12/14/2010, Vero Beach Municipal Marina, Vero Beach, Florida
We left the anchorage near Daytona Beach the following morning, getting glimpses of the Kennedy Space Center in the distance as we approached our next anchorage near Titusville. We departed the next morning, traveling 46 miles, to an anchorage with two other boats behind one of the spoil islands near ICW mile 925. The following day, with no rain in the forecast, we watched as a very dark sky approached from behind us; about a half hour of light rain sprinkled on us ~ we were spared the worst as most of it was east and west of us; fortunately we had gotten prepared as we saw the sky looking dim, and again we were fortunate in that it passed by shortly before our arrival in the early afternoon on Sunday, December 5th at Vero Beach Municipal Marina.
Vero Beach is a place that is notorious for boaters getting "stuck" at. (I do not think the velcro effect has taken hold of us.) We were assigned mooring ball #14; when we motored through the mooring field, seeing numbers clearly on balls, except #14, we radioed to the office again and were directed to the ball with the employee shouting instructions from the dock since it was so close to the docks; the boat to raft up to on the ball already was s/v Searcher. Fortunately (again), Steve and his dog Danny were just returning to s/v Searcher via dinghy as we were arriving; so, we called out to Steve from Grace and said we were going to be neighbors. He was delighted in our slow approach to his boat, and extremely helpful in getting Grace secured, during our first time rafting to another boat on a mooring ball. Later when we went ashore to check in at the office, we mentioned that the reason we could not find ball #14 was because the ball they directed us to has #1 on it; the employee said "yeah, I know"....duhhhhhh...wouldn't that be helpful to explain when the assignment is given???? That day is the only day so far that has been warm enough that we actually went to the beach, walked along the boardwalk, and got an ice cream. The pump out service here has been out of operation since before we arrived...hmffffff!
Kevin had a list of things he wanted to get done while we were here; so, within a day or so of arriving the tasks began to be accomplished. First was making adjustments to the pulleys for the new alternator we installed this fall. Next was purchasing a second solar panel (pictured above); we rented a car and spent some time in the Tampa area, which is where we purchased the panel; it was installed yesterday and we immediately began to see a boost in the battery charging. Today he completed the installation and did some routine engine maintenance while I got the laundry washed in anticipation of a departure soon.
Another first for the voyage happened here. One night while returning to Grace by dinghy, I pointed out something floating in the water that appeared to both of us as the same shape as a human head. It was a coconut floating in the water.
From the same place we bought the panel, we also purchased some sample LED replacement bulbs to try in our various types of light fixtures, then promptly placed an order for all the remaining fixtures once we knew they worked fine. That order should be here tomorrow. So, once those arrive and the water and groceries are re-supplied, we plan to be on our way further south. Stay tuned.
12/02/2010, Memorial Bridge Anchorage, Daytona Beach, Florida
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens was a great stop, and one that we did not see in the cruising guides. Arriving at their dinghy dock meant we did not have to pay for admission ~ yes, we asked once inside the grounds ~ gotta love the freebies! Plus, it was a really nice zoo ~ well laid out, interesting animals, friendly employees, nice gardens ~ the Asian Garden area in particular was spectacular!
I added a photo to the previous blog post from our second visit to Cumberland Island, during which we saw several horses, with no fences between us and the horses!
One of the sailblogs I had followed when they did this snowbird trip a couple years ago, about the same time we purchased Grace, was traveling south again this fall leaving from Maine a few weeks after we departed Lake Champlain. I kept tabs on their blog periodically and tried to estimate how close their stops were to our stops as each occurred. I had planned that if I saw them on their trip south this year that I would bring them a bottle of wine as a thank you for their helpful posts on their previous trip. The day we pulled in to Cumberland Island for the second time I was going to check their blog that night to see where they were; however, since we had spent some time up the St Johns River I thought for sure they would have passed further south of us by the time we were back on the ICW. You can imagine my delight as we pulled into the anchorage at Cumberland Island, I saw s/v Civil Twilight and we anchored near them. That evening we did not launch our dinghy as we were not planning to go ashore until the next morning. They were gone from the anchorage first thing the next morning. However, we got a chance to bestow our gift of thanks as we were once again anchored nearby each other at St Marys. They kindly invited us over to share a glass of wine and company. Plus, we saw them periodically during our several day stay at St Marys for Thanksgiving. Thanks, Alan and Gerry, for your hospitality; we hope to see you again!
The day we were traveling from Cumberland to St Marys, we received an email from Chris and Sheila on s/v Neverbored, with an invitation to anchor near them at St Marys. After our arrival in the anchorage, they dinghied over to greet us and bring us up to speed on the happenings for the week. We got a chance to spend time with them nearly every day at the various gatherings for cruisers. Chris and Sheila: it was great to see you, and we hope to connect again soon ~ thank you so much for including us in your table at Thanksgiving dinner!
At Cumberland we met Rob and Sue on s/v Mandate, and have had the opportunity to spend time with them on many occasions since then. Rob was one of the facilitators at the seminars we attended at St Marys. They are from Albany, New York area and have been members of the Castleton Boat Club in Castleton on Hudson, New York. Thanks, Rob and Susan, for sharing your experiences and knowledge!
At St Marys we met the crews of two other Lake Champlain sailboats ~ Charlie, Meg, and their daughter Mary, on s/v White Seal; and Bob and Carol of s/v Time Enough. Plus, we met the crew of s/v Windemere, who bought their boat at Tidewater Marina in Havre de Grace, Maryland, which is where we had Grace for a month last fall.
We left St Marys, Georgia the day after Thanksgiving, and picked up a mooring ball that afternoon at Fernandina Harbor Marina in Fernandina Beach, Florida. We spent the afternoon enjoying traditional stews at the local Irish Pub, purchasing goods from the newly opened general store and a local bakery, and touring the maritime museum.
After pulling in for services at the marina the next morning, we only travelled a few hours to a nearby anchorage at the mouth of Alligator Creek at ICW mile 726, where we got to see a pod of dolphin swimming around in the anchorage while Kevin was preparing to go up the mast using, for the first time, the Topclimber we have had onboard for over a year. The above photo was taken while he was aloft replacing the spreader light bulb.
The next day we arrived at St Augustine, Florida, picking up a mooring ball which we stayed at for the last four nights. As we passed the St Augustine Inlet the day we arrived, we experienced the best dolphin sightings to date as a pod came near Grace and jumped out of the water several times. The historic, picturesque downtown area, with its million white holiday lights that are on each night through January, and endless places for delicious grub/grog/live music, was our playground for touring the lighthouse and maritime museum, meeting up with the crews of s/v Mandate, s/v Sail Away, and s/v Kajon when we were listening to the tunes of a local musician and they spotted us and invited us to join them at their table. Kevin took the time to build a temporary windlass switch on the bow. When yesterday's foul weather brought us to the decision to stay there another night and get some laundry done, little did we know the blessings that would come from that decision. Yet another blog that I had been following, while we were shopping for Grace, was that of s/v Freedom; yesterday in the laundry room, we got to meet Jim and Deb of s/v Freedom ~ a totally surreal experience! Through the course of conversation we learned that we had a mutual acquaintance, Mike and Liz of s/v Wanderer, whom we met and spent time with during some stops as we travelled north last spring. Jim and Deb told us that Mike and Liz would be arriving in St Augustine at about 4:30 PM yesterday, and we all met for happy hour. Jim and Deb: how wonderful to meet you both after following your journey! Mike and Liz: how wonderful to see you again!
This morning we left St Augustine at the 7:30 bridge opening, travelled about 52 miles, which included several opening bridges ~ so, we got to hear many of the boat crews we had met hailing the bridge tenders on the radio. Shortly after our 3 PM arrival in the anchorage, s/v White Seal dropped the hook nearby and Meg dinghied over to invite us for dessert.
11/25/2010, St Marys, Georgia
We are at St Marys and have been for about 1 week. Here we have met up with many old and new friends. Some of you may have heard about the Cruisers Thanksgiving which happens here. Many of the local people provide turkey and ham, while us boaters bring all of the side dishes. We all sit down at a local hotel for the meal. It is a very welcoming town, even the sand gnats love us. Along with the holiday there is a get together most everyday to mingle. Its pretty cool that it happens, Deb may have more to say about it in a later post.
We left Jacksonville area and went back to Cumberland Island for a very nice walk around the place. We found the wild horses and the beautiful beaches. We stayed anchored there for 2 nights before we came to St Marys. We will leave here on Friday to head for St Augustine where we have a mooring ball reserved for a couple of nights, we may need 1 stop before we get there for fuel, etc.
The more people I talk to about the Bahamas, I really am getting the itch to go this year. I am very tempted despite the fact that I have more boat improvements I want before going offshore that far. Grace would be fine; however, I would like to have more fuel and water storage along with more power generation and our new sails. It really makes sense to wait until our next trip and just enjoy Florida this time. Who knows what way the wind may blow my choices.
11/17/2010, Trout River, Jacksonville, Florida
We decided after dropping off our friend Doug that we would travel as far up the St Johns River as we could. We are not able to travel the whole river as the bridges get lower than our mast hight. Doug helped us off the dock at Seafarers Marina, and we waved as he walked down the pier towards his trip home.
It was another beautiful day; we really have been blessed with weather since Charleston. There is a free city pier at Jacksonville Landing (pictured above), which was only about 6 miles up river. They actually have several spots you can tie up to; so, we planned on choosing the easiest one to get in and out of. We saw many dolphin on the way and achieved an easy docking with the help of a local gent named Roy. It really was saddening as we visited to see the large homeless population here. We stayed at the landing for 3 days, which is the posted limit. Most people we spoke to said it is not too strictly enforced. Although a free dock, we soon discovered that the closeness of several fine restaurants and free live entertainment meant we would be sharing our cruising kitty with the locals. That's ok though; we are doing this to have fun and see the coast not to just sit on the boat and mind our pennies.
While we were at the landing we did the following. Visited a tall ship called peacemaker; this vessel is owned by the 12 tribes, the very same group who have the back home again cafe in Rutland, Vermont. We went to a science museum which has a planetarium. We saw a number of scale models of ships at a maritime museum, and traveled on the city bus to see some of the town. We ate out a number of times of course, until my belly started to shout "UNCLE".
We left on a nice morning at slack tide, motored and sometimes motor sailed, arriving around 1:00 at Green Cove Springs. It is about 22 miles farther up river, or down river, depending on perspective. We stayed two nights, rented a car, and took care of many errands. The town dock is $10 per night and $10 for power. Thanks to Jim and Beth, fellow Chipman Point sailors on s/v Halcyon ~ we enjoyed dinner compliments of the restaurant gift card you gave us!
After returning the rental car, and casting off at 10:00 today, on our way back by Jacksonville we stopped at another city dock where a free pumpout is located, and continued a few miles further to tonight's anchorage, across from the Jacksonville Zoo, which we plan to visit tomorrow.
We may not ever come back up the St Johns, so we want to visit all we can before we leave. There is no hurry now that we have arrived in Florida. Our friends Ken and Francie, along with new friends John and Mindy are now poised for their bahamas crossover. We may not catch them before they go. Maybe if we decide to crossover we will see them there. We will most likely go back to Georgia when we leave here. We want to explore more of Cumberland Island and maybe visit St Marys.
11/11/2010, Jacksonville, Florida
Before 7:30 this morning we were underway. The wild horses on Cumberland Island were out in the open on the south side of the island as we passed by this morning. Many dolphins were spotted as we travelled about 30 miles today before arriving around 1 PM at Seafarers Marina. After taking care of boat chores we walked into town for half price early bird dinners at the local italian restaurant.
Tomorrow Grace's crew will be down to two again as Doug will head to the Jacksonville Airport. The marina folks have kindly offered to give Doug a ride to the airport.
The above photo was taken from the opposite side of the ruins yesterday.
11/10/2010, Cumberland Island, Georgia
After waiting for this morning's fog to lift, we weighed anchor shortly before 9:30, making it through the skinny water near Jekyll Island close to high tide. There were many dolphins sighted today as we travelled 37 miles in warm sunshine.
Today is Doug's birthday; so, around noon there was a call on VHF channel 16 to all stations inviting people to extend birthday wishes to him on channel 68; s/v Merridian and m/v Absolutely, as well as others offered their greetings.
By 3:30 PM we dropped the hook off Cumberland Island, and wasted no time launching the dinghy and going to shore to explore the Cumberland Island National Seashore. This is the type of place that must be experienced first-hand. Along our two hour plus hike before dark, which did not even cover much of the island, we got to walk around the ruins (pictured above), climb on sand dunes, and see many wildlife in their natural habitat ~ deer, armadillo, turkey, vultures. We saw signs of many other animals, including the wild horses, but did not get to actually see them this time.
11/09/2010, Frederica River, ICW Mile 673, Georgia
When we arrived at Isle of Hope Marina there was a strong current against us. Docking into it went well; the docks are angled slightly so the current at that time helped to snug Grace right to the dock and stop with barely a bump. I really was feeling like I have gotten pretty good at handling the boat in the currents. (On Lake Champlain we have no current, so I don't get much practice in the summer.) I did feel that leaving in the morning might be tricky. There was a huge catamaran in front of us, which I did not want the current to push us into. Around 8:45 AM yesterday, as we prepared to leave Doug and I were watching the current and it really did not seem too swift. It was not slack tide; but, I decided we could just walk Grace back up the dock and get room to pull out. Before this I was thinking I should back out. However, our reverse gear is not very powerful, so I chose forward gear for more power. Bad choice! The angled docks which helped us dock meant that I had to swing really wide to clear the cat. As soon as I started to turn the current pushed against the keel and swept us right into the cat. Deb was below and said the impact sounded really loud. Doug was on the bow and did what he could to fend us off. As our stern was swinging toward the dock I jumped off and with some help from other boaters we were all able to wrestle Grace back to the dock. It turns out this was the 2nd time the cat was hit for the same reason. Our collision just put one more smudge on top of that damage. Grace received some smudges and a bent swim ladder. I was really relieved as I expected major damage to both boats. The owners were not around for the other boat so I went to the marine office to report it. They were really cool about it, verified we had done no real damage, and helped us off the dock. I backed out this time; next time I listen to my gut instincts. Other than me feeling bad about it (and embarrassed) we were on our way to the next bridge opening.
In the afternoon, Deb coming up the companion way exclaimed that there was smoke coming from our transom. Quickly looking back and checking the temp gauge I shut down the engine and told Doug we needed to anchor. He coasted us out of the channel and I dropped anchor. As I was getting us stopped I thought over what could cause our engine to overheat. There are only a few things ~ coolant leaks, water pump failure, or cooling water not getting in to the system. Starting at the beginning of the loop I checked the raw water filter. That was it; silty muddy water clogged it tight ~ probably stirred up by the many high powered boats who go by. Deb donated her toothbrush, and after cleaning and reassembly I restarted the engine. Doug verified we had water coming out the exhaust (that is supposed to happen, not steam, which is what Deb saw). With the cooling working, the engine temps dropped within seconds, and our engine seems not to have suffered any damage. Keep your fingers crossed nothing pops up.
Soon after that we stopped for the night around 3 PM in Cattle Pen Creek at ICW Mile 625 and had some needed stress relief.
This morning after cleaning the windlass, which had also gotten clogged up with mud, we weighed anchor shortly after 8. As the day went on we peeled off extra layers of clothes, and on the warmest day in a while travelled 48 miles. Shortly after anchoring around 3:30 PM between Lanier Island and St Simon Island, we were invited to s/v Meridian for a visit; we have shared several stops with Paul and Gayna and their dog Pepper since Carolina Beach, but this was the first time we had a chance to visit on their boat and get better acquainted. Thanks, Paul and Gayna; we look forward to inviting you over for a visit on Grace at a future stop!
The above photo was taken the other night when Glen came over to Grace in his shrimpin' boat.
11/07/2010, Isle Of Hope Marina, ICW Mile 590, Georgia
The above photo is of Doug enjoying the sunset at the anchorage three nights ago. Although last night's was even more spectacular, and was the longest lasting sunset I have probably ever seen, the photo I took of it did not have Doug in it.
Yesterday shortly after 9 AM, we left our anchorage at South Edisto River, travelled 56 miles; got to see an eagle, a shark, and many dolphins. We even got to motor-sail for a while down the Beaufort River, hitting 9 knots of speed occasionally. We passed by Hilton Head Island, and anchored at about 5:15 PM in Bull Creek, amongst a nearby dolphin feeding and breeding hole. Just after pouring the wine, we got to watch a local fisherman, Glen Burkhart, pull in his catch. He came alongside Grace to say hello, and we had the pleasure of enjoying his company for the next several hours. Doug bought about 3+ pounds of the most delicious shrimp from Glen. Glen showed us how to cook and eat the shrimp, and shared with us his knowledge about the local area and wildlife, as well as tips for traveling the ICW from there to Florida. Thank you so much, Glen; you created a wonderful memory for us!
Today we weighed anchor around 8 AM, stopped for some services at Thunderbolt Marina, then continued a few more miles before stopping before 1 PM at Isle Of Hope Marina. We promptly got checked in and borrowed the courtesy car for some shopping at the local West Marine store and grocery store.
11/05/2010, South Edisto River, ICW mile 509, South Carolina
Since Price Creek Anchorage on Monday, we have only travelled about an hour and a half each day, until today. There have been frequent dolphin sightings, and today one additional alligator sighting.
Tuesday we moved to Dewees Creek, ICW mile 455, and were welcomed to the anchorage via VHF radio by trawler Ivanhoe whom we had seen on the waterway the previous day ~ a very nice gesture ~ thanks, Ivanhoe!
Wednesday, following pulling in for services at Isle of Palms Marina, we anchored in Inlet Creek, ICW mile 461.
Thursday morning, in fog and with showers and possible thunderstorms approaching, we passed by the restricted opening Ben Sawyer Bridge at it's second opening after 9:00 AM, into Charleston Harbor. The fog began to lift and the showers sprinkled off and on as we approached Charleston, arriving around 11 AM at Charleston City Marina. Fellow Chipman Point sailor, Doug, flew into Charleston to join us aboard Grace for a bit. The three of us spent the day yesterday touring around downtown ~ horse drawn carriage tour, microbrewery, watched Carnival Fantasy Cruise Ship depart, etc.
This morning we cast off the docklines around 8:45 AM, passed by the restricted opening Wappoo Creek Bridge at it's 9 AM opening along with a half dozen other southbound boats, travelled 40 miles, and dropped the hook around 3 PM on the South Edisto River.
The above photo is one that was taken several days ago, at the South Mills Lock on the Great Dismal Swamp Canal. While waiting for the lock/bridge opening, there were more boats than captured in the photo, all gathered together. In the photo are: Grace rafted with another Morgan sailboat, Corsaire, and catamarans Neverbored and Lilly Pad rafted together, and an un-named Bristol sailboat.
11/01/2010, Price Creek Anchorage, ICW mile 448, South Carolina
Above photo is another we took the other day as we were leaving the anchorage at Spring Creek off the Bay River in North Carolina, when there were suddenly dolphins all around jumping out of the water.
Today we left the anchorage at Georgetown, South Carolina shortly before 8 AM, and arrived around 3 PM at tonight's anchorage. This morning, our anchor rodes were twisted around each other a little, so I (Kevin) had to think for a minute about how to get them up. It was easy once I worked it out.
I (Kevin) have developed a stiff neck watching for alligators. Every log and ripple I see my imagination turns into a swimming monster. Around noon I finally exclaimed in disgust "I guess we need to get farther south to see gators". A few minutes later Deb looks up and says, "There's an alligator". It was swimming in the other direction near shore, too far away for pics; looked maybe 4-5 feet long. We also had several dolphin sightings.
The anchorage we picked for tonight has a strong tidal current; combined with todays wind, it was confusing getting the anchor down and set. We tried around 5 times until finally getting in a position that looked like we were far enough from the other two boats, and also not too close to shallow water. Once the tide slackened we got oriented to the wind and were able to back it down to set the anchor. I have decided that I need to stop being such an anchorage wussie; we have been bypassing to many good spots because I feel like I need the perfect spot.
Another first for our voyage: from tonight's anchorage, we took the dinghy to the beach on nearby Capers Island, which is on the Atlantic Ocean, and enjoyed a lovely sunset walk. We were in shorts and tees most of the day.
Still crazy about each other.