Florida At Last!
25 November 2022
When we awoke Wednesday morning the weather window we had been expecting had deteriorated overnight so we debated our options over breakfast. Our 10 am departure was not only based on local tides but more importantly we couldn't arrive in Jacksonville before 6:30 in the morning. The options we had to look at were; 5 more days of ICW motoring, avoiding shoals and traffic, or spend 18 hours offshore in so so conditions. The offshore forecast called for winds of 15-20 knots with gusts to 25 which is nothing for Dagny, the issue was the wind had been out of the north, north east for several days resulting in short step following seas. Unfortunately, we allowed our view of this section of the ICW to cloud our vision as we chose to go offshore. The conditions were far from dangerous but boy were they uncomfortable.
A common sailor's term to describe turbulent waters is "sailing in a washing machine", well this was certainly that and more. Once we cleared the breakwater at the mouth of the Savannah river and turned south the conditions were good as we set a reefed main and poled out 50% of the jenny in 3 to 4 foot seas. Our initial concern was we were going to be way to early arriving off Jacksonville. However, as the afternoon wore on our thoughts turned more to, how much more uncomfortable could this get while we still held on to our cookies. The winds never exceeded 20 knots during the whole trip but as we got a little further offshore the following waves got a little bigger and closer together. Bev and I have done well offshore with motion sickness, we wear pressure bands and usually take a gravel prior to departure. This time around we tried a new product called Motion-ease, a liquid that you put behind your ears. BIG mistake on our part, to start with it the smell is enough to turn your stomach and it certainly didn't work for us. Although I was not sick it made me feel like crap and Bev wasn't so lucky and fell victim to the ills of motion sickness. Needless to say it made for a long night, fortunately it was warm and so we could both spent the night in the cockpit. Nobody wanted to go down below!
As far as the actually trip went, Dagny soldiered on like a champ. As the seas built we took a second reef in the main and reduced the head sail area because we were still ahead our our arrival time, and the last thing we wanted to do was have to bob around off the Jacksonville harbour waiting for daylight. I had noticed early in our trip that Otto the autopilot was wandering a little more than normal so during one of our many weather delays I adjusted the steering cables to help him out. I have to say, he performed like a champ as he took us to our destination. It was a pitch black night, I was not in a tall ship and there certainly weren't any stars to steer by. As the night wore on we rolled in the genny to slow down a little more and at least we got our timing right. We arrivied at the harbour entrance as planned; however, we delayed a bit to allow two freighters to steam by and then we followed the pilot boat through the breakwater.
We were relieved to be in calm waters and took full advantage of the 3 knot flood tide as we roared up the river towards the ICW. The plan was to motor down the ditch and find the first suitable anchorage. Once clear of river traffic I decided it was time to drop the main and tidy things up as Bev took over the helm. As I cleared the lines Bev said " look at the boom it looks out of place" and that was when I discovered we had broken the gooseneck. Since we were heavily reefed the gear had more or less kept the boom in place but as soon as the pressure was off the sail the fitting parted. So, one more item on the do to list but with the help of friends we have some good contacts to follow. Kind of ironic, this is a known issue with these masts that I had planned on changing one day.
So after 2 hours of motoring we finally found a great spot to drop the hook and crash.
Today's picture is of the above mentioned part.
Looking For A Window
22 November 2022
We really wanted to head offshore right from Charleston but the weather just wasn't on our side. As we were preparing to leave on Sunday morning a Tarten 41 arrived on an overnight passage from Beaufort NC. They had been roughed up quite a bit so we decided to continue down the ditch for a day or two hoping the conditions would improve. In the meantime at least we were moving south. Our 11 o'clock departure allowed use to transit Elliot's Cut on a rising tide and we were off.
However, we forgot how much the route south of Charleston twists and turns prior to arriving in Beaufort SC. At times we were actually north west bound, which to say the least is extremely frustrating.
Georgia used to be the state that everyone wanted to avoid but I must say the section of ICW south of Charleston ranks as a very close second. There has been severe shoaling in a few areas the last couple of years and the Army Corps of Engineers is having trouble keeping up. We ran two sections that at low tide have less than 4 feet of water; fortunately, we got our timing right again and didn't have any issues. Needless to say it makes for a long day. After taking on fuel in Beaufort we anchored just south of Hilton Head for the night. The range of the tides are increasing, not Bay of Fundy range, but still impressive, so vigilance is always required when choosing a spot.
We have been pouring over weather reports the last couple of days trying to decide when and where to jump offshore from. This morning we thought we'd go offshore today (Tuesday) but we decided to wait one more day. After morning coffee we hoisted the anchor and moved 15 miles down the ICW to stage at an anchorage close to the Savannah River. Once again we anchored in a salt marsh creek with an 8' tidal range, at full ebb flow the knot meter reads 1.7 knots. These places always fascinate me, one thinks they're in the middle of nowhere as the odd fisherman roars by, but the lights of Savannah are visible in the distance. Across the marsh today I could see a container ship heading down the river, but as the tide fell all I could see was a stack of containers crossing the marsh.
The plan is to depart Wednesday morning around 10 so that we arrive at the mouth of the St. John River (Jacksonville) by 7 a.m. Thursday to once again take advantage of the 3 knot flood tide.
Today’s picture is of a ship we passed a few days ago. Considering American Thanksgiving is in 2 days I thought maybe this was a group of a pilgrims who got lost.
20 November 2022
We lingered over breakfast on Friday morning waiting for the tide to rise enough for our passage through the shallow Isle of Palms area. Even though the channel is well marked there have been numerous reports of groundings this fall and we didn't want to be another statistic. Just as we approached the 2 mile shoaling stretch a small trawler passed us and gave us depth readings as he proceeded us through the area. Since we were on the second half of the rising tide all went well and in no time we were safely through and proceeded on to The Charleston Marina.
Usually we anchor off the marina but the tidal currents are strong and we knew we would be leaving Dagny unattended while visiting Debbie so, we elected to go into the marina. As it turned out it was a good move, we were able to run our central heat on shore power as nighttime lows dipped to 5 c. The Charleston City Marina is home to the 1600' long Mega Dock; they had us moor on the outside of the dock where Dagny was dwarfed by several boats over 90' . To give you an idea of how over the top some yachts are, the aft area of one upper deck carried 3 motorcycles, 2 seadoos a couple of kayaks and the tender had 2 250hp outboards. It's always fun to wander the docks and admire the wide variety of boats from various ports of call.
Debbie had invited us for dinner at her new house and like any transient boater understands the priorities when arriving ashore. So with a full bag of dirty clothes we headed of to her house for a tour of her new home, a nice relaxing dinner and, of course, an evening of laundry. Her new home is beautiful, a well laid out single story house in a new development that has all the amenities.We made a date to take Debbie for lunch Saturday followed by a leisurely walk around the historic city center but as always, there were chores to get done to prepare for the next leg. Once the oil change was done, groceries bought and propane tanks filled we were off. Like most visits it was too short but we're certainly glad we stopped and I think Abby was happy to see us too. However, it's time to get moving towards warmer weather but hope to be able to stop in the spring, weather permitting of course.
Today's picture is of one of our docks mates returning from an evening cruise. Bev and I are a little concerned that our invitation got lost in the mail.
Logging Miles on The ICW
17 November 2022
As much as we wanted to get offshore and log some miles in the ocean the weather was not in our favour so we decided to press on down the ditch. We weren't looking forward to the next couple of days because this stretch of the ICW is famous for strong cross currents and numerous shoals that creep into the channel. We were up at 6:15 with plans to get moving as soon as it was light enough to travel. With coffee in hand we were on our way before 7 as the anchorage rapidly emptied. It didn't take long for the action to start, our neighbour had run aground in the narrow channel less than 2 miles from our departure point. The area is so narrow that we slid by less then 2 boats lengths from him without an issue. With the wind blowing and the current running if anyone stopped to help they would be aground in no time. Fortunately the area is well serviced by a couple of marine towing companies. The rest of Monday went off fairly smoothly as we were able to motor sail most of the day in 15 knots of breeze. After another productive day we fueled and took on water prior to dropping the hook in Carolina Beach for the night.
The next few days would be much the same, up early, coffee and go as one day morphed into the next. However, there would always be something to set each day apart. I had installed a new navigation app on my IPad that is loaded with valuable information on the various hazards along the way. Bev was able to help track our progress and keep Dagny off the bottom as we transited numerous bad stretches such as Shalotte Inlet and Lockwoods Folly. The rest of Tuesday went off smoothly until we arrived at our anchorage in the Calabash River. This narrow winding river is only 150 yards wide that is used by the local shrimp boat fleet and various commercial fisherman. We dropped the hook in an area we had used before but as the tide ebbed it appeared we might be too close to a shoal at low tide. As dusk approached we figured we better relocate to deeper water; unfortunately, it had gotten busy and we wound up only 4 boat lengths off the bow of one boat and 5 boat lengths beside our new neighbours. I decided I better set the alarm for midnight when the 4 foot tide turned to be sure we all swung the same direction. No harm, no foul and the neighbours were still talking to me in the morning.
Once we cleared the Myrtle Beach area with it’s hundreds of golf courses and condos we spent the next two days following the ICW as it meandered through the forests and salt marshes of South Carolina. The first section was in the Waccamaw River National Wildlife Reserve, where the river wound it's way through the forest and the second section was through miles and miles of salt marsh that was very sparsely populated. The numerous small bays and creeks that crisscross the ICW make this a real waterman's paradise.
After five long productive days we dropped the hook 10 miles from Charleston in a beautiful little side creek. We can see the lights of the city but by the time we go to bed and the tide ebbs we will be below the top of the reeds isolating us from the world for a few hours.
We are stopping in Charleston for 2 days to visit a good friend who just moved into a new house. There is a shallow area just south of us that we can't transit until about 11:00 tomorrow morning, so after 5 days the alarm will NOT be turned on tonight.
Today's picture is sunset from the bow of Dagny looking over the marsh towards Charleston, take note of the two arches of the harbour bridge in the back ground.
On The Road Again. FINALLY!!
14 November 2022
Six days had passed since we had installed and tested the new transmission but, unfortunately Hurricane Nicole kept us pinned to the dock. However, the weather finally began changing in our favour Saturday afternoon so in anticipation of an early Sunday morning departure we left the marina and moved to the town anchorage. Dagny had been secured with 8 lines running to various pilings so with the help of a couple of people we slipped the lines and headed over closer to town. Although the 6:15 alarm was a rude wake up call we were anxious to get going again and we were soon under way with coffee in hand. The 3 hour ride down Adams Creek toward the ocean allowed us to ease back into life on the ICW as we prepared for a long day of motoring. However, once we turned the corner at Beaufort the ICW runs just inland parallel to the ocean so we rolled out the Genoa and had a great motor sail all day in 15 knots of breeze. For the most part the sound is a mile or two wide but the narrow ICW channel isn't even a hundred yards wide and if you stray outside the channel it's only a couple of feet deep. However, we made great time, stayed off the shoals and covered 70 miles by 4 p.m., a tiring but rewarding day.
Although the 6 days we spent waiting for the weather to change could have been long we kept ourselves busy with various boat chores. I managed to get the last piece of teak toerail varnished plus Bev and I spent time waxing the cabin top that always seems to get neglected. Despite the fact that the traffic on the ICW was stalled due to Nicole's inclement weather, for the most part Oriental was warm and sunny. When the wind was light we would dinghy to the town Center for supplies and just hangout. Our almost daily walks took us along the shores of the Neuse River where we could admire and critique the beautiful waterfront homes. My friend
Henry, from our Etchells days, insisted we use his spare vehicle so on Friday, along with the crew of 2 Outrageous, we headed out on a road trip to New Bern.
Nicole had kept everyone pinned down as she slowly moved into the US, our worst weather was supposed to be Wednesday and Thursday but fortunately the storm moved inland and quickly weakened. However, out of nowhere on Friday we had sustained winds over 30 knots with gusts to 45, I think Mother Nature just wanted to remind us who was boss. But the time had come to leave, so we bid farewell to Matt the Harbourmaster, who had taken such good care of us and our new found friends at Whittaker Creek Marina. Our last night on the town was spent at a funky brew pub that had a great atmosphere, neat beer garden and golf cart parking for the locals.
Today's picture is of one of the carts. This would be perfect for Paul Laflamme to drive to karaoke night at HYC!
13 November 2022
For some unknown reason cannot upload new entries.
Will try again tomorrow.