11 February 2019 | Little Bay - Great Guana Cay
22 January 2019 | Rock Sound, Eleuthera
12 January 2019 | Spanish Wells
30 December 2018 | Key Biscayne, Outside Noname Harbor
23 November 2018 | Isle of Palms Marina
09 May 2017 | Rock Hall Harbor
17 April 2017 | Cumberland Island
05 April 2017 | White Sound, Green Turtle Cay
17 March 2017 | Royal Island
05 March 2017 | Davis Harbour Marina, Eleuthera
21 February 2017 | Salt Pond, Long Island
03 February 2017 | Georgetown, Great Exuma
23 January 2017 | Emerald Bay Marina
05 January 2017 | Pipe Cay
20 December 2016 | Wardrick Wells
12 December 2016 | Big Majors
07 December 2016 | Little Farmers Cay
29 November 2016 | Red Shanks
21 November 2016 | Sand Dollar Beach. Elizabeth Harbour
Northern and Central Exumas
11 February 2019 | Little Bay - Great Guana Cay
The week of January 21 did prove to be too windy to make the crossing and to take advantage of the beautiful Exuma Park so we stayed put in Rock Sound Eleuthera until Saturday the 26th. On Friday we went in for sunset at the Wild Orchid restaurant on the beach and learned that there was to be the first "Fish Fry" of the season on the beach near there. So we had a good time with other cruisers on the beach after dark at the Fish Fry put on by the locals,which featured a big plate of food, fish, chicken or pork, and beers/drinks and music for a great price. Prior to that during the week we finished up the legal brief Donna was working diligently on and I took the opportunity to do some boat/engine maintenance. So that Saturday, the 26th we headed out of Rock Sound Eleuthera with about eight others for various points in the Exumas. Our destination was the center of the Park at Warderick Wells Cay and had arranged to be on the list for a mooring ball via email on the previous day. The trip across was mostly uneventful, much of it motor sailing as the wind was nearly dead astern. Towards the end it picked up to near 20 knots so jib alone worked well until we made the entrance at Warderick Cut. We knew we might encounter a rough entrance since the tide had already turned to ebb and was opposing the building winds, so we made ready for a wet ride. It turned out to be not bad, but steep standing waves were building. Several other boats made the entrance an hour or two later and had much wilder conditions to contend with, but all made it in OK. The wind filled in and held at 25-30 with squally conditions for most of the afternoon, which was not expected. We were able to grab the mooring pennant in the narrow horseshoe shaped mooring field there at Warderick Wells, but just prior the boat attempting to grab the adjacent mooring was not so lucky and was quickly swept aground on the sand bar maybe one boat length away. Fortunately this was quickly remedied with the help of a park boat with powerful engines and we were all happy to be secure for the high winds during the rest of the day. The usual Saturday sunset beach get-together had to be postponed until the next day due to the squalls and rough conditions for dinghy travel in the anchorage.
The next days at Warderick Wells in the Exuma Park were great. We did all the hiking trails around the island including dinghy trips to the various beaches taking many pictures along the way. The get-together on the beach on Sunday afternoon was a fun event and another chance to meet other cruisers. We spent five days here and is really the highlight of our trip so far. Thursday (Jan 31) we left the beautiful crescent shaped mooring field and headed north to Shroud Cay at the northern most end of the Exuma Land and Sea Park. Here we were anchored with a half dozen other boats and went for a long dinghy ride to the north as the tide came up in order to catch a trip up a shallow winding waterway through mangroves to the east coast of the cay. There we arrived at the pristine beach near the remnants of Camp Driftwood up on a close by hill. The place has an interesting history and was once occupied by a lone sailor back in the 60's. There are plenty of descriptive web references, here's one: http://turftosurf.com/what-happened-to-camp-driftwood-shroud-cay-bahama/ Though we'd been here on our last trip in Jan 2017, we enjoyed it once again. And the site has been thoroughly cleaned up and brought back to nature, with the exception of a park placard that explains the history at the top of the steep hill. The surrounding beaches are beautiful and the boat ride through the mangroves was fun. The next day was very breezy and squalls came in overnight with lots of rain through the following midday (Sat, Feb 2). By the next morning, the dinghy had six inches of water in it, the most rain we've had since leaving Florida, and maybe for the whole trip so far. More rain came in overnight but cleared by sunrise.
After three days here we headed out early for points south and the southern end of the park. The two entrances to Cambridge Cay have tricky winding routes through sand bars and coral heads so is best done with good sunlight and a bow lookout. We entered via the northern route this time, going west and north around Bell Island then south and east of Cambridge Cay to the Park mooring field there and were settled by 1300 (Sun Feb 3). This is another incredibly beautiful and protected anchorage and is "administered" by volunteer host boats that stay in the area for weeks to a month at a time to welcome cruisers with park information, get them situated as needed, monitor status of the moorings and collect fees. It has about 12 very solid moorings, three of which are reserved for the larger power yachts that can make their way through the entrance passage. When we arrived they were less than half occupied. It makes sense to take a mooring in here since the currents run through at a pretty good clip so that boats generally lie to the current rather than the wind, making it awkward to be lying on top of ones anchor rode half the time. And besides that, there is a fee for anchoring in the park anyway, so might just as well spend the money on the well maintained mooring ball. So we also stayed here for three days and nights of relatively calm weather. It was perfect for snorkeling at a site called "aquarium" that lives up to its name being dense with fish and corals. It's a great hike across to the east and to the beach by bell rock and along the rugged high coast to the north from there for great distant views. The next day conditions were just right for a dinghy trip south to "Rocky Dundas", a pair of high islets with amazing caverns entered by snorkel at low tide. There are great fish and corals here too, but the cave entrances face east to the deep Exuma Sound so a day with minimal swells is needed to be able to do this without injury. We were lucky to be able to do this again, as we did on our last trip, and it is just so unique inside with sunlight coming in from holes in the ceiling. After the cavern exploration, we dinghied off to a snorkeling area off of a beach on the south side of Cambridge Cay just off the cut. This area had a wide field of elkhorn corals much of it no longer alive, but still actively growing other creatures and plentiful with fish. Some areas still had quite a bit of new elkhorn growth that reaches to just below the water's surface at low tide and creates pockets and valleys where hundreds of fish, some in big schools, find shelter. Our third day at Cambridge Cay was spent on two hikes ashore. First to the sound end where we followed a level sandy trail through a jungle of mostly short palm trees--a type of palm that seems like a miniature version of what we are familiar with in that they never seem to get bigger than about 6 or 8 ft in height. It may be a type of palmetto, but has a smooth longer trunk like its larger relatives. The end of that trail arrives at the beach where we were snorkeling the previous day. In the afternoon we went for another short hike starting from a shallow bay at the northwest end, crossing to a beach on the north side by the entrance cut and around a salt pond just inshore of the beach. That evening the folks from the host boat for this area of the park (m/v Privateer) organized a get together at a sand spit of an island at sunset. This place had many broken up flat rocks that people had stacked into cairns and other creations that made it unique. It was a fun event and always nice to visit with other boaters who are here for the same reason, to enjoy the beauty of nature in this unparalleled spot.
On Wednesday (Feb 6) we dropped the mooring early so as to exit via the south route at high tide then sailed with genoa alone the short distance to the Staniel Cay area. We anchored off Big Majors with about fifty other boats, a very popular spot. We stayed there for two nights and made the long dinghy trip to the settlement at Staniel Cay several times. There we walked the small town a bit and picked up some groceries from one of the very small stores there. We also couldn't resist a fine dining experience at the Yacht Club there, which lived up to expectations. That involved a long dinghy ride back to the boat on a very dark choppy night, but well worth it. On Thursday the 7th we caught up with new friends we had met in Great Harbour Cay sailing here from Norfolk, so was fun to share stories again. The next day we rolled out the jib for a short sail south to Black Point and anchored just off of the dock for the Laundrmat there. This is the best and most scenic laundry in the Bahamas (or maybe anywhere) and we could not miss the chance to take care of that chore and enjoy a few more restaurants there in town. There we met a couple that were from the Wilmington area and both had recently retired from careers in chemistry, so similar to our experience--to meet them for the first time in this remote outpost was a real coincidence. From there we moved a few miles down the coast of Great Guana Cay to a favorite protected spot of "Little Bay". We've sat out high wind events here on the last trip and wanted to be set for a few days of high winds once again. About twelve others had the same idea and even in the high winds, one can get to windward to a great beach and walks across the narrow island to the pounding surf on the east side. Things should simmer down by tomorrow or so and we'll be on our way south once again.
Rock Sound, Eleuthera
22 January 2019 | Rock Sound, Eleuthera
On Monday (Jan 14) winds were light and westerly, perfect for navigating the narrow "Current Cut" to enter the banks on the west side of Eleuthera proper. We timed our departure from Spanish Wells so as to pass through this cut at high tide and slack water to avoid currents that are reported to be as much as 12 kts at maximum. The time of slack water is also very brief and difficult to time precisely, but we had less than one knot, so no issues. https://www.discover-eleuthera-bahamas.com/current-cut.html
It is supposedly a great place to do a drift dive with SCUBA gear, though I've not heard of anyone who has done it. Finding a safe place to anchor our boat would have been an issue and at the time we didn't consider trying it, and would definitely only do it with a guide. From there we sailed eastward to the very protected harbor of Hatchet Bay.
The next day we went ashore at the nice dinghy dock/gazebo at the south end of the harbor and went for a walk around quiet Alicetown. There is a great cave to the north of here, but we had done that excursion on our last trip through here in 2017 so we decided to pick up and head further down the coast in the afternoon (Jan 15) with the mild weather. We had a gentle sail in northerly winds to Alabaster bay and anchored near Pelican Cay with several other sailboats. We stayed there for two nights and dinghied to the beautiful beach there the first afternoon, then again the next day to walk on a wide area of sandy shoal which just dries at low tide. From there we anchored the dinghy off the rocky southern shore of Pelican Cay and nearby rocky outcrops and went for a long snorkeling excursion. There was some really excellent snorkeling along there with a good variety of fish and great fan corals in 4 to 12 ft of water.
Thursday (Jan 17) we had a vigorous sail south in a very brisk NE breeze, seeing boat speeds of 7.5 to 8.5 most of the way. Our destination was the large bay of Rock Sound, Eleuthera where we anchored off the eastern shore with 20 or so other boats up and down that coast. We went ashore for a walk to "Ocean Hole" a blue hole sort of in the middle of the small town where reef fish are plentiful.
Later we met with fellow cruisers at a bar/restaurant inland from the harbor for drinks and conch fritters. The next day (Jan 18) was perfect for a grocery shopping trip since the store there was resupplied the previous day. They had a great stock of everything we needed and was a fairly short walk from there to the dinghy dock at Frigate's Restaurant. For a second shore trip we hiked south to the caverns that we visited and liked in 2017. It goes by either Cathedral Caverns, Spider Caves or Boiling Hole Caves and has a recently built very solid entrance stairwell. The sunlight coming in through holes in the ceiling with the amazing long tree roots make it a unique experience that we could not miss while here. https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g3579467-d6438874-i94218502-Spider_Cave-Rock_Sound_Eleuthera_Out_Islands_Bahamas.html
That evening there was an impromptu get together at Frigate's outer deck where the crew from catamaran "Salty Paws" played some great music and crews from a dozen or so boats got together on the deck to enjoy the sunset.
Saturday (Jan 19) was the day we were to be in the sights of an oncoming frontal passage, connected to the same front that brought storms and the 'polar vortex' to the US east coast that weekend. All of us anchored on the eastern shore near town gradually made our way across the bay to the western shore for protection from squalls predicted for Sunday. We all got ourselves situated along that shore with a good 400 to 500 ft between boats for plenty of room for swinging about at anchor which was comforting. The front finally came through after much anticipation late on Sunday afternoon with dark clouds and heavy downpours and a wind shift to the west. Wind gusts just reached 30 kts or so and all of us held our anchored positions just fine. These were the first real rains we've had since back in Florida, so the fresh water rinse off was welcome.
The next day (Monday, Jan 21) we had originally planned to move on to the southwest and the Exumas but predictions for the subsequent several days are for very strong easterlies in the mid 20s range, making anchoring and dinghy exploration activities there less enticing. So we and most of the other boats here made their way back over to the eastern shore off the town and plan to ride it out while the winds blow through mid-week. At least we have excellent broadband internet here--which we'll be lacking in the northern Exumas.
Florida to Spanish Wells
12 January 2019 | Spanish Wells
Monday (Dec 31) we heard that a reasonable crossing of the Gulf Stream was not going to happen until later in the week so we moved a few miles up around the corner to the west side of Key Biscayne out of the tidal currents. This side of the key had good protection from all easterly directions and was a popular spot with local boaters during the daytime. It turned out we had an excellent view of New Year's Eve fireworks all up and down the coast from here. It seemed like every community had their own 20-30 minute fireworks show which we enjoyed with some bubbly from our cockpit. The next three days we watched weather, readied for the overnight passage to the Bahamas and Donna continued with her legal writing project. Finally on Friday (Jan 4) winds had started to veer to the south but were still fairly brisk at 15-20 kts. We waited until late morning to leave while the wind continued to veer to a more favorable direction from SSE and so that we wouldn't arrive at our planned destination in the middle of the night. Our target was Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands which we had heard good things about. So by noon on Friday we were entering the Gulf Stream which is close to the coast and very fast setting to the north there. I observed current speeds up to 4.5 kts and greater than 2.5 kts for much of the afternoon until we reached the Bahama banks just to the north of Bimini at dusk. We made it across the 50 nm Straits of Florida on a fast beam reach with a single reefed main and solent jib maintaining a heading of 110-115M. This resulted in a course over ground of right about 80M which put us just north of the North Rock Light where we were free of the stream and could head due east in the shallow and calmer waters of the banks. As darkness fell we doused the main altogether and sailed with genoa alone as the wind veered behind us. The wind was up and down all night, at times we motor sailed I with the genoa, other times we used just the solent jib alone to maintain a 5 kt boat speed to make our arrival close to 0800. We stowed the sails and motored through the very narrow man made cut through the rock wall and the entrance to the Great Harbour Cay Marina and were safely docked by 0815 (Sat. Jan 5). Customs and Immigration was easily dealt with there and we rented an old car in the afternoon to check out the entire island and buy a few supplies. We were able to get a 'hot spot' network connection so that we could access email and the internet from anywhere there is cell phone coverage in the islands, which has worked out well so far.
The Cay has a very interesting recent history and once had a fabulous club with golf course frequented by celebrities in the 70's. We took a walk to the ruins of the old clubhouse which was wide open and substantially disintegrated. This link describes what happened there in detail: https://www.greatharbourcaymarina.com/history.html Some parts of the golf course are still mowed, though it could hardly be called 'turf' as it now consists of a mat of broadleaf weeds over sand, including the old greens. Supposedly some locals take the opportunity to play the course in its current state, not bad for a free round in the usually fine weather here. The marina we stayed in was part of that development and has some very sturdy concrete docks that have held up well. Unfortunately the restaurant and pool near the marina grounds closed recently. To make the best of it, Donna sort of organized a spontaneous get together for drinks & apps at the marina's pavilion on Sunday afternoon. A number of other boats came in that day so we had a good crowd of 20+ folks to chat with until the no-see-ums chased us away at dusk, as is the usual custom.
Monday (Jan 7) we left the marina and harbor to go around the cays to the north known as Little Stirrup Cay (aka Coco Cay) and Great Stirrup Cay where several of the big cruise ship lines have private islands with beach activities for guests. The huge cruise ships "Norwegian Epic" and "Empress of the Seas" were anchored offshore there while we motor sailed upwind past them then sailed close hauled to the southeast along the Berry Island chain. By late afternoon we were off a cut between Hoffmans Cay and Devils Cay and headed into an anchorage there. We thought we could just make it past some shallows round behind Saddleback Cay but touched bottom a few times and thought better of it. We found a spot in the main anchorage to the west of the cluster of cays, but about 6 or 7 boats were already lined up there. The ebb and flood of the tide rushes through there as it exits the nearby vast shallow banks and sailboats lie to the tidal current even against a 20 kt breeze. During the slack times, the boats can twist around a bit and we were not comfortable being close to others in this situation. So the next day (Jan 8) we moved to a different spot that had small cays with pristine beaches on three sides of us. The bottom there was problematic and we tried several times to get the anchor to bite but the sand layer over hardpan was too shallow to allow this. Eventually we did get a tenuous hold on the bottom and dinghied to the nearest beach on White Cay to enjoy our own private island for the moment. Later that afternoon we found that we had anchored in water that was a bit too thin to allow an escape at low tide (a negative tide that day) so we had to wait an hour or so to have enough depth to leave and re-anchor in a more secure spot for the night. In general it was a beautiful spot that had no development within miles, but proved to be challenging for anchoring! We met with new friends Walter & Trish who arrived there the second day and whom we had met back at Great Harbour Cay. On Wednesday (Jan 9) we had originally planned to continue on to the southeast through Nassau and on to the Exumas, but the winds were strong from the northwest--an unusual direction. So we decided to head further east over to Eleuthera and Spanish Wells--a favorite stop from our last trip, while the winds were favorable. We were not that sad about missing Nassau and reports of petty crime and the like were off-putting anyway. What's more, the route from Nassau to the northern Exumas goes through a tricky patch of shallows and coral heads that we were happy to avoid too.
So we had a very fast sail off the wind to the east and northern Eleuthera area first on a port tack under full sail, then poled out wing on wing for nearly 3 hours before 17-20 kts of WNW wind. We made the 50 nm trip to Royal Island Harbour in just about 8 hours and were settled at anchor by 1530. We took it easy there, then moved on 5 nm to anchor outside Spanish Wells near noon on Thursday (Jan 9). This is a comfortable spot as long as winds retain a northerly component which was predicted to last until Friday night. On Friday we decided to take a slip at the marina in the town of Spanish Wells for a few days, one of our favorite stops in the Bahamas and one of the nicest marinas anywhere in a very protected harbor: http://swyachthaven.com/ Winds did eventually veer to the east and freshen so that the fleet outside eventually found more protection elsewhere or likewise came inside to the marina. The Yacht Haven here has new docks and a great pool and clubhouses, restaurant and bar, and is close to stores and restaurants in this picturesque little harbor town. We enjoyed renting a golf cart for a day to see the sights and do some re-provisioning. We'll also be interested to catch a little NFL playoff football at the bar on Saturday/Sunday. We plan on moving south down the east coast of Eleuthera starting on Monday (Jan 14).
Charleston to Miami
30 December 2018 | Key Biscayne, Outside Noname Harbor
After 2 weeks at home, we returned to Mystic Star late on Dec 5 via a flight from Philadelphia and rental car from the airport. We took the opportunity to do a little touring in the area that included most of a day at Patriot’s Point to tour the carrier “Yorktown”, destroyer “Laffey” and a well done multi-media exhibit on the Vietnam experience. Another nice day was spent touring Charleston on foot, including a tour of the “Old Exchange” and Provost dungeon from the colonial era. We stayed put while a coastal storm swept through the area bringing heavy rains and wind, with snow inland in North and South Carolina. On Tuesday the 11th we headed out so as to clear the IOP bridge before high tide then to wait for the swing bridge that does not open until 0900 so as to limit disruption to commuter traffic from Sullivan’s Island. We finally exited Charleston Harbor proper with lots of chop while the NW winds fought the incoming flood tide and cleared the breakwater by 1005 on course for St. Augustine FL . Once on course we had a good broad reach sail with the genoa alone making speeds of 7 to 7.7 knots. By 1500 the wind had come around to the beam at 15-20 knots, so for overnight safety we switched to a double reefed main and solent jib and sailed on into the night and to 0900 the next morning without a single sheet trim needed, while keeping a 7.2 to 7.8 knot speed for most of it. It was a perfect beam reach sail. We made our approach into St. Augustine under motor and very benign conditions which was perfect for the shifting bars that can make that entrance channel tricky. When we approached from the south in spring of 2017, I had carefully plotted the most recent buoy locations on my chart plotter, but found that none of them were in the same place when we entered this time. Another sailor was approaching from offshore and saw us and asked to follow us in since he had never been through before—I agreed even though the new buoy placement made it new to me as well. But we saw depths no less than 20ft in the new channel, with no adverse wind/tide effects so all went as well as it could have. We passed through the 1300 (Dec 12) opening of the Bridge of Lions to tie up to a mooring ball run by the city marina there. Later we dinghied ashore, had oysters and seafood chowder at Meehan’s Irish Pub and enjoyed walking around the very busy town in the evening with many tourists out to enjoy the Christmas lights and decorations.
Our next planned legs southwards involved several days travel on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in Florida, where we had never been before. This took us through Flagler Beach, Daytona Beach to a side creek where we had planned to anchor for the night in natural surroundings. Once there we found dredging operations were blocking the entrance and a spoil barge was taking up our intended space so we pressed on to anchor off of New Smyrna Beach (Dec 13). Along the way we were delighted to encounter many dolphins that seemed to enjoy swimming alongside us in our bow wave but well aft so that it seemed they could eye-ball us in the cockpit while they effortlessly moved along. We also spotted a number of flocks of white pelicans on sand bars with groups of cormorants in company. These pelicans apparently migrate from the pacific northwest every year and have very different habits than the more typical brown pelicans. It seems they work in concert with the cormorants to corral fish into tight schools for easy picking.
On Friday (Dec 14) we continued south on the ICW under power and on into Titusville where we took a slip a the municipal marina there by early afternoon. The next day (Dec 15) was showery, but we had planned to meet our friends John and Betty who were on their return drive home from a Florida and cruise ship vacation. It was great to see them and have lunch at the “Dixie Crossroads” restaurant that had great local shrimp and we were grateful to them for stopping by a hardware and a grocery store to pick up supplies, much appreciated!
Sunday (Dec 16) was calm and foggy for the first few hours, not something we expected to experience here in the south. We made our way south on the ICW to the west of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center as the fog cleared by late morning. We motor-sailed past Melbourne where the waterway was wide enough to allow for yacht club races that we witnessed that afternoon. Then we continued to a spot just off of a spoil island that had been mentioned in the guides, south of Malabar Pt, which was nice, and were able to catch a few NFL games at anchor.
Monday (Dec 17) we proceeded south to arrive at Vero Beach City Marina by noon. This is a very popular spot with cruisers and we wanted to spend a few days to check it out. It is known for its large mooring field where it is expected that you will be rafted with others in groups up to three boats, if the demand warrants it. We were directed to a ball in the far north of the field (no. 53!), the only empty one and were happy to be secure here for the rest of the week. We met our friends Don and Sue who now have a beautiful winter home here after experiencing the place by boat in earlier years—something that others we’ve known have been inclined to do as well, and we could see why. They drove us for a great lunch at a popular deli and to the grocery for a re-supply, which we were grateful for, and to visit their Florida home too. Later in the week, more storms blew through the area, so we stayed put onboard. Friday Don & Sue invited us to join them at a weekly local Power Squadron gathering that happens at the organization’s own facility, very nice to meet folks and See Don & Sue again before resuming our trip south the next morning (Sat. Dec 22).
The next morning was clear and cool (40s) and we actually turned on the diesel heater for a bit to take off the chill. We set off the mooring ball and headed down the ICW for a short (13 nm) trip to the town and large marina at Fort Pierce. This has one of the major inlets along the coast so we would be ready to head out the following day for a coastal sail. We arrived at the marina early enough to catch the end of the farmer’s market held there Saturday mornings just off the marina grounds which was fun and was a perfect clear day for it. We met our cruising friends Gail and Laura from “Fancy Free” who were staying in the marina for a few months as their winter home until more planned sailing in March. It was great catching up with them after not seeing them since March of 2017.
On Sunday we were off the dock by 0720 out of the inlet against a strong flood tide (3 kts) to make it out to open water. From there we sailed a few miles off the coast with a following wind, with motor assist. We hugged the coast pretty closely to avoid foul currents, but found 2 kts against us anyway towards the end. We turned into Lake Worth inlet by 1510 then found a spot in the wide water body of “Lake Worth” south of Palm Beach, just off of a marina for mega yachts. There we watched a little more NFL football and readied for an ICW day next.
Monday, Christmas Eve, we picked up and headed south along this densely populated shore for a 40 nm trip to Fort Lauderdale. From here on, all of the bridges were opening bridges, most of which were on schedules instead of on request. There were 20 of these to negotiate, but we found if we kept up our motoring speed to 7 kts or so, the bridge timing worked out pretty well, without having to stop and wait for most of them. The trip took about 7.5 hours due to the several spots we did have to wait. It was fascinating to see the unending display of mega-homes along the waterfront, many with mega yachts parked at their docks. We ended up anchoring for the night in the heart of Fort Lauderdale in a little side chute to a small lagoon known as Lake Sylvia, which just barely had enough room for us. The lake was surrounded by beautiful waterfront homes with high rise apartments further away. Finding a place to stay was a bit tricky and required some luck since several noted anchorages have become off-limits for overnight anchoring. And the town supposedly has a rule about allowing only one night for overnight anchoring within its large city limits, but we suspected that wasn’t being enforced fully, at least this weekend.
Due to the forecast of very strong southeasterly winds later in the week, we felt compelled to head out on Tuesday (Christmas Day) past the cruise ship terminals at Port Everglades and in to the open once again. There is one low fixed bridge on the ICW of only 55 ft, and is between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, so boats like us have to take the outside route to get to Miami and Biscayne Bay. We had a good fast sail in an east wind along the built up coast with double reefed main and jib to make it to Government Cut, Miami harbor by 1130,staying only a mile or so offshore. Once inside we went around the south side of the mega cruise ship and container ship terminals on Dodge Island and further south to anchor in a man-made basin known as “Marine Stadium”. The place was constructed and used in the 70s and 80s as a speed boat racing venue with a large concrete grandstand for viewing. The structure is now condemned but the site is still used for the huge Miami Boat Show which was being set up for February. The water has perfect depths for anchoring an is protected from all directions, and has a fantastic view of downtown Miami to the west. For Christmas dinner we broke out the BBQ and grilled a steak with the city lights as backdrop, nota bad day. We thought about staying here a few days, but shore access to stores and such was problematic from here so we looked into other destinations and found a spot at the Crandon Marina at the north end of Key Biscayne. This was lucky since the marina is full to capacity with full time residents and has a wait list of 5+ years to get in. From there we could get bus rides to the village of Key Biscayne which had a supermarket and many, mostly South American, fine restaurants several of which we enjoyed. The routine became that of going in for an early dinner, buying as much groceries as we could easily carry, then summoning a Lyft ride back to the marina, all too easy! It was a good place to be for three days while the easterly trade winds blew at 20-30kts steadily until Friday afternoon. We spoke with several slip holders about their boating in the area and got the idea to head south in Biscayne Bay to anchor overnight off Elliot Key. The whole area of Biscayne Bay and outer islands and barrier shallows is part of the Biscayne National Park. The anchorage was not at all cozy like we’re used to on the Chesapeake or elsewhere, but the water was getting clearer and waves were minimal even a half mile from shore. This Saturday a pretty big crowd of boaters anchored all along the inner shore of Elliot Key, but maintained a very wide spacing. I went for my first swim since the summer back home and could easily see the sandy/grassy bottom and the entire boat to check on things down there and everything seemed fine.
The only unfortunate thing about the lower part of Biscayne Bay is that there is no outlet to the ocean for a 6 ft draft sailboat anywhere nearby. We were aware of this so planned to return north to Key Biscayne on Sunday. After a nice leisurely sail in flat water, we arrived at “Noname” harbor at the south end of Key Biscayne which is in the midst of a State Park. This is a very cozy spot to anchor, but this Sunday (Dec 30) was full up with anchored boats, so we went back outside to anchor near shore with about 8 others. This is the typical spot to wait for a “weather window” for a Gulf Stream crossing to the Bahamas. The rare breaks in the easterly trade winds have to be watched for carefully and one must be ready to head out as more favorable winds make their appearance. As of the latest forecasts, it is looking like Thursday, Jan 3, to Friday may be such an opportunity. In the meantime, we have plenty to keep busy with aboard. Happy New Year to all!
Isle of Palms, So. Carolina
23 November 2018 | Isle of Palms Marina
We got a bit of a late start this year. We didn't leave until Sunday Nov. 11 at about 11AM which was a calm cold clear day. Conditions were not great for sailing but good for making great time while motoring and easy night navigation with maximum visibility. We made it to the southern Chesapeake where the James River comes in from the west at sunrise, then continued south in the Elizabeth River between Norfolk and Portsmouth. With only one pause for a bridge opening, we made it to the Great Bridge Locks by 0940 and were through by 1000. This gave us plenty of time to motor the 32nm to Coinjock NC where we were tied up for the night by 1500. That was a straight through run of 28 hr and we were glad to have time for a rest and nice dinner at the restaurant there.
The next day (Tues, Nov 13) we initially thought we might wait out some predicted rough weather, but the violence in the front that passed through overnight had abated by daybreak. The deck was covered with pine needles from the blow, but conditions were fine for continuing on. So we headed out and continued south, across Albemarle Sound, and into the Alligator River with some motor sailing along the way. We kept up our speed in order to make it through the long straight canal that ends at the Pungo River near Bellhaven, in company with six or so others going about our speed. Just before dark, we anchored in a cozy bight on the north bank of Pungo Creek, ready for strong northerlies predicted overnight.
Wednesday the wind was brisk from the NW and we sailed out the Pungo, across the larger Pamlico River in company with 6 to 10 others. Once across we made our way up Goose Creek then out at Bay River and briefly into Pamlico Sound. By this time the wind had piped up to 22-26 kn from the NE so we went from the genoa to the solent jib as we rounded into Pamlico sound and south. Even rougher weather was forecast, so we decided to try a new place for us, at River Dunes Marina north of Oriental NC. This was a cozy spot with extremely well protected floating docks that is approached from Broad Creek. With it blowing 25 kn outside in the sound, it was like another day with very light breezes on the inside. There we refueled and took it easy, staying two days while the weather sorted itself out. That Thursday (Nov. 15) was very windy, and even in this super protected marina, the winds were whipped up and boats were rocking in their slips. It must have been really whipped up out there on the Sound and Neuse River and we were happy to wait it out.
On Friday morning, things were settled down and we headed out and south in the Neuse River, then Adams Creek and ICW canal to Core Creek. We had not stayed in Beaufort NC on Mystic Star before, and had both been there many years before, so we headed for the city docks there and had a nice time walking around and finding a seafood dinner, which was great.
Weather was favorable for a run out in the ocean from there so we headed out early (for us) just before 0700 and before sunrise on Saturday. It was a 210 nm sail from there straight to Charleston Harbor. At first we had winds on the quarter but eventually came from dead astern at 10-12 kn making it impractical to sail. It was a decent overnight run with much milder temperatures and clear weather. By morning the wind backed to the north and we rolled out the genoa for the rest of the trip and anchored in Charleston Harbor near Fort Sumter by mid afternoon, Sunday (Nov. 18), after staying out of the way of a couple of huge container ships exiting the ship channel there.
Monday, Nov 19, we waited at anchor for just the right time after low tide at 1030 to make our way a few miles back up north on the ICW to Isle of Palms. Due to some neighborhood business we needed to be back home for a few weeks, so arranged to leave Mystic Star in the Isle of Palms Marina for up to a month. We made it there through reported shallow spots and under a fixed bridge with close clearance by mid afternoon and got set up to stay put there for awhile. Later in the week, we rented a car and drove home on Thanksgiving Day. The 11 hr drive went well and we arrived in time to join friends for a great Thanksgiving Dinner near home. Thank you Terry & Richard!
Once our business is taken care of, we now plan to fly back to Charleston on Dec 5 and continue our trip south after that. A complex itinerary, but working out so far.
09 May 2017 | Rock Hall Harbor
May 3 - 9: After one extra night at Coinjock the water receded with north winds and boats started leaving the marina the next morning (Wednesday the 3rd). We wanted to be sure there was enough clearance under the fixed bridges to our north so we stayed until after lunch and were about the last to leave. Also held up by the high water was the 100-guest cruise ship "Independence" with its 220 ft length overall and 7 ft draft which made us feel better about making our way in our little ship on the narrow waterway. If they can make past all the shallow spots without problems, we should have no worries! So in the afternoon as the water levels dropped back to normal, we made our way north on the ICW crossing the Currituck Sound and up the North Landing River into Virginia. We tied up at the park with free docks just east of the locks at the town of Great Bridge VA. And just along with us were the folks that were rafted up to us back at Coinjock--so we got together aboard Mystic Star for drinks at sunset and were ready for the final leg on the ICW to Norfolk the next morning.
We transited the locks at Great Bridge on Thursday (4th) and continued on into the Elizabeth River through a number of fixed bridges, one opening lift bridge and several active railroad bridges in the increasingly industrial area of Portsmouth VA. By lunch time we were tied up at Ocean Marine near the center of Portsmouth and planned to stay a few days while some stormy weather blew over. One of the reasons we stopped here was that the Kalmar Nyckel (Delaware's Tall Ship) was here in dry dock having some serious hull work done. We've both been volunteers for many years for the ship and its foundation so we wanted to see the progress and ended up putting in a full day's work doing fun stuff in the engine room (removing a fire pump and working on an exhaust header). In the process we enjoyed catching up and having meals with the captain & crew at a couple of good restaurants in Portsmouth. By Saturday morning (6th) the winds were out of the southwest, making it good for travel to the north from here. It was still a bit showery and definitely much colder than we had been used to all winter. We had to break out the fleece and full foul weather gear to deal with the wind and cold as we headed up the bay to Virginia's northern neck and a favorite anchorage spot on Mill Creek off Ingram Bay, just south of Reedville, VA. It was a struggle against the strong ebb tide, enhanced by all the recent rains and wind that came around to forward of the beam making for a wet rough ride for our 65 nm day.
Forecasts were calling for stronger northwest winds into the next week so before they came fully around to our bow we headed out early again to make our way north, crossing the mouth of the Potomac River in WNW winds in the 20-25 kt range with gusts in the 30's. We were able to make progress with a reefed main and double reefed staysail, but it was certainly rougher than initially called for. By later in the afternoon the weather forecast had belatedly changed from small craft warnings to gale warnings! The mouth of the Potomac can be notoriously rough and we experienced more of that than we bargained for. We did make decent progress to the Patuxent River and Solomons Island, MD, where we found a quiet spot on another cozy "Mill Creek" after a hard won 44 nm day. Since the forecast for Monday was for strong northwesterlies to continue, we planned to stay put at anchor until the winds abated. As we did, the temperatures continued to drop, the winter we missed seemed to be trying to catch up with us. Finally on Tuesday (9th) we set out early once again to head north and homewards. The day started with northerly winds which we motor-sailed through then gradually died out to less than 5 kts which made for an easy approach and tie up at North Point Marina our home port in Rock Hall Harbor. It was a great six month adventure and now it is very good to be home!