We’ve started our cruise up to Annapolis aboard Curiosity. Since we began on the 7th, we’ve had long days, although today, the 12th is by far the longest. Most days have been uneventful, and that’s a good thing, with the exception of the weather. We’ve had to contend with high winds on some days. And after we get to Charleston, we’ll have a string of bad weather days with high winds and heavy rain. But we’ll worry about that after we get to Charleston.
We went as far as Vero Beach on our first day, and we had good weather.
Our second day, which was a repeat of the previous day until the end, took us to New Smyrna Beach. We were going to stop at Titusville, which is about 30 miles south of New Smyrna Beach, but the winds were only about 10 k and we knew the next day we’d have high winds. So we pushed on. But about four in the afternoon the winds started to pick up and began blowing between 15 and 20 K. By the time we reach New Smyrna Beach at around 6pm, the winds were close to 20 k and we had about 2 knots of current to contend with. It made for interesting docking, but we got in without any problem.
The New Smyrna Marina put us on a face dock behind a 55-foot sailboat. They had arrived shortly before us and we introduced ourselves in between checking into the marina and doing boat chores. We joined them on their boat for drinks and snacks and then had dinner with them at the marina restaurant. The food was nothing to write home about, but the company was very interesting. Paul and Nancy have owned their boat for about 10 years and have taken it around the world twice. They regaled us with stories of their adventures, fortunately, no horror stories about life and death on the high seas. Most of them were about their fishing for food while cruising and catching all kinds of fish, including one tuna that was so big it gave them 50 steaks, which they froze. That is one big tuna. It was a fun evening; we hope we run across them again as we both sail north.
Saturday, we were off to St. Augustine, a 7 ½ hour trip. Even though it was supposed to be fairly windy, the trip was again uneventful, and by late afternoon, we were tied up at Camachee Cove Marina, a two-mile walk from historic St. Augustine. We were going to relax on Sunday, tour the city and get ready for a long overnight run to Charleston on Monday. So, Sunday morning, our first order of business was to talk with TowBoat US about the conditions at the St. Augustine inlet, an uncharted inlet that can be a great entry or exit point to the Atlantic or a nightmare. The Towboat US captain was great, giving us an aerial photograph of the inlet and the markers and assuring us that the conditions for leaving tomorrow from the inlet would be fine. Then we were off to St. Augustine. We had planned on calling an Uber cab to take us downtown but none were available for at least 40 minutes. So we walked. It was a long walk but soon enough we entered the old city. We wandered for a while, had lunch, and then visited a number of art galleries. One gallery, Brilliance in Color, had a collection of Frederick Hart sculptures in both bronze and acrylic. The multidimensional acrylic sculptures were fantastic, and there were also a number of Jacarte Glass vases that Adrienne loved. I think we will be back one day to purchase a sculpture or vase, or both. We’ll see.
As I mentioned, our plan was to leave St. Augustine on Monday morning around 10am, cruise all day and night, and arrive in Charleston at slack tide around 7:30am Tuesday morning. When we went to bed Sunday night the weather forecast was for 3-4 ft seas diminishing to 2-3 ft as we traveled north. The waves would be short and choppy, but behind us, so maybe a little uncomfortable but quite manageable. We woke up around 7am on Monday only to find the seas were now predicted to be 5 feet with a 5 second period, with some 6-footers thrown in for good measure. In addition, it was not clear that the seas would improve as the day wore on, as we had thought. Within a few minutes we had an alternative plan and within a half-hour, we were headed out of the marina to Fernandina Beach by way of the ICW. There are a number of significant shoaling areas between St. Augustine and Fernandina Beach but our timing was perfect. We reached each of the bad areas around high tide. The gods were smiling on us after nixing our ocean plans. By mid-afternoon, we were docked at Fernandina Harbor Marina, which fortunately had space for us. We had a great dinner at 29 South café, a small farm-to-table place that emphasized southern cooking with a twist. So we had some small plates to start and fried chicken over mashed potatoes and fresh green beans. Basic but delicious.
Our plan for the next day was to leave Fernandina Beach around 4:30a and travel directly to Charleston, hoping to be there around 8pm when there would be slack tide at the Charleston City Marina. We wanted to get to Charleston on Tuesday because after Tuesday the weather looked pretty lousy for at least the next four days for running in the ocean. So, Tuesday morning we were up at 4am and, naturally, it was pitch black. Adrienne eased us out of the slip and up the channel, relying on our radar and the few lighted buoys along the way. The current was ebbing quickly and soon it was at 4kts. As soon as we turned to go out the inlet, the wave action began. At first it was just a little choppy, but as soon as we progressed the waves increased, perhaps to five feet. It was hard to know, because we could not see anything. It was pretty scary to be in rough seas with no idea what was coming next. Adrienne handled it perfectly and after about 15 minutes, we were able to turn out of the inlet and head north. Immediately things improved and the seas while a little choppy were fine. By 6:30am, we could just begin to see the horizon and by 7am the sun had risen. Life was much better now that we could see. Even better, the seas calmed down and for the rest of our trip the waves were generally only 2 feet. Virtually no one else was out on the water, and it was a long peaceful ride to Charleston. We saw a few dolphins and sea birds but mainly we were all alone.
The weather was generally overcast. We had a few bouts of drizzle, but no real rain. When we were about 2 hours outside Charleston one of those drizzle episodes started to clear, with blue sky and sun peeking through the clouds. We looked up and saw a spectacular double rainbow that arced completely from on point on the horizon to another. The photos we took don’t do it justice.
It was a very welcome sight after a very long day on the water. By dusk the rainbow had faded, but we were at the Charleston inlet.
Just as the sun set, we were tied up at the City Marina. It was great to be docked!
Wednesday was a day to recoup. We got fuel, got pumped out and went grocery shopping. For dinner, we ate at High Cotton; Adrienne had a tempura-fried soft shell crab and I had shrimp and grits. Both were excellent. For dessert, we shared a blueberry bread pudding with vanilla cream Adrienne threatened to lick the plate; it was that good. Life is rough in Charleston.
Tomorrow we head for Georgetown. Because the seas will be rough, we will take the ICW; we have never had the Fleming in this part of the ICW because there has been major shoaling just north of Charleston. This area was dredged over the winter and we hope there will be plenty of water.
So, it took us about a week to get from Old Port Cove to Charleston. Except for the inlet at Fernandina Beach, the trip has been uneventful. Adrienne is disappointed that there were very few dolphins who wanted to play in our wake along the Indian River in Florida. During this stretch on previous cruises we’ve been treated to extended displays of multiple dolphins playing in our wake. It’s always been a highlight of our Florida ICW travels. Hopefully, their absence was just a fluke and not the result of the releases of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee. We hope they will be back in the fall.