Monarch's Big Year

25 November 2020 | Saint Simon Island, GA
24 November 2020 | St. Simons GA Frederica River Mile 670
23 November 2020 | Walburg Creek Anchorage at St. Catherines SC Island Mile 619
22 November 2020 | Just north of Savanah GA, Cooper River SC
21 November 2020 | Beaufort SC Mooring Field
20 November 2020 | Coosaw River SC
19 November 2020 | Charleston Maritime Center, Charleston SC
18 November 2020 | Charleston Maritime Center, Charleston SC
17 November 2020 | Charleston Maritime Center, Charleston SC
16 November 2020 | Dewee Creek SC Mile 454.3
15 November 2020 | Jericho Creek off the Waccamaw River SC Mile 394.8
14 November 2020 | Calabash River Anchorage SC ICW mile 341.8
13 November 2020 | Carolina Beach NC
12 November 2020 | Carolina Beach NC
11 November 2020
10 November 2020
09 November 2020 | Carolina Beach NC
08 November 2020 | Carolina Beach NC
07 November 2020 | Carolina Beach NC
06 November 2020 | Carolina Beach Mooring Field, NC ICW Mile 295.1

Fort Frederica

25 November 2020 | Saint Simon Island, GA
Mike
November 25, 2020 Wednesday

We spent the morning catching up on sleep and after the tide started coming up we took the dinghy into the small fixed dock at the Fort Frederica National Monument to look around. The site had a small but important fort in the early 1700s before the American Revolution built by the British to keep the Spanish in Florida from expanding into Georgia and attacking the colonies at Savannah and Charleston. The fort is most famous for stopping an invasion in 1742 by the Spanish and forever ending the threat from Spain in the thirteen colonies.

The tours are self-guided due to the pandemic so we strolled the grounds under the moss draped live oaks and tried to imagine a fort and support village as they were two hundred and seventy years ago when the only things left are a few foundations and a couple of walls. But the National Park System did a great job and we came away feeling we had fuller understanding of the early days of this beautiful area of the south often called the Golden Islands.

One story that was particularly fascinating was the story of Mary Musgrove, half Creek Indian, who worked as a translator and negotiator for the British and was a key to their success in making alliances with the native population which played a key role in stopping the Spanish. Through her skills and three different marriages she became one of the largest land holders in the state of Georgia.

When we returned to the dock, we found our dinghy stuck under the dock by the rising tide, so Sharon climbed down the side of the dock and freed the boat. Some of the float tube was pulled out of the track but we should be able to fix that. On the way back to Monarch we stopped and talked to a couple on a type of boat called a motor sailor named Lanikai. They had been married 60 years and have done a lot of cruising, recently based in Annapolis, but now living in Florida. We enjoyed talking to them while I slowly rowed the dinghy against the current but eventually the biting gnats drove us off.

Back on-board Sharon cooked us an early Thanksgiving Dinner which was delicious, turkey breast, mash potatoes, grilled vegetables and cranberry relish, a few less courses than our past events. We said what we have been most thankful for and gave our wishes for a more traditional gathering next year.

At a Bend in the River

24 November 2020 | St. Simons GA Frederica River Mile 670
Mike
November 24, 2020 Tuesday Frederica River Mile 670 28.5435:-81.378
Another beautiful day greeted us with only a few flies around to bite us. We pulled anchor around ten when the tide was low so that we would have rising tides all day as we traversed some shallow sections of the ICW. Today we covered the North and South Newport River and crossed Sapelo Sound. In Sapelo Sound after a barge passed heading north on the ICW we had to work our way through five shrimp boats that were fishing along the Meway River surrounded by scores of seabirds looking for a free meal. We listened to channel 13 on the radio to the chatter between the tugboat captain and one of the shrimp boats and it was interesting to hear them banter about their children, trucks, and boats in a deep low country twang.

The section today is very remote with the only human habitation on islands which are reached by ferry or small airplane including Sapelo Island. The ICW does a lot of twisting and turning as it follows the creeks including the Front River, Old Teakettle Creek, North River and the shallowest section, the Little Mud River.

Mid-afternoon we crossed Altamaha Sound with a building east wind and it was starting to get choppy. We had been using our headsail for several sections but as the wind increased, we decided for safety to pull the sail in. The constant tacking as we followed the wandering route makes sailing a lot of work.

The final section was up the Buttermilk Sound where we turned off the ICW to take the Federica River which winds south-east and along Saint Simons Island. We anchored off the Fort Federica National Monument. The fort was built back in the day by the British to protect against the Spanish who would attack from their colonies in Florida. Looking at the area of hundreds of square miles of marsh and wooded Islands that have changed little in the four hundred years since the fort was built it is hard to imagine why people would fight and die defending this desolate region of the country.

Sharon made a delicious quiche for dinner and we decided to spend the next day anchored here so we could try and get our bikes ashore and explore Saint Simons Island.

Into Georgia

23 November 2020 | Walburg Creek Anchorage at St. Catherines SC Island Mile 619
Mike
November 23, 2020 Monday

We had clear skies with variable winds from the north-west. We headed for the Savannah River crossing watching the ships moving along the river on AIS and above the trees you could see the ships stacked with containers. As we followed Fields Cut there was a small two masted sailboat sailing out toward the shipping channel where an inbound and outbound container ship were converging just south of a large dredging operation which was restricting the width of the channel. The sailor ran up to drop the headsail and then back to the tiller. The wind was very strong in the open area of the river and it was an impressive display of boat handling as he headed into the wind and dropped sail in the shadow of two massive ships.

We crossed the Savannah River after the two ships passed and continued on the ICW and we passed the small sailboat, Stary Night from Nantucket, and she appeared to be single handed if you don't count the skinny grey dog on deck.

Next came the Causton Bluff Bascule Bridge that is being replaced with a new high-rise bridge which is a good thing, one less bridge. The bad thing is only three of the four sections open leaving only half the channel width to get through. We knew of a sailboat that had been de-masted here and we saw a YouTube video of a power boat knocking off the fly bridge we assume at this same location. Because they are replacing the bridge no one is working to fix the bascule bridge, it was in the same condition when we passed here last spring. We made it through without issue but it feels like a disaster waiting to happen as we squeezed through the opening.

We continued past Thunderbolt marina where a huge facility can repair the numerous mega yachts lining the docks. The tides and currents are strong in Georgia and our speed reflected this going from slow to fast and back again as we passed the large homes in this suburban area of Savannah. This area keeps growing as the wealth of the south does but eventually, we passed out into the open marsh lands again with few homes and lots of wind. We experimented some with the headsail to get a boost here and there as we enjoyed the incredible views under the bright falling sun.

We anchored off the ICW in Walburg Creek off North Newport River in the lee of Saint Catherine's Island. The island is preserved for research and has only a few buildings on it, the rest is heavy forest land. The breeze was sufficient to keep away the biting gnats as we sat in cockpit enjoying a beautiful sunset.

Another Day in the Beautiful Marshes

22 November 2020 | Just north of Savanah GA, Cooper River SC
Mike
November 22 Sunday

We got a late start in the morning, taking our time getting underway. We went into the fuel dock at the Safe Harbor Marina to get diesel but after twenty gallons of pumping fuel with the slowest fill I ever experienced, I gave up ten gallons short of full. In addition, their holding tank pump out may or not be working so we decided to forgo that experiment.

The trip down the Beaufort River was a little slow against the current and across Royal Sound, which can get rough, but today the weather was calm and just a steady swell was rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean beyond. We followed the winding creeks and rivers out to Caliborgue Sound and on into the Cooper River and anchored for the night. This area of South Carolina is not far from Hilton Head and is just north of Daufuskie Island which is reached by ferry boats. It must be fun to vacation on an island without a lot of car traffic. The name of the island comes from combining "Da First Key".

We anchored early and I went for a row to enjoy the quiet creek in wide open marsh land. It was good to have a shorter day and we enjoyed reading and catching up with family on the phone. Sharon's aunt and godmother passed away and she was touching bases with close and distant family members to make sure the news had gotten out to everyone.

We had a few light rain showers in the morning but it cleared out and the beautiful weather we have been having looks to be continuing through the Thanksgiving weekend.

Beaufort SC

21 November 2020 | Beaufort SC Mooring Field
Mike
November 21, 2020 Saturday

We slept in and after pulling the anchor we only had a short motor of a couple of hours to get to the Lady Isle Swing Bridge and then the mooring field in Beaufort. We loaded a bike into the dinghy and on the way to shore we stopped by a Morgan 44 sailboat called Luckiest that had picked up the mooring next to us. We talked for a while with Hal and Barbara about their plans and adventures while we stayed in our dinghy to keep social distance. We exchanged boat cards and I lost theirs shortly thereafter.

We went ashore and Sharon rode to the grocery store for some items for our very small Thanksgiving Dinner and I went to a nearby restaurant called Panini’s and had a beer and waited for Sharon to return. When she returned, we shared a small pizza and as it was getting late, we decided to wait until tomorrow to take showers at the marina.

Back on board I baked sweet potatoes on the grill and while the potatoes baked the crew from Luckiest came by to return the boat card I lost in town, (someone recognized their picture on the card and gave it back to them) so we had a good laugh about that. We talked for a while and enjoyed the part we miss about cruising in a pandemic, the social contact that went on freely before the country got sick. Cases of the virus are skyrocketing all over the country and everyone is worried about what the flu season will bring. A full shutdown is possible again of all non-essential business if the situation continues to worsen.

Lowcountry

20 November 2020 | Coosaw River SC
Mike
November 20, 2020 Friday

We got ourselves over to the fuel dock for a pump-out and then headed for the 9:30 opening of the Wappoo Creek Bridge which we made with twenty minutes to spare. A large high-pressure system has settled over the southern United States which continues to provide a light north-east breeze. Today started cloudy but slowly more and more blue started to appear. It was a perfect day to cruise the open marsh lands south of Charleston.

The ICW here follows numerous rivers interconnected with manmade canals called Cut-offs; Elliot Cut, Stono River, Church Cut, Wadmalaw River, North Edisto River, Dawho River, Watts Cut, South Edisto River, Fenwick Cut, Ashepoo River, Ashepoo Coosaw River Cutoff, and finally the Coosaw River where we anchored along the river. There are many shallow areas of this route and we were lucky to have high tide all day so we never had any issues with groundings. The currents alternated against us and for us all day long as we moved through the waterways which flow and drain these marshes.

It felt good to drop the anchor and open a can of beer after a long day on the ICW in an open area with no homes nearby. The weather forecast was for a calm evening and we slept well after several nights rocking in the Charleston Maritime Center Marina.

We purchased some sound canceling headphones which we picked up in Charleston and they are wonderful for working down below when the engine is running. I upgraded the engine sound proofing but it is still tiring to be in the cabin for long periods with the engine running. We should have gotten the headphones years ago.
Vessel Name: Monarch
Vessel Make/Model: Hunter Legend 40 1988
Hailing Port: Mayo Maryland
Crew: Mike & Sharon Crothers
About: We left our jobs and have headed out to explore, starting with the East Coast of the US in our sailboat.
Extra: We are looking forward to exploring towns we have never been to or seeing familiar places in new ways, having conversations with strangers and making new friends, seeing natural and man-made beauty, history, and life.
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