The sights, sounds and smells of Georgetown SC.

It’s Wednesday morning here in historic Georgetown and it’s going to be a lovely day indeed.

This will be our third day here and it’s going to be tough to leave.  The town has a lovely waterfront area including a boardwalk that runs down the length of this tiny harbor.  Speaking of tiny, we are anchored off of the town dock which is very nice and convenient.  However, the harbor is so narrow that we have had to re-anchor more times than I want to admit as each time the wind shifts, and shift it does, we have to up and reset the hook so that we don’t end up too close to some boat or dock as we shift to a new direction.

And to make things even more exciting, the wind has been coming from a variety of directions and it really pipes up each afternoon so that our chain is stretched tight, making us feel that if our anchor shifts (drags) in the soft mud bottom even 20’ that we will end up too close to something hard and pointy.   We prefer not to be really, really close to “hard and pointy”.

So, aside from the “having to re-anchor” thing, it’s really a lovely spot.

Georgetown is a town of “contrasts” with beautiful homes and old civic buildings as well as a nasty steel mill (are there steel mills still in the US?) and a stinky paper mill to boot.  To look in one direction you see a beautiful waterfront and turn your head and you’ll see the paper and steel mills.  Not so beautiful.  And, when the wind comes from the “right” direction, the paper mill smells like a stale brewery.  However, for us, the good definitely outweighs the bad.

For the two days we spent motoring here from south of Charleston, we have “enjoyed” some really shallow spots.  Because of the high tides, around 7’, along the 70nm run, you can use the tides to get over the shallow spots but that means making the run on a rising tide.  And that meant that we had to time our departures each day to coincide with rising tides which meant that sometimes we had to wait till mid morning to depart which somewhat restricted out travel time and distance before the sun and tide went down again.  However, we made it and here we are.

About 10 miles south of Georgetown, we anchored along one of the canals in a lovey windy creek nestled in rice fields.  The view was spectacular with birds everywhere, including a bald eagle perched on a tree that watched us as we motored by.   After a while he took flight and circled us.  A bit blurry, perhaps because I wasn’t quite awake yet but impressive, never the less.  The canal is as straight as a highway.  However, you don’t get this sort of “big sky” view on just any “road”. I can’t say that it’s clear to me what the purpose of this watch tower is but I expect it has something to do with the rice fields.   It looked pretty nice in the early morning light.We also passed a floating bridge in the canal.  It was quite interesting as the “barge/bridge” was just the right length to fit between the two landings on each side of the canal.  The barge appears to be fixed at one end to a piling on shore and pivots with a large rotating “outboard” that moves the other end of the barge into position on the opposite shore.  Once in position, ramps are lowered on each end of the barge and vehicles can cross.  It’s an ingenious piece of equipment.  Note the “outboard” on the end of the barge.  I think it’s run by hydraulics from a large stationary diesel engine on deck.   I guess it’s pretty heavily used by vehicles in the rice fields as there were plenty of pickup trucks parked on both sides of the canal. So, back to Georgetown.

We walked the mile or so out to the Piggly Wiggly grocery for some fresh food and were struck by how different the food that they stocked were there verses what we are used to in CT.  The produce section was very small and was dwarfed by the baked goods, mostly cakes and pies.  ”Forget the apples, I’ll have a case of Little Debbie danish.” Oh yeah, and lots of fried pork rinds too, it seems. There was also a huge variety of grits to choose from.  The meat cases were loaded with all sorts of smoked items, mostly unrecognizable but these were labeled as “smoked pork necks”.  Yum… There was also piles of “meat by-product” looking stuff labeled as “sousa” and “blood pudding” in the meat section.  They were thick slices of what looked like a soft and lumpy bologona.   I expect that you DO NOT WANT TO KNOW what’s in it.  However, it’s not expensive.

Setting aside the grocery experience, the town is really quaint.  This old building houses the local “Rice Museum”, which we are going to check out today.  There is also a really nice little nautical museum.  They had some really well done models. I particularly liked this river boat.  We also went out for lunch at a riverfront cafe.  There was a spectacular and huge, salt water aquarium.  It was clearly a very well cared for tank.  Notice the soft corals.  I expect that they aren’t feeding them smoked pork necks.    We went for a walk down a few of the nicest streets, lined with beautiful live oaks. We particularly admired this beautiful home, two hundred years old this year.  It turns out it was for sale and we were invited in for a tour.   “Hi, want to take a look inside?”  Sure…Each room was more beautiful than the last.  The place was absolutely packed with antiques.The place looked like it had just been renovated, and it was, in preparation for sale.  The asking price, $1.5m, complete with all furnishings and they’d even throw in a brand new Land Rover.   I can’t even imagine what this house would be worth in Essex. 

I suspect that this is a very full price for this area but the antiques along must be worth a good deal.  Supposedly, the owner buys homes, fixes them up and sells them.  I guess he must have some sort of antique business to fill them with so much stuff.  ”I’ll take it but you’ll have to knock off $10,000 as I just can’t live with that sideboard in the sitting room.”

Anyway, nice house.

As we make our way up the ICW we often see boats that we have seen before. This lovely little trawler has been stopping at some of the same places as we have since central Florida and we keep seeing them along the way.  It’s very well kept and has really sweet lines. All and all, we really like Georgetown however, time marches on so I guess we will have to head out tomorrow.  We have to be in New Bern on the 11th and still have over 200 miles to go.

The next few weeks are going to be very busy as we unpack Pandora and get her ready for sale.  I’ll bet that we’ll find things in lockers that we have long forgotten.

And, I won’t even talk about the logistics of renting cars, storage units, going to wedding in Columbia SC, arranging for hotels, a flight home for Brenda and closing on a new boat.  Yikes!!!  As Scarlett O’Hara, sort of, once said “I won’t think about that today, I’ll think about (logistics) tomorrow.”  

Speaking of plantations and the old south, perhaps we’ll have to visit the rice museum.   Yes, that sounds good.  Well, we’d better get going.  

Yep, outrunning spring weather. Burr…

It’s Sunday morning and the temperature went down into the 30s last night so we left the heater running all night.  That worked out pretty well.  Glad that we have it.  It is supposed to get warmer in the next few days but these cold fronts are wreaking havoc on the weather here.  I had feared that we would encounter pretty cold weather by being this far north so early.  No disappointment on that score, unfortunately. 

Anyway, cold or not, we are anchored just outside of Charleston in a very narrow section of the ICW, Elliott’s Cut.   The current runs like mad through this narrow cut with currents on some points of the tide at around 4kts.  The cruising guide suggests transiting it with the tide.  Good thought.  I’ll keep that in mind.

Speaking of tides and currents, our lives since entering GA waters days ago have been governed by the tides.  Actually, it’s all about not running aground as there are many areas of the ICW that are very shallow due to major cuts in the Army Corps dredging budget over the last few years.

Today, for example, here near Charleston NC, we have to stay put until we can time our transit of a particularly shallow part of the ICW to be sure that we hit it on a rising tide.  With our draft of just under 6’ we are on the upper limit of water depth, about 2′ too deep at low tide, in a particularly nasty section of about 8 miles that we have to get over today.  However, with a tide range here of nearly 6′ we can time our transit to get “over the humps”.  Fingers crossed…

Ever since entering GA it’s been tough with so many shallow sections.  However, with a tidal range of 7-9’ it’s not too difficult to make transit as long as you are willing to leave with the tide.  Sounds easy and it is.  However, sometimes it means that we have to wait till mid-morning to leave which severely limits the miles we can go before evening puts an end to the day.   The worst part that we have to transit today is just north of Charleston and low tide is at 10:30 which means that we really can’t leave here until shortly before that time.

Our next stop is Georgetown SC, a spot that we have heard is quite nice and quaint.  Given our “tide inflicted” late start today, I doubt that we will make it all the way there today.

Shoaling and cold besides, we have enjoyed our run over the last few days.  In particular, we had a nice time in Beaufort, SC where we stopped for a visit.  We had spent time there a few years ago when we last came through and it was nice to be back.  I wrote about that visit in this post.

I won’t repeat that here except to say that it’s still lovely.  While we were in town a strong front came through and dumped loads of rain. The sky looked particularly ominous as it approached. One great thing about changing weather is that it made for a great sunset just in time for cocktails.So, cold or not, I guess that I had better get on with it.  Hope we don’t run around too many times today and let’s hope that spring catches up with us soon.  Burrrr…




A fun time in Savannah. Heading north…still.

It’s Thursday morning and today we head out from Savannah after two days of exploring the historic district.  Last time we visited this city we took Pandora up the river and tied up at the city dock.  It turned out to be a “not great idea” as we bucked some remarkable currents and also picked up a nasty poly tarp in our propeller along the way.  All worked out well in the end, but it was a bit harrowing at the time.  I wrote about that experience here.

This time, to keep things a bit less exciting, we opted to tie up at a marina in a nearby town Thunderbolt, that was named, legend has it, by native Americans for a fresh water spring that “sprung” when it was struck by a powerful bolt of lightning, way back when. By staying here we were able to avoid the long run up the Savannah river and all that comes (see fun experience referenced above) with being in a busy shipping port.  This is a very convenient spot and there’s even a nearby city bus to take us into the city center and to do a bit of provisioning.

Besides, they even give you Crispy Crème donuts each morning, delivered to your boat.  Believe it or not, I have NEVER had a Crispy Crèam donut, EVER. Now I have…

Anyway, we enjoyed being in the city again and walked all over, taking in the sights.   With the risk of repeating myself from our last visit, you might want to take a look at that post from a few years ago.

We discovered that there was a nice little maritime museum in town, the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum.  It’s a lovely spot and as an added benefit, they even have some terrific gardens on site.  It seems that they host events on a regular basis and what a spot it is. You enter the main entrance to the museum through the gardens.  It’s a lovely spot and the museum is housed in an old mansion.  Very tranquil.While the museum is not particularly large, they have a nice collection of good sized models, the sort made for ship owners and, as you can imagine, there is a focus on Savannah history.   In fact, they have a LOT of models of boat named, you guessed it, SAVANNAH, including the only nuclear powered cargo ship, the… SAVANNAH.   It was launched during the Eisenhower administration as part of the “nuclear for peace” initiative. Oops, it didn’t work out particularly well and the ship was soon retired as too costly to operate.  Nice model though, even if the photo isn’t so great.

And this ship was also called…the Savannah.  The Civil War looms large as a part of the history of the area and there were some really nice models depicting ships of the period.   This model of an ironclad was great and easily 6′ long. Particularly nice detail of the engine room in a cut out area. Beyond the Savannah themed ships, there are plenty of nice pieces to admire including a good collection of scrimshaw.  What nautical museum is complete without a bunch of carved whale teeth?Brenda particularly liked the piece with a sheep carved on it?  Now, how often do you get to see sheep carved on whale teeth?  Perhaps only in Savannah.  Well, that’s been our experience. The gardens were a hit with Brenda who particularly enjoyed the gardens.   She was a good girl and even looked at the ship models.  “Oh Bob, I do so love looking at ship models”.   She was a good sport.  Me, I even went into a knitting store with her, just to prove what a good guy I am. 

There are some really nice gardens in the city and I think we walked through each of the dozen in the historic area…twice.  Beautiful settings.  I’ll bet that the prices of homes around these gardens are a LOT more expensive than those in more, shall we say, “pedestrian” settings.When I see folks taking each other’s pictures, I always offer to take one of them. Of course, they nearly also say “would you like me to take one of you?”  Yes, that would be lovely. There is nearly always some sort of historic ship reproduction visiting the waterfront area.  This time, the Pinta and Santa Maria, of Columbus fame.  I heard that the Pinta ran aground coming into the city.  Nice to be in good company given Pandora’s track record to date of finding the shallow spots.

Speaking of experiences that, shall we say, raise one’s blood pressure.  There is always the Savannah Serenity House to help bring things back in balance.  Alas, there was no hope when we visited as even they were having a bad day.  Note the sign on the door?  “Now Bob, do you have to be so insensitive?”   Yes, you’re right. I take it back.

Well, I had better wrap this up as is’t almost time to check and see if our supply of Crispy Creams have arrived. Yum.

Through Hell (Gate) and beyond…

It’s Monday afternoon and we are anchored near Savannah and enjoying a rainy (chilly) afternoon “nesting” aboard Pandora.  It has taken us three days to make it here from the most northern part of Florida and even though we have only traversed a little over 80 miles from Amelia Island, our last stop in FL, we have wound around a total of 128 miles through the water.    Now that’s a lot of meandering.    

There is just no way to go from there to here in even close to a straight line.  And, unless you are willing to do an overnight run in the ocean, you just have to motor the entire way inside.   However, Brenda doesn’t particularly like the “overnight thing” and besides, the winds this early in the season are pretty much out of the north so inside we went.  Had we waited for favorable winds, we’d still be in FL as they aren’t forecasted to arrive for nearly a week from now.  Later in the season, when we are well into spring, north will give way to more helpful southerly.    Alas, with the “We have to be in New Bern” itinerary, inside it is.   

I will say that the view of the marshes along the way is beautiful.

This shot of the plotter gives you an idea of the meandering track I am talking about.  To do this run without good charts would be very tough as it would be very easy to loose track of where you are.   You can see the icon of Pandora in the lower center of the plotter.  That’s us making our way through the maze of channels. The Georgia stretch of the ICW has a reputation of being among the most difficult part of the waterway to manage if you have draft of more than a few feet as there is just so much shoaling.  However, it’s not as bad as you’d think as long as you are willing to time your trip so that high tide is in the middle of the day.  That’s because the tide range here is nearly 9’ , the highest of any part of the waterway.  So, if you can wait a week, from when low tide is mid day util it’s high mid day, you can make the run in water that’s quite deep.

So, if you can get going at the beginning of a rising tide you will have enough water for much of the day.    Besides, a good part of the GA ICW is quite deep, sometimes more than 20’, even at low tide.  So, what gives the area such a bad rap?

It actually gets down to only two areas, one called Mud Creek and the other Hell Gate.  Both of these areas, and they aren’t all that long, at a few hundred yards each, only have about 3’ of water at low tide so that stops most boats when the tide is low.  So, the strategy is to make your way to each of these areas and then anchor nearby and leave the next morning on a rising tide.  Fortunately, for sailboats, these two trouble spots are about a day’s motoring apart.  Pretty convenient, right?

For those who sail in New England, hearing “Hell Gate” conjures up images of the swirling water and fast currents of the East River in NYC where many ships have met their end.   However, the GA version of same is a lot different.  It’s a short dredged (well sort of dredged) cut between two rivers.  The problem with the GA HG is that the currents at both ends, and it’s only a few hundred yards long, are fierce, running about 2.5kts on both the ebb and flood, twice a day.

A dredge that would do an area like Hell Gate, which is very shallow and narrow, would be tiny, dredges, like this one on the St Mary’s river a few days ago, are huge.  This one loomed out of the fog at us as we passed the Navy Base.  Look how low in the water it is.  It was headed out to dump what it had sucked up earlier.  The signature on AIS said that it draws 36’ of water.  That’s really deep keel.While the current in Hell Gate itself is minimal, the flood running by both ends moves lots of sand into the cut and undoes the work of the dredge in short order.  Anyway, both Hell Gate and Mud Creek are areas that cause problems ALL THE TIME and make transiting GA a “pain in the keel”.  But wait, there’s more…

In spite of the meandering nature of the area, you also face currents in excess of 2kts most of the time.  So, for part of the day you are thankful for the “good current” that helps you zip along at nearly 8kts and then you curse it as your speed over the bottom slows to a crawl at more like 3.5kts when the current is against you.  I suppose that it all evens out in the end but somehow the “bad” current always seems to hit late in the day when you are thinking “are we there yet?”

However, now the worst is behind us and tomorrow we will check into a marina, our first on this trip, and spend a few days enjoying historic Savanna.

However, before I break, I’ll  include a few photos from our run through GA.

But first, a few more of some of the beautiful homes on Amelia Island.  This one is the largest in the historic district.  It’s now a B&B.  I’d like to have the tower room please.   I had to pry Brenda’s fingers off of the porch railing to keep her from checking in.  Success!!!This porch is magnificent but it gives me a headache even to think about paying to have it painted.  Speaking of porches.  Brenda loves doorways and here are a few of her favorites.  Mine too.
As we left Amelia Island we passed an unlucky sailboat looking like anything but it’s name “Joy”.  We had seen this boat a number of times and were sorry to see her in such an unlucky spot.  I expect she dragged her anchor the other night when we experienced really strong winds while we were at Amelia Island.  That night we had opted for a mooring as we were concerned about the strong currents and wind causing problems with our anchor.  Perhaps the skipper of Joy wishes he’d done the same thing.  Perhaps it’s only luck that keeps us from having the same fate. After leaving Amelia Island we spent an afternoon walking on Cumberland Island, a national park donated by the Carnegie Family.    It’s a beautiful island with many walking trails and spectacular views.  The island is covered with ancient live oaks and palms.  It’s looks very primeval. At the southern end of the island wind-blown dunes dominate the landscape creating an other-worldly view.  You can click on this and it will get larger on your screen.The island was once owned by the Carnegie family and their grand mansion now stands in ruins.  It was once 30,000 sq ft and three stories.  It must have been an amazing place to visit. We learned that the estate had a staff of 300 at it’s peak.  Imagine the wealth needed to sustain such a lifestyle. The trees on the island are huge.  This Live Oak dwarfs Brenda sitting on a bench.There is much wildlife on the island including wild horses and turkeys.  We didn’t see horses on this visit, as we did last time, but we did see turkeys as well as hawks and plenty of other birds.  

Speaking of birds, for much of our run over the last two days we were followed by Arctic Terns who have been wintering in the south, like the rest of us other “snow birds”.  They followed close behind us and swooped in our wake to catch any fish or shrimp that we stirred up as we passed.Well, we made it through GA, Hell (Gate) and beyond.  I am really looking forward to the next few days when we explore old Savannah.

Well, I guess that’s about it for now.  It’s after 5:00 and opening time aboard Pandora so I’d better get on with it and publish this post.

Oh yeah, one last thing.  How about a shot of a beautiful sky from the other day?  The sun trying it’s best to burn through the haze.  Andn o post is complete without a sunrise, or sunset.  How about a sunrise? Well, I think that’s what it was.  Not sure… Well, it was pretty anyway. 

First day of spring. Headed to skinny…

It’s Friday morning and the first day of spring.  Marking the passage of winter is a big deal for those who live in northern areas where winters can be long and cold.  And, I think it’s safe to say that this winter has proven to be the sort that makes the “non-migrating” folks long for springtime and the hope that snow will melt soon so that they can “get on with it” and enjoy the outdoors again without risking pieces of their body freezing solid and falling off.

However, for folks that are fortunate enough to choose their climates based on the seasons, the dawn of spring brings a different sort of excitement.   Yes, I enjoy being aboard for the winters as cold has never been something that I look forward except if it’s an “adult beverage”.  However as the spring flowers begin to show themselves I get excited about spending the summer back in the CT River Valley and our “summer home”.

This year’s return north will be particularly nice as with it will come our new boat (assuming that the survey goes well), also Pandora but Pandora the Aerodyne 47.

So, as we continue our run north to New Bern where we will leave Pandora the SAGA 43 for the last time, I have to say that my thoughts are turning to our summer in CT.

Yesterday, the last day of winter, we spent ashore on Amelia Island FL and what a nice spot it is.  At first glance the two paper mills dominate the skyline and flood the area with a low rumble of machinery running 24/7.   However, don’t be fooled as the town is really lovely as this view from the mooring field testifies.  Once ashore you are greeted by a wonderful main street shopping area.  Very southern.Along with the many shops and restaurants are some lovely old buildings, like City Hall, testifying to the wealth that the two paper plants have brought to this area over the years. The post office, while a bit scruffy, is an impressive.  There are many beautiful homes lining the residential streets.  And a few that are perhaps best described as “eclectic”.  Fun though. And, of course, as though to remind us that spring is just around the corner back in CT and that wonder awaits, the wisteria are in full bloom. So, today we’ll head ashore again for a walk and perhaps a new pair of shoes for Brenda (what is it about women and shoes?) and then we’ll head out for a short run to Cumberland Island, about 5nm north on the waterway.

The next few days running north through GA will be a bit challenging as the currents are strong and tides run in excess of 9′.  And, to complicate matters, with all those currents and huge tide changes, shoaling is rampant and the depths at low tide…well, not so deep.  This means that we will have to time our passage to coincide with high tide in the middle of the day to give us the most depth possible as we traverse what is arguably the part of the ICW where running aground happens the most often.   The good news is that tomorrows high tide is late morning and one hour later each day so we will be able to make the most of the day before low tide brings progress to a halt in the late afternoon.

Perhaps I’ll close with a few shots from last evening and the last sunset, and a terrific one at that, of winter 2015.  Not a bad way to say good by to “old man winter” and welcome spring.
A lovely schooner set the tone in the final winter light. And, I won’t break the mood by talking about the no-see-ums that wanted to be sure and get one more meal in before spring sprung.   No, I won’t think about that for now, I’ll think about the fact that springtime is here.

And about those skinny waters?   We will not be deterred as northbound we are.  

Yes spring is here and I am really excited…

Northbound, outrunning spring!

It’s Thursday morning (I did have to look at the computer’s toolbar to be sure) and we are on a mooring here in Fernandina Beach FL, the most northern city in FL and our last stop before we head into GA. 

Since my last post we spent a few days in St Augustine, a favorite of ours as we continue our run north.  Unfortunately, it seems that our northern run is happening faster than the warming spring weather can keep up with us.  This means that as we head north, we are slowly putting on more and more clothing.

My friend Chris was completely unsympathetic about all of this yesterday when I called and told him, as we motored into a snotty 25kts of headwind on the ICW, that I was a bit chilly. Well, he was moderately sorry for me until he asked just how cold it was. His sympathy instantly evaporated when I said “the low 70s”.   No sympathy.  ”Well, it’s cloudy too”.  Nope, not buying it.  ”Bob, it’s in the 20s here in CT!”   Ok perhaps.  Cold or not, it’s better here.  Yup. Such is the life of the “snowbird”, northbound or not. 

In the interest of fair balance, it’s warmer today.  That’s good.

Anyway, one of the fun parts of the ICW is seeing all the sights along the way.    My father used to enjoy bridges and his honor, I do to.  This bridge in Daytona is quite nice.  How about the mosaic work on each piling?Nice detail work.  Your tax dollars at work and it would seem that they are working plenty hard.The light in St Augustine is particularly nice.And, right on the city dock is a “real live”, well sort of a real pirate ship.A group of Pelicans, or would that be a “murder” as in a flock of crows? Speaking of “murder”, I wonder what happened to this guy on the sand bar?“Honest, I only left the boat for an hour.  Where  did it go?  It’s got to be here somewhere.”We really enjoyed seeing this house on stilts.  I wonder what the plumbing is like.  No room for a septic tank that I can see. “Kids, get out from under the house NOW,  I have to flush!”Along the St John River we passed a ship yard with an impressive number of mega-yachts in for refit.  This one is 300′ long.  Huge.  And it certainly wasn’t the only one but I think it was the largest.   The “tender” along side was over 40′ long.  There were four “gynormus” cranes that pick up such things.  I can only imagine what one does to make that sort of money.
There were some commercial ships under construction.   This certainly looks like a “go anywhere” vessel.  Note the twin bow thrusters?  They are about 8′ in diameter.  Pretty tough looking vessel.  A tug, I think.So, we’ll spend a day or so here in Fernandina as we have heard that it’s a nice spot.  I guess you’ll have to stay tuned to find out.  

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  When we were in St Augustine I saw an ocean racing boat called Kiwi Promise.  Pretty neat.  I had read about this boat but didn’t make the connection until after leaving St Augustine yesterday.  The boat was built in Maine and launched two years ago.  The owner, Stanley Paris, a guy in his 70s, planned to try and break the record set in the 80s by Dodge Morgan, aboard American Promise,  as making the fastest circumnavigation, “up hill”, that is against the prevailing winds, non stop and unassisted.    After two tries where Paris suffered major gear damage along the way, he is, once again, back in St Augustine.  It’s unclear if he will make a third attempt.   As I’ll be 60 in June, that only gives me another decade till a round-the-world trip is out of the question, I guess.   “Yeah right Bob, you’d better talk to Brenda about that.”

I won’t think about that right now…

Anyway, Dodge Morgan’s boat was very different.  You can certainly see how ocean racing yacht design has evolved since the 80s.   American Promise, as pictured here, is now owned by the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. Back in 2011 Brenda and I took Pandora to a spot near Morgan’s home in Maine. It’s a beautiful place, to be sure.  I described our visit here

Ok, now I am really done.  Of to explore lovely downtown Fernandina.  Hopefully, it won’t be too cold.  Na, not at all, for now anyway.   Let’s hope that spring can keep up with us.

Cruising, Daytona style

It’s Monday morning and we are in Daytona but will soon weigh anchor to head up to St Augustine.  Interestingly, as we have moved north from the Keys we have noticed that the temperatures are cooling a bit each day with last night being the first where we needed a blanket, or sheet for that matter, in the last few months.  I sure hope that it doesn’t get too cold as we make our way to New Bern over the next few weeks.    I sure hope that the Carolinas are warm in mid-April.  Fingers crossed.

We had a nice walk in town yesterday.   The main drag is very pretty but it was sad to see that there are many empty store fronts in spite of everything that has been done to make it look inviting to visitors. Yesterday was the last day of what is known locally as “Bike Week” here in Daytona.  It seems that this event is the largest gathering of motorcycles anywhere in the US with hundreds of thousands attending.  And while we were here on the last day of the week-long event, there were still plenty of bikes around, thousands actually. Everywhere we went there was the constant din of barely muffled exhaust from an endless stream of cycles riding by.  While the biggest part of the event was on the ocean side of Daytona, we saw many bikes on the main land side, where we were.

I guess that Daytona is a great place to have a dealership and this Indian shop was really hopping.Plenty of “lady” riders.  How about this his-and-hers duo.  Guess which was “hers”?  And her clothes were about as subtle as her bike. This little number, probably not a “factory ready” bike, boasted 475 HP.This “bike cab” isn’t likely to get a medallion in NYC.  Perhaps a call to Uber would bring him to you.Loved the paint job and leather work on this bike.  Pretty impressive.  And, this “retro” bike was great.  Our son Rob’s dog Bo would look terrific riding in the side car, with goggles of course. And this one was a bit scary looking. If it was mine it would have to be black to complete the picture. Brenda’s post about our visit to Daytona was particularly good so check it out here.

Speaking of Brenda, she often writes about our exploits from a different perspective than I do and while I hate to admit it, her post about our harrowing experience the other day at Ft Pierce inlet pretty much captures the moment, er moments.  It’s pretty clear to me that this was a classic CLM (Career Limiting Move) for me.  I guess I had better tread lightly for a while.

Fortunately, as stressful as Ft Pierce was, last night’s dinner was anything but that. Looking pretty mellow and ready for a steak dinner with fresh potato salad.After dinner we enjoyed watching the city lights play on the flat calm water. Even our cockpit table sparkled.A great evening all and all.  

So, back to today and motoring up the ICW which I expect will also be pretty low anxiety.  Perhaps the memories of “Friday the 13th” will wear off as we enjoy the sights of St Augustine for the next few days.  

While we continue our cruise north on the ICW thousands of bikers will be cruising home too but I guess that they will be doing it “Daytona style”.

Well, it’s time to make the coffee so we can get underway on this beautiful day.

Yes, it is indeed a beautiful day aboard Pandora.

USCG to Pandora, the inlet is closed. What?

It’s Sunday morning and we are anchored here in Daytona after moving Pandora about 50nm each day for the last few days.   Tomorrow we will head off to St Augustine, a favorite spot of ours.

It’s been a while since I have posted but motoring up the ICW day after day is tedious and when we get underway at first light and motor all day, I find that there really isn’t much time to do posts.  You would think that we’d have plenty of time to write as we motor up the protected waters of the ICW but the channels are often so narrow that you have to keep constant watch to be sure that you don’t run aground.   The ICW is often described as “the ditch” and that’s exactly what it is in many areas, a narrow cut dredged out of vast areas of very shallow waters that are only a few feet deep.

When we left West Palm Beach a few days ago we headed out of the Lake Worth inlet to make the 50 mile ocean run up to Ft Pierce.  The wind was pretty nice but it was a bit lumpy to start.  However, we made great time and arrived at Ft Pierce inlet around 2:30 in the afternoon, just about at slack tide when the seas in the inlet would be the calmest.

You may recall that a barge sank in the Ft Pierce inlet a while back and there are ongoing salvage operations being conducted to remove the wreck.  It’s a huge deal given the tremendous currents in the inlet and the massive size of the barge that sank.  I was concerned about navigating through the inlet with the salvage operations underway and called the US Coast Guard for instructions prior to leaving Lake Worth.  I was told that the inlet was closed that morning but that it would open around midday for transit.

Armed with the knowledge that we’d be able to get through the inlet when we arrived, we headed out for the run to Ft Pierce.  Along the way Brenda suggested that we fish with the hope of catching a tuna.  No luck on that score but we did catch a nice King Mackerel which we threw back.  I wish I had taken a picture.  Oops.

So, fast forward to our arrival at Ft Pierce inlet…  I called the Coast Guard again to get entry instructions only to be told that the inlet was closed for any traffic with greater than 5’ of draft.  “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” Pandora draws 6’ and we were just supposed to hang out for hours waiting to transit.  They were vague about how long the closure would be in effect but that we should be able to make it in by dark.  BY DARK!!  It was only mid afternoon.  Anyway, we jogged back and forth a mile outside of the inlet, for HOURS and FINALLY were instructed to head in at 6:00.  What a pain.

Buy this time however, the wind had picked up to the high teens and the tide was in full ebb with about 3.5kts of current heading out of the inlet.  There were standing waves at the entrance that were compounded by the restriction caused by the sunken barge.   We were told to proceed between the bouys marking the wreck and the north jetty.  Sure, let’s do that.

We and two other boats entered the inlet and I have to tell you that it was the roughest ride I have ever taken aboard boat.  The waves and current bashed us all around and I wasn’t really able to control the boat.  Things were flying around down below and Brenda was not a happy camper.  Friends of ours aboard Five and Dime, long time cruisers, headed in in front of us.

As Five and Dime headed through the cut they promptly ran hard aground and were slewed wildly sideways in the current as they pounded along the bottom.  Fortunately, after a few terrifying moments, they were swept off by the current.   I couldn’t believe it.  I was so close to them that I had to do a 360 turn to avoid getting in their way as they powered into deeper water and I was afraid that I would run into the sunken barge as I turned around.  Fortunately, I was able to get back on track and continued through the inlet.

Well, we made it but I have to tell you that it was terrifying.   Exhausted, we anchored for the night in a spot near a draw bridge that we’d go through the next morning and settled down for the night.  In the wee hours the next morning, Friday the 13th, we were awakened by a strong rain squall coming through the anchorage.   I got up to check things out only to see that we were dragging our anchor, toward the bridge.  I started the engine and Brenda took the helm so I could raise and reset the anchor.   It all worked out but we came way too close to the bridge before we got control over the situation.  It was a very close call.

The problem was that I had not used quite enough scope although the anchor was well set.  When the squall hit the wind shifted 180 degrees and rose to about 30kts in a matter of moments.  This meant that the anchor was yanked out abruptly as we headed in the opposite direction and wasn’t able to reset quickly enough.   I am very careful about anchoring and making sure that it’s secure but as we were so tired after the inlet experience that I guess I didn’t do it as well as usual.

It’s been perhaps a decade since we last dragged our anchor in the middle of the night and I am very hopeful that it’s more than a decade until we do it again.

All and all, the Ft Pierce inlet experience… Not good.  I’d say that getting Brenda out of an inlet again, any time soon, is going to be tough.

So, here we are, in Daytona after a few long days motoring up the ICW.  It’s a beautiful day with a light breeze and puffy clouds overhead.

Our run in the ICW has been uneventful and we even were able to sail with our genoa for nearly a whole day and motor-sailing a good deal of the rest of the time.   It was terrific.  With a solid breeze behind us for the last few days we made good time and had a nice easy ride.

I have written about the problems with derelict boats in FL as there are boats everywhere that are just anchored and clearly are not seaworthy.   Perhaps this shot says it best.  “Will be moved in February”.  And they even suggest that you check out their video on YouTube.   Note that it’s now March and the boat is still there.  Yeah, and the check is in the mail.This boat has anchors out in every direction.  Plenty of crap on deck too.  Yup, derelict.  Unfortunately, many folks here in FL don’t distinguish between this and cruisers like us.  All this thinking about anchoring rights and derelict boats is getting me upset. Perhaps a soothing picture of a sunset, or is it a sunrise.  Yes, sunrise, is much more soothing.  There are many tiny islands along the way but not many smaller than this one.  Check out the tent.  Pretty private.So, today we’ll spend some time ashore here in Daytona.  More to come about that.

I’d better get going or I’ll have to write about not going ashore because I took too much time writing this post.

Where to stop? So many choices.

So many choices.  We have about a month to go until we have to leave Pandora with the broker in New Bern NC where we will unpack all of our stuff and get her cleaned up and ready to sell.  We did have an offer on her a few weeks ago but it was a bit low.  However, after we countered the “buyer” bolted and decided to buy another boat.  Alas, better luck next time.  

Anyway, now we are down to the last month aboard our “winter home” Pandora and we are thinking hard about where we will stop.  We have been reminiscing about all of the great spots we have visited in the past along the 800 or so miles left on our trip.  Where to go?   Hmm…

However, with a month to go we are certainly feeling a bit pressed for time. Things sure have changed now when a few months seems like a short time to us. 

The other night I was talking to my friend Craig, who’s still working and he was quite amused by our take on how short a time a month is.  From his perspective a month is a huge amount of time and with “so much” time left we shouldn’t have to think much about where to stop.  ”Just stop.  Don’t worry, you have plenty of time.”

Anyway, so last night we got out the cruising guide and made a tentative list of places we want to visit on our way north.  Our first stop, where we are now, is West Palm Beach, the home of the best public docks we have seen yet.  The downtown area is beautiful and there are loads of places to eat out.  We ran into friends of ours Jim and Joan aboard Jade, who we have seen off and on over our years of cruising.  We had a great time out for dinner at a neat Mexican place, Roco’s Tacos.   Don’t we look happy?  A bit too much perhaps. Yup.We’ll have spent two days here and now will head north along the waterway.  Stops we are thinking about are Vero Beach and Fernandina in FL and then we’ll do our best to jump past Georgia with it’s super shallow waters.  After that we hope to spend time in Beaufort SC, that’s “BEEWFORT”, unlike the Beaufort “BOFORT” NC.  Then on to Charleston, Georgetown, Myrtle Beach and a few others as time permits. 

With about 50 miles making for a long day on the ICW, we should have time for a few days in many of our favorite spots along the way.  We expect that we will have to be moving for a total of about 15 days to make it the entire way.  We are really looking forward to revisiting some of the places that we enjoyed on our first run south several years ago.

We had a few long days from Marathon to here and I can’t say that we will be too quick to visit the Keys again.  There are precious few good harbors along the chain and the experience of waiting nearly two weeks to get a mooring in Marathon left us pretty cool on the area.  However, we did get a bit of excellent sailing in along the way and plenty of experience in running aground  to round things out.   The good news is that as stuck as we were several times, we always seemed to find a way to extricate ourselves without the humiliation of a tow.  I guess that’s because we opted for the “unlimited” towing package from Boat US.  It’s sort of like carrying an umbrella when it’s threatening rain.  Works so far.

For a few days we waited in a lovely spot Angel Fish Creek, near Key Largo for favorable winds to make the run up to Ft Lauderdale.  The view was terrific although there was no place to go ashore anywhere nearby.

The late afternoon light on the mangroves was beautiful. Even though we had perfect protection from the ocean swells, that didn’t get in the way of our view.   Quite dramatic as squalls rolled though the area. And, after one of the more “exciting” squalls, we were rewarded by a beautiful rainbow.  The photo doesn’t do it justice.So, tomorrow we head north again.  I will have to find out if the Ft Pierce inlet is open or if it’s closed again before we decide to make the run on the outside instead of on the ICW.  A month ago a 100′ barge sunk in the inlet making passage quite challenging.  Last we heard it was open for limited traffic. However, I heard today that perhaps it’s closed now for salvage so I will have to call the coastguard before we head out to make an ocean run in the morning.

We hate to leave West Palm Beach but there’s lots of fun places to come.  It’s so great to have so many choices.

Moving north. On our way…

It’s Saturday morning and today we sit.  After two days of moving north through the Keys, we are now anchored in a cut, colorfully called Angelfish Creek, at the northern tip of Key Largo.  It’s a beautiful spot with mangroves all around and excellent protection from the wind.

Yesterday we decided to come in here in spite of our fear that we might run aground as we entered from the ocean side.  To say that the entrance is tricky, doesn’t do it justice as the currents run very hard though this spot and as the current leaves the narrow confines of the swamp, where the depths are in the 15-20’ range, any sand carried by the swift current is deposited at the mouth as a sand bar so the water gets pretty skinny as things widen out.

The cruising guide suggested that there would be just about enough water to get into the channel if we entered the creek about one hour into the flood but not before.  If we were to do that, we were told to expect about 7 feet of water, a foot to spare given Pandora’s nearly 6’ drat.  However, as we were afraid of it getting dark before we got settled, we were forced to enter at slack low water.

To make matters worse, the channel was lined with markers driven into the sand that were barely further apart than about 50’.  This meant that were we to get stuck on a sandbar, that we would have precious little space to maneuver back into deeper water, if we could figure out where that was.  In the late afternoon light seeing the depth of the water is nearly impossible.

We also discussed bypassing this spot entirely and continuing north to a spot just south of Miami, where we would arrive between 9 and 10 PM.   That didn’t sound very appealing as it had been a long day and we hate making landfall in the dark.  So, we opted to head into Angelfish Creek, sand bar and all.

So, we entered the creek at dead slow and crept our way inside.  Unfortunately, the tide chart I was using didn’t appear to be correct as it was actually dead low instead of two hours into the flood that was predicted.  I suppose that we shouldn’t have been surprised as tides can vary a lot depending on wind direction.  Alas, all went well and while we ran aground while anchoring (again) we were all settled by the time the sun went down.It was very nice to have a view of the mangroves and yet being far enough away so that the no-see-ums weren’t able to find us.  

Speaking of no-see-ums, we left Marathon two days ago, and decided to head up on the inside to avoid the unfavorable winds on the ocean side.  We also wanted to see some of the sights on the Gulf side of the keys, which we had heard were very pretty.  It’s really shallow on the Gulf side and for the first day we only ran aground a few times.  Pretty shallow all the way.   At one point, we actually were leaving a mud trail behind us that stretched to the horizon as the bottom was soft mud and the keel disturbed it as we passed through water that was only about a foot or two beneath our keel. 

Aside from one bad grounding and a few bumps, we did fine and anchored for the night in a lovely spot on the western side of Islamarada.  After a long day we decided to head out for dinner and jumped into our dink for the mile run down to the Islamarada Fish Company, which we had heard was pretty good.

Indeed, the spot looked terrific from the water with many tables under a huge thatched hut.  In the early evening light it looked enchanting.Brenda and I ordered margaritas which tasted great after a long day on the water.   We were amused to learn that the restaurant was owned and operated by a retail operation Bass Pro Shop, which had a huge store on the property.  I guess it makes sense to have a seafood joint and a tackle shop together.   Makes sense?   We decided to reserve judgment on that point for the moment.   The margaritas were good, right?

As the sun went down everyone had to make a stop on the dock to snap a photo or two.  The view was perfect.   Bass Pro Shop knows how to make a lovely spot.   We both ordered ahi tuna rare, one of our favorite dishes.  Well, there is rare and there is “raw”.  And, the center wasn’t the only thing that was pink.  Oddly, they drizzled something pink and creamy on the top which looked more like a mostly melted strawberry slurpee.   It seems that Bass Pro Shop is better at making the moment than they are at cooking fish.  Oops.  Well, the evening was wonderful even if it was the most mediocre $100 dinner we had ever had.

They even had live music being performed in the glow of a dozen tiki lights.    So, a great spot if not great food.   Next time, a hamburger and fries.So, the next morning we upped the anchor and headed up toward the part of the trip that would be the most challenging with miles of shallow channels to get over.  We timed it to make the best of the 6” to 1’ of tide and off we went.  Well, we made it less than 100’ into the channel and bumped along the bottom.  Oops, better bag that idea.  Never mind.

So we turned around the headed back the 10 miles in the direction we had come the day before where there was a bridge we could go under to make it back to the Atlantic side of the Keys.   So, ten miles in the wrong direction and then back toward our destination.    Note to self:  When the chart says shallow, they mean it.  Don’t even try.

Anyway, our run here took about 10 hours and was over 60 miles, twenty of backtracking.  Alas, we got here and here we will stay for today while we wait for a favorable wind on Sunday.

So, our plan is to head offshore from here the 45 miles to Ft Lauderdale on Sunday and then to do short offshore runs from there to Ft Worth and on to Ft Pierce.   After that we expect to run inside up to northern FL with some stops in St Augustine and a few other cities that we really enjoy.

Our goal is to have Pandora in New Bern NC by mid April where she will be in the hands of the broker.

So, all is well aboard Pandora as we sit for a day waiting for favorable winds to carry us north.  It’s a beautiful spot and to be writing a post in the cockpit with this view from our stern is pretty nice.