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The Voyage of S/V Estelle
Cruising from Maritime Canada to Florida in our Bristol 41.1
The Georgia Low Country
Jim Lea
11/18/2007, Wahoo Creek, Ga.

The ICW in Georgia is noted for its sketchy spots, as the funding for maintenance is done on a state-by-state basis, and Georgia doesn't bother for some reason. That together with its large (7') tides means that it's necessary to do some planning to make it through. So yesterday, we didn't leave Thunderbolt until about 9 am. We left in company with Paul and Deb French, form Midland Ont. who we were tied up next to in Thunderbolt. Fortunately for us, high tide is around noon, so we have high water for a good part of the day. We set off down the Wilmington River, against the current, then across into the Skidaway, where we had it with us, and so it went all day. After about 2 hours, we passed the mouth of the Moon River, made famous by Johnny Mercer in his song. Down Ossabaw Sound and into Hell Gate, a short passage notorious for shoaling. But by following Skipper Bob's advice (a valuable guide for such info.) we made it through. Crossing St Catherine's Sound, we discussed heading offshore, as it is the last navigable opening until Brunswick, but we decided that with little wind offshore, and the beauty of the Georgia marshes, we would stay inside. The day continued from one river to the next through marsh and islands, mostly uninhabited. By day's end, we were in Wahoo creek with a veritable fleet of friends. With Seabird, Bees Knees, Wereplayn (Paul & Deb), Madcap (who we first saw in New York,)Strathspey and us, we met on Strathspey for a short round of drinks and nibbles, and a chorus of Moon River. On Madcap, from Ottawa, we met Jim Bissle and Beth Lusby. Jeannie remembered Jim from Mt Allison days, so they had a great gab. All in all, quite a fleet and a hectic social schedule! In a flat calm night anchored off Wahoo Island in the marshes, we had a beautiful evening. Today, we're headed for St Simons Island and the site of the Battle of Bloody Marsh!

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The Deep South
Jim Lea
11/16/2007, Savannah, Ga.

The photo is of a unique downspout on a Savannah home.
From Charleston, we headed down the ICW to Beaufort (pronounced Bew-fort, as opposed to Bow-fort in North Carolina). It was a bit longer than we expected, as we managed to time the tides so that we were fighting the current all day, adding about an hour and a half to our trip. And in these days of short daylight hours, it means getting to your destination early. So we were just setting the anchor in Factory Creek as the sun set. Next day, we decided to make a short day of it, so we took our newly-repaired dinghy for its first spin over to Beaufort. Beaufort S.C. is a beautiful old south town with huge old southern style homes overlooking the river, and streets that are lined with Live Oak draped with Spanish moss. Of course, we forgot the camera! In town, we met some friends who were anchored as well, and discussed plans. With cold weather in the offing, Seabird decided to stay in Beaufort at the marina where they could use their electric heater while Bruce fixed their diesel heater. But Strathspey decided to head out as we did, and we sailed down the Beaufort River and across Port Royal Sound and past Hilton Head Island with its impressive, and sometimes impressively tasteless homes. It is one of South Carolina's first islands to be developed, and it is now fully developed, some would say overly-so. We thought about anchoring close and taking our bikes ashore, but there is no public dock, so unless we stayed at a marina, we could not land. So we carried on to Bull Creek, where we dropped the anchor in seclusion just a few miles from Hilton Head. The forecast was for a windy night, but as far as we could tell, it was flat calm. However, in the morning, the wind did come up to its forecast 20-25 knots, so we raised the anchor and headed in for Savannah, about 20 miles away. This area of the ICW, although protected from high waves, has some "cuts", or man-made connections between rivers. And we are getting into an area where the tides (and currents) are more like PEI, with 7' tides not unusual. While the cuts are usually deep, the strong currents cause shoaling at the entrances and exits, so it can be tricky. But we were fortunate that high tide was in mid-morning, so we were able to transit them with plenty of water. At Savannah, the ICW crosses the Savannah River, which is the route that all shipping takes up to the busy port of Savannah. Although we crossed the river without incident, we were very surprised at how small the river was. It is really very impressive that not only can huge container ships traverse the river, but that they can actually meet and pas in this very narrow river. But we had no problem crossing, until we hit the first ICW marker. According to our electronic charts, we were well below the narrow dredged channel. So we hurriedly decided that we had to go by the marks, so carried on. Then we had a radio message from Strathspey, coming behind us, questioning if we had passed the marks on the correct side. After a few seconds of intense conversation, we were convinced we were right and carried on. And it turns out we were. Both our electronic charts were wrong, but in different ways at exactly the same spot! This reinforces our rule that what your eyes see trumps all. After that, our remaining trip to Thunderball Marina was uneventful. At Thunderball, we tied up at Thunderball Marina, where Palmer Johnson run a boatyard that accommodates yachts up to 300' on their lifts. We saw some huge yachts, both motor and sail, up on the hard for servicing. But they also attend to the likes of us, and deliver a daily paper and 6 "Krispy Kream" donuts to the boat each morning! Arriving at noon, we settled in and headed off on the bikes to the nearest grocery store, a "Piggly Wiggly"... I'm not kidding. That's the name of a major chain of grocery stores here. That having been done, we settled in and spent a quiet night in spite of the 40 knot northerlies howling around us. Next morning (Friday), we got up and met the people on "Were Playing", a Catalina 42' from Midland Ontario. After a short chat, we were offered a drive into Savannah, about 12 miles away (Savannah's waterfront offers no opportunities for small boats like us). In town, we spent the day walking around this historic city. The combination of its association with the cotton trade that created huge wealth to the few plantation owners and cotton traders, and the impact of the Civil War (known in the south, still today, as "The War of Northern Aggression") have created a really unique city. For lunch, we pursued our quest for Shrimp & Grits, this time with "Boiled Collards", kind of like boiled beet greens. SNOB, in Charleston is still the winner. The weather has been cold, another "Cold Front from Canada", but with the Espar, we are fine, but will continue to push south. Back aboard, we tucked in for a cool night, planning our trip to warmer waters ahead. Next stop, Cumberland Island, about 3 days away.

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The Quest for the perfect Shrimp & Grits
Jim Lea
11/10/2007, Patriot Point, Charleston, S.C.

After a quiet morning, we walked the 100 yards of boardwalk to a navy memorial with four ships, including the USS Yorktown, a WW II aircraft carrier. It is not the original Yorktown, that was sunk at the Battle of the Coral Sea (I think). This one was commissioned in 1944 and saw service in WW II and Korea. We spent 3 hours climbing all through is, from the Bridge, high above the flight deck, to the engine room, far below. The display included all sorts of planes that had been on the ship through its active life from WW II propeller driven Hellcat Dive Bombers to some sort of AWACS plane and a whole host of other types in between. It was a fascinating tour, and there was little we didn't see. From there, we toured a submarine. I expected to feel at least a bit claustrophobic, but even in the very cramped quarters, I didn't feel uncomfortable. But it would probably be different if we were under water! There were two other ships there, a WW II destroyer and a Coast Guard Cutter. We didn't have time to visit those, so maybe next year. Saturday morning we were fresh and ready to go early, having been asleep before 9 pm the night before (still a bit tired from our over-night sail), so we took our bikes on the water taxi across the harbor to Charleston. There we found a farmers market where we bought some fresh vegetables, and had lunch. For lunch we tried Shrimp & Grits, and Shrimp Gumbo. Both were excellent! In the afternoon, we toured the city and finally made a stop at a grocery store, buying only as much as we cold carry in our back packs. For our ride home, we biked across a new (2005) bridge across the Ashley River. With a clearance for ships of 175'. With a breeze blowing it was quite a bike ride across the 2 mile bridge. But with the excellent bike/walking path on it, it was an easy ride. Back aboard, we had a quiet evening. Sunday morning, we headed back into town and went to church at the First (Scots) Presbyterian Church. The form of service was just about identical to the Kirk at home, and the introit was one we sing as well (Rejoice unto the Lord Always by John Redford). Their organist was excellent, a recent Ph.D. graduate in organ from Boston College. She was very impressive. Back aboard, we did a few small projects for the afternoon, then back to town for dinner at SNOB (Slightly North of Broad St). We ate there last fall, and decided to return, and weren't disappointed. We split a salad that was probably the best we have ever tasted. Then I had roast Duck Breast, and Jeannie had Shrimp & Grits (again!). Both meals were excellent, and we will return there again when we visit Charleston again. Monday was a day of waiting, as we sent out dinghy off for repairs on Friday morning, and it was due to be returned around noon. Our only concern was that we could get away in time to catch the last opening of a bridge just below Charleston. It doesn't open in rush-hour (4-6:30 pm). So when the dinghy arrived just after lunch, we were away within minutes and in plenty of time to get through. Next stop, Savannah!

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A beautiful night offshore
Jim Lea
11/09/2007, Charleston Harbor Marina, Charleston S.C.

We left Bald Head Island at 9:00 am in a fresh northerly wind. With our course of 238 magnetic, we had a nice broad reach as Bald Head Island disappeared quickly. We had timed our departure to get us in to Charleston some time after dawn, making it an easier entrance. Last spring Jeannie & I arrived here just after dark, having under-estimated the effects of the Gulf Stream, and it is a complicated and busy harbor, so best entered in daylight. Leaving at 9:00 am, we expected to be at the harbor entrance about 7:00 am, using 5.5 knots as an estimated speed. But as we watched the log showing 6.5 to 7.5 knots, we began to think about an entry in the early hours. But the forecast was for the wind to lighten up, so we carried on. And by mid afternoon, we were down to our planned 5.5 knots, although still considerably ahead of schedule. But just after dark, the wind lightened again, and we were now down to 4.5 knots. To make a long story short, we did arrive at the entry just at dawn after an uneventful sail. With Seabird and Strathspey in company, it was a beautiful evening. Blair, with a palm pilot that had a star chart program, kept us informed on the planets as they rose. And an hourly check was a good way to break the monotony. As did my book. We saw a few boats come and go, but not until Charleston did we see any significant commercial traffic. But with my new AIS working, we were able to track the large container ships to assure ourselves that we were in no danger. All in all, a beautiful night on the water. We worked our regular shifts with Jeannie on watch to midnight, then I took over until 5 am. Then I slept again until 6:30 when we began our entry into Charleston. And now ashore, we are tied up and Jeannie is again in bed.
I'm waiting for the Avon repair guys. Our brand new dinghy has a tiny leak in a seam, and there is an authorized repair shop here, so they're supposed to come and pick it up this morning, repair it (under warranty) and have it back to us Monday afternoon. So we will spend more time in Charleston that we would normally, but if you have to be stuck somewhere, its a good place.
This picture of Estelle was taken by Mary Buchannan in Chestertown, Md.

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Waiting for weather... again
Jim Lea
11/08/2007, Bald Head Island

With the dental work behind us, we're all set to go, except for the weather, which is just too cold for us. So we decided to wait one more day for a better window and jump offshore to Charleston, an overnight run of about 120 nm.
We have been here for 5 nights, having arrived on Saturday, and haven't been bored. It is a beautiful island with an excellent and reasonably priced marina, so it has been interesting. Strathspey came in with us, and have been enjoying it with us. On Tuesday, we took the ferry over to Southport and rented a car to go back to New Bern and the final dental visit, which was completed in quick time, and a great job. So we were back by early evening. The photo is of us on the ferry leaving Bald Head Isalnd in the morning, taken by Mary Buchanan of Strathspey. Note the seas in the background. When we arrived back, Seabird had arrived here, so we got together for drinks and had a great time. They will do the same offshore hop, so there will be three of us. Usually we do these alone, not because we preferr it, but because that's the way it turns out, so this will be nice to have company.
Wednesday's weather was a bit better, but we decided to wait one more day, as the forecast is better. So today we will leave at 9:00 am to arrive in Charleston in early morning. We have had a great time niking around and doing odd jobs, but the temperature tells us its time to go, so off we go!

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If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes...
Jim Lea
11/02/2007, Harbor View Marina N.C.

I think I may have entered a position wrong on my last posting, so it something looks weird about our location, ignore it. We left Adams Creek on Wednesday morning and ran down as far as Mile Hammock Bay, where we anchored both ways last year. It is a dredged harbor off the ICW on Camp Lejeune, another Marine base. As we approached, we saw more GI Joe stuff, including a plane whose propellers can rotate from horizontal (like a normal plane) to vertical, turning it into a helicopter! Arriving in Mile Hammock Bay, we joined about 20 other boats anchored there, and by nightfall, there were closer to 30, but there was enough room so that everyone was able to anchor safely and with good spacing from each other. But having arrived, it was time to decide about the next two nights as storm force winds were forecast. Strathspey had traveled with us, so we chatted on the VHF about options, and decided to call a marina. After our fifth call, we found one that sounded well protected and had space, so we booked in. It was only about 25 miles, so we had a leisurely start to the day. But others were talking about anchorages further along, so by first light, there was quite a stream out of the anchorage. We found our anchorage and settled in for the night. The protection was excellent and we were glad as the winds picked up on schedule and peaked out at 40 knots. Not conducive to a sound nights sleep if anchored. ON Friday, I did a couple of projects, and in the afternoon we rented a car with Mary & Blair from Strathspey and drove down to Wrightsville Beach. With the wind still howling, the surf was amazing. We watched surfers who seemed to be being overwhelmed by the waves, but some got good rides. We stopped by the anchorage at Wrightsville Beach and one look told us we had made a wise choice. Many of the boats we were with in Mile Hammock Bay were anchored and the anchorage was not well protected, so there was lots of yawing and bouncing, and lots of people on deck watching their anchors! On our way back to the boat, we stopped at Motts Channel Seafood Market and found some excellent fish and shrimp. Back at the marina, I saw something amazing. The clearance for fixed bridges on the ICW is 65'. Someone told me that they had heard of a boat with an 80' mast coming down. At each bridge he heeled the boat over, lowering the mast and passing under. I didn't think it possible, but into the marina came a 65' Alden designed yawl with an 80' mast! Hanging from the mast were two water bags, each weighing one ton. At each bridge they swing them out and when the bags hit the water, they are at the proper angle! The owner said that so far, he had lost an antenna off the mast head, but no other damage! For dinner we had fresh Red Drum baked in fresh Parmesan as follows:
2 cups grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup mayo
3/4 cup chopped green onion
4 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp hot sauce (Marie Sharps, if you can find it)
Mix all ingredients together and put on fish. Bake at 425 for 12 minutes for a 3/4" thick piece of fish. And a nice cold white wine to go with it!

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11/04/2007 | Straitshooter
Hi Guys, Noel gave us quite a punch, with winds clocking from Northeast through South to Northwest with gusts that had to be Hurricane force at CYC. We got all boats out or off the marina to lessen the load. Watching the wave action we never thought the marina would still be intact when it was over. While there was some damage, it held together!! A better assesment will be available with a calm day. No other real damage to speak of. The worst winds were after daylight, so I have some good pictures of a rock 'n roll marina. Glad you rode out Noel's brush OK.
Off again!
Jim Lea
10/30/2007, Cedar Creek N.C.

Jeannie had stage 2 of her dental stuff done this morning, so we were off about noon and sailing back down the Neuse River. We planned to anchor just inside the ICW, a distance of about 20 miles, so were fortunate to have a nice sail of it. As we motored into the anchorage, already filled with about 10 boats, we saw both Strathspey from Ottawa, who we met in the Chesapeake, and Seabird, old friends from numerous stops. So we invited both boats over for drinks and had a great evening. At dusk, a number of boats blew conch horns, a Bahamian tradition, but Blair got out his bagpipes and went up on the foredeck to give a concert. He is an excellent piper and brought people on deck from the neighboring boats, and a strong round of applause at the end, and a few "Thank you Estelle"'s over the VHF, so I guess I got the credit! The party broke up shortly after when we were severely rocked by a passing sport-fisherman that spilled two bottles of wine, one full red down into the refrigerator... what a mess!!! The weather is again not very cooperative, and means that we will have to motor down the ICW for a few days. We had hoped to go offshore from Cape Lookout down to Wrightsville Beach, a distance of about 120 miles, in an overnight sail, but That's not going to happen. The forecast is for huge seas that would not be just uncomfortable, but dangerous. And the winds are going to stir things up Thursday night and Friday, with winds of 40+ knots (about 60 km/hr) so we will motor down tomorrow, and find a protected spot for Thursday night and Friday. Its not Tropical Storm Noel, but we are watching it too. So far not a problem. In fact this morning they were predicting that once it leaves the Bahamas, it will next make landfall on Nova Scotia on the week-end.

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11/03/2007 | Alison
Hello guys! I hope that you have a safe place to weather out Noel....we are bracing for the wind and rain which is expected to hit us through the night....Halloween was quiet on the street and Aidan & Luke got more candy than they know what to do with....
Take care

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