Monthly Archives: November 2012

Tour of The Hotel Ponce De Leon in St Augustine. What a place.

If you ever get to St Augustine you owe it to yourself to take a tour of the of Hotel Ponce De Leon, named after the Spanish explorer who put St Augustine on the map, making it the oldest city in America.   The National Park Service has a nice write-up on the hotel that’s worth reading.

The hotel was built in 1887 and completed in just two years, is a really remarkable building and set the stage for the high end tourist industry in Florida with luxury hotel furniture. Flagler, then one of the wealthiest men in the world, was the guy behind the project and “spared no expense” when that really meant something.  This place is totally over the top.

The hotel was massively successful when it opened and lead to Flagler building other properties in Florida, including another across the street.  Ultimately the hotel fell on hard times and was turned into the Flagler college in the 70s.  They receive funding as a national monument and clearly from other sources as tuition isn’t very high for a private college and the facility maintenance alone must be a massive expense.  While the hotel is a key part of the college, they make portions of it available for tours.

Brenda and I enjoyed a visit yesterday and while it’s safe to say that “you had to be there” when it comes to appreciating the grandeur of it all, perhaps some of these detail shots will give you an idea of what it is all about.

This shot, which I used before in a prior post, is a small portion of the front of the building.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take a shot of the main entrance.   What an amazing structure.  It’s hard to believe that something this grand could have been built in only two years. The exterior details are just exquisite like this piece above a window. These “spouts” are actually for decoration only and serve no practical function.  They are just great.  You know what they say…”it’s better to look good than to feel good”  In this case, it’s better to look good than to be functional.  I’d have to agree.Lovely tile work around the main entrance. Intricate detail everywhere.  I wouldn’t expect that this would have survived the northern winters, or the pollution of a city like New York.

Once you enter the lobby the detail is even more remarkable.   Louis Comfort Tiffany handled all of the interior decorations and windows.   “Nice job Louis.  I just love your handiwork…”  There is a big dome over the grand entrance lobby and you can’t believe that all of this detail is in a single room. Nearly all of the wood is oak and is wonderfully carved.  It seems that Flagler employed shifts around the clock to make his two year timeline.   Bigger than life size, there are intricate motifs everywhere, and all with their own meaning. It’s hard to believe that this sort of craftsmanship ever existed, much less all in one place.   And, it’s still in great shape thanks to a big restoration project a few years ago.
The higher up you look, and it’s a long way up, the detail just continues.
We were shown other rooms, including the main dining room, still used for that purpose by the students of the college.  This building has more Tiffany glass in it than in any other building, anywhere.  I believe it. The windows in the dining room are just fabulous.  And, there are just so many in every pattern imaginable.  I expect, in the presence of such a grand room that food fights are not common among the students.  What do you think?  “now be good, ladies and gentleman, and keep your elbows off of the table.  And, I mean now…” The ladies lounge was just exquisite with so many fine details.  It looked, to me, like a (really big) piece of fine china instead of a room. What a fireplace and the clock, like all of the rest of the, then rare, electrical system, was crafted by Thomas Edison himself.    “Hey Tom, I am going to build this really nice hotel in St. Augustine and was wondering if you’d be available to put a few of those new fangled electric light thingies  into it?  The timetable?  Now is a good time.”  The chandeliers, nine in this room alone,  were also from Tiffany and in perfect shape.   Someone spent big dollars restoring this room, for sure.
Sure, the lighting in my shots aren’t museum quality but this place surely is.  You should visit.  This town, St Augustine, may be the best stop yet for the crew of Pandora.  Saturday we leave to continue south.

Oh yea, did I say that the sun is out today and it’s going to be in the mid 70s.  Not perfect but…  Me, I’ll take it.

A really nice (warm) day and a photo “shoot” in St Augustine

It’s hard to believe that we are nearly at the end of November and yet we had lunch at a sidewalk cafe just yesterday.  Yesterday was a really nice day.

In the interest of fair balance, I should note that today is not sunny at all and it’s windy and much cooler, if you think of 61 degrees as cool.  After just a short time heading south, my cold tolerance has become much less, that’s for certain.   Actually, my love of winter (NOT!!!) has diminished greatly over the last few years but this trip has certainly been a big contributor to my quest to have my own “personal quest to find warmth in my globe”.   Does that mean that I should become a member of AARP too?   Hmm…

Speaking of sidewalk cafe dining on a sunny afternoon.   Does this look like a nice lunch spot?  It was a really fun Cuban spot.

As we walked around town we enjoyed watching a photo shoot in a fountain in front of the Lightner Museum, which is housed in one of the old grand hotels.  It was fun to see the model vamp for the camera.   The person on the left was prompting her to do particular poses and the two photographers were catching the action.   There she was wading in the water with plenty of tourists watching her every move.  I expect that sort of behavior takes plenty of self confidence. After the first model was done and plenty wet, this one waded in for her “swim time”.   Ok, enough of that.  We moved on. We visited a really interesting museum housed in one of the two old Flagler Hotels in St Augustine.   The Lightner Museum who’s collection was billed as a showing of “a collector of collections”.   They have a very nice website and some neat panoramas.   Lightner’s collection is really an inside view of what Victorian collectors surrounded themselves with and included every sort of “collectible” you could imagine from fine china to cigar wrappers.   Collecting is certainly a very human trait and one that built to a fever pitch during the Guilded Age.  If you like “suff” this is your museum.   Me, all I could think about was dusting all of that stuff.  The exterior of the museum is about as ornate as what is inside.   The architects that designed this for Flagler went on to design the New York Public Library. I was particularly struck by the inner courtyard complete with a koi pond and some very well fed koi. Imagine strolling around the courtyard after your morning swim in what was, at the time, the largest indoor pool anywhere. The museum is perhaps as much about Victorian excess as ingenuity.   This “music box”, and they have several amazing examples that push the limit of this craft, plays both a violin and piano and is a good example of how elaborate they can be.   Think about how many musicians these little babies put out of work.  I wonder if there were pickets outside of the companies that were manufacturing these?  Didn’t they have any heart for starving musicians?  Perhaps they were retrained as waiters, a tradition that seems to have stood the test of time.

One of the Flagler hotels is now the home of Flagler College.    Talk about ornate.  I hope that they have a good endowment.  It’s a good thing that they don’t have to cope with freezing winters and the pollution of a big city which would certainly raise havoc with the fine detail.
I wonder if the granting of tenure brings with it an office in this tower?  Me?  Yes, I would live there.
Ok, I think that my last few posts have included photos of these particular buildings.  Enough already!!!  Well, why not more photos of the town green.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…  I wish that I had said that. Finally, after viewing the photo shoot in the fountain I decided that I needed my own “shoot”.   I just (especially) love Brenda in hats. I think that I will have to leave it at that for now.

Enjoying St Augustine and getting around town.

It’s Tuesday morning and the sun is just beginning to peak up above the horizon with a soft light here in St Augustine.  Today, for the first time in quite a while, the morning air smells somehow buoyant and tropical.  Perhaps it’s just low tide but I think that there is something more, not the least of which is that it’s only 59 degrees and not in the 40s, and sometimes 30s, as has been the case over the last few weeks.    The only sound is our generator rumbling away on deck and that’s certainly enough to disturb the silence.  However, a cold shower for Brenda later would be more disturbing, that’s for sure.  There always needs to be hot water for showers.

Speaking of energy production, I have noticed that while our solar panels provide for plenty charging in the summer, the days are just too short and sun too low in the sky to fully recharge the batteries on their own.   The electricity used by our diesel heater also adds to the electrical drain more than usual.  Yes, it’s gotten quite a workout over the last month or so.

St Augustine, the oldest city in America, is a magical place and the Christmas lights, and let me tell you that they are amazing, are among the best in the world. That distinction comes from none other than the National Geographic Magazine.   Brenda’s blog post a few days ago talked about that in particular.

Yesterday we decided to go for a walk to explore the city.  The down town area is  certainly touristy but it’s done in a nice way.  There are narrow streets that are lined with shops and restaurants.  We enjoyed looking around for hours.  Henry Flagler, a founder of Standard Oil, arguably the guy that had more to do with the popularization of Florida as a destination than anyone, had a big impact here, building some of the grandest buildings in the city.  Many are well preserved under the guidance of his namesake, Flagler College.  His buildings are quite distinctive and give the downtown area much of it’s character.  This building is open to tours even though it’s part of the college.  I expect that we will visit here today. While not lit, you can get a feel for the holiday lights from this gazebo down in the town green near the waterfront.  I am getting used to the look of decorations and palms.  We also visited the fort, the oldest in America and the only one that was never breached.  It was built by Spain in the 1500s. It’s pretty impressive.  Inside the courtyard you can get a feel for how those manning the fort lived.  Not well, I would guess.  Imagine this place in the heat of summer. “Listen mate, it’s so %$#&*%$ hot here in the courtyard, I am going to go up on the battlement to catch some air.  Gee, I hope I see a pirate!  That would be just so cool(ing).”However, hot or not, the view is pretty dramatic.  I doubt that the bad guys, whomever they might have been at any given moment in time, would have had a tough time getting past this fort. When the locals weren’t building forts, they spent plenty of time building churches, and there are some really nice ones here.  Not a lot of wood construction, mostly whitewashed masonry.
Just in case you might be lulled into believing that everything about Christmas in St Augustine is in good taste, I’ll burst your bubble by inserting this lovely shot of Santa’s favorite compliments of the local miniature golf course.  He seems to be looking at something and pondering something.  As Satchel Paige once said, “sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits”.  This course is billed as the oldest in Florida.  I wonder how they stack up against the other courses outside of Florida?  Hmm… We spied this little guy on the dock as we were headed back to PandoraWe were also treated to a lovely view of the Bridge of Lions, one of the nicest bridges we have seen on our trip.   Built in the 1920s and recently restored, it was purported to cost some 10x more than most bridges of it’s type when it was built.  Roads and Bridges magazine voted it one of the nation’s top ten bridges in 2010.  Yes, indeed, there is a magazine for everything.  If you are curious about who else won the competition, you can see the list here.  I’ll bet that my dad will click on this link as he loves bridges.   Never the less, what terrific evening light. We capped off the day with a nice phone call to my parents while all on the call enjoyed a glass of wine.  After the call Brenda and I had a terrific dinner of beef fillets wrapped in bacon with grilled onions and peppers, nicely done on the grill.   All and all, a very nice day. So, on with my day…

Now we are really in Florida. Enjoying St Augustine

It’s Monday morning and I awoke to a really nice sunrise.  We arrived in St Augustine on Sunday afternoon, yesterday, and were immediately struck by just how beautiful this city is.  I have never really heard much about St Augustine but visiting here was highly recommended by a number of folks.

Wow, we are sure glad to be here.  We have a friend, a past SAGA 43 owner, Peter who moved here a few years ago after visiting here on a trip south with his wife.  After many years of cruising out of Maine, where they have had a home for many years, they decided that spending the winters in a warmer place was a good idea, so here they are and about to enjoy their 4th winter.

Peter took us under his wing within hours of our arrival and showed us the sights.  We drove around town and out to a great beach bar to have a beer as the sun set over the harbor.

After a few hours with Peter I see that there is so much to do here that my head is swimming with possibilities.  Perhaps we will have to extend our stay to more than a few days.  One of the best parts of this city is that there is so much to see within a short distance of the waterfront.   However, to make it easy, Peter gave us a few dining ideas.  The brew pub he recommended, where we ate last night was great.  I highly recommend the stout.  Excellent.

Yesterday we continued our way down on the ICW and again enjoyed the sights.

In the morning, as we crossed the St John’s River we spied this shipyard working on several mega-yachts.  I have seen this one Azteca, in one of the magazines that I get at home.  Check out the link and see just how amazing this boat, er ship, is. This must be a yard with flexible capabilities as they also had a Aegis Cruiser in a dry dock right near Azteca.  I’ll bet that the interior is a bit different between the two ships.  You don’t want to tangle with one of these, that’s for sure.  Even though Azteca is a BIG boat, she is dwarfed by this cruiser. As we head south, so far from home, it’s amazing how different things are and yet the same.  Here we were, motoring along over 1,000 miles from home and what do we see but Aphrodite, the historic barrel-backed commuter yacht from Watch Hill RI, near our home waters.   We also saw her in Annapolis in early October.   Heading south?  There seems to be a pattern here for many boats.  As we continue south we do tend to bump into boats that we have seen before.  If we see her again, perhaps I will have to visit to borrow a cup of Chivas Regal or Grey Poupon.   Perhaps not.  Plenty of Christmas spirit along the way.  Do these decorations look out of place to you too?  Nice pad though if a bit over the top. As we passed Jacksonville we spied the Mayo Clinic, a group, the Rochester MN group anyway, that I worked with during much of my career.   This location looks a lot different than the one that I often visited in the cold MN winters. With all the marshland we have been seeing I have been wondering when we would see an air boat zipping along.   Pretty neat, and VERY LOUD.Off they want across the marsh.  I need one of these!However, the marsh does often give way to development.  And develop they do.  Homes on top of homes all along the coast as we got closer to St Augustine. But, still plenty of lovely woodlands to enjoy in between developments as they can’t build on marsh at least not any more. And, the ever present pelicans.  Brenda likes to call them pelidactyl.  I agree, they do look primeval. I just can’t get enough of these guys.  But, they look a lot more contemporary when viewed against the backdrop of an arching bridge.  Get it, arching bird, arching bridge?This trip is just so full of wonder for me.  I can’t imagine how it’s going to be when we finally get to the Bahamas, the land of 80 degree water with 100′ visibility.  Tiki bars, you know the ones with little umbrellas in the drinks?  I am soo ready!!!

For now, St Augustine beckons and I am there, totally…   Tiki?  That will have to wait for now.

A great Thanksgiving and a visit to Cumberland Island for shark teeth.

It’s Saturday morning and the sun is out.  We were thinking about making a run to St Augustine offshore today but decided to take the easy way by going inside.   The winds are from the right direction, NW at 20 but the distance is pretty far for a one day run and it’s getting late.   Besides, the wind in the anchorage is gusting to 22kts and it’s only 8:30 so I expect that it will be stronger than forecast.

In any event, we have plenty of time so inside it is.    Today we will leave mid morning and run about half of the way to St. Augustine and continue for the rest of the way on Sunday.

Thanksgiving was great fun with about 100 in attendance.  In past years the crowd has been up to three times that size but some think that the nasty weather over the last few weeks has kept some from making it there or that they just decided to bypass the festivities and head south where it is warmer.  It has been plenty cold, that’s for sure.

So, yesterday we made the one hour run down to Cumberland Island, one of the many barrier islands that run down the coast and make the ICW possible.  These islands form a barrier from the ocean and the ICW runs behind them all the way from Norfolk VA to Key West.   One of these islands, Cumberland, is now a state park and there are trails and great beaches to explore.  There is even a dock that you can tie up the dink to so getting ashore is very easy.  As you head in past the visitor center, a small building manned by a park ranger, you instantly see how rugged this island would be without paths.   The ground is completely covered in Sago Palm and above that is a dense forest of Live Oak.  It’s very primeval looking.  I’d hate to have to bushwhack through this place in the dark. Once you are off of the wide trails, not so inviting. We followed the wide path out to the beach.  They have a number of nice boardwalks to take you over the dunes.  The dunes are very pretty, sculpted by the wind. After a walk on the beach we headed inland and walked across a landscape that looked a lot less inviting.  Pretty gnarly looking, actually. The surface of the weathered wood was very interesting.  There are loads of critter footprints   I expect that this was some sort of small bird.   The trails were everywhere. There are ruins of a large mansion built here in the late 1800s by the Carnegie family.    You can certainly see how it must have been a magnificent home and made possible by great wealth and no income tax.  Some very nice details like these flower urns.   You can imagine how grand this place must have been. And, some old cars.  The only way to get to this spot is by water so they must have been brought in by ferry.   Not much left of these. Plenty of other outbuildings on the estate.  Some were probably very fancy.  I liked this one. Some really interesting outbuildings including this tower.   Pretty ornate and fragile looking.

So fragile, in fact, that while we sat nearby and enjoyed a snack, we heard some cracking and creaking and the whole thing came down in a cloud of dust.   Amazing timing.  “Honest, Ranger Rick, we didn’t touch it.  Really!!”Some of the local turkey population.   I guess that these guys knew that it was the day after Thanksgiving and that they were once again safe. When the property was abandoned fore-bearers of  these horses were left behind.  They were completely unconcerned by our presence. We also took some time to dig in some of the dredging spoil sand piles for fossil shark teeth.   We found two small ones.  Not much to write home about but it was fun.  I was lucky to stumble on a framed sifter.  Had there been more time I expect that I would have found more. Tiny but pretty neat.    I guess that these were’t the large sort of prehistoric sharks you imagine making a meal out of something the size of Pandora.  Plenty sharp though. We also picked up some great shells on the beach.  Don’t know what we will do with them but you can bet that by the time Pandora returns from the Bahamas she will be groaning under the weight of all the shells aboard. To end the day we had a really nice sunset followed with dinner with some friends aboard Pandora.  It looks fake doesn’t it.   No, I just used a standard lens with no filter.  That’s really the way it looked, trust me.

So, time to get going and catch the fair tide as we continue south.

Getting ready for Thanksgiving in St. Michaels.

It’s Wednesday here in St. Mary’s and Brenda is cooking away in preparation for the Thanksgiving celebration on Thursday.  Cruisers continue to arrive and there are now more than 40 visiting boats in the harbor.  As you recall, the locals supply turkey for all comers and those partaking are asked to contribute a dish.  Pandora, (Brenda) is bringing one of her signature stuffing dishes.  Umm…

This morning we visited a used book store in town that was having a special sale and reception for boaters.  As you can imagine, reading is a very popular pastime for folks that spend time afloat so there were plenty of folks shopping.   The owner, a very personable young woman, was so enthusiastic and even baked a variety of muffins and cookies.  There was even some of her home-made candy.   Well, we felt obligated to buy something, and eat her fine baked goods.  And buy and eat we did.  I think that we purchased ten books.  Of course, they were a bargain, but ten?   Who knows where we will store them all.  Well, we will just have to read them soon and pass them along to others.

Speaking of provisioning, we also made a visit yesterday to a local laundromat and Super Walmart where it seemed like we bought one of everything in the store.  Actually, the store was so MASSIVE that even if we purchased one in a thousand items, Pandora would founder under the weight.  We brought back plenty and the dink was groaning under the weight of our stash upon our return.  Somehow we found a way to stow everything.  When it comes to shopping, boaters know that it may be a week or more until the next market, so they tend to purchase as much as they can carry.  Pandora’s crew?  Yea, we get that.

Today we went for a walk around town and enjoyed the sights.  It’s obvious that the town fathers (mothers?) take pride in how things look.  There’s even a large banner on one of the bulkheads near the town dock proclaiming in large type “WELCOME TO ST. MARY’S BOATERS”.  That’s so unlike many of the places in New England where it seems that they locals would prefer if boats just stayed away.

As you come off of the town dock this is the view.  Very scenic.  We have been here for three days and it seems that there are men working all day, every day, in keeping the park looking just so.   That triangular building in the distance is a band shell.  The view of the harbor from the stage is really impressive.   I would imagine that an evening concert would be great fun.  However, you’d have to bring plenty of bug repellent as the no-seeums here are really out in force each evening.  The view in every direction is really nice.  There are Christmas wreaths tacked on some of the palms along with lights, something that I can’t quite get used to.

There is a really lovely fountain, complete with a sign discouraging wading.  The water in the fountain is sparkling clean so wading was an appealing idea.Speaking of signs, the locals, it seems, want to keep the town clean in more ways than one.  There is even a sign stating that profanity is not allowed.  For us New Yorkers  both me and Brenda, that requires continual diligence and self control.  So far, we haven’t been caught in the act by the local “ya’ll be decent now?” patrol.  Fingers crossed.

If we find ourselves descending into bad behavior there are plenty of churches that would be more than happy to redeem us.   This one, I believe the oldest in St. Mary’s is ready to serve. However, if a “profanity free life” life gets too hard to manage.  Cindy, the ever colorful bartender, at the Seagles Pub in the Riverview Hotel, the nightly gathering spot for visiting cruisers, stands ready with a supportive and profanity rich environment.   Ok, it seems that I have beaten that topic to death for the moment so I will move on.

Before I wrap this up, I must include a shot of our newest friend, we’ll call him Picky the Pelican.   Our buddy Picky hung around Pandora for quite a while this morning hoping for a handout.  I handed out plenty but nothing that he/she was willing to eat.  I tried bread, several types, as well as an assortment of cheeses.  Alas, noting suited Picky who would scarf up my offerings, swirl them around in his pouch with all the concentration of a sommelier, only to spit them out after careful consideration.  Perhaps if I had some fine 2012 Georgian sardines.   After a while he left surely muttering in disgust.    Pretty cute though, our particularly picky friend, PickyHave a happy Thanksgiving.

St. Mary’s Georgia and yet another milestone.

Oh Bob, quit it with the milestone stuff.  Not another one… Sorry, but it’s my blog and if I want to talk about YET another milestone, I can.  So, “what is this one about Bob?”.

Thanks for asking, I thought that you would eventually. St. Mary’s, our last stop before we get to Florida, is a big one for us as it means that we have made it all the way through Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, the dreaded Georgia, with it’s dreaded shallow spots and put nearly 1,300 miles under our keel.  And, that’s a lot of miles when you are only going around 7kts.  Now we only have ONE more state, Florida, to traverse until we head out to the Bahamas.

Speaking of Georgia, we had heard all of this bad stuff about the water being so thin here and that getting through with our 6′ draft was going to be very tough.  Oddly, it wasn’t.  We actually didn’t run aground even once.  And, that seemed odd to me as we ran aground five times in North Carolina, where there’s supposed to be lots of water.  I expect that we did better in GA because we are getting more used to all that goes with the ICW and how to make it through.  The fact that there is a 9′ tide also helps.  Note to self, “don’t go ANYWHERE unless the tide is high enough”.  Having enough water is a lot easier here as there is a big tide with an extra 4-9′ of water for hours each day as opposed to up in NC where the tidal range is only a few feet.  Anyway, we are now here in St Mary’s.

Oh, did I mention that the sun is out FINALLY?  It’s been DREARY, DREARY and very WINDY for days, no, make that weeks, which has been tough.  Cold too.  These pictures, taken over the last few days show just how g-r-e-y it’s been.  Not my favorite mood lighting.   Seeing this view out of the cockpit late in the afternoon a few days ago was particularly unsettling.  Note the green buoy, which was supposed to mark the edge of the channel.  It’s up on the sand, high an dry.  Doesn’t give you a lot of confidence, does it?We went past this mark after traversing what was the most distressing piece of water that we have yet encountered on this trip.  It involved heading down a river, late in the day when the light wasn’t good.  (Did I mention that the sun wasn’t out at all and it was cold and windy?  Thought so.)  Anyway, we couldn’t see very well and had to head down the channel, all the way out of the inlet, past several buoys that were really way too small to see easily, crossed a piece of water that was less than ten feet deep (remember that we draw 6′) and made a nearly 180 degree turn to head back up the river.  Oh yea, I should mention that,  as we headed out into this shallow water mess, we were doing 9 1/2 knots over the bottom because of the tremendous ebb tide that was pulling us out to sea.

And all the while, we were within a few hundred yards of breaking seas from the ocean where there were gale warnings posted with gusts to 30kts.  Those breakers might as well have been a few feet as it looked WAY TOO CLOSE.  All that foaming water, shallow depths, fast currents, small buoys…  Unsettling to say the least.   These tiny buoys were also really hard to spot on the grey water in the grey late afternoon light.

Once we were past the last buoy marking the most shallow area,  and turned back to “re-enter” the inlet, that 2 1/2 knot tide that had swept us so quickly toward what seemed like “certain doom”  at nearly ten knots was now against us and we were now just poking along at just over five knots.   And, all this was happening at nearly dead low tide, so the water where we made the turn was so shallow that, had we misjudged a buoy, we would have surely hit the bottom.  And, hitting bottom is not a good thing in case you are wondering.

I was not a happy camper at all. Actually, I think that Brenda was doing better than I was.  With both of us reading the plotter and checking the buoy locations against the paper charts we had spread out in the cockpit, we did finally feel like we understood what we were seeing out in front of us.   I wish that I could show all of this on a picture of a chart that would make the point but it’s a good example of “you had to be there” to appreciate how unsettling it was.  For me, it was perhaps the most unsettling piece of water that I have ever been over.  Well, we made it…  And, as they say, with “no loss of life”.

Yesterday, Monday our trip to St Mary’s was a lot less exciting as we only had a short distance to go and the channels were well marked and plenty deep.  St Mary’s is a big Navy town with their buildings and ships dominating the landscape.   We got plenty close to this sub as the channel put us very near to where it was docked.   However, they don’t want you to be too close so there are plenty of patrol boats to keep an eye on you as you motor by. I liked this Navy tug.   Notice how everything is color coded?  Sky, ship, water…All GREY.    Did I say that the sun never seemed to come out for weeks?  A bit of color here and there though.   This Coast Guard patrol boat came blasting by.   I wonder if they were chasing a bad guy?  Perhaps just going out for donuts and coffee.  Hmm…Perhaps to keep the subs from “prying eyes” there are three of these massive buildings on the base.   They are really big and certainly the biggest buildings in the area.  They dominate the skyline. The tradition of cruisers visiting St Mary’s for Thanksgiving began in the 80s and the event now draws about 75 boats and several hundred folks for the big day.  The locals provide turkey for everyone and the cruisers bring side dishes.   And, it’s free except for the bar.  The festivities begin days earlier with a happy hour each night at the host hotel in town.  It’s actually a very quaint old time hotel that looks like it hasn’t changed in 40 years.   No doorman or brass revolving doors here.

Last night we enjoyed catching up with friends and making new ones over a few beers.  I was surprised when I realized that we had already met perhaps half of the 4o or so who were there.   We had a great time.

Today, laundry and some shopping for provisions.  One of our friends has offered us the use of their car.  How great is that?

And, before I sign off.   About that dreary weather.   Not today.   The sun is glistening on the water.Lovely St. Mary’s beckons in the sunshine. So, that milestone thing?  It keeps me going and makes the trip even more terrific, grey cold, warm sunshine and all.  And there will be plenty more milestones to come.  You can count on it!

A great time in Savannah. And, about those really high tides…

It’s Sunday afternoon, the sun is out, it’s a lovely day and we are at anchor just north of Jekyl Island GA.   You might want to ask “So, Bob, why are you anchored near a bridge in the middle of the day when y0u should be underway and heading south?”  Thanks for asking.

We are anchored because we reached the bridge at high tide and with the strong NE winds over the last few days the tide is VERY, VERY HIGH.  The posted clearance at high tide is supposed to be 65’ but with the winds the board is showing only 62 ½’ of clearance.  As I require at least 64 ½’ to make it under the bridge that would suggest a bad outcome if I don’t wait a bit.  Can you say “shear off the gear on the top of the mast or worse?”  High tide was supposed to be at 12:30 but by the time the current slacked, signaling that the tide had stopped rising, it was actually 1pm.   That means that I will have to wait perhaps as much as two more hours until the tide drops enough for me to make it under the bridge with good clearance.  Oh well.

The problem is that with the days so short combined with some problem spots along the way with shoaling, this will certainly slow me up for today.  Happily, we should still be able to make St Mary’s by Monday afternoon.  Well, with that extra two or three hours to sit here, perhaps it’s time for a post.

Georgia is the part of the ICW that we had planned to skip because of the wind-y course that the waterway takes combined with shoaling issues that limit the times of the tide when a boat with Pandora’s draft can make it though.  However, with the nasty NE gale force winds offshore we decided to make the run inside, slow or not.  I have to say, circuitous route and all, it’s been a very pretty run.   The route as the crow flies Georgia is about 100 miles but the ICW route is close to 140 miles.  That’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to get from here to there.

Well, enough of why we are anchored instead of going south.  So, how was Savannah?

We had a lovely visit to Savannah for a few days and enjoyed the city.  We tied up at the city docks which are located right adjacent to the historic district.   As is the case with so many things nautical, there was ample opinion as to the best way to visit this particular city by boat.  Most say that going to the nearby town Thunderbolt, and taking a bus into the city was the better way. That way you can avoid the 8 mile run up and back down the river to rejoin the ICW.  Others said that the best way to visit is to be right in the thick of things and use the city marina.

It’s hard to say which is better but I do have to say that the amount of debris in the water including the tarp that I snagged on my prop does give one pause for thought about visiting by water.  Having said that, it was very pretty, nautical trash aside.

This shot of Pandora is particularly interesting for us as the hotel in the background is where Brenda and I stayed a few years ago when we visited the city for business.  Me, I like visiting aboard Pandora, minus the “business” thing.If one shot of Pandora at the dock is good, two is even better.The area down near the water is very scenic.   Speaking about high tides, the water came within 6” of flooding this brick walk area at high tide both days that we were there. Just adjacent to this is a row of old buildings that were once business that catered to the ships coming to the city.   Now, it’s candy shops and tee shirts.   Still pretty.

Just above the waterfront is where the city is.  These buildings are the back side of the ones in the picture above.  Not likely to get flooded there.  This is a very nice wrought iron bridge.   Below is the river. The local architecture is really great and perhaps one of the most famous is the house where the murder as chronicled in the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.   Nice place.  Me.  Not sure I would be willing to kill to live there though. 

There is a big park in the city and this fountain is particularly nice. I just love the amount of greenery everywhere.  Very lush.  However, I expect that plenty of gardeners are needed to keep up with even the ivy that is all over the buildings.

No, not exactly one-of-a-kind but what a nice run of porches and rails. 

This garden was hidden, sort of, behind a gate.  Glad that there was a slot to peek through to get this photo.  Imagine what sorts of gardens we must have missed.

The visit was really nice but it’s good to be on our way again.  Well, sort of on our way given the bridge thing.   The marshes that we are traveling through seem to go on for ever.   The last few days have been cold and grey but today, sunny!  It’s amazing how different things, and life in general, look in the sunshine.   While most of the land, if you can call it that, is covered by marsh, there is the occasional hump with a few trees.  It’s really very pretty.

Well, it’s nearly 2:30 and I do so hope that my next post won’t be about shearing the gear off of the top of my mast.  Fingers crossed.


You can find all sorts of fun stuff in the Savannah River. Trust me on that.

We are tied up to the municipal pier here in historic downtown Savannah for a few days to enjoy the sights.   The weather has turned cold with a periods of rain and the sky is the color of slate.  Having said that, it’s not as cold as Essex back home where I am told that it dipped into sub freezing temperatures overnight.

Because of the strong north/east wind blowing offshore the tide was particularly high yesterday, perhaps 3-4′ higher than usual.  As a result, an amazing amount of trash washed into the river.  As we were heading up the river on Wednesday morning we passed plastic bottles, branches and all sorts of stuff floating along.   Brenda was at the wheel as we came to within the last mile of the dock, dodging debris as she headed up.  All of sudden the engine RPM dropped to almost nothing and the engine nearly stalled with tons of thick black smoke billowing from the exhaust.  We were dead in the water.  I couldn’t imagine what we had tangled with.  As the engine had quit so suddenly but there wasn’t a “clunk”, my first thought that it was some sort of fabric or plastic that had wrapped itself around the prop.   However, I did imagine that it might be something much , much worse.

Oh, and did I say that there was a 900′ car carrier bearing down on us along with two 90′ tugs?  Oh yes, it was not a good situation at all.  Besides, the river is so narrow, you can’t believe it.   Given the amount of traffic that comes up the river you’d expect that it would be much wider than the 650′ that it is where we were drifting.    So…no engine.  drifting in the middle of a busy shipping channel.  Over 1000′ of steel bearing down on us.  So, what to do?  Hmm…

Well, I did what anyone in my predicament would do.  I CALLED FOR HELP!  As luck would have it, Brenda and I have been traveling with another boat, Brilliant, for the last few days.  Traveling with a “buddy boat” is something that we almost never do but we were yesterday.  So, I called our new best friends on Brilliant and asked for a tow.

Brilliant’s crew are Pete and Stephanie who have been living aboard for about ten years and brought their boat across from the Med about 5 years ago and have been doing the snowbird thing here in the US since then.    Boy, was I glad to have them near by.

So, Pete and Stephanie sprang into action mode putting out lines and fenders so that they could come up along side of Pandora, raft with us and take us in tow to the dock.

At the same time Pete was on the radio talking to the tugs and ship about our situation and plan so that they would know that we weren’t just idiots waiting to be crushed by them.  When I tell you that the ship was close… Trust me, it was very close, and getting closer by the minute.

This isn’t the actual ship as I was too busy to get out the camera.   However, it was one more in a constant stream of massive ships that are coming by us as we sit on the dock.  This one was passing a lovely schooner that gives day trips on the river.  Trust me on this.  These ships are very LARGE!!! As I was on the deck getting fenders and lines ready for the tow, I couldn’t hear the conversation going on about Pandora.   It seems that the plan, if Pandora couldn’t get out of the way in time, was for the tug to hit me with his prop wash and push me to the side of the channel.  Remember how narrow it is?  I shudder to think what that prop wash would have done to Pandora as she was blown to shore by the tug.  However, I expect that it would have been a lot less traumatic than being crushed by a 900′ ship.

So, how did it go you ask?  Swimmingly.  We were able to drift with the wind and current to the side of the channel.  Get out of the way of the ships and tie to Brilliant who deposited us on the dock like a pro.

People often ask me how big Pandora is when they hear that I have a sailboat.  I say that she feels really little the further we are from land and really big when she is near something hard like a dock.  I think that I will add to that one more description now.  Pandora feels like a fly spec, about to be squashed, when she is in the path of a 900′ ship.

Once all the fun was over and Pandora was safely at the dock I couldn’t help but be curious about what had tangled in our prop.   So, how about a swim in the Savannah river?   I have to tell you that it’s not that much fun.  The current is immense  the water about the color of coffee with milk.  That would be strong coffee with milk and what I estimated to be about 6″ visibility.  And, the temperature?  A lovely 63 degrees.

I waited several hours until the tide was slack, suited up in my full wet-suit, boots and hood.  Fired up the compressor and went for a swim.

So, I went for swim to see what I had “bought” from lovely Savannah.   I ducked in and under the boat and immediately realized that I had misjudged the visibility in the water.  No, it wasn’t 6″, it was ZERO.  Even with the front of my mask touching the blades of my prop, I COULDN’T SEE A THING!!!  Well, it wasn’t hard to “see” what had caused the problem.  I could easily feel that it was a large piece of polypropylene cloth and I unwrapped it in less than a minute.

This is what was what we had picked up.  I am so glad that we had someone standing by to help. I must have someone watching over me, my own personal guardian angel along with Brilliant.While I was waiting for the current to slacken at low tide, I decided to drop by and visit another boat on the dock.  This survey boat was waiting for a job up river and the owner/captain was only too happy to answer some questions.    Fred’s boat is a technological wonder and he was happy to share information about it with me.

His business Bottom Line Echo Company which maps or surveys waterways for folks who have “lost” stuff.  Along with finding sunken planes and boats, he has found plenty of great things for insurers and owners over the years.  He told me that his equipment is so precise that he can find a handgun in the bottom of a muddy river.  Note to self, as you are running from the cops after robbing that liquor store, don’t throw that illegal handgun off of the pier if Fred is working in the area.

Fred’s boat certainly looks like a good example of “form follows function”.   Pretty slick.   That pole on the port bow with the two black disks is a fancy depth sounder.    His site says that it’s a KNUDSEN 320mm depth recorder with dual 28 and 200 KH depth transducers.  OK, yeah, got it.  I guess that means he can tell how deep it is. 

If that’s not cool enough for you, how about the side scan sonar that he can tow behind his boat.  Very high tech.  This isn’t the actual one.  His is a lovely green. The cabin is pretty tricked out. Here’s Fred slaving away at his PC.  Or should I say “at one of his PCs”.  This is his nifty towed sonar.   It looks expensive and Fred said that it is.   I asked him what was the most interesting thing that he had found.  After thinking for a moment he described finding a whole collection of heavy equipment, that’s bulldozers and dump trucks heavy equipment, that he located for an insurance company.  It turns out that someone had stolen the stuff, taken out the engines and had pushed the “remains” off of a barge.  They assumed that they would never be found however I guess that they had not met Fred.  Oops!!

The boat is small enough to tow behind a truck so he can move from place to place easily to take on jobs.  After he is finished in Savannah he was headed up to New Jersey to survey a harbor near an oil refinery that had been badly damaged by Sandy.  It seems that some equipment had washed into a harbor there and he needed to map it so that the stuff could be pulled out by a salvage company.

Unfortunate for us, Fred had not yet found that great poly tarp that we tangled with.  However, it just proves once again how much fun cruising can be and validates that boating is “hours of boredom punctuated with moments of sheer terror”.   Or, put another way, “cruising is boat repair in exotic places”.

Me, it adds spice but Brenda may have another view on that.   Besides, on occasion we do find interesting stuff when we are on the water.  Sometimes, a bit too interesting.



Beaufort SC, that’s “Byoofort and Bowfort”. Great spot!!!

Yesterday we left Beaufort SC after several wonderful days exploring the city and enjoying the local eateries.  Brenda and I really loved it, the food, homes.  Such a nice city.  What was even better is that the temperature has finally warmed up into the 70s and we didn’t even have to turn on the heat.  The last two days are the first since about a week prior to our friend Sandy that it has actually warmed up to something that is compatible with palm trees.

I can hardly decide where to begin with the wonderful architecture.  We went for a number of walks and spied these, and many other, fabulous homes.

It’s just wonderful to see the live oaks draped with Spanish Moss.  Some of the trees are too big and sprawling to imagine them staying up in a hurricane.  They are so stately and individual that you have to believe that the locals might be inclined to name each one.  How about this one hanging out over the street.  The last time that I saw a tree marked with sign on a road was in the Redwood forests in California where the tree had been carved out so you could drive a car through it. It’s hard to say where I should begin in posting about these houses.  Somehow, stucco doesn’t look tacky here like it does in NJ.  Far from it. Just like in Charleston, the locals must get a bonus or painting their homes white. You can just imagine a horse and carriage driving up to drop off the owner here. Not all the homes are old.  There are some lovely “contemporary” homes too.   Not to be picky but it would be even better if the posts on the porch were a bit more substantial.   But then, perhaps it’s just me.  Agree?We were told that one of the homes in the area was used in the movies “The Big Chill” and “The Great Santini”.  I thought that I had taken a photo of the right one but I am not sure.  We thought that this was the one.

I looked it up on the Web and see that this is the one credited with being in the two movies.   Not sure if I have a shot as it looks a lot like others that I saw.  Oh well, we saw a lot of great homes.   I loved this one.  The trees and gardens just swallow up the home in spite of it’s size. Speaking of a nice setting, how about this perched on a lovely marsh.   To come home to this means that you have arrived in more ways than one. This one was nicely nestled into the landscape.   Sitting on that rocker wouldn’t be tough duty. We saw some great gardens but none that could rival this one.  The photo doesn’t do it justice. There is a strong military presence with two bases nearby and a national military cemetery in town.   We were there on Veteran’s Day and were treated to a first class parade.
It’s great to see folks from the service in dress uniforms. Each branch of the service was represented. After enjoying the parade we did a bit of shopping in the local gourmet store.  Compared to prices in the New York area, this was a downright bargain.   What a great looking store.  I think that we bought one of everything in the store.  Perhaps not but we did buy plenty.  Not a great idea to shop when you are hungry.

Beaufort goes out of it’s way to encourage folks to visit.  The waterfront has a great park that is very popular.  There are plenty of places to eat that look out on this lovely scene.  I still haven’t gotten used to the palms that are everywhere.

As I write this we are tied up at the city docks in Savannah GA.  It’s hard to believe that we have made it all the way to Georgia.  Massive ships go by and the river isn’t that wide here.  As you can imagine, the current runs very hard.  As we were about a 1/2 mile from our destination today we snagged something big on our prop and it tangled it up badly. As  a result we were dead in the water.  Happily, we were traveling for the last two days with another boat and they towed us to the dock.

As soon as the tide is slack I plan on going swimming with my wet suit and dive compressor to untangle whatever is wrapped.  That should be fun in the 65 degree water.  Oh yea, did I mention that the visibility is about 6″?   Wish me luck.

And yes, the two cities, one in North and the other in South Carolina, are spelled the same but the pronunciation is much different.    So, we enjoyed both cities and it was fun to visit Beaufort.  That’s Byoofert to y0oou.

I guess it’s almost time for a dip in the Savannah river.  Yuck!  Make that a double yuck.