11/30/2012, New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Highly developed Daytona Beach and marshy Ponce De Leon Inlet. Today we saw some of the extremes in Florida. The former chock full of rows of modern condo buildings and the later isolated and grassy marshes surrounding a shoaly inlet.
Opening our throttle to closer to cruising speed at 2,400 RPM's and taking advantage of a favorable current, we made over 65 statute miles today after our 7am start from St. Augustine where we stayed 3 nights on a mooring ball. We enjoyed our stay there and spent quite a bit of time touring and dining with the Gatsby's and Sea Mist's.
A few nice shops, a used bookstore and of course the highlight, the Castillo de San Marcos which the Spanish built in 1695 after defeating the local French forces and which was transferred to the British, back to the Spanish after the American Revolution, to the U.S. As a state in 1845, to the Confederacy and back to the U.S. after the American Civil War. As the expression goes, a lot of history happened here.
Our average SOG, which we now measure in mph, was 8.2 mph - not bad when you factor in waiting for bridge openings and slowing for shoaling. We have now travelled 1,007 statute miles since leaving Rock Hall, Maryland 43 days ago. Sylestial Star is now at anchor behind a small island just in from the ocean so we should have the wash of the waves to lull us to sleep.
11/27/2012, St. Augustine, Florida
What a nice surprise! The Sea Mists, Bill and Betty, heard our call to the Municipal Marina here in St. Augustine and met us at the fuel dock. We last saw them north of Charleston when they went ahead of us to meet their merchant marine son there and arrived in St. Augustine last night. We, along with the Gatsby's will get together with them during our 2 nights here on a mooring ball in the city's Menendez mooring field. And our new friends, Nikki and Franz on Skybird III, have now moved on ahead to arrive at their destination at Palm Coast.
It took us only 2 hours to reach here from our quiet anchorage at Pine Island. On the way in, we took many pictures of the Historic Spanish Fort and other European style highlights of the town including the Bridge of Lions which we passed under on our way in.
Today marks 40 days since we left Spring Cove Marina in Rock Hall, Maryland. We have now covered 942 statue miles since departure with just over 200 miles to go until we reach Loggerhead Marina in Stuart, Florida. Stuart will be our stopping point for now, after which we will fly back to Philadelphia for the Holidays. I must say that it feels great, for the first time in a long time, to remove most of our outerwear, at least during the daytime and to be barefooten' instead of wearing wool socks!
Regarding entering Jacksonville via the St. John's River - like most inlets, it should only be approached in daylight, especially in light of the commercial anchorage and lighted fishing boats. As we began our approach at daybreak, we were notified that an outgoing "container" barge was approaching and would need the whole channel. Wow, was it's big! Easily the largest ship of it's type ww had ever seen.
As a side note, we felt bad for the Captain of a Chilean submarine, outside the harbor, who tried unsuccessfully from at least 5 to 7am to raise the large U.S. Navy base there to obtain assistance in entering the port. Not healthy for international relations.
Regarding Thanksgiving and Port Royal Landing Marina in Beaufort, South Carolina. Our friends Brian and Marj flew down from Baltimore to join us for the wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner, in which 51 away from home cruisers participated and helped us complete several needed boat projects. The celebration lasted several days. We toured Beautiful Beaufort in their rental car and they, the Gatsby's and we all went to see the new movie "Lincoln".
Beaufort turned out to be a great place to celebrate Thanksgiving when one is away from home.
11/26/2012, Pine Island Anchorage, Florida
It has been a long and tiring 28 hours. Sylestial Star, along with our buddy boats, Gatsby and Skybird III were first to arrive today in the picturesque anchorage at Pine Island, 11 miles north of St. Augustine. With a favorable forecast, we yesterday executed a tricky 7am departure into the strong current from our facedock slip at our home for the last 4 nights, Port Royal Marina. I say tricky, because the day before the ketch on the adjoining face dock attempted the same maneuver with problematic consequences. It was quickly swept into the next sailboat with respective stern and bow pulpits so completely entwined and damaged that tow boat U.S. could not pry them apart despite a nearly all day effort.
So, in sunny and cold conditions we departed and rode the strong current down the Beaufort River and into the North Atlantic. Motorsailing with jib only as we headed south with 10 to 15 kt winds on the ocean did little to alleviate the roll caused by waves to 4' waves on our port stern quarter. Fortunately, as forecast, the seas lay down to first 2' and then 1' by 16:00 hours so we were comfortable the rest of the way down the coast. We slowly motored 10 to 12 miles offshore so as to arrive at the entrance to the busy port of Jacksonville at dawn. No whales were sighted as we passed through the Right Whale sanctuary on a clear and moonlit night. At one point all 3 boats executed a quick starboard turn to avoid a large ferry exiting St. Simons after midnight but otherwise the evening was cold but largely uneventfull. We both stayed in the cockpit all evening using 3 hour watches with the off watch person sleeping under blankets and our down comforter.
There is a large and very busy commercial anchorage outside the St. Johns River entrance to Jacksonville Harbor. We felt our way through the anchorage slowly, with the invaluable help of radar tracking and avoided the large and brightly lit commercial fishing boats that also oohed the area.
11/21/2012, Beaufort, South Carolina
Everyone seemed to have the same idea at the same time. We timed our departure from our Alligator Creek anchorage so that we would capture enough of the flood tide to allow us to negotiate several canals and cuts on the way to Beaufort - although the water was still thin indeed. Then Sylestial Star, along with 2 other sailboats entered the wide Coosaw River and all spontaneously raised their head sails for a 45 minute sail assist in 12 knots on this beautiful river. With the sun warming us we sat back and enjoyed ourselves.
In fact, our time in South Carolina has largely been a passage through very pretty and largely unhabited marshlands and forest. Now we have a greater appreciation of the life and times of the Swamp Fox, Francis Marion.
Today we passed the waterfront of lovely Beaufort, South Carolina and are now tied up at the face dock at Port Royal Marina, several miles down the Beaufort River. The folks here are very nice and allowed us to commadeer the marina's Ford 150 to run some errands in town.
Despite a relatively short run of 29 statue miles today, for some reason, we are very tired, perhaps a function of 34 days mostly spent on the water headed south. We have fallen into a definite and pleasureable rhythm on board, especially when we drop the hook in a quiet and remote anchorage such as Alligator Creek. We move around each other comfortably in the relatively confined quarters on board and we each take care of the other in a natural sort of way so as to make the numerous daily tasks on board quite managable. In short, although sometimes tired and stressed over long days and navigation issues, we are very much enjoying this experience. It has become a true adventure with each day bringing on more new vistas.
Tomorrow, Thanksgiving supper here in Port Royal.
11/20/2012, Alligator Creek, South Carolina
Leaping dolphins! Dolphins are prolific in the North And South Carolina waters but this is the first time we have seen them jumping fully out of the water as we approached them on Sylestial Star - a wondrous sight in their natural habitat.
Today we departed at 7:40 am and made 58 statute miles running from Whiteside Creek to the large and very pretty anchorage of Alligator Creek. In the process we crossed Charleston Harbor, passed Fort Sumpter and circled in the Harbor to time our appearance at the Wappoo Creek swing bridge for it's 11 am opening.
And hooray! After another cold and grey morning, the sun appeared at 12 noon and remained with us until we dropped the hook at 16:00 hours and then provided us with a gorgeous sunset that encouraged us to actually remain in the cockpit and enjoy a bottle of wine before going below. it will be dropping into the 30's and 40's at night for at least the next few days but more sunshine is also forecast and it's warming rays in an open cockpit are very welcome.
At anchor with us are Gatsby and Skylark III, the crew of whom we met several weeks ago in Oriental, North Carolina. We are all headed to Port Royal Marina in Beaufort to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
11/19/2012, Whiteside Creek, South Carolina
After rejecting 2 other sites on marshy Whiteside Creek, we finally left our anchor down in water that should provide us with enough swing room for when the tide and current change later today(we hope!). We reluctantly shortened our scope in 22' of water due to nearness of the marsh. Sylestial Star is secured by 100' of chain and 10/15 of rope with our Mansion Anchor and swivel. High tide was at 12:30 hours so the current is dictating our position as it leaves the creek. North winds at 10/15 are expected tonight.
Along with Gatsby, we covered 51 SM today and reached our designated anchorage early. Sylvia reminded me of a "Ros" rule when I began contemplating going further today - if you arrive early, take advantage of the time to relax rather than pressing on, in what quite often is a fun and exciting adventure in the outdoors, but also a stressful and demanding endurance test. So we stayed, which was, of course, the right thing to do.
Here is a list of my attire today as we continued south in these balmy, sub-tropical conditions: long sleeve poly pro shirt, fleece sweatshirt, fleece vest, Mountain Hardwear wind blocking fleece jacket, heavy foul weather jacket, fleece hat, long johns, jeans, foul weather bib pants and wool socks. Is this really South Carolina? The good weather news is that the sun is supposed to reappear with seasonal temperatures when we reach Beaufort in several days. Seas are expected to calm somewhat offshore and wind normalize.
For tonight, on the hook, it is again time for our propane heater.