Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving at Fernandina Beach


Well, at least someone got to be home for the holidays: these shrimpers. As I have mentioned before, being a cruiser during holidays is hard for me, I miss my family and my friends, even though I am blessed to have many new ones travelling along with me.

There were a number of sailboats that made the long trip (25 hours in our case) from Charleston to Fernandina, and we exchanged banter during the voyage with Greta, Blue Blazer, Osprey, and Kokopelli. I had two conversations with a cargo ship, Courage, concerning his expected course (AIS identified her by name). The captain was a very friendly guy who kept saying to all of us hailing him "Yeah, I see all you sailboats out there and I am going to pass behind you". I was never comfortable that "all you sailboats" included First Edition, and sure enough, on my watch he decided to pull in between the boat ahead of us and First Edition. Although he knew exactly what he was doing, I didn't know that, and when I called him to say I thought he was mighty close he (still with respect) informed me he was 1.8 miles away (which I confirmed on my radar) and that would be our closest point of approach. A great big mother cargo ship, at night, turning towards you looks like, oh, five feet from you when she actually is 1.8 miles away. Happy to see her pass.

We motored until 4:00 am when I turned the watch over to Peter who had a great time sailing us up to the inlet.
If you turn right, you go to Cumberland Sound, Georgia. St. Marys is straight ahead. This is the location of the big Thanksgiving pot luck, but since we were arriving late I was concerned about anchorage space, and we turned left to pick up a $15 mooring at Fernandina Harbor Marina. Hours later, Blue Blazer moored right next to us, and joined us for our Thanksgiving meal.
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Friday, November 28, 2008

Charleston Restaurants


On our first day here we revisited Magnolias, where I surely wish my friend Betty could join us. Southern charm, shrimp and grits, fairly priced for upscale, and as I mentioned earlier, great cosmos. I have now been informed though that my drink cost $11. That's 3 bottles of rum in the Bahamas, or 3 bottles of wine at Walmart.

On our next day we had dinner with Barb and Lee on Wind Dancer, with whom we had made the journey from Southport. We ate at Mercato's, a well priced Italian with excellent calamari and lasagna, but with white tableclothes. Very good.

This is Wind Dancer's first trip to the Bahamas, and they are good company. We parted with them early in the morn for our overnight to Fernandina Beach, as they headed up the ICW. Until we meet again...
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008



Love Charleston. We left around 9 am and arrived Charleston Harbor around 3 am the following day. Entering a harbor like Charleston in the dark is both easy, and hard. Easy because it is wide open and deep, hard because there are soooo many lights and if you do not have a chartplotter and radar or AIS (automatic identification system) you are really flying blind. Our Raymarine unit, freshly returned from the factory, blacked on and off several times during the inlet transit. Do not buy Raymarine anything.

Our trip here was as it should be, no drama. Throughout the whole passage though I sat waiting for the engine to start coughing but it never did, our replacement of both filters seems to have done it. We had company in Wind Dancer, and it is sure reassuring to look back and seem a masthead light when you can see nothing else. It was cold, but we rigged up our Honda generator and space heater. The seas were basically flat so this was not a safety hazard, would not want to be rolling around with it though.

We napped when we got here then went into town shopping. We had a late lunch/early dinner at Magnolias, which makes a cosmo that rivals my favorite cosmo bartender Donna. I think I detected a hint of mint. Great food and upscale prices.
Tomorrow we plan to do boat chores (clean out the fuel tank, among others), then head back into town for more sploring.
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Southport, NC

We left Wrightsville for a harrowing adventure to Southport. We had previously run out of fuel three times since we put in our new engine. For some reason after we switch fuel tanks we seem to run out of fuel in the full tank; we have not figured it out yet, but sooner or later we will. Each time we run out of fuel, we wind up sucking out all the crap in the bottom of the fuel tank, and it had apparently not been caught by our "disposal" filter, and made its way to the main filter (where you cannot see it). We knew what the problem was as soon as we starting losing RPM's on the engine. Twice we had to anchor along the narrow ICW for master mechanic Peter to change filters. It is incredible how perfect strangers volunteer to help, willing to stop by or spend time on the radio to walk us through solutions. The captain has learned so much from our mishaps.

This scene is along one of the narrow passages of the waterway. It cracked me up. Note the palm trees.

We ended up at the Southport Marina, a nice place. We took a long walk into town, which was mostly closed up, being late in the day and the season. Definitely worth a return visit. Here we hooked up again with Wind Dancer whom we had met in Beaufort and will travel with down to Charleston, one of my favorite stops.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bogue Sound to Wrightsville on the ICW


We left Beaufort on November 19 in order to run hard aground near high tide in the Bogue Sound. The Bogue Sound sucks. You are constantly seeing your depthsounder show remarkably little water. And since it was blowing around 20 knots from the northwest, we were being set onto the Bogue banks where it is most shallow. We put out the jib and fortunately got a gust, allowing us to point the boat in the desired direction, and pull off. Boat US got a rest.
We anchored at Swansboro which has a fair amount of current, but with our oversized anchor, we found that we held nicely.

The following morning we followed Mishka and Three Penny Opera out of the anchorage at 0650. Fortunately these boats became our leaders through the shallow waters and we learned to follow them but not listen to them, as we bumped very hard while taking their advice to hug G61 at 34 35.8 77 14.6. First Edition took a nosedive, but we put the pedal to the metal and forged our way through the pile of mud or sand that had stopped us.

We were fortunate to have left early as live fire drills at Fort Lejeune began around nine and most boats were held up until noon. We heard new acquaintances on Ooh La La taking the news from the navy in stride.

The rest of the day we were sitting on eggshells waiting to run aground. One of the other boats found bottom twice but not for long. There were four bridges that we needed to open and because all the others had gotten held up by fire practice there was not a big congregation playing bumper cars in the rapid current.

With a gale forecast we decided to tuck in at Wrightsville and took a slip at Seapath Yacht Club, two bucks a foot (ouch!). We were lucky to have arrived near slack and tied to the face dock. A trawler spent over an hour today trying to turn in 30 knots of wind and probably 4 knots of current to dock; it finally whacked the sailboat intended to be behind it during one attempt. We have all been there.

The laundry stinks here. One machine and the dryer won't dry. There is a loaner car though. The marina has turned off the water due to expected temps in the low 20's tonight. Happily, we have our $14.00 space heater.
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Celebrating snow at Aqua in Beaufort


With very big winds forecast, we decided to dock, despite the challenges. We arrived at slack water with little wind, so did not create a scene. Very cold weather and 30 knots plus are predicted (always while we are here at Beaufort). All came true.

It snowed. It is not supposed to snow while you are sailing. But it did. The locals went crazy! Running into the streets and screaming (this lasted about 3 minutes---the snow, not the screaming). So, we celebrated in two ways:
we bought a space heater, and ate at Aqua.

Our dockmates were Barb and Lee on Wind Dancer, and after their invitation for cocktails, we invited them to join us at Aqua. We love this place. Tonight, dinners were 2 for 1, and a great glass of Malbec was $3.99.

Tomorrow, we will try to leave. It is blowing stink, yet again. And, it is cold.
It will be hard to leave, but we need to move on.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Taylor Creek at Beaufort, NC


After waiting out several days of rain we awoke to sunshine on Sunday. But to understand what living on a boat is like, go get your garden hose. Spray all the walls and the ceiling in your bedroom. Be sure you turned off the heat last night. As the drips start to become Chinese water torture, saturating you and your bedding, get up and get dressed as fast as you can to avoid frostbite. OK, there you go, boating on the Intercoastal Waterway in November.

It was still blowing but we had an uneventful trip to Beaufort, one of my favorite stops due to the dining and shopping opportunities. We decided to try anchoring out since the docks here are very tight and there is a bunch of current, today, accompanied by wind (you will notice this is a frequent comment; our boat turns in the distance required by the Queen Mary, and no, we do not have bow thrusters). As we passed the anchorage off the Town Dock, we were turned off by how crowded it was. Several boats had anchor lines entwined and had unvoluntarily rafted (one had his sail up, what was that about?). Several boats were literally turning 360 in the current. So, we decided to head further up Taylor Creek to avoid the mayhem.

We were not the only boat that had decided to do this. The creek is about 150 feet or so wide, but plenty deep, almost to the shores. But you need to place the anchor smack dab in the middle, which is not so easy, as it often will not immediately set. And with the current pouring through here, and the boats sitting to the current, it was like anchoring in a flushing toilet. In the process we saw one of the wild horses on the shore, a missed photo op. Eventually we got snug, and watched for about an hour to be sure we were well set.

We were rewarded this morning with this beauty grazing on the shore next to the boat. These horses eat wild sea grass and drink salt water! They are a wonderful treat at a wonderful spot.
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

This Does Not Happen to Sailors!!


Pictured is my high school/college/sorority sister buddy, Shar---a power boater (well, a trawler; there is no sail). Shar had a little discussion with the corner of a bathroom vanity after slipping on a pool of water in her high heels at the Commordore's Ball at her club near Seattle. We all know the lesson to be learned here: no fancy dances, only boat shoes.

Thanks Shar for permitting the use of your mug shot for the better good.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Whittaker Creek Harbor Marina and Oriental, NC


We are spending our third day here as the weather has been nasty, foggy, rainy, windy, not good travelling weather when you don't have to. We are at the Whittaker Creek Harbor Marina, which is a good marina that could be great. It could be the fact that it is late in the season, or that most slips are condo-ed, but there are wonderful amenities here but everything seems a bit run down. There is no loaner car, as was advertised in the Waterway Guide, but the owner, Knute, is willing to drive you to the local grocery which is not terrific, but adequate. This is an easy walk away, and nearby is the Silo restaurant which was recommended and a West Marine Express.

The town of Oriental is a good walk away but definitely do-able and good exercise. In town is M&M Cafe which serves a great lunch. We had dinner at Steamer's Seafood, which will pick you up and drop you back; food was just OK.

In town there are a few great gift shops I remembered from last year, and a kayak store that had Keene's shoes 35% off. There is also a marine consignment shop that we spent a lot of time in. There are two marinas that have tight slips, and a free dock that would be very convenient to town but exposed in Southerlies. There is a small anchorage in front of town which held six boats tightly.
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Thursday, November 13, 2008


We left Deep Point at 7:30 and motored along listening to the banter about the Wilkerson Bridge, where the height is said to be only 64 feet. With the water being higher than normal, and our mast height at 62 1/2 feet, I was very interested in the outcome of vessels passing ahead of us. One, with a mast height of 61 feet plus 3 feet of antennae, was viewed by the boat behind it who reported "no air" between the top of the mast and the bridge. That boat, though, reported that its antennae did not brush so I felt some comfort. Another boat with a 63 foot mast was directly ahead of us, and as we approached, I was happy to know I would have someone higher than us ahead. As we approached, Mooch, our new diesel, ran out of fuel. Quickly we put the anchor down. This has been a recurring problem after we switch between fuel tanks and Peter has finally figured out that the returning diesel fuel is going to the wrong tank (therefore the once near empty tank is filling up while the full tank is emptying waaay too fast). Fortunately this happened before the bridge and not under it.

We arrived at Belhaven around 1:00 and stopped at the River Forest Marina to take on diesel. We stayed here last year and would never again; the slips are small, close together, with no turning room for boats like ours. The fuel docks look like they are at a T-head but it is actually to port behind it, you will need to turn around to dock to port to receive fuel.

We anchored out near the bridge and had a peaceful night. Tomorrow we part ways with Blue Blazer who is running hard to get to Beaufort.

Anchoring by Deep Point off the Alligator River

We left Elizabeth City at 0655 in chilly 42 degree weather wearing long underwear, gloves, and earmuffs. Passed through the Alligator Pungo swing bridge without issue. We had heard that the bridgetender here liked to mess with the boaters, but on our third trip through we found them prompt and friendly. It was an uneventful day, arriving at 2:00 to find one boat anchored behind Deep Point at G43. Skipper Bob severely underestimates the size of this anchorage, more than 10 boats called this place home overnight, with room to spare.

We lowered the dink to visit with Blue Blazer, only to find out that our trusty Mercury outboard would not start, the first time in its 4 years with us. So, we cannot say that nothing broke today. Cruising...fixing things in exotic places.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Exiting the Dismal Swamp and Elizabeth City


We left out early (7:15) to catch the 8:30 lock opening. Before the lock you pass through another bridge whose opening is coordinated with the lock. You can tie up to walls on both sides of the canal, and we rafted to Tardis. We passed through the lock at 9:00. Unlike yesterday the sunshine was abundant, but it was very cold. The passage was incredible, very beautiful and quiet. The water is much deeper, and we passed several boats anchored along with way. Goat Island looked like the place I would want to hang the hook.

We arrived at Elizabeth City at 12:20 where we took advantage of the free dock. There is no water or electricity here. You can google "Elizabeth City free dock" and you will get a link to the harbor cam, which shows the dock in real time (and figure out if there is room if you are on the way). The pilings have the width of the slip painted on the outside. Do not go here with any east wind component. With a dolly you can walk to a gas station near the museum to pick up diesel.

This place is known for the "Rose Buddies" who deliver roses to arriving boats and organize a wine and cheese party. We saw no one offering flowers or cocktails, although we did have assistance getting in the dock. We had a decent, inexpensive meal at Thumpers, one of the few restaurants open on Sundays. We had hoped to go to the movie theater, which also serves dinner, but they do not offer dinner on Sundays.

There does not seem to be much in town, but Sunday truly seems to be a day of rest here.
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NC Welcome Center at the Dismal Swamp

We departed the free dock at Deep Creek at 9 am along with Tardis and Blue Blazer, and had a peaceful trip in light drizzle. Depths were fine but we hit a lot of deadheads that were submerged below the surface. First Edition arrived at the dock at the North Carolina Welcome Center at 12:15, and found it to be wide open. We could find no evidence of water, except in the restrooms, which do not have shower facilities. We tied up and latter Tardis rafted up to us.

Peter and I hiked the nature trail at the adjacent National Park, and saw little in the way of creatures except for one white tailed deer.

We organized a pot luck and at 6:00 all 12 boats (rafted three deep) attended, accommodated at a covered picnic table. We enjoyed the company of John and Ellen and after dinner cocktails aboard their Black Tie Affair (one of those fast powerboats). They were out for the weekend and will be heading back to their homeport of Annapolis.

This little fella was the only other wildlife we have seen on this route. Pretty cool dude.
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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Finally! Heading South on the ICW

At 8:00 am we left York River, with promises of warmth and sunshine being idle. Being hopeful conditions would improve, we slogged our way through Hampton Roads and Norfolk past warships, coast guard vessels, and many boats headed out for the Caribbean 1500, nonstop to the Virgin Islands. The latter I consider damned fools because Hurricane Paloma is out there, and yeah, she is only expected to show them her periphery but WHAT THE HECK? Fortunately, I consider us exempt from effects of Paloma as we will be tucked away in the ICW, and I own some of her jewelry.

Our plan is to transit the Dismal Swamp Canal, where iffy water depths should be a non issue with the recent rains and higher than normal tides. The Swamp is supposed to be a nature lover's haven, with beautiful sites and no fast power boats leaving wakes to toss us sailors around. We had wanted to do the Swamp last year but it was closed due to insufficient depths. Your tax dollars are not at work here, as this and most of the ICW is not getting sufficient funding for proper maintenance.

The Jordan Bridge is the first that you need to have raised to pass along. This bridge is a lift bridge, and I swear, you can do this a million times, and one million times you will think the bridgetender has not lifted the center section high enough for you to clear. The bridgetender was prompt and friendly, unanticipated since last year's log entry read "bridge opening momentarily does not mean momentarily at the Jordan Bridge".

Two miles after the Jordan Bridge you approach the Gilmerton Bridge. The bridgetender here likewise had some happy juice for lunch and was very accommodating. However, mid-opening he announced he had to close, as an emergency vehicle was approaching and needed to get over. We witnessed the almost crashing of a boat determined to make it through who, at the last moment, got some sense and turned around.

We reached our destination for the day in time for the 3:30 lock opening: the Dismal Swamp Deep Creek Lock. The lockmaster is, indeed, a master, and a kind soul who gives simple, understandable instructions to those of us not very experienced with the locking process. First Edition was the first boat into the lock, and therefore I had a front row view of the water entering the lock, seeming like boiling steeped tea water. The water raises the boat about ten feet. After exiting the lock we tied up to the free dock to starboard (you can't see it when you exit the dock, but it is right there). We chatted with dock neighbors Janet and Jeremy on Tardis, an American Tug and Don and Maj-Lis on Blue Blazer, a C&C. We all plan to leave tomorrow after the 8:30 lock opening, when the bridge coordinates a simultaneous opening, to head to the North Carolina Dismal Swamp Visitors Center for the free dock tie up, hiking trails, and a GIFT SHOP!
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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Uneventful Update

From Mill Creek we had a long motor up to East River off the Mobjack Bay. It was blowing stink, unfortunately directly behind us. The winds had churned up huge mother seas; we are used to ocean waves but Bay seas of 6 feet seem like a Cuisinart on high speed. It was another long day. We found adequate protection from the NW blow deep into the River. After sitting around for two days, we were the only boat to leave when it was still blowing 30. We had that thing you don't ever want to have on a boat: a schedule.

We had a short trip under normal circumstances just around the corner to the York River where we had a dock reservation at York River Yacht Haven. The wind was up, the seas were big, and it was COLD. And we knew it would only get worse once we turned into the York, and we were right. It took forever to pull into Sarah Creek where we met up with Jimmy and Kathie. For the last several days we borrowed their car and house sat while they had one of their conventions to attend. We currently plan to leave Monday, but a week of forecasted sunshine has somehow turned into big winds and loads of rain. More delays! Now fully provisioned we are anxious to get South.