Day Three Held Captive
09 November 2014 | Saint Augustine, FL
Day Three Held Captive in Saint Augustine
The hard part about sailing, or cruising rather, is to distinguish what one does from loafing. Here we are in Saint Augustine Florida on our third day. We had originally signed up for four nights on a mooring ball but we are thinking about staying longer. Is it laziness, lack of inertia or merely prudence? Hmmmm
Saint Augustine, settled by the Spanish in the late 16th Century is America's oldest city. Walking down the streets one could be fooled, if only for a minute in to thinking he had arrived in Europe. Europe with really heavy people. A Europe that is more like Disney World than, well, Europe.
As background, we motored down the ICW from Fernandina Beach, buddy-boating with our friends from Hampton and Southall Landing, Larry and Sandy Stewart. We made excellent time by catching the tide and were able to average close to nine knots for much of the way. While landlubbers might not think this much to talk about, we blow-boaters where pretty pleased at our progress that day. We arrived here at the municipal marina at about 2:30 on 7 October.
The ICW between Fernandina and Saint Augustina is like a slow moving river, but has many long straight canals. Bordering the canals we saw homes as humble, as well, perhaps $400K and many I am sure topped out in the 10s of millions of dollars. One side of the ICW was thick with houses, all with boat lifts in the back yard, and the other side, primordial swamp. I looked for gators but so far, have seen none.
The only wild-life that has been constant has been dolphins. Even in water you might not think suitable for fish, much less mammals, dolphins have seemed to thrive. In fact we have seen so many, that it is akin to seeing deer along the road back home. In the Chesapeake we are always thrilled to see our closest relative of the seas, but here, it is, well, rather more mundane.
Back to Saint Augustine.
The main downtown is nothing but shops and restaurants and bars and cafes and more shops and souvenir shops and pizza pubs and, well you get the idea. And the people flock to the shopping and eating and drinking. One used-book shop owner, on a less prosperous street told us that she had been offered the same square footage on the main shopping street, St. George Street, for $3500 / month. Her shop is perhaps 10 feet across and 20 feet deep.
And the people throng the street. Anything would seemingly sell. One store, City Cat Country Cat, around the corner and in the back, and then up a flight of stairs, sells nothing but cat memorabilia. (Yes, we had to visit. No we didn't buy anything.) Grumpy Cat is front and center and is the subject of about 30 percent of all the merchandize. We walked into this small shop and were among 6 other shoppers, or lookers, because I saw nothing sold in this 100-square-foot shop.
Mixed in and among the shops is some real history. The signs are well kept and mark special dates, occurrences and buildings. The city's founders, which built the port city for commerce would be proud, because commerce has truly become the basis of this city's modus operandi. We were constantly amazed at the specialty shops and that they could even make a living, so narrow was their product offering. But yet, tens of thousands of potential buyers shuffle through the street daily. With such numbers, sellers of anything would likely find a ready market.
So here we are on day three. We have eaten more restaurant meals here in the past three days than we have a whole year back home. We have become yet another boatfull of tourists leaving our doubloons in the till. We have taken the tours, toured the fortress and are thinking of staying a few more days. Is it lethargy or interest?
I'll get back to you when I figure that one out.
update after week-long abscence
08 November 2014 | Saint Augustine, FL
A lot has happened since the last post and I’ll try to bring everyone up to date. As I type this note we are in Fernandina Beach, Florida, sitting just sound of the Georgia Border.
Since the last posting, we worked our way to Charleston and ended up spending five days there. An approaching storm system pushed us to extend our stay until this last Monday. We opted to skip South Carolina south Charleston and all of Georgia. In Charleston, we were able to dock in a marina which bordered on the historic area. Everyday we were able to walk the streets of old Charleston and admire the antebellum architecture. This part of Charleston is truly gorgeous.
We also met up with Bob and Marilynn Oates while in Charleston. They had rented a car and drove to our marina. While we were walking to meet them downtown, Eta had a major argument with a tree, and unfortunately, the tree won. As we were walking through a city park, I was leading the way. I ducked under a major limb which crossed our path. Unknown to me, Eta was walking with her head down to avoid the wind and rain, failed to see the limb, and crashed into it with her nose and head. Luckily Marilynn is a trained nurse and took over first aid, helping Eta to find ice to keep the swelling down. Now, five days later the bruise is barely visible.
We saw the cold weather closing in and decided to by-pass the ICW and leave on Monday morning following the Atlantic coastline. 24 hours later we found ourselves in Fernandina Beach. We had expected northerly winds up to 15 knots with following seas. What we got, was almost no wind and seas that were quartering from our stern. Because we were unable to use sails – simply not enough wind, the ride turned into a long motor run that was akin to driving in a washing machine.
It is amazing that one can be 25 miles off shore and still only be in 70 feet of water. I felt like we were still in the Chesapeake.
We arrived on Tuesday morning, short on sleep and eager to take a nap. By the time we got the anchor set and boat tidied-up it was noon. We slept till five, treated ourselves to large ribeye steaks on the grill and hit the sack. We slept for another 10 hours.
By Wednesday Morning, Sandy and Larry Stewart, also Mizzen Circle neighbors joined us and anchored about 50 yards from Didi Mau. We have enjoyed lunches with them and walking the historic area of Fernandina Beach. In fact, it is now 16-thirsty and we are headed to a Mexican restaurant for Margaritas and Nachos.
We leave on Friday morning for Jacksonville, where we plan to stay for the weekend, before heading to Saint Augustine.
The Tension Mounts
28 October 2014 | Georgetown, SC
The Tension Mounts
We have made it through the easiest part of the ICW, by all accounts. The waterway in South Carolina is not as well maintained by the Army Corp of Engineers as it is in other states, according to those who have gone before. Over the next couple of days we will be able to travel only at mid to high tide, ensuring that we are able to traverse the shallow areas.
What this means is that we are in Georgetown, SC, about 55 miles north of Charleston, but will spend the next two days slowly meandering our way hoping to stay off the bottom. By most accounts this should not be a big problem, but we must be careful.
Yesterday we left Myrtle Beach after spending a quiet night at a boat ramp. The city had luckily built a new boat ramp that has two new 80-foot floating docks, with enough depth to accommodate Didi Mau. We tied up alongside for free and were no further than about a third of mile from shopping facilities.
We got an early start, around 7:30 a.m. and within an hour found our first ICW casualty – a 49-foot hunter – Brio – who had wandered off the centerline and was grounded in 5.5 feet of water. Because our draft is closer to 6 feet than 5.5, we left brio to await a rising tide, which freed her about 30 minutes later. A moment’s inattention can have disaster effects.
Shortly after leaving Brio we encountered fog, giving us visibility of only 50 to 75 yards. Lucky we had radar and a chart plotter. The radar would tell of any commercial traffic and the chart plotter would keep us in the middle of the channel.
Never a dull Moment
26 October 2014 | Myrtle Beach
Never a Dull Moment
After a glorious day and a half in Wrightsville Beach, it was time to get moving and make further progress south. We agreed with our cruising buddies Bob and Marilynn Oates to leave for South Port, NC at 7:30 a.m.
Anchors weighed, we progressed out the channel to the ICW only to find water police and Coast Guard everywhere. In the early morning light, we saw what appeared to be an enormous migration of some sort of fish or marine mammal. The entire waterway, for as far as we could see was churning. What ever it was, the animals were big.
As we drew closer we could finally make out that the thrashing was being caused by hundreds (thousands?) of swimmers participating in a tri-Athlon. This, of course was the first leg, the swimming portion. Turns out it is the beach2battleship triathelon. 700 athletes participated. I later read that one competitor died during the swimming phase.
We were still talking about the number of swimmers and all the activity as we entered the ICW. Bob and Marilynn took lead position (also known as the depth finder slot) ahead of Didi Mau. Bob was excited because he had been having some overheating issues on the boat and had learned while in the beach that he needed a new freshwater pump. The pump was changed and the boat seemed to be running cooler. He had taken it easy on Didi Mau over the first several hundred miles. Had he pushed the boat hard, there would have been little we could have done to keep up with his larger boat. Once again, size does matter.
We were getting ready to pass a lumbering catamaran when Bob and Marilynn came to a stop. No smoke from their engine exhaust. I could see Bob dashing down the companionway presumably to the engine compartment. Marilynn told us over the VHF radio that the engine had died. We drifted with them for a while to see if Bob would be able to get things going. After a few minutes it appeared that It was beyond Bob's grade, but the boat was drifting toward the shallows.
We had been standing by incase Peaceful Easy Feeling needed a tow. Instead of towing, we lashed the larger boat to Did Mau's port and lumbered into a marina some two miles or so upstream. We got Bob and Marilyn safely in a slip and then again turned to put on some southerly miles. Our destination was only about 3 - 4 hours away in South Port, NC.
The day was crystal clear with temps in the mid 70s by noon. It was a day pretty much like every other day we have had so far.
In South Port we decided to try to anchor in a small city marina. It borders the town's seafood restaurants, but is advertised as having anchor space for a maximum of three boats. When we arrived, a small sail boat was already anchored, and I attempted to squeeze in Didi Mau.
Things look great at first, but as the wind shifted and we started to swing, it was clear that we would almost be able to step off Didi Mau's swim platform onto the city docks. I was not comfortable and was thinking of other alternatives, when we were hailed from the dock.
Hike Spencer hailed us a told us we could tie up next to his 35-foot Island Packet. He had taken the only free slip in the marina and was kind enough to though us a life-line, so to speak. We tied up and after securing everything, headed for town.
South Port is Any Mayberry-ish. On the dock, we found neighbors, all boaters, shucking oysters and drinking beer. I stopped to ask about tides, whether Didi Mau would get stuck in the mud and where I might find some WD-40. Deb, one of the gals, said she had a can at home and refused to take any money. Saved me a several mile walk to store.
We found a place that served cheese grits and shrimp. Not the best I have had, but good never-the-less.
With full bellies and sore feet from walking the town, we returned to the boat, to share a drink with Hike, his wife Katrina and their son Troy.
Turns out, Hike is a reserve Naval Officer and just finished a three year tour teaching ,math at the Naval Academy. He and Katrina, an architect by trade, are home schooling their 13-year-old son as they travel down the ICW headed for Florida and the Bahamas.
Tonight, the 26th of October we are tied to a floating dock in Myrtle Beach that is attached to a city boat launch. The floating dock is new and the price was right.
Tomorrow we head to George Town.
Wrightsville Beach- Paradise found - Again
24 October 2014 | Wrightsville Beach, NC
Today marked a day of rest after a quiet night on the hook. One of our best nights. After spending two nights in Beaufort and having to reset the anchor at 1 a.m. each night, this was a welcome rest in a beautiful setting.
I think I failed to mention previously the adventure the dragging anchor. We have a 60 pound Manson Supreme which has never failed to hold. Even with 50 knot winds clocking 360 degrees, the anchor bit, re-bit and held.
The issue, it seems, is that I was the only one in the anchorage not using a full chain rode. While in the Chesapeake, I had changed to a rope rode to eliminate much of the mud that clogs the links in the chain. In Beaufort, with the wind and current at odds with each other, the anchor would set, the boat would then reverse over the anchor, thanks to the current, but still point in the wind. With each gust of wind, the boat would swing 90 degrees, the anchor break free, and then re-set a few feet later when the winds died and the current took over. By 1 a.m. each night, the boat had crabbed from one side of the creek to the other, such that I could almost step off the boat unto a dock, which initially started out 50 yards away.
On the second night of this hell, I realized that every other boat, those not swinging crabbing their anchor, where set with chain. So, with Eta motoring in the middle of the channel, cutting donuts at 1 a.m. careful not to hit the docks, I switched from rope to chain. We set the anchor and it held beautifully. The weight of the rode was enough to keep the anchor on the bottom and the boat swung much less. Lesson learned.
Back to Wrightsville Beach. Think of Virginia Beach, except the sand is not so muddy and the water clearer. And it is a bit warmer. On second thought, its nothing like Virginia Beach.
We enjoyed a beautiful day in the mid-70s and walked for about a mile-and-a-half down a nearly deserted beach. Probably in the summer, one would have a difficult time finding a place to walk, but at this time of year, the beach was ours and a few anglers.
Tomorrow, we head to Southport, NC about 28 miles further down the ICW. Hopefully the terrors will be kept to a minimum.
Terror on the ICW
23 October 2014 | Wrightsville Beach, NC
Terror on the ICW
We left Beaufort, NC on Wednesday morning, October 22, headed for Wrightsville Beach, NC. This would mark the first time in the trip that we really had to keep an eye out for obstacles. Of course, this is really a misnomer, because the obstacles are hidden well under water that is murky at best. The obstacles, are, however well marked on charts. In other words there is really no way to keep an eye out for them.
But well marked is a matter of definition. What we mariners use are symbols meant to keep ships and boats in the channel and away from harm. In reality, what we have are markers and lights that only instill panic, and the knowledge that disaster and peril can happen at any time.
For example, after leaving an overnight with the Marines at Camp Lejeune, we came upon our first test. Lucky that we had been warned about it by friends well in advance. It appears that the Marines are short a tank, and it’s where-abouts are only generally known. If its position were exactly known, I am sure the Marines would excavate it from the path of hapless sailors and eliminate a possible point of disaster.
But instead of removing the tank, the corps of engineers and or coast guard have devised a devious test of our ability to fathom nautical markings.
We are motoring down the ICW doing a leisurely 7 knots when I see a disaster in the making. I see a red marker and a green marker roughly in a line, but off-set enough so that if one were not paying close attention, one might be tempted to pass between. When traveling from the south, a red mark is supposed to be kept to starboard (on the right when facing the front of the boat) and green marks are to be kept to port. These marks might tempt the novice sailor with going between them, only to land on the beach, so to speak, or stuck in the mud and sand. What is really required is that one should hug the red mark, and then turn to the right and hug the green mark, making and S-shape, of sorts. But the marks are silent about when to re-enter the center of the channel. Too late and you again find the beach. To early… same fate.
The pucker-factor is raised as one enters the slalom and realizes he has to guess when to renter the main channel. Depths through the slalom show 2-3 feet of water under the keel, and then, I begin to go to the center and I see 5 feet, wait, whoops, too soon, now it is only 3 three feet, no, wait, 2.5 feet. Do I continue, go right, go left? I am sitting in Wrightsville Beach writing this and so guessed correctly.
The ICW so far, and we are nearly through North Carolina, has been beautiful and scenic. We have enjoyed the weather, the people and the waterway, when not being terrorized by nautical marks and buoys. We have been told by old ICW hands that Virginia and North Carolina keep their ICW lanes well cleared and marked, but not so for South Carolina. We will probably skip that state and sail outside as weather permits.