So our plans to leave Oriental on Saturday were squashed by the south winds which left us with not enough water to leave Whittaker Creek. So Sunday we left, pushing north towards Pungo Canal. Not much wind, but we did manage to get the jib out for a while to help us along and made excellent time up to the entrance to the Canal where we anchored for the night. Great anchorage, even in a bit of a blow. Next morning we left at first light, hoping to get across the Albemarle Sound and into Coinjock by nightfall. Long straight canal was scenic, but got a bit boring as we pushed along it. Winds were light and fickle all day, even as we entered the Albemarle Sound; but dark clouds on the horizon said they probably won't stay light. Clear the sound and pushing up the creek to Coinjock the squall line hit us, with winds, lighting and lots of rain. Visibility was less than a ¼ mile and the horizontal rain stung the face as we pushed on up the creek into the canal. To add to the excitement a huge motor yacht decided to pass us, tossing us around in his wake. Aside from that Seahawk handled beautifully as we motored through the squall. Just before arriving at Coinjock the line pushed past us, lifting like a curtain where at one point the cockpit was rain free while our bow sprit was still being soaked. We pulled into the Coinjock Marina, topped up with fuel/water and then had a quick shower and enjoyed their prime rib dinner, taking a quick break between main course and dessert to transfer the laundry to the dryer.
After a night of more lightening we pushed on into the Virginia Cut Canal, trying to time our journey to match the bridge restrictions. At the Great Bridge Lock we decided that because of the extended bridge restrictions just east of Norfolk we would hold up in Great Bridge for the night. The USMC league has a small park between the bascule bridge and lock, which has a free docking along the wall (no power or water, but picnic tables and easy walk to services and a great place to walk Maggie). Next morning we caught the 0800 lock opening, locked through and headed to Norfolk. This short run took a bit of time because of the bridge restrictions so anyone doing this route make sure to add extra time to your estimate. We arrived in Norfolk and dropped the hook off Hospital Point at Portsmouth, across the river from Norfolk.
Norfolk has a nice downtown Marina with some shops nearby. They are quite receptive to cruisers and have dingy dock for $6.00 per day. Other option is to go into Portsmouth with a free dingy dock and take the $6 water taxi over. We spent a few days here, enjoying some nice weather (along with the occasional T Storm) and played tourist. Old town Norfolk is nice with some great restaurants and the Battleship Wisconsin Museum, but we really preferred Portsmouth. This town was less touristy and the old city was very clean and has some exceptional architecture. Just a grand place to walk around and sight see. Meanwhile in the anchorage a huge dredging operation was underway which caused us to move twice, now this third time we decided time to leave so we pulled up the hook and headed past Battleship row and out into the Chesapeake.
Last time in the Bay we were pushing south hard, so this time we decided to do some exploring. First stop was around the corner at Yorktown. Great spot with a nice city marina and some mooring balls as well. Once tied up to a mooring we checked in and decided to stay a few days and enjoy the 4th of July activities, including ringside seats from our mooring for the fireworks. Yorktown has very limited provisioning, but does have a couple of nice eateries and some quaint boutiques. As well there is a State Park Museum which includes a "living museum" with period actors describing what life was like during the revolution (or was it a rebellion??). There is also a National Park for the Battlefield with a tours and museum, as this was where Cornwallis was besieged by the colonial forces and forced into surrender which really marked the end of the war. Yorktown has a free trolley which takes you around the various sites and also connects to a larger trolley loop which connects you to Jamestown Museum and Williamsburg. During the summer Yorktown has a daily schedule of activities each week such as a farmers market, open music festival, and craft shows. So after a few wonderful days, including an expensive cab ride to Wal-Mart for provisioning, we decided to head out on the 5th. The 4th proved to be oppressively hot, with the air being a heavy blanket which coated you in sticky sweat. As nightfall approached the promoters were trumped by Mother Nature who washed out the man made fireworks and provided her own tremendous light show with a spattering of rain and a brief stint of strong winds.
Next morning we pushed on, heading for Deltaville. This place is famous amongst the cruiser fraternity as it's a key stop on the mad rush south in the fall. We anchored in Fishing bay, good holding and lots of room with good protection for all directions except due south. The marina here is very accommodating, even for the anchored boats. Good wifi, and two dingy dock plans. Dingy only for $5 per day and Dingy + for $8/person/day which gives you showers, laundry, bike loan and pool access. Deltaville is unlike most other small communities in the area as it is spread out over a few miles which made having the bike access very handy. Some great little shops and a wonderful little diner/restaurant in town. They also have a small maritime museum which was a treat, complete with a nature trail and wildflower garden.
After three days in Deltaville we were trying to decide where too next. One option was Crisfield, but then we heard someone talking about Urbanna so decided to head up the Rappahannock River to that village. We anchored across from the town marina behind a spit, good holding and protection but not a lot of room. Dingy dock (free) is good, adjacent to the boat ramp. Great little town, bit of history, laid back, nice folks. Down side no internet on board so it's up to the local coffee shop to surf the net. After a couple of days time to push on and head north. As we entered the bay some great winds and got the sails up. Initially we hoped to make for a nice anchorage on the Little Choptank, but with Solomon's Island on the beam the weather picked up so we turned to port and went into the Solomon's, anchoring in almost the same spot as last year. T Storms for the next two days kept us at anchor, and then we finally found a window and pushed out to Annapolis. Pretty good day, but winds were again fickle and we were always watching the sky as scattered T Storms were in the forecast. The weather gods cooperated and we made it into Back Creek and grabbed a city Mooring Ball (pricey but we don't trust the holding in Back Creek). It felt like we were back home!
So after a leisurely stroll around Fernandina Beach we slipped the lines and a half hour later crossed into Georgia. Not chased by weather this time we did short hops, some inside, some outside up the eastern seaboard stopping in places we wanted to hit on the way south last year. Weather cooperated with us for the most part with the exception of winds which many times were on the nose (par for our course).
First stop was Cumberland Island, a national park just north of the St Mary's river, where we spent a few days exploring and hiking through the island. Most of the island was purchased in the 1800s by the famous Carnegie family, driven by Lucy Carnegie. They then built a huge mansion and outbuildings on the southern exposure called Dungeness which they used to entertain barons of industry and politicians of the era. On Lucy's passing the estate was essentially placed in mothballs, with occasional openings for major functions, finally succumbing to a fire in the 1950s, after which most of the island became a national park. The park has campgrounds (tent only), bike and hiking/nature trails, gorgeous beach and a variety of wildlife including wild horses. Campgrounds were well thought out, with elevated storage area for food, hooks for packs and nice fire pits.
As we hoped up Ga, one place we wanted to revisit was Walburn Creek, site of a gorgeous beach where Maggie had so much fun on the way down. As we transited the inlet we were met by scores of boats and people on said beach, so plan B was initiated. Essentially we decided to push up the ICW and try a new anchorage, Killikenny Creek. What a jewel! Very well protected, good holding and a very small, clean quaint village greeted us. It was also home to the Marker 107 restaurant, a culinary delight in the middle of nowhere. What a treat!
Next day we pushed on to Charleston, anchoring just across the Channel from the Mega Dock (City Marina). Our plan was to stay overnight, and then push on with a leisurely start because of a restricted bridge. Burry's time estimate to make the 9 am opening was off so rather than park for an hour we decided to stay another day in Charleston. Didn't do much tourism this visit, focused mostly on tidying up the boat and catching up on sleep. Part of the reason was a brisk wind which created a nasty, dingy uncomfortable chop in the anchorage. The Municipal Marina (aka Mega Dock) is a bit of a disappointment for cruisers since their focus tends to be on Mega Yachts and so us little guys are tolerated. For example, most marinas which have dingy docks include shower and laundry access, Charleston does not. Info from other cruisers indicate a small private marina on the North side of the city is much more cruiser friendly, and has the added advantage of being closer to the historical downtown core.
So, next morning we departed a bit earlier (Wendy says way too early) and made the 9 am opening and pressed on to Savannah, Ga. Here we stopped at Isle of Hope Marina and booked in for a week as Tara had decided to visit us for a week and was looking for a week of being spoiled. Before getting into the visit must mention Isle of Hope Marina. This family run business is outstanding in service. The marina is located right on the ICW, has great docks, good facilities and access to the community pool one block away. Add to this two loaner cars plus three blocks from City of Savannah bus and you have the ideal location for a Savannah visit, much better than tying up at Savannah proper.
Had a great visit with Tara. Used the loaner car and picked her up at the airport, back to the boat for a relaxing evening. First couple of days Wendy/Tara had some shopping therapy followed by touristing in Savannah while Burry worked on boat maintenance. This was followed by the three of us touring old town Savannah and sampling the amazing cuisine. During one of these days Maggie, aka Houdini, got off the boat and did some of her own touring in Isle of Hope. The marina staff got a hold of her and let us know she had escaped. On return to the marina we were met by the new marina greeter, our Maggie welcoming everyone who entered the marine store. We finished of the visit with a wonderful meal at a local seafood restaurant and the next day sent Tara on her way home to Kingston. Next morning we pushed off and continued our trip north, looking forward to link up with Paul/Carol at Topsail Beach, NC.
On the way north we stopped at Myrtle Beach, Georgetown and Carolina Beach, with the final day ending up at Sneed's Ferry where we tied up to the bulk head for a few days while we visited Paul and Carol. Carol's beach house is a gorgeous 2 bedroom home right on dunes at Topsail, looking over the ocean. Had a great visit with them, Wendy and Carol having lots of chat time while Paul and Burry hauled Odysseus. The three very short days zipped by incredibly fast; such a great visit with way too much food. We through off the lines and carried on north and what we thought would be a two day trip to Oriental turned out to be a one day jaunt.
Initially our thoughts were to make Oriental a three day stop, but we changed our mind. We decided to add a week and a bit so Wendy could fly out to her folks while Burry tackled some boat projects. Oriental is a great place to hold up and surprising is the number of people we know here. Jerry and Molly from Marathon live here and we had a wonderful dinner with them. Jeannette (seaflame) and Debbie who buddy boated with us across the stream are here and of course Paul and Carol have their boat here. Also ran into a couple from Texas (Ray and Beth) which we met in Isle of Hope who we shared some meals and wine with. Even had a camp fire with a bunch of the more permanent residents, a great evening.
Oriental is a neat place, quiet, out of the way and inexpensive. This week has been interesting though, with scattered T Storms coming through and reduced visibility from the numerous forest fires. During Wendy's trip Burry managed to redo the galley sole, clean and remark the anchor rode, pickle the watermaker, build a sunshade for when we are motoring, repair the toe rail, and clean/paint the dingy. In removing the parquet flooring, Burry had all the pieces laid out but Maggie managed to shuffle them during a T Storm, so 3 hours of time was spent doing a jigsaw puzzle with little blocks of wood. Wendy back tonight (airlines willing) and the plan is to head to Norfolk on Saturday, should be there Mon/Tue afternoon.
06/12/2011, Amelia Island
We have been slowly travelling north, enjoying the fact that the frost line is not chasing us as we go. All this has been permitting us to visit some of the places we missed or rushed on the southward journey. Seahawk has been doing great with only complaint being the autopilot not working right, but hand steering her is not too onerous as she tracks very well so hanging onto the wheel all the time is not necessary.
After clearing customs we reboarded and pull the hook to head up the ICW making for Hobe Sound and anchoring there for the night with Fortnight. Not a long trip, but we had a late start and so a modest goal for day one back in US. Jupiter inlet was substantially busier than last visit with hundreds of little power boats and PWCs and the smell of sun tan lotion wafting over the water. Comparatively Hobe Sound was very quiet. Next day off early and headed up to Vero (aka Velcro) Beach where we grabbed a mooring ball at the city marina.
Vero Beach is definitely a cruisers' haven with good facilities, great protection, and easy bus (free) access to shopping. We spent four days here, going shopping, getting a mail drop, and some sightseeing. We did a walking tour of the ocean side part of town which is a very affluent area with neat restaurants and quaint shops. Had a nice meal overlooking the ocean. The first thing that struck us was the water, which was a dirty blue colour with a muddy surf and a lot of garbage on the high tide mark. The marina was great, with nice dingy dock and great restrooms/showers. When we were there it was relatively quiet with only about 60% occupancy; we could not imagine being there when they are full and have boats rafted up on moorings. This is where we parted with Fortnight, who headed to Titusville to haul the boat for the summer. Once we had our fill of Vero we too headed north, anchoring overnight at Titusville and then pushing on to Daytona Beach. Interestingly we passed under a fixed bridge and it was lined with people looking south. We too looked south and experienced the space shuttle launch that morning, quite amazing.
By the time we reached Daytona the weather had turned nasty with 25 kt winds and a bouncy ride. Fearing our anchorage at Seabright might be full we decided to hit the municipal marina (Halifax Harbor). This is a huge marina with great facilities and dockside check in. Last year we explored the ocean side of Daytona, this time we were on the western side of the ICW and what a difference. The marina is adjacent to the old downtown core and there has been a huge effort to revitalize this area with many great pubs and bistros and some nice shops as well. A great park and huge library are all right there as well. All in all a great place to stop.
Next day with nicer weather we pushed on to St Augustine, one of our favorite Floridian cities. We spent four days here enjoying the city and its many sights and tastes. We once again did the winery, restocking our reds and port. This time we did the chocolate factory tour and indulged in some great chocolate. We bought a fair bit, which is not bad because we are told the health benefits of dark chocolate is substantial so consider this a health food stock vice a delicacy! We also linked up again with Volare, the cruising family we met at West End, was nice to see them again. They had waited at Cape Canaveral for the shuttle launch but after numerous delays left and continued north.
The moorings at St Augustine are in the major river near the inlet so currents are strong. One afternoon we just got back aboard when I looked over to a power boat and saw a guy swimming. While commenting on this being strange we saw the wife dash to the cockpit and grab the radio. This was not a voluntary swim and the man was been swept away in the current. Quickly back in the dingy headed over to the man, fishing him out of the river; by this time we were about 500 m from his boat. Heading back we got him back aboard much to the relief of his wife. Interestingly they had a floating cushion which she had tried to throw, but it had gotten tangled with a rope. Apparently he had stumbled while leaving the dingy, and his shoe had dislodged and in the attempt to try and save it he fell in the water and was quickly swept away. This small incident has made us rethink our own situation. We have purchased some small belt inflatable pfds which we will don every time in the dingy. We use seatbelts every time we are in a car, so clipping on this belt style pfd should be about the same degree of effort and provide us greater protection for an inadvertent dunking.
After our fill of history and food we slipped the mooring line and headed north, next stop Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. Initially our plan was to push right to Cumberland Island but the wind had come up (on the nose) and so slowed us up enough that we didn't want to try and get into an anchorage at failing light. Once secure we headed over to the dingy dock and took Maggie for her walk and were suddenly surprised. You see, from the waterway Fernandina Beach you are faced with two factories, fish plant and a marina. Once you get ashore and cross the tracks there is a wonderfully quaint historical town greeting you. After walking Maggie up and down Main Street we decided to spend a day here exploring. Great place for food and history. In a book store found a local book, "Secrets of Amelia Island" which we had signed by the author and Wendy devoured over the next few days. Great read.
So after a great day exploring we settled in for a quiet evening. A relaxing am start and a short 3 hour sail we were in Cumberland Island ready for some more exploring. Florida was once again behind us and we were back in Georgia, home of Wendy's favorite shrimp!
05/17/2011, Abaco to Florida
So our departure from Treasure Cay signals the voyage back to the continent, leaving behind these great islands. Somewhat depressing, but looking forward to getting up north for a few months as well. Have to say time while cruising goes by incredibly fast. Felt like yesterday we crossed the stream for Bimini, and here we are on the run back. One thing we both want to do while cruising is some volunteer work, and this winter our schedule did not allow that. As well, we have really missed a proper visit of many of the Cays here in the Abacos, so our plans for this fall are starting to change. At this time we are thinking of coming to Marsh Harbour much earlier and staying longer hoping to do some work with the wild horse lady and as well the ECC (Every Child Counts) school.
Our run back starts with a short hop from Treasure Cay to Green Turtle Cay. An easy three hour sail, but with the Whale passage in the middle. This passage can be really rough if currents and winds are in opposition, and even worse if a large swells are coming in. This condition is called "Rage" by the locals and can be so rough even cruise ships will avoid them. Fortunately for us the Whale passage was relatively calm with only 3 foot rollers coming through.
Since we had to time our departure from Treasure at high tide this meant we could not get into Green Turtle Harbour by the time we made our way there, so we anchored outside in a bay. Took a bit to get the hook to set, but once in was solid. We dingied into the northern harbour and walked Maggie and had lunch at the marina. What a great little island, and we immediately regretted not being able to spend a few days here (short weather window pushing us to get across the stream). We met up with another Canadian couple from Hamilton (the Weeks), who happen to also know the Lerners, once again proving this is a small world, especially within the cruising community. Fortnight was also heading west so we ended up buddy boating with them to West Palm. The evening was a bit exciting, especially being in an exposed anchorage, as a front came through with 30+kt winds and lots of rain and lightning. Fortunately by 2200 it died out and we got a good night sleep for our early am start.
Next day we left at daybreak, going North then West to Great Sale Cay. This uninhabited Cay has a great anchorage which is protected from three sides. We got Maggie off the boat and explored a bit, but it's a pretty rugged place with not a lot of area accessible by foot. Next morning another early day to push West to West End on Grand Bahama Island. Great sail, running down wind with jib and jigger at about 7kts. Wind shifted near end of day so had to furl the foresail and motor through Memory Rock channel leaving the banks and into the straight. Once clear the banks we had a 15 nm run south to West End, with lots of wind on the nose and big rollers on the beam, not a comfortable 2.5 hours.
West End has no real anchorage, so we stayed at the Old Bahama Resort, a very classy comfortable marina. We decided two days would be nice, one to enjoy the resort, but also give the weather a bit of time to settle down for a good crossing. So we had some beach time, pool time, and also some housekeeping (top up fuel/water, laundry ect). Met a cruising family on a beautiful Mason cutter. They had spent the year cruising, home schooling their boys as they went. Great folks who are now looking at settling in New Bern, NC so the boys can get some social time in a real school. We rounded out our stay with a fabulous dinner at the restaurant to commemorate our last evening in the Bahamas.
Next morning up early again and cast off for West Palm, Fl, a 50 mile jaunt due west, but because of the Gulf Stream, we had to aim SW meaning most of the way we had only 5 kts as part of our effort was fighting the current. Good safe trip with 2-3 foot rollers, but not enough wind to sail, and about half way across died out so much we had drop the sails all together as all they were doing was flogging themselves. Interesting entry into the West Palm inlet, Coast Guard was inspecting boats entering, and freighters were exciting the inlet forcing us to wait for a gap. Once this occurred we pushed forward to head in, when 100 m to port two divers popped to the surface, right in the middle of the channel! We circled them and they asked us to contact the dive boat, which we did on VHF and then held station to ensure nobody ran them over. Once the dive boat showed up we finally made our way into West Palm, headed south past Peanut Island and dropped the hook. We were back on the continent and first things we noticed was dirty water and lots of noise. Wendy immediately got back into texting mode, now we were back in the land of Verizon!
After checking in with CBP, we hit the sack, content with another Gulf Stream crossing safely done. Next morning it was up early and over to the Customs and Immigration to clear in and get our new cruising permit. Big advantage of clearing in at West Palm is the offices are easy walk from the dingy dock at Riviera Beach Marina. Once cleared and new permit in hand we headed back to the boat to start our trip north, this time with no freezing temperatures driving the schedule.
05/17/2011, Treasure Cay
Wasn't that a party So after the dry, tobacco free Man O War we (Wendy and Burry) decided to give our guests a break and headed for Treasure Cay. Three things we knew about this Cay was it had a resort, a marina, and a fabulous beach. What we discovered was that asside from the resort, this Cay actually is a small town complete with post office and shopping. Quite the community, including some really nice housing along the canals.
The sail from Man O War was straight forward, winds a bit too far forward to allow pure sailing, but motor sailing worked. Sherry and Jason tried to troll, but caught nothing, so we were faced with going hungry or eat at the resort that night. The entrance is skinny, and so we had to be careful, but once in the basin was great. We hoped for a mooring ball, but turns out they only have three moorings, so down went the hook, which grabbed quickly and proved to be excellent holding.
We arrived on a Thursday, which turned out to be Pizza night at the Tipsy Bar, what great timing. So after a Maggie walk, grabbed a few provisions (Yes Sherry and Jason did get their cigs) and a shower we ajourned to the outdoor bar and ordered our pizzas. After a few rum punches/bahama mamas and some great pizza we were ready to party! A great local singer started up and the night became a blur after that. Must have been a great party, because there were some hurtin peeps aboard next morning!
Next day, after a real slow start, we headed over to the beach. Absolutely incredible, this cresent bay has about 5 miles of a terrific beach, with great sand and gradual slope which means you can walk out over 200m and still have your head above water. About in the middle is a beach bar which also serves lunch menu. What a great day, sun, surf, sand, and great drinks/food.
So now came the time for Sherry and Jason to leave Seahawk and head north. They had flights booked out of Ft Lauderdale so we had to get them to Florida. To do this we took a road trip to the north end of Abaco through small villages to Crown Haven. From there they caught a small ferry to Grand Bahama and then a bus to Freeport for an early next day flight into Fort Lauderdale. Definitely a different route, one much more exciting than the normal tourist routes and a great immersive way to travel with/like a local.
We were going to head straight over to Green Turtle Cay, but weather had other thoughts, so instead we stayed at Treasure Cay for a few more days, enjoying the local area and also making a run via rental car back to Marsh Harbour for a few provisions and parts. One of the places we visited was Abaco Ceramics, a local artist/producer of ceramic dishes and the like. Great patterns and was interesting to see the "factory". During the last couple of days there the marina was hosting a BBC sponsored fishing compition, was amazing to see the size of some of these sport fishing boats. Huge boats with large crews came from all over, with majority from east coast Florida.
After a few days the weather improved and we were off to Green Turtle Cay, via the Whale passage. After an uneventfull three hours we dropped anchor just outside Green Turtle and began preps for the run out to West End, our launch point for the gulf stream crossing back into Florida.
04/27/2011, Man O War Cay, Abacos
While in Guana we gave Sherry/Jason the option of sailing to Florida, or staying in the Abacos and then flying into Fort Lauderdale. Since they were loving the sun and rum punch they decided staying was the way to go. So as Carol and Paul headed West/North we dropped the mooring and pushed south to Man O War Cay.
About a 2 hour run, we motored all the way with the wind on the nose. The entrance is very narrow and not a lot of water so we timed it for high tide. As you enter you can turn north into the main harbour or south into Eastern Harbour. The main harbour is actually between Man O War and a small Cay called Dickies which runs parallel creating a cozy harbour with a 5' entrance in the south and a 2' entrance in the north. We tucked into Eastern Harbour as it was quieter and had better depths. Almost all moorings here so it took a while to grab one which was not private.
Man O War is one of the original settlements dating back to the 1700s. Fishing and boat building is the claim to fame and they still do both. The atmosphere here is completely different than Guana with the town being very pristine, quiet and supper friendly (if not a bit reserved) local population. Transport is 90% golf carts with only about 6 small trucks on the whole Cay, and those are predominately for hauling materials. Boat building is still occurring with beautiful boats being made. There is also some excellent boat repair expertise available; interestingly no travel lifts but rather the old marine railways. All the boat shops had lots of large open windows for air circulation which afforded us tourists a chance to watch them create. The town is very trusting, most houses had doors open and golf carts and bikes not locked.
The ambiance of Man O War is completely different than the other Cays. The grocery store allows you to run a tab, you buy fresh fish from one of the guys in the hardware store, and Lola (the Cay's baker) sells here cinnamon rolls and breads from her golf cart. The local populace is more permanent and there are no hotels or resorts on Man O War (so far). This certainly contributes to a more sedate atmosphere, but probably a big influence is that there is neither alcohol nor tobacco sold on the island, which definitely keeps the bar footed party animal away. They alcohol aspect we knew as this was foretold in the cruising guide, but the lack of cigarettes was not which caused our boat guests some anxiety as they were running low and had to institute rationing. Of course this caused no end of merriment for Burry who on the second day mentioned he wanted to stay a third day at Man O War, which caused near panic in Jason! He and Sherry were contemplating taking the ferry to Marsh Harbour to buy some smokes ($27 round trip).
Have to say Man O War is probably our favorite Cay to date. Wendy has even expressed an interest in moving here once our cruising days are finished. Figure we can sell the condo and buy a cottage here, but that won't be for a few years yet (I think, Wendy is already looking at the listings lol).