Log of Our Diamond

15 November 2017 | Herb River, GA.
13 November 2017 | Bass Creek, SC
13 November 2017 | Charleston, SC
10 November 2017 | SC Grasslands
10 November 2017 | Waccamaw River Wildlife Refuge
07 November 2017 | Topsail Beach, NC
06 November 2017 | Beaufort, NC
05 November 2017 | Pungo River, NC.
05 November 2017
05 November 2017 | Norfolk, VA
05 November 2017 | Reedville, VA - Deltaville, VA
04 November 2017 | South River MD - Reedville VA

The Long Winding Road Continues – Long Day

15 November 2017
I must have been able to snag a few more winks in the morning as Lana commented that the anchor was up at 6:30:20. I didn’t feel any better for 65 seconds of additional shut eye. Nothing helps wake you up like pulling in 100+ feet of 5/16 chain in the morning. Cold metal with warm water and oozy, smelly mud, I can’t wait for the nice clear, warm water and sand on the anchor. Just after pulling into the Skidaway River channel we are passed by a large power yacht at speed without even a courtesy call. Lana jokes that it must be from NY or NJ as there was a facebook post the day before that all NY and NJ drivers are jerks and don’t make a radio call or slow pass. Well guess where he was from after he passes and we pick up all our stuff, wait for it…. NJ. Maybe facebook is right sometimes. A mile and half later guess who is floating in the current with a USCG tender tied to his side with blue lights flashing, yes Mr. NJ, seems he was blasting along in a no wake zone. Just goes to show. To be clear I have no beef with the fine folks of NY or NJ but there should be a level of courtesy. Now I sound like an old, crusty cruiser, oh no..

Again our timing for the day seems to be acceptable as we go through Hell Gate at mid tide and don’t see less than 9 feet of depth. Hell Gate is notorious for shoaling and running aground. Last year we went through and near low tide and saw 5 feet with a 4.5 foot draft. A sailboat named SKYE follows us through. The remainder of the day is up with the current and down with the current as we pass inlet after inlet. Even have to make sure we don’t follow last year’s path too closely as it shows we came in from offshore at Ossabaw Sound. That day offshore last year wasn’t conducive with my work schedule as cell service (which I rely on for tethering) was spotty and my ability to stare at a computer screen below in a seaway was not amenable to the stomach. I blame it more on spotty cell coverage of course.

Our friend SKYE calls and requests an update on conditions as we transit the Little Mud River cut so we oblige. It ends up being minimum of 10 foot all the way through but he seems to be a bit hesistant and cuts off after the end and anchors. We decide to gamble with the remaining two hours of light and 12 miles to go and press on to the next anchorage. The currents play games at 7 kts, then 5.7 kts and finally 7.4 kts so we arrive 30 minutes before sunset at the South Altamaha River Anchorage. Total distance for the day – 68.1 nm, probably as there were no bridges. Here Lana catches a great photo of a sundog. Then we have a great dinner of homemade beef stew and crash. We have a short 48 mile run to Cumberland Island and a reunion with SEA JULES. They went outside from Charleston to Cumberland on an overnight with ISLAND GIRL.

Need to get fuel in the morning as we are down to the last 5 gallon jerry jug and the gauge reads just above empty. This is one of those nagging questions of how much fuel is left below empty. It seems a simple question with a 25 gallon tank and we never have to fill beyond 18 gallons no matter how close to empty we take it. I claim there must be 4 gallons below empty but really don’t want the “I told you so” lecture if I decide to try. There was something in one of my coastal cruising classes where Terry Killian said the prudent sailor always maintains 1/3 of the fuel in reserve for the what ifs. I still wonder what if there is 4 gallons below empty, just how far could we go. I told you so.

Enginerd Note: Extra credit if you know the sundog is 23 degrees away from the sun and is related to the refraction index of ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.

The Long Winding Road Begins – Short Day

15 November 2017 | Herb River, GA.
Left Bass Creek Anchorage at 6:29:15 as Lana said the anchor must be up by 6:30. I tried stretching the shut eye but it didn’t work. Met a boat, ZAMA DAWN, in the Coosaw river and discussed who would be running faster so we could figure who to put in front before the Brickyard Cut. We thought they would be faster and they were by 0.1 kt. So they took the lead. I thought they would meet the 0900 opening of the Ladies Island Bridge at Beaufort (BUFORT) and we would catch the 0930. As the currents were favorable we stayed right with them and both made the 0900 bridge. Thus began a long morning of following ZAMA DAWN until they cut off at Dafuskie Island to take a break from the shallow crossings. We think they just wanted to get us off their tail. We pushed on taking advantage of the currents pushing us along. Somehow we have the timing about right that we get to start with a current push and then a bit of a head current as we approach the next inlet which then changes direction and we get a push for the beginning of the afternoon. Other than the strategic view it is very difficult to determine where the currents change between cuts so as Janice says, it is what it is…

We make it through Port Royal sound and then through the low country, past Hilton Head and past the Savannah River into Georgia. Thus begins the long winding road of the creeks and cuts of Georgia. The cruising guide states that for every 100 miles distance you actually travel 130 miles due to all the winding back and forth. We consider stopping at Isle of Hope Marina but decide to stop short at the Herb River anchorage as no need to spend the marina bucks and the couple we met there last year (and saw again in St. Mary’s for Thanksgiving) haven’t responded to email inquiries for a couple of days. Anchor was down by 1600 so we had a comfortable evening meal and then a couple of shows (yes still trying to get through House of Cards – even with all the bad press, deservedly, for Kevin Spacey lately).

Saw several dolphins but the most prevalent wildlife for the day is the cormorants. Cormorants are weird birds that swim underwater and pop up out of no where. Wonder how they navigate underwater as they tend to stay down for over a minute or two. Saw a really interesting cloud formation in the afternoon as we were approaching Calibogue Sound.

Welcome comments from Mom and Ted and Kim.

Work and More Play Makes for a Great Day

13 November 2017 | Bass Creek, SC
Start Sunday with a walk to and from ISLAND GIRL at Charleston City Marina to borrow an empty diesel fuel can from Denny. Needed to transfer and strain some debris from one of the jerry jugs of diesel that I noticed when I was getting ready to dump it in the tank the other day. No major drips or spills and get a bunch of debris and a gelatin mass out of the tank. Ready for the next time.

Cindy stops by to pick us up and shuttle us around in her rental car and meets a client that she had made a boat loan for a couple of years before. Cindy had a short chat with them taking their large power yacht to Florida. They just came in for fuel and a short rest (less than 3 hours) and back underway.

Then we are off to see the CSS HUNLEY at the Conservation museum. Even though we have seen the HUNLEY four times before it is always good to hear the latest finds and theories of how it went down. Stephen and I saw it several years ago and then took mom another time. Lana and I have seen it alone twice and with Stan and Annie another time. I am still meaning to read a couple of the newer books out on the conservation and overall story. One of the books is from Mark Ragan who lives in Edgewater, MD. A coworker at Phoenix keeps meaning to introduce me to Mark. The HUNLEY was the first successful submarine attack to sink a ship, the USS HOUSATONIC that was blockading the port of Charleston in the Civil War.

Cindy then took us to Minervo, a Mexican restaurant for lunch and then to Harris Teeter to stock up on some staples for the next leg of the trip. Then we took a quick trip back to the boat to drop off groceries and then one last drop off in town by Cindy who has to go set up for her convention. We meet Mike and Julie for a walk around downtown and the waterfront before dinner (yes another one) at Charleston Oyster House. We both order Ubers and wager on who's arrives first, ours did...

After dinner we go back to boat to get ready for the next day's departure, showers, laundry, computer stuff and trip planning. Reading bridge opening times is like reading the tax code. Here is a snippet for the Wapoo Creek Bridge.

"April 1 - November 30 Mon-Fri except holidays 0900-1530 hrs and Sat-Sun 0900-1900 hrs opens on the hour and half-hour. December1 - March 30 0900-1600 hrs opens on request, with last opening at 1550 hrs. April 1- May 31 and October 1-Nov 30 Mon - Fri except holidays closed 0600-0900 and 1600-1830 hrs. June 1-September 30 and December 1-March 30 Mon - Fri except holidays closed 0630-0900 and 1600-1830 hrs. Easy, right?"

The last part is in the cruising guide and not just me being snarky. Anyway, we get to sleep in, but that sets us back about 3 hours on the day. After the bridge is the Elliot Cut with a 2.5 kt current against us. In the cut we are making way for 1 nm at 2 kts so the two power boats and sail boat behind us get a slow tour of the Cut. Kind of frustrating and unnerving knowing there are boats behind if something goes wrong. At the end of the cut one of the powerboats requests a slow pass and comments that he decided not to pass in the cut due to safety. Well duh! No major events other than multiple with and without current runs so speed is all over the place. Stop short at an anchorage which will set us up for the next bridge in Beaufort, SC (yes, you got it, BUFORT) which is closed 6:30 to 9:00. We are 14 miles away so hopefully we have a good idea of the current to time it about right. Probably depart 6:30 which gives us some leeway on time, we hope.

Time, Tide and Bridges with a Reunion

13 November 2017 | Charleston, SC
We spent a long night with high wind and current, which was accented by the appearance of a dead head about 25 feet off the port quarter of the boat just before the sunset as the tide went down a bit. A deadhead is a tree or post that is just at the surface of the water and usually stuck partially in the bottom. It made for an interesting, if unnerving, anchor location. Mike later aptly described it as a punji stick. Kept seeing it every time we got up in the night, first to figure out if we were dragging after a couple of speedboats zoomed by going home after fishing, second to take down the cockpit enclosure in the high wind and third to tie down the dodger that was rattling in the wind. Slept in just a bit as we thought we had a short day to Charleston, little did we know….

We had a four mile run to the Ben Sawyer Swing Bridge with the current and a 30+ kt tailwind. Realize that we are too early for the bridge so idle for 2.5 miles and still get there with 20 minutes to wait. After 20 minutes we make the call for the bridge opening and he says the wind is too high to open as it is above 30 mph sustained. Try again at 11 AM. So we motor in circles for 15 minutes and decide to anchor at the side of the channel. Another sailboat we had been pirouetting with decided to anchor behind us. As we watched they dragged anchor about a half a mile before realizing it. Good thing the wind and current were the same direction and down the channel and that they were far enough from the bridge to not hit it. At 11 the bridge tender waited 9 minutes to decide the sustained wind was 29mph and he could open. Yee haw… Good for him (and me) otherwise there would have been bad words on the radio and somebody dropping me overboard. Uneventful sail across the Charleston channel to The Harborage at Ashley Marina where we fueled before slipping. Great!, two docking attempts in high wind and high current. I must say we did well on both and actually backed into the slip assignment on the inside of the T-head.

Cleaned up and settled down a bit then walked to Charleston City Marina to meet ISLAND GIRL and head to downtown on the shuttle to meet SEA JULES. Quite a reunion in town. Walked around a bit and then got a table for 8 at the Sticky Fingers BBQ restaurant. This was the beginning of a recurring food centered event weekend. We walked around the town more until we got cold and decided to take the group back to ISLAND GIRL for an afternoon siesta/drinking discussions. Worked on a puzzle of downtown waterfront houses that Denny, Susan, Ed and Beth had started the day before. Don’t quite know how puzzles work on boats but it passed the time. Then headed to dinner reservations at Poogan’s Porch at 9:30 via two Ubers. Poogan was a cocker spaniel dog that lived at this house in the 1920s. It became a restaurant in 1976 I think. Really good food on top of the other food we had all day.

On the Way to Charleston

10 November 2017 | SC Grasslands
Pulled anchor after a night of rain and cold. Morning is misty with sun yet to come above the swamp trees. Saw several boats which was quite different than the one boat was saw the entire day before. Either we were nuts being out in the rain and cold or others missed the opportunity to press on.

Again our timing was great, by happenstance mostly, and the current was pushing us along. Saw several bald eagles, cormorants and dolphins. Also saw tons of fishing lures hanging in the trees along the river. If I retire with nothing better to do maybe a side business would be collecting and selling used fishing lures.

Motorsailed to the top of Winyah Bay near Georgetown. Last year we stopped in Georgetown with HEARTSTRING for dinner. Decided to try a lunar distance shot (see enginerd alert below) which set me up for a navigation error. Missed the turn to the cutoff to the ICW then fouled the sail trying to recover. Barely got all that taken care of otherwise it would have been a 6 mile roundtrip error. Continued on into the tallgrass low country north of Charleston. The currents change every couple of miles as you approach and pass inlets and sloughs which makes predicting speed and distance difficult. As expected it came to pass that we were going to fall short of Charleston by about two and half hours. Part of this is due to another bridge schedule that only opens on the hour and not during 4-6PM rush hour. Sunset at 5:17 so we anchored in the tallgrass cuts 12 miles short of Charleston. Reservations at a marina and reunion with SEA JULES and ISLAND GIRL for Saturday afternoon. Also just found out Cindy Lewis is in Charleston for a Great Loop event with her finance company so we will be getting together with her.

ENGINERD ALERT - Mom got me a book on Lunar Distance Calculations for my birthday, thanks mom. So this morning as I could see the moon and the sun I decided to try this method. Lunar Distance is an alternative to what is typical celestial navigation. It was actually competitive with John Harrisons pocket marine chronometer in the time of Edmund Halley and other of the classical astronomers. The theory is the angular distance between the moon and a celestial body is able to be calculated to determine the current local time which allows the navigator to determine their position. Taking the angular distance is quite a bit more difficult than it appears. Almost ended upside down to get the shot. Now trying to interpret the calculation instructions I realize I took the wrong measurement, I matched the edges so the centers were nearly the same while it should have been the edges just touching. Better luck next time and hopefully I am situationally aware as to not make another near navigation error.

Cape Fear and Loathing and Beyond

10 November 2017 | Waccamaw River Wildlife Refuge
Left Topsail Anchorage before the chickens again, Lana needs a different alarm clock. Just as we got to the first of two bridges that timing of set the entire early departure time I realized the distance between the two bridges was 5 nm not 3 nm miles. The detail is the in the timing, the first bridge opens on the hour and half hours and the second only on the hour. 3nm between would allow catching the first at the half hour and the second at the hour, barely. At 5nm no chance to catch the next opening of the second bridge so we were either 20 minutes late or 40 minutes early however you want to look at it. Either way lots of time to continue discussing what went wrong. Again either too much time or not enough.

Things recover smoothly as we are riding the currents with us the entire way and make it to Snows Cut near Carolina Beach at slack tide which sets us up for a sleigh ride down the Cape Fear River. Saw two oyster boats from Oxford, MD headed north. Didn’t get a chance to talk with them to find out their story. On the way we get a reservation at the Southport Marina after a cancellation just before we called. Fueled and got settled and decided to walk the water front of town and then started a mission to find bread and milk. Wandering through town found a NAPA auto parts store and bought a replacement fuel filter after the debacle in Norfolk/Portsmouth. Asked directions to a grocery and got the standard local response anywhere “ It’s down the road about a block or two” which is interpreted as a walk of about a mile or more. Local drivers have a hard time calibrating for the walker. Got the milk and bread and then headed back to the marina. Stopped at a cool little bar and grill for dinner called Loco Jo’s.

Southport has a history in the Civil War as a riverboat pilot town that supported the Confederacy by providing pilots for the blockade runners. Saw a sign that the standard charge for blockade piloting was $3000 in gold up front. Nice sum and then you can still see some of the river pilots houses that are now B&Bs etc along the waterfront. Saw the Cape Fear lighthouse across the river from the city dock.

Did boat maintenance, chores and prep before crashing and watching the loom of the lighthouse in the fog/mist. The pattern is Iso quick flashing group of four. This is a repeating pattern of four quick flashes in iso phase with a similar time count of darkness (flash, flash, flash, flash, dark, dark, dark, dark, repeat).

Got up early for departure in the cold rain headed for a Waccamaw River anchorage. After departing we had a message from Todd and Nina on PRIZM (Colorado) that Todd has an old Army buddy in Southport that was going to stop at the marina on his morning walk to say hi. Bummer we missed him as we were gone at sunrise. Again we got quite a push from the current and made it to the NC-SC stateline just north of Myrtle Beach. Passed the Calabash River anchorage along the way. On the way back from Bahamas last year we spent the night there with ANGLEZARK and GREEN GHOST. Current carried us through Myrtle Beach and well into the Waccamaw River to an anchorage beyond our original destination by an hour. We made it to Cow House Creek anchorage. Crashed in the cold and spent most of the evening trying to keep warm.
Vessel Make/Model: Catalina 36 MkII
Hailing Port: Shady Side, MD.
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