01/06/2011, St. Augustine Municipal Marina
The days never seem to turn out like I expect. And I'm still worrying about things that in the end are not issues. Today I was worried that there would be too much wind and the St. Augustine Inlet would be a problem, we would either go aground or face very rough seas (memories of Cape May Inlet came to mind). We had decided to sail the last leg, but the information we had said that the St. Augustine Inlet was shoaling and mariners should "seek local knowledge" before attempting to enter. I had talked to the folks at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina and they confirmed the shoaling, but said if we kept to the north side of the channel we should be OK. I also asked about the report that the channel could be very rough. They said it could get nasty if the seas were more than three feet. Well that had me worried because it's pretty common for the ocean have waves bigger than three feet.
I woke up at 4:30 listening to the wind and worrying about getting off the dock and getting back in the St. Augustine Channel. Bud wasn't sleeping too well either, and we were up and ready to leave early again. Happily the dockmaster at Fernandina Beach Harbor Marina was there before seven. Bud asked him where we could turn the boat in the marina, as it was pretty cramped. He offered to come help us turn the boat using lines. He did a great job, but even so, it was about the tightest situation we'd been in. The boat was being blown away from the dock, and the channel between the docks was not even as wide as our boat is long. The dockmaster pulled our stern around, but Bud needed to make about a 6 point turn to get us out of there. We got away clean. Great job, Bud.
We just made it out of St. Mary's Inlet in time. As we were heading out the very long channel we heard the coast guard checking on other boats and advising them that they had "an outbound event" and would need the channel clear. Something must have been happening with the subs. I thought the channel went about three miles out, but when I went down to plot the first point where we could comfortably turn and set a direct course to St. Augustine, it was closer to 8 miles out! We left the dock at 7 AM and didn't turn to set our course until 9:30. (About a half hour after we turned they shut the channel and that section of the ICW down.)
Once the course was set we saw we had about 48 nautical miles to the inlet buoy at St. Augustine. We needed to get to that buoy no later than 4 to get comfortably in before dark. The St. Augustine channel is shorter, but it would still be about another 3 nautical miles and one lift bridge before we got to the marina. We set our sails and the 15-knot wind from the west that was predicted proved to be 8 knots from the northwest. We were sailing nicely at between 5 and 6 knots, which would get us to St. Augustine well after dark. After about a half hour with no change and no improvement we broke down and turned on the engine. With engine and sails we were doing just over 7 knots, which is the pace we needed.
There wasn't too much wind, so far there was too little. We finally got a good amount of wind about an hour and a half from the buoy. We put the genoa back out (we'd taken it in when the wind died so much it wouldn't fill) and added the staysail and were sailing at 8 knots. Very nice. In the end we reached the buoy right about 3:30.
I called our friend Gary Gaskill back just before we reached the buoy. He lives near St. Augustine and had called and set a plan to come down and see us. I told him it looked like we'd be to the lift bridge at 4 and to the dock by 4:15. He was coming about 5.
We held to the north side of the inlet channel as instructed and had no issues. The waves were maybe a foot. We got to the lift bridge at 4:04. Bud had called the bridge on the radio to tell them we were coming hoping he'd hold the bridge (it opens on the hour and half hour). The bridge hadn't opened yet as we approached so we thought we were OK. Bud called the bridge again and the bridge tender told him it would open at the next scheduled time of 4:30. Thanks, guy. So we had to wait in the channel for another half hour. We motored back away for a while and then came up and Bud held the boat against the wind and a slight current for what seemed like a very long time, but was a little under 10 minutes. Finally the bridge opened (pretty much right at 4:30) and we were through. We did just over 61 nautical miles and were on the water for 9 hours and 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, Gary had arrived and both he and the dockhand were there to help us dock. After a quick tour of the boat and taking care of Fuzzy, Gary took us out to dinner at a local seafood place. I ordered their fresh catch, which was flounder, and was really good. We played typical tourist and asked our waitress to take a picture of the three of us.
We'll be staying here a few days. This was our first stated goal and it is great to be here. It's still cold tonight, we're still at a dock and plugged in for heat, but the day did get sunny, and as Bud said, "I am almost not cold." Which is as good as it's been since we left Wilson.
01/05/2011, Fernandina Beach, FL
We pushed on at dawn again. We took it easy and didn't leave the dock until 7:30 this morning because we were only going as far as Fernandina Beach, Florida. It was 36 nautical miles so we knew there was no problem getting here. This is at the Georgia, Florida border and St. Mary's Inlet. It would have been a great sail, except there was no wind. Instead there were clouds and rain and cold.
It was a nice ride anyway. At Jekyll Sound the ICW goes so far out that you actually look back on the Atlantic shore. You are still protected by large areas of very shallow water, but on a stormy day I imagine it would be a rough passage. Today the ocean was completely calm and I took a picture that looks more like Lake Ontario on a calm morning than the Atlantic Ocean, but it does show how far out the waterway takes you. I added it to the gallery.
Towards the end of the ride we came up to King's Bay and the Mayport Naval Station. It's a nuclear sub station. We had to monitor VHF channels 13 and 16 in case a sub was being moved. If one were, a three-mile stretch of the ICW would be closed. We saw this small sub right where the ICW joined King's Bay from the north. We're pretty sure this wasn't a nuclear sub, but it was my first sub sighting while boating.
At 1 PM we arrived in FLORIDA. It's 49 degrees and rainy. I'm still cold.
Since it was a short day I did laundry. Bud was helping me carry the laundry up to the bathrooms and laundry room, when who did we meet, but Dick and Kathy Platt. They had come down for the morning and decided to stop and check out the marina to see if maybe we were here. They had just seen a boat that they thought was ours (one of the furthest from the marina office and the bathrooms of course) when they spotted us. We chatted a few minutes, but it was cold and started to rain, so we said good-bye again.
There was a seafood store here and Bud bought fresh shrimp, which he is now turning into something that smells delicious. Tomorrow there is supposed to be a nice west wind so we are planning to sail the last leg to St. Augustine. The forecast for tomorrow night in St. Augustine is for a low of 38 degrees. We already have a dock reservation at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. I so want to spend a night without needing heat!
01/04/2011, Brunswick, GA
Two days ago we set out without a definite plan and ran into problems trying to plan on the fly. Today, I had everything worked out, we decided we would push hard to make the next listed marina, Two Way Fish Camp. We were concerned about two things. The first was getting through Little Mud River, which had reported shoaling, and it sounded like at low tide we might not be able to get through. The second was having time enough to make the 54-mile run between the two marinas. The solution to both seemed to be to get an early start. High tide where we were was at about 8:30 in the morning. Low tide where we stayed would be just before 3 PM. The problem is, the time of the tides varies by more than an hour, so we weren't sure of the time of low tide for Little Mud River. It seemed best to start early and try to beat the low tide, though. So that's what we did.
It's hard to judge how well you'll do because the current changes as you go. The ICW in this area goes from one sound to another along interconnected rivers and creeks that wind through the low country. As you pass from one sound to another you first go west, then south, then east. If the tide is flowing out, you will be going against the current when you are going west. Somewhere along the southern part the current will switch, and as you head east, you will be going with the current. It's the opposite if the tide is coming in. Since the currents can add or subtract up to a bit over 2 knots to your speed, if your engine will push you along at about 6 knots your speed over ground can be from 4 knots to 8 knots. We can see this easily, because the knot meter measures our speed relative to the water and the GPS and chart plotter show our speed over ground.
So we started out right at 7 AM, which is actually before sunrise. It was easy to see, though, and even the crab pots showed up well. We had already gone several miles when I took this picture of the sun rising over the low country. We are heading into St. Catherine's Sound and you can see the ocean on the right.
We continued on steadily. Little Mud River was towards the end of our planned run, so we were pushing all day to make it before low tide. There is not much you can do except to run the engine as fast as you're comfortable (and we are very conservative with the old Lehman Peugeot, parts are hard to come by). In any case, we came to Little Mud River at about 12:30 PM. We were just past maximum current, the tide was still rolling out and the current was with us for this part. The river itself was fairly narrow, so there weren't many channel markers. Bud tried to keep to the center and used the depth finder to tell him if he was getting too far over. At one point he did get out of the channel a bit and the depth dropped to 3' 10". Since our depth finder is on the bottom of the hull, next to the keel, you need to add a couple of feet to that for the actual water level. Bud said when we touched the bottom in the Hudson, the depth finder read 2' 7". Still, anything less than 6 feet on the depth finder makes us nervous. Bud had the engine slowed, but with the current we were still moving through there fairly quickly. In about a half hour we were through.
We talked about pushing right through to Brunswick, but didn't think we could do it. I called Two Way Fish Camp to make sure they could take us. They couldn't! It's a marina subject to strong currents, so they only like to put sailboats on the "T" ends of the docks where you can tie alongside and don't have to pull in. The "T" ends were all full, so we were out of luck. It was a good thing we'd made such good time so far, because now we had to go another 13 miles to the next marina. We weren't sure we could make it by 5 when the light starts to go.
The engine was running cool, so Bud sped it up by a couple of hundred RPM. At first the current (still ebb tide) was against us and we were doing less that 5 knots. Almost immediately we cut into a smaller creek and the current dropped and our speed increased to about 5.6 knots. Before too long we passed the high point on that part of the route and for the last 12 miles we had the current with us. At one point we were doing 9.3 knots. We ended up getting all the way to Morning Star Marina just outside of Brunswick by 3:30. We had gone 60 nautical miles.
We called the Platt's, who live only about 5 miles from this marina, cleaned up the boat and ourselves a bit and had a nice visit with them aboard. And we thought we'd have a hard time getting to Two Way Fish Camp. So much for plans.
01/03/2011, Kilkenny Creek Georgia
Last night I consulted our electronic charts and the Active Captain website to find a reasonable port for today's run. My intension was to let Bud look at the electronic charts and maybe Google Earth before we left, so we'd both have the same information and avoid an error like we made yesterday. It's a good thing I did, as I found that there are no inlets that we could reach in a day's sail that we could actually get the boat into. The notes I found said things like, "Strangers may make it over the bar on a rising tide and flat seas." Since we couldn't guarantee the tide and were expecting some waves, these didn't seem like a reasonable risk.
So it was back to the ditch (the ICW) and back to being a trawler again. As we were going along today I thought about the good and bad things in doing the ICW. On the minus side, obviously we weren't able to sail. We had to listen to the engine all day and burn fuel. The other big minus is there was no open water. We (Bud) spent all day hand steering and watching for the channel markers and the channel.
On the plus side, we didn't have to sail. We didn't have the work of setting, trimming and furling sails. We didn't have to worry about heeling and stowing things so they wouldn't slide around. We ran the engine so we had hot water and plenty of power. The other big plus is there was no open water. Fuzzy didn't need to take Dramamine. We didn't have to stow things so they wouldn't bounce around in the waves and there was something to watch besides water and clouds.
The other drawback of the ICW is navigating the bridges. I took this photo as Bud guided Earendil in the slot of the first open Bascule bridge we encountered. Happily there were only two bridges, and there are no more opening bridges between here and St Simon's Sound where we can get back out in the ocean (and maybe get a chance to visit fellow TYCer's Dick & Kathy Platt). By then I'm sure I'll be more than ready to sail again. Meanwhile, since it just about made it to 50 today and will be in the 30's again tonight I'm happy to be on the ICW.
We did manage to go another 50 nautical miles today. Kilkenny Marina, where we are tonight is just about the opposite of the Harbour Town Marina where we were last night. I put a picture of it in the album. It's very quaint and very Low Country Georgia and just a bit rough. At least it's cheaper. (And Fuzzy has now added Georgia to the list of states he's peed in, or on, or whatever.)
01/02/2011, Hilton Head Island, SC
We set out again at first light; about 7:15 today. We made the long run out the channel from Edisto Beach. Bud had conceded that we could follow the coast, in case we decided to put in for the night. We were both dressed in several layers under full foul weather gear. I had on my sailing gloves. Bud, at the helm, had on a wool knit hat and winter gloves. We were motorsailing to start because the wind was right on the nose. I went below to check for a destination in case Bud came to his senses about sailing through the night when the temperature was supposed to drop back into the thirties. I know we want to do some extensive cruising, and I know that means days on end of sailing. But sitting alone at night in the cockpit with balmy breezes caressing your skin is bound to be better than sitting alone shivering with five layers of clothes under your foul weather gear. Even the wind seems hostile when it's cold.
Bud did concede that we should probably stop for the night. The reality of sailing in the cold has hit, and he agreed with me that sailing overnight with temperatures in the upper 30's is not the retirement we planned. However, there was a little confusion over the charts and destinations. I looked at the charts and determined that there was nowhere to stop at the distance we might want to try for a day. So I told Bud we'd have to stop at the southern end of Hilton Head Island at the Harbour Town Marina. I called and they said they could accommodate us, but said it would be best not to arrive at low tide, around 1 PM. I told them our ETA was mid afternoon, so all seemed well.
The wind moved a bit and we put out the genoa and killed the engine. We were really trying to pinch today, but still making an acceptable 4.5 knots or so. Besides, Bud looked at the electronic chart at the helm and thought at our present rate we might get there close to 1, so we didn't push. We tacked around a submerged wreck. When we got back on our original tack, I asked Bud if we would need to tack back out again, as our course was taking us fairly close to shore. He wasn't sure, but as we got closer to the channel, he decided we should go out. We were discussing how far we should go before tacking again and Bud showed me some shallow areas he was concerned about. We zoomed the chart out to get a better idea of the general picture, and I saw that this was the wrong channel. This was the channel at the north end of Hilton Head.
So we tacked out, and we ended up having to go way out. And then we pointed directly to where we needed to go, pulled in the genoa and started up the iron wind again. We needed to hurry now. To confound things, there's no way to get to Caliboque Sound without going over 4 miles past it and staying about 7 miles offshore. Now the destination I had thought would be a short day, was really a challenging day, doubly so since we spent the morning just noodling along.
We spent the next several hours on a grey ocean, under a grey sky, listening to the dulcet tones of our Lehman Peugeot. It's strange to be so far off shore that the haze is obscuring the shoreline, and still be straining your eyes for the lines of breakers that mark the shoals! Not something we're used to from Lake Ontario, that's for sure. But we avoided all the shoals and the crab pots. And we made it to the Marina at 4:50 after 55.99nm.
And what a marina it is. This certainly is the classiest spot we have been, and you can see from the picture that Fuzzy feels he fits right in. I wish we could linger among the groomed paths, the shops, tennis courts, golf courses and the very upscale condos, but at $101 per night, we think it's best to move along.
01/01/2011, Big Bay Creek, SC
Well, the day didn't turn out entirely as hoped. We did get up before dawn and we were ready to leave close to first light. It was cloudy, so you couldn't see until the sun was just about up. We left the dock at just after 7:00 and motored out the Charleston Harbor. I tried to get a decent picture of Fort Sumter as we went by, but with the low light, the distance and the moving boat, in all my pictures the fort looks like a low brown rectangle in the water, and not much else.
There are long jetties that extend out from the harbor towards the northeast. There is one break in the jetty where smaller boats can turn southeast. Bud went through the break, but then had to keep far more east than south, and slow down for some shallow areas, so in the end we may not have saved any time.
Once we were out where it was consistently deep, we set the sails and set our course. There was a reasonable amount of wind, and we could almost point the desired course. The sun came out, some dolphins came along for a while (I even got a reasonable photo) and things were looking good. The only excitement came when something that sounded almost like a shot rang out. Turns out it was the tube on one of the folding bike tires. For some reason it just popped while the bike was lashed to the stern rail; it wasn't even rubbing on anything.
We weren't doing real well on speed, as we were pinching into the wind, but we were sailing at about five and a half knots. We set our windvane up and let it steer. For a couple of hours all was well. Then we had a strange wind change. Bud started to hand steer and when the wind settled back down we reset the windvane. It got cloudy, the wind almost died, the boat went off course. We switched to the larger, light air, airvane and tried again. The boat wouldn't stay on course. The wind picked up, we switched back to the smaller airvane. Somewhere in there we tried to take up on the control lines, which seemed too loose. We could get the boat to steer for a while, but it wouldn't hold the course. The wind was still being fluky. It was getting cold out there and then suddenly fog set in and our visibility went to a few hundred feet. Bud was trying to fiddle with something and set the mechanical autopilot. We heard an awful vibration. We weren't sure if it always made that noise, and usually the engine is running and that's all you can hear, but weren't confidant enough to just use it.
About then I suggested we find a port and head to a marina for the night. Having to hand steer all through a cold night without moon, stars or lights visible did not appeal to me. Happily, Bud agreed and I found we were close to a river that had a marina listed in our 1998 guidebook. We changed course, when we got close enough to shore to have cell coverage and internet I was able to check on the Active Captain website for the marina. It was still listed, so I called them and they said they could handle us. Almost as soon as we changed course the fog started to lift. We had no visibility problems going in.
About 2 hours later we were here. It's a small marina; they put us right at the gas dock so it was really easy to tie up. We have heat and I am very glad we didn't push through. The thunderstorms that were supposed to die down and come through tomorrow afternoon are now being predicted to come through tonight. I'm not sure if they will have died down.
We only went 44 nm today, and only about 26 as the crow flies. But we did sail most of those miles, and we are safe and warm. Tomorrow we'll see what the day brings.