12/27/2012, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Days 21-29: Thursday- November 29, 2012-November 7, 2012 (The Work Days in Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
The bridges in Fort Lauderdale on the New River are closed from 7 to 9, so we waited until after 9 to leave the side tie before the 7th avenue Bridge. We had two bridges (7th avenue and the Davie Bridge) before we reached the Lauderdale Marine center and Just Catamarans. The wind and current were strong so it took luck and strength to arrive and get into a slip at the Center. We were met by Just Catamaran's Crew. We were starting the final days of work, engine overhaul with replacement of filters and other necessary parts, watermaker overhaul with new filters and necessary parts, and Just Catamarans. They were replacing the main halyard, sealing some areas that had minor leaks, replace the radar reflector, replace the piece of rub rail of on the port stern that had been torn, build the internal salon ceiling covering for the motor for the electric winch, rerouting the pump system on the Gen Set and several other small jobs. The key to success was to push all three contractors to work quickly at a reasonable fee. This would be a first for boat work, especially in Florida.
While the work was being done it was important to stay out of their way but to stay on top of everyone so that we would be out of Fort Lauderdale as quickly as possible. In addition to boat work, we were working on inventory, flood and supplies. That has to be the job that I hate most. Shopping has never been my thing but shopping, inventorying, and storing on a boat makes household shopping look better, especially when you have a lot of space and you have a house that won't be rocked by wakes from other houses.
By Thursday, November 6, 2012 the work was completed. It was time to finalize everything bill wise, fill the propane tank, and return the rental car. This was done early Friday Morning. Back to the Marine Center- Ready to go.
Day 29- Friday- December 7, 2012 (Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Miami (Hurricane Harbor), Florida)
The plan was after everything was final, we would move KiKeKo to the outside dock and follow the Jungle Queen down the River. Lyle, a friend of Seth and Judy, was the Captain of the QJ. Judy had recommended that we speak to him about our plan for hitting all of the bridges close behind him. Lyle was great and the trip on the River was by far the easiest that we have ever had. Totally uneventful since we were just a traveling buddy of the Jungle Queen.
Leaving the River, the next stop was fuel at Lauderdale Marina. We stopped for fuel and in so doing missed the opening of the 17th street bridge. We floated for half an hour and made the 12:30 opening. Next stop the Atlantic and Miami. The wind was non existent 3 to 8 knots. The seas were calm and the sun was bright. It was a beautiful day under power. We entered Government Cut around 3:30 and had the anchor down in Hurricane Harbor by 5:30, the beginning of a pleasant evening before hitting Hawk Channel in the morning. Key Biscayne was quiet and uneventful.
Day 30- Saturday December 8, 2012 (Miami, Hurricane Harbor to Rodriequez Key anchorage)
The anchor was up by 7:05 and we're traveling down the street of homes built in the waters of key Biscayne. We would be entering the Atlantic, going to Hawk Channel and heading to Marathon. The winds were ranging between 10 and 15 knots. We put up the Genoa and power sailed all day. It was good to get Tim and Jan used to the concept of sailing since, hopefully, we'll be doing a lot of Ocean sailing. The seas were calm. It was an uneventful day. KiKeKo sailed beautifully under the genoa. It was very smooth and much quieter.
The only issue was the port issue and the bilge pump. There seems to be a problem with the pump sticking. The real problem is moving inventory to get to that engine. I amready to throw things overboard at this point. Oh well, I'll calm down eventually.
We anchored at Rodriequez key a little after 3. We have been here before> It is one of those anchorages that is actually in the ocean just off the Channel. It would be difficult with heavy seas or winds but this was a calm day and night.
Day 31- Sunday December 9, 2012 (Rodriequez Key Achorage to Boot Key Harbor in Marathon)
The perfect day for sailing with both the main and the genoa. Winds were 12-16 knots out of the NE. We were moving gently and with speeds in the 6-8 knot range. It was so quiet for a change. The sun was bright and the temperature was very comfortable.
We pulled into Boot Key Harbor around 1:45 and took mooring ball J1. Michael and I took the Dinghey in and registered for one week. One week at Boot Key is $110. We didn't plan to stay a week but were keeping an eye on the weather window and had some errands, especially medical errands for Michael, to run. Boot Key has improved a lot. The two dinghy areas are much improved, as are the heads and the laundry room. J1 is on the main route to the office so it would be hard to lose KiKeKo if we're out and about after dark.
Mooring in Boot Key is one of the more pleasant places to moor and you are joined by many travelers. People spend time talking, sharing information, and being pleasant. We met the usual canine sailors.
Day 32-36 Sunday-Thursday- December 9, 2012-December 14, 2012 (Boot Key Harbor)
The plan was to spend a few days in Boot Key Harbor, visit BJ and Ed, have Tim and Jan check on Lamb Chop and visit with their Canadian friends, last minute provisioning, and handle medical issues. Michael needed a blood test for Dr. K and prescription renewals. We also needed to follow up on Hepatitius A and D boosters.
Believe it or not, Fisherman's Hospital is very fast. We arrived on Monday, a little after 9, expecting to spend the day. We were out of there by 10 with all tests completed. If course, we were the only one's signing in and needing blood tests but still we were shocked and pleased.
The next step was the health department of Monroe County. The lady at the desk said that we could not get shots until Friday, because the nurse was only available on Friday. However, she said that we didn't need Hepatitis boosters until March. We questioned her. She made some calls, showed us some documents and talked about out anticipated trip. Another issue handled.
The next step was CVS for prescriptions. This was the experience from hell. It was along walk from the hospital. When we arrived they had not heard from Dr. Mathew. I called Dr. Mathew and showed some annoyance. They would handle in in the next hour. We went to MacDonald's for lunch. When all else fails, try MacDonald's. After lunch we walked to the K Mart. That store does not improve. It is really bad but thankfully, we didn't need anything so we just wasted time. Back to CVS, all prescriptions were ready but were for 90 days. We began a battle with CVS, the pharmacist and moi about our insurance coverage. It was a bad day for me and I caved and paid for sixty days worth of medicine only $350. Michael was very annoyed that I caved so I said "OK, I'm back together", let's go back. We did so with my "lawyer" personality intact. Within ten minutes, we got our money back, the problem was it was in the form of a CVS card, paid $17.80 for two 90 day prescriptions and we were out of there. I really needed MacDonalds again but we were having dinner with BJ and Ed so I caved on that to.
It was a long walk back to the boat and I really needed a shower. BJ and Ed picked us up at 6 and we went to the Wreck for dinner. This was probably one of the most pleasant evenings that I had had in a long time. We talked about everything, enjoyed the dinner, and relaxed. We also made plans for Wednesday, since their Condo/Marina was having a Christmas Party.
Wednesday, Ed loaned us their car and we made the necessary trips to West Marine and Publix. Wednesday evening was our only 2012 Christmas Party in Marathon. It was a great affair with a lot of food and meeting many new people from various sections of the US who were now living in Marathon, at least part of the year. These people have a very different attitude from the people who live and work in the DC area. The main question for me is "where do I fit most comfortably" and at this point I don't know.
Thursday was laundry day, get ready to leave today, make those final calls from the USA. Past days in port were "lay days", however, such days in the Keys are frequently called "waiting for the weather window". I am not sure how true that really is since I have met people who are into a six month or more weather window, but it is, at least, a reason to relax in the Keys. One conclusion that I have made is that it is almost impossible to do anything but relax in the Keys.
Day 37- Friday December 14, 2012 (Boot Key Harbor to Key West)
There was discussion of the weather window based on the various inconsistent forecasts but when we looked out and checked our instruments, the window opened. First stop was Marathon Marina for fuel, both the boat tanks and the six yellow containers, fuel for the dinghy, and water (106 gallons at $.15 per gallon). It took forever to fill the water tank since I was using a filter. Our port tank gets water from the water maker, however, the starboard tank must be externally filled. We have been running the water tank for several hours every day since Fort Lauderdale to keep that tank close to full.
We left the marina around 10:30 and it was a perfect day for a run under sail. Key West is just over 38 miles from Marathon. We had both the main and genoa up and were on a very broad reach all day. Our speed under sail was between 6 and 7 knots. It was a very quiet and beautiful sail. I am reading one book a day without problems. I need a library with me. I may have to reconsider the Kindle/Nook approach.
By 4:30 we were off Key West and it was time to take the sails down and motor in. It was the beginning of the fantastic sunset on Key West as we turned the corner into the downtown area of Key West. We had called about a mooring ball and were told to pick up one and come into the City Marina in the morning to pay for it.
Key West has a very famous but somewhat frightening mooring system. Most mooring balls have a long line attached, the boat pulls up to the ball; someone, standing on the bow, snares the line; and attaches it to the boat. This is not easy when there is a current or you have a catamaran that needs a bridle but everyone is on the boat working together. In Key West since there is no line attached to the ball, someone must get in the dinghy, go to the ball and wait (ideally at a location where they will not be run over by the boat), while whoever is on the bow of the boat will throw the boat line and the dinghy dweller will attach it to the ball. This was exciting with Michael at the helm, Tim in the dinghy, and me on the bow. Success.
However, we immediately found out from a neighbor and his cat who were on a private ball behind KiKeKo that we were tied to a private ball. According to him, the owner of the haul had not been on it for over a year so he saw no reason why we couldn't stay. One concern was the close proximity between the two boats. His only concern was that if the boats got close, his cat would abandon his ship and jump to ours. He asked that we keep an eye out since his cat was his "primary interes" and he didn't want to lose him.
While eating dinner it became obvious that we were too close so the decision was to move. Before we could get organized there was loud pop. We had broken free of the ball. The very short connect on the ball had torn and we were free. It was too dark to find a ball so we moved away with the plan to anchor in Key West Harbor. Twenty minutes later we were anchored outside of the channel.
The only real issue was going into a marina in the morning to get some ice and to mail Christmas cards. There was talk of the weather window, but Chris our router reported that Saturday was a good day to leave key West and that we would be in Mexico, Isla Mujeres by Monday. The plan was to set out early the next morning.
Day 38-40 Saturday, Sunday and Monday -December 15, 16, and 17, 2012 (Key West, Florida to Isla Mujeres, Mexico)
Saturday morning we were up installing the jacklines and moving out of the anchorage by 8:30. After a quick stop at the marina, we headed east out of Key West. Michael has always complained about the lack of waypoints in blogs, so I am going to begin with the three waypoints on our route from Key West to Isla Mujeres. Just as a starting point we were sitting at 14,556 miles when we left and when we arrived we were at 15,020 (so we traveled approximately 460 miles). The waypoints were traveling W/SW to 24-15 N/85W: S/SW to 23N/84W; and N on the 21st parallel. What does all of that say?? We left Key West and sailed south of the Dry Tortugas, then turned farther south heading for the Northwest coast of Cuba; off the coast of Cape San Anotonio make the turn north to cross more with than against the Gulf Stream heading for Isla Murjeres.
Saturday was a great day for sailing. We were able to put up both sails just out of Key West and sail without engine assistance all day. It was a sunny, pleasant day with winds ranging between 13-16 knots and from the NE.
The Ocean (Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Yucatan Channel) at night is unbelievably black. The only thing that you could see was the bow of the boat with the bow lights seeming to be a very small red and green pin lights. There was no moon light for the two that we were heading to Mexico. We would see ships on the AIS, especially as we moved closer to Cuba. We could watch them and by checking information on the VHF system find their location, speed, and distance from KiKeKo. During the day we saw very few boats but at night they appeared.
The Ocean is also very loud. We were standing two hour watches (I had 1AM to 3AM). Everyone else slept in the cockpit but I went below. Loud , yes but much more comfortable.
The Ocean is so big that when you are on a 43' by 23' foot rectangle in the middle of, you get a real sense of smallness. It is a lonely feeling. It was an easy trip but not an enjoyable trip. Because of the sense of being alone even though I was on a boat with three others, it made me think a lot about who I was, who we were, and the rest of my life. The three day trip was boring but it also made it possible to think and reconsider what I wanted in my life. I was not sure that a long sailing trip was going to meet those needs. I'll give Mexico a shot.
We arrived Monday evening. It was too late, the sun was down, to go into the anchorage. There are reefs in this area that are not always clearly marked. We anchored out with a plan for going to the northern anchorage in the morning. Cancun was on our western side and Isla Mujeres on the east. The lights from the hotels were visible. There were only two boats anchored outside of the anchorage. It was a peaceful night. Leg one had been completed. The next step would be the registration and check in procedures for Mexico.
11/29/2012, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Day 10: Saturday November 17, 2012 (South Edisto River Anchorage to Skull Creek/Hilton Head)
The 17th began with a real sun rise and it had been awhile since we had witnessed one. The anchorage was great. We were alone, had plenty of swing room, and had found the perfect spot. We pulled anchor and were on our way by 7:50AM making it back to the ICW in ten minutes. It was such a beautiful morning on the River that we were both shocked when the port engine alarm began to shriek at 8:15. I immediately checked and it was still pumping water, but Michael immediately turned it off and I went below to gather all engine troubleshooting books. It would seem that we had a V Belt or alternator problem but we would have to make day 10 a one engine day.
Even with one engine we did well. We made good time and were able to survive the current in the canals and cuts on the Ashpoo and Coosaw Rivers. The interesting fact was that the tide was so high that some of the markers were barely visible, with the water touching the bottom of the red/green portion of the markers. KiKeKo really did well with one engine and the flooded rivers of South Carolina. The bridge tender held the Ladies Island Bridge for us and we came through at 12:15. Next stop Beaufort and the thoughts of tide and the Beaufort Highway Bridge since high tide at registered at 11:45.
The Beaufort Bridge did not have a vertical clearance board so I called the Port Royal Marina which sits at the foot of the Bridge. Tom said that with only three boards showing, that meant that it was at approximately 61'. Since we are 64'+ we had a wait. This situation of bridge waiting has made we think of the years that I crossed bridges and never wondered how high it was from the water and if there were boats that were limited in moving because of its' clearance. Since I have started living on a boat and traveling by water, it has become a serious issue that very few people are even aware of. Because if you've never waited for hours and changed your schedule because of tides, floods, full moon it really wouldn't seem to be a very important issue. Just a thought. Now Back to the day.
We were invited to tie up at Port Royal. Twice in three days have we been allowed to tie up at no cost while waiting for a bridge. Maybe these marinas are taking the "never turn a ship away in bad weather" maritime standard to heart or maybe they are hoping for great word of mouth advertising. Either way it has been very considerate. While at Port Royal, I opened the port engine and checked the belts and our V Belt had definitely given up and was the cause of port engine failure. The decision was made to clear the bridge and attempt to get to Hilton Head and replace the V Belt (I have taken a lot of criticism over the years about my overstocked inventory but having two such belts was appreciated, at the moment.)
We cleared the Beaufort Highway Bridge a little after 2 and proceeded to Hilton Head, arriving at Skull Creek Marina shortly after 4. The current is extremely heavy in this area. That North East wind is a real bear, (again, it has a different impact when you live on land then when fighting it for multiple days while on the water). We made it in even though Michael and I have really grown to understand and appreciate the advantage of having two engines when attempting to pivot a 43' boat.
Day 11: Sunday November 18, 2012 (Skull Creek/Hilton Head to Savannah)
Day 11 began at 1AM with creaking and moaning as KiKeKo was beginning slammed into the dock at Skull Creek. The North East wind was blowing steadily at 25 knots and gusting above that. Two of our fenders had popped out and KiKeKo was pinned against the dock. Luckily, it was not as cold as it has been, because Michael called me to help and PJs was my wardrobe of choice, no time to dress warmly. We had a plan and pushed against the wind to get KiKeKo away from the dock so that we could drop additional fenders and turn the vertical fenders to their horizontal position. Michael and I had very limited chances in pitting out strength (or lack thereof) against the 25+ knot winds but we fought it out, waited for breaks in the wind strength and really exerted every muscle so that by 2:20 we had all fenders horizontal, the orange ball fenders in place and two small fenders providing additional protection.
The wind was gusting so hard that birds were either in hiding for flying inches above the water, getting any altitude was impossible. No birds were on the old dock posts next to the Marina. Luckily, the morning dock master was older and experienced ( the young man who had docked us the night before had put us in the worst possible location) and knew how to pivot away from the dock. Michael turned on the port engine (*w/o the belt) just log enough to hit reverse and pivot the bow away from the dock. The current was very strong but KiKeKo has the beam and the engine power necessary to move against current. KiKeKo pulled out of Skull Creek at 7:45AM.
Next challenge the Hilton Head Bridge. We were three hours past low tide and that Bridge has always been a sketchy endeavor. In last years notes I found "5 boards allows a clearance". As we approached the Bridge, I grabbed my friendly binoculars and moved to the bow. I could not believe it when I counted six boards. We had a clear shot under the Hilton Head Bridge and by 8:45 had reached marker #32 and the entrance to the Cooper River.
We are getting close to Georgia. Georgia is the criss/cross state in that the ICW zigs and then zags through the state. Georgia is also the state that did not request dredging when the Corp of Engineers asked the states to file formal applications for dredging the ICW. Whenever possible we attempt to avoid the ICW and go outside to Fernandina Beach, Florida but that was impossible today. We were meeting Tim and Jan at Thunderbolt in Savannah and there were "Small Craft Warning" in the Atlantic with the winds gusting to 30kts and seas 6-11 feet.
We slowly moved through the cuts and reached the Savannah River a little after 10. The St. Louis E, a large freighter was going out the Savannah so we slowed and let her pass and then crossed to the Elbe Cut. KiKeKo hit the 11 opening of the Causton Bluff Bridge and cleared the fixed bridge just before Thunderbolt. We pulled in at 11:30.
We made arrangements to have a mechanic come on Monday morning to replace the V-Belt,
registered, got the necessary information about getting a notary, and settled in to wait. We had lunch
and spent the afternoon reading and relaxing. Tim and Jan showed up around 4 and we spent the
evening on the boat; having dinner, unloading their things from the rental car, reorganizing the port
side, and talking about the plans. The crew is now complete, so day 12 will be the real first day with
KiKeKo and her crew.
Day 12-Monday- November 19,2012 (Savannah to Walburg Creek, Georgia)
At 6:45 the Krispy Kreme Donuts and the morning Savannah newspaper arrived. By 8 the mechanic had
come, the V-Belt was replaced, and we were getting ready to go to Bank of America (the notary), the
UPS for shipment, and Enterprise for rental return. Tim and I left a few minutes before 9 and everything
went well. By 10:15 we were ready to leave. The current was pushing so we easily pulled away. About
thirty yards away from the dock Jan asked Michael if he had filled the water tank. Time to return to fill
the water tank. Thunderbolt is a very understanding Marina, the dockmaster assisted with the tie up
and handed us the hose to fill the tank.
Forty minutes later, we were off again. Michael was at the helm. One of the many stories that we had
read about Georgia was ahead. The Skidaway Bridge is an opening Bridge that was being replaced by a
new 65" bridge that sits in front of it. That bridge was built with Georgia standards and did not meet the
inspection criteria so was not opened. Therefore, we have a bridge "that may or may not meet the 65'
standards" sitting in front of a Skidaway Opening Bridge. That monster substandard bridge looked very
tall but who could know, the tender at Skidaway had no idea what the clearance was but we decided to
give it a try. Success with plenty of clearance space.
At 1PM, Jan took the helm for the first time. She and Tim were at the helm for an hour with no
problems, even though following the markers in Georgia is always interesting because there is
frequently a piece of land (sand bars) between the markers, the criss/crossing of Georgia.
I took the helm at 2 and started for St. Catherine's Sound. Because of the current we were traveling
At 9+kts. We were moving and it was getting warmer, lower 60s. The sun was attempting to come
out. We had made the decision to stop at the southern end of Walburg Creek since we knew that it
would be dark by 5 and finding markers along this part of the ICW in the dark is almost impossible.
Shortly after 4, we entered the Creek and did a thorough search for a good spot in approximately 12
feet of water, that would give us depth for a 6 foot tidal fall.
Day 13- Tuesday November 20,2012 (Walburg Creek, Georgia to the Mackay-Lanier Bridge-Brunswick)
Miracle or miracles, a real sunrise over Walburg Creek. We were up early and ready to go by 7 but the tide was low and it is a slow and deliberate trip out of the Creek with the shallow spots reading less than 4 feet. We need 3.8'. By 2:25AM we were back in the ICW and began the criss/cross of Georgia to get to Brunswick.
The sun was out, the temperature was above 60 heading for 70 and the winds were below 10kts. The current was with us and we moved through DoBoy Sound and into the Mud Flats. Everyone was spending a brief hour at the hem, there were a lot of boats, and it was a sunny/comfortable day for a change.
By 1 we had reached the Mackay-Lanier Bridge on the Mackay River. As we moved closer, it was obvious that you could see less than two boards. We called Grand Isle and inquired about the tides. High tide was scheduled for 2:20 and we had another " bridge wait " at hand.
Our issue of the day had been the generator. We turned it on before leaving Walburg Creek. We started with no problems, pumper water, but ten minutes into the cycle it stopped generating electricity. It was turned off and checked but the decision was made to wait until the evening to check the belts and working parts that we could examine. "Let's call the Golden Isle, get the Bridge height, anchor until we can pass, and work on the generator." We have a plan. The dockmaster at Golden has no idea what the height is at the Bridge, so we call Tow Boat US (no knowledge but we are at high tide). The clearance board is on the south side so let's wait for some of the boats we passed to catch us and navigate under the bridge. Thirty minutes later a sail boat with a 54' mast, "Music" appeared. The call from the south side was 63'.
The decision was to anchor and wait so we pulled into the Creek on the port side of the north side of the Bridge as you head south. It was a nice anchorage and we were alone. At 2 we sat down and drew up the plan. We wouldn't be able to get under the Bridge until after dark, Grand Isle would be closed as would Brunswick Marine, and it would be another night of groping around in the dark. Decision-anchor overnight, leave at low tide and first light in the morning and go outside for the trip to Florida.
After lunch, the generator calls and examination began. Tim and Michael alternating going into the port stern compartment. After several hours it was determined that we needed a capacitor. The remainder of the afternoon and evening was read, relax, have dinner, and talk. Not exciting but a pleasant way to spend a Tuesday in November.
Day 14- Wednesday- November 21, 2012 (Mackay-Lanier Bridge/Brunswick-Fernandina Beach, Florida)
KiKeko was ready to go early the next morning and we were out of the anchorage by 6:45. We were coming to low tide and passed under the Bridge ay five plus boards, more than 65'. As we cleared the Bridge we started to see the larger freighters entering St. Simon Sound. The decision had been made to go outside so KiKeKo headed out close to the port side of the channel.
As usual it was a bumpy ride but by 7:45 we were in the Atlantic heading southeast. Seas were 3-5' and the wind was 10kts out of the north as we turned, set the course at 188 degrees, set the auto pilot, and began Tim and Jan's first brief ocean voyage on the trip.
Now I understand why Ocean Sailing blogs are short and bland. Ocean travel can be very limited in excitement and adventure. The events summarized: my stomach didn't adjust well to the following sea even though it wasn't much of a sea, we left Georgia waters at 10:40, ran parallel to a large boat under sail for several hours, heard multiple Coast Guard warnings about white whales off Jacksonville, and turned into the Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island Channel shortly after 11AM.
It was a brief and quick journey and by noon we had filled with fuel and been moved to the southern end of the main dock. Sailing had been brief and uneventful, but work was successful. The electric winch is fully installed and the Sirius Weather System is full installed. The capacitor has been ordered for delivery at Fort Pierce and it was a warm, sunny day in Florida.
Since the plan is to head to St. Augustine on the outside tomorrow, Thanksgiving 2012, we went out for a Thanksgiving dinner that included a Southern Boil, Shrimp Pasta, Shrimp and Crab Louis Salad, and Shaved Prime Rib Sandwich (no turkey to be had in Fernandina Beach on the Thursday before Thanksgiving ). We promised to have a turkey breast once we reach Fort Lauderdale.
Day 15- Thursday- November 22, 2012 Thanksgiving Day (Fernandina beach, Florida to St Augustine, Florida)
Spending Thanksgiving Day on a boat without family, without turkey, without the afternoon NFL football games, and without the parades and hoop la of the neighborhoods while making an Atlantic trip from Fernandina to St. Augustine is a learning experience. The first order of this Thanksgiving Day was to check the water tanks and fill up the port tank. The second activity was to get off the pier with a strong wind trying to keep us there , it took three human thrusters to push us off. Thanksgiving would be a day to remember because it became one of the roughest days that we have spent in the Atlantic.
When we turned the corner to enter the Fernandina/St Mary's River Atlantic entrance the wind was only 14 kts but directly on our bow with 8 foot seas. We were slamming into the sea. It wasn't an experience similar to preparing a thirty pound turkey with fifteen pounds of dressing for twenty people but it certainly got your attention, kept you sharp, and caused a different type upset stomach. I am not sure how much effect chewing ginger gum, eating ginger candy and taking Bonine does but I survived a very bumpy early morning.
The day was exciting with winds between fifteen and twenty knots with higher gusts out of the northwest. The seas were also following as we moved south and were ten to fifteen feet high. The temperature was in the fifties but with seas and wind behind us we were wrapped in layers of clothing, covered with blankets, but still very cold. Under power we were moving and the trip was shorter than normal but it was not a fun way to spend the day.
The real issue was the turn into At. Augustine since, as we turned to head in, the seas and wind would be breaking on our starboard side. The boat movement would go from wallowing to crashing . We also had to hit the channel into St Augustine that is narrow and runs between breakers that we couldn't see because of the seas. Thank goodness for having two GPSs. The seas were breaking over the top of the bimini and we were like a cork bobbing with the markers. When we finally saw the breakers, we were very close and about to be hit by a wave. It was a frightening experience but KiKeKo is a strong vehicle and took it without problem.
As we passed marker #2 and moved toward the Bridge of Lion in St. Augustine, it was as if the wind and seas of the Atlantic were in a different story. It was great being inside and we started for Ponce De Leon Inlet. However, there was a 65' bridge that we had to clear and as we approached it was sitting at 62', "Bridge Wait". We made the call to the City Marina and found that we would not be able to clear that bridge until morning. The decision was made to take a mooring ball at the City Marina.
Tim and I went forward to pick up the mooring ball line for #61. First injuries of our trip for both of us-rope burned hands for Tim and a bruised breast bone for me. However, the injured were successful, we attached the line to the bridle and got it down. Time to fix Thanksgiving dinner.
I fixed chicken breast, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, and green beans; similar but no turkey and no dressing. That will happen before Christmas. We had a pleasant evening, turning in before 8. Sailing can be a very tiring experience but it felt good to be on a mooring ball.
Day 16-Friday November 23, 2012 Black Friday (St Augustine, Florida to Daytona Beach, Florida)
I was never much of a Black Friday shopper so I didn't miss that at all, however, the concept hit that when one travels by boat for long distances, one doesn't shop at all. One only buys diesel fuel, ice, and the basics of food and milk when possible. The self sufficiency of living on the boat takes away the almost daily experience of shopping because you could and the family always needed something. Another lifestyle change.
By 6:55AM we had cleared the 312 Bridge and were on our way. When we first started making the ICW trip we hated those opening bridges and were so happy when the Corp started pushing for the 65' foot bridges, no more waiting for the opening. Whoever came up with 65' should be shot. With tides, current. Flooding and errors in construction 65" has become a wishful dream especially for people with a 64' mast.
There was a very heavy current and because of the flooding there was a significant amount of shoaling. Once we entered the Palm Coast area, the tidal fall became minimal. As we hit the bridges, our whip antenna was exercised to the fullest and spent most of the time laying flat but the wind instruments escaped. Then we hit Flagler Bridge, the vertical board read 61' and a resident confirmed that they only had a "one foot tidal drop", "Bridge Wait". This lasted two hours and was limited to a channel trip up and back since we were in the cut. At 1:30 we cleared the Flagler Bridge by an inch, if that.
KiKeKo picked up the speed and we made Daytona by 4. The first bridge was close but cleared and then we saw Seabreeze Bridge, followed closely by another 65 ' and two opening downtown bridges. As we got close to the board, it read less than 62'. We made multiple calls to find that we wouldn't be able to make that bridge until 1AM. So the only answer was to anchor and spend the evening in Daytona.
Heath note: Tims' hands are blistered and my breast bone is very sore but we shall survive.
Day 17-Saturday November 24,2012 (Daytona Beach to Titusville, Florida )
Another morning of waiting was to materialize as we approached the Seabreeze to find it still sitting at less than 62'. We were up by 7 and began a three hour trip between two bridges. Everyone was becoming more and more annoyed because we realized that there were thirteen bridges between Daytona and Fort Pierce, this could become impossible . The winds outside were heavy with heavy seas. Could we take another St. Augustine Day?
Then we met Lady Jane, a new motorsailer with a 64' mast who was willing to be the canary for the day. Lady Jane reported that all vertical boards in Daytona were incorrect and that 61' was really 63' so we should clear the bridges. At 10:45 we did. There were no more bridge issues for the day with Lady Jane in front and the whip antenna ready to bend, we made all bridges, close but successful.
The next issue was current and shoaling especially around Ponce De Leon inlet. After we cleared the inlet and passed the New Smyrna Bridges it was a clear shot to Titusville. This was a day of seeing the manatees for the first time this year and we were surrounded by porpoises. Birds were everywhere, especially the pelicans. It was sunny and warm and it was a beautiful trip watching all of the sea life as we passed through the Mosquito Lagoon .
By 3:30 we had reached Haulout Canal. There were many small fishing boats, pelicans and osprey on every marker and bridge, and fishermen, young and old, fishing along the Canal. As we turned toward Titusville, Lady Jane called to say that the last Titusville Bridge was close but passable and they had anchored just south of the bridge. We decided to join them. By 5 the anchor was down and we watched a beautiful sunset over Titusville. Next Day Fort Pierce.
Day 18- Sunday November 25, 2012 (Titusville, Florida to Fort Pierce, Florida)
Another day of bridges. The capacitor for the generator was scheduled for a Monday delivery at the Fort Pierce City Marina. The plan was to pick it up, spend Monday night at anchorage and get to Fort Lauderdale, the outside route, on Tuesday. We were up early to hit low tides and slack water. The bridges along the Titusville, Cape Cannaveral, Banana River, Cocoa Beach route were all sitting at 64' so we had a close but passable day.
While Michael was at the helm, Tim was below replacing the fresh water pump. I was beginning to think that by the time we reached Lauderdale, we would have a completely new set of pumps. Everyone did seem pleased about my overactive tendency to purchase pumps for the inventory.
It was a sunny, clear Sunday with temperatures in the seventies and winds under 10 kts. We were followed by pelicans even though we were not a fishing boat with dinner riding on board. This was an area with a lot of areas that required slowing down because of the presence of manatees. You could see the big, slow moving creatures floating along. There were also hundreds of porpoises joining the manatees in their playground.
Since it was a beautiful Sunday there were hundreds of fishing boats and day time sailors. For the first time, the concept of Florida and its' vacation life style really hit me. There were many older people, men and women, with grey hair and the weathered look sitting in small boats with fishing gear and coolers. I wondered how many were from New Jersey.
This was one of those leisurely uneventful trips where we cleared the bridges, we hit bottom once, we watched the sea creatures all around us, and arrived in Fort Pierce in late afternoon. BY 5:15 the anchor was down. The water pump was working well. I took more pictures in pink and I really always had a strong distaste for pink. As soon as I get the chance I'll share pink sunsets and sunrises that we encountered on the first twenty days.
Day 19- Monday November 26 and Tuesday November 27, 2012 (Fort Pierce, Florida to Hobe Sound)
I called the City Marina before 9 to determine delivery times for the Fed Ex/UPS trucks. I had spoken to Ann several times and she said that she was on the lookout for our package but the trucks usually didn't arrive until 11 and were frequently late on Mondays. We decided to sit at anchor and read. I hectic way to spend the day. 11:30 call-no deliveries. 12:30 call-no deliveries. 2:00- delivery. Decison making time. Number 1-Pick it up and start for Hobe Sound, anchoring when it begins to get dark. Number 2: Relax the rest of the day, pick it up in the morning (they open at 8) and go to Hobe. Number 2, the winner hands down.
Day 19 became Tuesday when we pulled into the City Marina around 8:30, picked up the package, and left for the Atlantic. Since it was a calm morning we decide to go outside to Jupiter or Palm Beach. It really was a shorts and t-shirt day even though we were outside. It was not a totally flat day but the seas were 3 to 4 feet and the wind was on our bow so were not rocking.
Michael was getting ready to take his watch and he noticed the red light shining brightly, the red light means that bilge pumps are working, and bilge pumps work when you are taking on water. Tim was told to go to the St.Lucie Inlet and get inside , much easier said than done. St. Lucie is one of the Inlets that sail boats are told to avoid without "local knowledge" because there is extreme shoaling.
Michael and I went below and began the search for water, starboard engine compartment, port engine compartment, mid cabin air condition/heat pump, water, drain pump compartments on port and starboard. Success we were taking water on the starboard side in the air condition pump compartment. The pumps were keeping up with the water but we needed to isolate the source of the leak. The concern was that when we hot bottom on Sunday had we done external damage, if so we could do a short pull out in Lauderdale but the trip to Lauderdale might be dicey.
The trip through St. Lucie was bumpy and, as usual, scarey side we certainly did not want to hit bottom again, especially on then starboard hull. We took it slow and stayed in the middle. Made the turn into the ICW just before a late lunch. By the time we had lunch we were approaching the Hobe opening bridge. By 2:45 the anchor was down just off marker #40 on the Sound. We have anchored here before and it was always one of Macs favorite anchorages.
After lunch, the work began. Tim and Jan took the new capacitor and began the replacement process on the generator. Michael and I began the search of a water leak on the starboard side. Finding a water leak when you are sitting in a gigantic pool of water, is not an easy thing since there is always water in the various bilges but not enough to start the pumps.
An hour later Tim was still standing on his head attempting to get a nut and bolt in place on the generator. Jan was playing the generator plumbing assistant.
Michael and I were checking all pumps and for leaks. SUCCESS. The air condition/heat pump was loose and there was no O-ring. We played the usual trouble shooting games. Pumped all of the water out of that bilge and left it open so that we could keep a check for several hours. BY 4:30 the day was complete with no leaks, an electric system that worked by generator, and a 78 degree sunny afternoon.
Day 20- Wednesday November 28, 2012 (Hobe Sound to Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
The plan was to go out Jupiter Inlet and stay outside until we reached the Lauderdale/Port Everglades Inlet. It was another warm, sunny day with light winds, and light seas. The trip through Jupiter was the usual. Many years ago Michael and I read that we should stay clear of Jupiter because it is not a good inlet because of shoaling and it's very short with little space for maneuvering if there are fishing boats in the inlet and entering/exiting the inlet. However, we have used it many times and never had a problem. Add one more non problematic exit.
One note about the 707 Bridge, an opening bridge before the lighthouse and inlet. It is supposed to be closed between 7 and 9. We saw it at 10 til 7 nbiut knew that we couldn't make the opening at 7 so we prepared mentally for "bridge wait". However, we found a great bridge tender who opened for us at 7:15, maybe the tides have turned.
By 10Am ther winds had picked up but they were still below 10 kts andf everything was with us so we were moving down the coast, passing Palm Beach, Boca, and the other inlets along the Florida coast. By 2:30 we were entering Fort Lauderdale just in time for the 3PM opening of the 17 Street Causeway bridge. The only problem was that the bridges along the New River close from 4 to 6 and we knew that hitting the last bridges before the Marine Center was going to be tight, so we decided to stay along the wall of the River. I called Matt and Kevin and arranged for tie up at spots 4, 5, or6 across from the Imax and Museums where we stayed several years ago. The starboard tie wouldn't work because of the current in the River so we had to settle for a port tie.
We filled the water tanks and spent time relaxing. We had decided to walk across the 7th street bridge and along the boardwalk. A celebration dinner was in order since we had reached Ft. Lauderdale for final work to be done. We had our dinner at Brineys. We actually stayed up until after 9. The next few days, lay over, will be spent with work being done on the boat and her engines, replacing inventory items (both equipment and food), laundry (first time in a month), and getting working on the sailing plans when leaving Key West, a real lay over.
11/17/2012, Hilton head
Our Trip: Day 1 (Friday-November 2, 2012)(Solomons to Fishing Bay)
Today was the day that we threw off the lines and left Calvert Marina on Solomons Island in the Chesapeake Bay. The original plan was to leave on October 8 and we are obviously behind schedule. First, Tim had a health issue that postponed their arrival. Even though Tim and Jan were able to join us for the Annapolis Boat Show on October 5, they could not leave on the 8th since Tim had to have a medical procedure and needed to return to Canada. Second, Judy and Seth Stopek of Steadfast needed some assistance in making their trip to Savannah and Michael volunteered, leaving with them on October 10 and being picked up by moi on October 19. Third, I had agreed to teach a class for Centre on the 24th and 25th in Atlanta. It looked like we finally had a date for Michael and I to depart, Saturday, October 27. One final postponement was caused by "Sandy" who arrived on Saturday the 27th and hung around Solomons until Wednesday, October 31st. We would leave on Friday, November 2, twenty four days late, but finally departing from Solomons.
The first day was not an easy day. I think that Sandy was still hanging around, being difficult. We left at 7 AM. It was still dark, but we were able to get out of Solomons and into the Bay without incident. When we made the turn, the wind and the seas were behind us and they were heavy (winds gusting in the 25 knot range/seas three to four feet). It was so bumpy that our first lunch on the trip was peanut butter crackers.
At 8:58 we passed "Point No Point". at 9:50"Point Lookout", at 10:50 entered Virginia at "Smith Point Light"and at 1:45 "Wind Mill Point". Our starboard engine decided that it didn't want to make the trip. With the wind and seas, travel on one engine was impossible so we decided that we needed to go into Fishing Bay and attempt to find an engine mechanic after 2 on a Friday afternoon. I got out our Chesapeake Bay Guidebook and called the Fishing Bay Marina. Thank goodness for Andy who said that it sounded like a "fuel" issue and he gave the number of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Services who are located next to his marina.
I called and spoke to Danielle who would try to track down Rich and John if we could get into their facility. We would try. Almost immediately I received the good news that Rich would be available and John would meet on dock of the large boat railway slip between the green boat and the Swan. It took time but by 4:30 we were on that slip, after a difficult docking caused by the winds and my inability to throw lines perfectly, I am getting better but do not excel under any pressure.
Rich was great and by 6:30 we had new fuel filters on both engines. Thank goodness since those filters hadn't been changed recently and were scheduled for the work that was to be done in Fort Lauderdale. We would never have made it to Fort Lauderdale. We had a quick dinner of hot dogs and baked beans with a salad, of course. I reinventoried the port side of the boat, since things had to be moved to allow engine access.
By 9, I had had my first day and was ready for sleep. Since the excitement of the day had made it necessary for me to get up at 4 this morning, I was really tired. It was great to know that we were underway, had had our first mechanical failure, and had both survived with minima annoyances. On to day 2.
Day 2: (Saturday- November 3, 2012)(Fishing Bay-Norfolk-Great Bridge)
Up at 6 and away from the dock at 6:30. It was dark and we had to back out of the "railway slip". It was not easy since the wind was on our bow and pushed us out, faster than our usual low speed for docking and undocking.
Very few of the markers on Fishing Bay have lights but we were about to find them and moved slowly giving all markers a wide berth, The sky was beautiful. The wind was heavy, twenty plus knots all day out of the northwest. The swells were 5 to 6 feet and followed us all day. It was like being on a sky slope, the non skiing Leishman (moi) was not overly thrilled but we were able to hit the turn into Norfolk by 2 O'clock.
It was a very cold day on the Bay. The turn into Norfolk was a relief. As wer are moviung along, Michael asks me to find the Coast Guard boat that is shadowing the sub entering Norfolk. As I move forward to find the CG boat I notice the sub immediately in front of us and get that message to the "Captain" who "didn't see it". KiKeKo comes to a halt and we wait for this US Navy Atomic Submarine to take the lead into Norfolk.
Norfolk is always an exciting city to go through because of the Naval ships, the commercial ships, and the pleasure craft that are constantly moving in all directions. It is phenomenal how two tugs can move a fully loaded freighter as iut backs out of the slip and is turned into the shipping channel. The tugs drop off and head for their berths in Norfolk or Portsmouth or someplace close and the huge/loaded with train cars freighter heads for the Atlantic.
By 2:50 we have completed what may be our last water tour of Norfolk and have reached the infamous Gilmerton Bridge. WE have had many horror stories of this bridge that is scheduled to be replaced "some day??". We have waited for the Northern Southern Train, commercial ships attempting to clear Gilmerton, work being done by the Corp of Engineers that has closed half the thoroughfare, and the very slow pleasure craft who have difficulty dealing with a bridge like Gilmerton. We finally clear and pass everyone except "Magic", a sailboat with an attitude. The line is moving toward the Steel Bridge and the Great Bridge Lock. Only one boat gets off at the entrance to the4 Dismal Swamp. I'd love to take the Dismal and avoid Coinjock, but the height of the Leopard makes that vert difficult if not completely impossible. We have also heard via the radio that the Dismal has trees down as a result of Sandy and they won't be cleared for several weeks. The small boat that turned off should be safe but it would not work well for KiKeKo. The Great Bridge Lock it is.
When we reached the Lock, we had to wait because a tree was caught in the gate and had to be
removed. Upon removal, a sail boat and the Lisa Moran, tug, pushing a barge exited. Lisa was pushing a
large floating can that had been in the Lock. After clearing we entered behainf "Magic" and followed by
two smaller sail boats. The 2 and a half foot lowering was uneventful even though the crew of "Magic"
was very uncertain of handling the Lock so we stayed clear. Based on experience, we knew
that many newbies, have all kinds of issues with locks that run from dropping lines, to mishandling
the boat, to creating chaos. The rule is "Stay Away" from everyone and move to the back of the line.
We had made he decision to stop at Atlanta Yacht Club, since it was getting colder and the sun
Rise tomorrow would be around 6 because the "clocks moved back at 2AM" . The dockmaster and his
eight year old son helped us in. No real problems. I managed to get all three lines to the right person,
standing at the correct place, with no major problems. AYC was still having their summer sale and only
charging $1.00 per foot which was a great buy and unusual for AYC. We managed to get settled in, had
a typical dinner of steak, baked potato, and salad. Since we were planning a 5 AM wakeup call, it
was lights out at 9.
Day 3- (Sunday-November 4, 2012)(Great Bridge- Alligator/Pungo Canal Entrance)
Up at 5, because of the time change, the beginning of a dreary day in November. It was drizzling, the
temperature in the 40s, and very overcast and dark. By 6 it was light enough to cast off and attempt to
hit the Virginia bridges before they became hourly restricted. We made them all, making the 7 AM
opening of the Centreville Highway Bridge.
This is almost always the worst part of the trip because it follows Currituck Sound, passes through
Coinjock, crosses the Albemarle to the "zig/zag" entrance to the Alligator River, requires for the opening
of the Alligator River Bridge (if the wind is 25 knots or above, it will not be opened and you sit),
and follows the Alligator River (we have never seen an alligator but this body of water has many logs
floating along with the boats passing through.
Today was typical for this part of the trip since it was damp, windy, sporatic raining, and heavy fog as
we reached the Albemarle Crossing . My weather complaints are really minimal. It was not one of
those beautiful sunny and mild days moving south, but we made the trip safely and quickly. We are
lucky enough to have the proper electronics so that we can find markers, even though we cannot
find them in advance by eye sight.
As we were crossing Albemarle, I heard the Coast Guard "small craft warning" for Moorehead City.
The wind was gusting to 50 knots and seas were 10-20 feet. We were lucky to be north of this storm.
The Alligator Bridge opened and we began our trek down the River with the logs. The weather
channels were broadcasting heavy winds overnight for the Alligator. Decision making time hit because
we couldn't make it through the Alligator Pungo Canal since it is 21 miles long and we were not through
the Bridge until 2:20 and had at least two hours on the Alligator before reaching the Canal. With the
time change, it would be dark by 5 so anchor outside of the Canal was a mandatory condition.
When we reached the area where anchorage is not recommended because of submerged piling and
poor holding grounds, we found twenty other boats anchored. I am sure that all were hoping that
the wind would be lessened by the land at Newport News Point and Tucker Point. At this spot, there
would be no long fetch so it was hoped that the positives would overcome any possible negatives that
we had all heard about in stories from the past. KiKeKo was anchored with a 100 feet of chain.
After setting the anchor alarm, it was time for an early pasta dinner and another early bed time. Since
tomorrow would be another 5 AM day.
Day 4- (Monday-November 5, 2012)(Alligator-Pungo Canal Entrance to Morehead City)
Finally, a bright and sunny day. The high temperature for the day was 58 degrees. It was warm sitting in the sun but was still cool away from the direct sun. We left the anchorage very gingerly at 6AM. We were the first to leave. At 6:30 we entered the 21 mile canal, the alligator-Pungo for the 2+ hour journey. It was an uneventful trip. The old Morgan 41' still sits in its slip. We don't believe that it has moved since we brought the Morgan through the Canal in 1984. This Cnala has been dredged and is much cleaner than it was almost thirty years ago. We reached the Wilkerson Bridge, the one 65'Bridge on the ICW that was only 64' feet, (it is always a challenge and a breath holder) at 8:50. Survival even though the VHF antenna binged its' way maybe for the last time.
I was at the helm from before the Bridge to the Bellhaven turn. The wind was gusting 16-20 knots and we moved quickly through this section. A lot of our companions were getting off at Dowry Creek (power boats exit and sail boats raise the sails). With the north wind at 16 knots we crossed the Pamlico quickly and entered Goose Creek. We had discussed getting fuel and RE Michaels, as we had in the summer, but decided that we could make it to Morehead City if we kept moving.
Our next encounter was with a sail boat who wanted to go first, a trawler, and a barge pushed by a big tug at a very slow pace. We jockeyed for position was we moved through the very tight entrance to the Neuse River. We were all going the same direction and everyone was attempting to keep away from the tug/barge. Speed up/slow down was the tactic of the day. By the time we all reached Green #1, the sail boat was following directions on the charts and was in the lead. The tug/barge was on the outside and was also following the directions. The trawler and KiKeKo decided to cut it close to the shallow wayer to get to Red #2. It worked for everyone and there were no problems. We ended up in different places but came around Green #1 as if we were in competition..
By 3PM, we had reached Adams Creek and had called Morehead to request fuel and a slip for the night. No problems. The wind was on our stern and gusting above 20, helping our speed so that we went through the Cut at 9 knots. Near the end we were joined by a group of dolphins who traveled with us. Taking a picture of a dolphin as it glides through the water is extremely difficult so I ended up with pictures of the moving water and a couple of flying birds, they're much easier to catch.
We reached Morehead City Yacht Basin at 4:45. It was an excellent docking procedure, since we had turned into the wind for a starboard tie up on the fuel dock, The wind stopped KiKeKo and I managed to get all lines to two men on the dock. It does work, at times.
One interesting situation was connected to fueling up. We expected that the starboard tank would take less diesel since we had run the generator all night and that uses the port tank fuel. However, the port tank took 25.5 gallons and the starboard tank took 28.3 gallons. Michael is convinced that we need to check this since we had been under only the port engine for several hours on Friday because of the fuel filter issue and had run the generator.
Another short evening included a chicken salad dinner, made with the rotisserie chicken that we shared with Bill and Ruth on Wednesday evening. It was another pre 9PM lights out.
Day 5- (Tuesday- November 6, 2012) (Morehead City to Wrightsville Beach-Bridge Tender Marina)
Today ranks up there with the most miserable days ever spent on the boat. It rained constantly all day. The highest temperature was 50.9 degrees at 7 AM. The wind was between 12-18 knots all day. There was no way to get warm much less have some degree of comfort even with multiple layers of clothes, neck warmers, heavy gloves, and blankets. However, when one agrees that "the trip" is a real adventure that is well worth the time, the joy, and the misery that days like this will happen. They will be forgotten as soon as the next great days occurs,
We left Morehead City at 6AM with the wind on our bow. It was a clear path under the Morehead Bridge at low tide, through the town, and under the 65" ICW bridge with no issues. We then begin the Bogus Sound which is one of those long journeys from marker to marker with no water outside of the channel. This is one of the more tedious parts of the journey south and todays weather didn't help but by 10 we had reached Camp Lejeune.
The Onslow Bridge only opens on the hour and half hour so we had to wait for the 11 opening. After clearing that Bridge and the Camp, it is the long trex from opening bridge to opening bridge in order to reach Wrightsville Beach.
We arrived at the Surf City Bridge at 1:08 just after the 1PM closing. Therefore, we had to mill around until the 2 PM opening. While milling, we were joined by 4 sail boats and 3 power boats. Wandering and waiting with multiple boats in poor weather conditions can be exciting. We all survived with no scrapes, but, as usual, the key question was "who goes first" once the bridge opens. We held back and passed all of the other sailboats on the other side of the bridge, The power brigade took off to get to the Harbor Village Marina.
Eighteen miles from the Figure Eight Bridge which opens on the hour and half hour. We were hoping for a 4:30 opening. It was very difficult to find markers because of the fog and rain on the windshield. This was a day when you are thankful for the GPS, follow the lay line, and feel for the sailors without any wind screens. We made the 4:30 opening with time to spare. We were now alone again beause most of our companions at the first bridge opening had stopped. After the Figure Eight we had five miles to Wrightsville Beach. The goal was to make the 5 opening.
Success on the opening but failure on finding a place to anchor. We went immediately to the anchorage but it was full. Because of the possibility of winds, we didn't want to anchor without a full extension of chain. The decision was made to find a marina, there are three in Wrightsville Beach that can accommodate KiKeKo. Seapath had no space. Wrightsville Marine had no space. Bridge Tender did not respond to a Channel 16 call. I called by cell and caught the dockmaster was he was leaving. I begged very well and he agreed to wait and help us on their T-head if I promised to go with him immediately to register and pay. Believe it or not, we got to Bridge Tender, found him holding a small flashlight, docked beautifully (successful line tossing to the right person). By 6:10 we were registered for the marina.
Today was a long and miserable day. I have never been an omen person but it had been election day and I certainly hoped that the news industry was either wrong and being deceptive about the closeness of this race. I wanted it to be over, but was concerned about the need for another "Bush v. Gore" and another Republican elected by a 6 to 3 vote, to quote Ruth Bader Ginsberg. We turned the TV on after dinner of grillers and steak fries. Fox had a Romney victory. ABC was the middle of the road with Katy Couric playing the referee for Sawyer, Stefanopalis and the ABC team . NBC and CBS seemed fair . Basically it was the wrong day to play their games. When Pennsylvania fell into Obama Camp, we turned off the TV and hoped for more errors in the "closeness" of the swing states.
Day 6- (Wednesday, November 7, 2012) (Wrightsville Beach-Little River, SC)
This is the last day of leg one; the move south, the look at materials that may be stored (determining the mandatory), getting a read on food usage, garbage (how much)and identifying the little things that need to be addressed. We'll be arriving in Little River this afternoon, picking up our car and bringing it to SC for storage, the final phase of storing items in the car and throwing things away, a trip to West for some small items, and a revision of known inventory. Sunday is my 68th B-DAY and we promised to meet Ken and Jetta in Little River so there are a few "non trip" related activities.
Today is only a sixty mile trip so we set the wakeup time as 6 with the plan to leave by 7 (a lazy boating day). It was an easy departure from Wrightsville beach toward Snow's Cut and the Cape Fear. About hour after our start the dolphins joined us. This part of the ICW is close to the Atlantic, you can see it through the trees but it is calm so it's the perfect playground for our swimming friends. Another nature observation is that pelicans are really into group associations, small islands, docks, beach areas will house what seems like hundreds of pelicans as if they are having a meeting. YHou only see a lone pelican when he leaves the group meeting to dive for a fish. Their heads must have unbelievable padding or they would suffer from intense headaches after every meal. Pelicans are very interesting to watch and photograph.
By 8:30 we were traversing Snow's Cut. I am not sure whether it was dredged and more clearly marked or we have just become very familiar with this connecting point between the ICW and the Cape Fear River. I remember our first trip through the Cut almost 13 years ago and it was a treacherous cut that required staying very close to the markers and carefully handling the current. In 2012 it was aswift and easy trip.
At the southern end of the cut is the Cape Fear River. It is known for it's current and heavy traffic from the Atlantic to Wilmington, NC at the western end. I remember the first time that we took Mac to the Bennett Brothers Yacht Yard in Wilmington and were warned to keep him and any children out of the water. Those logs were not logs, they were alligators. I was never sure what was the urban legends of the Cape Fear River and what was a reality, but I did know that when we caught the tide, our catamarns really moved. I had clocked 13knots one day when traveling from the Curt to Southport. The River is always one of the busiest parts of the trip, because you encounter freigters, tugs and barges, pleasure boats, the ferry, and fishermen. The time frame is always influenced by the tide, today it took about an hour to make the turn at Southport. WE were following a PDQ, under sail, and a very oddly shaped boat. We passed both going through Southport.
It was a sunny day and was getting warmer as we moved south along the very boring part of the ICW from The River to South Carolina. The only noticeable point is at what used to be the crazy opening bridge at Sunset Beach. That Bridge has been replaced by a 65'er but what was once a massive structure that required a long period of time every time it opened , has disappeared. For one making their first trip, they would be unaware of the chaos that used to occur at Sunset Beach for those hourly openings .
By 1:30 we were in South Carolina and the temperature had hit 61 degrees. The golf courses were busy, the sun was bright, fishing boats were moving around us, and there was activity at the marina. We arrived at Lightkeepers around 2:20. James met us on the T dock, our usual spot. He was joined by Ted and Diane from the Canadian boat "Boatel", a bed and breakfast boat from Toronto, friends of Ken and Jetta.
We settled in, filled the water tank, made the phone calls, and decided to relax. Around 5:30 Ken and Jetta arrived and insisted that we joinng them at their apartment for a spaghetti dinner. We had a wonderful evening commiserating about the election, American government and politics, Canadian government and politics, and the trip. Tomorrow we begin the lay days and travel by car to Solomons to pick up our car. Finally, we are underway and the trip has begun.
Lay Days (November 7 (later afternoon) to November 13 (early afternoon) in Little River, SC
I must rely on maritime law to explain the next few days. Lay day is a formal legal principle that stipulates that there must be time allowed for loading and unloading vessels. The law spends no time on rest, relaxation, meeting friends, moving non maritime vehicles or "hanging around", but for KiKeKo and crew all of the above is included in lay days. Shortly after arrival there was a knock on the boat and Jetta and Ken were there to welcome us and insist that we come to their house for a spaghetti dinner. Sounded good to me so we spent the evening talking about the trip and discussing American politics with our Pro Obama Canadian friends.
Day one began with renting a car from Enterprize and taking off for Solomons. The sun was shining and it was a typical day of driving, having lunch at McDonald's, visiting our favorite truck stops for coffee, ice cream, and walking about. I ended up driving after dark which I absolutely hate since I cannot see well to begin with, but we survived. After picking up the 2005 Chrysler Boat Box we began the trip back to SC, stopping at the Holiday In and Five Guys in Dahlgren, VA..
We arrived at Lightkeepers mid afternoon on Friday. The first requirement was to determine what needed to be done and what needed to be purchased. I did my favorite thing, prepare a list. We met Jetta and Ken at Christpher's for dinner.
Saturday was set up to finish the list by beginning with shopping trips to West Marine, Lowes, Camping World One and Camping World Two, and WalMart. We returned to KiKeKo with all of the necessary purchases. After lunch we left for Best Buy to replace my unworkable cell phone. After two plus hours we returned with the new phone and Hot Spot. Begin the list with the galley cabinet repair, have dinner, and have a relaxing Saturday evening doing nothing on the list.
Sunday was my 68th birthday. We spent the day doing little boat tasks that needed to be done, watching NFL football (the Ravens scored 55 points and won), and relaxing, again (sailing is very tedious). For dinner we met Jetta and Ken and Ted and Dianne (BOATEL-another Canadian) at Sticky Fingers.
Monday was the day for moving the last items from the boat to the bus. After the final collection, we took off for Taber City where we unloaded (making it a legally formal lay day) major items to the bus. We then returned to finish up the little jobs, finish the food inventory and get ready to depart.
Tuesday began with the moving of the Town and Country into storage in Taber City. It was semi-sad seeing her parked next the bus. We are not sure whether a seven year old vehicle can last years in storage but we said good bye and thanked her for her services. One last trip was made (using James' new car) to the post office to pick up the new boat cards and WalMart for milk and bread. WE traded the Milwaukee drill for our stay at Lightkeepers (a real bargain), left the winch (Lewmar 550 for James to sell on eBay, and picked up ice for the cooler. Departure for Day 7 was 12:30 on Tuesday, November 13.
Day 7 November 13, 2012 (Little River South Carolina to Bucksport Marina)
After saying good bye to the Town and Country, picking up the new cards, making a last trip to WalMart, working a deal with James on the Lewmar and Milwaukee Drill, and saying our good byes to James, we left Lightkeepers around 12:30. The only real issue was the Rock Pile since flooding and the tides are the weather of the day. I have never understood the fear of the Rock Pile that many boaters seem to have. You can see the rocks and they surround the channel and they look treacherous but we have never had to get out of the channel and have never had wake problems. I can understand the possible wreckage that could occur but we've been lucky and were just as lucky this time. It was an uneventful trip, no adventures to report.
Our plan was to go past the Socastee Bridge and find an anchorage. Seemed simple at the time. The Bridge tender opened early for us and three other boats. We went to marker #27 and turned to starboard only to find twenty plus other boats who had already found this anchorage. The ind and current were beginning to build and given the depth and number of boats anchored, there was no swing room. The decision was to move on to the next spot off #29.
That anchorage was full also and the winds were at 15 knots with gusts. I called Bucksport and got their fax machine but it was close to 5 and I assumed that they were closed, but our plan was to stop anyway and settle in the morning. Just as we turned the last marker, Michael got someone at Bucksport on Channel 16. We're going in. If you want a shock, look at the transient T-head at Bucksport at low tide. I wasn't sure that our lines were long enough (not true but an indication of how low we were going to be sitting. Luckily there were two men waiting at the dock. The problem was throwing the lines high enough to reach a human hand. Another piece of luck was that there was only one boat, a big Hatteras, on the dock. We made it in with no crashing or scraping but it was not easy. To give you an indication of where we sat, the only way that I could get off the boat to settle up was to step off the seat on the starboard bow and that was a jump up. KiKeKo was in a giant hole and was tied to very high walls.
We didn't get off again. It was a typical early night: dinner, reading, and early bed. It still seemed strange to look out those starboard ports and see a wall. Day 7 was a short day, but Day 8, you'll find certainly compensated.
Day 8- Wednesday November 14, 2012 (Bucksport Marina to Isle of Palms, South Carolina)
Every trip has days that are difficult. Boat trips tend to blame the difficulty on the weather and todays journey was based on every possible weather problem short of major hurricanes. Because of the phases of the moon, the remains of Sandy, weather systems that seem to be in chaos, and the recognition that the tides of the Carolinas' cause major flooding. When one lives in a house, the weather is what it is and you do your best. On a boat, it controls what you can do.
We began our day pinned against the Bucksport docks that were well above our heads. Getting off was like docking, we were lucky, because only one other boat was on the dock. Michael got off via the seat on the bow with a higher jump than last night. We brought in the electrical cords, successfully. While still tied, I put the boat in reverse to see if we could get away. We could, barely. The lines were not important since the wind and current had us pinned. Michael rejoined me via the bow seat. He manned the engines and I put all of my strength into pushing off with the boat hook. After using max engine power and max Jake pushing power, we escaped the Bucksport dock at 6:55 on Wednesday morning.
During our trip down the Waccamaw River we were moving against the current. With engine speed at 7.7 knots, we hade a speed over ground of 5.4 knots. The current was winning. By 9:00 we had reached the Lafayette Bridge. I was at the helm and the current was causing less of a problem as I moved down the River and went past the ICW turnoff. (One problem with the new GPS being on a 1000 ft shot, I missed the turnoff because I wasn't paying attention to the C-120-big mistake). Luckily, when I called for Michael at 11 to change shifts, upon checking location, he realized that we were heading for the Atlantic. Believe it or not it only took about 15 minutes to correct the error and by 1:30, we were back on the ICW.
I was moving along with the current and our speed of 7.7. knots became speed over ground of 9.4 knots. We then arrived at the McClellanville turnoff and the bottom dropped out. Bottom for boaters is the depth. The depth went from the usual 10 feet to a range of from 6 to 4 feet (low tide is problematic in this area). Low tide means that every boat slowed to a crawl because of the chances of going aground or running upon a boat in front of you that has run aground. We were in a line with three other boats and were traveling at 4 knots for over an hour, no one hit bottom.
The next step was to find an anchorage. It was too late to make the Ben Sawyer Bridge because it is closed from 4 to 6 so we began the Isle of Palms search. We made the decision to go into the Dewee Creek. There were six boats already anchored, This Creek is difficult because the water is deep, some places over 30 feet; you will be close to marsh land, and the current was swift. At 4:55 we anchored. Michael was very concerned, rightfully so. At 8:30 we felt a boom and relized that we had moved into the marsh land, slipped the bridle, and were in the current.
Thus began the longest, darkest, unplanned evening of the trip. It took us two hours to escape the Dewee Creek and get back to the ICW. I stood on the bow with my flashlight for that period looking for marsh grass, water, other boats with no lights, anything that we didn't want to hit. By the time we reached the ICW, I was cold and very tired (I had gotten up at 4AM).
We decided that we would attempt to get to Charleston. That meant getting to the Ben Sawyer Bridge and then slowly getting into the City anchorage. Dreamers, we are. At 10:30 Michael called the Bridge. They would open on request, however, wanted us to know that two tugs had just passed moving north. One tug was pushing three barges. The other was pushing one barge and pulling two others. We might want to wait on the north side of the Isle of Palms Bridge because the channel between the IOP Bridge and Ben Sawyer is very narrow. We were still slowly moving on the ICW, since most of the markers are not lighted and almost every home as an unmarked dock protruding into the channel. I was on the bow with my flashlight, my mind wandering about the positive aspects of "landed property" as a place to live.
We are at low tide so that we could clear the Isle of Palms Bridge but we were waiting patiently for the two tugs to clear from the south. All of a sudden the floodlights stopped and the tugs became stationary. We called them on 16 to find that because of the low tide tey were aground and would not be moving until a higher tide. Problem at a higher tide, we could not clear the IOP of Bridge so we decided to attempt to go around both tugs and all the barges even though that was going to be tight and the barges were not lighted so I was going back to the bow with my flashlight. I was able to find Green markers but as we began the trek around the tubs, KiKeKo also hit bottom. It was midnight and we couldn't go any further south. We would go north and attempt to clear IOP when the tide was high enough for the tugs to move but low enough for us to clear the bridge. For the next six hours Michael stayed in the channel, 15 minutes north, 15 minutes south. I played the flashlight game for a while but I crashed and took a series of naps. The tugs sprang to life around 6:30 and began their movement north. We headed for the IOP Bridge. A power boat was ahead of us and we called to get the vertical clearance, 62'. We need 64.5'. KiKeKo had to wait, the next low tide was at 2:58PM.
Since we were well into Day 8, we decided to go back to IOP Marina for fuel. They opened at 7. We went north for two miles and pulled into the fuel dock and took 58.3 gallons. IOP has very pleasant people who allowed us to stay on the fuel dock until the tide turned, at no charge. We went to the store and had toast and scrambled eggs for $6.00 (for two orders) and returned to the fuel dock and went immediately to bed. Finally, Day 7 which had run over to Day 8 ended.
Day 8- Thursday November 15,2012 (Isle of Palms Marina to Charleston)
We had originally planned a lay day in Charleston. We were exhauster, even after our naps. The weather was wet, foggy, 52. Degrees, with winds at 17 knots. Given all of those factors combined with our need to continue moving, we left IOP Marina around 1PM. The tide was low enough that we could clear the IOP Bridge and make the Ben Sawyer 2PM opening. Next stop Charleston.
The call to the Mega Dock was met with "full". The wind was picking up and the anchorage was full also. The next decision find another Marina in Charleston or attempt the Stono River. Marina won hands down. The Charleston Harbor Marina had two spaces, so we left the Ashley River, crossed the Harbor and entered the Cooper River. The wind and current were both against us but with assistance we were able to get tied up at their transient floating dock by 4PM. If you discount the 12 to 7AM time frame in our escapade waiting for tugs and tides, Day 8 was a brief 3 hour trip. I have talked about early evenings, however, this was the earliest of all, lights out at 8:30.
Day 9- Friday November 16, 2012 (Charleston Harbor Marina to the South Edisto River/Mile 504)
The plan was to leave around 8:30 to meet the 9 opening of the Wahoo Bridge. As we were going to the boat to prepare to leave, we attempted to help a Hunter get off the dock, by acting as human thruster. Again, the current and wind were pinning all of the transient boats to the floating dock. Getting off was impossible for a single screw mono hull sailboat, his stern knocked over an electrical tower on the dock and he hit the large sailboat in front of him. The woman on the boat who was pushing off came close to being impaled on the bow sprit of the other boat. Wisely, she fell to the deck to avoid the sprit. No human damage, although there is probably a lot of soreness this evening. Boat damage was unknown and when we left they were tied together with both Captains on cell phones in the cockpits (assumption-Insurance).
Given that disaster we decided to leave anyway and gathered together a group of three, boaters and Marina staff. We are lucky to have two engines and a catamaran is a boat that pivots around the center. It was not easy but we made it away from the dock with no scratches and were able to back around and clear the Marina. Many people stood of their boats watching carefully, but we made it.
We made to the Mark Clark Bridge just in time for high tide. The clearance was sitting at 62.5'. We were going to be sitting in the Charleston Harbor for several hours. Michael is becoming an expert in 180 degree sailing, up and back; up and back while fighting the current that would prefer that you go in its direction even if that means serious trouble. I sat on the bow with my binoculars, you are probably now getting to understand my role- flashlights, binoculars, the bow. That Bridge did not have a vertical board so I watched bother boats go through and attempted to determine the distance between there masthead and the Bridge. Michael called to get the actual mast height. Two and a half hours later, at 11:30 we decided to take the risk and headed for Mark Clark. We made it with the mast and all electronics sitting on the top. According to a boat behind us we cleared by about 6 inches.
We made the Wahoo 12, noon opening and began the trip on the Stono and Edisto Rivers. In the beginning we were fighting the current and were traveling very slowly, but by the time at that I took the helm at 1, the current was changing direction. We picked up speed and made a quick journey through the North Edisto River. By 3PM, I had reached marker #111 and was ready to turn into the Dawho River connection to the S. Edisto. Michael took the helm at that point where "shoaling" becomes an issue. That was my reward for all of the bow work of the previous two days.
Michael made the cut without shoaling problems and we cleared the Dawho by 4PM. Rather than follow the ICW we made a right turn at marker #143 and headed for the S. Edisto River anchorage. We are in a beautiful spot and for the first time in the last three days we had a real sunset.