Fort Pierce to Savannah
12 April 2021 | Savannah, GA
We left the marina at Fort Pierce Thursday morning, April 1, at slack water (low tide) and promptlyy ran aground in the marina fairway. This was the first incidence of low tide grounding in that spot in a few years according to the marina staff, but they recalled from the last time that there was deeper water near the north side and we squeaked by in short order. Apparently the strong currents had deposited a sand bar there in the few weeks since we'd been out last. We made decent progress northward in the ICW against building north winds which were up to 20-25 kts by the time we anchored south of the causeway between Melbourne and Indialantic. This was a good spot to stay protected from the north winds which only increased overnight and remained in the 20-30 kt range for much of Friday. On Saturday, we got underway early and continued north inside of Cape Canaveral, past Titusville, and New Smyrna to anchor in Daytona Beach, with occasional sail assist along the way while the winds were NE 10-15 kts. By Monday, winds had calmed and we continued motoring northwards to reach St. Augustine by 14:30, where we had reserved a mooring for two nights. We once again enjoyed this town, where we took long walks and ate at a few favorite places.
Early Tuesday (Apr 6) morning we passed through the Bridge of Lions drawbridge before 07:00 and headed out the inlet for a day run up the coast. By this point the weather was in a very stable pattern of morning land breeze and afternoon sea breeze so we were able to sail much of the way about 5 miles off the coast. The inlet currents were with us as well and got a good push as we headed into St Mary's inlet at the FL - GA border, then proceeded north to anchor off the national park docks at Cumberland Island, GA. We first visited here on our return trip north in 2017 and really love the place. The next morning we spent hiking the trails through the massive oaks with hanging moss and palmetto understory. We saw the wild horses near the ruins of the old mansion at Dungeness, and walked on the boardwalk over dunes to the vast beach and were the only ones there at the time. It was again a highlight of our travels along the East Coast. That afternoon, we departed for a short trip up to Jekyll Island where we anchored for the night to be able to navigate Jekyll Creek at high tide the next day. So Thursday we headed north with plenty of water under us. Tidal range here is approaching 9 feet, so it pays to get the timing right for our six foot draft and not try to get through shallow bits at low tide. After exiting Jekyll Creek into the Brunswick River and then into St Simons sound we passed the great wreck of the "Golden Ray". This ship is a huge car carrier that suddenly capsized in the ship channel approach to Brunswick, GA, in September 2019. There is a massive salvage effort that is now ongoing and the lift cranes can be seen across the marshes from miles away, and is quite a sight. See https://gcaptain.com/golden-ray-wreck-removal-returns-to-stubborn-section-seven-as-operation-drags-on/?subscriber=true&goal=0_f50174ef03-c5ce681b24-139833921&mc_cid=c5ce681b24&mc_eid=d3189fcd4c
North from St Simons Sound we wound our way through the natural waterways to anchor at midday in Buttermilk Sound to wait for a tide change. The next section involved the Little Mud River which reportedly has only 3.6 ft at low tide, so we were sure to be passing through that on a rising tide. By 16:00 we had +3.0 ft so started our way north with a following tidal current. During the trip we saw nothing less than 8.7 ft following the latest Bob423 long track and it was mostly greater than 10 ft. This took us across Doboy Sound and up Old Teakettle Creek to an anchoring spot on the Crescent River. One notable feature of this trip so far was the lack of boat traffic of all kinds, no overtaking power boats, very few fishermen. We did encounter one sailboat that actually seemed to have sailed the whole way from St Simons Sound through the same Little Mud River to anchor in the same area with us that night.
Friday (Apr 9) was calm and peaceful while we hoisted anchor and proceeded northwards. This took us down the Sapelo River, across Sapelo Sound and up west of St Catherines Island. From there it was across St Catherine's Sound, up the Bear River then off the ICW for a mile up Kilkenny Creek. This was again all natural waterways through marshlands dotted with hammocks (clumps of land with trees and scrub). We found our intended anchorage at midday on Kilkenny Creek where we stayed the night after a dinghy ride ashore to find a good restaurant there. The small settlement along the creek there was the only real development we encountered since starting out in the morning. Saturday morning (Apr 10) we made a short day of it (29 nm) to get to the marina at Thunderbolt on the outskirts of Savannah. This took us down the Ogeechee River, through Hell Gate (a non-issue especially at mid tide), and up the Vernon River, Burnside River, Skidaway River and upper reaches of the Wilmington River. We stayed at the long face dock at the Hinckley Yacht Service yard there which was nice, for two nights in order to do some exploring in Savannah on Sunday (Apr 11). A frontal passage came through Saturday evening with some winds and T-storms, so it was good to be secure at the dock for a time. We enjoyed the day in Savannah, taking the tourist trolley and walking between the many squares with massive oaks and lunch at a pub in an old stone structure near the waterfront. Monday AM we were off early and across the Savannah River into South Carolina. Crossing this deep narrow river was interesting with the oncoming container ship and dredging operation at the entrance to the waterway on the north side.
A Fort Pierce Winter
22 March 2021 | Fort Pierce, Florida
We've had a great stay here in Fort Pierce. The marina and city surroundings were perfect for us. In addition to enjoying the sights and dining within walking distance, we took many driving expeditions to parks, refuges and beaches for hikes and sight seeing. Below is a chronology of our land based travels which include a six digit Google "Plus Code" that can be pasted into a Google search bar or Google Maps to locate the spot and see a description:
12-4-20 Driving Tour: Hutchinson Island to Jensen Beach
12-7-20 Savannahs Preserve State Park , Hawk's Bluff Trail 7Q55+WG Jensen Beach
12-9-20 Heathcote Garden, CM9G+9H; Indian Hills Recreation Area, CM8J+W7 Fort Pierce
12-10-20 DJ Wilcox Preserve: GJCW+JV and Indrio Scrub Preserve: GJGV+CV Fort Pierce
12-11-20 Lunch w Don/Sue, Mr Manatees: JJXC+4J Vero Beach
12-12-20 Drive to Daytona Speedway: 5WPH+3Q Daytona Beach
12-13-20 Dinghy Tour across ICW to Faber Cove: 27.465, -80.294
12-14-20 Fort Pierce Inlet State Park: FPF4+WW Fort Pierce
12-15-20 Jack Island (part of Ft Pierce Inlet State Park): FMXJ+72 Fort Pierce
12-16-20 Riverbend Park: WRMG+VG Jupiter; Jonathan Dickinson State Park: 2V3X+9J Hobe Sound
12-17-20 George LeStrange Preserve: 9JXF+QV Fort Pierce
12-18-20 Drive tour to Lake Okeechobee, Port Mayaca, Indiantown
12-19-20 Indrio Savannahs Preserve: GJHQ+R8 Fort Pierce
12-20-20 Beach, south of Ft Pierce Inlet
12-21-20 Fort Pierce walk across bridge, Seaway Dr
12-22-20 Fort Pierce Inlet, South Jetty, FP95+W9 Fort Pierce
12-23-20 Round Island Riverside Park: HM6C+FH Vero Beach
12-24-20 Pepper Beach 3302 N Hwy A1A, Fort Pierce, FL 34949
12-26-20 Indian Hills Rec Area: CM8J+W7 Fort Pierce
12-28-20 Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park: HXM3+JV Okeechobee, Florida
12-29-20 Vero Beach lunch w Don/Sue: JJXC+4J Lagoon Greenway: JJ89+GM Vero Beach
12-30-20 Fort Pierce Inlet State Park: FPF4+WW Fort Pierce
1-1-21 Round Island Beach Park: HM6G+JC Vero Beach
1-2-21 Riverbend Park: WRMG+VG Jupiter
1-5-21 Savannahs Preserve State ParK, Hawk's Bluff Trail: 7Q55+WG Jensen Beach
1-6-21 McKee Botanical Gardens: JJ49+W8 Vero Beach
1-8-21 Navy Seal Museum: FMWX+4V Fort Pierce; Pepper Beach: 3302 N Hwy A1A, Fort Pierce
1-9-21 St Lucie Fairgrounds for 1st Covid Vaccination; 9G96+3X Fort Pierce
1-11-21 Day Sail & fishing out to 27-33N, 079-59W.
1-12-21 Vero Beach, Don & Sue's new house, Mr Manatees Grill JJXC+4J Vero Beach
1-14-21 Loggerhead Marinelife Center: VWMV+RG Juno Beach; Beach: VWMW+69 Juno Beach
1-15-21 Oslo Conservation Area, HJPF+MX Vero Beach; Round Island Beach Park: HM6G+JC
1-17-21 DJ Wilcox Preserve: GJCW+JV Fort Pierce
1-18-21 St Lucie Village Heritage Preserve: GM53+5C Fort Pierce
1-19-21 Bok Tower Gardens: WCPF+W2 Lake Wales
1-20-21 Indrio Savannah Preserve: GJHQ+R8 Fort Pierce
1-22-21 Round Island Beach Park: HM6G+JC Vero Beach
1-25-21 DJ Wilcox Preserve: GJCW+JV Fort Pierce; Indrio Savannah: GJHQ+R8 Fort Pierce
1-26-21 Day Sail on Star Reacher
1-27-21 Savannahs Recreation Area, 9MJV+JP Fort Pierce, Florida
1-28-21 Sebastian Inlet Park: VH22+VR Melbourne Beach, Pelican Is Nat'l Wildlife Refuge: RH6F+9R Vero Beach
1-29-21 Savannahs Preserve: 7PXH+V9 Port St. Lucie, Indian Hills Rec Area: CM8J+W7 Fort Pierce
1-30-21 Oxbow EcoCenter: 9J3W+J4 Port St. Lucie, Florida
2-1-21 Savannahs Recreation Area 9MJV+JP Fort Pierce
2-3-21 Lakeland FL, Hollis Gardens 22RX+VC Lakeland, Florida Southern College: 23J3+HX, Lakeland
2-3-21 Circle B Bar Preserve: X4WM+MV Lakeland
2-4-21 Oslo Conservation Area, HJPF+MX Vero Beach
2-5-21 Beach, south of Ft Pierce Inlet: FP37+XG Fort Pierce
2-6-21 Dinghy Tour: North of inlet, mangroves near Jack Island: 27.4917N, 080.3128W
2-9-21 Day Sail and fishing out to 27-25N, 080-00W
2-10-21 TM Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area R7GR+7Q Melbourne, (Roseate Spoonbills nesting)
2-11-21 Round Island Beach Park, HM6G+JC Vero Beach, Florida
2-12-21 Port St Lucie Botanical Gardens 7M9J+7R Port St. Lucie, Hillmoor Lake, Woodstork Trail 7PM5+WH Port St. Lucie, Riverwalk Boardwalk 7MGJ+23 Port St. Lucie
2-15-21 Day Sail on Star Reacher
2-16-21 Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary JJXJ+6V Vero Beach
2-18-21 Fort Pierce Inlet, South Jetty, FP95+W9 Fort Pierce
2-20-21 Savannah's Preserve State Park , Hawk's Bluff Trail 7Q55+WG Jensen Beach
And Jensen Beach Rd Entrance: 6PWX+FW Jensen Beach
2-21-21 Fort Lauderdale, Rosies Lunch: 5V58+JG Wilton Manors, Florida
2-23-21 Morikami Gardens CRHV+FH Delray Beach
2-24-21 Day Sail & fishing out to 27-35N, 080-09W then to 27-23N, 080-09W.
2-25-21 Riverbend Park WRMG+VG Jupiter, Florida
2-26-21 Dinghy Tour, Taylor Creek; Spoil Island SL17: FM7M+X4 Fort Pierce; Little Jim's FMHQ+92
2-27-21 Round Island Beach Park, HM6G+JC Vero Beach
2-28-21 Lagoon Greenway, JJ89+GM Vero Beach
3-1-21 Spruce Bluff Preserve, 7M48+5P Port St. Lucie
3-2-21 The Villages, Sumter County W25G+G5 The Villages
3-3-21 Avalon State Park (beach), GMQM+8G Fort Pierce
3-4-21 Heathcote Garden, CM9G+9H Fort Pierce
3-4-21 Indian Hills Recreation Area, CM8J+W7 Fort Pierce
3-5-21 Savannahs Recreation Area, 9MJV+JP Fort Pierce
3-7-21 Fort Pierce Inlet, South Jetty, FP95+W9 Fort Pierce
3-8-21 Indrio Savannahs Preserve, GJHQ+R8 Fort Pierce
3-9-21 Savannahs Preserve State Park , Hawk's Bluff Trail 7Q55+WG Jensen Beach
3-10-21 Driving Tour--West Coast: Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Pine Island
3-11-21 Driving Tour (cont.)--West Coast: Marco Island, Naples
3-12-21 Driving Tour (cont.)--West Coast: Punta Gorda, Venice, Siesta Key, Sarasota
3-15-21 Riverbend Park WRMG+VG Jupiter, Florida
3-18-21 Pepper Beach 3302 N Hwy A1A, Fort Pierce, FL 34949
3-19-21 St Lucie Village Heritage Preserve GM53+5C Fort Pierce
3-21-21 Blue Cypress Conservation Area P7CR+73 Vero Beach
South Carolina to Fort Pierce, Florida
15 December 2020 | Fort Pierce, Florida
Nov 13 - Dec 15 We did end up staying in Myrtle Beach at the marina until the following Tuesday due to the high water in the Waterway and the Waccamaw River. There is a well placed NOAA water level gauge at Socastee where a fixed bridge crosses the ICW, and there is information that correlates the water level with the bridge clearance heights so that we can know when we are able to pass under safely. That didn't happen until eight days after our arrival here. By Tuesday (Nov 17) we were ready to go early and were off the dock by first light at 0630. It was a pleasant motor south in the waterway, crossed safely under the bridges and continued south in the wider Waccamaw River to Georgetown SC which we passed by at noon. From there we continued on in Winyah Bay then to the ICW to cross the North Santee River, then detoured into the South Santee River near Brown's Island for an overnight anchorage. This is a very nice spot with plenty of room in the midst of marshland that was long ago farmed as rice fields. We purposely started late on Wednesday (Nov 18) to avoid being at the fixed bridge at Isle of Palms at high tide where overhead clearance is an issue. After crossing under that bridge at 1300 we learned that the Ben Sawyer Swing Bridge was closed at midday for maintenance. This was an annoyance since we had called two days prior to confirm with the bridge tender on duty that the bridge was not going to be closed this day. Anyway we ended up anchoring in a side creek until the opening at 1600 at which point the tide was nearing its low and we had to watch for shallow spots along the way. Once through we headed out into the wide open Charleston Harbor where we headed north to the area near Patriots Point Park. We decided to anchor just south of the large marina there and stayed there for two nights while waiting for warmer weather to head back out into the ocean again. The winds were northeasterly which made this spot just fine but would have been a little exposed to be comfortable from other wind directions. The next morning it was 40°F and pretty breezy from the north so we were glad we waited one night more until Friday (Nov 20) when it was 15° warmer and headed out for an overnight run to St. Augustine FL.
It was good sailing under full sail all day with 19-22 kn wind on the quarter. Late in the afternoon some squalls were about so we furled the main and continued downwind with genoa alone. The seas were still up and seem to be building but the wind was down to 12 kn astern by 3 AM, so we motor sailed for comfort until morning at which point we decided to head in to harbor north of St Augustine at the St Johns River entrance. We would not have arrived at the St Augustine entrance until after the tide had switched to ebb and did not want to attempt that entrance with the seas and wind from the northeast. So we made it into the wide and protected St Johns entrance by 1030 with the flooding tide and it was an easy non-eventful transit. We later heard from a boat that was tied up next to us in St Augustine that they transited the St Augustine entrance on the 20th and could not see the entrance buoys in the seas and experienced having their cockpit flooded from overtaking waves. After hearing of that we were doubly glad we waited a day and went in through the St Johns inlet. Once in the St Johns River we were pushed along by the flooding tide for an extra 1.5-2.0 kn of speed that continued as we turned south into the ICW. We motored on until we made it to a beautiful anchoring spot near mile marker 765 on a bend off of the waterway near Pine Island (30° 03.5'N, 081° 21.3'W) by 14:20. After that we had an early dinner and were happy to be in bed by 7 PM for a restful sleep.
This spot inside the Guana River Wildlife Management Area was worth the stopover and was only 12 nm north of St Augustine, which we then headed for on Sunday (Nov 22) to arrive just after 1400. We took a slip there for five days over Thanksgiving week and enjoyed walking around town, though sad not to be comfortable in dining in the many places available here due to the pandemic. Still we found a few places with outside tables and uncrowded spaces in the midafternoon on a couple of days. For Thanksgiving day, we had ready from home a traditional turkey feast complete with trimmings and made a pumpkin pie too. We were thankful to be able to do such a trip in these difficult times, but missed the usual social event with friends and/or family or with newly made friends as in past years.
On Friday (Nov 27) we departed St Augustine for several days of easy travel south in the ICW. There were a number of fixed bridges to cross under and we were again worried by reports of high water, but fortunately we made it through all unscathed. We traveled 60 nm the first day to anchor off of the waterway at New Smyrna Beach for a peaceful calm clear night. The next day (Sat, Nov 28) we continued motoring south and made it to a spot south of Melbourne, near Malabar, between some spoil islands just off the waterway. We'd been here once before and shared it with several other boats also on trips going south. Sunday (Nov 29) we were underway early for the final leg to Fort Pierce where we wanted to be situated before a predicted frontal passage and rainy weather set in. By 12:30 we were tied up at the floating docks and set ourselves up to be there for weeks to come, as we had made a multi-month reservation back in July. The total trip distance from Rock Hall was 939 nm, done over a 26 day period with several long pauses along the way.
Over the next week we got settled in to life on the waterfront here in Fort Pierce. We were pleasantly surprised to find our friends Al & Arlene on their trawler Arion tied up here in the marina for a month as well, and has been fun to catch up with them. Our friend Scott on Star Reacher from our same marina in Rock Hall arrived here later in the week too, There is a great farmer's market every Saturday just adjacent to the marina grounds. By Friday (Dec 4) we walked down US1 to a rental car office and picked up our car for a month rental. It's been nice so far to explore the parks and nature preserves along the coast here as well as visiting the beach and planning longer trips. The Round Island Beach and Riverside Parks near Vero Beach are a great place for short hikes and exploring nature, and where we saw our first manatees of this trip: https://www.ircgov.com/Departments/General_Services/Parks/Round_Island_Riverside.htm The Hawks Bluff trail near Jensen Beach: https://floridahikes.com/savannas-preserve-hawks-bluff And the Heathcote Botanical Gardens http://www.heathcotebotanicalgardens.org/ with its largest (>100) collection of bonsai trees in the U.S. are highlights of places we've visited so far.
On Friday (Dec 11) we took a drive north to Vero Beach to see our WSPS friends Don and Sue over a nice lunch outside at Mr. Manatee's Casual Grille--oysters & burgers were great. The next day we had the unique experience of visiting friends Ann & Ted on the infield at Daytona International Speedway as part of his "crew" for a track-days event. This was about a 2 hour drive north up I-95 from the marina in Fort Pierce. Ted was there with his Porsche where we watched him zip around the course at speeds up to 160 mph with 45 other cars on the track during three 30 minute time slots that day. The required safety features, track-side observers and standby rescue crews were impressive. They had a great spot on the infield where they 'camped' for several days in their new RV. This is really an event for drivers with no access to any of the grandstands or concessions, so it was easy to maintain outside-only social distancing as is our 2020 norm by now.
So we're settling in nicely to marina based life here on Florida's "Treasure Coast" and plan to continue that into the New Year. Blogs will likely be pretty sparse from here until we make another move on the water, not likely before the end of January.
Rock Hall to Myrtle Beach
13 November 2020 | Myrtle Beach SC
We moved aboard Mystic Star on October 30th with intentions of leaving home port on the 31st. But the weather had other plans as it often does. Saturday was nice enough but a frontal passage brought heavy rains and southerly winds on Sunday, so we stayed put and watched some football. When the front went through Sunday Evening, it brought a gale of cold NW winds that held through Tuesday morning. So we left the dock at about 11 AM on Nov 3rd with it still blowing 15-20 in the slip. With help from friends, we got all untied and headed out and south which started out with a great fast reach with a double reefed main and solent (staysail) jib at speeds of 8 - 8.5 kn. South of the bridge, the winds abated and eventually we motor-sailed, then just motored by sunset and continued overnight. By 11 PM we were abeam of Smith Pt at the southern margin of the mouth of the Potomac River with winds less than 5 kn. We crossed over the Tunnel at Hampton Roads at 0630 Wednesday and proceeded up the Elizabeth River through the vast Navy yards then commercial shipping ports of Norfolk and Portsmouth. It was beautiful clear weather and not nearly as cold as in previous years. The motoring in the start of the ICW went well with only one 45 min hold up at a railroad lift bridge that stayed closed for two long trains. It was important that we got through this bridge when we did since there was a scheduled full day closure for the next day. By the time we made the locks at Great Bridge (VA), there was enough southbound traffic to fill one lock wall and start on the other, then once through waited for the bridge at 'Great Bridge' to open at 1100. Just two more swing bridges to go and we were off to follow the ICW through the shallow Currituck Sound and made the docks at Coinjock (NC) at 3:35 PM. That was a 187 nm trip from Rock Hall over 27.5 hours with about 90% motoring. We've normally enjoyed dining at the restaurant there, but in this era we find ourselves in, we opted for a take-out meal to eat aboard which was great, but enough for next day leftovers.
Thursday, Nov 5, we were up early to depart before sunrise. There was some scenic patchy fog over the marsh lands and a building procession of boats heading south this day. Winds were less than 5 kn and from behind, so the motoring continued across the Albemarle sound and through the swing bridge in the middle of the long causeway across the Alligator River. The wind built up from the NE so we were able to sail south in the Alligator River for the 10 nm up to the long canal that connects to the Pungo River. We're always nervous about the one fixed bridge near the western end of this canal (known as the Wilkerson Bridge) since its clearance is only 64 ft and we need 63.5 ft to get through. Fortunately the water levels were lower than normal with the northerly winds, so no antenna-touch as has happened before. We made it to anchor in Pungo Creek, just south of Bellhaven NC right at sunset. There we enjoyed a calm night at anchor but woke early to find dense fog. Regardless we headed out and down the Pungo River as the fog soon dissipated to cross Pamlico River and south in Goose Creek with high pressure keeping the winds very low. We exited the canal into the Bay River, then took a slight detour to the west to Ball Creek where we anchored and dinghied ashore to see our friends the Nettings at their wonderful waterfront home. So great to see Dave & Sandy and catch up on things. After some hours of (safe) socializing, we moved the boat to a cozier spot for overnight anchoring in Bonner Bay. It was a pleasant natural surrounding, but awoke to the sounds of gunshots at dawn. The duck hunters were out in force, and being a nice Saturday (Nov 7) early in the season, many were doing their thing. So without too much delay, we were on our way again heading out into Pamlico sound and soon south in the wide Neuse River which we could sail for a change for most of the day. By afternoon we were headed south in Adams Creek/Core Creek canal which terminates near Beaufort NC. We found a corner of the busy harbor near Morehead City to anchor, just south of Sugarloaf Island. There was a fishing tournament underway and everyone with a boat and a rod/reel was out there for it.
That location set us up for an offshore sail down the coast. We left our options open to either sail overnight to Charleston SC or to head in before dark at Wrightsville Beach NC. The sailing started well (Sunday, Nov 8) with the wind on the quarter, but as the day went on, the wind became more dead astern and the swells were building from the beam--an uncomfortable combination, so we opted to head in for a night of peace. That decision was helped by some sprinkles that started late in the day. We made it to the Masonboro Inlet just at sunset though was dark with overcast and the small inlet had only a few small unlit buoys to help locate the entrance, but the jetties were clearly visible. The ebbing tide against the waves with the cross wind made us a bit nervous about this entrance, so we were ready for anything and well battened down as we approached. Fortunately it turned out to be a non-event and getting through to the safe harbor inside was no problem. There were a surprising number of boats in the anchorage behind Wrightsville Beach, more than we had seen in several previous stays here. We were later to learn that boats on their way south were hesitating to some extent to find out what the late season tropical storm "Eta" was going to do. We decided to press on from there on the ICW but found that slips in marinas down the line were mostly unavailable due to boats on hold. We were able to find a spot a little further down than was convenient, but we went for it. This was at the Grand Dunes Resort in Myrtle Beach SC. We made it fine through the tricky shallow bits near Lockwood Folly Inlet and Shallot Inlet, using the Bob423 tracks and the Corps of Engineers latest surveys. With the help of tidal current for most of the day, we made it to our destination by 4:30, before they closed at 5, a 65 nm trip taking just under nine hours. With the opposite tidal situation, I'm sure we'd have been late. Once there, we planned to stay for a day to take it easy and to investigate an engine issue. That day has turned into at least four as the storm "Eta" has moved up along the coast making for wind and heavy rains. With our mast height at 63.5 ft we will be trapped by high waters because of bridge clearances until they drain away, maybe by Friday or Saturday. In the meantime, it's been nice to be here, and though we're reticent to dine in the many nearby restaurants these days, take-out is a not bad alternative.
Home to Rock Hall
02 May 2019
We stayed as planned at the Harborwalk Marina in Georgetown SC for three nights enjoying the town and several of its restaurants and resupplying some groceries. The back streets of the town have beautiful oak trees lining and overhanging the streets with many historic homes, churches and mansions. Friday (Apr 19) did prove to be a good day to stay in port with high winds and rain and Saturday was about as windy, but weather was clearing. By Sunday (Apr 21) the skies were clear and the winds simmered down so we headed out and up the ICW for a section of it that we had not previously been through. This was a beautiful stretch of waterway that consisted of the wide and deep Waccamaw River where we could sail instead of motor our way that eventually gave way to more narrow man-made canal through heavily forested section. It was unique to be traveling through a flooded forest of cypress trees for many miles until we reached the section on the outskirts of Myrtle Beach NC. Just before the cypress forest ended, we stopped at a marina cut out of the swamps on a side chute to the waterway, Osprey Marina, by 2:30 in the afternoon. We were able to get a slip though it was rather a tight fit, and a very large power cruiser came in later and seemed like it boxed us in pretty well. But the marina manager came in early the next morning to help us work the boat around the very close quarters in calm conditions to make it back out to the waterway by 7:00 AM. The next section of the waterway was straightforward, although very different as it passed through more developed areas near Myrtle Beach. We successfully transited crossings at Shallotte Inlet and at Lockwood's Folly Inlet (staying on the inside route) to make our way to Southport NC, to the marina there were we stayed on our trip north in 2017. Southport is a great small town on the Cape Fear River where the ICW joins it as it heads south from there. There is a retired meteorologist at the marina who gives free weather and ICW briefings every evening to boaters passing through during the season, and this time it was well attended by fellow cruisers heading north. He pointed out many valuable tips on problem areas in the waterway from there northwards. With that information and our own collected information we made it through the tough spots without ever seeing depths less than 9 feet, and usually had much more. From Southport, we continued for one additional brief day on the waterway so as to cut off the long way around Cape Fear and Frying Pan Shoals and anchored for the night in the Banks Channel adjacent to Wrightsville Beach NC. This is a good jumping off point for an ocean sail to Beaufort or beyond and around Hatteras. Being just the two of us we opted for the long day-sail to Beaufort, leaving at 5:50 and sailing downwind a good bit of the 70 nm trip offshore. Upon reaching the inlet at Beaufort we faced an outgoing tide against the southwesterly wind which caused a steep chop to build up near the entrance. That slowed us down a good bit but it remained manageable in this relatively wide inlet. We then reentered the ICW there where we proceeded north through the Adams Creek Canal to the Adams Creek itself and Cedar Creek where we found a comfortable anchorage just at sunset. It was an 87 nm trip that took just under 14 hr.
The next day (Thurs, Apr 25) we wanted to stop and visit the town of Belhaven NC that we had sailed past many times over the years, but had never stopped previously. So we made that trip sailing in the Neuse River to the Bay River and a canal section to Goose Creek, followed by more sailing in the Pamlico River and north in the Pungo River to Pantego Creek at Belhaven. They have a small marina there but we opted to anchor in the river and dinghy into town which featured a very nice dinghy dock within a block of the main part of town--and restaurants. The town was badly flooded last September from Hurricane Florence and the restaurant "Spoon River" where we picked to dine had just reopened the previous week. We had a fine meal there and were personally well treated by Theresa the gracious co-owner/host. The next morning we had the choice of a long day with potential strong winds behind us or waiting while the winds came around to the north for several days making for uncomfortable travel in the sounds. We opted to continue on our way, first through the long and tedious Alligator-Pungo canal, then north in the Alligator River, across the Albemarle Sound to the North River. The first opportunity for anxiety was crossing under the Wilkerson Bridge, one known to be one of the least forgiving clearance heights on the waterway. As has been the case before, this was the only bridge on the ICW that we touched the antenna as we passed under, and fortunately that is all that touched! Next we sailed north in the Alligator River heading dead downwind in 25 kts (29 mph) towards a swing bridge that stops opening when the wind gets up to 35 mph (30 kts). We contacted the bridge tender and he encouraged us to proceed, so we made it through at 13:45 with one other sailboat and an impatient powerboat that had to wait for us sailboats to arrive before the bridge would open. Once through the opening the power boater zoomed off towards the narrow entrance channel from the river to the sound, while we made our way in that direction with the building winds behind us. As we arrived at the channel we could see that the power boat was no longer moving, and unfortunately for him, he had run up hard on the sand bar at the edge of the channel with the winds pushing him further aground. As we made our way around we saw that a tow boat was on scene to help out but we'll never know how all that worked out as it seemed to be a very bad predicament to be in. Out in the Albemarle Sound we were having our own issues with the building winds and short choppy waters. By the middle of the sound we had 30-35 kts coming from dead astern while we sailed at full speed (9-10 kts) with only a double reefed staysail set. During that stretch we saw plenty of sustained gusts in the 40-45 kt range with a few even higher. The boat did fine moving north towards the narrow entrance to the North River on the far side of the sound, the main problem being trying to spot and avoid the tiny crab pot floats scattered across it there amidst the white caps and foam. Once inside the shallow bits in the North River entrance we worked our way over to the west shore, reaching with the reefed jib, while I got thoroughly doused with side-spray even with the dodger, bimini and connector bridge in place. We got the anchor down in a more or less protected spot still with greater than 25 kts, by using the quick release on the windlass to get the anchor on the bottom and paid out as fast as possible. This was near the mouth of the small "Broad Creek" on the western shore of the North River. Once the anchor was secure we got hit with a couple of very heavy downpours and some close lightning over the next few hours around sunset. We were happy to be secure for the night as the winds clocked around to the northwest where we had the best protection.
The next morning we were again off early in clear skies and NW winds around 20 kts. We plugged along motoring to the north, first in the North River past Coinjock, then in Currituck Sound to the North Landing River and on to the east west running Albemarle-Chesapeake Canal with several opening bridges and one lock to transit. We and one other sailboat were making good time to make it to the first swing bridge at North Landing at 13:00. That allowed us to make it to the bridge and locks at Great Bridge VA by 14:00 for their once-an-hour opening, just in time. From Great Bridge we headed up and out the Elizabeth River through the heavy industrial area in Norfolk and Portsmouth VA, and tied up at Tidewater Marina near downtown Portsmouth by 16:00. After that stretch of mostly sitting we had the energy to do some boat clean-up and later enjoy dinner in town at a favorite place, the Bier Garden restaurant. Sunday (Apr 28) we headed out into the Chesapeake and points north. We alternatingly sailed and motor-sailed to make our way north on a nice day--except for the attack of the biting flies by midday! We've often noticed this to happen this time of year in the southern bay near New Point Comfort and the Mobjack Bay. So we were glad to be north of the Rappahannock River and on to the beautiful "Northern Neck" of Virginia to Indian Creek for the night. The next day we paid a visit to friends Tom and Sandy of "Anania" at the beautiful home that they recently moved into on the water off of the Great Wicomico River. They were so kind and gracious to us as experienced cruisers to the Bahamas and now as hosts at their home. They arranged a terrific evening with neighbors/boaters that we've also been in touch with via SSB radio and now had a chance to meet. It was great to see them once again and see their new place and surrounding area, we can't thank them enough for their hospitality.
Tuesday (Apr 30) was a variable wind day and we sailed out of the Great Wicomico River past the town of Reedville and around to the northeast and Smith Point. From there we crossed the mouth of the Potomac River under power with winds changing around us from just about all directions. We made good time motoring our way north to stop for the evening at Solomon's Island, Maryland, off the Patuxent River, a traditional stopover. Our final day was Wednesday, May 1, and was colder that we had experienced so far this year. It was cloudy and breezy from the east, so we were able to sail for most of the day, but not without jackets and long pants! We were beginning to wonder if we had returned north too early at this point! On our way towards the bay bridge we heard via radio from good friends on "Windward Passage", Captain Randy and friends John, Ken & Dodie who were out for their first sail of the season. Once back at our home port of North Point Marina in Rock Hall Harbor by 4 PM it was so great to meet and catch up with them after our long absence over the winter. It's good to be home again.
More Abacos, then back to USA
19 April 2019 | Georgetown, South Carolina
We continued to enjoy Elbow Cay and the picturesque Harbour of Hopetown for two more weeks on a secure mooring. This was a great place for a base of operations as we easily went ashore for long ocean beach walks and strolls through the narrow streets in the little town with its densely packed colorful houses and shops. Longer walks on roads through residential/vacation home areas to the north and south of town were also fun. One day we took a long dinghy expedition down the west coast of Elbow Cay to famous "Cracker P's" for lunch on the small cay of Lubbers Quarter followed by hanging out at "Tahiti Beach" with friends across from it back on Elbow Cay's southern end. It's a popular spot with boaters of all types featuring a white sandy beach that extends on a narrow spit well out into the bay at low tide, and of course a floating beach bar. Several other times we'd leave the harbor with a 'reserved' float on our mooring ball for overnight trips to Marsh Harbour, and to Mermaid Reef for some great snorkeling and to more secluded spots off of smaller cays in the Sea of Abaco. One nice day we organized to go out on a deep sea fishing trip with friends on "Sea Jules" and "Fancy Free" aboard "Local Boy". We had a good time trolling around east of Elbow Cay late in the day and the ladies landed two nice specimens, a Mahi and a Wahoo. We hoped for a few more but it was not to be and there were plenty of delicious meals for all three boat crews once the spoils were divided up.
Finally on April 4 we left Hopetown for the last time and sailed the short distance west in the Sea of Abaco to Great Guana Cay, anchored there and paid a visit to the famous "Nipper's Beach Bar & Grill" for lunch. On Friday we sailed across to Treasure Cay and took a slip at the marina there to do a little maintenance and enjoy the shoreside amenities. This put us in position to make the 'jump' around the Whale Cay passage to Green Turtle Cay and points west of there. To do this safely and comfortably one has to be patient for the right sea state and tidal current direction. During much of the time in the winter months, the Atlantic rollers from the northeast make the cut too rough especially during ebbing tides. By April, however, it seems the seas were down and we sailed through the cut and around "the whale" with no issues to arrive at Green Turtle Cay's "White Sound". We arranged for a five day long mooring ball rental in this cozy harbor and enjoyed the time with our friends on "Fancy Free", visiting the community of New Plymouth to the south in Black Sound by dinghy and later on by golf cart. As we did from Hopetown, we left the mooring on an especially nice day to anchor off another cay for the night. Manjack Cay was one such special place with a few private homes many beautiful beaches and a mangrove river to explore. The residents there have created a number of excellent trails and welcome boaters to visit their bit of paradise via dinghy and on foot. We explored the mangrove waterways at high tide to see dozens of turtles, stingrays, and juvenile fish hideouts through the crystal clear waters. At the end of the long winding mangrove creek we were surprised to find an open basin with a dock and slips for three substantial sized boats. Then the owner (of thirty years) appeared on the dock and we got to talking about the time he safely rode out a cat 5 hurricane in those mangroves with his sailboat wedged into the mangroves there.
By Thursday, April 11, it was time to make a move towards home. We had a nice motor-sail westward from Green Turtle Cay on the banks for 61 nm to Double Breasted Cay. We had hoped to spend the next day exploring this group of uninhabited islets and beaches, but our anchorage was too unprotected from the south and southeast winds we were experiencing. As a result of this and the decent forecast for a passage to Florida we hoisted anchor before sunrise and headed west to the fringes of the Little Bahama Banks on April 12, Friday. From there just south of Mantanilla Shoals we headed northwest for the Gulf Stream and on to northern Florida. We made our way to the forecasted middle of the Gulf Stream for a maximum speed boost which we rode for about six hours going at over ten knots over the ground. Fortunately (and unfortunately) we had winds behind the beam, but much of it was so far aft as to be problematic for sailing. Seas were heavier than we would have liked being in the 4 to 7 ft range and mostly on the beam, making for a rolly ride. In any event we made great time, arriving at the St. Augustine inlet at about 2 in the afternoon to go in with the flood tide there. Some data for the trip follows: Distance 263 nm, time 32.4 hr, for an average speed of 8.1 knots--thanks to fair winds and the Gulf Stream and our trusty diesel engine! Check-in with US Customs and Border Protection was made easy with a new smart phone app that we had previously populated with our information. We then simply reported our arrival via the app and waited a few minutes for an officer to text us that our re-entry had been approved. Not bad at all. Once in St. Augustine at a mooring just off of the old "Castillo de San Marcos" fort, we rested up for the evening to be ready to enjoy several days here in this bustling tourist destination.
For the next few days we enjoyed St Augustine's restaurants, a few museums, and walking the town and the fort run by the National Park Service. Our friends on Fancy Free were here a few hours ahead of us and we joined them for activities ashore, as we had done in the Abacos, but had to say goodbye for the season on Monday evening. On Tuesday (Apr 16) we headed out early at high tide and rode the current up the ICW to the St Johns River (where Jacksonville FL is situated further upstream), then out with the strong ebb tide to the ocean once again. From there we motor sailed north to the next inlet at St Marys at the Florida, Georgia border, a 62 nm trip in total. We anchored for the night well off the channel to the north of Fernandina Beach so as to be situated for another overnight run up the coast the next two days.
Wednesday, April 17, we picked up anchor just at daybreak and headed back out the inlet and on to the northeast, aiming for Georgetown SC by the following afternoon. This turned out to be quite different than our passage from the Abacos four days earlier in that the seas were nearly flat with light winds on the beam. It was time of the full moon, so we had a nicely lit up sea for the entire overnight run. We once again had to motor-sail for most of the trip, the winds providing only a boost of a knot or two, but not enough on its own to drive us for a daytime arrival at Winyah Bay. It was a pleasant overnight passage for the most part, with the only set-back coming at the end as we had to make our way up Winyah Bay against a strong ebb tide. With a full moon the tides were at maximum, and the current that day seemed well above its predictions as we saw 3 and some 4 knots against us at times. But we had plenty of daylight left and made it up the bay to Georgetown and the marina at Harborwalk where we planned to stay a few days. Forecasts are for strong storms Friday (Apr 19) with very strong winds for a few days, and we love the quaint town of Georgetown which is right on the waterfront, so I'm sure we'll enjoy the weekend stay here. Our plan is to make our way further up the coast and home on the Chesapeake by early May, both via the ICW and hops out on the ocean as conditions make reasonable.