Winter Wonderland.....Yikes !
03 January 2018 | Watching weather in Charleston
A Single Brushstroke Down
Light dawns, and any talk of proof
resembles a blind man's cane at sunrise.
Remember the passage,
We are with you wherever you are.
Come back to that,
When did we ever leave it ?
No matter we're in prison of forgetting
or enjoying the banquet of wisdom,
we are always inside presence.
Drunkenly asleep, tenderly awake,
clouded with grief, laughing like lightning,
angry at war, quiet with gratitude,
we are nothing in this many-mooded
world of weather but a single brushstroke down,
speaking of presence.
Rumi, for January 2nd
It is almost inconceivable ! We have been in Charleston now for two weeks, and today, as we sit snug and warm on the boat a "bomb cyclone" is passing us by, moving north east along the coast. The entire east coast is in a winter storm watch, and here in Charleston we have freezing rain this morning and expecting snow this afternoon. Even deep south Florida is expecting record low temperatures as hurricane force winds bring the wind chill into the teens or lower. NOAA Surface Conditions (photo above) indicate gale force winds throughout the southern coast and the northern Bahamas. We are still hopeful that after all this nasty weather passes, we will be able to move south by early next week. In the interim, we stay warm rolling on swells, even in the marina, and as Rumi says, we are "nothing in this many-mooded world of weather but a single brushstroke down, speaking of presence."
Charleston is always fun, certainly one of our favorite places to stop. Not only is the City beautiful, with lots to do it has a great number of really wonderful restaurants. We have spent both Christmas and New Years here. We went into town for Christmas Eve dinner, mostly because it was near impossible to get a reservation at the 17 or so restaurants open on Christmas Day. We had our Christmas bow up on the bow, and our Christmas tree up in the Salon, Diana providing a wonderful Christmas dinner on board, and our boat neighbors came over for a drink and Christmas cheer afterward.
New Years, we again went into town, to a block party at Marion Square, walked the shops on King Street, had dinner at 5Church, (check it out in the photo gallery) a very unique restaurant in an old Church on Meeting Street, then to a Comedy-Mystery Theatre for "Sherlock Home's Other Brother by a Southern Mother". An absolutely awful play, but a riot of laughter with many in the audience playing parts in the production. It was a wonderful New Years, shared with others, although cold and we were home by 10 PM to welcome in the event.
So for now we sit comfortably on the boat, waiting.... seems we have been doing that a lot this year. We have both gone through a rack of books, made some boat repairs, watched the weather every minute, and both made one New Year resolution.... from now on, we get started earlier !
South to Charleston, SC
01 January 2018 | Charleston Harbor and the USS Yorktown
It was exciting being back on the boat, we love to anchor out, and with shrimp boats traveling north most of the night next to us on the ICW we felt right at home, a gentle swaying motion and the slap of waves against the hull. In the morning we got up early, ready to travel more than 50 miles on the ICW due to a weather front moving in after about 30 hours. watching the weather, we decided to move south on the ICW to Cape Fear River and Southport, NC. It would take a few days because we would need to sit out one as the front passed through. Travel on the ICW is limited this time of year simply because of daylight, by 5 or 5:30 we wanted to be anchored for the night, our goal was Mile Hammock Bay, an interesting off channel lagoon on the Marine Corps Base at Camp Lejeune. You can anchor, but can't go ashore. The morning was brisk, and a dense fog settled in just as we started out. With radar on and continually watching ahead, we moved slowly south toward Morehead. There isn't a lot of traffic this late in the year, so we felt safe motoring slowly until the fog burned off. Within a couple hours the fog was gone and a bright clear, but cold morning greeted us with Morehead City in sight.
Before we started in the morning another sailboat motored past us where we had anchored. They had continually been in front of us, but now with the fog lifting and a long distance to travel we increased our speed and began to pass them. As always, we look for the boat name and home port, ALASKA ! As we came along side, there were two men aboard, they were heading to Panama, the canal and back north to Alaska. They planned to go outside at Beaufort and sail down the coast, we wished them safe travels and moved on forward. As we motored away, Diana comments, "that the only two boats out on a cold day like this... us and a boat from Alaska."
Beaufort inlet to Charleston would be our preferred route, but it would take 34-36 hours and we didn't have that long a window, so instead we turned south at Morehead picked up the ICW and continued south. It was a cool but bright day, we arrived at Mile Hammock about 4 pm and anchored with only two other boats and lots of room , both were trawlers.
Tomorrow doesn't look good. We can stay anchored here, or move on quickly in the morning, with another 50 miles to cover to Carolina Beach and a mooring to sit out the storm front due tonight through tomorrow. Given the prospect of heavy fog, we decide to make the decision in the morning based on conditions then.
Morning came with first light and to our surprise no fog. The two trawlers left and we followed the first one out. It didn't take long, light rain, a little fog, and after a short run south to the New River inlet, we went aground. Now as the sailors adage says... if any sailor ever tells you he has never gone aground they are lying ! In the ICW, near inlets especially, shoaling is a continual problem, and in this case it had become so bad that the ICW markers were no longer used, and a floating red marked a new channel which we missed. After trying to "twist" off for awhile, it became evident that we needed a tow to move us into the channel as the current and twist attempts had made our position worse. Thank goodness for USBoat, Unlimited Towing Insurance. It's one of the first things I did 15 years ago when first coming to NC, and it has been a godsend on the times when we have gone aground, yes... there have been a few of them! A young towboat captain arrived about an hour later, pulled us off the shoal, and further south to be sure we were clear, he said there was another shoal in the channel, thank goodness for "local knowledge". In all it took about 15 minutes, and we were again on our way, motoring south with rain the rest of the day. Lucky for us the temperatures actually got warmer as we were wet and tired and it was getting dark as we approached Carolina Beach. We had a mooring reserved, and entered the mooring field in the dark, me with spotlight in hand at the bow, Diana quickly put us up against the mooring ball where I picked up the pendant, tied us up and we both collapsed after a long, cold, wet day! The storm moved in that night, but we were snug and cozy below, prepared to rest the next day before moving on.
We had a good 24 hour window after the front moved off shore. That would give us enough time to get to Charleston from Southport, NC. The conditions would be a bit brisk in the morning, settle in the afternoon, and build overnight. We wanted to arrive at Charleston at dawn, get into the marina by early AM before another front moved in. After a good day rest, we dropped the mooring with first light and headed down the Cape Fear River toward the inlet. It was still raining, but light and not quite as cold. We made a quick stop at Southport for fuel and went outside at the inlet, turned south and tried to set a course close to shore to avoid higher winds and seas. For awhile, it was actually quite nice. a light rain, but we had the headsail up and where moving along with a NE wind. By sunset, the wind had shifted to the SW, right on our nose, and we dropped sail and motored the rest of the night. Its always lovely sailing at night, but motoring through the cold, raining night, with nothing but a small crescent moon, is not one of the things that I really enjoy. On watch you huddle for warmth, watch for ocean cargo traffic, and fixate on your watch ! The seas were reasonably flat, so the only consolation is the ability to actually sleep for a few hours in between watches. Our timing was near perfect, just as the dawn poked its nose above the horizon, we entered the Charleston inlet channel. A couple hours into the harbor, and up the Cooper River and directly into the marina. We arrived there before they opened, but as we had a slip reserved, just glided into the open slip, tied up and were home for Christmas and at least a week stay. If there is anywhere to be stranded for Christmas, Charleston is probably one of the best !
Start of another Winter Voyage
30 December 2017 | Joyous on Joy !
It's that time again, as winter approaches, we begin preparations to sail south to a warmer place and new adventures. The summer has been spent with new upgrades on the boat and planning where we will go this year. It's November now and right after Thanksgiving we plan to make our way to North Carolina and final packing of the boat ready to leave. Our plans include going to the Bahamas, to visit and explore the many islands and locations we didn't get to three years ago. We have gotten the watermaker running, an expensive and lengthy process, but important this year because water in the Bahamas is expensive and quality variable. We have also added to our house battery bank, at this point more than 1000 amp hrs for more extended anchorages, and with our solar and wind energy supplies, almost unlimited capacity to stay out of marinas if desired.
As we approach a departure date more issues come to the forefront. We made one big mistake this summer... we didn't use or move the boat ! Not even one sail to Ocracoke. All the time spent with repairs and upgrades, left the boat torn up through most of the summer and as anyone will tell you, an unused boat is a deteriorating problem. So our lessons learned: Getting ready to leave, we found the barnacles and sea slime build up had gotten beyond a diver's quick cleaning. So I took the boat to Hurricane Boatyard for a "short haul", they lift the boat out of the water, and we power wash with low pressure to preserve bottom paint, and I spend a couple hours scraping barnacles. The prop was clean, but zincs were reduced and no replacement available, and the thrusters were caked over with barnacles. Joy is dropped back in the water, minus about a 100 lbs of barnacles and she moves better through the water, but even with heavy scraping the thrusters are still not working.
It was difficult, because our original plan had been to move the boat to Charleston, SC early, go back to St. Louis for Thanksgiving, then back to Charleston to proceed south, but our early weather window saw us both down with the flu, and we had to abandon our original plan and go back to St. Louis for Thanksgiving. On arrival back at Saltayre, we did final packing, had a window opportunity got on the boat an left.... hmm, did I say "left", actually we got out about 15 minutes and discovered that our compass was not working ! As the compass effects the auto-pilot, we returned to Saltayre. Neither of us wanted to hand steer the next 5 months, so the auto-pilot needs to work and home port with people we know would be better to repair it than somewhere south. Now the rear sad story begins. With help from Keith at Voyager Navigation, we found out the course computer was not working correctly. Options are to send it in for repairs which would take a minimum of a month, or buy a new one, another big repair cost. The new unit was available and we can have it in 2 days, no question on that decision so we order it and Keith will be back in 3 days to install it. Don't hold your breath, its not over yet! So its installed, to calibrate it, we take Joy out and "swing" the compass, essentially driving in circles to allow the compass and computer to "find" compass points and deviation. Now I did tell you not to hold your breath, it didn't work ! We tried a number of times, different calibration systems and none worked. Frustrated, we again returned to the dock and called Raymarine. We explain problem with the NEW course computer, run the diagnostics they tell us and they agree to replace it. They were good enough to send out the new unit before we returned the defective unit, but another few days lost. Finally, a replacement unit arrives, its installed, and once again we go out to "swing" the compass.... finally success. Of course by now we have lost a few weeks, and the December cold fronts start in earnest. We could get one day, perhaps two tops between fronts and conditions in which we don't want to be at sea. So we wait, another week waiting and watching the forecast and sea state.
We never really got it, our goal had been enough time to sail to Charleston or even Florida in one shot, that opening never came. I think in the end, we decided we had had enough and were going to move, even if it meant a day at a time and even if we had to go down the ICW. So on December 18th, just 1 week before Christmas, we left Saltayre, with nothing but the prospect that temperatures would not go below 40-45 degrees. We spent the first few hours traveling to River Dunes for fuel and water, immediately continued on and spent our first night out at anchor, on Adams Creek, 15 miles from Morehead City. At least we are underway, Joyous on Joy !
Home to Saltayre
21 May 2017 | Home at Saltayre
Our last day, it would be short, and we would be home to Saltayre in the afternoon. We pulled up anchor, sailed back the 8 miles to Beaufort Inlet and started in, catching up with the ICW route at Morehead City. It was another lovely day as we motored up Adams Creek toward the Neuse River and Oriental. As we turned into the Neuse headed to the Bay River, passing Oriental and River Dunes, we began to feel nostalgia for this winter's adventure and all the ports we had visited. We laughed and joked about forgetting land and just heading north, perhaps Maine for the summer. It was exciting being almost home as we turned into the Bay River and view of Vandemere, NC our home port. As we motored slowly into Vandemere Creek with the dock in view, we knew another winter cruise had come to an end. We would spend a day unpacking and cleaning the boat, and drive back to St. Louis where our "other life" awaited. Joy is safely tucked away in her slip, with so much to do over the next few months as we prepare for November and next years travels.
Passage to North Carolina
21 May 2017 | Cape Lookout for last night anchorage
Our continued trek north is underway with overnights and day trips heading back to Saltayre and home in North Carolina. As we leave Daytona we start on the ICW heading for Fernandina and St. Mary's GA. We hope to rendezvous with friends on Cerulean and pull into St. Mary's late in the day. Winds had piped up and we anchored in 20 ft of water in front of the town dock. We enjoyed St. Mary's on the way south, back at Thanksgiving, and look forward to a less busy environment in this lovely town. Never having been into Savannah, we rented a car and spent a day visiting beautiful downtown Savannah, took a trolley tour, walked the waterfront and had dinner in the historic old town. Next morning in St. Mary's with the rented car, we got to the local Publix to provision for the rest of the trip home. Chris and Robin on Cerulean pulled into St. Mary's later in the day, anchored and we had a chance to visit. A massive cold front was scheduled the next day so we all sat out the storm, clocking winds close to 50 mph and praying that our anchors held. After the front was thru and things settled down, we made plans with Cerulean to continue our northern trek with an overnight passage to Charleston.
Cerulean left first about 7 AM and we pulled up anchor and headed to the St. Mary's inlet about 8 AM. The winds were light but the sun was out and seas comfortable as we turned north and put up the sails. It was a lovely day, bright with a cool breeze, but light so we sailed part, then motor sailed most of the day and night. It was an uneventful passage, arriving Charleston Harbor about 10 AM the next morning and motoring to the St. Johns Marina where we had a slip reserved. We enjoyed two days at St. Johns, got to visit with Chris and Robin, but felt we needed to move again north due to another front and threatened lightning storm. As often happens, you either take the weather window when available or stand to loose a week waiting for another window. We left St. Johns Marina about 10 AM in the morning to make a bridge opening and slack tide heading out the harbor. Our next passage north to either Southport, NC or Morehead City at Beaufort Inlet. While the day was bright and a good wind we still motor sailed, knowing that we needed to average 7 knts to make Southport or a waypoint in-route, for decision which port to go to. Beaufort Inlet would mean another overnight and potentially another front moving through before we could make it into port, so the decision was made, we would go into Southport and head north on the ICW to Carolina Beach where we could pick up a mooring and once again wait out a storm passage. We stayed in Carolina Beach for three days, waiting for the weather and thunderstorms to pass by, especially to the north of us. While at Carolina Beach we researched the routes home. It seemed so close, yet it could take us another 3 days or more with scheduled bridges, anchorages and possible closure of the ICW at the Marine Corps base at Camp Legune, where the have a firing range that goes across the ICW ! Only 10 miles north of us was Masonboro Inlet, it appeared wide and deep but we had never gone through it. After a call to BoatUS to obtain local knowledge about the inlet, we decided to use it, again going outside for the 65 mile day sail across Onslow Bay to Beaufort Inlet...it would save us two or three days on the ICW. Once out the inlet, which went quite nicely, sails went up and we sailed across the Bay toward Beaufort. As we approached, with dusk descending and looking for an anchorage for our last night we decided to go 8 miles east to the bight at Cape Lookout. The Cape is the south end of Hatteras National Seashore with a lovely sheltered anchorage directly out in front of the lighthouse. It's a regular weekend or overnight location for sailors and fishermen to visit the park in a sheltered environment. We pulled in with a brisk breeze, a few other boats anchored and the lighthouse casting a glow across the bight. As we settled in for the night, dinner in the cockpit, two shrimp boats pulled in for the night and anchored behind us. It was a great last night for the cruise.
30 April 2017 | Chucherias Dining Room
We normally don't plug any restaurants, but this one is special. If you are ever in Daytona-Ormand Beach area, you have to try Chucherias, a Honduran Restaurant in Holly Hill, Fl. It has everything, the service is impeccable, the food unbelievable, and the atmosphere amazing. It's a small delightful location in what historically was the old City Market, then in the 40's converted to City Offices and the jail, but restored and developed as a small commercial center with the restaurant in what previously was the municipal court. The maître de, Juan is a Spaniard, the chef Honduran, and the menu a delight. It's a small dining room with some outdoor seating in a beautiful cloistered court and decorated with paintings of the Honduran countryside. There is a wonderful wine selection, selected from travels to Spain, and a menu of seafood and meats un-compared to anything we have found. They have been around for three or four years, starting from a mobile home, but now get regular customers from around the world. This one is a must, we will definitely be back.