itself into a big block of ice that in turn will cool our icebox.

Nervous crew memberSince we have a small boat we also have a small icebox, with only about three inches in installation around the side and basically none on top. I plan to fix the problem before installing the box, but time ran out and none the unit will go in as is. To install it all we had to do was mount the compressor (it cools the plate) in the sail locker, ran wire to the fuse box and temperature gauge, then install the actual cold plate in the icebox. I ran the wires beforehand, and by the time Jen’s Dad got there in the morning I had mounted the compressor on the floor I had removed from the sail locker. After successfully getting the floor to the sail locker back in with the compressor attached we started main task, which was drilling the holes for the cooper tubing to run threw to the compressor. Fortunately the icebox and sail locker were on the same side of the boat and the tubing would run a straight line threw the head (the bathroom) to the compressor in the sail locker). But that still meant we had to drill a 1 and a 1/4 hole through the icebox and into the head underneath the sink. AFter that the tubing could run into existing holes for other wires etc. until we drilled another hole into the sail locker. This sounds easy and for the most part it was, but when you are using a drill on a boat around on near the waterline there is always that fear that somehow you are going to drill through the hull instead, I was relived to see that both hole were no where near the hull and the boat was not taking a water rapidly.

Bigger Mansion on the BatteryAfter that we just feed the cooper tubing through the holes and mounted the cold plate in the icebox. After everything was hooked up we read the directions, something we hadn’t done when we first started, to check if we had done everything right before we turned the switch. It seemed we had so we then turned her on. It seemed that nothing had happened, we couldn’t hear the compressor and I thought I had just installed a large heavy weight into my icebox, but then you heard it a very faint hum you could hardly hear. When we opened the sail locker it was ever so slightly louder, the compressor was humming away. We opened the icebox, now a refrigerator and felt the first whisks of cold enter the plate, we felt like genius’.

Cobblestone Old slave street, CharlestownThe whole thing was very easy, just as the manufacturer, E-Z Kold, said it would. So if you are looking to convert your icebox on your boat I would have to suggest E-Z Kold, as the people were friendly and helpful on the phone, the box was easy to install and best of all they are A LOT cheaper then other systems, about $1000 for ours compared to prices ranging for $2000 to $5000 for any other brands (I looked at all I could find). It actually works a little to well, since our icebox was so small before if I keep it on for to long it actually freezes things.

With the day work done we took the free courtesy van offered by the Ashley Marina downtown to find the wives. We were unsuccessful in that venture so we went where we wanted to go for lunch, Tommy Condon’s, an Irish pub near the outdoor market in Charleston. Happy with our mornings success we celebrated with a few Black and Tans before our wives showed up just after we finished lunch.

They went to lunch at Blossom’s while we sat out on the wharf having a cigar. Soon we were all together again and to pass the time before another Charleston feeding we decided to take a tour on a horse drown carriage. Normally this is the type of thing you are embarrassed to be seen on, but like a Boston Duck Tour, it seems that everybody does it eventually so it seemed it was may time, so we climbed aboard and were informed about a lot of Charleston lore, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I will say this, some it was interesting, most was not so you just enjoyed the ride around Charleston which if you have never been is certainly worth the time, if you skip the horse drawn carriage, do not skip having at least one meal at a top restaurant, it is worth every penny, which brings us to our next topic, dinner, the latest feeding.

Rainbow RowAfter the night before we had though about just getting a light dinner tonight, but by the time dinner rolled around it seemed another fabulous full meal was in the works. Tonight it was going to be Cypress, the new restaurant by the Chef from Magnolia’s and Blossom’s (these are all famous restaurants in CHarlestown owned by the same guy and the are all right next door to each other). Cypress was very, oh what the word, she , with halogen bulbs hanging down over cocktail tables for a very high ceiling to the wall of wine which was literally a wall of wine that went up three stories. The high back chairs made it almost impossible to see the tables around you so you felt as if you were alone in the restaurant, but the also gave the restaurant a stuffy feel. Not usually affected by this type of thing it made me, a person right of a boat where stained dirty boat shoe feel out of place. That did not change the fact that we again had a dinner that couldn’t be beat. All this high living in Charleston was getting tough, eating out every night was a luxury we didn’t have on the boat. Tomorrow would be the last day though then it was back to our galley.

Good by sweet fleece, Saturday, November 22, 2003
We awoke to a morning of chores. We planned on using Jen’s parents to help run our errands, going to West Marine and Costco. Since her father had just bought a boat West Marine sounded good to him and since they weren’t “members” at Costco, a trip there sounded equally intriguing to them. Costco was a place Jen had never set foot into before the trip, and it has now become a staple.

We gathered our things and filled there car until it could take no more than went back to the boat to find places to put it all. Since I had to change the oil that afternoon we skipped our noon feeding with Jen’s parents and planned to do a big dinner and dessert for our last night. As I started to change the oil Jen went off to meet her parents since to change the oil on a sailboat it requires you to make a big mess Jen was happy to leave me alone to do the job. The Westerbeke engine I have makes it really easy to drain the oil and the oil is not all that time consuming after you heat the engine so the oil comes out smoother and easier. The engine is located right under the companionway (the stairs/ ladder that goes below) so you have to remove them to get to the engine. Today I had neglected to move our jackets (they are hung on a fire extinguishers near the companionway), before started the process. So as the oil is draining into a pan right below them I decided it would be a good time to do this before they drop into the oil pan.

Well I successfully moved all but one without dropping them into the oil, unfortunately the one I did drop happened to be my favorite zip down fleece jacket that I wear almost everyday. This was a major problem as I discovered that fleece absorbs oil VERY well. Before I could get it out the jacket seemed to absorb an amazing amount of oil. So I figured I’d soak it in a bucket full of water and laundry detergent. I really appreciate how hard it is to clean up an oil spill now as the when I remove the jacket it seemed to have coated the sides of the bucket with oil, but got very little out of the jackets. So I started to wring the jacket out with detergent, water and my hand. It seemed to be working but every time I would open my hand after wringing it would be coated with oil, not very pleasant either. So I decided after doing this for a half hour I would wash the jacket, so before I showered I put the jacket in the washing machine with a lot of detergent and hoped for the best.

By now it was time to meet everybody for dinner, so I caught the van to downtown and we had yet another excellent dinner, this time at Magnolia’s, followed by dessert at Kasizinkies, which if you ever go there has cakes so high you can’t believe it. After this excellent meal we headed back to the boat where I went to check on the jacket. As soon as I opened the machine I know I was in trouble for the inside of the machine seemed to have a film of oil around it, and the jacket of course still coated your hand with oil when you touched the oily spot. So after I cleaned the machine I had to leave the jacket hoping that whoever found it could find some us for it, perhaps it could be used to clean oil out of there bilge. Upset at the death of my favorite jacket I headed of to bed thinking of our journey to Beaufort, SC where we would might some friends in a couple of days.

To Thanksgiving alone or not to Thanksgiving alone, Sunday, November 23, 2003
Dancing on the South Edisto River
Dancing on the South Edisto River
Sunset on South Edisto River
Sunset on South Edisto River
Jen at anchor, South Edisto River
Jen at anchor, South Edisto River
As we headed out of Charleston the big question was where we would spend Thanksgiving. We had a good friend who was going to spend it with has family on Amelia Island and he had invited another friend of ours to join him. Before we left he mentioned we should try to make it as well. But now we were still 250 miles away and it seemed that there was no way to fit in both Thanksgiving in Amelia Island and meeting friends in Beaufort. We decided we would just have to have Thanksgiving by ourselves and hope to make Amelia Island on Friday or Saturday. So we headed out on Sunday with plans to meet some family friends in Beaufort, SC on Monday night.

Not far out from Charleston we entered Fenwick Cut, this is a place that the books say has a really strong current. Well the books for once weren’t exaggerating and we entered the Cut with the current hard against us. Our speed went from may 6 knots to under 1 knot immediately and it took a lot of work just to hold the boat straight so the current didn’t turn you right around and shoot you back out the cut. Slowly we made progress, but the Cut which was only about 100 yards long and 20 yards wide was tough to navigate. I went from one shore to the other looking for a place that had slightly less current, finally to avoid being swept onto the shoreline I just kept to one side and made the slowest 100 yards I have ever experienced in a motorized craft of any sort. We did finally make it threw but not before a boat coming the other way had a good laugh as it shot by us. Once the current lessened it’s grip we made much better progress and soon it was getting late so we headed toward the next anchorage. We anchored in the South Edisto River just 20 miles from Beaufort, from there we had a nice dinner and headed of to bed.

Grounding just isn’t Wright, Sunday, November 23, 2003
Hilton Head Lighthouse
Hilton Head Lighthouse
Skyline of Beaufort (Bu-Fort), SC
Skyline of Beaufort (Bu-Fort), SC
Blue Angel’s practicing south of Beaufort, SC
Blue Angel’s practicing south of Beaufort, SC
Blue Angel’s practicing south of Beaufort, SC
The next morning we found the tide with us and before we knew it we were watching the famous Blue Angles, the Navy air show flying team, buzz us overhead as they practiced just north of Beaufort. It was still early in morning and we still harbored thoughts of being able to see our friends in Beaufort and get to Amelia Island so I called them hoping they could inform me of a place where I could anchor farther along so we could put some more miles under our belt before seeing them. Hearing our predicament they told us we should just keep going so to make Thanksgiving in Amelia and stop by to see them on the way back. Knowing neither Jen and I really wanted to spend Thanksgiving in some deserted river in Georgia by ourselves we decided that we would take there advice and head on. They had to settle for watching us go underneath the bridge in downtown Beaufort as we quickly headed out of town.

With the tide taking us along we put Beaufort behind us quickly and soon we sailed out across the Port Royal Sound leading out into the Atlantic and into the protection ICW behind Hilton Head. We thought we might have to anchor near Hilton Head, but wind and tide was taking us farther. Soon we were going through the Ramshorn Creek near the Wright River only 10 miles from the Savannah River and the Georgia border. I get a little careless and went to a new chart in the chart book a bit early as we were leaving Ramshorn Creek. Soon near marker #39 it happened. The bow dipped hard toward the water as the boat slowed to a stop and settled. I had driven the boat hard into a mud bank. 5 and a half knots seems slow, but when you go 5 and a half knots head long into a mud bank you realize it’s really not that slow. As I let the shock wear off I realized that the soft mud really didn’t have that good a hold on us and soon I was turning the boat around and powering out into deeper water again. Afterward I looked again at the chart I had turned to early and noticed the very shoal I had meet up with clearly marked on the previous page. It just goes to show you shouldn’t get ahead of yourself. After then shock of the grounding we were glad to be anchored in the Wright River with four other boats just a few miles from the Savannah River and the Georgia State line. We had gone over 100 miles in two days, with 150 to go to Amelia Island and two and a half days to do it, it was looking like we just might make it, even though we my be a little late for dinner.

Slow and steady wins the race, Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Barge on a skinny Georgia River
Sirius at anchor in Wahoo
That night after dinner a strong north wind started to blow, and the river we were anchored on was setting us with our into the wind. This combined with the chop the wind was creating made for an uncomfortable night. Because of this I had no problem getting up and watching another sunrise, the problem was keeping from wanting to start the engine and get underway before daybreak. By 6:45 enough light had graced the sky to pull up anchor and as we neared the Savannah River the sun rose from the east.

We were now in Georgia, the tenth state since our journey begin and fourth state since entering the ICW in Virginia. If we were to make to Amelia Island for Thanksgiving, it would also be the state we would spend the least time in on the way down. As we passed Thunderbolt, GA (a popular pot to stop and go into Savannah) we passed many of the boats we had not seen since Norfolk and Elizabeth City, it seems that our slow and steady pace had gotten us back in line with the other boats we started with and we might not be the last boat to the Bahamas after all. We heard a lot of grumbling about the ICW threw Georgia because it winds it’s way down so many creeks and rivers, we even purchased a chart of the Georgia coast hoping to sail outside and skip much of the ICW in the state. Once we started we were pleased to find that even though you go a long way to make a short distance in Georgia it is certainly a very pretty journey. This combined with the fact that we started to get some wind made it a fast day going through river and sound toward an anchorage as yet determined. We basically just keep going, getting to one anchorage and then gauging our time to the next. After passing through St. Catherine’s Sound we entered the Johnson Creek with hopes of making it to Sapelo Sound and anchor in the Wahoo River. It was another 10 miles which with our boat averaging between 5 and 6 knots could take up to two hours to reach. So it was about 2:40 in the afternoon and the sun didn’t set until after 5, about 5:20, so we figured we should make it there no problem.

We continued on and before we new it we had entered the Sapelo and were heading for the Wahoo River. Being that there was no other anchorages for many miles south we figured to have plenty of company in the river, but we could see far before reaching the anchorage (you just look over miles and miles of high marsh grass) that we would have the whole place to ourselves. After being paraded into the river by some dolphins we put the hook down we settled in for another sunset when over the marsh grass in Johnson Creek we could see a mast weaving it’s way down toward the sound. It looked as though we would have some company after all.

From the river we could see the boats (there was a power boat as well) leave Johnson Creek and head across the South Newport River toward the Wahoo. The power boat headed right toward the river, which is a mistake because there is a big shoal between Johnson Creek and the Wahoo River and Jen watched as the powerboat plowed right into it. Shaken, but not deterred he backed off of it and headed around, this time giving it a wide berth. Soon the sailboat we had seen wandering through the marsh grass made it’s way into the river. We noticed the boat looked formilar and soon they had pulled up beside us. It was Sirius, one of the nine original boats that went through the lock together our first day on the ICW. They invited us over for a drink and soon after they anchored we rowed over to have a reunion of sorts. It’s a funny thing when you might somebody on a trip like this, you don’t say goodbye, because you expect to see them again. You never know when, but usual it is just like this, sitting in a river in Georgia miles from anywhere. We went over and caught up on all the information on the other boats we had passed earlier in Thunderbolt. It seemed that two others who were in Thunderbolt when we passed were anchored about five back on the ICW. After a very pleasant cocktail hour or hours depending on how you look at it we headed back to our boat. The tide was now flooding the river and before I had even really put the oars to the water we were grasping to get hold of the boat before the tide swept us past it, the 7 to 8 foot tide in Georgia really creates a current.

After our cocktail hour we didn’t really need dinner but we cooked the salmon anyway knowing we would us it tomorrow. Then we headed of to bed about the same time as always (8 o’clock) because it was going to be a long day tomorrow as we still had 87 miles to go if we wanted to make Amelia Island and dinner was starting at 4.

How far can you go?, Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Brunswick BridgeWednesday started much the same as the day before minus the bad weather during the night. I was up early, hoping to make it out before 6:30, but since we were in a river with no markers I had to at least wait until we had someTanker leaving Brunswick, GA light. Again 6:45 was the departure time and before we new it we had the jib up and were sailing down the Sapelo Sound. This day would take us through much of what was left of Georgia and not until the very end of the day would we start seeing any signs of civilization. It had been this way since leaving Thunderbolt near Savannah and now we would still have to travel almost to Brunswick before getting to major settles again. It is a quiet desolate put of the ICW, one manly inhabited by smallTanker leaving Brunswick, GA fishing skiffs and when you get to the bigger sounds, big shrimpers. As we chugged along we got the feeling it may never end, as beautiful as it was we wanted to see some signs of progress here there was none. This stretch of the ICW is also full of ranges, which are navigational aids on shore that give you two things to line up, once lined up you are in a channel and will remain so as long as they are lined up. There are so many along here you lose tracTanker leaving Brunswick, GAk, and many aren’t really necessary, but you use them anyway just to keep paying attention.

We entered river and river until we got in the Mackay River that headed down to Lanier Island and St. Simons Sound which lead up to Brunswick. In the Mackay we passed a small skiff shrimping directly in a channel for a range that was important (meaning if we left it we would run aground), he slowly moving and we passed quite annoyed but none the less not on the bottom. Soon the same skiff passed us headed down the river, then doubled back toward us. They were soon aside us holding a huge bag asking if we would like some shrimp. Never one to look a gift skiff in the bow we gladly took the shrimp with many thanks, then with just a have a happy Thanksgiving they were off heading back down the river. Not a half hour a go I wanted to run the down and now they just headed us more shrimp then we could eat in a week. It goes to show that those fisherman who always seem to be in our way our there for a reason, and every once in a while a wave and a little restraint can get you an awful lot of shrimp.

Jekyll IslandAnyway we now knew what we could bring over to our friend house for Thanksgiving, a bunch of shrimp cocktail before dinner. After this our mood was greatly improved and we sailed past Lanier Island and across the St Simons Sound before entering Jekyll Creek on our way past Jekyll Island.I sailed down the narrow, shallow Jekyll Creek with Jen below. She had no desire to be in the cockpit as I tried to keep the boat in the narrow channel with depths of under 10 feet the whole way down. I myself was very nervous about running aground, but I kept the sail up because we were making such good time I wanted to try and make Cumberland Island that night and anchor only 20 miles from Amelia. We thought we were going to have to anchor near Jekyll Island or stay at a marina they, but as the wind kept with us we rounded Jekyll Island at about 4 o’clock. We figured we had about an hour and 45 minutes of daylight left so we were pretty sure we could it another ten miles with the speed we were going and safely get to an anchorage right as it was getting dark.

Sunset Cumberland SoundSo we kept going, out toward Cumberland Island, because of shoals you have to go out into the cut and into the Atlantic Ocean before heading back in and down into the Cumberland River. We made it out and rounded the buoy in great time, but after that we had the tide against us and the wind wasn’t as good, so our speed dropped. The sun was quickly setting as we neared a few anchorages, one seemed unprotected, the second was in Floyd Creek which was actually an alternative ICW route and not really and anchorage, the third was the best option, but was the farthest away, Shellbine Creek. It was going to be dark by the time we reached Shellbine Creek, but since there were lighted marker along the way we decided we would go there as it was the best anchorage. At almost 6 as the very last bit of light left the sky we dipped anchorage in the creek with 5 other boats. We were only 20 miles from our destination after traveling 68 miles that day so it looked as if we were going to make it there for dinner. We were tried and ready for a nice relaxing Thanksgiving.

It just a little fog, Thursday, November 27, 2003
Boat leaving fogI again awoke before daybreak, this time to check the anchor around 2 in the morning. When I got up on deck I noticed something unfortunate, I couldn’t see Bird on postany of the boats around us. We were socked in a very dense fog bank and I could hardly see the stern from the bow. Depressed, I went back to bed hoping it would lift by daybreak so we could get to Thanksgiving dinner. Jen awoke around 7 and the fog had lifted, but there were still some spots of patchy fog. About 8 I started to pull up the anchor and just as I did I heaFake Sharkrd the lady on the boat next to me say something,

“Aren’t you worried about seeing the markers?” she said. “Which markers?” I replied. “All of them,” stated my wife and the lady in unison.

I looked up to see in a matter of 5 minutes the channel not 50 feet from whereDowntown Fernandina Beach I stood in clear skies had totally fogged in. I shrugged at her and headed toward where the channel used to be. This is when Jen put her foot down and so I dropped the hook again right at the mouth of the creek and waited. At about 8, a boat behind us pulled up anchor and headed out. It had cleared ever so slightly so I figured if he can do it so can I. I quickly pulled up the anchor and followed him out. It was about this time that I remembered the boats radar. Radar is a device I have seldom used, but the few times I had been in the fog and it seemed to work well, so I switched it on. In 60 seconds a monochrome blur formed on the screen. As I looked at the chart and then at the screen I could see the bends of the river, the boat in front of me and even some of the markers. I cursed at myself for not thinking of it sooner as I could have been enjoying myself running this river in the fog with the radar instead of sitting at anchored bored. Not 5 minutes after I turned on the radar we motored out of the fog bank and into a beautiful clear day.

Amelia Island Dock SpotWe continued down past Cumberland Island and soon were nearing Kings Bay, where the Navy keeps many of it’s nuclear submarines. I had never seen one of these impressive beasts and hoped to see one going in or heading out of the channel we were now in. As we followed the channel markers down toward Amelia Island I didn’t noticed any submarines while I peeled shrimp to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. Jen noticed that the markers that were listed on our chart seemed to differ from the ones we were passing. To go to Amelia Island we were suppose to turn off at green marker 31, but when we got there it was closer to Drum Point Island than Amelia Island. This was a bit vexing, but since we knew that we were still a long way from Amelia we continued on. We of course found out later that somebody had decided it would be a good idea to re-number the markers, but our information, which was suppose to be up to date, didn’t have the new markers on them. It didn’t matter as soon we spotted Fort Clinch on Amelia Islands north shore and turned south toward the Island.

Pelican’s Hanging outBefore we knew it we were tied up at the Fernadina Harbor Marina. Amelia Island is the only place in the US to have flown 8 different flags before setting on the Stars and Strips. We had made our destination, with more than four hours before Thanksgiving dinner. The first priority was to hit the showers. A shower was really needed as we hadn’t had one since Charleston and we were feeling a bit ripe. The hair wash in the sink the night before was not cutting it. After the showers, I tried to call Dewey on our cell phone. AT&T seemed to pick this place to not give us service , so we had to use a pay phone which cost us $2 in laundry money, a great annoyance. We were looking forward to seeing our friends so much that it was difficult to deal with just this little inconvenience. But when they finally arrived, all of this faded away. It is amazing how much you miss friends and family on trips like this. We were ready to do anything to get here on Thanksgiving day, but it was not about the dinner and all that comes with Thanksgiving. It was the fact that we were Setting up the frog band in shop, Amelia Islanddying to see good friends and catch up with what was going on in the world. Dinner at the Price abode was wonderful as expected. Their family embraced us as if we were part of the family. Soon after dinner we did what everybody seems to do (almost fall asleep), before a game of hearts got us going again. The next day we moved on to Spades. Dewey and I decided to Thanksgiving Crewteam up against the girls for this little game. We lost, which was to become a common theme over the next few days. Soon we were in an all out war of Spades that lasted most of the weekend. As it turned out, the girls wound up beating us 4 out of 5 games. We even got Dewey’s sister, Pam and husband, Anthony involved at one point. They beat Hepsen and Jen, but we beat them, so I guess by default we were the real winners. Jen and Hepsen will of course protest this statement.

Golf Anyone?, Friday, November 28, 2003
Golf on Amelia Island Because we were now in Florida we decided that golf should be played. So at about noon we headed off to the links. Now thankfully, golf is a game where 99% of the people who play it suck, because our foursome was by no means going to tear up the course. But we headed out just hoping to make it around 9 holes without the ranger kicking us off the course. After the first few holes and a bunch of people playing through the ranger did come by. Fortunately he only told us to make sure faster groups got to play through. Since we were very versed in this tactic already we had no problem complying. On the 9th hole it started to rain and soon we were happily inside after a round that could be called less than stellar.

Dewey and Hepsen on BumbreAfter a few more lazy days, touring Amelia Island, doing laundry and Dewey and I loosing many times in cards to Jen and Hepsen, we had to head on down the waterway. So Sunday night we thanked Dewey’s family for their hospitality and headed back to the boat. It was sad to again be leaving our friends behind, but we hoped to see them in the Bahamas in the winter.