Friday, May 31, 2013

Home At Last

We reached our dock on Mill Creek at 3:30 on May 10, having arrived at Fort Pierce over a month earlier, on April 9th. We had hoped to be home by May 1 expecting to find the daffodils blooming and plenty of time to unwind before our quarterly doctors’ appointments in New Jersey. The trip on the outside would have shortened our time by over two weeks, but we now can say we have done the whole ICW. I would not do it again, willingly.

As a matter of fact, we may not cruise again. There are too many distractions or should I say attractions at home, my need to dig around in the dirt trumped only by my Willow and Sullivan. We are anxious to travel, Africa and river cruising, a villa in Tuscany, an RV outing around the National Parks. Dance recitals and little league games. Neighborhood gatherings and family holidays.  Clean out the blue bird and martin nests. Watch our new eaglets take flight. A very long bucket list.
But never say never. Especially with neighbors who want to go cruising for the first time, and outings planned with fellow cruisers who inevitably will urge you to go, one more time. And a husband who still has the bug. The Western Caribbean, the Eastern Caribbean, the Berry Islands in the Bahamas, so many places to see for the first time. The October exodus passing by is hard to resist.

Time will tell…

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Our Last Anchorage

We had a good day transiting the last 50 miles of the ICW, without event. Well, we did have one jerk at a bridge close on us and make us circle for a half hour, but we should have been faster. We passed the Hospital Point anchorage, our usual destination, but had plenty of time left, so kept going. We decided to anchor on the Hampton Flats, a very romantic spot by all the commercial and naval vessels pictured above. The winds are light, so hopefully we won't have much of a roll from passing traffic and surge.

Tomorrow: home. 55 nautical miles to go. It will be a long day but with a just reward.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Into Every Life a Little Rain Must Fall

Following our Cape Fear ordeal, we anchored at Wrightsville Beach and then travelled for six consecutive days with some form of precipitation--drizzle, hard rain, even hail. We managed to escape all of the thunderstorms, some just by minutes. We continued to do dumb things, like trying to cross the Neuse River with wind cranking in the mid 20's building up customary crappy seas. I ran aground a few times, one time smack dab in the middle of the channel.

At Swansboro, where we normally anchor despite all the warnings suggesting we consider otherwise, we tied up along the dock at Casper's Marina along with Arietta and Winsome, two boats we had been travelling with, randomly. (This day we redlined Mooch in order to get an hourly bridge opening that turned out to be the last opening of the day, as the bridge broke after our passage. We didn't do it.) We anchored the next day along the ICW, then tried the Neuse the next. Fortunately we gave ourselves a shake and turned into Broad Creek and the lovely River Dunes in Oriental, NC for some R&R and to catch up with friends.

Kim and Steve from Fine Lion, who live nearby, joined us for drinks and dinner at the marina restaurant. Mystery meat but excellent truffles which gave me a sugar rush that kept me awake all night. Or maybe it was the martini. The next night we dined elegantly at the Snyders; Steve is a superb cook and Kim does good dishes. They have a lovely home with lots of trophies, Kim being one. I have gotten lazy with the picture taking, but I did get a shot of their fishing float at the yacht club at Hog Cay in the Raggeds. LOL.

Two long days getting to Coinjock Marina are now behind us. The highlights of that part of the trip included an alligator citing, a large pod of dolphin feeding at our anchorage on the Alligator River, two very loud fighter jets flying back and forth, sideways, over us at the anchorage (this grew old when night fell), and the rainbow following a thunderstorm.

Tomorrow, the plan is Mile Zero. Can it get here soon enough?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Day ten million of our voyage North. The wind and rain continues. We left Cricket Cove, this day bound for North Carolina, come hell or high water.  No high water here, but we found our own little piece of hell.

The most infamous shallow on the ICW is called Lockwoods Folly. It is in South Carolina, which never seems to have enough tax dollars to keep the ditch dredged, and thus, its reputation. Shortly after leaving Cricket Cove I ran aground, trying to leave a buoy to its rightful spot on my portside. I maneuvered off without needing outside assistance, thinking this was just training for what was ahead. Fortunately, we saw no further bottom touching, but had a lot of breath holding.

And then we turned the corner into North Carolina. The Cape Fear River has an inlet to the Atlantic Ocean and a juncture with the Intercoastal Waterway. This is where hell is located.

Winds piped up from mid 20's to mid 30's, and since the current was coming from a direction directly opposed to the wind, the seas built to monsters, 8 to 10 feet. Not such a big deal, unless each wave hits every 2 1/2 seconds, that's when the monster thing happens. The boat goes down into the trough, a monsoon of water drives back and hits the cockpit, we go up, and then it happens all over again. You can't see a thing, until out of no where a huge tanker is visible. A trawler came by and quickly was out of sight.
This lasted an hour and 45 minutes until we turned into tranquil Snow Cut.

At no time were we concerned for our safety. First Edition is a solid ole gal. But we have to ask ourselves sooner or later what the big hurry is.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Twists, Trees, Turns and Rain

The ICW in South Carolina is probably a few nautical miles as the crow flies (OK, I exaggerate) but with all the windy turns it is like driving in Florida, it takes forever. Add that constant wind on the nose and now drizzle or rain, and the trip seems to be deteriorating.

On the 30th we travelled for 12 hours often with the wind in the mid 20's,constantly with our eyes on the depthsounder, raining on and off. Cocktail hour was gratefully held at Butler Island on the Waccamaw River, which is a favorite spot.

First thing in the morning we made reservations for Cricket Cove Marina in Little River. On this day's stretch you have little choice for anchoring, just Calabash Creek at Little River. This would be like anchoring in a kiddie pool, very little water or turning room. So we go big and stay here, where we thought we could get fuel at the dock, right on the ICW, and tie up to the face. But nooooo, the tanks were under repair so we had to go all the way in the marina, take on fuel, and turn around. Actually not so bad, as there were empty slips and it was about slack. Had a very good meal that we bought and took home purchased at Snooky's at the Marina. I wish it had been drink night, because they offer a cucumber martini. And I really could have used it, because we had a bit of drama today.

There is a couple mile stretch called The Rock Pile. I had described it as a narrow passage lined with boulders but that is not quite right. Instead of boulders, the sides are covered with what appears to be broken up cement gravel blocks, nasty and mean looking. You can fit a boat going North and one going South if both are considerate. This is not a good place to lose the engine. But we did.

Ran out of fuel. We seem to have this nasty habit which I had thought we had broken. But over the last few days we were running against the current and using more fuel than we usually do. So we got a surprise. No harm done after the Chinese Fire Drill, executed with aplomb.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Getting to Charleston

We left Cumberland Island and spent three full days motoring for ten to twelve hours each day through winding canals surrounded by reeds. This was generally accompanied by loads of wind, in excess of 20 on the nose of course and billowing into the cockpit. We are now wearing fleece, long pants, and winter coats. The water is very shallow at low, but we are lucky to be hitting at or near high tide. But on a rising tide the current is against us so we cannot move at our regular speed unless we pick it up and burn fuel. We anchored at Buttermilk Sound by pulling off the waterway, Buckhead Creek which was lovely and protected with some trees, slightly off the ICW, and by Spanish Point just before Beaufort, SC, lots of water and room.

On Sunday the 28th we had a full day getting to Charleston, one of my favorite towns that is a pain in the neck to get to. On the waterway heading north you need to pass through Elliott Cut, which although shorter than our Hell Gate in New York, is more ferocious, narrow and swift. We logged 11 knots and were happy to be headed in the direction of the current. Coming in from the inlet you will never get a favorable current, it's a rule, and it will take about 20 years to get to the marina.

The City Marina was full, so we did not have the luxury of having the newspaper thrown on the deck before we woke up, so we tucked into the Charleston Harbor Marina and Resort. Although we did not use many of the amenities, you can get a paper if you walk to the office and get it, the laundry is adequate and one of the dryers works without quarters, and the casual restaurant is better than cooking. We had good help with the lines and at slack tide and a wind that helped us dock, all was well. In different conditions it could be a sideshow unless you are on the face dock. The fuel dock is inside the breakers.

With thunderstorms coming by that night and predicted for the next day, we decided to stay another and went shopping. I found very cool earrings at One of a Kind, but for two hours looked around for the natural mineral shop I had forgotten the name of, hoping to pick up a Mothers Day present and something for Willow. Only as we were running to pick up the shuttle did we see it. Damn.

Incidentally there is a free shuttle that has a varied schedule, not as frequent as on the hour out of the hotel. But it does run after nightfall so you could get dinner in town. And the water taxi is another option, but at $10 for the day.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cumberland Island

About a 45 minute ride from the hustle bustle of Fernandina Beach, you can reach Cumberland Island National Park in Georgia. You will find lots of current, lots of room, wild horses, good long hikes, and lots of shells. Especially at low tide.

This trip we arrived late in the afternoon after our stop at Fernandina. We dropped the anchor, and made a quick trip ashore, with our fabulously running outboard. The wild horses greeted us without regard to our presence. A little further in we saw deer for the first time. Spring wild flowers were opening, a very different feel compared to our fall visits, but equally pleasant.

I had been hoping to get to Cumberland to pick up what I hoped would be a sufficient number of shells to border my planned-for project, a mirror for one of the guest rooms. I found my first whelk here when Southbound and hoped to find another. Hitting at low tide turned in a bonanza!