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This blog chronicles the adventures of the sailing vessel Moonraker. We just finished the second year of our cruising life. We explored the US East Coast from Maine to Florida, the Bahamas, Haiti, PR, and the Virgin Islands.
The View from the Top
12/06/2012, Charleston, SC

We really enjoyed Georgetown but on Tuesday afternoon we decided if we left then we could anchor a couple of hours closer to Charleston and save a whole day. So off we went back to the ICW and ended up in Minim Creek. It was right off our route, and right next to a rice plantation. With our new found knowledge about growing rice we were very excited to see some of the things that we learned about at the Rice Museum. Bill decided we needed to go up the mast to get a better view. He went up first, leaving me down with the mosquitoes! Good thing he managed to get a couple good pictures, including the one above, because neither of us were willing to stay outside with the mosquitoes any longer. Good thing the boat has good screens. Only a couple of the bugs got inside and they didn't last long.

This morning we headed for Charleston. It was not a lovely day. We were back to hats and gloves. The problem was the cold wind. We did put it to use for part of the day though. Still too cold for putting the main sail up but we put the jib out and got a bit more help for the engine. We were passed by a couple of power boats throughout the day but only heard sailboats on the radio, we didn't see any. We did have a swing bridge to go through and were a little nervous it wasn't going to open because the wind was too strong. It did open for us, but it was a little hairy getting through it.

So now we are in Charleston. We found a place to anchor near the Coast Guard Station. We weren't real comfortable with it but we saw someone on one of the boats we had anchored near and went to talk to him. He was an interesting artist, but a brand new sailor. We decided to see how the boat settled along with the others. We went down below for dinner and then heard a big bang outside. We were banging into the boat next to us - time to move! Now it was dark so we stayed in the same general area, but we were a bit out in the main channel. We decided not to stay there so we pulled up the anchor one more time and went under the nearby bridge and found a new spot to anchor. We think we are OK now but we will see how things look tomorrow, in the daylight. We are planning on spending a couple of days in Charleston. We got a great list of places to see from the couple we are renting our house to, they used to live in Charleston. The interesting artist also told us some places to see. We are looking forward to being tourists for the next few days.

12/07/2012 | joan long
I can almost feel I am with you. Your writing is marvelous Donna. Keep it up. The pictures are great too. Love you both!!
Off to Georgetown
12/04/2012, Georgetown, SC

We woke up to fog on Monday morning but it was OK because we didn't have a long way to go. Bill got on the cruisers nets and reported our position, usually we are already under way by the time they come on. Around 9am we decided the fog wasn't too bad so we headed out. The fog didn't last too long and the scenery was gorgeous. The reflections on the water were incredible. There is a lot of Spanish Moss that grows on the trees in South Carolina. They definitely add a touch of beauty to the already beautiful scenery. It was not cold at all - no hats or gloves required!

The majority of the day there were no houses on the side of the river, only trees. There were almost no boats but we did pass a small sailboat we had met in Wrightsville Beach. The picture above is the bridge you go under right before you get to Georgetown. The water was so calm. The reflection of the clouds and the bridge really enhance the picture.

When we got to Georgetown there were a number of boats anchored next to the town. We found a spot to anchor, unfortunately it isn't quite deep enough at low tide so twice a day we are aground. After we anchored we went in to explore the town. We stopped to talk to another boat and he told us a restaurant to go to. They weren't open on Monday but we liked it enough to have two meals there today - real Southern cooking! We walked around and found the Laundromat - it's been a while! We bought some ice cream and also found a place to buy fresh shrimp. That was our adventure for dinner.

Today we more fully explored Georgetown. We are at anchor so every trip to town is in the dinghy. After breakfast we headed to the Piggly Wiggly supermarket. It's kind of a hike from the town dock but they will drive you back to the waterfront if they aren't too busy. We were lucky enough to get a ride back. After taking the groceries back to the boat we went back out in the dinghy with two loads of laundry. We had only walked a block when a sailor that lives in Georgetown stopped and offered us a ride there. Of course we took it. On the way back we might have walked two blocks when another sailor, this one a Naval Academy graduate, stopped and offered us a ride back to the dinghy. We were very happy. We spent the rest of the day checking out the museums in town. We now know more than we ever expected to know about growing rice in South Carolina. We may stay one more day and get some work done. We have great Internet access here!

Check out the pictures of North Carolina we posted on our photo gallery!

12/12/2012 | Paula Shaw-Root
Awesome picture!
The Bridges of South Carolina
12/02/2012, Waccamaw River, SC

Today we had to have three bridges open for us. We didn't sleep late but we were the last boat out of the anchorage. Unlike the bridges we went through the other day that were on a set schedule, these three open on demand, but they like to open as little as possible, so they prefer to wait for more than one boat. We called the bridge tender at the first bridge we came to, who in South Carolina uses VHF channel 09 instead of channel 13 like every other place we've ever been. We had been listening to the other boats going through before us and the bridge tender didn't seem very responsive. He was getting ready to open the bridge for us when a boat two miles behind called him on the VHF and told him to wait for him to get there before he opened. The bridge tender agreed. Bill wasn't so happy about that. I put the boat in neutral and we just drifted, otherwise we would have to circle or do some kind of boat dance to not get to the bridge too soon. The extra complication was that there was a tall bridge right next to the swing bridge so there wasn't any room for maneuvering. Not to mention there was a 1.5 knot current pushing us towards the bridges. The second bridge decided to wait for the second boat too but he was a lot more responsive than the first bridge tender. When we got too close to the bridge, and the other boat was not close enough, he opened it for us anyhow. The third bridge actually did open on a schedule but there was a tow boat towing a power boat waiting for the bridge so the bridge was going to open early for him. The tow boat told him to wait for us and the other boat too. That worked out OK for us.

A lot of the ICW takes you through residential areas. There are some incredible houses, some not so incredible house, some condo and apartment buildings. Today we went past a RV park with a confederate flag flying. We also went past the pink house you see in the picture above. Definitely one that stands out! We went through Myrtle Beach today. The only real notable thing we saw was the abundance of Spanish architecture in the outrageously huge houses we passed.

We anchored early today for two reasons. Tomorrow we want to go to Georgetown, SC and we can get there earlier and hopefully get a better anchoring spot. Also it's Sunday - football day. Football is the "official" reason we got a TV for the boat. We have a digital antenna, which often works well, but not always. When we get to an anchorage, if it's far enough from the last place we did it we have to scan for local channels. Bill checked the channels before we got to the anchorage so he would be sure he could watch the games. He was OK for a while and then the channel the game he wanted to watch disappeared. Hopefully the late game will work better!

12/03/2012 | Keith Light
The pink house is cute. Sounds like you and Bill are having a great time. Glad to see it. You deserve it.
Finally in South Carolina!
12/01/2012, Calabash River, Calabash SC

We spent a nice day in Wrightsville Beach. I got the whole day off from cooking and washing dishes. We ate all our meals out. None of them were that memorable, but it was better than cooking them myself! We walked (far!!) to the post office twice, saw the town museum, and walked for a while on the beach by the ocean.

We really wanted to get to South Carolina today but it was a long way - 51 miles! There was another place to anchor but it was too close to where we were already anchored. So we decided to get up and go early in the day and made it to our next anchorage in South Carolina before 3:30pm. It was a relatively warm day today which made it much easier to go the distance. We didn't have to have any bridges open for us today, but we did have to spend some time on the Cape Fear River. Most of the time we were in narrow canals, usually with fancy houses on one side and marsh land on the other. The ocean was on the other side of the marsh land. The Cape Fear River is a lot bigger area of water that big commercial ships use. We did have to get out of the channel for one of the ships. What was more exciting than that though was when two big tug boats pushing barges came at us in one of the narrow canals. We moved as far over in the channel as we could but we can't go in water that is shallower than 5 feet. That is how deep our boat is under the water line. The first tug was way too close to us, but the second one was even scarier. His load was very tall and we heard him tell the other tug boat driver that he couldn't even see over it.

Our anchorage tonight is very close to the canal. We are in the Calabash River. We got here early enough, and it was warm enough, for us to take the dinghy down to go exploring. We stopped at the boat next to us and spent some time talking to the couple on it. We had met them already in Oriental. Then we got back in the dinghy and took it down the river to see Calabash. It is apparently a shrimping town. There were a lot of shrimp boats at the docks and a number of stands that advertised fresh shrimp. We tied the dinghy to a dock and went looking for some fresh shrimp. Unfortunately all the shrimp shacks were closed or sold out. We are hoping to find some to buy in the next few days. When we got back to the boat Bill took the picture above. That is our view for the night.

A Lucky Day!
11/29/2012, Wrightsville Beach, NC

We decided to get up at 6am today and get an early start. When we finally got outside there was ice on the decks but we pulled up the anchor and went anyhow. Boy are we glad we did! The ICW goes through Camp LeJeune - the Marine training base. Today was the day we were going on that stretch of the waterway. The Marines reserve the right to close the ICW when they are doing live firing exercises. It can be for hours at a time. They have a sign as you enter their base, if it's flashing the ICW is closed. There is also a Navy guard boat sitting there to make sure you pay attention to the sign. Well, it was flashing, but they let us and the boat in front of us through anyway and told us to go as fast we could until we saw the other Navy guard boat. Our friends on Peregrine didn't want to deal with the ice this morning so they were a bit behind us. At 9am the Navy guard boat told them they had to anchor until the ICW opened again at noon!

The next bit of luck hit us when we were late getting to the first bridge that opened on a schedule. We were not going to make the opening but the bridge was having mechanical difficulties and had just been fixed when we got there. We were able to go through even though it wasn't the scheduled time to open. The ICW has a number of different types of bridges. This one, pictured above, was a swing bridge. The middle of the bridge rotates 90 degrees and the boats drive through the opening.
As we proceeded down the ICW we saw a sailboat sitting ahead of us and not moving. Uh oh! He had missed a mark and was hard aground - deep outside the channel. It was one of the single handers that had joined us for Thanksgiving. Lucky for him there was a small powerboat ahead of us who helped him get off. We would not have been able to get close to him with our boat.

We were making great mileage today. Our goal was Wrightsville Beach, a little over 50 miles from our anchorage. If we hadn't gotten up early and gotten through that bridge it would have been hard to make it. We had two more bridges to go through that opened on set schedules. We really had to rush to make the first bridge, but the second bridge schedule was not as easy. We couldn't make the opening we wanted to make because Moonraker doesn't go that fast. The only option was to have to slow down and be forced to appreciate the beautiful nature and opulent houses that were on either side of us.

On our way today we made water with our watermaker. After we got through the last bridge we pulled into a yacht club and filled up our fuel tank and pumped out our holding tank. We are anchored in Wrightsville Beach and looking forward to a day on land. Bill has already scoped out some restaurants, and I am looking forward to seeing the Atlantic Ocean again. We are almost all the way through North Carolina. At least it wasn't terribly cold today. In fact today was the first time this trip that we were able to sit in the cockpit at anchor and have appetizers before dinner!

Still Cold!
11/28/2012, Swansboro, NC

We got to Beaufort, North Carolina yesterday afternoon. That is pronounced as Bo-fort as opposed to the Beaufort in South Carolina that is pronounced as Bew-fort. The most exciting thing about our trip was discovering all the dolphins around us as we got closer to our destination. There is an inlet from the ocean in Beaufort and the dolphins come in and play. Yesterday we had a number of dolphins swimming alongside the boat, once we got to the anchorage they were all around us there too!

The ICW is marked by adding a yellow square or a yellow triangle to the normal navigation marks. On the way south you leave the yellow triangles to your starboard (right) and the yellow squares to your port (left). The picture above shows an ICW mark that is very popular with the cormorants.

It was a pretty cold day yesterday, followed by some rain last night, but nothing compared to today when it was windy and cold. Our plan was to take care of some things on the boat this morning and then go into town and check out Beaufort. We had some packages to ship but they have moved the post office away from downtown and it wasn't going to be easy to get there. Bill called the museum to see if there was a bus that would take us in that direction and they offered to ship the packages for us and let us pay them. That was very nice, but when it was time to take the dinghy down it was just too cold so we decided to skip Beaufort for this trip and continue south.

I put on all my layers again and took my position behind the wheel. The majority of the day we were in Bogue Sound. Again we hadn't left when most people do so there was no one near us at all. The past two days we have ended up travelling behind Peregrine - the young couple we met last trip. This afternoon they could see us behind them on their AIS receiver (that is a device that helps us see where the big ships are) and they called us on the VHF radio to warn us about a shallow spot they hit. We were very careful and easily avoided going aground there. Unfortunately when we came in to our anchorage area in Swansboro we went hard aground. It took Bill a little bit of time to get the boat off. It was almost dark and it would have been very unpleasant if we couldn't push the boat off the sand. Luckily we were able to. Now we can't say we haven't really gone aground yet!

11/28/2012 | Mike & Sharon Crothers
Glad to see you making great progress. I am following another boats blog heading south and I am trying to see which of you is fixing more stuff! took the sails off and are hunkered down for the winter.
11/29/2012 | Jonathan and Zarasun Pond
Nice to see the progress, and the detailed blogging! We met y'all in Annapolis, when Moonraker was on the hard, and you were making final preparations for your "escape". Wishing you fair winds and following seas!
Oriental, NC
11/27/2012, Oriental Town Dock, Oriental NC

We had heard that Oriental was a must stop location. The town is very welcoming to cruisers and they have a free town dock area that fits a couple of boats. We are communicating via email with another boat that is a couple of days ahead of us and they loved their time there.

It was probably our coldest day yet, which is really saying something because it's been very cold! Besides the cold though, we had a good trip. We left the anchorage at Pungo Creek kind of late. We stayed and checked in with the two cruisers nets on the Single Sideband radio. Cruisers all over the east coast and the Bahamas check in with their locations. Usually we forget to go on the nets or we are already underway by the time they are on. Bill announced that we had woken up to 30 degree temperatures that morning. In fact, the temperature in our cabin was only one degree warmer than our refrigerator! Because we were on a different schedule than most of the other people we had been sailing near we found ourselves completely alone for most of the day.

We headed into Oriental expecting to have to anchor but found we were lucky enough to get a spot on the free town dock. The only reason we did was because another boat had just been thrown off for violating the time limit you can stay. When we started to dock the woman from the boat across the dock jumped out to help us - it's what cruisers do - and she said "Hey ! We met you in Cape May!!". Actually it was Coney Island and again in Cape May. It was the young couple we had spent time with on our way back from our trip north. We are next to a dock that the large shrimp boats use. I didn't think it was shrimp season, but they do come and go occasionally. You can see us on the left hand side of the dock in the picture above.

We are spending our allotted 48 hours at the dock here. We are enjoying the city and have eaten two meals out already, plus we had a snack at the coffee shop across from our boat. Yesterday we borrowed bikes, also in the picture, and had a nice discussion with the shop owner who lent them to us. We went to the supermarket and got some food and are working on some projects on the boat. It was a nice day and definitely warmer.

Today we plan to leave around noon and go to Beaufort, NC. Many boats leave from there to go offshore to the Bahamas and Caribbean but we are going to stay inside and enjoy the Intracoastal Waterway all the way to Florida.

Hooray for the Autopilot!
11/24/2012, Pungo Creek, South of Belhaven, NC

We left Elizabeth City on Friday morning. Even though we left around 7am we were the last boat to leave. It was cold again and the layers came back on. I think I might have lost a couple of the top layers - down from 6 to only 4. We tried the autopilot and to our great dismay it did exactly what the old autopilot we had just ripped out was doing, turning to the left for no reason at all. Oh no!! Well hopefully there is some adjustment we can make. We continued south with me at the wheel.

We heard a boat we knew from Annapolis on the VHF radio. They had taken the other route south and were to our east. They were stuck in a dense fog. We looked to our east and it was very foggy there but we were now in the Albemarle Sound - a large body of water that has a reputation for being very difficult - and it was really clear. We crossed the Sound calmly and easily. We were heading into the Alligator River and all of a sudden the fog caught us too. In the picture above you can see the fog coming in. We called the boat you see in the picture on the VHF, he was with us for Thanksgiving dinner. He had been through there a number of times before and we were going to follow him. All we had to do was not lose him in the fog. Luckily the fog started lifting and we had no issues getting through the approach to the river.

We had to go through the Alligator River Bridge next. It is a swing bridge. You have to call the bridge tender and he puts the barriers down across the road and opens the bridge on demand for boaters. The bridge was having mechanical issues though and he wasn't sure he could open it. Those barriers that stop the cars would not go down. The bridge tender found out that if he kicked the mechanism hard enough it would work. Luckily for us we were able to get through. It would have been very unfortunate if we could not go past that bridge.

Sometime during the day Bill researched the autopilot again and found he had set something incorrectly before - the autopilot worked flawlessly! We were now able to use it when we were not somewhere that we needed to steer by hand. What a relief - I forgot how wonderful it is!

We are discovering that this journey down the ICW has a major social component that we hadn't really considered. We spent two days travelling with four of the boats we were with on Thanksgiving. Last night we took our dinghy over to visit with them. We were so thrilled our new dinghy engine worked so well, until we tried to start it to go from one boat to the next and it would not start! After helping finish the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie leftovers we had to get towed back to our boat by another couples' dinghy! Luckily we tried it again today and it started right up. Not sure what happened last night - I think we are just finding all kinds of ways to show we are newbies!

Today we didn't go too far. It was so cold and windy today that I went back to 6 layers - and that wasn't even enough. We spent most of the day going down a 20 mile long canal - the Alligator River - Pungo River Canal. We had heard you can't expect to get through the ICW without going aground - and today we did hit the bottom in the canal. Luckily it didn't stop the boat, it was more like going over a speed bump. It is supposed to be very cold tonight - the coldest yet on our trip - 29 degrees. We are not looking forward to that!

A Cruisers Thanksgiving
11/22/2012, Elizabeth City, NC

This was the first Thanksgiving ever that we have not spent with our family. We weren't sure what to expect or what we were going to do. There are a couple of well known towns on the ICW that host big Thanksgiving celebrations for cruisers but there was no way we were going to get that far south in time. We decided to be in Elizabeth City, NC for Thanksgiving. Bill had hoped that we would find some other cruisers to have dinner with and if nothing else then we would have Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant we found. It was looking more and more like we would be going to that restaurant buffet.

Then a couple of more boats came in and they told us they were planning a pot luck dinner. We were planning to be at the marina across the river for Thanksgiving but we changed our plans and were able to finish the work we had to do in just one day. Things went well with our project and we were able to return to the same slip we left the day before.

Everyone had assignments of some Thanksgiving food to make and if the weather was good enough we were going to eat at the tables the city had on the waterfront. The other option was to use our boat - we have a table that opens up big enough to seat 8. It was pretty windy and we all decided to eat inside on our boat. We started with 9 people including a British man who was celebrating his first Thanksgiving. We had all the traditional food and it was all delicious. Then when we were just starting to eat another boat came in to the slip next to us. Some of the guys went and helped them dock and invited them to come join us. So we ended up with 11 people for dinner. It was an interesting group of people, all of which we will probably see again and again as we all head south looking for warmer weather.

The picture doesn't do the experience justice. Bill didn't get the food and he missed a couple of people. The picture makes it look like it was all about wine - but really we had a well balanced, complete dinner.

It was certainly an interesting Thanksgiving. We finished the evening by using Facetime to talk to our family at our daughters' house. She took over my job of making Thanksgiving dinner. It means a lot to me that she is there for the family. It was great to see everyone even if it was just by computer.

11/22/2012 | Debbie & Brian
Thank you a good time was had by all.
11/24/2012 | Gail and Laur
Looks like a great party! Glad to see you're carrying on the lots of wine tradition!
11/27/2012 | Ed and Lynn
Sounds like a great way to spend Thanksgiving!
12/13/2012 | Judy, Steph and Hobie
Thanks, Guys, it was great, and warm!!!! Thanks for your hospitality.
02/20/2013 | Roger Walker
That's the arm of the Brit on the left. Thanks for hosting a great party and my initiation into the spirit of Thanksgiving.
I love following your blog and hope to be back on board old Sylvia G in April and heading south from Topsail Sound NC.
Fair winds, Roger
Spending a couple of days in Elizabeth City
11/20/2012, Elizabeth City, NC

We ended up spending two nights anchored behind Goat Island. The weather wasn't so bad but we had some things to take care of and we wanted to be in Elizabeth City for Thanksgiving so the timing worked out. On Sunday we hung out, watched football, and took a nap. One of the boats we were with at the Dismal Swamp Visitor Center anchored next to us for a night but we didn't talk to them at all, we never got off the boat. It wasn't too cold, but it wasn't very warm either.

This morning we decided to take showers before going back into civilization so we ran the engine for a while to heat up the water. Bill went first but the water never got hot. Apparently our hot water heater was broken. No showers today and something else to fix! So we headed out to Elizabeth City.

Elizabeth City has free dockage for 48 hours. It is also where the part for our autopilot was waiting for us. The marina we had the part shipped to has weird hours, they are closed Sunday and Monday and don't open until noon on Tuesday. We considered going right to the marina to dock because they have showers and the free docks don't but it was before noon and no one answered the phone. So we took one of the free slips which are right next to the downtown area. Our boat is long and the finger piers are short. Unfortunately the easiest way for us to get off the boat is over the bow pulpit as you can see me doing in the picture above. It is kind of challenging but not too bad.

We walked around town, had some fast food for lunch, checked out the local museum, and then walked over to the other marina to pick up our part. It will be much easier for us to do the work we need to do on the boat over at the other marina so we will go there tomorrow. Plus we get to take showers and use their washer and dryer for only $3 a load! When we got back Bill messed around with the hot water heater and now it seems to be working. He also put the new part on the autopilot and that looks like it works too.

We will most likely be staying here in town for the next 3 nights. We found a restaurant that has a $20 Thanksgiving buffet that we will probably go to, then off to cross the Albemarle Sound which they say can be very rough. The weather is supposed to get warmer. We keep waiting.

11/21/2012 | Dan
Happy Thanksgiving! We hope the warming trend happens soon. Enjoy.

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Who: Bill & Donna Shuman
Port: Annapolis, MD
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Where in the World is Moonraker
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Our Boat

Moonraker is a 1986 Bayfield 40 designed by the famous Ted Gozzard and built in Ontario, Canada. The rig is a cutter/ketch. Here are some of her specs:

LOA: 45 ft. 6 in.
LWL: 30 ft. 6 in.
Beam: 12 ft.
Draft: 4 ft. 11 in.
Displacement: 21,000 lbs.
Ballast: 8,200 lbs.
Sail Area: 1,009 sq. ft.

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