Escaping the cold??
15 November 2019
Our start to the new season went much more smoothly than it did last year. Cay Paraiso fared well over the summer and during Hurricane Dorian, so other than routine maintenance and a few minor repairs, we were ready to go in a little over a week. We left the marina in New Bern and headed down the ICW on November 4th.
We had a good 3 day run with 2 nice anchorages then a mooring in Carolina Beach where we timed our run down the Cape Fear River with the current. A push of 2-3 kts the whole way enabled us to cover a lot of distance that day. We made it to the Barefoot Marina in North Myrtle Beach for 2 nights, where we plugged in to ride out wind and cold. Temps in the 30s first thing in the morning aren't bad if the winds are light and the sun comes out, but throw in 15 kt winds from the North and that's a different story. We enjoyed a great seafood dinner with Dave's High School friends, Janet and Fred.
We managed to squeeze in 3 more long days of pleasant and uneventful progress before tucking into the Safe Harbor Marina in Beaufort, SC to wait out the "Arctic Freeze" being experienced by most of the nation. There was a mass escape from the ICW into marinas for most of the boats around us on Tuesday. It doesn't seem right when the morning temp here is the same as it is in Wiscasset! Many of the trawlers (and some of the sailboats) have since left, but we're staying put until Sunday or Monday. We don't have the desire (or need) to endure rainy days with highs in the 40s and 15-20 kt Northerly winds.
I am again reminded of the beauty of the tidal marshes, vast rivers, creeks and ocean inlets of the Carolina(s) ICW. We're looking forward to a nice stretch of weather next week when we can get back to spending our nights at anchor and enjoy our solitude and peaceful surroundings.
Check out the gallery for more photos...
The final stretch
17 May 2019
We left Charleston via the ICW, went all the way through Myrtle Beach and anchored in Calabash Creek. The next day I grounded us near the Shallotte Inlet where we adhered closely to the latest navigation alert recommendations but couldn't stay in deep enough water and avoid the dredge that was moving side to side across the channel. The dredge crew pulled us off and we warned cruisers headed that way. We read later that a handful of other boats grounded in the same place. We anchored that night in Wrightsville Beach and had easy access to go outside the next day. We had an easy offshore run to Morehead City, anchored right off the ICW, and ran our final stretch, arriving May 2nd. We had one final blessing of the appearance of many dolphins feeding around crab traps in Adams Creek, shortly before we entered the Neuse River and reached New Bern. We spent 12 days getting the boat ready for the summer and had a bittersweet departure on May 14th.
28 April 2019
While in Hopetown we enjoyed several long walks through beautiful flower gardens and pastel colored cottages and a fun boat ride with Froggies Adventures to Nippers Bar and Grill on Great Guana Cay for the final Bahamas Barefoot Man concert. We made a brief stop in Marsh Harbour for provisions then worked our way to Treasure Cay for a long walk on their famous beach. We still think there are others way more beautiful in the Bahamas but this one seems to attract the attention, likely because of the resort location. I'm more into the wild, more primitive ones.
The hardest part about leaving the Bahamas is leaving the beautiful water. We planned to take our time in the Northern Abacos, but we were starting to anticipate the crossing back to Florida and saw a brief opportunity followed by what looked like no opportunity for a couple of weeks. We decided to grab it and after one night visiting "the other" swimming pigs and taking a beautiful, long beach walk on No Name Cay, we headed for Fox Town, Little Abaco. We planned to spend a day exploring but our window came a day sooner than we expected. We left for Great Sale the next day with plans to sleep a few hours and leave around 9 p.m. Our departure from Great Sale was delayed by 4 hours due to thunderstorms, but we ended up having an easy crossing to Ft Pierce, arriving around 6 p.m. the next day. The new customs check-in process with a phone app video conference was a piece of cake.
Once again, the weather kept us from going offshore, so we jumped back in the ICW, anchored overnight in Daytona right off the ICW then spent 4 nights on a mooring in St. Augustine while the winds blew like crazy. We were glad to be back there after skipping it the last couple of trips. Our big adventure this time was walking across the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island and exploring the St Augustine Lighthouse and the gorgeous State Park. I would have never expected to see such a nice beach with huge sand dunes right near the city! It was over nine miles of walking, but well worth it.
We were able to enjoy calm, beautiful weather for a trip offshore from St Augustine. We had the unexpected joy of seeing at least 8 Loggerhead Turtles between northern Florida and Georgia. Our friends on Minx suggested we go into the North Edisto Inlet rather than the Charleston Inlet for the quiet and beauty. We appreciated his suggestion as our anchorage in Church Creek, off the Wadmalaw River was lovely. The conditions for the remainder of the trip to Charleston were quintessential Carolina Spring. There's nothing like it!
Having skipped Charleston the last couple of trips, we were happy to
return. Our third or fourth time in the Charleston Maritime Center, we love the proximity to all the historical attractions and the convenience to Harris Teeter and laundry. The other marinas are huge and out of the way. We have continued our recent trend of taking huge walks. We revisited the Citadel Thursday and yesterday we walked all the way from the marina across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge, through the park underneath and back. Friday we took the water taxi over to Patriot's Point and spent the whole day touring the USS Yorktown and the Vietnam exhibit.
Since we're not in a hurry and the weather is so beautiful, we have decided to just stay in the ICW the rest of the way back to New Bern, NC. While we dread going through a few skinny spots, going up the Waccamaw River and along the barrier islands will more than make up for it. We're heading out this morning...
03 April 2019
We spent a lot more time exploring Eleuthra this year than we have before. The winds kept us in Rock Sound for a few days so we made good use of the time exploring locally by foot and the rest of the mainland by car. The Island is known for having many caves, often connected by underground tunnels. The "Spider Caves" were within walking distance from town and were quite impressive. The car we rented was compact and not really suitable for off road driving, but we made it work and bumped our way down the long, rocky, unpaved road to gorgeous limestone cliffs at the southern tip, Lighthouse Point. Another highlight was stopping at the Glass Window, the narrowest part of the island originally connected naturally but now by a man made bridge, where the ocean meets the Eleuthra Banks. The contrast between the 2 bodies of water is stunning. We enjoyed driving out to Current Cut, the narrow channel with a very fast and strong current most boats use to travel north from the Exumas and Eleuthra, and seeing it from a different perspective. 110 miles long and 1 mile wide, the island has one main road that extends from one end to the other. There are miles and miles of undeveloped land with scattered settlements here and there.
We took our time sailing up the coast and enjoyed several lovely anchorages. In the past Royal Island has been a pit stop for us to stage for crossing to the Abacos, but this time we anchored instead right nearby at Egg Island and enjoyed an afternoon and night of calm conditions and abundant aquatic life before we crossed.
The winds were minimal for most of our sail to the Abacos, so we had the engine running for the whole trip and fished the whole way. For the third time out of four that we've made this passage, we caught a good sized Mahi-Mahi and enjoyed it grilled that evening, anchored off of Pelican Point, Great Abaco.
Anticipating big north winds, we made our way up to Hopetown on Elbow Cay yesterday. We plan to stay here a few days then move on!
Mike and Christina
22 March 2019
Upon Mike and Christina's arrival, we moved over to Big Major's Spot to anchor in front of the beach with the Pigs. We were delighted to see a brand new litter of piglets, still nursing. We visited without food to share, though, so we didn't get to see any swimming.
Once again, the wind forecast motivated us to get right up to the Park. The winds and seas built on the way up so we were glad we decided to stay on the Banks for the trip. We anchored at Emerald Rock and took our favorite hike, witnessing some pretty dramatic surf on the Sound.
We were able to get into the North mooring field the next day. We attempted to snorkel but it was a bit too choppy. We did the customary hike up to Boo-Boo Hill and Mike and Christina borrowed the Park's tandem kayak and went exploring.
A break in the wind allowed us to move up to Shroud Cay. Again, that stretch on the Banks blessed us with perfect sailing conditions. The engine went off and we had a beautiful morning under full sail. The tide was right that afternoon to dinghy through the mangrove creeks and enjoy the inlet to the Sound. Our evening entertainment was witnessing the senior occupants of the sailboat right near us stripping down and bathing in their sun shower right on their deck. Not a pretty sight but we were impressed with their willingness...
Hawksbill Cay, still my favorite I think, was our next destination. A mere stone's throw from Shroud, it has a different feel to it altogether. With a stop along the way to visit the cave, we headed again to the sand bars at the north end of the cay. Despite the overabundance of sunshine for our northern guests, a good time was had by all.
We managed to squeeze in a night at Cambridge Cay, but the conditions were too snotty so we aborted our attempt to snorkel the Rocky Dundas. We enjoyed a hike to Bell Rock instead.
Back at Staniel Cay, Mike and Christina finally got to snorkel in decent conditions in the Thunderball Grotto. We were grateful to have another great week showing off our favorite spots.
It it always bittersweet to leave the pristine beauty of the Exumas. After our guests left, though, it seemed to be time to move on. Our original plan was to go to Cat Island, but the upcoming wind directions prompted us to start moving north for the protected harbors of Eleuthra. We moved north along the Exuma chain and anchored off of Cistern Cay and crossed yesterday in flat seas and minimal wind to Rock Sound, Eleuthra. Stay yuned...
Hutch and Morgan
12 March 2019
We picked up Hutch and Morgan from the Staniel Cay airport and departed the next day for the Exuma Land and Sea Park, seeking protection from predicted stiff north winds. In calm seas, we attempted to fish, but to no avail.
Instead, we were greeted on our arrival at Emerald Rock by a Hammerhead Shark swimming in the mooring field. This was a first for us. Hutch and Morgan jumped right in the dinghy and were able to get up close for pictures. When he was comfortably out of sight we took advantage of the remaining lull before the winds and snorkeled near the Warderick Wells cut.
We were able to get into the most protected part of the Park for the night with the highest winds. We took a long hike, covering just about all of the marked trails on Warderick Wells and making some of our own where there seemed to be no other way back without retracing miles.
When the winds clocked to the East and abated some, we moved up to Shroud Cay, under full sail for the first time all winter. We had a beautiful trip and anchored right up close to a little beach. We enjoyed a long dinghy ride through the mangrove creeks and swam/drifted in the fun rage between the north creek and the Exuma Sound.
From there we moved down to Hawksbill Cay and were able to anchor in our favorite spot, again right near the beach. We dinghied up to just north of the the Cay and enjoyed the extensive sandbars, tide pools and beautiful array of colors.
We made our trip back to Staniel expecting a smooth sail in 15 kt east winds but, instead, ran alongside a line of squalls with winds 20-25 kts which didn't let up up even when the skies cleared. We bashed into seas that were rough even though we were on the banks. We were tired and soaked and happy to put the anchor down right behind the Thunderball Grotto, where we enjoyed the remainder of the time Hutch and Morgan had with us.
The week sped by and I had a blast. There's no better feeling than sharing this paradise with the people I love....