Supplemental - meeting the ActiveCaptain founders
When we arrived at the Beaufort marina, who should be there getting ready to depart but Jeff and Karen Siegel, the founders of ActiveCaptain. They have a gorgeous 53 foot DeFever and are traveling back to Maine for the season with their two dogs. We had a short chat and they offered for us to visit them up in Maine, which we fully intend to do.
For those not familiar, ActiveCaptain is what Jeff likes to call "social navigation." The site has NOAA charts that you can scale and pan easily, and then you can view the satellite imagery to see how it looks in real life, not to mention shoal areas, mooring fields, etc. Best of all, there is up-to-date descriptive info about important items such as bridges, locks, tricky spots, marinas, and cruiser-recommended anchorages. It is active in the sense that cruisers are continually adding their reviews and comments about everything, so the information is not stale.
We use ActiveCaptain and Claiborne Young's Cruiser's Net a lot to help make our passages easier and safer.
Sat 28 Apr 2012
Docked at Downtown Marina, Beaufort, SC
[photo: one of many historic homes here, plus a passing carriage tour.
It was a really great night for sleeping; the temperature and humidity were ideal and the weather was settled such that the captain had no concerns. Due to the strong currents we would face being so near to Port Royal Sound, I cajoled Diane into an early departure to time it for the least foul current. Surprisingly, we had more wind than forecast so early and had a little benefit for the last third of the passage.
When we got the downtown Beaufort waterfront, we saw the seawall at low tide and I decided for the marina. The wall had many nasty, sharp oysters and with a tidal range of 7 feet, there was no good way for us to get on/off the boat anywhere but high tide. We are on the most outside dock, which will be good to catch the breezes, for it is a very warm day today (over 87F for the high). Nevertheless, we got ourselves and bikes ready for a ride around town.
Even though we had seen the town about 8 years ago by car, it was great ride slowly around all the quiet, shaded streets of the historic district and take it all in again. After that we extended out to other parts of town to explore. We wound up near the marina having a cold glass of draft beer that tasted really good. Between leaving and returning to the dock, Duane ran into at least a half dozen chatty sailors and enjoyed some conversation. Diane let Duane take both bikes back the short distance to the boat while she window-shopped (true; she did not buy a thing) in the many stores downtown.
We both thought a little nap time sounded good, and then we showered for the evening. At 1700, Tom and Kaye from Shearwater came over to share a beverage and some snacks and good conversation. We now have another place we can visit off the Potomac River if we choose.
Dinner was at Panini's, right off the riverside park, and it was great. We did as we often do and just ordered a soup and some "small plates." We ordered 4 drinks, an incredible calamari dish, shrimp wrapped in bacon, yummy crab bisque, and a personal pizza and it was all wonderful. We took "home" about a third of it and the bill was under $50.
White there, a very large and boisterous group was giving the wait staff fits trying to sort things out. One of the ladies left the table and Diane commented something about wearing a sundress with Uggs boots. I had no idea what she was talking about (what man notices a woman's shoes?), but the lady at the table behind us must have made a similar observation, so Diane sidled over her to share the moment.
I must mention that many years ago I treated Diane to a terrific experience staying in a beautiful cottage at the Beaufort Inn, and a scrumptious dinner, plus some romantic mint juleps on the porch. I offered to have us stay at the Inn again, but Diane declined. I then offered to dine there tonight, but when we checked, they were closed for a private party. Regardless, we have waterside accommodations and our "porch" has a terrific view.
Diane is watching her first cable TV aboard the boat as I type this. I haven't checked the news since we left. Is the world still getting on as usual?
I was reflecting today that it has been a while since thoughts of the Punta Gorda home and my workplace have entered into my mind. I still miss the people we have temporarily left behind, but it is now a whole new world we live in right now.
Fri 27 Apr 2012
Anchored N end of Skull Creek, SC (Hilton Head)
[photo: At the northern tip of the island looking W]
It seems that I have not quite gotten used to how boats can move while at anchor in a strong current with an opposing wind. I thought for sure that we had dragged anchor during the early part of the evening and it caused me some anxiety for a while, but finally I realized all was well and we both had a very restful sleep.
It was so restful, that after going to bed at 2130, I was wide awake at 0430. I used that time to study the available resources for important trip info, such as tide heights for shallow stretches, strength and direction of currents, distances between likely stops, bridge opening restrictions, etc. I had decided early on not to try to pre-plan all this before we left, thinking it would be a simple task to take it a week at a time. It turns out that it takes me about 30-40 minutes per day of travel. That's not a bad thing, just an observation.
This morning, chef Duane made scrambled eggs and bacon on a small roll, along with some fresh fruit. We enjoy our cereal and fruit in the morning, but this was a special treat. Diane elected to defrost the refrigerator and then we got our stuff assembled for a long day ashore with the bicycles.
When I telephoned to ask permission to use their small-boat dock and offered to pay a reasonable fee, the new management at the Skull Creek Marina said until they get a policy in place, we were welcome to use it for free. They also got a bag of trash and some recyclable items in the bargain.
Bicycling around this section of Hilton Head was one of the most picturesque and delightful biking experiences we have ever had. They have mostly asphalt trails paralleling the main roads that wind through a dense population of mature oaks and other trees. The many trails were mostly shaded and had the fragrance of so many pine cones and occasionally jasmine and other very aromatic fauna.
We biked a little over 8 miles through just a portion of the Hilton Head Plantation (one of several very large gated communities) and enjoyed every minute of it. The bluff trail at the northern tip of the island was somewhat soft sand at times, but we made it through. The strange part was that if you leave through the gate, you need to either be a resident or have a pass to get back in. Since we are not technically guests of the marina, we did not have a pass, so we elected not to leave.
On the way back, we knew we had passed two nice looking restaurants, but neither of them serve lunch, just dinner. Back at Diva Di, I used the Internet to check them out and we would have been in for at least $50 for a simple lunch for two, so maybe it was a good thing. Diane is reading her book on the deck in her swimsuit under gorgeous blue skies and a light breeze.
Reflecting further on the island, since neither of us had ever visited here, we were completely unprepared for the natural beauty we saw. Keeping in mind we only experienced one section, everything we saw was clean, neat, and well-maintained. While some of the homes we passed were in the VERY nice category, most were relatively modest homes that were, again, just really attractive in the woodsy setting.
For those readers who may not be cruisers, I should explain that depending upon the size of your refrigerator and freezer compartments, and how well they truly maintain the appropriate temperature, you are wise to limit how many perishables you have aboard at any one time. Similarly, some vegetables keep well enough when whole, but spoil more rapidly once cut. Unless you have a fussy eater aboard, you often wind up having the same foods several times in succession, although in different guise at the chef's discretion. Fortunately, Diane does a wonderful job at provisioning for us; we rarely have any waste and we eat well.
It is now almost 1900, dinner is done and we are ready for some time in the cockpit with well over an hour of sunlight left. Tomorrow is Beaufort, SC (Byew-fort, not Bo-fort) and perhaps two days there. Hope all our blog followers are doing well and enjoying the cruise with us. Despite a few setbacks here and there, we are having a wonderful time.
Thanks for all the support and compliments. I am grateful it is working.
As for Matthew, that is a very good suggestion but it is a complcation I will probably not add. I hope I don't regret that decision. Surely, if I were designing this as a production system, your idea of a fail-safe would be excellent.
Thu 26 Apr 2012
Anchored N end of Skull Creek, SC (Hilton Head)
[photo: shrimp boat in GA]
It was an incredibly restful night after the long day we had yesterday. Diane was eager to get out of Georgia, but not exactly happy to be leaving before 0800. We got underway and had the wind from the SW at 10-15+ all day, so we would go from close-hauled to deep broad reach over and over again, with too many jibes to count. Diane was a trooper and helped with the sail trim quite a lot since our boat is not set-up well for single handing and I couldn't just leave the helm with all the narrow channels.
We were both incredibly busy for much of the day's run; we did 76 statute miles in just under 10 hours, which equates to 6.6 kts average. We again benefited from the wind almost the entire way and had the current with us much more than against us. Our highest speed was 8.5 kts, which sailors will appreciate as a great speed.
Are we happy doing 50-60 miles a day? It was not our plan, but sometimes you realize that there is nothing you want to see in an area and are better off just getting somewhere else. With the last two days of long runs, we have made up our lost time at Jekyll Island.
There were some interesting parts to the day's journey, but most of it was boring. The fact that you are winding back and forth so much is the frustrating part for us, and we understand why so many go "outside" into the ocean and bypass this section. It is no offense to the Georgian people; it is just a long stretch and too many pesky flies!
We are anchored just of the Skull Creek Marina at the northern end of Hilton Head Island. We will be here two nights, with a full day on the island tomorrow. Tonight we enjoyed another delicious, healthy meal aboard and will rest up for tomorrow.
I should report that the bypass cooling system has worked well. I did note that once we had to furl the sail and use the engine harder to fight the current for the last 20 minutes, the engine temperature rose from its 165F nominal to almost 175F. That is perfectly acceptable, but it shows that the cooling is marginal and I need to bear that in mind.
Wed 25 Apr 2012
Anchored in Cattle Pen Creek, GA
Wow, what a day it was! With the courtesy car taken, one of the staff, Randy, offered me a lift to meet Diane at Edie's house where she had just filled the tank and put the car back into the garage. As Diane straightened up after 4 days in one place, I filled the water tanks and washed much of the salt off the boat that had accumulated from the high winds and waves.
We radioed the marina that we were moving to the pump-out station and started the engine (with its new bypass cooling system]. It all seemed to run as expected. I was disappointed that after paying for 4 nights at the marina, they still charged me $5 for the pump-out, but that is their rule. Other than the staff being very friendly and the location on Jekyll island being nice, I am not overly impressed with their facility.
Anyway, we got underway at 1000 and found the winds were still more NNW than SW, as forecast, so that didn't help. I also made a navigation error that cost us some time. The chief reason it happened was because I failed to bring the large paper charts with me into the cockpit. If I had consulted them, I would have seen the particular route that the waterway takes in St. Simons Sound. Lacking that, I was relying on my new Chartplotter and it doesn't show the ICW as a magenta line as is normal. It is just a black line, and there was another route indicated that I mistakenly followed. Navigation aids along the ICW all have little yellow triangles or squares, but these aids were so far from the center of the channel that I couldn't really see them. After a short while of realizing that I was not sure of my position, I check the LAT LON and asked Diane for the paper chart, where I quickly realized we need to backtrack a bit. Needless to say, I was not pleased with myself for that error.
After that, Duane thought the day was fantastic. Despite the fact that the waterway winds around a lot in this area (42 statute miles "as the crow flies" and almost 61 miles traveling the winding route through the waterway), The wind direction and strength was such that I could add anywhere from about 0.5 to 1.5 kts to motoring our speed. I had to trim the sails (Diane helped a lot, too) sometimes as often as every minute, and jibed the headsail at least 20 times, but I considered that good exercise and lots of fun.
The other thing that was amazing was that we had a strong current running with us most of the way, and the few times it was against us it was quite weak. That was all in the timing of when we got to certain areas relative to the rising and falling tides, but it would be hard to duplicate that.
We ran for 10 hours and set the anchor at 2000, just before a pretty sunset. There were no bugs, the breeze was now going light, and the anchorage we shared with three other boats was very peaceful. We stayed in the cockpit with a beverage for over an hour and then went below to sleep, thankful we had made a good run with no problems.