May 7, 2015 – Solomons Island to Annapolis MD

After 1000 miles, we are back in Annapolis. It has been a fun journey – a few mishaps but generally good weather and fair seas.

Katherine and I left Solomons Island around 8am.  The cruise up the bay was largely uneventful except for the fishing boats.  The striped bass season had started on the bay and there were hundreds of fishing boats all across as well as outside the channel.  The boats were all dragging planers and were oblivious to us.  It was another game of pinball as we dodged the numerous boats.  The fact that we often had the right of way was irrelevant to these amateur fishermen; they were yielding to no one.  It was quite annoying and Katherine was vocal in her complaints.

We had decided not to go directly to Annapolis but to make a quick stop at Burr Yachts up the South River.  Burr Yachts is the East Coast dealer for Flemings and we needed to get our life raft recertified.  The plan was to pull up and quickly drop off the raft.

The South River is notorious for crab pots and today was no exception.  Fortunately, there is a float-free zone, and after a futile attempt to find a path through the pots on our own, we steered to the far side of the river and followed the float-free zone down to Burr.  Usually, one of the face docks is open and I had expected to just pull along side.  Alas, that was not the case today.  However, there was an open slip on the outside, so with multiple Burr folks watching, I turned Curiosity and backed slowly into the slip.  Mike from Burr Yachts jumped onboard and handed the liferaft down to two others waiting to receive it.  In less than five minutes, we were done.  We had never even tied up but just sat in the slip, while they retrieved the raft.  I eased Curiosity out of the slip and we were on our way.

I was quite proud of myself.  Of course hubris is a short path to disaster.  As we rounded the green marker beyond Burr Yachts, I turned Curiosity up the river.  I have made this turn numerous times and know to give the marker a wide berth.  In my self-congratulatory mood, I did not give it a wide berth.  Within seconds, we were aground.  I could not believe it – twice in two days.  Fortunately, the bottom is Chesapeake mud.  I angled the bow out and slowly increased the rpm.  Slowly but surely we powered through the mud and back into the channel.  I was so annoyed with myself.

We continued our journey down the South River, and soon were making the turn around Thomas Shoal Lighthouse, headed for Annapolis.

Thomas Shoal Lighthouse

Thomas Shoal Lighthouse

When we were out in the bay, I put Curiosity up on plane to check the engines and to make sure there were no unusual vibrations from the grounding.  Fortunately, all was good.  By 2pm or so, we were pulling into Annapolis.  Adrienne was on the docks waiting for us.  She snapped a few pictures of Curiosity as we approached the Yacht Basin.

Coming Into Annapolis - Katherine on bow, Jim on the flybridge

Coming Into Annapolis – Katherine on bow, Jim on the flybridge

We were quickly tied up.  Katherine did a great job of lassoing the posts off the bow and securing our lines.  She had been a terrific crew for the last three days of the journey.

I think we will spend this summer on the Bay, cruising with the Annapolis Yacht Club cruising group and exploring more of the southern Bay.  Stay tuned.

May 5-6, 2015 – Norfolk to Deltaville, VA to Solomons Island, MD.

Tuesday morning we left the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club headed for the Chesapeake Bay.  Our first stop would be Deltaville, Virginia, some 56 nm to the north.  By 7:30am, we were away from the dock and heading up the Lafayette River and out the Elizabeth River.  As we were exiting the Lafayette River, a dolphin swam under the boat.  I don’t think I had ever seen a dolphin in these waters all the years I lived in Norfolk.  It was quite a surprise.

Unlike yesterday, this time there was no excitement as we passed the Naval Base.  We were chased up the river by a large cargo ship, but we were going just fast enough to stay ahead of him.

By 9am, we were passed Thimble Shoal Lighthouse and into the Chesapeake Bay.  The winds were 10-15kts and the seas a little choppy with 2ft waves, but we were comfortable in Curiosity.  Katherine and I took turns driving.

At one point we were passed by a small Navy gunship that raced north and a few minutes later returned with two other boats.  They were totally uninterested in us but did manage to rock a few fisherman pretty badly; we could hear them complaining over the radio.

By 1pm, we were tied up at Dozier’s Yachting Center in Deltaville.  Dozier’s is a very nice marina but there is virtually nothing of a real town in Deltaville.

Dozier's

Dozier’s

We borrowed the marina’s car and decided to visit the Deltaville Maritime Museum.  The museum building had burned down a number of years ago, but has been rebuilt.  The current museum focuses on boat builders: their boats, tools, techniques and lives.  The museum is quite small and the quantity of exhibits was fairly limited.  However, at their dock, they had the F.D. Crockett, a historic 1924 log-bottom buyboat, a replica of John Smith’s Shallop, and an oysterman’s deadrise boat.  No one was at the docks but the person at the museum said we could just hop on the boats and explore.  So Katherine and I did.  It was quite interesting.  The museum ground also had a wooded park with a sculpture garden, with bronze statues of geese and cranes and other wildlife.

I then gave Katherine the exciting five minute car tour of Deltaville and then it was back to the boat for dinner, a short walk and relaxation.

Early Wednesday morning we pulled out of Dozier’s, headed back into the Chesapeake.  It was 7:18am and dead low tide.  Really low – only 6.2 ft at the docks.  The channel into Deltaville from the north side is quite narrow but deep in the center.  We were heading out but I must have gotten too close to the reds, because suddenly we were aground.  Fortunately after about five minutes of fiddling, I was able to ease us back into the channel and we were soon on our way.  I am getting to be a real expert at running aground.

The rest of the trip was dodging several lines of crab pots (some in 50ft of water) and avoiding the commercial traffic, which was present but infrequent.

Large Gravel Barge in the Chesapeake

Large Gravel Barge in the Chesapeake

By 2pm, we were tied up at Zahniser’s Yachting Center on Solomons Island.  We checked in and Katherine took off for a 2-3 mile run.  After her run and a quick shower, Katherine and I went for a walk down Solomons Island Road and then onto the Boardwalk.  It was a beautiful day for a walk.

Katherine on the Boardwalk

Katherine on the Boardwalk

On the Boardwalk

On the Boardwalk

For dinner, Katherine and I went to the CD Café, where she had a Fried Catfish Southwestern Salad and I had a shrimp sauté.  Both dishes were quite good.  For dessert, we had a Chocolate Key Lime Semi Freddo, which was excellent.

Tomorrow is the last leg of our trip.  We will be heading toward Annapolis and our home base at the Annapolis Yacht Basin.

May 3-4, 2015 – Coinjock, NC to Norfolk, VA.

Sunday morning brought sunny skies and light winds, a really beautiful day.  We pulled away from the Coinjock Marina around 7:30am.  We were one of the last boats to leave.  Everyone else had left, some as early as 5:30am.  The key to leaving Coinjock, heading north, is to figure out what time to leave to make the hourly opening of the Great Bridge Bascule Bridge.  Our goal was to be there for the noon opening.

The cruise up the Coinjock Bay and into Currituck Sound was uneventful.  The seas were calm, maybe aone foot wave.  Crab pots lined the channels, but with the calm seas they were easily visible.  The channels are narrow, however, so a fair amount of concentration was needed to keep us out of the shoals and away from the pots.  We passed a few sailboats but not nearly as many as in the days before.

Currituck Sound

Currituck Sound

By 10:25am, we were up the North Landing River, waiting for the North Landing Bridge’s 10:30am opening.  One other power boat was ahead of us.  Ten minutes later we were through the bridge and heading for Centerville Turnpike Swing Bridge.  The bridge was about 5 statute miles away and we thought it would be opening on the hour.  We sped up and hoped we would get there in time.  Of course, there seemed to be a number of small fishing boats close to the channel, which forced us to slow down periodically to avoid ricking them with our wake.  We were just rounding the bend to the bridge and it looked like we would just make it.  We called the bridge and then learned that, because it was a weekend, they would open whenever we got there.  We had hurried for no reason.  Oh well!

North Landing River

North Landing River

Cruising the ICW

Cruising the ICW

Dredging Equipment

Dredging Equipment

Along North Landing River

Along North Landing River

One of Many Bridges

One of Many Bridges

Now we had over an hour to go the 5 statute miles to the Great Bridge Bascule Bridge.  So we slowed downed and almost drifted down the river.  We still got to the bridge early with over 20 minutes or so to wait.  Fortunately, there was a public dock on the starboard side, with room for us to tie up.  We pulled up behind another boat waiting for the bridge, and quickly tied up.  It was much easier to be tied up than idling about for 20 minutes.

Promptly at noon, the bridge opened and we were through.   We heard on the radio, another boat calling and stating that they would be at the bridge in less than five minutes or so and would the bridge tender hold the bridge.  The answer was a terse no, so they were stuck for another hour waiting for the bridge.

Half mile down from the bridge is the Great Bridge Lock.  The lock tender called us on the radio, stating that the gates were open and to proceed into the lock.  There were only us and the other trawler in the lock, so there was plenty of space.  By 12:23pm, we were through the lock and on our way.  The only bridges in our way now were railroad bridges that are always open except when a train comes through.  We figured we would make great time at this point.  However, as we rounded a bend just before 1pm, we saw that one of the railroad bridges was down and a very long coal train headed for Norfolk. Fortunately most of the train was already over the bridge and we only had to wait about 10 minutes.

Waiting for Norfolk and Southern Railroad Bridge No 7 to Open

Waiting for Norfolk and Southern Railroad Bridge No 7 to Open

Passing Under the Bridge

Passing Under the Bridge

Now we were on the Elizabeth River heading into the Norfolk-Portsmouth Harbor – an incredibly busy commercial and military port.

Perdue Chicken Grain Barges

Perdue Chicken Grain Barges

We passed Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, where several aircraft carriers including the Dwight D. Eisenhower, were undergoing some repairs or retrofits.  Quite impressive ships.  We also heard on the radio a warning that “Warship 96” was exiting the Naval Base heading forsea.  Kind of eerie hearing that over the radio.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

The Dwight D Eisenhower

The Dwight D Eisenhower

More Warships on the Norfolk Side of the Harbor

More Warships on the Norfolk Side of the Harbor

As we reached the Lamberts Point Terminal, we could see the coal train we had seen going over the railroad bridge was pulling into the terminal.  Two large cargo ships, one nearly 1000 ft long, were waiting to be loaded with coal.

Coal Train Entering Lamberts Point Terminal

Coal Train Entering Lamberts Point Terminal

1000 Foot Cargo Vessel

1000 Foot Cargo Vessel

Just after 2pm, we reached the Lafayette River, a small river off the Elizabeth River, which leads to the Norfolk Yacht and County Club.  We called the yacht club to speak with the dock master, but no one could find him.  We tried hailing him on the radio.  No answer.   However, the large t-head dock was open and I figured it was waiting for us.  We reached the dock, Adrienne jumped off, and in five minutes or less we were tied up.  It was 2:50pm.  My sister came walking down the dock but no one else was in sight.

I walked up to the front desk and checked in at the club.  The receptionists tried to call the dock master and this time she got him.  She put him on the phone and the first thing he said was that we should have tried and called him!!  In any event, we were tied up at the right spot and all was good.

This was going to be the end of the voyage for Adrienne.  She had a number of things to take care of in Maryland and was going to fly back to BWI early Monday morning.  Katherine, our daughter, was flying in Sunday night to help me take Curiosity back to Maryland.   She was due in around 7pm (after her plane was delayed for an hour) and my sister went picked her up and we all went to the club for dinner.

Early the next morning, my sister picked Adrienne up and took her to the airport.  Also early that morning a former Navy diver came over and checked our props to make sure that there was no crab pot line still wrapped around our prop.  There wasn’t.  All was good.

Katherine and I had a relaxing morning.  My sister came over a little after 10am, and we decided to take her pout for a ride around the Naval Base.  Curiosity is not the type of boat one usually takes out for a short run, but my sister had never cruised on the boat and complained bitterly about it.  It would also be good practice for Katherine, since this would be the first time she was crewing without Adrienne around.

We left the yacht club and entered the Elizabeth River heading for the Naval Base. The VHF radios were alive with chatter, a lot of it by the Coast Guard.  Coming down the river toward us was the Spirit of Norfolk, a waterfront cruise boat that usually takes groups out for evening tours complete with music and dancing.  However, this time the Spirit was surrounded by Coast Guard gun ships and the Coast Guard was ordering all vessels to keep 1000 yds away.  There was one coast Guard gun ship that raced toward each boat, looked over the boat and then ordered them to stay just on the edge of the far channel.  This happened to us as we began to approach the Naval Base.  Obviously, we complied.  Using my binoculars, I could see a bunch of Navy brass on the Spirit but nothing else.

We continued cruising by the Naval Base until we reached Hampton Roads and then we turned around to go back to the club.  Unfortunately, the Spirit had also turned around and down we were going to pass the boat again.  Boy did this look suspicious.  This time, the gun ship raced to us and proceeded to escort us down the channel.  At this point, the Spirit was between us and the Naval Base, so any one on the Spirit would have their back to us as they toured the base.  However, this time as we passed, there was a solid wall of individuals shoulder to shoulder blocking the persons viewing the base from our sight and from any evil intentions we might have had.  The snipers on the spirit were also carefully watching us.  We passed without incident and were soon back at the club.  More excitement then we expected!

The rest of the day was uneventful – lunch, grocery store, dinner and bed.  We are off to Deltaville tomorrow.

May 2, 2015, Belhaven, NC to Coinjock, NC

We debated whether we should leave Belhaven and go only to Alligator River Marina, distance of about 45nm, or continue on to Coinjock, NC, a distance of about 76nm.  The NOAA forecast for the Alligator River and Albemarle Sound did not sound good on Friday night.  NOAA was predicting 15 to 20k winds for the river with 1’ waves, a small craft advisory until 10am for the Sound with 15 to 20k winds, and 1’ to 2’ waves for the rest of the day.  Because the Sound is relatively shallow, the high winds could easily create nasty conditions on the Sound, despite the 1’ to 2’ NOAA prediction.  When we got up Saturday morning we tuned into the local weather forecast, which predicted 10 to 15kt winds.  We decided to bypass Alligator River Marina and keep on cruising to Coinjock, NC.  That would leave us Sunday to get to Norfolk, VA where my sister lives and we planned to spend two days.

We quickly got our act together and by 6:40am, Adrienne was steering Curiosity out of the marina.  It was a grey, cold day when we left.  A number of other boats had already left the marina, so at least we weren’t the only crazy ones heading out.  The Pungo River was a little choppy but in a little over an hour we were in the Alligator River-Pungo River Canal – one of several man-made canals through North Carolina.  The canal was calm and peaceful.  Cruising here was easy with only the occasional sailboat to pass.

Banks of the Canal

Banks of the Canal

More Views

More Views

Alligator River - Pungo River Canal

Alligator River – Pungo River Canal

Sailboat in the Canal

Sailboat in the Canal

Exiting the canal, we entered Alligator River, which can be a nasty piece of water.  Today, with winds around 15kts, there was only a moderate chop and by 11:30am, we were passing through the Alligator River Swing Bridge.  Next up was the Albemarle Sound, a wide body of water with a nearly uniform depth of around 18 ft. which high winds can whip up into an ugly chop.  When we entered the Sound around noon, the winds were around 15 kts and Curiosity easily cut through the moderate chop.  The only problem was that Albemarle Sound was covered in crab pots that seem to be placed randomly across the route we wanted to take.  The choppy water made it almost impossible to see the pots until we were practically on top of them. So, for an hour and a half, Adrienne and I were on constant “pot watch.”  By 1:30pm, we were out of the Sound and into the North River.  The water was a little calmer and the pots were now just lining the channel.  So Adrienne and I could relax.  Or could we?

Around 2pm, as we were cruising along, I felt a sudden vibration in the engines.  I quickly pulled the engines back to neutral; shifted each into reverse and then into idle.  After doing this a few times, we began to increase our speed very slowly.  No vibration.  We must have hit a pot or a floating line, but either the cutter on our props cut the line or backing up unentangle it.  In any event we were back on our way and by 3pm, we were at Coinjock.

After we had tied up, washed the boat, checked to see if I could get a diver to check the props (I couldn’t – we are in the middle of nowhere), and tidied up, we walked down the dock to visit Sweet Baby Jane – another Fleming 55.  We had noticed the Fleming when we were docking and the owner had shouted hello to us.  However, you can’t really talk when you are docking.

Sweet Baby Jane is owned by Ken and Jane Fraser, a delightful British couple who keeps the boat in the States and periodically flies over to cruise the East Coast.  We all know that the British drive on the wrong side of the road; now we also know they go the wrong direction.  Every boat at the marina was heading north, except for Sweet Baby Jane – she was headed south to Daytona Beach.  After chatting for a while, we decided to have dinner together at the marina restaurant.

The Coinjock Restaurant looks like it belongs on the TV show Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins.  It looks like a nice dive, with an outdoor patio and a dark woody interior.  However, it is well known for its prime rib and very popular with locals.  In fact, the restaurant was filled with high school kids all dressed up for prom.  It struck us as a very strange place to have a prom dinner and the tuxedos and prom dresses seemed very out of place at the marina.  Nonetheless, the kids were having fun.

Dinner at the Coinjock Restaurant was quite good.  I had the fried shrimp, which was some of the best shrimp I have had all year.  Adrienne had fried chicken, which was also quite good.  Even better was the conversation.  We had a great time.

After dinner, we walked back to our boats and noticed that a small helicopter had landed next to the restaurant.  Someone had literally flown in for dinner.  Wow!  Hard to believe!  Dinner was good, but not that good.

Tomorrow, we are off to Norfolk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 30 – May 1; Beaufort to Belhaven, N.C.

When we went to sleep Wednesday evening the forecast was for thunderstorms the next day around noon.  We decided to get up early to attempt to get to Belhaven (some 57 nm away) as soon as possible.  By 6am, we were up and ready to go.  However, the weather report was now just rain with a few moderate downpours.  The current was still ripping at the marina, so because of that and our tight slip, we decided to wait until the current was nearly slack.

Around 7am, we finally cast off.  Adrienne did a great job wiggling us out of the slip and into the channel and we were off and headed north.  As we exited the Beaufort Channel, we heard a tug announce that he was leaving his dock with a barge heading north on the ICW.  We sped up in hopes of reaching the main channel and passing under the Morehead Bridge before him. Alas we were too late.  There was no room to pass, so we slowed down to just 2-3kts.  We watched him go under the bridge and we began to follow him.  Quickly we realized that he had virtually stopped on the other side and was turning the barge to port.  There was no room to pass him.   Adrienne began a slow turn in front of the bridge to give him time to complete his maneuvers.  As Adrienne said, driving s boat can be like riding a horse – when there is no place to go, turn slow circles.

Barge Going Under Morehead City Bridge

Barge Going Under Morehead City Bridge

Once we completed our circle, there was room for us to pass.  Adrienne took us under the bridge and past the barge.  We were once again up to speed and on our way.  It had taken us nearly 45 minutes to exit the docks and make our way under the bridge.  We had never realized how active a port Morehead City-Beaufort was.  Both days commercial traffic had significantly slowed us down.

North Terminal - Morehead City

North Terminal – Morehead City

Barge and Crane

Barge and Crane

Houses Just Past Morehead City Bridge

Houses Just Past Morehead City Bridge

Once out of the commercial area, we began to make good time (+9kts), until we hit Adams Creek a little after 8.  We then had 5 miles of no wake.  It seemed like it took forever. Finally we were out of the creek and into the Neuse River.  The river was choppy with winds of 15-18kts.  A bumpy ride for all.

Crossing the Neuse River

Crossing the Neuse River

By 11:30, we were in Bay River and by noon we were entering Goose Creek.  With protection from the winds, the seas calmed and our ride became much smoother.  In the middle of Goose Creek is a Coast Guard Station, Station Hobucken;  not sure what you have to do wrong to getstation at this forlorn, our of the way station.

Good-looking Fishing Boat

Good-looking Fishing Boat

Another View

Another View

Station Hobucken

Station Hobucken

Coast Guard Station Hobucken

Coast Guard Station Hobucken

Pirates at Hobucken?

Pirates at Hobucken?

By 1pm, we were traveling up the Pamilico River and then into the Pungo River for the run to Belhaven.  The winds were fairly calm until we had Belhaven in sight.  Suddenly the winds were gusting up to 20kts.  Great timing for docking!

The River Forest Marina, our destination, was just inside the breakwater for Belhaven.  We made a sharp right and were headed into the marina.  We were going to be on a face dock inside of atee dock.  Instead of just being able to pull alongside, I needed to go past our spot on the dock and then back in.  Just as we passed our spot, I pulled back on the engine controls.  Suddenly I had no engine controls.  Somehow I had disengaged then.  We were moving slowly but inexorably toward the shore about 100 yards in front of us. Fortunately I put the controls back in neutral and regained control.  Thank goodness.  By 2:30pm, we were tied up and my heart had slowed to almost a normal rate.

Our plan was to spend two nights are the marina, because the weather on Friday was supposed to be plain nasty – rain and wind, cold and grey.

The River Forest Manor once consisted of an inn and a marina.  The inn was quite famous hosting a variety of celebrities from James Cagney to Walter Cronkite.  Unfortunately, the inn had fallen on hard times, and when we were here six years ago, the inn was in disrepair and the marina was slowly decaying.  Last year, a new set of investors bought the Manor and are renovating the marina and the inn.  New docks are being built, a new laundry and somewhat renovated bathrooms are complete, but much remains to do.  The dockmaster, Henry, who is also one of the investors, couldn’t have been more helpful and we look forward to seeing all the renovations completed.

River Forest Marina

River Forest Marina

River Forest Marina had 3 golf carts for boaters to use to get to and from town or to the shopping area with a Food Lion about a mile and a half outside of town.  Henry recommended the Spoon River Restaurant in town for dinner, so we hopped in one of the golf carts and headed over there for an early dinner.

Our Transportation

Our Transportation

It was an excellent recommendation.  The owner had taken over several vacant storefronts to create the restaurant.  She designed it with a farm to table theme and gets over 60% of her food from local North Carolina farmers and ranchers.  The interior has a painted concrete floor with white painted wall hangings and large white paper lanterns covering the ceiling.  She also had two large paper peacocks that had been spray painted gold on either side of the fireplace mantle.  These she told us had been made by 5th graders that she taught many years ago when she had a different career path.

Spoon River

Spoon River

The food did not disappoint either.  To start, we had duck spring rolls, which were very tasty and perfectly fried.  I had a local shrimp dish over mashed potatoes and carrot threads; it was delicious.  Adrienne had a roasted pork loin over mashed potatoes with grilled asparagus that was also really good.   What we really appreciated about Spoon River was the quality of the food and the unpretentious and friendly atmosphere of the owner and staff.

Not only was Spoon River better than any restaurant that had been in Belhaven when we last visited, but the city itself seemed to be reviving with more stores,flowers and lovely homes.

Water Street Belhaven

Water Street Belhaven

Belhaven Water Street Bed and Breakfast

Belhaven Water Street Bed and Breakfast

Pamlico St.

Pamlico St.

Flowers for Sale in Belhaven

Flowers for Sale in Belhaven

The next day was as predicted: overcast, chilly, windy and rainy.  As the day wore on the conditions deteriorated.  We took the opportunity in the morning when the when the weather wasn’t too bad to tool into town in a golf cart to run a few errands and then to head up to the Food Lion.  Going to the Food Lion in a golf cart is an interesting exercise.  You can either go along the main road where the cars are going about 50 to 60 mph or you can run on the sidewalks for part of the way and go on some side streets.  The latter clearly was the more rational approach, but we didn’t figure that out until we were halfway there.

Also, even with the traffic we considered ourselves in better shape than our first visit to Belhaven some 5 or 6 years ago.  At that time the River Forest Marina was in disrepair.  They had a golf cart at that time too, but it had no breaks and was falling apart.  Somehow we made it to the Food Lion without getting run over.  So a relatively new golf cart with breaks seemed like a major step up.  We stocked up and drove back to the marina.  This time we were smarter, staying on the back streets almost all the way.

Because of the excellent laundry facilities at the marina and especially because the machines were free, we did our laundry at the marina instead of on board.  It was much faster and conserved our on-board water.  While the marina had city water, the water was being piped to the docks by old hoses which didn’t inspire any confidence as to their cleanliness.

We spent the rest of the afternoon, watching the weather deteriorate.  The wind picked up, gusting well over 20kts, with intermittent rain showers.  Suddenly, there seemed to be a parade of boats coming into the marina.  We couldn’t figure out where the dockmaster would put them all, but he did it, including putting a ~60ft fishing trawler in a 40ft slip.  We found out from one of the boats that the Alligator River Swing Bridge was closed because of high winds.  Everyone was looking for spots to stay in Belhaven, the last set of marinas before the bridge.

Storm Clouds

Storm Clouds

With the marina being crowded, we decided to leave for dinner a little early before all the golf carts were gone.  So at 5:30pm, we hopped in the cart and headed to the Tavern at Jack’s Neck, which was located just across from Spoon River.  Like Spoon River, this is a new addition to Belhaven.  Adrienne had a pizza, which was pretty good; I had the shrimp and grits, based on the waitress recommendation.  Unfortunately my dish was ok but not great.

Tavern at Jack's Neck

Tavern at Jack’s Neck

After dinner, we headed back to the boat and turned in for the night.

 

April 25 – April 29, 2015; Charleston, SC to Beaufort, NC

We returned to Charleston on the 25th having spent the week in Maryland (Adrienne) and Wednesday through Friday in Boston (Jim).  On Saturday, Jim caught a Southwest flight to Charleston, which stopped in Baltimore.  We met up at the Southwest gate of the Baltimore to Charleston flight from BWI and traveled together for the rest of the way.  The flight got us in late to Charleston, so we boarded Curiosity, made a late dinner on board and called it a night.

Our original plan was to leave on Sunday for Southport, NC, but the weather forecast was not favorable.  The Charleston to Southport run would be in the ocean so that we could avoid the very bad shoaling on the ICW through South Carolina.  And it would be a very long run, about 125 nautical miles.  If we could run at 10kts the whole way, we would be cruising for 12.5 hours. A very long day. All the more reason to wait for good, or at least acceptable weather.  The NOAA forecast for Sunday called for a small craft advisory with 20k winds, gusting to 25’ and 4- to 5-foot seas with a very short period.  We decided to wait until Monday.

Monday’s weather was better but still not great.  The forecast called for 10 to 15k winds from the NNW with seas 2 to 3’ with a 5 second period.  That meant that it would be a choppy ride, but manageable.  The good news was that the choppy conditions were supposed to give way to calmer seas and lighter winds as the day progressed.  By the time we expected to reach Southport, the seas were supposed to be about 1’ with a 6 second period and the winds were supposed to be in the 5 to 10k range.

In fact, the forecast was pretty much right on.  The only difference was that the seas in the morning when we left were 2 to 4’ and 3 seconds apart.  This made for more of a roller coaster ride for the first few hours.  But it was nothing that Curiosity couldn’t handle.  As the day wore on, both the winds and seas gradually calmed down so that the latter third of the trip was quite comfortable.

We left the Charleston Megadock at 5:29 in the morning (ugh!).  It was still dark, but the Charleston channels are well marked with lighted buoys, so we had little trouble finding or staying in the channel.  The only excitement was a Celebrity Cruise Line ship that was coming up the channel about midway between Charleston and the ocean.  We passed at one of the wide areas where there was plenty of water outside the channel and had no problems making the pass.  By about 6:30 we left the channel and made our turn to the north for Southport.

It was a pretty uneventful trip.  There were few boats out; it seemed we had the whole ocean to ourselves.  We spotted the occasional dolphin fin.  Around 11am, two dolphins took an interest in us and jumped in our wake a few times, but then peeled off.  Fishing around for breakfast probably took priority.  There were some sea birds that flew by, but by and large we cruised along by ourselves.

We were heading to the Southport Marina, which we’ve stayed at before.  They’re right off the ICW and the entrance channel for Southport.  It’s an easy entrance and exit from the face dock and within walking distance to Southport itself.  We hoped to be in by 6pm and did not want to be later than 7 because the marina closes as 7 and doesn’t guarantee a spot on their face dock after the staff leaves.  We had some favorable seas starting around 4pm and were able to get to the dock and get tied up by 6:30.

As soon as we tied up, Jim was off to the nightly weather and navigation briefing that the marina hosts for all the cruising boats.  The briefing goes over all the trouble spots in North Carolina along the ICW going north in the Spring and going south in the fall, complete with handouts of up-to-date color photos of aerial surveys of the worst spots.  The photos allow you to see exactly where the shoaling is in the channel and how to get around it.

Meanwhile, I thoroughly rinsed off Curiosity.  After 13 hours in the ocean she was encrusted with salt!  By the time I finished with that, Jim was back from the briefing.  We were beat.  We quickly made dinner on board and called it another early evening.

The next day we had a leisurely morning; we didn’t leave the dock until just before 9am!  This gave us time to have breakfast first, which at that point seemed like a luxury.  Our destination for the day was Swan Point Marina in Sneads Ferry.   We had never been there before, but it was the right location for a reasonable cruise after the previous day’s marathon and not too far from Beaufort, NC, which we had never visited and wanted to see on the following day.

So we headed up the Cape Fear River and made it through Snow’s Cut, a tricky area with some shoaling, by 10:30.

Largest Military Transport Terminal - Cape Fear River

Largest Military Transport Terminal – Cape Fear River

There were a few bridges that we couldn’t get under and so timed our arrival to make their scheduled openings.  Again, no problems there until we approached the Surf City Swing Bridge, which opens only on the hour.  We knew we couldn’t make the 2pm opening, so we slowed down and crept along the ICW, planning to arrive at the bridge just before the 3pm opening.   At around 2:20, however, when we could see the bridge with our binoculars we heard the bridge tender hailing the boats waiting for the bridge.  He apologized for the delay and said he would be opening the bridge shortly for them.  We came into this “conversation” a little late, but concluded that the bridge was going to open around 2:30.  If we could get through at 2:30, we really wanted to do it.

There were a few bridges that we couldn’t get under and so timed our arrival to make their scheduled openings.  Again, no problems there until we approached the Surf City Swing Bridge, which opens only on the hour.  We knew we couldn’t make the 2pm opening, so we slowed down and crept along the ICW, planning to arrive at the bridge just before the 3pm opening.   At around 2:20, however, when we could see the bridge with our binoculars we heard the bridge tender hailing the boats waiting for the bridge.  He apologized for the delay and said he would be opening the bridge shortly for them.  We came into this “conversation” a little late, but concluded that the bridge was going to open around 2:30.  If we could get through at 2:30, we really wanted to do it.

We sped up and soon joined 8 sailboats and a trawler waiting for the bridge.  Around 2:25 the bridge began to open.  The trawler went first, and then one by one the 8 sailboats went through.  We brought up the rear.

Once through, we had what seemed like an endless stream of sailboats ahead of us, all of which were going about 6 or 7kts.  We were going to cruise between 8.5 and 10kts, depending on the current.  That meant that we had to pass all of them.  Jim was driving at this point, so I got on the VHF and hailed the sailboats one by one, requesting permission to pass.  It took a while to get past them all, but everyone was gracious and friendly.

One of Many Sailboats We Passed

One of Many Sailboats We Passed

We continued on, making good use of the information that Jim had gotten at the Southport briefing to get us by some pretty significant shoaling areas.

Houses on ICW Leading to Sneads Ferry

Houses on ICW Leading to Sneads Ferry

North Carolina Marshlands

North Carolina Marshlands

We arrived at our destination, Swan Point Marina, about 4:20pm.

I mentioned that we had never stayed here before.  Like any good boater we checked them out online before we made the reservations, which we made with hesitation.  The marina had been closed for a while and was in disrepair a few years back.  But it was under new management and Tina Turner (yes, her name really is Tina Turner) the new owner said they could take a boat of our size.  “No problem.”

Tina wanted us to call her on her cell about 30 minutes before we arrived so that she would be on the docks with her mother, who helps her with the lines and general marina management.  We weren’t getting a warm and furry feeling about this.  We arrived at the marina, sorted out the entrance and started to make our way in.  We bumped the bottom when we were about halfway through the entrance (never a good feeling) but got by that area and then pulled up to the dock right in front of us. Tina and her mom were there to help us with the lines, but halfway through our tie-up Tina needed to help a trawler that was coming in behind us and was going to tie up on the other side of the dock.  I hopped off and Jim and I finished the tie up ourselves. Eventually both boats were tied up comfortably for the night.

We were not quite at high tide.  Our depth gauge showed 6.2’ at the dock.  We draw 5’.  Tina told us there was a 1.5’ tide range.  That meant that at low tide our keel could be sitting on the mud.  When I went to check us in, I asked Tina how much depth we had at the dock and told her what our gauge was reading.  She assured me that it would be fine because there was 2’ of fine silt above the bottom that made for screwy depth gauge readings.  Well, we’ll give her this one.  We never saw less than 5.8’ on the depth gauge and never had any alarms.  But it was a little too shallow for our comfort.

Generally, the marina was a pretty run down place even with the new management.  The docks were pretty rickety, clearly there’s a depth issue at the dock, and the facilities were pretty bare bones.  On the plus side, however, part of the docks were under repair while we were there.  Tina told us that the repairs would continue and that the dock area and entrance would be dredged.  In addition, she bent over backwards to try to make our stay as pleasant as possible, volunteering to bring us to the local grocery, offering to bring us to one of the local restaurants if the restaurant shuttle was delayed, etc., etc.  That evening Tina’s mom brought us some homemade cinnamon cake, which looked and smelled delicious.  So they got an A for effort.  They just need a lot more work to get the marina to be really functional.

Swan Point Marina

Swan Point Marina

Rebuilding the Marina

Rebuilding the Marina

We spent the afternoon doing our boat chores and chatting with Vicky and Chuck , the couple who pulled up in the trawler next to us.   They were a lovely couple from Alabama.  We all decided it would be a pizza night from the pizzeria recommended by Tina.  It took an hour to get the pizza delivered, so it was lukewarm when it finally got to us.  But we were all starving by that point and none of us really cared.  We shared the pizza, cheese and crackers and good conversation aboard Patriot.

Vicky and Chuck are heading north as well.  We may see them again in one of our future stops.  We hope so; we enjoyed meeting them and enjoying their hospitality.

Wednesday was another early morning.  This time we were driven by the tides.  We knew we would have several spots along the ICW with significant shoaling and that it would be best to transit these areas as close to high tide as we could.  High tide in the Sneads Ferry area was at 5:10.  That was too early for us, but we calculated that a 6:30 or 7am departure would still give us enough water to get through these areas without any problem.

Sunrise at Swan Point Marina

Sunrise at Swan Point Marina

 

So at 6:30 Jim backed us off the dock and straight out of the marina, this time avoiding the bump we had hit coming in (thanks to Tina’s advice).  We turned and headed north on the ICW.  Within 15 minutes we were at the first trouble spot.  This is a known shoaling area, and the Coast Guard has put some temporary buoys out to guide boaters around the shoaling area.  The problem is that the shoaling has continued and if you follow the temporary buoys, you’ll run into very shallow water, i.e., less than 5’.  Jim learned this at the Southport briefing, and we had the aerial photo that showed how to get across this area.  We went through at idle speed, following the photo to deep water, and had no problem getting through.

About an hour later we came to the next trouble spot.  And again, following the information Jim got at the briefing, transited the area without incident.   We had one more shoaling area in Bogue Sound, and again followed the briefing information, which took us outside the charted channel, but into over 20’ of water.  We were relieved to be through the last problem spot and very thankful to Southport Marina for providing such timely and accurate information!

The Bogue Sound was beautiful with calm water and many nice houses along the waterfront.  At one point a dolphin joined us and put on quite a show for Jim.  He was able to get a great short video.  Jim came in to get me so I could watch, but the dolphin must have thought his audience had left and he peeled off before I could see him.  Boo Hoo.

Bogue Sound

Bogue Sound

More Houses Along Bogue Sound

More Houses Along Bogue Sound

At the east end of Bogue Sound is the Atlantic Beach Bridge, a fixed 65’ bridge.  It’s right at the Morehead City/Beaufort commercial area.  As we approached, we saw that a tug was preparing to bring a long barge through the bridge with the assistance of two other smaller tugs.  The whole thing took up a huge area of water and basically clogged the entrance to the bridge.  We weren’t going to be able to get around it, so we hung back and proceeded at idle speed while the tug got through the bridge and entered the turning basin.  The tug captain announced that he was going under the Morehead City Bridge and then heading north in the ICW.  We were going south to Beaufort, NC.  But it took us 20 minutes until the tug and barge complex had made the turn and given us enough room to proceed along our route.  Actually, it was pretty interesting to see the tugs working together to get this barge through the bridge and then turned 90 degrees so it could head north.

At the east end of Bogue Sound is the Atlantic Beach Bridge, a fixed 65’ bridge.  It’s right at the Morehead City/Beaufort commercial area.  As we approached, we saw that a tug was preparing to bring a long barge through the bridge with the assistance of two other smaller tugs.  The whole thing took up a huge area of water and basically clogged the entrance to the bridge.  We weren’t going to be able to get around it, so we hung back and proceeded at idle speed while the tug got through the bridge and entered the turning basin.  The tug captain announced that he was going under the Morehead City Bridge and then heading north in the ICW.  We were going south to Beaufort, NC.  But it took us 20 minutes until the tug and barge complex had made the turn and given us enough room to proceed along our route.  Actually, it was pretty interesting to see the tugs working together to get this barge through the bridge and then turned 90 degrees so it could head north.

Tugs and Barge

Tugs and Barge

After that excitement we made our way to the Beaufort Docks for our berth.  Fortunately, we were  coming in close to slack current, which can run as high as 2kts, because they put us in a slip with a very tight turning radius.  But Jim handled it just fine, maneuvering Curiosity forward and back until we in the slip.  By noon we were tied up.

We were thrilled to be in before the late afternoon or evening.  We had read about Beaufort and wanted to see the town.  We grabbed lunch on board and then headed to town to check it out.

Beaufort is a really nice small town.  The main part consists of about 3 or 4 streets that run parallel to the waterfront and about 10 cross streets.  Right along the waterfront are many beautiful old houses, many of which date to the 1700s and 1800s.  There are shops for the tourists, lots of restaurants, a maritime museum with a great exhibit about Queen Anne’s Revenge (Blackbeard’s pirate ship that went aground in the Beaufort inlet) and the Harvey Smith Watercraft Center, and a shipbuilding museum.  Many tour boats leave from Beaufort headed for the waters around the town, the Rachel Carson Nature Reserve and the Outer Banks.  It’s clear that the town comes alive in the warmer weather.  But we were glad to be there stretching our legs and taking in their history.

Front Street - Beaufort

Front Street – Beaufort

More of Front Street

More of Front Street

Harvey Smith Watercraft Center

Harvey Smith Watercraft Center

Tonight we dined at the Blue Moon Bistro, which came highly recommended. We wandered the few blocks from the docks to the restaurant and were treated to a very good meal.  We started off with a warm spinach and duck breast salad with apples, blackberries and fried sweet potato “threads.”  I’m not big on fruit in salads, but this was really good.  For a main course, Jim enjoyed a local shrimp creole with andouille sausage and rice in a tomato sauce. And I had seared salmon over grilled asparagus, mushrooms and lobster ravioli with a light cream sauce.  Also very good.  We finished off the meal by sharing a piece of pecan pie with some vanilla ice cream and a caramel sauce drizzle. The whole meal was delicious.

Rain had been predicted all day and finally arrived while we were eating.  We had brought our umbrellas just in case and were glad we had them for the walk back to Curiosity. There is more rain predicted for tomorrow, so we may be cruising under dripping, grey skies.  I just hope we don’t have to dock in the rain.  We’ll just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.

April 18-19, 2015 – Tybee Island to Charleston, SC

We left the dock at the sumptuous Tybee Island Marina at about 6:45.  This was the same time that many of the commercial vessels along Lazaretto Creek were also leaving.  So we had to hang on the dock for a few minutes waiting for the creek to be clear.  I was up on the flybridge waiting to take us out, and in the short time I was up there all the gnats and stinging insects decided to pay me a visit.  I left Tybee Island with a lovely display of bug bites on my neck and arms.

Once away from the dock the breeze kept the bugs off as we headed along the creek and out into the channel.  The large commercial traffic was underway in the channel.  A large cargo ship passed us just as we were heading into the channel.  Off to ourright we could see a large wave that was breaking over a shoal area.  We intended to stay clear of this area in any event, but when we saw the wave double in size when the cargo ship’s wake hit it we were decided that we would cut behind the ship and across its wake and avoid the wave and the worst part of the wake.  We bounced a bit but were fine.

Up Close and Personal

Up Close and Personal

Wake over the Bar

Wake over the Bar

As we proceeded down the channel, we could see that the Savannah pilot boats were busy guiding the commercial traffic in.  Another large cargo vessel was about to enter the channel, and we estimated that we would meet that ship just as we began our turn north for Charleston.  We could have run on the outside of the north side of the channel but the water was shallow there and we didn’t want to contend with any large waves in that area.  The south side was much deeper, so we eased out of the channel and headed east until the cargo ship passed us.  We cut across its wake and then turned onto our course for Charleston.

Second Freighter

Second Freighter

We could not have had a more perfect cruising day.  The winds were between 1 and 2kts.  The water was glassy.  Once we made our turn to the north we left most of the boat traffic behind.  We had the ocean to ourselves along with several dolphins, two of which played in our wake for a little bit, some sea turtles, myriad sea birds, and even a flying fish that flew by our port side before diving back into the water!

All was not perfect, however.  About 9am we ran into some fog, light at first but then dense for about 40 minutes.  During that time we picked up only one target on the radar, either an anchored fishing boat or a sea buoy.  We kept our course and eventually cruised out of it.  Other than the fog, our trip was completely free of “issues.”  That is, until we reached Charleston.

This past week has been Charleston Race week.  Yesterday when we approached the channel leading into Charleston we could see several sailboats on the south side.  Jim had read about Race Week and knew that part of Charleston Harbor was closed for the races, but the sea channel and the South Channel, which leads to the Charleston City Marina, were open.  As we got closer we could see that it wasn’t just a few sailboats but about 20 or 30 of them tacking this way and that across the south side of the sea channel.  To get into the channel we would have to go through them.

These were large sailboats with about 7 or 8 crew on board.  They were intent on their race and didn’t give a damn about us or any of the other powerboats that were trying get into the channel.  Nor should they since they had the right of way.  By this time Jim was driving, and he weaved this way and that through the tacking ships and got us into the channel.

Once there, we thought we would be done with the sailboats.  But that would have been too easy.  The boat races were being held in the channel too!  We could now see that this regatta did not involve just 30 or 40 boats, but hundreds of them all down the sea channel and into the north end of the harbor.  So we continued dodging the sailboats.  Every time we went to starboard to avoid one sailboat, 2 or 3 others would be coming at us requiring us to speed up, slow down or turn to port.  It was like being a ball inside a pinball machine.

To add to the fun, in the middle of all this we received a digital distress signal on our VHF radio.  The Coast Guard hailed all vessels and asked all the boats who received the signal to contact the Coast Guard with the time they received the signal and their position.  Immediately the VHF channel was filled with boats hailing the Coast Guard with the requested information.  We don’t know what happened, whether the Coast Guard was able to locate the vessel in distress, but we hope so.

We continued making our way down the channel and finally reached the spot where it splits north and south.  The north side was a sea of small sailboats.  The south side had your garden variety traffic and that’s where we were headed.  Once out of all the chaos we hailed the Charleston City Marina.  They were not quite ready for us, so we hung outside the dock for about 10 minutes. Finally, they had a dock hand to help us with the lines.  We entered the marina and were safely docked in a matter of minutes.  We were very glad to be tied up and out of the sailboat madness.

They're Everywhere

They’re Everywhere

Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter

We got in shortly before 4pm.  The rest of the afternoon was taken up with boat chores.  Curiosity got a thorough wash down after a day in the ocean.  I chamoised her off, while Jim headed off to the laundry, not for any of our clothes but for one of our lines.  When Jim started to untie us at the lovely Tybee Island Marina, he discovered that one of the shore birds had left a large smelly present on the bow line.  He washed it off as best he could but it still reeked.  Repeated washings on the Charleston Megadock did nothing to improve the aroma, so we decided to throw it in one of the marina’s washers.  That helped a lot, but there was still the essence of bird poop.  We decided to use it as an extra line in the hope that the sun, air and rain would get it as clean as a line can be.

With the boat chores done we showered for dinner and hope in the marina van for a trip to downtown Charleston for dinner at the Low Country Bistro.  We had had dinner here the last time we were in Charleston and really enjoyed the food.  The name says everything about the style of cooking.  Jim had something called Frogmore Stew, which had had the last time and had loved it. It’s a shrimp stew with corn, sausage, onions and potatoes in a savory broth.  This time, however, the broth was bland and the sausage was nonexistent.  He was disappointed.  My dinner of shrimp and grits was much better.  The grits were more like polenta with a tomato relish, bacon gravy and, of course, large, local shrimp.  Yum.

It was a mild evening when we finished dinner, so we decided to walk back to the marina.  It was about a mile and half walk.  The walk gave us a chance to see some Charleston neighborhoods and the many old Southern homes.

So ended our first day in Charleston.  Our plan was to spend Sunday in Charleston as well.  Neither of us had been to Fort Sumter, and a tour boat cruise over to the Fort seemed like a good activity for a Sunday.  Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate.  Rain was predicted for the entire day.  The thought of cruising over to the Fort and then trying to tour it in the pouring down rain just didn’t appeal.  Instead, we took it easy in the morning and then hiked into Charleston to do a grocery store run.  The rain held off for our walk, but started to come down when we were finished.  We were able to call the marina van and get a lift back to the marina.

When we were back on board we grabbed lunch, tidied up, did some cleaning chores, and went over the rest of our route to Annapolis.  We had dinner reservations at the Charleston Grill, which we had never been to.  Our dinner there was outstanding.  We split an appetizer of seared foie gras with a small apple pie, an apple brandy sauce and a dollop of mascarpone.  This may sound like a strange dish, but it was so full of flavor.  Everything worked perfectly together.  For the main course Jim had a duck leg confit, seared duck breast and black lentils.  I had striped bass (rockfish for all the Marylanders out there) on a bed of fregola sarda and wild mushrooms.  Both dishes were excellent.  They were perfectly cooked and seasoned and beyond delicious.  We finished the meal off by splitting a strawberry rhubarb pie with strawberry ice cream.  This was not quite at the same level of the rest of the meal.  The pie could have used more filling and a little more sweetness for Jim’s taste buds.  But overall a really superb meal.

We returned to Curiosity after another storm passed through.   As I write this entry, the rain has stopped and the skies have started to clear.  It will be an early evening for us.  We’re taking a short break from our cruise north.  Tomorrow we return to Maryland on the first flight out of Charleston.  Jim has a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Board meeting in Boston at the end of the week and I wanted some more painting time in my studio.  We will return to Charleston in a week, get back aboard Curiosity and finish the rest of our trip to Annapolis.

 

Thursday – April 17, 2015 – St. Simons Island to Tybee Island, GA.

Thursday morning brought chilly temperatures and overcast skies.  We were up early and, with Adrienne at the helm, we pulled away from dock around 6:45am.  Within a half-hour, we were in the St. Simons inlet.  The winds were blowing about 10kts across the flooding current.  Fortunately, the inlet is wide and deep, and so was relatively calm.  Curiosity easily handled the 3ft waves on our bow.

St. Simons Island Lighthouse

St. Simons Island Lighthouse

By 8am, we were out of the inlet and heading north to Tybee Island.  The seas were definitely rolling with 3-4ft waves but the period (the distance between the waves) was somewhere around 6-9 seconds.  I turned up our stabilizers and that helped to minimize some of the up and down motion.

The trip north was relatively uneventful.  We had several periods of fog; at one point it was pea soup with visibility of less than 200 yards. However, there were virtually no other boats around, and alas no whales either, at least not that we could see.  By about 8:50 we were out of the soup.  It was still overcast, but at least we could see the horizon.

Both Adrienne and I had a number of telephone calls we needed to get done, so we alternated driving (which we usually do anyway) while the other  took his/her call.  It helped pass the time on a long cruising day.  I estimated that it would take us about 8-9 hours to travel the 78nm to Tybee Roads Marina, and it took 8.5hrs.

By 1:30pm, we began the turn into Tybee Roads.  The Tybee Road inlet leads into the Savannah River, which of course runs up to Savannah.  Unfortunately, docking in Savannah is not the best, so few boats go up to visit that city.  Off the inlet to the north is Hilton Head.  One of the nicest marinas around is the Hilton Head Harbour Town Marina; we have stayed there before and the facilities are first rate.  However, they are four or five miles up a side channel from the inlet and add over half-hour to the journey in and out of the inlet.  We might still have stayed there, but this week was the Hilton Head Heritage golf tournament.  While the marina had available slips, they were charging $15/foot for dockage; given that we are 60ft long, there was no way we were paying $900 for one day of dockage.

We searched for other marinas and found that Tybee Island Marina was located just off the Tybee Roads inlet on Lazaretto Creek.  I called them and they had a slip available.  It was somewhat strange because they did not ask my name or the boat name; the dockmaster said just come on in and they would have room for us.  It was also strange that there had been no Active Captain reviews since 2012.  On the other hand, one of our cruising guides called it “the well-appointed Tybee Island Marina.”  We decided to give it a try.

As we reached the end of the inlet, we gave the dockmaster a call.  It took several tries but we finally got him and he said no problem, just come on in.  However, he was in the process of moving a boat and couldn’t talk.  Before Adrienne could ask him how we get into Lazaretto creek, which was far from obvious, he was gone.  In front of us was a marker warning boaters of a submerged piling and visible rocks.  The channel to the inlet lay somewhere on our port side, but so did the pilings and rocks.  A local commercial boat with some passengers on board came by and looked like it was going to enter the channel.  I hailed them and the captain graciously offered to show us the way in.  We followed “Reel M In” to the bridge, beyond which lay our marina.  We quickly realized that this was out of “Reel M In’s” way and were very grateful for the escort.

Tybee Island Marina lay ahead.   As we approached we saw a fuel dock along the creek with a dinghy at one end and many local boats crammed into a mishmash of docks with some commercial fishing boats thrown in there for good measure.  I turned Curiosity to face the current to make for an easier exit the following morning and then pulled up to the fuel dock where the dockmaster and another guy helped us tie up.  We were the only transient there.

It was evident that the Tybee Island Marina’s bread and butter business is small local boats, not cruising boats.  It was also evident that marina appearance, upkeep or general maintenance is not a high priority either.  We went up to the marina office to check in.  The dockmaster had difficulty finding a pad of paper to write out an invoice because there was so much clutter on the desk.  Nor could he locate a pen after much shuffling around.  Ade gave him hers.  The shelves behind the main desk were full of junk and falling apart, as was the wooden walkway outside the office.  He apologized for the state of his office and blamed it on a health inspector who required two hours of his time today to inspect the restaurant connected to the marina.  Apparently the restaurant has been closed and required the inspection to reopen (we didn’t ask why).  So, if the inspector hadn’t shown up and taken up two hours of his time, the office would have been in pristine condition?  I don’t think so. We were invited to dine at the restaurant later in the evening.  We thanked him for the information.

Curiosity Tied Up

Curiosity Tied Up

Fishing Vessel

Fishing Vessel

Jim Surveying the Well-appointed Marina

Jim Surveying the Well-appointed Marina

Lowcountry at Tybee Island Marina (i.e., mosquito breeding ground)

Lowcountry at Tybee Island Marina (i.e., mosquito breeding ground)

We returned to Curiosity and did a few chores.  We debated whether we should venture over to “Bubba’s Gumbo Restaurant,” and ultimately decided what the hell, we’d go for it.  So at the appropriate hour we walked over to the restaurant and walked in.  It looked just like a restaurant named “Bubba’s Gumbo” should look.  There were about 15 people clustered around the bar, all were friends and families of the owner.  We were seated by a very friendly waitress.  There were no printed menus, so the waitress shared her notepad with us.  The menu was limited.  Every item was fried except the steamed shrimp and the burger.  The sides were French fries, French fries and French fries.  I had the steamed shrimp and Ade had the local catch: bluefish.  The good news was that both the shrimp and blue fish were fresh and perfectly cooked.  Ade had never had fried bluefish before, but there’s a first for everything.  The fries were your basic fries.  They were hot.  Nothing green came within a mile of either plate.  We finished our dinner and paid with cash because the credit card machine was not up and running yet.  Well, it was good fodder for the blog.

Tomorrow we head for Charleston.  We’ll be up at the crack for another long cruise, somewhere between 9 and 10 hours.  We’ll spend Sunday in Charleston reprovisioning the boat and relaxing and then on Monday we’ll fly back to Baltimore to take care of a few things in Maryland.  We’re looking forward to finishing this leg of the northbound trek.

 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 – Jacksonville, FL to St. Simons Island, GA

It was another early morning departure for us.  We left the dock at Palm Cove Marina shortly after 6:30.  It was a quiet and calm morning, and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise to begin our day.

Breaking Dawn over Jacksonville

Breaking Dawn over Jacksonville

Sunrise

Sunrise

We figured that most of the ICW northbound traffic had stopped around St. Augustine so that we would have minimal boat traffic, at least at the outset.  That was, in fact, the case.  Except for another northbound trawler that left Palm Cove about 5 minutes ahead of us, we encountered no other boats until we got into the St. John’s River.

Our destination was St. Simons Island in Georgia, about 61 miles away.  We decided to take the ICW to the St. John’s River and then the river out to the ocean.  Had we taken the ICW the entire way we would have passed through Fernandina Beach, which has some severe shoaling.  We went this way when we were southbound in December, but we passed through the shoaling area right at high tide and had no problem.  Even so, we hit a few spots with only 11’ of water.  With a 7 to 8’ tide, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of water if the tide is going down.  We decided to do an ocean run to avoid the whole thing.

The St. John’s River was quiet.  The Coast Guard cutters were docked at their station and there was very little commercial traffic out.  About an hour and 15 minutes after we left Palm Cove we were at St. John’s Point and in the Atlantic Ocean.  It was excellent weather for an ocean passage: about 5k winds and gentle 2ft swells.  The skies were a bit overcast, but we had no rain or other weather-related issues.

Coast Guard at St. John's River Inlet

Coast Guard at St. John’s River Inlet

Coast Guard Cutter

Coast Guard Cutter

The trip north took us through the Atlantic Right Whale Critical Habitat.  The Atlantic Right Whale is an endangered species, particularly prone to being hit by boats because the whales are relatively slow moving.  At this time of the year, the mothers and their calves swim along this part of the Atlantic seaboard.  We did not see any whales when we passed this way in December.  But this time we were luckier.  I was at the helm and noticed something black in the water just off the starboard bow.  I called to Jim, who was in the salon fixing lunch, that there was something in the water.  He came up and we both determined that it was a whale about 10 or 15’ from us.  In the excitement I left the helm (with the engines running) to get a look and then, when Jim yelled at me, quickly returned to cut the engines so we could drift past without hitting it.  There wasn’t much showing on the surface, but we thought we saw a nose, and we definitely saw a barnacled back.  The calves apparently ride on the mother’s back, so we might have seen a calf poking its head up and the mother’s back.  Before Jim could snap a picture it was gone.  Coast Guard rules require all boaters to report all whale sightings in this area, whether or not they are Right Whale sightings.  So Jim did his duty and called it in.  Our VHF transmission was picked up by another boater who wanted the coordinates of the sighting.  We weren’t sure if that was to avoid the area or locate the area for more sightings.

The rest of the trip was uneventful.  We arrived at the Morningstar Marina, which is located on the Frederica River just off the main channel, at about 1:45 and were quickly tied up.  When we arrived it was warm and sunny, but the forecast was for afternoon thunderstorms.  By 3pm the winds had picked up significantly and the storm clouds had rolled in.  The thunder, lightning, and rain soon followed.  We spent the afternoon on the boat attending to a variety of chores while the ducks paddled around in the wet weather.  The rain began to diminish in the early evening but insisted on sticking around to give us a wet and windy walk to the on-site restaurant, Coastal Kitchen.

The Coastal Kitchen was not the best southern seafood we’ve had, but it fit the bill for us that night.  Jim ordered a scallop and shrimp saute, and I had the shrimp and grits with andouille sausage, tomato sauce and peppers.  In both dishes the seafood was on the overcooked side, but both had good flavor.  The service was attentive and the restaurant itself was very nice, so we were happy.  By the time we returned to the boat, the rain had stopped and we had a much more comfortable walk back to Curiosity.

The ocean forecast for Thursday was not great: small craft warning with high winds and seas.  We knew this a few days ago and so planned to spend Thursday at St. Simon Island as well.  The rain stayed away for Thursday, but the temperatures dropped to the low 70s without a ray of sunshine to be had.  We puttered around the boat for the morning doing fun things like online banking, cleaning and laundry.  The cloudy day made the chores a bit more palatable.

After lunch, however, we hopped in a cab and went over to St. Simon Island itself.  Morning Star marina is across the Frederica River from the island and about 3 miles from the main shopping area.  Despite the gloomy day, it was clear that St. Simon Island is a very nice place.  We could well imagine how much cheerier and busy it would be on a warm summer day.

The cab dropped us at the main shopping area where we strolled along the many shops.  At the end of the shopping area was the town pier where numerous locals had fishing rods out.  Some of them caught some small fish while we were there, but it was clear that the camaraderie among the fishermen and women was as important as their catches.

The Village at St. Simons Island

The Village at St. Simons Island

Flowers on St. Simons Island

Flowers on St. Simons Island

The pier area is also the location of the St. Simons Island Lighthouse, which is still operational today.  There is an extensive playground area for the little ones and easy access to the beach where a few intrepid people were shell hunting.

St. Simons Lighthouse and Museum

St. Simons Lighthouse and Museum

We decided to walk back to the marina.  The Island has wide, paved sidewalks along the main road leading onto the island.  These are a pleasure for the walkers among us.  However, when the sidewalk reached the bridge that connects the marina side to the island side, it became just a wide shoulder next to car traffic, which barreled by between 50 and 60mph.  This did not give us a warm and furry feeling, but we made it across in one piece.

Ade Under the Spanish Moss

Ade Under the Spanish Moss

Dinner tonight will be on Curiosity, and it will be an early evenings.  We head to Hilton Head tomorrow.  This will be a fairly long day (about 8 to 9 hours), so we’ll be up around 5:45 for a departure around 6:45.

Tuesday – April 14, 2015 – Daytona Beach to Jacksonville, FL

The Adventure Continues!  We left Dayton Beach around 6:45am.  North of Daytona Breach are four bridges, all of which we thought we could pass under.  However, it was a very high tide, so we needed two of the bridges to open for us.  Fortunately, the bridge tenders immediately opened the bridges and we were able to head north without delay.

Manatee Murals on Dayton Bridge Pilings

Manatee Murals on Dayton Bridge Pilings

Passing Through the Bridges of Daytona Beach

Passing Through the Bridges of Daytona Beach

As we cruised the ICW, we saw many dolphins, who rushed over to see us but none of whom wanted to play.  Ade was very disappointed.

Today there was a caravan of boats heading north and it took a while to sort out the appropriate cruising order.  The fast boats first, then us, then the slower trawlers and then the sailboats.  For most of the trip, a faster trawler, Carry On, was right behind us; they probably could have gone faster but were content to follow us.

Scenic ICW

Scenic ICW

Wonder Who Uses These

Wonder Who Uses These

 

Along the Florida ICW

Along the Florida ICW

Just before 10am, we were traveling through a narrow part of the ICW at Palm Coast.  Active Captain had warned us of a new red nun that marked some shoaling on the red side.  We were warned to favor the green side.  Ade and I were both carefully watching the nun, when we suddenly felt a significant engine vibration.  Ade immediately slowed us down.  We were in plenty of water, so we didn’t know what had happened.  We both figured maybe we had hit a crab pot that we had not seen.  We told Carry On what was happening and they came on around and passed us.  By testing each engine separately, we figured out that it was the starboard engine.  Everything in engine room looked fine.  So we put the engine in reverse and then forward several time to see if we could cut the line and unwrap it.  After several tries, we retested the engine and everything seemed fine.  So we were on our way again.

I called Palm Cove Marina, our destination for the night, and got the name of a diver.  Just wanted someone to check the bottom and make sure nothing was wrapped around the shaft.  Fortunately the diver was available and agreed to meet us at the marina later in the day.

So now Carry On was in the lead and we were following; a situation Carry On would come to regret.  Around the Matanzas Inlet there are a number of temporary markers indicating a shoaling area.  Because they are temporary markers and easily moved, you would think they would accurately mark the shoal; however, Active Captain had warned boaters to stay away from the greens because the shoal extended into the channel.  We watched as Carry On took the curve right next to the greens.  About halfway around, I saw them suddenly tip and stop.  They were aground.  We eased around them heeding the Active Captain advice and found plenty of water even though our chart plotter had us on land!  We transited this area with more than 8 ft the whole way.

As we passed Carry On we confirmed that they were indeed aground .  They couldn’t free themselves by backing up and were planning on waiting for the rising tide, which was hours away.  But about a half an hour later, we heard Carry On on the radio; they had freed themselves.  When we slowed further on for some additional shoaling, they passed us again and we were glad to let them go first. We followed them to St. Augustine where they peeled off for one of the marinas north of the Bridge of Lions.  We were glad they were able to make some lemonade out of some very sour lemons.

Tall Ship at St. Augustine

Tall Ship at St. Augustine

Bridge of Lions - St. Augustine

Bridge of Lions – St. Augustine

Our passage north of St. Augustine involved no groundings or snagged lines.  What it did have was a 6-mile long congested zone that required us to cruise at minimum wake through all of Palm Village.  We were close to our destination at that point and tired and had no desire to cruise at minimum wake speed.  But we did.  It was painful, especially for me because I was driving.

Despicable Palm Village

Despicable Palm Village

Finally we were past Palm Village, zooming past Cabbage Swamp.

Cabbage Swamp

Cabbage Swamp

More of Cabbage Swamp

More of Cabbage Swamp

By 3:30pm, we were at Palm Cove Marina and all tied up.  The diver was waiting for us.  After about 15 minutes, he came up and said all was fine.  That was great.  We knew then that neither the pot nor the grounding caused any damage.  What a relief, particularly because tomorrow we are running outside to St. Simon Island, Georgia.

One thing that was confusing us was that, when Adrienne called this morning to confirm the Palm Cove Marina reservations, they said no problem but they did not seem to know who we were.  I had made reservations several days ago.  Well, around 5 pm, I got a call from the marina asking if we were still coming.  I told them we were already tied up.  After a few minutes of confusion, I realized that it was Palm Coast Marina calling.  I had made reservations there instead of Palm Cove Marina, which is where we wanted to be and in fact were tied up!  The worst thing is that I can’t figure out how to blame Ade for this.  Oh well, getting old I guess.

We walked a half-mile to Publix for a few items, did the engine check and are off to Marker 32 for dinner.

Tomorrow, we are out the St. Johns Inlet and up the Atlantic to St. Simon Island.